Apparently the show doesn't mind reinforcing stereotypes because the first act of the night is a mariachi band led by a 10-year-old named Sebastien Delacruz. He's adorable and the whole act is just really entertaining. The band gets three "yeses" from the judges and they advance to the next round in Las Vegas.
Next up, a cowboy who does impressions, but when he opens his mouth it just sounds like he's mimicking a Southern auctioneer. Then we meet an underwhelming "side show" group. Both acts get rejected.
A promising acrobatic act is next, called the Bandbaz Brothers. At one point, one guy balances upside down on his brother's bald head using the crown of his own head, lowers his feet onto his brother's shoulders, flips over and stands on the shoulders. Even host Nick Cannon is stunned into silence when this happens. The brothers make it to Vegas easily.
Tim Poe, a man with a guitar and an endearing stutter, is up next. The audience loves him before he even sings because of his story: He spent 14 years in the military and in Afghanistan, he was injured, suffered a brain injury and acquired a stutter.
Once he starts to perform, the audience loves him even more. He doesn't stutter when he sings and he has a smooth, clear voice. He gets one of the longest standing ovations I've seen this season.
"I can't wait to see what you do next," says Howard, "and it's a yes from me." Poe makes it to Vegas, of course.
Later, we meet Lulu, a mom and office clerk from Hanover, Md. She's chunky, but struts onstage in a two piece bikini and does some pretty legitimate pole dancing. It's impressive how strong she is and how far up she can climb the pole; for the grand finale, she even does a split. The audience loves it but Howard and Sharon hit their buzzers during the act.
"I hit my buzzer because I don't think this a million dollar act," says Howard. He and Sharon give Lulu "nos" but Howie gives her a supportive "yes." The audience boos the judges' decision.
Joe Castillo is up next. He creates art by shifting sand around on a light box. To the tune of 'Proud to be an American,' he makes images of soldiers and the Statue of Liberty. The audience and judges go crazy for it. Howie calls it original, but I saw almost the exact act on a "Ukraine's Got Talent" online clip a couple years ago. It's still beautiful, though, and gets him through to the next round.
A human canon ball by the name of David Smith Jr. is last to perform. The judges follow him outside into the pouring rain to watch him get shot out of a canon obviously. Just watching the set-up makes me nervous, because the net he's supposed to land in looks rickety and there's an ambulance and stretcher already waiting for him.
David shoots out of the canon, soars through the air with his arms flailing and lands in the net. For a split second, I think he's hurt because when he lands, the net almost dips to the ground and Nick Cannon runs over to him in a panic. But David stands up, says, "I'm okay!" and pumps his fists into the air.
It's a pretty triumphant way to end tonight's show, which was pretty interesting, though I would prefer some more snark from Howard next time. He's been unusually kind to the contestants so far, which is nice but makes the show a little less entertaining than it could be.
More acts moving onto Vegas: A pair of contortionists and a young pianist/singer.