‘Masked Singer Australia’ S1 Finale Recap: At Its Core, This Show Is Just Very Sad
This is how it ends: not with a bang, but a 12-way performance of 'The Greatest Showman's biggest song. As the song's chorus says, "THIS IS TV!"
This is how it ends: not with a bang, but a 12-way group performance of The Greatest Showman‘s biggest song. Watching Wendell Sailor, Cody Simpson, Nikki Webster et al perform together, you can’t help but think it was the most ambitious crossover event in musical history: as they sung in the chorus, “This Is TV!“.
Then again, Masked Singer Australia isn’t really over, with S2 locked in for next year. It’s proved to be another reality tv smash for CH10, with steady numbers all season — even if it did drag to the point I was too sick to write a recap for the last episode (sorry) and absolutely no one slid into my DMs to demand it.
Yes, that’s why.
A friend suggested the show should be condensed next year: four nights a week for two weeks, to sustain the suspense a little more (plus, let’s be honest, you can miss an episode or two). Despite only starting five weeks ago, it feels like Masked Singer Australia’s first few reveals — Gretel Kileen, Brett Lee — happened a lifetime ago. And what a life-time.
As Rihanna might say if she ever watched Masked Singer Australia, “that was quite a show, very entertaining”.
— jared richards (@jrdjms) October 21, 2019
Sad, too. There’s a desperate undercurrent to this show: as we’ve written ad nauseam, there’s a perverse thrill in guessing who is underneath the mask. Analysing each clue or laughing at the judging panel’s guesses, the unspoken secret assumption is that the show could only get people willing to debase themselves by appearing on it.
Now it’s over, maybe that hasn’t been entirely fair: most of the early-out celebrities were there for a bit of a laugh more than a career boost, but our top five had something to prove.
Deni Hines’ Unicorn adds some lightness to her dark-and-stormy tabloid narrative; Paulini proves she deserves another moment in the spotlight; Millsy shows off he’s ‘surprisingly good’; Gorgi might just reinvent her career; and winner Cody Simpson gets a potential comeback. At the least, he establishes his career narrative to the masses: a child-star trapped in the machine with dreams of making real music.
And then there’s Lindsay Lohan, who against the rumours, has not only held down a job, but been integral to Masked Singer Australia‘s success. We might’ve all laughed about her terrible guesses — no, Lohan, for the fourth time, LaToya Jackson is not the Unicorn — but her outsider presence added a final meta-layer to the show’s desperation: her off-hand comments and odd interpretation of clues were themselves a clue to who Lohan is, what she’s been through, and why she’s here.
On the very first day of rehearsals, I was standing backstage and I felt someone cone up behind me and grab my arse. Straight away my brain went "I know that person" I turned around and it was Wolf. Brain was right. #MaskedSingerAU
— Osher Günsberg (@oshergunsberg) October 21, 2019
After the finale’s group performance, LiLo gets choked up, saying “everyone’s told their stories behind these masks, it’s something special”. She’s not wrong. At each reveal, host Osher Günsberg asked each celebrity why they went on the show — often, their answer has landed on fun or doing it for their kids, but the clues along the way suggest something else.
Whether true or not, these celebrities have all had ups and downs in their careers, whether from controversies or lulls: Masked Singer Australia allows them to be entertainers without shackles of their own branding. That’s why the post-reveal is always a little anti-climactic, regardless of who it is — they’re back to being themselves.
Of all the contestants, the final three had the strongest narrative arcs: together, they offer a treatise on fame. Let’s theorise for the last time.
The Project panelist Gorgi Coghlan frames the show as a wonderful opportunity to sing again, after her career strayed away from live performance and into journalism.
There’s an incredible sincerity that bleeds out of the costume: she’s clearly just excited to perform, which explains why, according to the Daily Mail, she accepted the show’s second-lowest signing fee of $15,000 (just in front of Webster’s $10,000). For Coghlan, it’s a chance to make herself known — she’s endeared herself to the public completely, and is easily the show’s ‘breakout’ star, even if she struggled to actually break-out of her costume without Günsberg’s help.
In the clue packages, insecurity came through time and time again.
