'America's Got Talent,' 'Big Brother' Finales: Did the right ones win?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large

There were two competition show finales on Wednesday night, and ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer won a million dollars on America’s Got Talent, while Josh Martinez was released from the Big Brother house to claim a half-million-buck first prize. Both shows featured tight competition: Josh squeaked past Paul Abrahamian to win by a single vote, while 12-year-old Darci — a season-long favorite — faced a final-week surge in popular sentiment for 10-year-old singer Angelica Hale. So: Did the right contestants win?

Darci is now the third ventriloquist to win AGT, following  (Season 2) and Paul Zerdin (Season 10), and the young girl may already be the most technically accomplished vent of the three. It must gall Fator and Zerdin that the young Midwestern Farmer has only been doing this for two years, and that, to judge from her YouTube presence, it looks as though she veered into ventriloquism primarily to distinguish herself from all the other preteen vocalists making the talent-show circuit. If so, it was a smart move: There are tons of huge-voiced children who sing with over-exaggerated power — witness the Hale girl — but adding some vent to your act gives it a jolt of novelty. This is why beauty pageant contestants have also picked up ventriloquism, the long-marginalized art whose community is more excited about the youth-quake of potential new disciples Darci may attract than they ever were about Fator or Zerdin’s breakthroughs. If you look at Darci’s final live AGT performance, you’ll note that she flubs the beginning of the duet she performs with Fator. Should this count against her as a winner? Not at all. I was pleased to see some evidence of nerves from what could have been a too-polished performer, and she recovered like an old pro.

Speaking of old pros and puppet-masters, you’d think Big Brother’s Paul, who lost at the final moment of last season as well, would by now be enough of an experienced hand at this slop-’n’-sly competition to have figured out a way to be a bit more subtle about his eagerness to win. But then, after covering my ears every time he went into the diary room to explain his master plan to us at a full-bellow roar, I should know that subtlety is not Paul’s thing. He just got played by a guy who bellowed more loudly and more plaintively.

Paul clearly should have won this season’s BB. He was correct in his final speech: He really did outplay, out-think, and outmaneuver every other houseguest. Many times in reality-TV competitions, the evil but shrewd person wins; it has been this way since Richard Hatch — the one-man Adam and Eve of the first, paradisaical season of Survivor, and evil but shrewd is respected by sensible game players. But Paul was trapped in the house this summer with a singularly self-centered, morose, grudge-nurturing bunch of cereal-munchers. I wholeheartedly agree with this tweet.

The houseguests went through the motions and they talked the talk — lots of blather about polishing their “social game”; so-and-so is my “ride-or-die”; this player or that one is a “monster at comps” — but when it came time to walk the walk, they sat down in a heap and whined about people who lied. Or, as Jason put it, “Paul over-lied.” See ya dodging bulls at the rodeo, clown.

At nearly every stage of the season, houseguests made stupid moves, peaking with Josh’s decision to take Paul, not Christmas, to the final-two stage. Ye gods, Josh — you silly, pot-banging man: Do you know how close you came to blowing it? Had you brought Christmas with you, you’d have won by a bigger margin. As it was, it was left to Cody — blank-faced and sullen to the very end — to vote against Paul for all the wrong reasons, of course and give you the half-million.

The best thing about the finale was Cody being voted “America’s Favorite Player” — Cody, the vain, volcano-tempered sore loser who wore Jessica around him like a clinging bath towel. Voting Cody favorite player was the moment when America said, “This game is now so lousy we’re going to go all ironic on your ass.” There is only one thing now that can save this franchise: Let the countdown to Celebrity Big Brother begin.

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