This week’s episode, number four, of Wizard Wars had the most eclectic and obscure choices in terms of props for both the challenging teams and the wizards later on. It could also be the first show that may leave the audience a bit disgruntled at the choice of win. Not that there were any feelings of a fix or favoritism, but the losers this week had so much charisma together that the tight margin that allowed them to be voted out felt almost forced.
Of course the team of challengers that lost did so by a narrow margin and most likely because their opening act against the other team of challengers was so spectacular. With such a strong open, even though it was their own creation, it was a hard act to follow. As Alex the Lion says in Madagascar “I can’t top that!”
Challengers on the show this week had more of an “international flavor” with one magician from Canada who was the head “presenter” on the Discovery Channel’s Breaking Magic on U.K. television. Her partner, America’s Got Talent semi-finalist Leon Etienne, comes from New York, but has performed all over the world. Their competitors were two chaps from New Jersey; Mark Calabrese and John Stessel who may be “home grown” magicians but both were exceedingly capable in terms of performing.
The shows format, followed its usual setup, Penn & Teller gave a little magical backstory, or history, about a magician and then the wizards gave a magic demonstration, this time it was Angela Funovits who broke a wine glass without touching it. Afterward, presenter and host Ellen Fox introduced the in-house wizards, Justin Flom, Angela, Gregory Wilson and Shimshi. Penn & Teller, Christen Gerhart and Jason Latimer continued their duties as judges of the show.
The objects chosen for the challenger team to use in episode four of Wizard Wars consisted of a calculator, a leaf blower and balloons. The first team of competitors, Kidd and Etienne, provided some low key comedy in the segment that showed the two “working up” their act. The team then came out and using a blend of superb comic timing and delivery rocked the audience, wizards and judges.
Using the balloons as the open, the duo got immediate crowd participation and they materialized two calculators from two balloons suspended in front of them. Immediately after Leon blew up another balloon and Billy put a calculator inside while deflating it.
After the calculator in the balloon trick, Kidd mentioned that being Canadian meant that she loved maple syrup, a container of which had been sitting on the stage in front of a trashcan since the act’s beginning. Giving the bottle of sealed syrup to wizard Gregory Wilson, who confirmed that it was sealed, she and Leon began their finish.
Taking four leaves, Leon asked Penn & Teller to sign one of them and he then put all four in the leaf blower to be ejected so that Billy could skewer the autographed leaf with a single chopstick. This did not work and the payoff was that the object was in the sealed bottle of syrup. Cue real excitement from not just the audience but the judges and wizards as well.
Mark and John focussed on the calculator and balloons for a prediction act. Asking a volunteer to provide some double digit numbers for the machine. Ms. Gerhart was given a balloon and after combining all the numbers and writing the result on a white board, she was asked to pop the balloon and take out a piece of paper from inside. It contained the same number on the board.
The act was good, apart from the fact that the second team of competitors did not utilize the leaves as they should have, it also lacked the sparkle and “wow” factor of the Kidd/Etienne duo. The latter won the challenge to go on and face wizards Shimshi and Gregory Wilson in the final magical battle.
While the two final teams went on to prepare their acts, Jason Latimer came out and did a magic trick that was mind boggling. A card trick with no actual cards. The judge drew the card on his forearm and asked his volunteer to think of a card as he worked his arm art. The cards did not match and Jason then added a few lines to the card and made it a deck, stating that the woman’s card was in there. The finish for the gag had the magician shaking the “deck” and making the volunteer’s card come out of the top of the drawn container on his arm. Brilliant.
The final battle required that the two teams use four objects and as mentioned before, the random choice of props were very eclectic. These included a horse’s mask, an electric drivable car, a mini-fridge and a janitor’s key chain. Quite a challenge for both teams.
Billy and Leon used the fridge in their open to bring out a balloon which Etienne popped to reveal a bottle of bubbly. Billy then borrowed a wine glass from an audience member and Leon grabbed a napkin from another table. He then placed the paper serviette in the glass and his partner set it alight. When it finished burning there was set of janitor’s keys left in place of the napkin.
Leon then took the keys and placed them on Penn & Teller’s table and asked the magicians to keep an eye on them. A volunteer then helped the duo mix some magnets on the mini fridge to create a “word.” The two then used the horse’s mask to make the drivable car appear. The key ring was then shown to match the same colors of the magnetic letters and numbers on the mini-fridge. These same magnets proved to be the license plate on the electric car.
While the judges liked what the duo did for their second act, Christen put it best when she said that they all “expected planets to collide” after their spectacular opening gag in the challenger contest. After the feedback, Gregory and Shimshi were shown working on their ideas, with a pause for a little comedy.
The two wizard participants started their part of the contest with Wilson doing an impossible pickpocket trick, which got the duo their volunteer. They asked the man to pick a key which would open the locked mini-fridge. Once the door was opened, the reveal was a sealed loaf of bread with the volunteer’s wallet hidden inside.
The second half of the trick involved a huge cardboard box, a bit of comedy with the volunteer, and a tiny car the two had discovered in the props room. Shimshi entered the box and emerged driving the bigger electric car. Their finish used the horse’s mask and Mexican blanket turned into a poncho.
The act’s finish was an onstage transformation where Shimshi put on the mask, but Gregory took it off. Shimshi then turned up in the crowd wearing another “Mission Impossible” style mask. The judges liked what the two did and Penn related that despite “obvious” flaws, the team did very well.
Sadly, despite team Kidd and Etienne having the same amount of charisma they had in the first act, the very success of their initial performance sabotaged their chances of winning. In episode four of Wizard Wars, the in-house team won. This “narrow” decision felt a little hollow and could have left viewers feeling that the challengers were a bit cheated, even if they were the orchestrators of their own defeat.
By Michael Smith