Who's Your Daddy?!, the name of the first episode of season 10 of Penn & Teller's Fool Us and wow did it earn that title. Before we get into all of that though, can we take a quick moment to highlight the new host, Brooke Burke!
The magic duo, Penn & Teller, neither the show's intro changed at all to indicate that they've switched from long-time host Alyson Hannigan to Brooke, but they did give a slight nod to this, being her first episode as the host ... at the very end of the show. I loved Alyson, don't get me wrong -- I've even binge watched all of How I Met Your Mother and got attached to her character (as well as the others, of course). But Brooke brings a whole other vibe to the show. Her outfit, which I'm certain she'll be wearing for every episode this season, is one I'd expect to see in Vegas too.
Moving on from the new host, I was surprised that they didn't refresh the show's intro. It's been what, 8 seasons on The CW now and the same intro? Oh well, it's quick and to the point, so wait!!! Did you see?! The audience is back! Finally, after what feels like forever, the show has an audience again!!! We can see reactions and hear actual applause and laughter, this is great! Yes, yes, the show is edited -- but the power of a live audience for the performers brings things up another notch!
This episode was full of magic though. Card magic, mentalism, even a good ol' fashioned cups and balls routine. Except, they were anything but! Read on below to get an overview of each routine (^_^)
Moxie Jillette - A Card Trick from Scotland
I would say that this is Moxie’s first time appearing on Fool Us, but that’s not correct! Last season, Moxie appeared in one of Penn & Teller’s acts at the end of the episode. I don’t, personally, recall if he appeared any other time though. But that’s not super important. What’s really fun is his appearance on this episode.
If you weren’t aware and couldn’t tell by his name, Moxie is Penn’s son (the show said daughter, but @soda_brand13's Penn's son, to be clear). They’ve both said that they are very close and his appearing on this episode was a surprise for his father … who thought that he was currently in Scotland! If you haven’t seen this episode, his intro is well worth watching.
Moxie’s act started with Penn and Teller both having their jaws on the floor, simply shocked that he was there in person (he was supposed to be in Scotland).
I would say “once this subsided,” but it never really did, but the magic duo joined him on stage and took a seat at the table he was at.
He started by showing a deck of cards and how every card had a different number written on the back. The faces of the cards were all normal. Playing to the idea of a DNA-based connection, he first asked Penn to name a number, and then Teller too — Teller’s basically family!
Before going through the cards after they named their numbers, Moxie would say the name of a card and then spread through the deck to look for their named number and bam! The value of the card was the one he said.
Ah, backing up a bit, before doing all of that he had mentioned that his number was 37. He asked Penn to name a card, any card. Scrolling through the deck to find that card, the back of it was… you guessed it, 37!
Not including magically transporting himself from Scotland to Las Vegas, there were two tricks in Moxie’s act. The first was having her named cards appear on the numbers selected by Penn and Teller. The second was having Penn’s named card appear on the card with his selected number.
His patter, i.e. the story and theme he used, was very specific to his appearance on Fool Us as it was tailored to his relationship with Penn and Teller. It’s very possible to have had this act work with another story too, but I think that the personal touch made it nice.
As a card magician myself, I look for things like how tightly the performer holds the cards, how smoothly they spread them, and of course any general hand movements or attempts at misdirection that don’t fit. Moxie’s overall handling, as we could see on TV, was fantastic. Wide spreads of cards, openly handling everything right in front of the audience, and no real room for difficult sleight of hand. It’s almost a trick I’d expect to be marketed in the near future!
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
When it was Penn and Teller’s turn to break it down, Penn reiterated that he was fooled just by Moxie being there. He also said that this trick’s solution was all on Teller (remember, while they’re both magicians, Teller’s more a magician than Penn).
It’s in these cases I wish Teller would speak up. We know that he speaks — he’s been on other shows, in interviews, and even taught a Masterclass — but on this show he holds his voice just like in their acts. Oh well!
Penn dropped a solid hint about how the first part of the act worked, specifically about how the cards he named appeared on the cards with the numbers they named. For those curious, the quote was something akin to:
And then came the second part of the act: the card that Penn named appearing on the face of the card numbered 37. They were both fooled!
Penn said, and with good reason, that people will doubt whether they were really fooled forever.
