Shocking Puffer Fish elimination is the "biggest upset in 'Masked Singer' history"

When we last left The Masked Singer, on Wednesday’s Season 6 premiere, the Group A contestant known as Mother Nature had just been eliminated. That episode ended with an abrupt, unprecedented cliffhanger, so we had to wait until Thursday’s special broadcast to find out that the leafy lady was none other than actress, producer, and director Vivica A. Fox.

That big reveal alone would have been enough to make this an explosive episode, but Vivica was unmasked during Thursday’s first three minutes. It was actually the elimination that occurred at the end of the night that was the true shocker. It was, in fact, possibly “the biggest upset in Masked Singer history,” according to an incredulous Nick. The apparently all-too-easily-amused live studio audience had impulsively voted to save Thursday’s two new hilarious Group A wild cards, the Hamster and the Baby, but this decision came at the expense of one of the greatest R&B/pop divas of the past three decades.

“I think you guys are going to be upset that you decided to keep the wild cards,” Nick scolded the audience.

Think you know the Masked Singer? Test your at-home trivia chops in augmented reality with a round of 'Who's Behind the Mask?'

And with that, the Puffer Fish was revealed to be… seven-time Grammy-winner Toni Braxton! The judges seemed absolutely heartbroken to be sending home the “Un-Break My Heart” legend. Jenny McCarthy-Walhberg even yelled, “I quit!” But really, it was understandable that the voting audience hadn't been entirely impressed by Toni’s voice during her brief Masked Singer run. Her vocals often seemed mush-mouthed and garbled, so much so that the judges were convinced that she was deliberately disguising her iconic voice.

As it turned out, Toni's, Nick's "fellow lupus warrior," was wearing a face mask under her rhinestoned fish-head for extra COVID protection, because she was skittish about performing in public again — and that was why she sounded so muffled and not at the peak of her powers. "I've been in a house the whole pandemic, and I've seen them do something fun. But I had to be even extra-cautious and do it with the mask underneath the mask," Toni explained.

Regardless, it was hard to believe that Toni Braxton didn’t make it to this season’s finale. But she does now find herself in an elite Masked Singer group that bafflingly includes premature eliminees like Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, and Dionne Warwick. And she clearly didn’t regret taking a risk, career-wise or coronavirus-wise, to appear on the show. "You took me away from being so scaredy-cat and thinking about this whole thing that's going on in the world. It was nice to feel light for a moment,” she said, thanking the judges.

As for the Group A contestants who did advance to the next round — including the Hamster and Baby — their identities remain shrouded in mystery. But let’s assess their Thursday performances and keep the guessing game going:

The Hamster, “Pretty Woman”

This rockin’ rodent rolled onto the stage in a Habitrail cage and pulled off a pretty decent Roy Orbison impression, although it was his adept physical comedy that captured the audience’s attention the most. Jenny called him a “ham,” which was a compliment, and told him, “You’re entertaining, but most importantly, you can sing!”

The clues: He’s “always jumping from one project to the next with my famous friends” and is “used to being in all kinds of arenas.” He also said, “It’s sunny and I like to play baseball.” Visual clues included Alcatraz Island, goldfish, and pair of jeweled headphones. He also mentioned he had a body “shaped like a hamster,” which was obscured by his baggy costume.

Judges’ guesses: Danny DeVito, Bill Murray, Brendan Frazier, Albert Brooks, Kelsey Grammer, Andy Richter, Tim Allen, Jack Black. (The panel was stumped and named pretty much every comic with a dad bod that they could think of, basically.)

My guess: I’m stumped too. The mentions of collabs with famous friends and the headphones had me thinking this was a superstar DJ, maybe DJ Khaled, but I don’t think Khaled could sing like this. This probably is a comedian, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say Northern California rapper and former bat-boy MC Hammer. Get it? Ham-mer? Plus, that baggy outfit was giving me a Hammerpants vibe.

The Skunk, “It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World”

For the second might in a row, the stank-faced diva gave a jaw-dropping (and this time literally knee-dropping) performance. Nick said it was “one of the best vocal performances I have ever seen in my life,” and for the first time in all six Masked Singer seasons, judge Robin Thicke was so wowed that he stood on top of his desk, Dead Poets Society-style. Robin also raved that the Skunk possessed the “voice of God.”

The clues: She had a full college scholarship, but then got some “news that changed everything”: She was pregnant. Her life was “forced to take a different course,” and she “put her dreams on hold for others.” We also saw references to golfing, acting, and “miseducation.” Past clues have mentioned a career hiatus, a reputation for being volatile, and Seoul, South Korea.

Judges’ guesses: Lauryn Hill, Yolanda Adams, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Janelle Monae.

My guess: Last night, I thought this was Faith Evans, mostly based on the vocals. Now the clues about a young, unplanned pregnancy add up too. (Faith attended Fordham University on a scholarship in the early ‘90s, but dropped out after a year; soon after, she had her daughter.) So, I am steadfast in my faith that this is Faith.

The Bull, “What Hurts the Most”

Robin declared the Bull Season 6’s early frontrunner after Wednesday's charging-out-of-the gate performance, and on Thursday, after the Bull delivered another stupendous vocal, Robin shouted in amazement, “Mariah Carey notes!” Judge Nicole Scherzinger was equally amazed, telling the Bull, “Nothing in this universe could ever hold you back.”

The clues: He always “marched to the beat of his own drum,” with a massive imagination that had him putting on pretend performances in his garage as a kid. We also saw a photo of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Past clues have mentioned a “small town surrounded by cows,” being his own boss, and being recognized by Forbes.

Judges’ guesses: Darren Criss, Justin Timberlake, Brandon Flowers, Rufus Wainwright, Kevin Jonas, Zac Efron.

My guess: I’m sticking with small-town Texan and self-made YouTube star Todrick Hall, who has landed on Forbes’s “30 Under 30” list and is a total Disney obsessive. And I am pretty sure Nicole is playing dumb here and does recognize his voice, as she appeared in Todrick’s wildly imaginative musical film, Straight Outta Oz!

The Baby, “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything”

“This is show is officially disturbing,” Nicole groaned when this Stay-Puft-style, steroidal infant creepy-crawled onto the stage. (Wow, it took her six seasons to figure that out?) Nicole was right: This character is “the cutest, sweetest, scariest little thing ever!” His nightmare-fueling performance made the night that Mickey “The Gremlin” Rourke beheaded himself or Sarah “The Bear” Palin rapped “Baby Got Back” seem like something on PBS.

The clues: He was “part of the baby Rat Pack,” with blockbuster hit movies and an award-winning album to his credit. He even replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger in a film! We also saw a police badge, the White House, and “high-speed chases.”

Judges’ guesses: Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Vin Diesel (who was in The Pacifier!), Chuck Norris

My guess: I am going with the artist formerly known as the Fresh Prince. Will Smith (with DJ Jazzy Jeff) once won a Best Rap Grammy, and the badge and White House clues seem like nods to Bad Boys and Independence Day. Most importantly, Will replaced first choice Schwarzenegger in I Am Legend. And... he did get jiggy with it tonight.

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