By EW Staff
May 09, 2012 at 09:13 AM EDT
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By Whitney Pastorek

Stuck in traffic on the way to the finale of The Voice tonight, I felt a palpable excitement, PopWatchers. Last night’s epic battle of Jermaine Paul, Chris Mann, Juliet Simms, and Tony Lucca had featured such fireworks – both literal and (yes, Adam) metaphorical – I felt certain that I was about to bear witness to a dramatic spectacle! Would Christina punch Adam in the face? Would Tony Lucca’s wife rip out Christina’s weave? Would audience members spontaneously combust in the heat? I did not know, but I was prepared for anything.

Sadly, the answer turned out to be: none of the above. It was a somewhat languid finale for those of us there in person, as the heat in the soundstage led not to combustion, but wilting. It took very little time for Bill the Warmup Dude to inform us that we were the quietest audience ever. “Your clapping should be contagious, like a cold,” Bill told us. “I need your applause to be real applause, with both hands making noise.” Eventually he gave up, and just told everyone that Justin Bieber would be performing later. That did the trick.

We’d all arrived early for a pretape of the Hall & Oates performance, and in a refreshing change of pace from Idol’s often-absentee judging squad, all four coaches were in attendance, Adam and Blake even dressed in matching suits like a scene from an extremely promising remake of Rain Man. Cee Lo entered wearing a t-shirt featuring the names of his entire team, and Christina emerged in what might be charitably described as a sparkly adult diaper. Carson Daly briefly appeared with his son in his arms, which led the woman sitting next to me – who had only seen the back of the child’s head – to coo, “Ohhhhh. Beauuuuutiful.” Meanwhile, Hall & Oates entered the VoiceBox nearly unrecognized as the three male finalists took their places behind mic stands to serve as backup singers. (So much for “Jermaine, you’ll never be a backup singer again.”)

Side note: Oates is the size of a teacup poodle. The internet says he’s 5’4”, and if that’s true, then I’m Amar’e Stoudemire.

If you’re scoring at home, you may have noticed that “Rich Girl,” the song Hall & Oates performed, quite prominently features the word “bitch” on several occasions. It is also derogatory towards at least one woman – if not an entire subset thereof. Alas, the coaches were not encouraged to give their comments after the performance, so we’ll never know Christina’s thoughts on the matter, though she did manage to register what I’m sure was her blinding ideological rage by being the only coach not to give Hall & Oates a standing ovation. Overall, I super enjoyed the double standard of like 12 men on stage merrily singing the word “bitch” over and over and over again not 24 hours after The Incident. Don’t know if the song choice was intentional, but it was brilliant.

In between the pretape and the live show, Blake and Christina were deeply engaged in conversation, where they’d stay for the rest of the night. (Oh, to be a fly in those Starbucks cups!) Everyone else was generally milling about, setting up, blotting foreheads, swiffering things, taking pictures of each other. Bubble machines were being tested, and Carson took advantage of the downtime to shoot a line for what Bill told us was “something unrelated.” The line was, “Have you seen this new viral video by the Mob? It’s huge!” Several penis jokes were made, someone said “That’s what she said” over the P.A., and then they jokingly requested Carson do it again but in Spanish, which led to the host cheerfully nattering something in a high-pitched accent about wanting cerveza in his dressing room and tequila in his belly. All I could think was, Dude. Your son. When Bill found an audience member to do “Rapper’s Delight,” I was pretty sure it was showtime. We were reminded not to call out the coaches’ names, Carson stood stage center and crossed himself, and…

thisisTheVOICE!!! Eek! Fireworks!

It was clear from the very first clip reel that this crowd looooooved Tony Lucca. The other three got almost no reaction whatsoever as the recap from last night played, although I certainly snorted aloud when Chris Mann said, “I was just really hoping to touch Christina.” As Carson moved to interview the coaches, I got out my BlackBerry, planning to note just how quickly the “don’t call out coaches names” rule fell by the wayside. But Blake spoke, and there was silence. Christina started in, and I felt sure she’d be interrupted, but no one said a word. (She went ahead and interrupted herself by complimenting us on our “energy.”) Cee Lo: Nada. Adam… I held my breath. But no. Not a peep. That’s how sleepy the crowd was, PopWatchers. Adam Levine made it through like four whole sentences without hearing that he was loved.

Love is what I felt for the Jermaine/Pip/Jamar Rogers/James Massone rendition of “I Want You Back,” and who knew Pip had such a killer little falsetto? The room went nuts with that basketful of cute boy puppies up there on stage, and the boys seemed equally excited to be in the basket: James literally never stopped bouncing. The goodwill I felt from their performance carried through the commercial – during which Christina’s son appeared in her lap – through the blooper reel, and even survived the Sprint Lounge. No better way to kill it, though, than have Flo Rida come out and rap to track!