As mentioned above, I enjoyed this trick. I liked the overall performance and handling, and I liked the effect itself.
The notes that I jotted down as I watched the trick align with Penn’s hint for the first part of the act. The second part, I had two immediate guesses. The first was a similar approach to the first part. The only problem with that is that the cards would’ve had visible differences to them, and I could see any from my angle — and Penn and Teller would’ve likely seen then from theirs too.
My other guess is kind of a wild one, but I tested it out on a card I had, and it does work… but neither Penn or Teller asked to inspect the deck of cards, so we’ll never actually know if it was the method or not. I might need to rewatch the episode and zoom in on the cards to see if there’s a tell anywhere in there to see if I was right. Chances are, I’m far from the way he did it =P
That said, the fact that I have two “maybe” answers means that I was fooled too! Fantastic performance Moxie!
Daxien - Chinese Cups and Balls
Daxien is an illusionist from Taiwan who, during his Fool Us intro, said he performed 100 magic shows for charity!
I hadn’t heard of Daxien before his appearance on this episode, but I’m looking forward to seeing more from him. If you want to keep up with him, check him out more on Instagram: @daxien_the_illusionist
Daxien took the stage with a large table in front of him and quickly got into his act by bringing out two large bowls and three decent-sized balls. And a stick. Not a wand, but a stick. A thick one at that!
Placing one ball in front of one bowl, then another under a bowl, and the third — wait what, they’re all three under a single bowl?! He repeated the effect with great humor and vanished balls from here and there, it was quite magical.
But wait, there’s more!
Daxien said that for such a big stage and having Penn and Teller so far away, he needs to make the trick even bigger. He took away the bowls and brought out giant soup pot lids and instead of balls, three chicken eggs!
He then proceeded to repeat the “cups and balls” routine with the giant pot lids and eggs, humor and all.
To prove, at least to magicians, the difficulty of his routine, he took each egg one-by-one and cracked it into a cup. Sure enough, they were real eggs… except the last one…
With the last egg, he put it under a pot lid and when raising it, out came a live chicken!
This performance was a unique and fun twist on the age-old cups and balls routine. I’m sure I’ve seen a rendition of it done with two cups (or bowls) and three balls before, but this performance felt like a first to me.
Daxien’s added humor, at least as far as I could tell, was added in purely for effect, not for misdirection. I really loved that about it too. It made the whole routine his and let his skill shine through.
A routine like this deserves to be seen in person, from normal "human sight" angles and not by moving cameras. While the performance itself was still enjoyable to watch on TV, I think that -- from a magician's point of view -- the experience was lessened slightly due to the angles and movement of the camera. Either way though, anytime an egg turns into a chicken is a good time!
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
I really hope that Penn's speech wasn't lost in translation or misconstrued by cultural differences, because it was full of very high praise.
He started off with statement after statement akin to "If you had asked us before the show if we had wanted to see a cups & balls trick" and "If you had asked us a week ago if we had wanted to see a cups & balls trick", all the way back to 15 years ago to ever, and then "no, we don't ever want to see a cups & balls trick again." Ending this tirade of "it's a cups and balls trick," Penn says:
The comedy aspect aligned with Penn and Teller's humor and was just different enough to make a solid impression. Unfortunately, it is in fact a cups and balls routine and Penn and Teller were not fooled.
The Cosmic Romantics - Ukulele ESP
Elizabeth Messick and Eric Thirstin, known as The Cosmic Romantics, are "Magicians in Love". But in all seriousness, at least based on their intro on the show and the general overview on their website (thecosmicromantics.com), they're definitely dating. And...
That's a decent amount of pressure to start the act with!
You can check out more of their vaudeville inspired magic and other neat things on their Instagram: @thecosmicromantics
Eric was the narrator for the act, Elizabeth the magician who was holding a ukulele. Or rather as the channeler since she was there demonstrating her powers with Ukulele ESP!
As Elizabeth was blindfolded, Eric brought out a "surprise object"... Elizabeth's middle school diary! Brooke was quickly brought over to be the spectator-assistant for the act.
Jumping right into things, Eric asked Brooke to flip through the book and find a page that had a picture on it. Any page, as long as it had a picture. We, the audience, weren't given a glimpse into the book, only Brooke saw what she was seeing. Eric then asked her to trace the picture with her finger.
