The Masked Dancer Offers Powerfully Moving Performance, Unmasks '90s Television Icon

The best performance by a mile left the panel stunned and on their feet — especially after they found out the dancer took a terrifying fall just one day prior in rehearsals.

New year, new batch of performers as “The Masked Dancer” introduced the other half of its inaugural lineup, which just happened to include the season’s strongest dancer.

While the group once again featured more people who are definitely not trained in dance than are, it was overall a much stronger and more entertaining group than the first when it came to overall performance quality.

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We also got a glimpse of their dedication, as one of them fell dangerously during rehearsals just one day before taking to the stage. Ice-T, unmasked last week, said that it was extremely difficult dancing in the costume, so we can imagine the extra burden even on the most sophisticated dancers.

This week’s cast also gave us the best fakeout we’ve seen so far, as one dancer had us absolutely convinced they had no real skill on the dancefloor before stepping it up and proving that they may be among the best the show has to offer.

Let’s jump right in with this week’s masks. And don’t worry, before we get to the shocking unmasking, we’re going to make you power through the terrible (and occasionally good) guesses made by our illustrious panel of Paula Abdul, Ken Jeong, Ashley Tisdale and Brian Austin Green first. We do this because we love … to torture you.

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Sloth

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Sloth gave us an incredible misdirect with so much character in his performance, at first he had us convinced he maybe couldn’t dance. But then, he hit that treadmill and suddenly he was a whole different beast. He gave us great musicality and dance-ability alongside a healthy does of humor … and exhaustion.

Guesses: He had a “Gleen” toothpaste, but the “N” was pretty clearly covered, which could refer to “Glee,” and he did the “L” on his forehead, in another possible nod to the show. Additional clues involved a lot of medical imagery and a “D.R.” tag, as well as a “13” drink and phrases like “down and dirty” and “Mickey Mouse operation.”

He also revealed that he’d had a bad accident as a kid and dropped his single word clue (in his regular voice, “Broadway.” Paula thinks it’s “Glee” and Broadway star Matthew Morrison, but Brian picked up on “stronger than yesterday,” and “call the Fed, ‘kay,” to hear a Britney connection (Mickey Mouse) and suspect it could be Kevin Federline.

Ashley thinks it might be Jason Derulo, who was in that terrible Broadway adaptation of “Cats,” but it’s not as strong a guess as either Paula or Brian. While Matthew Morrison got some love online, others considered John Stamos, who guested on “Glee” as a dentist and was in the Britney Spears episode or fellow guest star Justin Prentice.

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Ice Cube

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Ice Cube had some charm and personality, but this was not good dancing by any stretch of the imagination. He’s lucky he was given a professional partner, because she definitely carried him throughout this routine. Mostly he just kind of stepped around. Clearly he has no training and he didn’t even look comfortable up there … but he got through it!

Guesses: Ice Cube appears to come from money, though he said it was a “slippery road” to his current success. He suggested his mom was at the White House while his dad was behind bars, but neither might be literal. That said, he also described his life as “rocky.”.

He also dropped the phrase “home alone” and showed off ballet pointe shoes and a TV dinner on the TV, saying he was almost raised by it. The panel also picked up on lots of climate change activism language, so this could be someone passionate about that.

His one-word clue, “‘90s icon,” was actually two words. Ken wondered if the periodic table wasn’t a clue that this could be Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Brian, though, decided the dollar bills and White House clues could be pointing to Bill Maher.

Paula took the political mom angle pretty directly, and wondered if maybe this wasn’t Anderson Cooper. The internet was digging the Bill Nye guess, too, but there were also nods to Justin Bieber, Dustin Diamond and even Vanilla Ice (too obvious?).

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Zebra

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Zebra brought a lot of gusto to the stage, as well as a conga line, but his Latin moves were a little flat-footed and behind the beat. He masked a lack of training or real skill by shimmying his fringe a lot and relying on his partner, but he did bring a confidence to the stage that seemed bigger than his learned ability.

Guesses: Bong Joon-ho (or a variant) featured in the director’s clip, but this was a lot of Zebra driving (license plate: 154-128) and boy band references. One Direction got a name drop, as did BSB’s “Larger Than Life.”

We saw a hot dog, a magazine actually labeled “This Is a Clue,” as well as the number 11 and a 3 on a medal. He said he’s fallen out of the limelight now, and also grew up in a rough neighborhood, so if he is in a boy band, it would be one that’s past its prime.

His Word-Up clue was “Comeback,” which again fed into the idea that he’s fallen from the limelight. But is this the comeback, or has it already happened? Brian wondered if “upside inside out” wasn’t a reference to Ricky Martin.

