Four contestants. Four hours. That’s all that remains on this cycle of “The Voice”, which will see one-hour installments over the next two Mondays and Tuesdays. After that, NBC will quietly weep, hoping viewers stick around for programming that doesn’t involve spinning red chairs. In the meantime, we need to eliminate two contestants this week before getting to next week’s finals. Tonight’s episode may solidify current fan bases, or they might see a breakout performance that makes voters break for a new artist late in the game.
 
As per usual, I’ll be recording my thoughts in real time. But over the last two weeks, I’ll be running these as live blogs rather than post-show analysis. Feel free to join in the conversation as the episode unfolds!
 
8:00 p.m. You know things are serious because CeeLo Green has actually dressed normally tonight.
 
8:01 p.m. Without his glasses on, Nicholas David looks like one of The Bee Gees.
 
8:02 p.m. Looks like only one, not two, contestants will be eliminated this week.
 
8:03 p.m. Former Team Blake mentor Michael Bublé takes the stage to perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. Bublé has a powerhouse voice, but it’s oddly not on display during this performance. Maybe we can send him home and keep the four actual contestants into next week? No? Oh well. Worth a try.
 
8:05 p.m. Christina Aguilera praises the cuteness of the other coaches. Oh, thank God this isn’t a two-hour installment.  
 
8:10 p.m. We’re starting off tonight with Team CeeLo, where Trevin Hunte has the “honor” of going first tonight. We see him visit his family as well as his old middle school, and it reminds us that Hunte is still really just a kid. (He’s only eighteen! I have to keep telling myself that.)
 
8:12 p.m. Hunte takes the stage to perform Bette Midler’s “Wing Behind My Wings”, dedicating it to the students he spoke to in the previous segment. I’m not a fan of the song choice: it’s a treacly number, and while Hunte excels in soaring ballads, this one keeps him fairly grounded in the early passages. If iTunes rankings still mean as much as they have in past weeks, this is a song that could really hurt him. While I have a hard time fathoming Hunte coming in fourth this week…stranger things have happened, no?
 
8:14 p.m. Levine loved the performance, having just suggested that song choice to friends over the past few days. Aguilera says the number took her back to days performing at weddings pre-stardom. (Kind of a backhanded compliment, but OK.) Green says that every time Hunte sings is “my pleasure”, which is an odd way to phrase his praise. But that’s CeeLo for you.
 
8:21 p.m. Howie Mandell is in the house, wearing the same outfit as CeeLo Green, to promote the game show “Take It All”. Green is smiling on the outside, but clearly wants to sing “Forget You” to the bald man. And I don’t mean the radio-friendly version.
 
8:22 p.m. Let’s head back to Team CeeLo, where we now follow Nicholas David back home for his mini-reunion tour where he sees his new house in St. Paul for the very first time. After that, he and his girlfriend visit the hospital to hear his baby’s heart beat for the first time. Well, that’s not shamelessly manipulative or anything! But it’s still adorable over the same. A quick stop at The Mall Of America transitions into a quick gig at one of his old haunts.
 
8:25 p.m. Onstage, David sings Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”. The camerawork suggests that the show wants to show everything BUT David for the first thirty seconds or so. Normally, David feels a bit out of his element when not behind the piano, but he’s far more polished with just a microphone in his hands than he was a few weeks ago. It probably doesn’t help that his family is front and center at the edge of the stage. Again: this is manipulative as hell, but it works like gangbusters all the same. I’m only human, people!

8:27 p.m. David decides to hear criticism while sitting on a rocking chair onstage a part of the set. I can’t tell if he’s mocking the staging, is overcome with emotion after singing to his wife, or both. Levine calls him one of the most “soulful” people he’s ever met. Green alludes to creative differences between the pair throughout the week, but is pleased with the outcome all the same. (No offense to St. Paul, but I would have liked to have seen the rehearsals for this, or really any, performance.)

8:29 p.m. Coming Up Next: The Ghosts Of Team Blake Past, reunited to perform a holiday classic. Man, I hope it’s Adam Sadler’s “The Hanukkah Song”.

