America's Got Talent” came to crunch time for Season 15 on August 11 this week and all credit to the 11 hopefuls, and all the crew involved for bringing the sensation of a normal AGT experience for the first time since the opening auditions. Some quarterfinal performances were offered from the Universal sound stage lots some were outdoors from other locations, but thankfully, a few offerings were live from be socially-distanced stage. That made all the difference.

Simon Cowell is still recuperating from his electric trail bike accident that left the irrepressible British judge with a broken back.

Fortunately, Kelly Clarkson, who was lovingly up-front in saying that “I could use another job” and that “I'm getting really used to this chair,” cleared her calendar to fill-in for Cowell, as confirmed by Entertainment Tonight in an August 11 feature.

In the same feature, Simon Cowell marveled at how the entire “America's Got Talent” team rallied to make live shows possible. Above all, he credited the safety protocols and testing for creating a safe environment.

Kelly Clarkson doesn't need to get too cozy in Simon Cowell’s dressing room. The “America's Got Talent” founder is showing the expected British pluck, already walking as part of his recovery. Terry Crews spoke on behalf of everyone in the competition, encouraging that “we are sending lots of AGT love and our best wishes and hope to see you soon.”

Bravery was oozing through the artistry of every performer in this first quarterfinal round, with one possible pork exception.

Piggies aren't cooperative for the ‘America's Got Talent’ quarterfinals

Fans may remember that Heidi Klum has a thing for pork in its living form, and the big-hearted “America's Got Talent” judge has kissed more than one pig in her lifetime, and even lately. She was so smitten by the giant hog, Mac, from Pork Chop Review that she made her way onstage to give him a smooch.

Simon Cowell said he had never seen anything like these performing pigs during the audition. Sadly, the virtual performance done closer to home didn't have the pizzazz to please Heidi or her fellow judges. Nelson, one of the oinking ensemble, had to be redirected and reminded several times to do his trick. These performers can make the most of the bacon from their AGT boost because they won't be back this year.

At least they are very loved pets.

Feng E was as far away from the “America's Got Talent” judges as a boy can be, in Taiwan, but the heavy-metal ukulele master still delivered a scorching mash-up, including “Smoke on the Water” and “Seven Nation Army.” It didn't take long for the panel to praise that a huge future awaits this artist. Sofia Vergara admitted: “I hate ukulele,” but she and the other judges love Feng E’s prospects.

Howie Mandel had a taste for the hard stuff, but he wasn't so taken with Shaquira McGrath’s soulful, open-hearted turn on the Rascal Flatts ballad, “What Hurts the Most.” In her pre-performance profile, the singer confessed that she was her own roadblock in not moving past critiques and prejudices and seizing opportunities.

This “America's Got Talent” experience means a profound change for her, no matter the end result.

Howie was disappointed that McGrath didn't choose another party country tune, similar to her audition, but Heidi Klum boldly interrupted with “Let me talk!” She, Sofia, and Kelly affirmed that meaning and emotion can carry more than a bouncy tune and perfect notes.

Sofia’s favorites shine on ‘America’s Got Talent’

Heidi Klum got to see another one of her favorite performers, contortionist-dancer, Frenchie Babyy, who put on another harrowing, yet the mind-bending display of what can be done to bones in the human body. “It's so hard to watch, but you have to watch,” Heidi praised. Howie Mandel’s critique was “Wow and owww!” Kelly Clarkson added, “there is no one else like you.” Hopefully, Simon Cowell was watching from home as Frenchie Babyy was brought together with his sisters through a virtual meeting.

Simon connected the artist with his estranged family after his powerful audition. A new future is already being forged from this “America's Got Talent” adventure.

Several acts to follow were Sofia Vergara loves. The saucy judge’s golden buzzer pick, Roberta Battaglia, delivered a flawless rendition all her own of Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.” Kelly Clarkson raved that the singer’s performance would have been amazing “if you were 27,” much less 10. “I want you to win!” gushed the “Modern Family” star to her protégé. This vocal wonder has a good chance of going for true gold on “America's Got Talent.”

