It seems like an “America's Got Talent” dream to think back to just a week ago, when judge, Howie Mandel, had so many favorites that it was impossible to name just one. This week, the last group of AGT quarterfinalists was out to offer its best in these virtual circumstances on September 1 and Howie had a hard time finding a smile. Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara did their part to counter Howie's negativity and focus on performers spreading messages of truth and hope. The ladies weren't so keen on being skewered in one comic’s very dark roast.

Howie Mandel already dubbed last week’s quarterfinals “the best” of Season 15 for “America's Got Talent, but he did come to his feet for his golden buzzer pick in a performance that all started with a fond term of endearment.

‘America's Got Talent’ starts off with high-flyers & puppets with heartstrings

Texas considers football to be religion, and by association, cheer teams come in close pursuit. The CA Wildcats from Plano, Texas did all they could to translate their human towers, soaring tosses, and tremendous energy through the broadcast screen to the judges in California. Howie has never been a fan of cheer, but to his credit, he was kind. Heidi and Sofia applauded the tremendous effort and strength that championship cheerleading takes. As good as these Wildcats are, it may not be the time to make them “America's Got Talent” champions. Still, Texas voters can never be counted out, and kudos to everyone in this troupe from ages 13 to 30.

They did astounding things, all while wearing masks.

It is hard to see why Howie Mandel disliked the follow-up performance from Lightwave Theatre Company so much that he X’ed this quarterfinals' performance. The gifted and ever-resilient Romanian puppeteers were besieged by every restriction and hurdle, and yet they overcame to present their moving story of sharing a puppy from the dog who appeared first in their audition.

It's hard not to be moved by puppies, connecting with people, and the message of “Be there for each other.” Somehow, though, Howie saw the performance as “depressing.” Sofia and Heidi disagreed and felt the grace and artistry compressed into a few moments onstage. Hopefully, “America's Got Talent” voters were also moved.

The vocal trio, ReSound, related their story of feeling led to leave their jobs and sing full-time right around the time that the group’s “America's Got Talent” audition happened. They were on the stage on the same night as single-mom, Cristina Rae, and they still stood out. Just as momentum was building, and bookings were flowing in, the virus halted the world's forward progress. The vocalists then allowed themselves to be lifted by the encouragement of those blessed by their gifts and kept on singing. They chose Great Big World’s “Fall On Me” for this pivotal performance. Howie Mandel praised the “beautiful harmonies brought by beautiful people” but still, the judge was unsure if the group outdid its audition.

For her part, Heidi Klum said that hearing the group and feeling their positivity was like “three little angels” from the stage. Let's hope ReSound can be spared. They have already been through the fire, so a little glory is due.

Singers, steppers, and stretchers all take another ‘America's Got Talent’ try

Musical brothers from different mothers, Broken Roots, got a birthday call back to the “America's Got Talent” stage, and they didn't waste it by going small. They took on a huge anthem with U2’s “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.” Howie Mandel was still Mr. ambivalent regarding whether they had done enough at this point in the competition. Sofia Vergara called them “good American men,” disregarding Howie because “you're Canadian.” Heidi Klum said that this could be the earthy duo’s time.

Divas & Drummers of Compton put on such a dynamic display of rhythm and movement that it was hard to get everyone on the big screen, even the huge “America's Got Talent” drive-in theater stage. Nonetheless, the dedicated ensemble drummed up enough enthusiasm for 10 football fields with their routine. Howie Mandel didn't even notice that one of the lead divas is expecting until after the performance was over. He then called it his favorite of the night. Heidi and Sofia couldn't say enough good about the act or the ambassadorship of the group for their community. It's up to the voters now.

Simon Cowell implored the singer, Celina, to “never let a stylist touch you” following her impassioned “America's Got Talent” audition performance.