While Coghlan was bright post-reveal, the Monster persona was of someone a little misunderstood or lost in life. We’re not sure how valid that was, and judging by Coghlan saying she chose ’emotional’ songs to create a connection to the audience, it might’ve just been a branding exercise. It piqued our interest throughout, and reoccurring images like the cracked mirror made the show point towards a depth-of-despair that wasn’t really there — or is there, as it’s in, to some degree, all of us.
Turning Coghlan’s mild-disappointment over not singing in her day-to-day into a deep dissatisfaction is both a trick and savvy move; depending on your mood, it’s how those Sliding Doors moments in our lives can land in reflection.
This was a sort of cosplay for her to play it out — her post-reveal line “sometimes it takes 20 years for the 1 year to change your life, and this feels like that” suggests the show meant a lot to her. Who knows if Coghlan plans to rebrand or move towards being more of a multiple-threat personality, but it was sincerely sweet to see her break-through here, if only for a moment.
WolfRob Mills has long been a punchline at the end of a Paris Hilton joke, and it’s no doubt been pretty disappointing that he’s remains remembered for a short fling no matter how far on he’s moved in his career.
Still dressed as Wolf, Millsy says this episode that he doesn’t see himself as famous or a celebrity, just an entertainer. Accepting he couldn’t change the public’s perception has proved key to his happiness, though there’s still something a little brutal in the naming your own cabaret show “Surprisingly Good” as a way to own the joke.
When Günsberg calls him exactly that on-stage after the big reveal, Millsy jokes that it’s alright to say it is a surprise that he’s genuinely talented, but he sounds like the kid at school forced to laugh at his own expense.
— Neighbours (@neighbours) October 21, 2019
Millsy says he did the show because he missed the stage, having taken a step back from the musical circuit to star on Neighbours. Maybe he’ll be released from the narrative, but we do love a novelty.
Over on the Guardian, Wendy Syfret guesses the show’s been so popular because it draws on early ’00s nostalgia, an era she writes where “it felt like Australian pop culture was coming into its own” thanks to a new tier of reality tv-adjacent celebrity. Masked Singer Australia plays with that cringe-novelty: it’ll be interesting to see if Millsy can break free of it.
Last week, we guessed that Cody Simpson would win the show as the narrative arc validates the show’s whole existence. Simpson, a largely forgotten child pop-star, returns, and behind the mask is allowed to prove his talent without the overhanging shadow of his pre-teen singles: he’s aiming for the audience’s arm-chair realisation of, ‘Oh, he’s pretty good, hey?’, and succeeded.
There were a few other things working for Robot. For one, he dated Lohan’s younger sister, so there’s a personal connection there: allowing her one correct guess is the a double-win, really (though according to the first episode, she ‘personally knew’ four of the contestants).
He also apparently — and we’re sure none of the producers knew this — still has furniture Lohan bought for him, prompting a weird, awkwardly pass-ag mention that she wants it back after she guesses it’s Simpson behind the tea-strainer ears.
When Hughsey asks her why she doesn’t call her sister to find out if he’s one, she laughs and says “she won’t answer her calls right now…”, which is the show’s last somewhat dark Lohan moment — brushed over but accidentally revealed, as if the show’s wholesome family-entertainment edit couldn’t quite take it out.
The other big advantage for Simpson was he was the show’s highest-paid contestant, according to the Daily Mail, who report he was given a $200,000 sign-on fee. Let’s take it with a grain of salt, but it makes sense — he’s based in the US, and will attract international attention. Add to this his recent pairing with Miley Cyrus — and his new song about her — and everything seems perfectly aligned, though the added attention from his whirlwind romance with Cyrus is no doubt a very pleasant surprise for the show.
Simpson’s winning-moment read like a PR stunt in the way no other reveals have, thanks to Jackie O’s force-fed question about his involvement in the UN. At the show’s end, we were given a very boring brand packaging: Cody Simpson, the musician and nature-lover. The mystery was much more fun.
Masked Singer Australia is available to stream on 10Play, and will be back for Season 2. Revisit our recaps here.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and wants to know if he can buy that Wolf costume secondhand. He is on Twitter.