Three (!) performances from the coaches manage to wow, while two shocking eliminations manage to... well, shock

By Marc Snetiker
Updated April 14, 2015 at 11:20 PM EDT
Colleen Hayes/NBC

The Voice

S2 E14
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  • NBC

There are certainly more creative titles to name this week’s recap of The Voice‘s live rounds, but after the night’s shocking final moments, it seemed like no other catchy headline would do my emotions justice (or at least no headline that was work appropriate).

Tonight saw a surprising rule change on the show: Immediately following their teams’ last performances, each coach had to send home one unlucky artist in a new instant elimination. There’s no real explanation for this, or at least not right now. Does this mean that America will only get to save one artist, and the coach gets to eliminate yet another? Tough luck, democracy! Either way, let us proceed onward through the performances!

Performing “She’s Country,” RaeLynn was the first to take the stage, and take it she did, balancing a delicate stomp around the stage (her boots were decidedly not made for walking) with hay bale obstacles every which way. After the grown-up Toddlers & Tiaras cowgirl finished her little ditty, Blake proclaimed that he had just experienced his proudest moment as a coach: “You prove to America that country can kick ass.” In my opinion, all that performance proved was that RaeLynn could do with a little less RaeLynn-ness.

How nice do I have to be to RaeLynn? I know America voted her through last week, which goes against essentially everything I’ve ever stood for (including the pledge of allegiance). But there’s something so painfully grating about the entire RaeLynn package that it makes me want to return her to whatever bizarre toy store she escaped from. And Blake doesn’t help matters, fawning over her like a hipster at Lenscrafters. RaeRae calls Blake her “big brother,” but I think she just doesn’t know how to spell “creepy uncle.”

We get our first pit stop at the Sprint Awkwardness Lounge, where the only thing more awkward than Christina Milian is Christina Milian’s hair. Surprisingly, the rest of the singers look relaxed – who knew that getting people to talk to each other rather than stare at their iPhones would come across so much better on television? Maybe I should re-rename it the Sprint Slightly Awkward Lounge.

On the opposite end from RaeLynn on the talent spectrum, the sonically astonishing Jesse Campbell got stuck with Beyonce’s “Halo,” a particularly dry song when it’s not glossed up by the power of the B. Dedicated to Jesse’s daughter, the song started out slow, with Jesse standing in a picture frame as the surrounding stage slowly filled with family photos from an intensely intimate PowerPoint.

The boredom certainly picked up by the time Jesse injected a hearty dose of riffs and runs into the otherwise restricted tune, though. There’s no denying that Jesse knows how to deliver vocally, and he actually seemed to be bursting out of the boundaries of “Halo.” Cee Lo called it wonderful, Blake said something, and Adam called him a “huge favorite” for the competition. I thought the chances that Christina would eliminate him tonight were a nonexistent slim to none, but little do I know, huh? Eliminating Jesse was the most egregious error for Team Christina since that tiny hat. (Although, fashion-wise, Christina may have regressed this week, opting for some sort of Ke$ha raccoon look.)

NEXT: Reasons why I want to join a gospel choir in another life

After showing up in last week’s bottom three, Jordis Unga looked positively stunning during her performance of “A Little Bit Stronger.” The rocker cleans up well, does she not? (Although I definitely mistook her arm tattoos for a denim jacket for a hot second.) If America had the chance, Jordis’s lovely rendition of the song would probably have earned her some redemption points; the problem with Jordis, though, continues to pop up: She lets everyone know just how desperate she is to win the competition. It’s completely understandable — I’m sure everyone is desperate to win — but in the blind auditions, she moaned, “I need this!” and now in the third live round, she still muses, “I really think it’s gonna work for me this time.” The best thing Jordis could have done was stop worrying and just start singing, preferably with the same admirable power she demonstrates in both ballads and intense rocker jams.

I was ready to write off the following interstitial with Team Christina at an eco-hip Starbucks. That is, until THE MOST FUN I’VE EVER SEEN ON TELEVISION pops up in the form of the Crenshaw High School Choir, which takes the amazingness of Sister Act 2 and multiplies it by a bajillion. I doubt I was the only one who enjoyed watching the blue and yellow robes bop around like a University of Michigan rave.

The odd aside becomes purposeful when we realize that it’s all a lead-up to a performance by Christina and her team. Christina, clad only in negative space, sings some country twang towards Blake — and throws a couple shirtless male dancers with 10 abs at him, too. Jesse, Ashley De La Rosa, Lindsey Pavao and Chris Mann join in with the Crenshaw choir on “Fighter,” and the whole thing is one hot mess that I just couldn’t stop watching. Smoke! Strobe lights! High school gospel choirs!

Ashley De La Rosa is the second singer from Team Christina, singing a rock-tastic version of Jewel’s “Foolish Games,” which was actually perfect considering that girl-next-door Ashley’s in need of a little edge. I still can’t put a pin on Ashley’s style, although it’s digressively interesting that her eyebrows looks more like Michelle Obama’s every week.

Vocally, Ashley may have unfortunately ruined her chances at staying safe tomorrow, considering that she whispered about half of her lyrics and yelled the other half. When the girl’s got to compete with powerhouse singers like Jesse and Chris, she simply can’t afford any underwhelming performances — and she might not have a chance to redeem herself after America has its way. Also, Ashley’s performance reminds us that it’s high time that the words “You made that song your own” be retired from all TV singing competitions, since it means absolutely nothing.