Vergara’s “favorite people from Colombia,” the young dancers Simon and Maria, wowed the entire panel with their performance from a soda shop set.

The smiles shined above and beyond the footwork and dedicated practice from the supercharged steppers. They are certainly in the mix to move on.

The singing, dancing sister act, Double Dragon, got Sofia Vergara up and dancing, too. The duo did a cowgirl-themed version of “Bang Bang” and “Taki Taki” together that won over Kelly Clarkson as much as Heidi and Sofia. Clarkson loved the Spanish versions and especially the flavor that the siblings add to life with a boyfriend. Everyone agrees that the ladies at least deserve a sitcom from their “America's Got Talent” stint.

Old friends, outside dangers, and a needed ‘America's Got Talent’ dedication

Brett Loudermilk, the sword-swallowing showman-magician, had something special in mind with Sofia Vergara for this performance.

He called Heidi to the stage first, asking her to pick a card from the deck and add her signature. Loudermilk then summoned Sofia, tasking her to fire a laser-scoped arrow at his mouth. It was clear that she never understood how to aim at the red light, and it's a miracle that Brett survived. “America's Got Talent” viewers knew he had made it because of his coughing. He quickly jabbed a sword down his throat, showing Heidi’s signed card. “I didn't want to see you die,” Sofia explained of her reasons for not looking at her target. The rest of the panel was sufficiently impressed by the feat.

More peril followed outdoors. The familiar AGT friend, Bello Nock, known for rocketing himself out of a cannon, was preparing to perform with his daughter, Annaliese until an injury happened in practice.

With her brother acting as a counterbalance, the daughter performed acrobatics within her spinning sphere before climbing to the outside of the ring, where she jumped rope, nearly tangling herself. For her finale, she set her half of the apparatus blazing in a fire before walking blindfold across it to the finish. The judges love this fearless family, but now the vote tally will tell if the daughter’s daring was enough to keep them in the competition.

Michael Yo is very well known in the entertainment world as a correspondent, but he shared his own personal story of tragedy to triumph before doing his stand-up set. His personal recollection put in perspective why “America's Got Talent” and so many other TV Shows are taking every measure for safety, not simply return to the air, under the siege of the virus.

Shortly after his audition success, Yo was struck with a high fever and struggled to breathe. He vividly recounted touching the window with the son before getting into the ambulance. He was diagnosed at the hospital with a pledge that doctors would fight to save his life. A father's love for a child was the focus of his whole routine, and he struck the heartstrings of the panel as he exemplified a love deep enough to die for through his humorous banter.

No one watching Archie Williams’ audition on “America's Got Talent” can ever hear “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me” in the same way again, including Simon Cowell or Sir Elton John. The wrongly-imprisoned singer shared his story of being in Angola and ultimately being freed through the Innocence Project by DNA evidence.

Williams revealed this week that it was 24 years after his first appeal letter before freedom came.

His rare heart, courage, and compassion poured through the lines of Stevie Wonder's “Love’s In Need of Love Today” as the finale of the first quarterfinal round on “America’s Got Talent.” A stillness of healing swept over the judges and anyone else in earshot. Howie Mandel described how “you preach to us more than you sing to us” to Archie, who simply nodded his head. “I feel your story. I feel your heart,” Heidi Klum assured. Kelly Clarkson reminded that she knew Williams story and what a testimony it is, but she didn't want anyone to forget the beautiful tone of his voice, either.

Archie Williams never got a golden buzzer, but thanks to “America's Got Talent,” he has a reclaimed future, a purpose, and a legacy in life and music.

Five predictions for the acts moving forward:

Archie Williams

Shaquira McGrath

Roberta Battaglia

Brett Loudermilk

On the bubble:

Frenchie Babyy and Feng E

Votes will be revealed Wednesday, August 12 at 8 PM ET/7 C