SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 9 season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” which aired Feb. 22 on Fox.
The Winner Takes It All: “The Masked Singer” paid tribute to Swedish super group ABBA on Wednesday — and unmasked two 1980s icons in the process. Pop ingenue Debbie Gibson, who first hit it big in 1987 as a 17-year-old sensation who wrote and sang her own songs, was unmasked as the Night Owl, while comedian and “America’s Got Talent” judge Howie Mandel — who rose to recognition on the 1980s medical drama “St. Elsewhere” — was revealed to be the Rock Lobster.
Gibson was a last-minute addition to the episode after the celebrity who was originally set to appear had to exit after testing positive for COVID. With less than 24 hours to taping, Gibson agreed to step in.
“I didn’t really have much time to decide to do it,” Gibson had. “I had 14 hours from the time I was landing in Las Vegas from a flight back from New York, drove out to LA and was on set by 8 in the morning. I’m more adventurous than people might know. For me, it was a special moment, as the go-to girl to save the day. I had no time to overthink or prepare.”
Gibson said she was a fan of the show and decided to “jump in with both feet and try to do a good job, have a laugh and some fun. And that’s how it turned out.”
She added that it was the one-year anniversary of her mom’s death. “My mom managed me for 25 years. So it was like my mom was saying, ‘Okay, here’s a little gig honey, go do it!’”
Gibson noted that she had also already planned to announce her new concert tour this week. “This is again the universe at work. The public onsale is the day after the episode airs. So the timing is impeccable.”
Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg correctly guessed Gibson — who wasn’t surprised, given that Gibson and McCarthy Wahlberg’s New Kids on the Block husband Donnie Wahlberg have toured together. “I was like if anyone’s gonna get it, Jenny’s gonna get it in a second,” Gibson said. “I think my tone is very much my own.”
Among the other panelists’ guesses, Ken Jeong picked Sarah Jessica Parker, Robin Thicke went with Kylie Minogue and Nicole Scherzinger said it was either Belinda Carlisle or Cyndi Lauper.
Meanwhile, Rock Lobster was Mandel, and Ken Jeong correctly guessed him. Thicke thought it was Steve-O. McCarthy Wahlberg decided to go with Martin Short. Scherzinger also went with Martin Short.
“I’m blazing a trail when it comes to singing and dancing,” Mandel quipped. “Mark my words, Rock Lobster is only the beginning. I would imagine there will be rumblings of Rock Lobster being next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.”
Coincidentally, Mandel was a frequent guest on Alan Thicke’s talk show in Canada, and then later on Thicke’s “Thicke of the Night” series in the U.S. (Thicke was the father of “Masked Singer” panelist Robin Thicke, of course.)
“I knew Alan for years,” Mandel noted. “It’s full circle.”
Like last season, “The Masked Singer” has once again adopted a “Champion of Masked Singer” format. Each episode, three costumed celebrities will perform, but only one will win and move on to compete again the following week. After each round, three finalists will compete in the semi-finals.
That means one contestant will be unmasked midway through the episode, with the top two singers facing off in a “battle royale.” In week one, Evans, as Mustang, faced off against Medusa. The duo sang “Diamonds” by Rihanna; Medusa moves forward to next week.
New this season is “Ding Dong Keep It On.” (“Somebody needed to tell you that, Nick, OK?” quipped Nicole Scherzinger, in one of the best retorts in “Masked Singer” history.) In the new twist to the competition, panelists will have the opportunity to save a singer from looming elimination, but the bell can only be rung three times during the first three rounds. Those three singers will then face off on a special episode in a battle to rejoin the competition.
“The Masked Singer” enters Season 9 with 21 contestants include “Mustang,” “Axolotl,” “California Roll,” “Dandelion,” “Moose,” “Gargoyle,” “Jackalope,” “Doll,” Polar Bear,” “Night Owl,” “Rock Lobster,” “Gnome” and more to be announced. Tim Chappel is this season’s costume designer.
The Season 9 contestants “boast a combined 28 Emmy nominations, six Grammy wins, 10 gold albums, four Golden Globe nominations, five medals, 26 books, two Tony Award nominations, five Lifetime Achievement Awards, four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a combined 95,231,000 records sold.” Season nine will introduce all-new themed episodes, including “ABBA,” “New York,” “DC Superheroes,” “Sesame Street,” “80s Night,” “Movie Night” and more.
Here were the contestants and their performances on night two:
Rock Lobster (HOWIE MANDEL)
Song: “S.O.S.,” by ABBA
Celebrity Clue: (delivered by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” icon Shangela): A gavel. “I’m a great judge of character. That’s why I know these people have no idea who this character is.”
Package voiceover: “Oh hello. Welcome to the Masked Singer’s hottest club, Lobster a Go-Go! Where we’re spinning ABBA all night long. It’s got everything, trust me! Just like me. I’ve been in movies and TV shows since you were a kid. And I can’t believe 10 million people watched me dance for 15 seconds on the daily! In school, I was a weird, neurotic mess. I got my fulfillment from creating elaborate pranks. It ultimately got me expelled from three different schools. So there I was, a compulsive crustacean without a diploma when one day, on a dare, everything changed. I shared my quirks with an audience. And now the things that got me in trouble with an audience are the things I get paid for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a neurotic mess, especially recently. But I’ve made an entire career out of being uncomfortable. And that’s why I’m ready to embarrass myself in a whole new way.”
Panel guesses: Howie Mandel, Steve-O, Martin Short, Steve-O
Night Owl (DEBBIE GIBSON)
Song: “Fernando,” by ABBA
Celebrity Clue: (delivered by a kid dressed as Napoleon): Bubble gum. “If you’re feeling blue, give this a chew. It’s sweet and bubbly, just like me.”
Package voiceover: “Hold on to your disco balls because it’s ABBA night, and this owl is bringing the party. I broke records and topped charts at just 17. And you could say I paved the way for some of your favorite millennium chart toppers. Britney, Christina, Nicole. There’s been other divas like me but I’m the top princess OG. I’ve been in this game for years and that’s because I’m a straight up triple threat. You’ve gotten lost in my movies, TV and on Broadway. I never turn down a chance to try something new. I’ve been waiting to do this show for ages. But the stars didn’t align until, well, yesterday. Literally. 24 hours ago. I know people who need more than a day to make dinner plans. But I live for a challenge. And now I’m ready to put on a show like the baddie birdie of prey that I am.”
Panel guesses: Debbie Gibson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Paula Abdul, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Martika, Kylie Minogue
Medusa (WEEK 1 and 2 WINNER)
Song: “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA
Celebrity Clue: (delivered by Nick Viall): First class ticket, flight 1996, to Tokyo. “I’ve taken a tour of the world and I love it. Want to know where I’m from? Take a look closer.”
Package voiceover: “It’s incredible to be the first winner of ‘Masked Singer’ Season 9. And hearing what Nicole said made me actually tear up. (“That was an experience.”) Hearing that was like winning to me. I’m glad my fun personality shined through this unique mask. Because while I look like I could turn someone to stone in this thing, I’m actually a bit of a softy underneath. Because you all showed me so much love last week, here’s me sending it right back. In the form of a new clue in the clueseum. (Coldplay’s Chris Martin). Did you get it? Or are you getting colder?”
Panel guesses: Tove Lo, Lorde, Apple Martin, Dakota Johnson
Previous song: “Happier Than Ever,” by Billie Eilish
Previous panel guesses: Elle Goulding, Megan Markle, Jessie J, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Lorde