As we check in with The Voice, we are at the end of the Knockout Round. This season, coaches came into the Battle Rounds with 12 singers each from the Blind Auditions—a welcome relief from last season’s 16, even though it still meant we had knockouts to contend with. I don’t love the concept of the Knockout Round, or at least one judged by the individual coaches; I feel like a number of potential audience favorites were eliminated here.

New to the panel of coaches this season are Shakira and Usher, who are providing a welcome breath of fresh air. I love how Shakira gets so into the performances and how constructive Usher is with his criticism. Both of them seem to have jumped right into the competitive deep end and take their mentoring roles very seriously. Blake and Adam, as always, are adorable.

Christina who?

Christina who?

Below are some highlights from the Battle and Knockout Rounds. Unfortunately, as happened last season, we did not see certain battles. That’s just plain annoying when there was plenty of time to show them and now those singers may have a disadvantage in the later voting rounds.

Best Battle: Judith vs. Karina on “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown. This battle was fantastic to watch and listen to. It was a great choice of song and a great performance from both singers. Karina was probably the least surprising steal of the Battle Rounds.

Most Surprising Battle Decision: Vedo over Jessica on “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars. It was a good battle and both did well, but I was sure that Usher would go with Jessica.

Favorite Battle: Monique vs. Luke on “You and I” by Lady Gaga. This may have seemed like an odd pairing, but it worked incredibly well. I liked Luke’s audition, but he really shone here and I’m glad he was stolen.

You’re learning to use just the perfect amount of Tabasco not to spoil the recipe. You know what I mean? And I think that’s what us girls have to do. In music… and, with men too… if you know what I mean.

—Shakira on Monique’s performance on “You and I”

Favorite Battle (runner-up): Kris vs. C. Perkins on “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars. I loved this battle, even though I’m not a fan of either of these guys. I want to like Kris, but I just can’t warm up to him. Also, what is it with the Bruno Mars obsession on this show? Or does he just write a ton? It seems like every other song is by Mars.

Oddest Battle Pairing: Christian vs. The Swon Brothers on “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. I’m not sure what Blake was thinking with this pairing. It seemed he really liked Christian at the auditions, but this battle was so weighted towards the Swon Brothers with the choice of Tom Petty (who they sang during their audition). Although they came off a bit better, Christian did well and I’m surprised he wasn’t stolen. His “I’m Sexy and I Know It” was one of the high points of the Blind Auditions for me.

Most Suspicious Battle Pairing: Garrett vs. J’Sun on “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy. Why suspicious? Because I suspect Shakira (or the producers) wanted Garrett to stick around and J’Sun, whose audition we did not see, was sacrificed to make that happen. This was one of those soulless battles—the singers were perfectly competent but neither did anything for me. I’m a bit tired of the Garrett story, but I suppose I would have gone for him too; however, neither should have made it through this round. Don’t even get me started on Garrett making it through to the live performances.

Worst Butchery of a Song: Audrey (Team Usher) with “How to Love” in the Knockout Round. I don’t even know how Audrey made it through the auditions, so the fact that she made it all the way to the knockouts just shows how weak Usher’s overall team was. Seriously, the only people I even cared about were Ryan and Michelle, and we lost Ryan. I don’t mind Cáthia, but the fact that we have Josiah or Vedo instead of Ryan is just appalling.

Favorite Battle Song Choice: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (Team Adam). I’ve always loved this song and it was a perfect showcase for both singers.

Favorite Knockout Song Choice: “Always on my Mind” (Judith). Although I recognized her talent, I was not a fan of Judith until she chose and delivered this song. Great idea, great performance.

Favorite Knockout Song Choice (runner-up): “Back to Black” (Josiah). God help me, I liked Josiah’s take on Winehouse. He still doesn’t belong in the live rounds, but he is the best looking guy in the competition so Usher was no fool to pit him against Jess.

Worst Battle Song Choice: “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley (Team Adam). Did Adam learn nothing from Blake’s horrific song choices of Season 1? These guys deserve better. I love Midas Whale, but I bet Patrick might have been stolen with a better song choice here.

