Fourteen artists remain untested by their Knockout Round competition. There are only eight spots left on the ride to the Live Playoffs on The Voice. Pharrell, alone, holds the final golden ticket to that roller coaster ride. This episode will toll the death knell for some and temporary salvation for others. Assisting the coaches in preparing the troops for a chance at the gold is Rihanna, the 27-year-old stratospherically successful singer and songwriter from Bridgewood, Barbados. And what a natural that woman is. 

I tell you what, I’ve seen some of the Rihanna outtakes and special videos on NBC’s website and it looks like this final Knockout episode is going to be epic. After The Voice got a taste of Rihanna during these Knockout Rounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets an invitation to be a permanent fixture in one of those swinging red leather chairs. We all know Christina Aguilera is already signed up for season 10, but what about season 11? If the interweb can be trusted, it sounds like Rihanna‘s dance card is filled with Grammys and Billboard chart-toppers for the next dozen years or so, but the lowly minions over at The Voice and we out here in our living rooms can still dream.

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What’s with the Same Clothes Day After Day?

Have you ever noticed that the coaches and advisers wear the exact same outfit throughout a round? There’s no way the early rounds can be filmed in one day. Obviously, they do it so they can manipulate the performances and open each night with a gangbuster, stuff the midline performances in the belly of the timeslot and then pack the pimp spot with something explosive. The coaches and advisers must have four sets of the same outfit back in their trailers. That sounds like a pretty cool arrangement to me, but I’d like the same outfit in three different sizes so I can keep wearing my favorites through the gut rot of the holidays as well as the slide into bikini weather. 

Adam Pits James Dupre Against Shelby Brown

Shelby reminds us of her bowling alley career to date. She thought she was going to choose Blake if he turned his chair for her, but her last-minute gut decision made her choose Adam. Rihanna is impressed with Shelby’s smoking voice. Adam tells her that she pretty much can write her own ticket. Yeah, if she had $80 million to record, manufacture, distribute and market her music. Shelby’s voice gives Rihanna shivers. 

James has four boys at home to support, so he better make sure he’s extraordinary in this round (and every round going forward). He’s chosen a Blake Shelton song. That’s kind of a ballsy move with Blake sitting right there. We’ll see what happens in a moment. Rihanna says she’s not feeling the sexy during practice. He’s just a regular guy with a regular voice and no clue about how to get his body to bring out the sexy he says he feels. 

Shelby Performs “Jesus Take the Wheel” and James Sings “Sure Be Cool If You Did”

If “Jesus Take the Wheel” isn’t a tingling soulful song, I don’t know what is. Shelby gives it her all, giving us a strong opening for the final Knockout Round episode. James does okay with his country song, but he ain’t no Blake Shelton. Blake gives kudos to both artists but is more amazed (it seems) by Shelby. Gwen is lovely to both artists, per usual. Everyone loves Shelby’s higher register as well as her softer notes. Adam makes the predictable choice and Team Adam is now complete.

Result: Adam chooses Shelby

Pharrell Pairs Mark Hood and Siahna Im

Mark is overwhelmed by Rihanna. He reminds us of his four-chair turn during the Blind Auditions. Mark has chosen a toned-down song for this round. It’s not his usual outrageous stuff, but Rihanna and Pharrell tell him to go for it and have confidence. 

“Back to Black” is a tall order for Siahna, says Pharrell. This girl is so tiny and sweet that there’s a disconnect that happens when she opens her orthodontic mouth to sing. I find myself looking around for the ventriloquist with an arm up the back of this little kewpie doll’s shirt. But no, it really is her. Amazing but ethereal. Rihanna gives some great direction about putting some dirty into the performance. 

Mark Performs “Stand By Me” and Siahna Performs”Back to Black”

Mark hits the stage with a super duper crazy fun rendition of “Stand By Me.” I can’t hear any mistakes and he’s quite engaging. I think his future depends upon how well Siahna performs. Sianhna seems so small on the stage. Her energy can’t compete with Mark’s and she gets a little flat in places. The dirty? She left it backstage.

Result: Pharrell chooses Mark

Gwen Chooses Jeffery Austin and Kota Wade for Her Next Knockout

Jeffery reminds us of the public relations job he gave up to be on The Voice. He chose “Turning Tables” because of his own relationship pain. Gwen and Rihanna encourage him to let his sadness turn into anger with his performance. Kota recalls her family-owned venue and her audition on The Voice. She wants to be the very first Gwen Stefani winner. She chose her song because it’s hardcore rock and roll. She may have bit off more than she can chew, though. 

Jeffery Performs “Turning Tables” While Kota Sings “Barracuda”

Jeffery is buttery but not outstanding as The Voice artists go. He’s pretty vanilla, and I’m right about Kota: her eyes are way bigger than her vocal ability, so to speak. Kota flats out several times. Her dress does kick ass and her choice is ballsy, but she’s toast.