It's hard to say if she heeded that advice since she wore a sparkly silver-toned suit coat while singing “Strong” by London Grammar. There was quite a bit more sleek polish to Celina’s voice and appearance in this performance, and host Terry Crews took notice. The singer deliberately chose a song she didn't know and “practiced and practiced.” She made an impression because Sofia Vergara called the performance the highlight of the night. She wished she had a golden buzzer to give the singer. Heidi Klum was seeing Celina for the first time in performance, and she felt the singer’s energy as “the performance of a lifetime.” Howie said he thought she made herself memorable to America.

At only age 12, Noah Epps is not only achieved “America's Got Talent” acclaim, but the dancer/ contortionist/character creator has gone viral worldwide.

In a dramatic departure from his pop-and-dangle Pinnochio from his audition, Noah became the ghostly protagonist in his own game of “Spooky Claw” at the video arcade. He meets his fateful end in the performance, but the young artist’s creativity is endless. As Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara noted, Noah will be taking control of his future, no matter how his AGT experience ends. Howie Mandel had no opportunity to critique this performance.

When Kenadi Dodds offered her soulful country audition with a song about being bound for Nashville, both Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel loved the fact that this talented singer-songwriter knew who she wanted to be as an artist. This time, the young songstress sang her own original, “Dancing Through Our Stars,” as a gift to her younger sister.

The siblings and their whole family face a debilitating vision disease, so they celebrate while they can, in every way that they can. At the close of her tender ballad, Kennadi gave the sign to her sister that she was singing just to her. America felt it, too, even though Howie didn't seem to forgive that the song wasn't country enough. With or without words, love translates across every language. Kenadi likely earned herself an extended stay on “America's Got Talent.”

Brandon Leake closes ‘America's Got Talent’ with the brutal truth

Going strictly by the numbers, comedian Alex Hooper may be near the top of “America's Got Talent” vote-getters. Quantity does not dictate quality, however. No matter how much Howie loves the sharp-tongued insults aimed at every single one of the judges, including the recuperating Simon Cowell, he can't cast the vote for America.

In his perverse bedtime story, Hooper suggested Heidi should try out marital infidelity, compared Sofia to a rodeo clown, and took Terry Crews’ interest in the arts as “overcompensating.” Perhaps most tasteless of all, he suggested that Simon Cowell would be in an urn by the time his son grew up. Such undue crassness is truly not called for during the aftermath of a devastating injury, no matter who the victim is. This was a classic serving of cheap laughs at the personal expense. Howie continues to defend Alex, comparing him to Don Rickles. That status hike has much left to be earned.

The Bello Sisters were breathtaking in their routine set in a “haunted house” sort of motif. The methods that the trio employs to allow one sister to bear the weight of three bodies from a single wrist is nothing short of miraculous, yet they seem never to be breathing hard.

No one has seen an all-female strength and balance act like them before. With their creativity, there is certainly more to come, and more examples from the “America's Got Talent” stage of what little girls can dream of becoming. No matter how the tally falls, these lovely performers have a stage of their own calling.

Anyone who thought Brandon Leake’s spoken words could not be any more personal or probing than they were in the tribute to this sister in his audition performance were proven wrong by the artist in this “America's Got Talent” experience. The father, the son, and the artist channeled all of those identities into the performance that began with his mother's favorite pet name for him, “Pookie.” The poet opens with his stanzas speaking of “too many funerals on graveyard grass” before the names of so many loved ones, so many beautiful lives of color are read like a litany.

A black parent’s prayer is that his or her child simply returns home, free of the entanglement of the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong colored skin. Those wrongs create “pine box convictions” as Leake so lovingly and truthfully conveys.

“I will do my very best to make it home to you,” pledges the son. No black person can guarantee that word as gold, however. What he does promise is that no matter what, “I will always be your Pookie.”

Howie Mandel called this a moment of WOKE for the competition and for America. More than that, this is a moment of a young man rising to a called moment while America is willing and ready to listen. Nothing has been more powerful or prayerful from the “America's Got Talent” stage.

It was a moment. Beyond TV Shows.

Predictions for the five acts moving forward:

Bello Sisters

ReSound (hopeful)

Kenadi Dodds

Brandon Leake

Alex Hooper

On the bubble: Lightwave Theatre Company

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