Simon Cowell returned tonight to American competition-series judging, newly made over as a guy who decides with his heart and not his head.

It took mere minutes for cranky Cowell, the judge viewers loved to hate on Fox’s long-running singing competition series, to become smitten with a six-year-old comic whose mom types his material. “Are you married?” Simon asked. “NO, I’m only six!” Nathan giggled. “I think America is going to fall in love with you. I’ve got a feeling about that,” Simon cooed, then baby-waved at Nathan after the pint-sized performer got a unanimous thumbs up from Cowell and fellow judges Howie Mandel, Mel B. and Heidi Klum.

A dancing dog also stole Simon’s heart. “I actually think the dog likes dancing!” he marveled. Cowell also declared himself bewitched by a clairvoyant couple who he asked to spend a weekend with him in Vegas.

When a group that calls itself Linkin’ Bridge sang “Over the Rainbow” a cappella, Cowell didn’t chastise them for picking a glutinous tune made famous in 1939 as the old Simon might have done. Instead, Simon told them, “The first half of the song was okay. And then, when it picked up in the middle and you slowed it down…it was sensational – really sensational.”

A silent performer who went by the name Tape Face, because his mouth was taped shut, used oven mitts to lip sync “Endless Love,” after which, pantomiming to strains of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the guy’s left side got to second base with his right side.

“I like the fact we don’t know who you are,” Simon raved. “It was simple…clever, unique, brilliant.” (Mandel got the best line of the night here, forecasting that “by this time tomorrow, no one in America is going to know your name.”)

A guy who shoved scissors and a meat hook up his nose got Cowell’s first standing ovation of the night. “Oh. My. God. That was fantastic,” Cowell proclaimed. “In all my years that is probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen but I loved it and I want to see where this will go….I’m going to apologize to America in advance,” he said as he gave the guy a yes vote.

To a 13-year-old girl with a voice trained for opera, Simon emoted, “what made it even better was the fact you are such a sweet person. So humble,” sounding more like Paula Abdul by the minute.

To a Japanese magician, he gushed, “The fact you turned into a pigeon in front of our eyes is unbelievable. For those minutes it was like being in the happiest place; I didn’t want it to end. I might want you to…come home and live with me.”

Charlie and Rose, a sort of Elvis Meets Elvira-cum-Ann-Margret cover act, also advanced to the next stage in the competition series, despite the fact that Charlie kept forgetting the lyrics to “Viva Las Vegas” and 60-something Rose’s inclination to strip. Cowell gave them the needed third yes vote, explaining, “While my head is saying ‘you’re nuts,’ my heart is saying, ‘I want to see this all over again, but bigger and better.'”

This from the guy who told reporters in April that he intends to “improve the level of music acts” on AGT this season.