As soon as she began tracing, Elizabeth was strumming the ukulele and described the picture that Brooke was currently tracing!
The act didn't stop there, oh no! Eric held the book and riffled through the pages and asked Brooke to stop him at any time. When she did, there was a song on the page. Elizabeth then started playing the song without any additional information!
For a final time, Eric held the book and riffled through the pages, again asking Brooke to stop him at any time. She did and he asked her to look at only the date in the corner of the page. The camera zoomed in and we saw a date in December. Elizabeth strummed her ukulele and made a comment about April Fool's Day (April 1st)... which was wrong!
After a claim that Ukulele ESP is not a real science, Brooke was asked to flip to the page with the date she had selected. Only, she couldn't because the page was torn out! About that time, Elizabeth's ukulele strumming began sounding different. Investigating as to why, it turned out that she was now holding a pick to strum the chords with, and she wasn't before...
The pick, when examined, was the missing page torn from the diary, all folded up!
Did They Fool Penn & Teller?
Penn didn't beat around the bush on this one, he went straight into a question about the book itself.
I don't remember the direct quote for this one, but it was like:
They stated that in fact, no, the pictures are each uniquely different!
Since Penn and Teller only get one solid guess as to how a trick is done, and this was their guess, they were fooled! Two foolers in one episode!!! Or, three if you count The Cosmic Romantics as being 2 themselves (^_^)
I wonder if Penn & Teller will receive wedding invites?
The Cosmic Romantics work together nicely, though in this specific act, I didn't pick up as much "romantic chemistry" as I would have expected from an act with such a name, and with the intro they had for the show. They came off as "magician" and "magician's assistant" to me, when I expected them to both lead. It could've just been this one performance that was picked out-of-context from what their "whole act" is, or I'm just overthinking their name, but yeah.
I've never been a huge fan of "book test" magic tricks, especially when -- or specifically when -- the book is brought by the magicians themselves. In this specific case, it wasn't even a normal book, it was one that they very clearly had made. Yes, they performed very nicely, but once you've learned how to do a few variations of these routines, seeing them performed makes that "spark" no longer exist.
The last two tricks, where Eric riffled through the pages, it doesn't take a wild guess to determine how they were done. That's also why Penn never even talked about them. It's that first trick, where Brooke had a free choice of any page with any picture, where the questions arise.
I thought Penn's guess was an interesting one, I didn't think of that approach myself. My guess was actually more aligned with what I saw, or what I thought I saw on screen. To recall, I only watched the episode once -- as it aired -- and took notes while watching. My notes say that Eric was looking at the page that Brooke flipped to and started speaking only after the picture was selected. "ESP" based tricks with duo's work really well in those scenarios, especially if the duo works nicely together!
Update: when I went back to grab a screenshot to include in this post (after I wrote the above... but before I posted the actual post...), I happened to see that exact part of the act and I way-misremembered. Eric wasn't looking at the book, and it was actually Elizabeth (blindfolded and a distance away) who guided Brooke on finding any picture and tracing it. Consider my mind blown!
David Schwartz - Never-ending Snacks
David Schwartz is a magician and mentalist who performs at all different types of events from weddings to corporate gigs and most things in-between. Okay, that last part was made up by me -- no idea if he'll perform at most other things, but he seems like a really fun and chill guy overall.
His Fool Us intro was very "family-friendly magician", I was almost surprised to see his website (davidschwartzmagic.com) because it's very business-suit and professional. As you'll read below, his magic goes either way, but in a big way!
David's act, while I'm able to describe it from start to finish, is much better experienced than read. To summarize it briefly though, here's a quick breakdown of the magical effects. And again, this is a brief summary and not a description of the act itself (please go watch it if you haven't, it's worth it!)
He started off with a cookie in his hand which then vanished and was found in his shoe! Taking the cookie out, wait, now there is a full can of Coca Cola in his shoe!
He poured the entire can of Coke into a glass to prove that it was in fact a full can of soda. After crunching the can, he made the can magically "un crunch", then the tab re-sealed itself! But wait, there's more -- the glass on the table was now empty!