Seriously, though: What made Christina think that this was the appropriate segment for her small child to watch (while not wearing any visible ear protection)? I suppose ladies grinding in hot pants are rather de rigueur around the Aguilera household, but still. Ugh. Also, what a horrible celebrity duet to force upon poor Juliet Simms, who was dragged kicking and screaming into some other key every time Flo Rida tried to sing live! How did the boys get Hall & Oates sun n’ fun while the brilliant Juliet got saddled with this fiasco? I suppose we will never know. Mad props to Flo Rida’s keyboardist, though, whose ivory-crushing mime job rivaled that of Rowlf the Dog. It takes effort to not-play piano that flamboyantly. Well done, sir.

The performance ended – Christina’s son was hiding his face behind her fan at this point – and we moved on towards Chris Mann’s victory lap, for which he brought back Lindsey Pavao and Katrina Parker. Let the record reflect that Chris Mann thought Katrina Parker had a shot to win this thing, and that “Bittersweet Symphony” is a great track for a workout mix but doesn’t so much get it done in a live context. I did like the Grand Ole Opry-style swoop the trio put on the harmonies, but other than that, meh. At the end, however, three of the four coaches gave it a standing O, with Adam the only holdout. Payback for Christina’s slights against Tony? Or guilt over ousting Katrina? I sure hope it’s the latter.

Commercial time, and the men with the dust mops swiffered like their lives depended on it. I wondered if they’d have an okay time finding work once the show wrapped, or if they’d just spend the next nine months obsessively cleaning the kitchen until The Voice season 3 premieres. Meanwhile, Christina was getting a neck rub. Back from break, we headed to the Sprint Lounge and the “crazy” Flo Rida “party” that only Christina Milian could see, and then the Adam/Blake bromance reel, and then the Hall & Oates pretape – it was a long period of inactivity for those of us in the house. As a consolation prize, crew members started handing out little colored lights to the kids in the pits, which turned out to be light-up rings, and I felt a sense of desperation wash over me. I wanted a light-up ring! I would have happily swaybotted for one, if necessary. Then again, if the choice was between a light-up ring and having a chair for the broadcast, I was good with the chair. “We’re gonna find out who wins in a little over an hour!” Carson exclaimed. I sat down.

The colored-ring-light/ladies’ night version of “Superstition” was just aaight for me, dawg, although it did give me a newfound appreciation for Naia Keta’s voice. I also liked towards the end when Chessa was so busy gesticulating that she forgot to sing into the mic. When we went to break, Christina got up to sign autographs for the pit, and totally startled me because I had somehow forgotten that she was wearing a sparkly adult diaper. Bill found a guy from Israel in the crowd and asked if he watched The Voice over there, wondering “Is it in English???” in an awestruck voice.

Juliet’s victory lap on “With A Little Help From My Friends” was another strong group performance, this one also featuring Jamar Rogers, who is obviously this year’s Miss Congeniality. RaeLynn got a nice bunch of cheers from the crowd, as did Erin “Good Lord That Woman Can Wail” Willett, while Juliet had the misfortune of needing to pull off the line “What would you do if I sang out of tune” right after the Flo Rida debacle. (The answer, clearly, is “pretend it never happened, sweetheart.”) The swaybots seemed caught off-guard the entire tune, unsure whether to do the seaweed thing or just clap.

Given the balloon drop here – dammit, I wrote, would it be so hard to bring in some doves?? – you can imagine that the next commercial break was a bit frenzied. “Pop those balloons for us, folks! Pop those balloons!” the stage manager pleaded, and the entire VoiceBox echoed with what sounded like firecrackers. The swiffer men came out with special stabby sticks, and the kids in the pit alternated between helping and brattily batting the balloons around. Christina got up to sign more autographs. It was mass chaos. And it was in this moment that some genius decided to schedule the one and only live appearance of Purrfect the Cat.

I happen to know a bit about Purrfect the Cat, as I alluded to yesterday, and here is what I can tell you: All those “jokes” they were making in the clip reel about Purrfect’s diva behavior and ridiculous contract? Not necessarily jokes. The cat comes with two handlers – both of whom stood in the front row of the pit tonight to ensure the cat’s safety and comfort – and when I had the opportunity to spend time in the cat’s presence, I was very firmly instructed to be quiet and stay out of the cat’s eye line, lest the cat freak. So you can see why I expected the cat would have a stroke in the VoiceBox, and oh my goodness, with all those sticks stabbing and balloons popping and Christina’s shiny undergarments? I was sure we were in for catricide. But no, Purrfect pulled it off like the professional he is. (I was glad to see him referred to by his proper gender in the clip reel, btw.)