Ken carried over one of his favorite “Masked Singer” guesses to lean into the boy band and Backstreet Boy clues. Could Kevin Richardson have finally graced his presence? If it’s a Backstreet Boy, the internet is leaning more toward Howie Dorough, but they’re also thinking Ricky Martin is a pretty good guess.

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Cotton Candy

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Cotton Candy took on two props, including a ring she fell from during rehearsal, in what is easily the most impressive dancing of the season to this point. She has grace, flexibility and storytelling that came through a very bright and chipper costume. This is definitely someone with a real talent in dance as the quality of her movement was just stunning.

Guesses: It makes sense, then, that she referred to herself as a perfectionist. Her package was just full of clues, including a shift from a corn flakes breakfast to a traditional English one. She also said she had to move in with a different family to pursue her dreams (were they English?).

The letters for the word L-I-F-E were interspersed on a clock, replacing 12-9-6-5, respectively), we saw the number 3 a lot, and the word “B!RD,” stylized like that. She showed a wizard-themed painting and dropped the phrase “keeping up,” alongside pink cupcakes with red lips on them. She then used her own to say, “prime time.”

Paula’s guess was almost based solely on the quality of the dancing, but it could be Jenna Dewan … though we think her voice sounded even younger. Brain went almost literal, considering P!nk does aerial dance already, and the stylized “B!rd” clue, but we’re thinking younger than that.

Ken considered “Wizards of Waverly Place” star Selena Gomez, but the moves had him thinking Julianne Hough. Selena got some online love, but they mostly seemed to believe this is Gabbrielle Douglas, she of three gold medals and having to move away to train for the Olympics.

Other guesses ranged from Sofie Dossi and JoJo Siwa to Millie Bobby Brown, Kylie Jenner, Misty Copeland and Simone Biles. In other words, while they have a favorite, but they’re definitely still exploring other options.

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Ms. Moth

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Moth dropped a line dance on us, which obviously takes us to a honky tonk in the South, but is that a clue? She was competent in the movements, but no more than someone you’d find at a country bar having fun with a rudimentary line dance. There was nothing there to suggest a real dancer with training and passion behind those movements.

Guesses: Honestly, these clues all just screamed Monica Lewinsky, but that might be too obvious. She said the spotlight found her via tabloid headlines with the president. She showed a shot of the Capitol and said she used the “traumatic experience” that changed her life and thrust her into that spotlight to fight for those things she cares about.

Images included an angelic looking moth painting, math equations a “Box Sweet Box” sign, a box labeled CLOTHES (with the ES lighter) and a massive flyswatter as she takes control of her platform.

She also dropped a lot of “hang ten” hand symbols throughout her dance that were spotlight too much to be ignored, while her single Word Up was, “Inspired.” Her voice did not, though, sound like Monica.

Ashley wondered if maybe it wasn’t Megyn Kelly, due to her political involvement as a reporter. We love that Moth seemed to rebuff our guess of Monica when both Paula and Brian jumped on it, but it really is right there. Paula, then shifted to Marla Maples (there was a maple tree in the package).

While others also fell into the Monica and Marla guesses, other decent picks included Omarosa, who rose to fame due to her “Apprentice” ties to Donald Trump (she’s defnitely tall enough) and former first daughter Barbara Bush.

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UNMASKING

Cotton Candy and Sloth carried this show with their showmanship and clear dance skill, while the others were more of a mixed bag. But entirely up to us, we’d put Zebra and Moth in a second tier of okay dancing with at least some musicality and movement.

That leaves Ice Cube, who really just walked through his performance. The competition isn’t nearly as tough as “Masked Singer” gives us — as most of these people are clearly not trained dancers — but we still need someone to give it their all and Ice Cube just didn’t deliver.

The panel and voting audience quickly agreed with us (after the break) as Ice Cube became the first casualty of the night. So who was it?

Panel questions revealed that he’d been seen on TV by millions, has a huge social media following, has tried stand-up comedy (“emphasizing try”) and has more than a speck of white hair.

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  • Paula Abdul: Tim Gunn
  • Ken Jeong: Bill Nye
  • Ashley Tisdale: Al Gore
  • Brian Austin Green: Bill Maher

Ken picked up on “Corn Niblets” with an emphasis on “Corn-L,” and Bill Nye went to Cornell, which is pretty damned good clue reading, but then Brian pointed out Bill Maher also went there. But we were feeling Nye more because of the science and overall build.

Did Ken get this one right? He sure did, as it was indeed Bill Nye, the Science Guy, who emerged from under that melting cube. While he should stick to science over dance, we love that he came out and went for it!

“The Masked Dancer” flips back over to Group A for its Playoffs next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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