Result: Gwen chooses Jeffery

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Blake Makes Emily Ann Roberts and Nadjah Nicole Duke It Out

Blake continues to niggle Rihanna about nicknames. She tolerates him but looks like she’s having fun this time. Emily Ann is a high school student who chose Blake over Adam as a coach. Blake calls attention to Emily Ann going flat during practice and gives her advice about punching out the high notes. Rihanna and Blake both talk a lot about how young and inexperienced she is. She herself comments that she was off during those practices. Are we about to be punked or is this a slam dunk for Emily Ann’s competition?

Nadja is thrilled to see Rihanna on the stage at practice. Rihanna says Nadja is the full package. Blake points out how her confidence grows as the song progresses, but she’s got to be confident from beginning to the end. At this point, it looks a Nadja win, but who knows what will happen when she and Emily Ann take the stage?

Emily Ann Performs “Cowboy Take Me Away” and Nadja Performs “A Woman’s Worth”

Emily Ann does much better during her actual performance than anyone expected. The flat notes and nervousness are gone. She performs beautifully and she just may take this round home. Nadja’s runs are sick and her dress is killer. She does nail the song and caps it off with a beautiful running slide.The judges talk about Emily Ann’s youth. Never a good thing, so I am shocked at the upset.

Result: Blake chooses Emily Ann

Off Screen, Zach Seabaugh Beats Chris Crump

This is the final installment of the Knockouts and no one wants to watch a three-hour show (except maybe me), so two artists have to duke it out in the parking lot. Blake put Zach and Chris together, choosing Zach as his winner. Blake’s team is now complete.

Result: Blake chooses Zach

Pharrell Puts Evan McKeel and Tim Atlas Together for a Knockout

Evan proudly brings his guitar to practice, but Rihanna puts the nix on that immediately. He loses the six-string and Rihanna is thrilled with his performance. Tim looks like a younger Bruno Mars with half the power behind his vocals and none of the swagger. Rihanna says he has an interesting voice, which is just another way to say, “You’re sweet, but better luck next time.” Yikes. How can this go any way but in Evan’s direction?

Evan Performs “Dare You to Move” and Tim Performs “Torn”

Evan doesn’t cut a physically imposing form, but his voice has a unique quality and a sneak-surprise power. He’s so extraordinarily ordinary looking that it’s really a treat when he opens that mouth and what comes out is truly delightful and interesting (in a very good way). He kicks the poo out of “Dare You to Move,” and I hope to god Pharrell takes him forward. I can’t say the same for Tim. Is he yodeling or is puberty kicking him in the shorts? Ever since his first season on The Voice, Pharrell has frightened me with his choices. He’s a strategy-driven coach, so he’s not easy to predict. Thank god he uses good sense in this choice.

Result: Pharrell chooses Evan

Gwen’s Final Knockout is Between Regina Love and Riley Biederer

Regina has been a Rihanna fan since Rihanna first burst upon the American music scene. Her song choice worries me because if she simply mimics Gladys Knight, it may not be enough to top Riley’s performance. However, since this is the pimp spot and Pharrell has yet to exercise his Steal, it’s clear that both Regina and Riley are going forward; we just don’t know which teams they will be on.

Rihanna loves both Riley and Regina and gives them lots of love and advice. Now, when this Knockout was taped in real time, Gwen didn’t know if Pharrell would choose whichever artist she didn’t, so she’s as stressed as always. 

Regina Performs “Midnight Train to Georgia” and Riley Performs “XO”

I’m not looking at the television when Riley starts singing (I’m typing away on the laptop) and I think it’s Rihanna singing. Riley has a bit of slum in her tone, making it rich and resonant. It’s fantastic. Regina, on the other hand, brings the house down. They switched the order of the performances so Regina gets the pimpest spot of the pimp Knockout performance. You can tell because the coaches mention the order. Though both are fantastic, we’re being led down a path here. I think Gwen will choose Regina, making Team Gwen complete. Seconds later, Team Pharrell is also complete.

Result: Gwen chooses Regina and Pharrell Steals Riley

The Final Eight Artists Going to the Live Playoffs Are…

After all is sung and done, Adam keeps Shelby Brown; Gwen keeps Jeffery Austin and Regina Love; Blake keeps Emily Ann Roberts and Zach Seabaugh; and Pharrell keeps Mark Hood and Evan McKeel. The final Steal is bestowed upon Riley Biederer by Pharrell. And there you have it. The next episode is a layover about our trip so far, then the following week the Live Playoffs begin.

The Voice airs Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 9pm on NBC.

(Image courtesy of NBC)

Catherine Cabanela

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV