'America's Got Talent' recap: 9-year-old singer drops judge's jaws

Once again, “America’s Got Talent” rushed headlong into another tough round of judge cuts, as viewers enter the homestretch to the live show. This week, with the help of another special guest judge, the talent was whittled down even more, causing huge upsets and moments of joy.

This week, Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell were joined by writer, producer and award-winning star of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” Laverne Cox. She took the stage and gave the contestants and judges some hope about having made it so far. However, she was also realistic that 20 performers would be cut down to just seven by the time she was done. Fortunately, the night saw a lot more solid performances through-and-through than last week.

Things started off strong with the out of this world dance stylings of Oscar Hernandez, who impressed the judges during the auditions phase with moves that a person his build should not be able to do. But, things really turned up when the magicians took the stage.

First, it was Tony and Jordan, twin magicians that incorporated the digital world into their act. They were quickly followed by the Naked Magicians, who impressed with their magic and bodies. However, things really broke through when the adorable Jeki Yoo took the stage. After not impressing Simon during his audition, he had a lot to prove. He took the stage to do close-up card magic that was flawless. However, it was his attitude and general positivity that captivated both the crowd and the judges -- not to mention his infectious giggle.

The peak of the evening, of course, came during the now-famous Golden Buzzer moment, in which Cox decided to send someone straight through to the next round of live shows. This week, the grand prize went to 9-year-old Celine Tam. The youngster shocked the judges with her voice during the auditions, but she came out to the next round looking to showcase a bit more range. She chose a faster-paced song, “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,” that showed off her vocal agility. For a child, she sure can sing like an adult. When it was all said and done, the three main judges didn’t even get a chance to give their two cents on the act, as Cox immediately gave her the coveted Golden Buzzer, sending her through.

From there, things got tough. Although the crop of talent was better than it has been in the past, the judges were clearly being a little more harsh than usual, for whatever reason. Both an adequate pole dancing act, as well as an expert limbo performer were given tepid responses from the panel. It took the utter charm and positivity of rocker Jay Jay Phillips to break the cycle.

Frankly, his act is just to play the keytar; however, his attitude captivates the judges, especially Simon. While Heidi braced him for the possibility of not making it to the live rounds, Simon assured him that he’s got a shot. With that, the positivity was back. This proved to be good news for the dance crew, Diavolo.

The group had some hard work ahead of it if it was going to top its awe-inspiring dance from the first round. Fortunately, thanks to the use of props and some daring acrobatics, they more than delivered.

With the panel warm, it was time for some professional stunt work from the 47-year-old Bello Nock. The unusual clown almost got a “no” vote from Simon last time, so he promised to shoot himself out of a cannon over a helicopter if he’d change his vote to a “yes.” He did, and then the reality of the stunt he promised set in. Nock informed everyone that only 48 people have tried human cannonballing and half of them didn’t make it. The entire crowd was pulled outside so that the death-defying leap could be done in the proper space. Despite his best efforts, Nock lived and completed the stunt with relative ease. He completely won over Simon, who was afraid that if things went wrong, it’d be on his conscience forever. However, Nock did mention that upping the stakes for the next round would be difficult.

When it was all said and done, only six acts (not including Tam) could move forward to the live rounds. Joining the other 14 moving to the next round this week were Tam, Hernandez, Brobots and Mandroids, Diavolo, Billy and Emily, Mike Yung and Preacher Lawson.

Next week, another round of performers takes the stage to compete for another seven spots.