America's Got Talent” viewers and voters had the difficult decision of whittling down this week's dozen performers in the quarterfinals down to seven, but 12 wasn't the biggest number of the night for August 21. The number 10 was celebrated in several ways. Howie Mandel marked his 10th anniversary with “America's Got Talent” with gratitude and fun, thanking the producers, his judging counterparts, and everyone connected with the competition.

Of course, there was cake, in the form of a huge Howie Mandel head. Howie seemed to still love baked goods, even after stuffing himself on cannoli the night before. Special guest, Susan Boyle, celebrated her 10 years since her life changed on “Britain's Got Talent” with a live performance and her new album, “TEN,” to a rousing reception.

In only minutes, "America's Got Talent” got very serious with the three contenders who would be hoping for this week's saving vote from fans, and this week, the return of the judges’ concluding decision for another talent. The 40 minutes of actual show time seemed to speed by in a flash.

Saving grace

The contenders in sixth, seventh, and eighth place were dubbed to wait out the verdict for the saving vote from the public this week. Charlotte Summers, Chris Klafford, and the Ndlovu Youth Choir were called forth to endure the agonizing wait until the final minutes of the night. No one can accuse any of these talents of not giving full energy or heart, no matter how Simon Cowell summarized each performance.

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The audience felt the effort, and trying too hard is no sin when the stakes are so high.

Simon Cowell had more snarky fun with Howie Mandel, showcasing a billboard with his own smiling image in full-frame, and only a fraction of Mandel’s face. It was all in good fun and contestants even got in on the celebration, recalling what they were doing 10 years earlier. In the case of Tyler Butler Figueroa, Simon Cowell’s golden buzzer pick, he was still in diapers.

Chris Kläfford hated his job at a liquor store, and comedian, Ryan Niemiller was teaching himself the ropes of the comedy circuit, even performing in living rooms. Each of the 12 talents would attest that being on the “America's Got Talent” stage for the past several weeks was well worth the effort.

The first official vote of the evening put Tyler Butler Figueroa and Joseph Allen on the stage. Both these young men are gifted and deserving, but decisions are tough.

Tyler Butler Figueroa had “a moment,” according to Simon Cowell’s summary of his performance, and the prodigy violinist is also already a person who knows how to give back. He became the first of the semifinalists.

Quick as a flash, the psychic couple, The Sentimentalists, was standing next to the wondrous tumblers from Mumbai who literally soar, V Unbeatable. Considering that the majority of the panel and the people seem to applaud the spirited dancers as the best performers of the night, it was predictable that they took their place as semifinalists.

No matter how good the cannoli was, it could not compensate for the off-kilter effort from mind-readers.

The fast pace continued with more suspenseful results. Light Balance Kids, blind but soul-touching bluesman, Robert Finley, and knife-flinging, violin-playing, and sometimes singing act, Nick & Lindsay, all stood at the forefront of the stage. Light Balance Kids were exuberant to get the good news first, and host, Terry Crews, told Finley and the couple not to leave yet. Robert Finley gushed in delight and gratitude after getting his vote to the semifinals. Gabrielle Union encouraged him to stay true to himself and keep spreading the gift of his music and his dream.

Nick & Lindsay now have a little more time to sharpen their skills and buy some sharper blades, too.

Celebrating the past and a new future

Susan Boyle captivated the audience with “I Dreamed a Dream,” just as she did a decade ago. The singer looks far younger today than on her original stage and has the same heavenly tones. It's very touching to Simon Cowell’s care and concern for the talent that he took such time to nurture. Those efforts enabled Susan to become a gift to the world and to bestow a much better life upon herself. “I will never forget that night, as long as I live,” recalled Cowell of Boyle’s breakout audition, and her triumph to follow.

Contortionist Marina Mazepa and comedian Ryan Niemiller were called next to come forward for their fate. The audience erupted when Niemiller was named as the next semifinalist. Simon Cowell was the one who made a real faux pas with his congratulations, saying “It's all in your hands now,” to the funny man with no fully formed arms or hands. Ryan was a complete gentleman and good sport, giving his own good-natured laugh. He told the whole audience and the judges the night before that they were all part of “Club Nubb,” as the comedian called it. “Why do I do live TV?” Simon reflected.

Finally, the time for the saving vote came, and Chris Kläfford exuded humble joy after Howie Mandel exclaimed that the fans had spoken. The judges had only moments to deliberate between Charlotte Summers and Ndlovu Youth Choir. Julianne Hough and Howie Mandel gave nods to Charlotte, while Simon Cowell and Gabrielle Union sided with the South African chorus.

The tie meant that only the actual receiver of the top number of votes could move forward. Terry Crews took the fateful envelope to reveal that Ndlovu Youth Choir were semifinalists. There was an instant outbreak of life-changing hope and joy, the kind that only “America's Got Talent” can convey.

Next week, the final quarterfinals performances will determine the fate for the final dozen.

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