Tran Tan Phat, a semifinalist on Vietnam's Got Talent, promised that he would impress all viewers with memorable magic tricks. And on Sunday night he did leave the audience in gasps.
In an act called "Acid test", Phat brought out five glasses of liquid. Four of them contained water. The fifth, he claimed, had sulfuric acid that could dissolve a piece of rubber.
The talent show contestant asked Huy Tuan, one of the judges, to go on stage and randomly reorder the glasses, without revealing which glass was which.
Phat would then try to "use his magical mind" and find the one with acid in it.
To add more suspense, the magician dragged out the process by drinking all the glasses with water first, one by one.
But at his second try, Phat accidentally chose the wrong glass and sipped a small amount of acid.
He spat it out immediately. Nevertheless, the liquid made his lips visibly swollen and he was apparently in pain.
Phat managed to stay relatively calm, even able to listen to all the judges' comments and ask viewers at home to vote for his act.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital right after leaving the stage.
According to local media, doctors said Phat had to be treated for second-degree burns on his lips and inside his mouth. He is expected to be released within the next few days.
A staged act?
Huy Tuan said he and his two fellow judges were "frightened" by the performance.
Vietnam Television, which broadcasts the show, apologized to viewers later for the incident. It said all contestants had rehearsed thoroughly for their acts and that safety was always a priority.
While Phat blamed everything on stage fright, many viewers believed that the whole incident was planned, to draw attention to himself and the show.
“The glass of acid was much fuller than other glasses and could be easily spotted out,” a viewer said.
“He drank the first glass of water in just one quick big gulp. For the second one, he only took a small sip," said another.
It is hard to know for sure whether the act was really staged. But the incident has started a much-needed conversation about the ubiquitous talent shows in Vietnam.
Critics say it is time to rethink the concept of fame and at the same time draw a line between real talents and attention-seeking performers.
Phat made his name on Vietnam's Got Talent as the young contestant who is willing to take risks.
In his very first audition, he won all the judges' votes after swallowing a long needle.
After Sunday's incident, his name was trending across social media in Vietnam.
Many of his fans took to Facebook to send their support. Some even lauded him for successfully avoiding a meltdown on live television.
“I voted for Phat, since I am curious to know what he will drink next in the finals,” said a Facebooker, with a large smiley face.