Worst Battle Song Choice (runner-up): “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae (Team Blake). While not as horrific as “Hunk of Burning Love,” this was not a good battle song and didn’t showcase either Danielle or Caroline. That said, I wasn’t surprised to see either of these cute teeny boppers make it through. Caroline looks like a WB/CW star already and was sure to be stolen. Plus, she sang “Tiny Dancer” for her auditions, one of Adam’s favorite songs. I was sure he would set her up for success in the Knockout Round and he did.

Worst Knockout Song Choice: Almost anything. Seriously, most of the contestants’ choices were horrific, either because they didn’t fit the singer (“Higher Ground,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Every Breath You Take”), or had no real melody in the first place (“The Climb,” “How to Love”), or were too obscure (“I’m With You,” “All My Life”), cheesy (“Everything I Do I Do It for You,” “I Just Died in Your Arms,” “Maybe I’m Amazed”), or just plain annoying (“Live Like You Were Dying,” “Power of Love,” “Jesus Take the Wheel”). Or sometimes all of these at once.

Most Egregious Elimination: Midas Whale (Team Adam). I loved these two. Their humor, their language skills, their Idaho-ness. Everything. I cannot believe Adam got rid of them by putting them up against Amber. While I didn’t like her song choice, theirs (“Higher Ground”) was even worse. They weren’t the best singers, but they were adorable.

Worst Styling: Judith (Team Adam). Brandon’s hat was pretty bad, but between her hair and the horrific jumpsuit, Judith in the Battle Round wins this hands down.

Most Overrated (tie): Caroline and Orlando (Team Adam). Adam seems captivated by Caroline, but she’s not the unique singer he seems to think she is. Orlando was good, but he oversang on “Ain’t No Sunshine” and I don’t really understand why Adam stole him in the first place.

—Are you telling me to shut up?
—No, not at all. Absolutely not. You’re Usher… I would never say that.

—Carson Daly pushes Usher to make a decision

Best Steal: Sasha (Team Shakira). Interestingly, Shakira is the only coach taking both her steals into the live performances. I wasn’t a big Sasha fan initially, but she won me over with her choice and performance of “At Last” in the Knockout Round.

Worst Steal: Taylor (Team Blake). Her battle with Jess on “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse wasn’t very interesting. She seemed awkward and didn’t show much promise (not that I’m a fan of Jess—something is off with her enunciation and I’m happy she was eliminated in the Knockout Round). However, the nail in Taylor’s coffin was the choice and performance of “Russian Roulette” in the Knockout Round. I really don’t know what Blake was thinking. Also? Olympic hopeful my ass: A quick Google search turns up one non-Voice gymnastic reference from the mid-2000s.

Strongest Audition Eliminated in the Battle Rounds: The Morgan Twins

Favorite Audition Eliminated in the Battle Rounds: Christian

Strongest Contenders Eliminated in the Knockout Round: Mary (Team Shakira), Ryan (Team Usher), Savannah (Team Blake), Warren (Team Adam). Although they weren’t my favorites, I was surprised at all these eliminations. I suspect Mary turned out to be a bit of a diva, and her song choice of “Every Breath You Take” did her no favors, but the others? Especially Savannah, she was growing on me and I liked her unusual choice of “As Long As You Love Me” for the Knockout Round.

Favorites Eliminated in the Knockout Round: Luke (Team Blake) and Midas Whale (Team Adam). While neither delivered their best performance in the Knockout Round (which is a shame because I thought Luke’s arrangement of “Teenage Dream” had real potential), I thought both these acts could have been popular in the live performances.

Strongest Team: Team Adam, although I would have taken Midas Whale or Warren over Caroline.

Weakest Team: Team Usher, although I wonder if Blake’s all-country team is in danger of cannibalizing itself.

Top Four I’m Currently Rooting For: Judith (Team Adam), Karina (Team Shakira), Michelle (Team Usher), Sarah (Team Adam)

Team Adam
Caroline (Steal)

Team Blake
The Swon Brothers

Team Shakira
Karina (Steal)
Sasha (Steal)

Team Usher
Cáthia (Steal)

Cee Lo who?

Cee Lo who?