Metamorphosis: ‘Masked Dancer’ Moth revealed to be famous activist, advocate, abduction survivor

The Masked Dancer — basically The Masked Singer but, you know, with dancing — has got to be the wackiest show on television right now. This week’s Group B playoffs featured a nuclear-green Sloth (who may or may not be Will Ferrell) twirling a ribbon-on-a-stick to the love theme from An Officer and a Gentleman, for instance.

But Wednesday’s Masked Dancer episode took an unexpectedly serious turn, when the Moth was revealed to be kidnapping survivor-turned-activist Elizabeth Smart.

Unlike other Masked celebrities who always actively pursued fame — various singers, rappers, athletes, YouTubers, actors, and comedians — Elizabeth was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at age 14 under tragic and terrifying circumstances, when she was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom and held captive for nine horrific months in 2002. Her harrowing, headline-making survival story inspired two made-for-TV movies as well two books written by Elizabeth, and the now 33-year-old head of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation has become one of the world’s most prominent advocates for missing persons and survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking. One would not expect a public figure like Smart to sign up for such a silly show and appear on national television dressed like a giant glittery insect — or that her unmasking would be such an emotionally charged breakthrough moment.

“My grandma actually passed away very recently, but she was so much fun. She never let a moment pass her by. And so, when this opportunity came along, I thought, ‘I live a pretty serious life, and I’m going to take this opportunity and just have fun,’” Elizabeth explained to host Craig Robinson. A visibly moved Brian Austin Green — the only Masked Dancer judge to guess the Moth’s identity correctly — told her, “Can I just say that, for what you’ve dealt with in your life, you have been an inspiration for so many people and you’ve done so much good with a really difficult situation, and we need more people like you on the planet. Thank you.”

While the Moth’s metamorphic Masked Dancer journey ended Wednesday, Elizabeth really seemed to let loose and enjoy the experience, and she surely made her grandmother proud. Group B’s three other mystery celebrities boogied their way into the Super Six semifinals, where they’ll soon compete alongside three Group A contestants (to be determined next week). Smart’s reveal was definitely a shocker (kudos to Brian to figuring that one out), but maybe the Zebra, Cotton Candy, or Sloth will be easier to identify, based on the performances and clues below.

The Zebra

What’s black and white and goofy all over? The Zebra! This striped hoofer promised to bring sexy back with his partner routine to K-Ci & JoJo’s ‘90s slow-jam “All My Life” — but this number was so zany and awkward, I almost thought that last week’s eliminated Ice Cube, Bill Nye, had returned, newly disguised, in some sort of revenge-of-the-nerds plot twist. Whoever the Zebra is, he is not a professional dancer. But the judging panel’s resident vibeologist, Paula Abdul, thought the Zebra actually moved like a professional boxer.

The clues: Last week, we got a lot of boy-band references, but I am beginning to suspect that the Zebra is not an entertainer by trade. This week, we saw the high-powered “Z.E.O.” sitting at an executive desk for a company that sells “Dad’s appliances,” and other visuals included a sports medal, wrestling, cinnamon, a fish, and a broken record. The Zebra said he survived his tough childhood thanks to the love of his mentors and friends, so now he wants to give back. His “Word Up!” verbal clue was “champion.”

Judges’ guesses: Conor McGregor, Tony Robbins, Alex Rodriguez, Floyd Mayweather, Mario Lopez, Tito Ortiz.

My guess: I suppose I better change my guess from last week… which was, um, Clay Aiken. Mayweather seems like a better bet, since his onetime nemesis was Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, a.k.a. “The Cinnamon Head.” Floyd also competed for the WWC and on Dancing With the Stars, and he has his own foundation to help disadvantaged youth.

The Cotton Candy

While this fluffy femme’s cutesy club dance to the Lady Gaga/BLACKPINK bop “Sour Candy” wasn’t as impressive as last week’s aerial stunt, it was still pretty sweet. She showcased a ton of sass, stamina, and, as Paula observed, core strength. This might be another famous athlete — but one that has had some serious dance training.

The clues: She missed out on a lot of everyday adolescent activities and was “iced out” from other kids because she was always trying to “balance practice” with school. We saw a lipstick (the second lips clue of the season, after last week’s pouty cupcakes), an American flag, a hawk, and a storybook. Her verbal clue was “team player.”

Judges’ guesses: Jenna Dewan, Tara Lipinksi, Kristi Yamaguchi.

My guess: I still haven’t totally ruled out my guess from last week, Julianne Hough, but now I think this could be competitive skater, mouthy sports commentator, and two-time author Tara Lipinski. (LIPinski? Get it?) Many of this week’s clues were Olympian, and a clue last week was the number 3 — the age Tara was when she first started skating, and possibly a reference to her historic triple loop/triple loop combination at the 1998 Winter Games.

The Sloth

The Sloth was definitely going for the gold — at least the comedy gold — with his ribbon-twirling rhythmic gymnastics routine to “Up Where We Belong.” Fellow funnyman Ken Jeong even declared this tour de farce his favorite dance of the season so far.

The clues: We saw sporting gear, a Say Anything-style boombox salute, and a cruise ship. The Sloth spoke about living in a foreign land, not fitting in, and being mistaken for a “bad boy,” but said he finally “took a chance and jumped.” His verbal clue was “leading man.”

Judges’ guesses: Jonathan Groff, Keegan-Michael Key, Jason Derulo, Will Ferrell.

My guess: Last week I thought this was Todrick Hall, but could the Sloth actually be — hear me out — legendary lead singer David Lee Roth? Roth once lived in Tokyo, people thought he was “just a gigolo,” and he once decided that he “might as well jump.” And one of the clues last week was the initials “D.R.”! (The Van Halen rock star dropped the “Lee” from his name last year.) And “Roth” does rhyme with “Sloth”! Yes, I know this guess is a longshot, but the Sloth’s hammy personality and physical comedy are totally giving me Diamond Dave “Dance the Night Away” vibes right now.

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