Our sixth performance of the night is our second from a coach, which begs the question, why bring in people like Jessie J and Gym Class Heroes when you can just have your coaches perform on elimination night? Nevertheless, I spent the entire day listening to Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” so I definitely took no issue with Adam Levine’s mellow performance of the pop-lite tune. I’ve always thought that Adam is consistently one of the most interesting mainstream artists to watch perform, and after tonight, I still stand by it (despite sound issues harshing my chill).

NEXT: Ashley and Lindsey underwhelm, while Team Blake brings the awkward

It was unfortunate that Ashley De La Rosa had to follow Christina Aguilera, because Erin Willett had to follow freaking Maroon 5. But Erin brought some much-needed heart to this episode, tenderly telling Blake, “You gave me an opportunity to shine through the darkest moment of my life.” Erin carried that emotion on through her incendiary interpretation of “Set Fire to the Rain.” I won’t lie, I cringed when Blake announced the song choice. But if anyone on this show could deliver on that song, it’s Erin, and she sure as hell delivered, looking like a girl literally on fire (sup, Katniss?) while she wailed her little heart out. Dare I say, she’s one of the first of many, many Adele covers on TV lately to actually do some semblance of justice to the songstress? Disagree if you must, but Erin had an admirably passionate performance, even if Adam was distracted by Erin’s danger near the fireworks onstage (“I get very Jewish with the fire. I was worried about you,” he confessed in his only comprehensible sentence).

Team Christina’s third performer was 22-year-old Lindsey Pavao, who we learn is the number one top-selling iTunes artist from this season. Surprising, yes, but not as surprising as Lindsey’s choice to do a a cappella/guitar medley of Rihanna’s “S&M” and “We Found Love.” Immediately I predicted that this would be another iTunes bestseller, but I got excited too soon, as Lindsey changed her song to Katy Perry’s banal “Part of Me.” The Voice has a particular propensity for making artists sing the songs of their doppelgangers — Katrina sang Adele, Lindsey is singing Katy Perry, and it can’t be very long until RaeLynn starts popping out Eden Wood’s “Cutie Patootie.” The performance was unexciting for the typically entertaining Lindsey, but she’s got quite the fan base out there (as evidenced by her apparent iTunes success) and might be able to stick it out for another week thanks to Ashley’s slightly more underwhelming underwhelmingness.

Christina Milian brings us back to the Sprint Slightly Awkward Lounge, where we learn that Jesse loves his ugly gray hat, Lindsey doesn’t like interviews, and it’s Ashley’s birthday.

Suddenly, Team Blake takes the stage for a collective performance of “Heartache Tonight,” and it’s like some odd hybrid of a country Brady Bunch that ends up being surprisingly catchy. Jordis, Erin and Jermaine are the number’s obvious highlights, meaning that Amanda Bynes-meets-Cabbage Patch Kid RaeLynn is simply the lowlight. Oh, and Blake sang, too, I think.

Jermaine Paul rounds out Blake’s team with “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins, and it’s clear from his interview video that he’ll sing through it with aplomb. Since only Jermaine and Chris Mann remain, the performance was expectedly strong for a night’s-end act, and just another reason why Jermaine deserved to be given another chance after his less than desirable first live performance. If Jermaine and Jesse have similar vocal stylings, it seems to me that Jermaine is definitely the more marketable and relatable of the two — but since they’re on opposing teams, we just might see them both make it through to the finale. Or so I would have said, if Jesse was still around. Bah!

NEXT: Eliminations bring a new level of CRAY-ZEE

The final performance of the night is Chris Mann, doing “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. An unexpected song choice for the operatic Chris, no doubt, but Chris’s voice has a tone that’s got the warmth of a thousand teddy bears. The violinists make their return (having previously appeared for Katrina Parker last week), and Chris fits in perfectly with them. I didn’t expect Chris’s vibrato-heavy voice to take him so far and with such versatility, but Chris knows how to put on a show at what looks like the most electrifyingly exciting opera house ever.

Christina looked relatively unsatisfied with Chris’s performance, though, and Adam brought up an interesting point: Chris has been eschewing opera in favor of appearing more appealing to audiences, but one powerfully emotional opera song could do the same positive work. Christina pulls out the “made it your own” line again, but she looks decidedly unenthused before going into the final eliminations.

And then we reach the night’s climax: In a twisted rule change, Blake and Christina must send home one contestant from each of their teams. Who will they pick? With one minute left in the show, the whole elimination is rushed, and the coaches should feel equally urgent, but you can feel Carson sweating off-screen as Christina rambles on. Finally, she picks… JESSE!?! Raise your hand if you saw that one coming! Despite unimpressive performances from Lindsey and Ashley tonight, Christina sent home one of her team’s undoubtedly strongest performers, resulting in my immediate posting of thiiiiis crazy (and potentially over the top) reaction.

Blake, meanwhile, opts to send home Jordis, and he keeps it very diplomatic: America voted for his other three team members last week. Fair enough, although I really thought Jordis might have redeemed herself this week. Such a shame it is that she’ll never get to know whether America appreciated and would have voted for Fancy Jordis. Ugh, I hate this rule change!

A solid episode left me with a disturbingly bad taste in my mouth. How about you?

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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