After Lady Antebellum’s performance, Blake jokingly pushed his (non-existent) “I CHOOSE YOU” button, and the Grammy-conquering trio took the time to hug him on their way off the stage. Christina had her neck masseuse take off her boots and rub her feet during this commercial break, and my section started to smell suspiciously like Red Bull. I cheered out loud for Jordis Unga when she joined Tony Lucca on “Go Your Own Way” – I always liked her, I really liked her shoes tonight, and I’m still mad at Blake for killing her chances with that stupid Sara Evans song. It’s worth noting that about two-thirds of the way through this song, the battery pack that powered Tony’s in-ear monitors fell off his belt and landed on the floor, rendering him essentially deaf. Dude nailed it anyway. Love him or hate him because you love Christina, Tony’s a serious professional.

Blake got up to give Jordis a bear hug when we went to break, as balloons continued to sporadically pop around the VoiceBox. If the crowd was lifeless before, they were now approaching zombie levels, so Bill teased the Bieber appearance again so that they wouldn’t eat his brains. Another Sprint Lounge segment aired, and dragged on for-ev-errrrr, leading me to wonder if some (terribly misguided) producer wasn’t having Christina Milian fill time in order to compensate for a potentially missing group number from the four coaches that may or may not have been scuttled yesterday after Adam and Christina did or did not have a massive fight over Tony’s “99 Problems.” If you believe gossip columns, the coaches were supposed to perform “Free Your Mind” at some point here; I can confirm that there was supposed to be a pretape yesterday, but it never happened. We shall add this to our long list of mysteries about the Voice Season 2 Finale Shows, and someday, hopefully, it shall stop haunting us. But man, they had a lot of time to kill in the last half hour of this show, didn’t they?

Anyway. Bieber eventually came out and rapped. Or, as I will be referring to it from now on, Brapped. He grabbed his crotch a lot, and was sort of dressed like a hand-me-down version of Usher channeling Michael Jackson, which makes sense if you think about it. I realized that the clothing, shoes, thematic content, and pelvic thrusts of teen idols have not appreciably changed since I was in junior high, and wondered if his sexually risqué performance would subject the Biebs to the same public outcry that felled Miley Cyrus after her accidental pole-dancing incident a few years back. Something tells me it won’t, but still – I pity the VoiceBox parents forced to have awkward conversations with their preteens on the long drive home from the VoiceBox to the Inland Empire tonight. Bieber finished his performance and walked out without acknowledging the shrieking.

At last, we’d reached our final commercial break, with Bill warning us that there would be pyro AND strobes AND confetti launched upon crowning the winner, as though any of us had been shvitzing there for two hours just to let our pacemakers get the best of us now. When the finalists took the stage, Juliet tried to yell across the arena to her boyfriend, while Tony waved to his kids. The stage manager snuck Carson the results card after he was already on air, and the moment was upon us.

Fourth place: Chris Mann. Many people actually awwwwed.

Third place: God, these pauses were deadly, but in Carson’s defense, it looked like someone was signaling him via the teleprompter when to give the results, and it wasn’t just him being excessively melodramatic. Pause, pause. Tony Lucca.

There were gasps and choking noises. I laughed out loud. After all that, you’re telling me that the two kindergarteners, er, coaches who spent the season in a slap fight ended up at the bottom of the heap? Oh, it’s just too rich. Adam gave a classy hug to Chris after joining Tony on stage, and I noticed Christina’s mood brightened considerably once she knew her nemesis (nemeses?) didn’t win.

The moment arrived. Carson checked the results card. He checked it again. And again. I briefly freaked out imagining what would happen if he said the wrong name. And then he spoke: Jermaine Paul is the winner of The Voice. Pyro. Strobes. Confetti. Boom. That, Christina Milian, is what a “crazy” “party” room looks like.

Even in the face of crushing defeat, Juliet was all smiles, her arm slung around Cee Lo’s neck, both of them proudly shouting “Second place!” like Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku at the end of Bring It On. Adam escorted Tony to his family in the bleachers, where Tony’s little girl was all smiles as she hugged and kissed her daddy. Chris Mann tried to eat the confetti falling from the sky. And Jermaine Paul reprised his R. Kelly impersonation while slowdancing with his wife, thus proving once and for all what savvy insiders have known for years: You will never, ever beat country music fans in a televised voting situation. I don’t care how many Timberlakes you’ve got tweeting. Country fans will win, every time, except on this season of Idol. Congrats to Team Blake.

That’s it, PopWatchers! That’s all she wrote. It’s been a pleasure. Now it’s your turn: Were you surprised by tonight’s winner? Scandalized by Bieber? Anyone care to take a swing at the metaphors of Hall & Oates? The comments are open. Aunt Whittlz: out.

Read more:

Carson Daly blogs ‘The Voice’ finale: Let’s crown a winner!

‘The Voice’ recap: 99 Problems (and Xstina ain’t one)

‘The Voice’ final round live: Who will win? Who should win?

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A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.
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