The crucible that is the battle rounds is over, but for the remaining 32 artists, the ordeal is really just beginning. As tonight's knockouts begin, we learn that only five performers from each coach's team will advance. And this year there's a twist: the coaches are each allowed one more steal. As Amber Nicole and Josh Logan take the stage for the night's first contest, there's a palpable tension in the crowded theater: no one wants to see either of these talented vocalists go. Coming into the performance, Amber's biggest weakness is her inability to connect with the material; but Xtina works her magic in rehearsal, and sure enough, Nicole crushes her performance of Jessie J's "Momma Knows Best." Josh Logan follows. He's all nerves in the rehearsals, but once on the stage, he channels his inner Stevie Wonder, ripping out a faithful take on "Living for the City." Xtina's torn. Could she have made a fatal error by pairing up two of her strongest? A question for another day. The diva chooses Josh, but before the crowd can even react, CeeLo pops his button, using his one and only steal!
CeeLo's been to the knockout rodeo before, and he knows that often the best tactic is to pair artists with similar qualities - to keep the team gene pool as broad as possible. Kat pushes her rock star side heavily, channeling the likes of Benatar and Chrissie Hynde as she works the stage singing Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" and bringing Xtina to her feet. Monika follows with a powerhouse read on "Hit the Road Jack," throwing a sneer in Blake's direction as she works the stage. Blake's impressed, but it's CeeLo whose opinion matters here. Kat's rocker vibe delivered more personality and flair. Monika is sent packing.
Blake's first pair takes the stage next. Super-shy Holly Henry has chosen a challenging song to take her to the next level: Radiohead's "Creep." It's a bold pick, but alas, the teen singer isn't quite up to the song's pleading high notes. Nic Hawk follows, singing Xtina's "Genie in a Bottle," winning over both Xtina and Blake. Adam toys with the thought of saving Holly, but he is just too concerned about her lack of consistency to push the button that would save her.
And the heat stays on Adam as he fields the next head-to-head battle: single-mom Ashley DuBose versus fan favorite Tessanne Chin. Ashley knows she's likely to be overmatched if she tries to power her way through her song, Train's "Soul Sister." Instead, she plays it smoky and soulful, finding new emotion in the poppy ballad. Tessanne follows with Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)." The drama mounts as we see the seemingly invincible Tessanne struggle with the song in rehearsal. But when the stage lights come up, the Jamaica-born singer puts it all together. Once again, she swoops the crowd up with her as she pushes her instrument to impressive heights; by the time she's done, the house is on its feet clapping. Adam gives a standing ovation as well; there's no question as to whom he'll pick. Unfortunately for Ashley, it's the end of the road.
Blake steps up next, matching personal assistant Briana Cuoco with the larger than life Shelbie Z. for his second knockout matchup. The two singers could hardly be more different; ultimately Blake will have to decide which type of singer will give his team the best chance in the live shows. What sound will win over America? After having what Blake later describes as "too much icing and not enough cake" in her performance of No Doubt's "Don't Speak," Briana leaves the door wide open for Shelbie Z. Briana's pitchiness ultimately proves to be the nail in her coffin. Singing "Last Name" by Carrie Underwood, Shelbie gives "the most confident performance yet in Season 5," in the words of Blake.
Wedding singer Grey takes the ring next, matched up against R&B stylist James Irwin. Grey's got the edge going in, with a pro career she hones every week on the wedding circuit. Her performance of Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" is skilled, but it seems to lack passion or originality. James senses an opportunity. He pushes himself on The Script's "Breakeven," rousing the audience and putting Adam in a very tough spot. The Maroon 5 front man agonizes, but ultimately, he picks Grey, citing her deeper potential to win it all.
Xtina only wants to take one country singer with her to the live shows, so she'll have to decide between Destinee Quinn and Olivia Henken. Destinee comes out strong, but her pitch eludes her in a couple of key spots during her rendition of Carrie Underwood's "See You Again." But Xtina excuses the hiccup, realizing that for Destinee the song stirs up thoughts of family members; emotion counts. Olivia follows, giving an inspired take on the classic "You're No Good." Adam finds the performance flawed, but Xtina has the two singers evenly matched. Forced to choose, Xtina picks Olivia to move on.
In the night's final matchup, CeeLo puts a couple of dudes on a collision course: Cole Vosbury and Jonny Gray. Looking to make it or break, Cole selects an obscure song to showcase his earthy style, choosing to sing "Let Her Go" by Passenger. It's a hit: Vosbury's poise and command are on full display, and the song has a familiar yet novel ring. Jonny's song choice is just the opposite: The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out." We watch him rehearse, struggling with how to phrase the song and how to move. CeeLo guides him as he has so many performers in the past, and when Jonny takes the stage, he's as polished as a boulder in a riverbed. CeeLo gives Jonny the nod. Before Carson can even explain that Cole is available for a steal, both Adam and Blake hit their buttons! Adam begs Cole to come aboard, but ultimately Blake wins out, thanks to his common country roots. It's a fitting end to an emotional night of goodbyes and good tidings of what's to come.
Xtina, Blake, CeeLo and Adam must cut their teams by half by pairing their remaining artists in head-to-head duels.