You can tell a lot about the judges from their introductions. Cee Lo enters last night's episode stroking his goatee like a French philosopher. Christina Aguilera shakes up and down like she's celebrating a platinum single. Adam glares at the camera as if to say, "Hello, is it me you're looking for?" And Blake simply reaches up and points a finger down at his own head. Contestants: your fate is in these hands.
The controversial fate of Jesse Campbell, who Xtina booted off in a Monday night shocker, is addressed right away. "I just wasn't seeing the same amount of growth as I saw with the other guys," she explains. Carson Daly and his oddly tan hands want to know what another judge thinks, though. "If he were on my team, I probably would have kept him around," Adam says. "But that's not for me to decide." Xtina also reassures us that she does in fact have a strategy, and by the end of the episode I believe her.
Speaking of Jesses, one of the members of the world's #2 boy band, the Wanted, looks exactly like The Social Network actor Jesse Eisenberg, and that's probably the most electrifying element of their performance on this episode. The group spends a lot of stage time barely moving, and then their signature synchronized dance move turns out to be "walking." The goth cheerleaders and little bursts of fire like exploding popcorn kernels are nice touches, though.
When it comes time for Team Xtina's first save, the three remaining contestants huddle together like refugees, arms linked, with Chris Mann sandwiched in the middle. It turns out America has voted to save Chris the opera singer, which leaves Lindsey Pavao and Ashley to sing for the remaining spot.
As Team Blake awaits news of America's decision, plucky country princess RaeLynn folds her hands in prayer form and rocks from side to side. "Last night, it was upsetting to see someone go home," Blake says. "It's upsetting to know that someone's going home tonight also. It sucks." The person who definitely isn't going home turns out to be Jermaine Paul, leaving RaeLynn to face off against the formidable Erin Willett.
Performing Lady Gaga's "You and I" seems like a solid genre-crossover pick for the rock-inclined Ashley, but the tempo is too slow, and the audience doesn't seem very engaged. She gets better as the song goes along, but it's hard to recover from an unfortunate song choice. It's also hard to read Xtina's reaction (she can be sphinx-like sometimes), but Adam's comes through loud and clear. "Because you set the bar so high with your other performances, I have to say this wasn't my favorite of them," he says. Blake is more reassuring, though, saying that based on the last couple of weeks, he'd prefer to buy Ashley's CD over Lindsey's. Because we're all definitely still buying CDs.
Lindsey Pavao sings "Please Don't Go" (Mike Posner version) in a voice that sounds delicate and wounded, but not beaten. Her long notes toward the end border on "performance art" levels of awkwardness, though. She knows she didn't nail it and she starts crying. But then Xtina is crying too. Was she just that moved by the performance, or does she know she has to kick the ethereal-voiced talent off tonight? WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING AT, SPHYNXTINA?
"I see so much charm in you," Cee Lo tells Lindsey, before getting super-cryptic. "I can only hope that winning attitude you have keeps you warm in this time of tough decisions." Yikes! Blake admits he finds something mysterious and compelling about Lindsey's voice, but he sticks by his preference to purchase a cassingle from Ashley. Things ain't looking good for Lindsey, but hold that, thought because here comes Justin Bieber. ("Ahhhh!!!")
"Hey guys, my name is Justin Bieber," says Justin Bieber, as if this crowd was drawing a blank. The Biebs teases a snippet of his new video, "Boyfriend," which he half-raps, half-sings (what have you wrought, Drake?), standing in a black leather jacket with four sets of hands groping him. Carson invites Bieber, who looks like a young and really well-groomed Corey Haim, to sing "Boyfriend" in its entirety on the finale in three weeks. So we've got that going for us.
Now it's time for Xtina to eliminate either Lindsey or Ashley. She mentions having a special connection with Lindsey's voice and praises Ashley for being a dynamo on stage. "I hate this," she says, before ultimately choosing Lindsey to stay, solving the mystery of who her earlier tears were for. All I'll say is that Lindsey had better bring it for real during the semifinals.
Over on Team Blake, Erin comes out to sing a very expressive "Proud Mary" in a black dress and huge platform shoes. She starts off slowly, holding notes longer than they need to be held, but then she yells "Come on, y'all," and the lead guitar, piano and choir kick in. She looks like she's having a ball, but it's not her brightest moment.
When it's RaeLynn's turn, she sings "If I Die Young." Singing a ballad as your save-me song sounds sort of like the contestant is singing the song about that moment, which can be kind of melodramatic. This time is no exception, especially considering the song's title and the fact that part of RaeLynn's whole thing is that she's young. She gets a clap-along going but there's not much audience enthusiasm.
"This wasn't my favorite of yours," says Adam (for the second time tonight), "but I like that the song doesn't play you – you play the song." It's a meaningless reversal statement worthy of Mystery Men's Sphinx. Also, speaking of mysteries, does anybody else see RaeLynn body-check Erin when they're lined up, awaiting the decision? What was that about?
"A lot of people don’t realize how these 'save' performances come down," Blake says, giving us a peek at how our save-song sausage is made. "We don't know what the song is gonna be." The credits are already rolling at this point because the show went long, and it takes some coaxing from Carson for Blake to officially spit it out: it's curtains for RaeLynn. Somewhere, there'll be a rebel flag flying at half-mast tonight.
Next week: It's time for Cee Lo and Adam's teams to go head to head. Will they also have to do an instant elimination round on Monday?
Last episode: Surprise!