Partially because high beings are potentially punishing us, but primarily because NBC wants to milk ratings as long as humanly possible, we have three and a half more hours of “The Voice” to get through before crowning a winner. Look for a big bag of delaying tricks to be unleashed over the night two nights: Guest performers! Old contestants! Casts of upcoming NBC shows! A lengthy debate over the merits of the “Homeland” finale between Christina Aguilera and her fan! Anything’s possible, except a tight, focused end to this season.
 
Going into tonight, it seems like Cassadee Pope is in the driver’s seat, with Nicholas David and Terry McDermott trying to play catch-up. That makes the song choices tonight key. All Cassadee has to do is “not screw up tremendously” and it seems like she’s the one to beat. But David and McDermott have pulled off surprising performances all season, so if they find just the right interpretation of just the right song, there’s certainly a chance for an upset tomorrow night.
 
But enough about prognostication. Let’s start the penultimate running diary of this season. Seems like only yesterday I was hiding behind my couch, worried that Domo might leap through the television and kill me. Sigh. Memories.
 
8:00 p.m. The show starts off with a tribute to those killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School, performing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on a candlelit stage as coaches and present/past contestants hold up cards with the names and ages of the victims. As good as the “Saturday Night Live” tribute was, this might have actually been better. Nicely understated yet effective all the same.
 
8:02 p.m. A season-long recap montage brings everyone up to speed. I’m still slightly stunned Trevin Hunte isn’t in the Final Three, but that has more to do with my season-long expectations versus any sense that an injustice occurred last week.
 
8:04 p.m. Christina Aguilera's transformation into Liza Minnelli is progressing nicely. THAT HAT.
 
8:05 p.m. We’re kicking things off with Team CeeLo’s last member, Nicholas David. Uh oh. The dreaded first slot. That’s not a good sign.
 
8:07 p.m. His first solo performance will be a mashup of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”. That’s the type of song choice I thought he might make. Not that I ever expected THIS, but I did expect him to move away from mid-tempo soul to something different.
 
8:08 p.m. Aaaaand the piano’s actually on fire. I’m guessing The Powers That Be, Green, or David himself decided to kick back about 15 Five Hour Energy drinks and move into something more energetic. These two songs aren’t completely out of his comfort zone, but David’s power usually comes from his stillness. When he tries to actively reach out to people (like in “The Power Of Love”), the results are more mixed. But when people are forced to lean in and listen to him, they tend to love what they hear. Again: I understand why David went this route, but I’m just not sure this is putting his best foot forward. I’m guessing this upbeat number with contrast with a soulful duet with Green later in the show, offering up variety to the voters heading into the final vote.
 
8:11 p.m. Levine appreciated the lack of reverence in David’s performance. Shelton thinks David has a future in The Rockettes after seeing Nicholas’ wild kicks during the number. Green indicates this mash-up was David’s idea, so now we can more accurately infer that Nicholas thought he needed a game-changer to have a hope to win.
 
8:17 p.m. Oh good, each contestant will be recreating their “breakout” performances this season. (That's sarcasm.)
 
8:18 p.m. First up, Team Blake’s female finalist Cassadee Pope once again sings “Over You”. Now, as someone who loved this original performance, I should love a chance to see it again. But at the same time, these “breakout” performances captured lightning in a bottle, and any attempts to recreate that alchemy feels weird. Pope will have plenty of time to sing this song nightly once on tour after the show ends. For now, I wish I could be seeing her sing something new.
 
8:20 p.m. Screw it. This is still great, even if the coaches have to now apparently recreate their praise of the performance as well.
 
8:21 p.m. “The sky’s the limit for you: pop, country, you can do anything,” says Aguilera. Levine praises the way that Pope has honed her voice over the course of the season. Shelton links the emotion in the song to emotions many have felt in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. I didn’t immediately link the two, but I can easily see how many watching might have. I will be curious to see how this song sells tonight on iTunes, as that might given an indication of how strongly it resonated in this manner.
 
8:26 p.m. From Team Blake, we get the first performance from our last finalist, Terry McDermott. But first, McDermott and his family hang out with Shelton at his home. Also there? Terry’s father, which means the pair are face-to-face for the first time in four years. The guy looks straight out of a Guy Ritchie film, but seems like a completely puppy dog personality-wise.
 
8:28 p.m. McDermott and Blake team up to perform Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)”. It’s hard to tell if the arrangement is more country than rock, with both McDermott and Shelton initially struggling to find their way within the track. At one point, two of the female backup singers start grinding on McDermott. Because ladies love the rock stars, I guess. Halfway through, Levine shows up on lead guitar, looking like an ensemble member of the Broadway show “Rock Of Ages”. Everything about this is off-the-wall strange. Why is ANY of this happening?
 
8:35 p.m. It’s time for a recreation of David’s breakthrough performance, “Lean On Me”. The formal chorus from the initial staging has been replaced by a more casual one this time around. Either that, or all the original singers are now out of work and hanging out on the docks. My concerns about the recreation approach still hold firm. But I think this also serves to 1) remind people the season-long strengths of the finalists, and 2) introduce those checking out the show for the finale to what they missed.
 