He re-opened the can and poured it into the glass again 🥤
David's act was fast paced, but also slow enough to really enjoy. The everyday objects, such as the cookie, shoe, and soda can, were so normal and usual that their presence didn't attract a vast amount of attention, and yet we the audience were focused on them the entire time. Because of this, David was able to bend our reality because we knew how these things should work, and yet the impossible happened!
He was telling a story along with his performance, but I can't remember any of it. It was the magic that I recall, and I would like to think that that's the way it was supposed to be. If not, perhaps that's worth considering.
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
There were a lot of hints thrown out during Penn's speech. Ultimately, they weren't fooled, but his overall review of the performance sounded pretty good.
He name-dropped a few other magicians such as Mac King and David Blaine, and made a starting comment about the props themselves being "simple props" that are "there for a reason", along with another comment or two that allude very specifically to how he performed the tricks.
The specific comment about the props being "simple", in my opinion, was more to the fact that they were everyday objects and nothing super fancy or suspicious, so I saw this as a plus.
I loved this entire performance, from start to finish. I'm also not going to lie; I have no idea how he vanished the cookie in the beginning so that alone would've caused me to be fooled for this act!
I'm familiar with the trick with the soda can, but I've never seen it performed in this way. Specifically, in a recursive nature where the can is emptied into a glass, then the can is restored and the glass itself is empty. Ah, yeah, the glass being empty fooled me too! I have a guess as to how that one happened, but without being there "in person" and only seeing the edited performance, I may never actually know.
Penn & Teller - Bean Catch
Penn and Teller's skit was a warning for how dangerous dried vegetables are. Specifically, a bean.
They had Brooke sign her initials onto a bean and then Penn pulled out a handy-dandy slingshot! Or wrist rocket. Or, however you call it =P. Teller was holding a red Solo cup in preparation to catch the bean.
I forget the original premise of the trick, if I'm being honest, because they kept interrupting it with standard P&T humor. By the end of the routine, Brooke was fashioned with a hard hat, googles, and the cup that was already a decent ways away from anyone was now directly in front of Teller's face. The point being, and perhaps this was the premise, was for Brooke to be able to see the very fast-moving legume at eye level.
Penn pulled back and wham! Blood started spilling from Teller's mouth and sure enough, he caught the bean as it exploded through the cup without a problem.
As a teenager I loved watching comedy magic like Penn & Teller and The Amazing Johnathan, both of which have done their fair share of danger magic and tricks with blood involved. As an adult, I still enjoy these types of routines, as long as they're done in good taste and have a reasonable premise -- and most importantly, involve magic.
However, I also have children who like to watch this show with me. I know, I know... it's their standard Bullet Catch routine but with a slingshot and a bean instead of a gun and bullet, and it was just a little blood. Except, in this case, it's "danger magic" with everyday objects that kids typically have.
When I watched this episode, my 7-year-old was sitting with me and his eyes were wide open when the blood started coming out. He is, unlike my older kid, very impressionable and gets upset and frankly kind of scared when others get hurt. I had to explain to him that this wasn't real and how the trick worked (which I refrain from doing for normal tricks). But I explained it to him for two reasons. The first, to help calm him down. The second, because I know him and the very next day after watching this, he'd be out with a slingshot trying to replicate it with his friends.
As soon as I saw the blood, my first reaction was "crap, damage control time." My second reaction, after having a little time to think and process, was that the blood effect wasn't necessary in the routine at all. The normal Bullet Catch routine doesn't have it, the effect that the bean (or bullet) is "caught between the teeth" is the effect itself. Penn and Teller don't add fluff in -- if you don't count Penn's speaking -- they always do exactly what's necessary for the trick. My thought is, and I hope I'm right, is that they added the blood effect in for the very reason of scaring children away from "trying this at home."
I've begged and begged, for years, to see an episode with more than one fooler. Tonight, I finally got my request!
Personally, I'm not going to be one of the ones who is skeptical whether Moxie actually fooled them. The part of the trick that they claimed fooled them fooled me too, so it's a double win in my book. I'm really happy that Moxie's going to, hopefully, help carry on Penn's legacy... and also hope that there will be even more multiple-fooler-episodes to come!
Season 10's off to a great start, I can't wait to see what else is on the stage =]