One singer 'earned it' when it comes to Blake Shelton's steal

By Amanda Bell
April 05, 2016 at 03:17 AM EDT
Tyler Golden/NBC

The Voice

S10 E12
  • TV Show

The live playoffs are but days away now, so The Voice‘s remaining crop of knockout round contestants have got a lot on the line right now. Coaches Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, and Christina Aguilera have all already used their single steal bids by now, which means now the pressure’s really on for these guys to survive another showdown. Blake Shelton‘s got one steal up his sleeve, but he’s gonna be choosy with it, which means these singers’ destinies are in their own hands — er, vocal cords — tonight.

With the help of key adviser (and future season 11 coach) Miley Cyrus and a few well-timed Pink Panther jokes about Adam Levine’s new hairdo, the deed will get done and seven more will get the green light “GO” treatment to join the top 20.

Here’s how the final round of knockouts go down.

No. 1 (Team Adam): Brian Nhira vs. Nate Butler

Starting the night off on an ultra-tough note is Team Adam’s first showdown, which presents one contestant fulfilling the potential his battle round has promised while another comes out of nowhere with some seriously surprising new oomph.

Brian Nhira, a transplant from Team Pharrell, was promised a spot on Adam’s proverbial pedestal, and he certainly steps up to it as he channels Bruno Mars for “Grenade.” As Adam notes, Brian doesn’t accomplish an exact replica of the original performance — though it’s not far off the mark at all — but he does earn the same effect of instant and complete audience ownage.

Meanwhile, Nate, who seems a little blasé during the rehearsals (really even tracing back to his uneven blinds performance), is apparently the best note-taker known to mankind. Because while Brian comes out, “pour[s] gas on the stage, and drop[s] a match on it” (in the very true words of Blake), Nate is a master flame-fanner himself with a surprisingly groovy and multi-faceted rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Yow.

Nate’s song choice is meant to serve as a bit of subtext to encourage his continued working relationship with Adam, but he puts in so many unexpected new runs that his coach is convinced that the song’s originator himself is proud of what he’s done with it here. But it’s the knockouts now, and unless Blake’s gonna get fast and loose with that steal (spoiler: He doesn’t quite yet) someone’s gotta go home.

It’s no longer just about who Adam can mold going forward because that’s clearly true of both of them, but he’s going with the singer he just “can’t live without.” That’d be Brian, who’s more technically skilled and a bound-to-be fan fave without question. Respect to Nate for going down swinging with that performance, though. Many praise hand emojis for that grand exit.

Winner: Brian Nhira

NEXT: Strap up your boots for this throwback rodeo…

No. 2 (Team Blake): Brittany Kennell vs. Mary Sarah

Mary Sarah (our pal who helps Nashvillians pick out boots when she’s not off recording vintage duet albums with Dolly Parton) has a long-time girl crush on Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. So, she’s exceptionally delighted to find out that the lady who inspired her to pursue a career in entertainment is standing right before her, encouraging her to put some growl in her otherwise pitch perfect Loretta Lynn redux.

But after the practice round, it’s Mary who’s got Miley impressed with her ability to cover Loretta Lynn’s twang while siphoning in a little Patsy Cline action that’s so on-brand for her it’s *crazy* (pardon the pun). As Blake puts it, “Mary Sarah is a threat to every other team on this show because she’s so in touch with who she is as an artist, and she continues to do things that she knows she connects with.”

Her stage performance of “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” is handily more impressive than Brittany’s excitement-free version of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” (which is a major shame because her “Strong Enough” audition performance was one of the most memorable and touching of all).

Mary Sarah’s a proven pro, and she skates away with this challenge win…on a fancy pair of cowgirl boots, no less.

Winner: Mary Sarah

No. 3 (Team Christina): Bryan Bautista vs. Trey O’Dell

Christina says she’s paired these two for a knockout because they’re both R&B-style talents and there’s only room for one in the lives, but there’s also the possibility that she just wanted to double up on the swoon factor tonight because both of these fellas have got some flavor on their plates — style-wise, at least.

As far as the singing goes, however, Bryan’s far and away the better live performer this time. His version of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” does fall short on its effort to introduce some reggae vibes to mix it up but makes up for that miss with the diversity of range and key note swings he offers the song.

