In a two-hour finale that should have arguably been one, Fox's hit singing competition The Masked Singer awarded its champion, the Fox, with the Golden Mask trophy Wednesday night and validated the performer's hard work and funky fresh dance moves all these weeks.
But the road to victory wasn't swift and the show spent its first half dropping more clues about the three finalists — the Fox, Rottweiler and Flamingo — as well as celebrating and interviewing the 13 contestants who have been eliminated along the way. The high point was remembering that internet and gaming superstar Ninja performed as the Ice Cream. Remember that?
More than anything, we all just wanted to know who the finalists were and who would be the last mask standing. We learned more about the Rottweiler first. Judge Nicole Scherzinger said his voice was her favorite in the competition and fellow judge Ken Jeong said they were all transfixed. "He is an amazing performer," Jeong added.
Sadly the clues — which included Zen and sports references and blue roses — did little to help viewers and the judges figure out the identity of the man behind the Rottweiler costume. Later, Scherzinger and judge Robin Thicke incorrectly guessed Darren Criss while judge Jenny McCarthy, who had the best track record for correct guesses, struck out by assuming that the Rottweiler was singer Jason Mraz. Meanwhile, Jeong mistook him for actor Dave Franco. But alas, he was someone else.
Next up on the clue package bonanza was Flamingo who said she loved playing the hot pink tropical bird because "we both live that cha cha life." The singer inside the costume speaks Spanish, that was one of the clues, and described herself as a triple threat. Jeong said her voice was "pitch perfect." McCarthy and Scherzinger guessed that the Flamingo was former Cheetah Girls singer Adrienne Bailon from the talk show The Chat and Thicke eventually joined their school of thought. But were they right?
Last but not least was the Fox. Clues included his tireless dance skills, next-level stage presence and superhero references. To help viewers and the judges even more, the foxy one performed first with an uptempo cover of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness." He even dropped a dope freestyle rap at the end of the song about who he was and wasn't and the crowd went crazy.
"I've been blessed enough to make a lot of people happy," the Fox said with tears in his voice. "But I haven't always been happy myself. It's taken me all this time to find my joy again, wearing a mask and having no preconceived notions from anyone about what I can do. And I just want to thank the show for making me one happy Fox."
Flamingo performed next and shook things up with a cover of Tina Turner's rendition of "Proud Mary" and broke out of "this box that I put myself in." After dancing and singing herself into a bundle of feelings and exhaustion, Flamingo said, "I never thought I'd be so emotional about this. I was told I would never amount to anything," she added. "And even though I've doubted myself, I'm determined, I'm hard working and I have truly had the time of my life. So I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!"
The Rottweiler performed last but before he started singing, he dropped one more clue. "My big break happened when I was just a pup," he said. "It's been impossible to change the way people see me until now." And then he belted out a ballad-y version of Sia's "Alive."
"I'm just really, really grateful right now," the singer inside the Rottweiler costume said. "I am often my own worst enemy. Like most of us, I'm finding my true voice. But this experience has brought me so much closer to that. I feel like I've already won."
Then it came time to cast votes and Flamingo placed third which meant she'd be unmasked first. Scherzinger, Thicke and McCarthy once again reiterated that they thought the Flamingo was Bailon but Jeong said he thought she was Jessica Simpson. Oh Ken! And the Flamingo turned out to be Bailon, much to the delight of three out of four of the judges.
"This has been life changing," Bailon said. "I never thought that I would love performing again and this has been so crazy. It's been the best thing I've ever done."
With the Flamingo gone, that left the Fox and Rottweiler. Then host Nick Cannon announced that the Fox had won. But just who was the Rottweiler and who was the Fox? Turns out none of the judges were right about the dog. He wasn't a boy-bander or Criss, the Emmy-winning star of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, but former American Idol contestant and frontrunner Chris Daughtry. The rocker said he decided to do the show after he saw last season's winner, T-Pain, recreate himself and thought a little reinvention would do him some good too.
That left the unveiling of the Fox. Thicke and Scherzinger guessed that it was game-show host and Broadway and improv star Wayne Brady while McCarthy and Jeong placed their bets on singer and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx. Turns out Thicke and Scherzinger were right. Get it, Wayne Brady!
"This has been the coolest, most amazing, most touching, most challenging, weirdest ... Oh my God!" Brady exclaimed after the win. "Really, I'm going to take this with me forever. This show is amazing. Because of the mask, you lead talent first."
McCarthy was happy to be proven wrong and praised Brady for his impressive singing and performance skills.
"You just proved to the world you are a true legend and an icon," McCarthy gushed. "I cannot wait to buy your albums. This is what you should be doing."
The Masked Singer returns for a third season Feb. 2 right after the Super Bowl on Fox.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)