8:37 p.m. Levine notes that David looks like a school principal. And upon saying that, I can’t see Nicholas as anyone but “Freaks and Geeks” guidance counselor Jeff Rosso. Ugh. I love me some “Freaks and Geeks”, but that comparison is impossible to undo now. “I believe in you. You move me,” says Green, making a sincere appeal for his last remaining contestant.
 
8:43 p.m. McDermott returns to the stage for his final new performance of the year. His choice? Mister Mister’s “Broken Wings”, which is apparently his son’s favorite son. I like Liam’s taste in music!
 
8:45 p.m. The arrangement of the song owes more to Peter Gabriel than Mister Mister. It’s another bold choice, along the lines of David’s mashup earlier in the show. This might be even bolder, since this may not be a song instantly familiar to people born after 1990. A rather stunted start (owing to some technical difficulties) soon opens up as McDermott finds his way into the song. Rather than stick to a straightforward tempo, Terry took a chance on a more syncopated arrangement. I don’t know if it will ultimately pay off, but I know I’d really like to listen to it again right now. Preferably with Terry being able to actually hear himself sing from the start.
 
8:49 p.m. Levine is impressed that McDermott managed to escape from the hole of that technical snafu. Shelton combines his praise of this performance with the previous one tonight, saying something “epic” happens each time he hits the stage.
 
8:51 p.m. Credit where credit’s due: There’s been a surprising lack of fluff tonight thus far.
 
8:55 p.m. And right after I type that, we go to the Social Pain Theatre of Pain. Oh well.
 
8:56 p.m. Now it’s time for Cassadee Pope (along with her family) to visit Casa Shelton. “She’s been doing this since she was a teenager,” says Pope’s sister. Um. She’s still a teenager. Unless she’s secretly 65. TWIST.
 
8:58 p.m. Pope and Shelton hit the stage to perform Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen”. While I agree that Pope has a strong connection with country music, I wonder if she has the bonafides for the Nashville scene to accept her down the line. They might look at the plaid shirt she’s rockin’ in this performance as mere costume. It’s not Pope’s fault that it took a nationally televised show to undercover her talent for interpreting country music. But who said life is fair? That’s why “Steve McQueen” is a smart song choice: it bridges country stylings with the pop music she’s more comfortable performing as a general rule. Once again, she either chose (or received) a song tailor-made to make her shine. These things matter, and have mattered over the last six weeks. That’s why she’s the frontrunner still, with only thirty minutes to go before fans can start voting.
 
9:00 p.m. We meet the cast of “1600 Penn”, a show that apparently makes jokes about drone strikes. Fun! No one tell Abu Nazir.
 
9:06 p.m. McDermott takes the stage for the final time to perform his “breakout” song, Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”. (Yup, that’s the correct choice.) A previously intimate staging has given way to giant Chinese lanterns and an all-female string quartet. Let’s hope none of them grind on Terry this time. On the upside, all things seem solid on the technical side, and the confidence that this song’s original placement on the iTunes chart offers McDermott allows him to end his night on a strong note. Pun sadly unintended. Running diaries, y’all. It happens.
 
9:09 p.m. Aguilera praises McDermott’s endurance tonight. It’s a fair point. While I just praised the show’s quick pace tonight, it’s a pace that’s come from these three singers being constantly hurled back onstage like runway models. (I smell a spinoff: “Project Rock Star”!) Shelton thinks that McDermott actually topped his initial performance with tonight’s iteration. Technically, that may be true. But the surprise element was missing, which is a problem inherent in the concept of trying to restage these songs in the first place.
 
9:13 p.m. We see footage of Nicholas David and his family visiting Green’s house. David’s parents look happy yet terrified simultaneously. David appreciates the opportunity to have “three families” in one all united.
 
9:15 p.m. Earlier I thought David might go low-key in his duet with Green. That was a pretty stupid prediction, as the pair instead offer up Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” The staging is pure CeeLo, but to his credit David doesn’t get lost in the proceedings. And right after I type that, a Mini CeeLo Green appears onstage to dance between them. So….that happened! “THIS IS THE VOICE!”
 
9:22 p.m. Cassadee Pope gets the final slot, and the final original performance to boot. I’m just sayin’. I think Pope deserves it as much as David and McDermott do. But “The Voice” as a show has decided who its winner is. Let’s see if the voting public agrees.
 
9:24 p.m. In rehearsals, we learn Pope and her father have reconnected, albeit tentatively, during the past few weeks. And we learn that her last song will be Faith Hill’s “Cry”. A country song. Interesting.
 
9:25 p.m. Also interesting? The lavish, pastoral staging that transports Pope into an ethereal forest. But even when she moves out of it and stands downstage center, there’s more than enough power to overcome the more mundane adornments. But it’s that what a show called “The Voice” is all about? While not the most emotionally powerful performance of her season, it might have been the strongest, vocally speaking.
 
9:27 p.m. “For every great moment you’ve had on the show…I’ve never heard you sing as good as you did tonight,” says Shelton. I tend to agree.
 
9:29 p.m. OK, final predictions, from last to first: David, McDermott, Pope. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if those first two are flipped. But Pope not winning would absolutely be surprising now that the competition itself is over.
 
It’s all over but the voting. And of course, the predicting. Now it’s your turn. Who will win “The Voice”? Sound off below!