Trey, meanwhile, is visibly shaken with nerves and finds himself overwhelmed by the heavy background music involved with his already difficult song selection (OneRepublic’s “I Lived”). It isn’t until the rest of the music drops away and it’s just him and his mic that the performance becomes a clear showcase of his talent, which is still totally there, but it’s way too late by then.

Winner: Bryan Bautista

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No. 4 (Team Pharrell): Abby Celso vs. Caity Peters

For future reference, if Pharrell tells you your song selection isn’t a match for your talents, HEED THE MAN because 1) he’s probably right and 2) now you’re gonna double down on the challenge ahead of having him pick you because he’s gonna be completely skeptical of your ability to handle this thing.

Such is the case with Abby Celso, once considered to be a stand-alone of the show by her coach, who chooses the jaunty but completely dated and random Hall & Oate’s song “Rich Girl.” Pharrell’s eyebrow raise over that selection is all of us, to be honest. And although she claims to have some deep connection to the song (???) and gets plenty of solid advice about avoiding extra “twirly swirlies” from Miley, that doesn’t really come through in her performance. Sure, she’s given ample avenues for eyebrow raises and the ability to say sing the B-word on national television, but that’s about all we’re getting out of that one. Shrug.

Caity Peters, on the other hand, has her raspy intensity on lock enough to get a “you’re Gucci” compliment from Pharrell during the rehearsals and then an enthusiastic wave-through after her soulful stage performance of Sam Smith’s “Leave Your Lover.”

Winner: Caity Peters

NEXT: This singer’s “earned it” when it comes to Blake Shelton’s steal…

No. 5 (Team Adam): Jessica Crosbie vs. Laith Al-Saadi

In this bout, the lyrical significance is at a fever pitch because, while Laith’s fully in it when he sings about burning the “grand facade” and his “instincts…return[ing]” during his performance of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” Jessica Crosbie “didn’t know [she had] lostttt” all her original tone in this pass at Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.”

Laith’s got his work cut out for him by choosing to sing what is one of Adam Levine’s all-time favorites, which also just so happens to be outside of his comfort zone, so Adam and Miley have to redirect him back to his home base, with his coach asserting, “I don’t want you to ever be singing in a way that doesn’t reflect who you are.” Between the practice rounds and the stage, he makes great strides to sound more like himself, but he’s still only operating at about 75 to 85 percent of his potential, per Pharrell’s studious calculations.

And while this might have been a golden opportunity for Jessica to sneak in and steal it away from him — ‘cause he is/was/will be one to beat — her nerves seem to get the better of her, and she dials her presence back much too far to earn the victory.

Winner: Laith Al-Saadi

No. 6 (Team Christina): Kata Hay vs. Joe Maye

Christina’s put herself in a tight spot here with these two, considering she’s got her kissing partner, Kata, on the one hand and her duet pal, Joe, on the other.

Joe, like Bryan Bautista, is going with a super current song choice in The Weeknd’s “Earned It,” so Christina’s a little apprehensive about whether he’ll be able to escape the auto-association that invariably happens when someone tries that. But lo, Joe’s got his own ideas for how to belt that one out, with a touch of falsetto interspersed with an otherwise all-in-with-the-heart performance. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely powerful.

Same goes for Kata with her rockin’ version of Reba McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You.” There’s a lot of shout-singing going on in her variation — whereas Reba’s original has a few key drawbacks that keep it interesting — but the coaches are all feeling her “showmanship.” And Joe’s too, for that matter, so the decision is a toughie.

Ultimately, Christina decides that Kata’s the one she can successfully move forward with, but Blake’s got that steal left, and he could use an R&B guy on his team, so huzzah! Joe stays another day, and Team Blake is that much more interesting — although he still concedes the edge to Xtina’s strong squad…for now.

Winner: Kata Hay

Steal: Joe Maye to Team Blake


  • Team Adam: Shalyah Fearing, Brian Nhira, Caroline Burns, Laith Al-Saadi, and Owen Danoff
  • Team Pharrell: Lacy Mandigo, Caity Peters, Emily Keener, Hannah Huston, and Moushumi
  • Team Christina: Ryan Quinn, Bryan Bautista, Alisan Porter, Kata Hay, and Támar Davis
  • Team Blake: Joe Maye, Paxton Ingram, Mary Sarah, Adam Wakefield, and Katie Basden

Episode Recaps

The Voice

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

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