"It's not tough, it's sucky," Blake Shelton tells Carson Daly toward the beginning of last night's show. Not a big fan of Gym Class Heroes, this guy. Just kidding: Gym Class Heroes are fine. Everyone's fine. Shelton was referring not to the rap-rockers' Voice cameo, but to the difficulty of sending home two members from one's own team, which is something both he and Christina Aguilera are about to do.
Just a quick sartorial update before we delve into who went home and why: Cee Lo has ditched Monday night's red jumpsuit apparatus (and luscious locks) for a thoroughly spike-studded red leather jacket look I call "punk rock porcupine." Meanwhile, Xtina has already grown weary of suffocating her breasts with so much irksome fabric; after one night away, they're back in a tight orange dress bearing summer cleavage.
At the top of the hour, the aforementioned Gym Class Heroes and Neon Hitch (whose costume includes wings coming out of her chest) perform a song that is actually called "Ass Back Home." Toward the end, Team Adam emerges from the audience to do background vocals, and the band's lead singer, Travie McCoy, says "I'm home, baby," in an Austin Powers voice, because why not. None of this is nearly as exciting as hearing Carson Daly say the words "Ass Back Home" with host-y enthusiasm.
Before the eliminations begin, though, Blake and Xtina take their teams on separate field trips that will ostensibly help prepare them for long-term music careers. It seems like a good idea, since The Voice is basically a finishing school for pop artists. The only problem is that both destinations here are wildly outdated. Demonstrating music industry savvy with a terrestrial radio station and a late-night talk show in 2012 is like preparing J-school students for writing careers by taking them on a tour of The Sacramento Bee and a 'zine your cool uncle made in high school.
"I wanted to show my team that there's nothing like the power of radio," Shelton says, escorting his crew into Go Country 105. Admittedly, country music still seems to carry some influence via radio, but only one member of Team Blake is a country singer. Also, while it's nice to see all of Team Xtina cutting loose on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, nobody really walks into Tower Records and purchases a compact disc by a band they saw on Jay Leno these days. Because none of those things exists anymore. This has been the "Raining on Parades" hour. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Next, Carson Daly announces how the eliminations will work. The three artists on each team with the most votes will automatically move on, leaving the remaining three to vie for one spot on next week's show by singing a song. On Team Blake, America wants Erin Willett, Jermaine Paul and RaeLynn to stick around. It's endearing to see feisty 17-year old RaeLynn run off stage screaming with excitement.
Over on Xtina's team, when Carson says "America's first save is . . . ," the camera is lingering on Jesse Campbell. Surely this is a coincidence, but I like to think it's the work of a lazy camera operator who saw the show Monday and just KNEW Jesse would be the first one picked. (He was very good.) After Jesse is, in fact, saved, Lindsay Pavao and Chris Mann are also in the clear. Xtina doesn't look happy when Lindsay Pavao's name is called, which is interesting, because she made the same face during her performance the previous night. Did anybody else notice this?
Since the elimination episode is one hour instead of two, the contestants only get a brief period to make an impression with their songs. Naia Kete does a perfectly competent take on "If I Were Boy," but Blake echoes Xtina's complaint from the previous night that he wished she would've done a reggae song. "They wouldn't let me!' the lady doth protest, but the damage is already done.
Charlotte Sometimes does the Goo Goo Dolls' hit, "Iris." This girl has a tremendous amount of personality when she sings, and she's fully capable of putting just the right nuance in her voice. However, that nuance slips away a couple times during this performance, and consistency really counts here.
Finally, Jordis Unga does the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," which is a smart choice, since it gives her a chance to show off some more subtle work than she did on Monday night. It's a less diva-riffic side of Jordis, and it seems to suit her. When Carson asks the other judges who they'd save, they all pick Jordis (even though Xtina accidentally almost says Charlotte.) Blake agrees with them.
Over on Team Christina, Ashley De La Rosa comes out swinging. She is the first of the singers trying to get saved who doesn't sing a bummer of a song, instead opting for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' rocker "Paris (Ooh La La)." She runs through the crowd, smiles, vamps, and just appears to be having fun. Do the other contestants know they're allowed to do this? Sera Hill sings "Vision of Love," and it's pretty good, but it doesn't stray from her Mary J. vocal toolkit. Moses Stone caves in to Adam and Blake's request on Monday night that he sing instead of rap, and he does a very respectable "Falling to Pieces." If Ashley hadn't kicked so much ass, he'd be the easy winner.
Cee Lo chooses Sera, because he is completely checked out this week. Adam and Blake both pick Ashley, for whom the live crowd is going nuts at this point. After a long preamble, Xtina finally picks Ashley too. Then everybody gets together and hugs in the middle of the stage like it's the end of Saturday Night Live.
Next week: Time for Teams Adam and Cee Lo to step up to the plate. What will Cee Lo wear for the occasion? (Shots for you if you guessed: "something insane.")
Last episode: Go Nuts, Go Apebits