The winner takes it all: '80s pop superstar, A-list comedian eliminated on 'Masked Singer' ABBA Night

The Night Owl and Rock Lobster compete on 'The Masked Singer' Season 9. (Photos: Fox)
The Night Owl and Rock Lobster compete on 'The Masked Singer' Season 9. (Photos: Fox)

“There was something in the air that night,” the Night Owl crooned on Wednesday’s ABBA-themed episode of The Masked Singer. And indeed there was: the wafting aroma of Electric Youth!

Yes, while the Voyage holograms of Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid sadly didn’t beam in from London for this special super-trouping episode (we got random cameos from Drag Race star Shangela and Bachelor Nation’s Nick Viall instead), bona fide pop royalty did perform on ABBA Night… when this feathered “Fernando”-warbler turned out to be none other than dancing queen and “pop princess O.G.,” Debbie Gibson.

Nicole Scherzinger thought the Night Owl might be Paula Abdul, the Go-Go’s’ Belinda Carlisle, or “Toy Soldiers” singer Martika. Robin Thicke guessed Kylie Minogue, but he said that no matter who it was, “You can tell she’s a professional performer” — because this “straight-up triple-threat,” who opened doors for everyone from Britney Spears to Taylor Swift to even Nicole, had just confessed that she'd only signed up to do The Masked Singer the day before.


“I never turn down a chance to try something new. I’ve been waiting to do this show for ages, but stars didn’t align until… well, yesterday, literally 24 hours ago!” the Night Owl chuckled. “I know people who need more than a day’s notice just to make dinner plans, but I live for the thrill of a challenge.”

“I can’t believe you just flew on in here and did this beautiful, amazing performance. ... I am totally blown away!” raved Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg, who clearly gave a hoot and was the one judge to guess the Owl’s identity correctly. (Debbie recently toured with Jenny's husband's group, New Kids on the Block, and Jenny said she considers Debbie "family," so Jenny had a judging advantage here.) "Not many people, Debbie, can just walk in here and do that. It shows a testament to your incredible talent. You're a class act."

After her reveal, Debbie explained the poignant timing of Fox's last-minute invitation. "I lost my mom one year ago, and it was the anniversary yesterday," she said. "I was flying back from New York; I was boarding, and my manager texted and goes, 'Somebody might be sick and can't do the show. You'd have to be in L.A. tomorrow.' So, I got in late last night, and I'm so glad to be here with you guys tonight. ... My mom said, 'Girl, get back to work!'"

Considering how little time Debbie had to prepare for her performance, she did an especially amazing job, and she deserved a chance to come back next week with the benefit of more rehearsal time. As mentioned on last week’s premiere episode, there’s a new twist this ninth season called the “Ding Dong Keep It On” bell, which allows the judges to save one mystery celebrity cosplayer per bracket from elimination — and I really think the bell should have been used on Debbie this week. For moment, he judges seemed to consider using it, but then, for the second consecutive episode, the bell did not toll. This meant that both the Night Owl and this week’s other cast-off, the Rock Lobster, met their Waterloo and were sent home.

Honestly, the all-cracked-up Rock Lobster, who unsurprisingly went home first Wednesday, probably would have fared better on a B-52’s Night episode of The Masked Singer. And it was understandable that the judges didn’t ding-dong their bell for him. But the self-described “neurotic mess” did deliver one of the most unhinged and bonkers performances in Masked Singer history (which is really saying something): a hilarious, downright Dr. Demento-worthy spectacular that brilliantly tapped into all the flailing desperation and angst of “SOS.”

“I wanna have a drink with you! You’re a good time!” Nicole told the Rock Lobster. She was convinced that this claws-out creature, with his manic Ed Grimley energy, was Martin Short — a guess that at least one of the judges makes at least one time per season. But chronic bad guesser Ken Jeong, who usually thinks everyone is Björk, actually got it right this time, recognizing that the Lobster was one of his comedic heroes: Howie Mandel. “I never get anything right!” cheered a triumphant Ken, jumping up on his desk and high-fiving his equally surprised co-stars, once Howie came out of his shell.

Meanwhile, host Nick Cannon also figured this one out, having worked with Howie during his America’s Got Talent era. Howie actually once begged Nick to return to AGT after Nick quit that show in 2017, and was therefore so excited about their onscreen reunion that the self-confessed germaphobe even got a bit uncharacteristically touchy-feely. “He hugged me! He hugged me!” Nick delightedly exclaimed, while Howie gushed to him, "I missed you!"

So, all this means that this bracket’s returning reigning/dancing queen, the Medusa, successfully defended her title from last week — after so fantastically belting “Dancing Queen” that Nicole told her she was “born to sing ABBA,” and then winning her “Winner Takes It All” Battle Royale against Debbie the Night Owl. So… who is the Medusa? Let’s review the clues…

This “dancer in the dark” grew up “far from the spotlight” and “never quite fit in,” but she “knew early on that [she] was born to stand out” and embraced her “oddities,” because “sometimes success comes in the grayest of places.” Other clues have included the Super Bowl, Buckingham Palace, a “True Love” chest tattoo, a DVD cover mockup that said “$340 million sold” and “Snakes on the Astral Plane,” chess pieces, palm trees, a framed portrait of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, a first-class plane ticket, and the year 1996.

Nicole guessed this was ABBA’s fellow pop Swede, Tove Lov. Ken thought this was actress Dakota Johnson, which elicited a chorus of audience groans and boos, but on the surface wasn’t that bad a guess — after all, Dakota dates Chris Martin, starred in Fifty Shades of Grey, and can sing a bit. (I am really surprised he didn't guess "Dancer in the Dark" singer Björk this time.) Robin made an even wilder guess by speculating that this was a professional "coming out party" for Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple Martin, who also occasionally sings. But none of those ladies can sing like this. So, I think the Medusa is the above-mentioned Martika’s former Kids Incorporated co-star, Fergie.

Aside from the Medusa’s Fergaliciously distinctive power-vocals, many of the clues do add up here. Fergie has performed at the Super Bowl with the Black Eyed Peas; Buckingham Palace is a reference to her hit “London Bridge”; she has another song titled “True”; there is an (unrelated) Argentine duo called Fergie & Sadrian that has a song called “Astral Plane”; Fergie’s solo video “You Already Know” was chess-themed; the palm trees are a nod to her Southern California upbringing; a first-class flight was mentioned in her single “Glamorous”; her previous girl group, Wild Orchid, charted their first hit in ’96; and she has sold more than 35 million albums and 60 million singles worldwide, which probably adds up to at least $340 million.

As for that Chris Martin connection… well, the only thing that came up for me in a quick Google search was that Chris wrote an R-rated song about another Fergie, the Duchess of York, when he was a breast-fixated young boy. So, yeah, that doesn’t quite track. But hey, let’s just go with that for now, because everything else makes sense. My backup guess is British soul sensation Joss Stone, who played the the Super Bowl XL pregame show in 2006, because last week the Medusa hinted, “Technically, I've been here before” — and Joss won the U.K. edition of The Masked Singer, dressed as a newspaper-swaddled English sausage, in 2021.

And so now, the Medusa will return for a third week to compete on next Wednesday’s New York Night. Could that Big Apple-themed episode actually feature Apple Martin? Will the judges finally use — or lose — that Ding Dong Keep It On bell? Whatever happens, the Medusa’s reign will be tough to topple. See you then.

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