The Voice Recap: Knockouts. Who's There?

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Olivia Henken, Stephanie Anne Johnson
Conspiracy theorists, grab your No. 2 pencils and prepare to jot down some verrry interesting numbers regarding The Voice, because it looks as though NBC’s reality singing competition might just be stacking the deck to prevent Blake Shelton from winning a fourth consecutive season.

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Indeed, of the 24 Season 5 Battle Rounds — six per coach — none of Christina Aguilera’s matchups received the dreaded “montage” treatment, compared to one for Adam Levine, two for Cee Lo Green and a whopping three (or 50% of his contestants) for poor Blake!

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Does that mean Team Blake’s snippet-ized Holly Henry, E.G. Daily and Brandon Chase can’t win the whole enchilada? Certainly not, especially when you recall Cassadee Pope pulled it off in Season 3 despite most of her Battle Round getting left on the editing-room floor. Plus, there’s Blake’s “aw-shucks-I’m-not-really-cut-throat-competitive” charm, ridiculously enthusiastic clapping and goofy sense of humor to contend with. But honestly, if there’s a noticeable reduction in misty water-colored closeups of Blake’s proud-papa mug during his contestants’ performances in the live rounds, then I might really be onto something.

Whatever the case, the disparity in doling out full Battle edits can’t be entirely accidental, leading me to think Mark Burnett & Co. are trying to give a little extra love to the friendlier, refreshed and undeniably less, er, painted Xtina.

The story, as they say, is developing…

In the meantime, let me jump to a ranking of each of tonight’s Battles from least- to most-promising winner — which tonight, was REALLY difficult, since all three victors look like legit contenders based on their combined Blinds/Battles output:

3. Team Cee Lo: Jonny Gray defeats Shawn Smith on “Refugee” | It’s official: My obsession over Jonny’s voice in the Blinds has been downgraded to mild infatuation after a totally solid but not entirely spectacular Battle: I do definitely dig the quaver in the Air Force alum’s instrument, but his tone gets a little narrow in his upper register. That’s not always a bad thing, of course — it’s not as if Tom Petty himself doesn’t get a little nasal, either — but whether it’ll suit him on all the songs Cee Lo chooses over the course of the competition remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Jonny was a clear winner over the sweet but ultimately outclassed “Big Sexy.”

2. Team Adam: Preston Pohl defeats Barry Black on “I Wish It Would Rain” | This was another Battle where suspense left the building and smoked a cigarette in the alley behind the studio within seconds of Preston and Barry opening their mouths to sing. Preston’s gravelly tone and flawless phrasing made him the cheetah of this matchup when compared to the three-legged imapala that was Barry’s unsteady pitch (especially in his falsetto range) and unfortunate reliance on playing the mouth horn. Heck, even Adam made it clear that this wasn’t a hard decision — which may have been the final nail in Barry’s failure to score Cee Lo’s final Steal.

1. Team Xtina: Olivia Henken defeats Stephanie Anne Johnson on “Done” (Stephanie stolen by Cee Lo) | If I’m being completely honest, Preston probably has the best chance to win out of the four non-montaged contestants who marched on to the Knockouts tonight, but Xtina’s superfun choice of The Band Perry plus the flawless (albeit very different) performances of Olivia and Stephanie made it the highlight of the episode. As the ladies traded off lead vocals, I kept thinking one or the other had gained an edge in the showdown — Stephanie’s growl! Olivia’s hairography! Stephanie’s saucy “La-tee-dah!” Olivia’s epic final glory note! — my brain bouncing back and forth like the head of a spectator at a tennis match. Olivia’s slightly superior stage presence may have given her the edge in the Battle, but Stephanie’s versatility (and adorably enthusiastic grandma) could help her in the subsequent War. Here’s hoping both women survive the Knockouts so we can find out!

Also Shown (But in Snippets)
Team Blake: Holly Henry defeats Cilla Chan
Team Blake: Brandon Chase defeats Emily Randolph
Team Cee Lo: Tamara Chauniece defeats Keaira LaShae

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of tonight’s Battle Rounds? Did you disagree with any of the coaches’ decisions on Battle wins or Steals? Sound off in the comments!

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