“America’s Got Talent” returned this week for the first — and only — Judge Cuts round, which was different from previous seasons due to coronavirus precautions. However, despite not being able to perform for the judges in person, magician Max Major still managed to blow their minds.
This season’s Judge Cuts saw Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and host Terry Crews reunite for the first time since production was shut down in March, due to the pandemic. The group met outdoors on a studio lot and sat several feet apart, watching contestants on an enormous screen.
Unlike previous seasons’ Judge Cuts, not every contestant who moved past the auditions got a chance to perform again. Instead, the hopefuls were divided into three groups — those whom the judges didn’t feel should move on based on their audition performance, those who would be moving on immediately because of how good they were the first time, and a smaller group that viewers at home, and the judges, wanted to see perform again so they could have a second chance at going through.
After getting the hard part out of the way first — with the judges calling up and breaking the good or bad news to contestants they’d already decided on — it was time for the night’s slate of performers, and that included Major.
Major had impressed during the auditions round, where he was one of a handful of hopefuls who had to audition virtually. Returning for Tuesday’s second round, Major admitted feeling “an insane amount of pressure.”
“I’ve gotta show them something they’ve never seen before, so I can get one of those final spots in the live shows,” Major said, in a pretaped segment that aired before his act.
Major explained that, for this trick, he’d decided to cater the entire illusion to Cowell, and would need to look inside the outspoken judge’s mind to pull off the trick. Major first showed a sealed envelope in which he’d made a “prediction” and then asked Cowell a number of personal questions.
The trick itself involved two sets of photos, five photos per set. The bottom row were face up, and featured the headshots of all four judges and Crews. The top row of photos were all face down. As Major asked Cowell questions, he also had Cowell pair a face-down photo with a face-up photo of his co-stars, seemingly at random.
As for the questions themselves, Major asked Cowell, “What is a personality trait that you admire most in another person?” To which the judge replied, “Loyalty.”
When asked what was one item he would never part with, no matter how much money he was offered, Cowell said, “The first picture of my son Eric, [after] being born, lying on my chest.”
Finally, Major asked him to recall his “most vivid memory” from childhood, adding, “perhaps a story you’ve never told anyone.” As it turns out, Cowell’s most indelible childhood memory was when he got his first toy race car set as a little boy.
When all was said and done, and Cowell had told Major which face-down photo should go with each face-up one, Major flipped over all the face-down cards and revealed that Cowell had matched up every single picture with its identical photo perfectly, without being able to see them at all. It was an impressive reveal, but it was the sealed prediction that blew Cowell’s mind.
Major pulled a paper out of an envelope and revealed that he had guessed Cowell would say “Loyalty” for his most important personality trait, a “Picture of son Eric” as his most prized possession, and “Getting 1st car set” as his earliest memory.
The reveal left Cowell stunned, and after a round of applause, the judge actually walked up to the giant screen to give Major a virtual high-five.
“To be clear, this was not planned,” Cowell said to his fellow judges, after returning to his seat. “I have to say this, because this one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen… I mean, it was seriously incredible… How the hell did he do that?”
Needless to say, Major’s gambit worked, and the aspiring mentalist will be moving on to the live rounds, which kick off in August.
Meanwhile, fan-favorite Archie Williams — a soul singer who wowed America with both his talent and his emotional backstory — was among those who were told right away that he’d be moving forward without having to perform this round.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a reaction to an audition,” Cowell shared. “Not just about your story, Archie, but actually your talent. We are thrilled to tell you that you are through to the live shows.”
“Thank you! I’m still looking for words to express my happiness, but I’m just so grateful,” Williams said.
“It has been an absolute honor having you on the show, it’s the most amazing experience,” Cowell added.
“I love you from the bottom of my heart,” Williams shared, wiping tears from his eyes and getting a hug from his family.
Williams was celebrated for his appearance on “AGT” this season, just one year after being exonerated for a crime he didn’t commit but for which he served 37 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Check out the video below for more on Williams’ incredible story of perseverance and his inspiring “AGT” journey.
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