 

8:33 p.m. Thanks to the power of a certain coffee chain that features cup sizes that bear no relationship to any common-sense nomenclature, old teammates from Team Blake reunite to help him record a cover of “White Christmas”. Hey…it’s that guy! And that girl! I remember them! Kinda?
 
8:35 p.m. Onstage, everyone has cleaned up and put on their holiday best to back up Shelton for a live rendition of the aforementioned holiday tune. The nutcrackers projected upon the video screens look like holly, jolly Godzillas. It’s a bit unnerving. Also? I’d bet a non-small amount of money that the backing vocals here are actually pre-recorded. They sound far too perfect to be performed onstage. I’m not sure I have a huge problem with this, because God forbid someone like Liz Davis went rogue live on television. Still, this IS called “The Voice”. I’m not trying to be Mr. Conspiracy Theory Guy here, but the backing chorus sounded so mechanical that it stood out. That’s all.

 

8:42 p.m. Moving onto Team Blake, we follow Cassadee Pope home to Florida. Everyone is there, except her father. (No shock there, given the way she’s talked about him this season.) Like Nicholas David, she gets a key to the city from the mayor. Side note: I’m surprised she didn’t get the final slot tonight, given her huge popularity over the last few weeks. Maybe the show assumes she doesn’t need the final slot to make it into the finals.
 
8:44 p.m. Pope takes the stage to perform Keith Urban’s “Stupid Boy”. Blake Shelton is going to try and make Pope a country star if it kills him. That much is clear. But here’s the thing: he’s completely right to push her in this direction. Sure, she could be the best Avril Lavinge cover artist in the country, and carve out a perfectly adequate career that way. But when she gets hold of a country song, everything clicks into place emotionally in her performances. This was her best moment since singing “Over You”, filled with quiet moments that drew the audience into her orbit time and time again.
 
8:46 p.m. “Blake, you have a true superstar on your hands,” says Aguilera, who felt the lyrics as intently as I just did. Shelton seems to anticipate what I just wrote, saying that he continually picks country songs due to her ability to connect with lyrics in a way that no other contestant in the show’s history has ever done. I’m not sure if that’s hyperbole or not, but she’s certainly skilled in that arena.
 
8:50 p.m. “This is The Voice!” Dude…I’m so, so, so aware of that fact at this point.
 
8:51 p.m. Let’s finish things out with Team Blake’s last contestant, Terry McDermott. He visits his adopted hometown of New Orleans for a surprise visit with his family. He also drops off some clothing to the local Hard Rock Café. But nothing beats the shock on his face when he greets his parents aunt and uncle. (McDermott has some great exaggerated expressions, which will suit him well should he ever have to project emotion to the back of a packed arena.)
 
8:53 p.m. McDermott gets the full choral treatment for his rendition of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. It’s a beautiful song, no doubt. But I do wonder about the strategy here. I’m guessing he saw the chart performance of his two performances last week and decided to stay away from groin rock in favor of big ballads. The biggest problem with this song? It’s very same-y, vocally speaking. It’s not until well into the performance that he deviates beyond the repetitious melody. But perhaps I’m taking him as much for granted as I take Trevin Hunte. Both are so good at what they do that it’s easy to forget at what a high level they execute it.
 
8:57 p.m. “Thank God for you, Terry,” gushes Levine, calling the performance a light in a somewhat dismal world. (He owns up to the hyperbole of that statement, but it made sense in context, I promise.) “In my heart of heart, I believe that was musical perfection,” says Shelton, dismissing scientific analysis in favor of emotional response. And that’s fine. They are called “coaches”, not “judges”, for a reason.

 

8:59 p.m. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m pretty sure tonight was the end of the road for Trevin Hunte. The song choice, the placement in the episode, and the performance itself are all harbingers of his departure tomorrow night. He’ll have a career (Aguilera has already offered to take him out on tour with her), but it already feels like tomorrow night’s results will be anticlimactic.
 
What did you think of tonight’s show? Who had the best performance? Do you agree that Trevin will be going home? If not, who do you think will be eliminated? Sound off below!