The Voice Boots One of the Show's Strongest Acts in Knockouts Premiere

Blake’s incredible country trio hits the stage again, while Gwen pits two of her best “weirdos” against one another and all we can ask is, “WHY?!”

A shortened episode of “The Voice” kicked off the Knockouts with just three pairings, but one of them featured four artists.

Everyone’s favorite country trio, Worth the Wait, came back for their next shot at being the first trio ever to make the finals, and they certainly made a strong case for themselves. But they also faced stiff competition in the classically country Ben Allen.

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Elsewhere, Gwen Stefani pitted her two self-proclaimed weirdos together, which absolutely broke our hearts as they were both gut-wrenchingly stunning in such very different ways. Sometimes we don’t want the Coaches choosing who to pit against one another because we don’t want to lose anyone.

There is one Steal each available for this round of the competition, where the artists pick their own songs and perform independently, though still facing off against one other singer. It allows us a better shot to see who they are, and we certainly saw that tonight.

But with six incredible performances on the night, we’re still a little bitter that the Steal we did see was totally used wrong and one of the best performances of the night was actually rewarded with a ticket home.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Blake Shelton. And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are.

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Casmè vs Tamara Jade

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(“Wrecking Ball,” Miley Cyrus & “Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder) Tamara got off to a bit of a slow start on a very big Stevie Wonder classic, but by the time she hit the chorus she started taking us all to the Church of Tamara Jade and we were here for it. She made the song her own from that moment on, with incredible runs, choices and unique invocations that really showed us who she is as an artist, and who she is is incredibly powerful and current, speaking to the state of the world as it is right now.

Coming in with a whole different vibe, Casmè was actually stronger on the verses, as she fell a bit behind the melody when she hit that first chorus. When she took herself away from the melody, she was actually a little stronger. So while we love what she does as a vocalist, she never quite settled into this particular song as much as she soared when she was away from it.

John’s Winner: Tamara Jade

My Winner: Tamara Jade

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Ben Allen vs Worth the Wait

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(“She Got the Best of Me,” Luke Combs & “Delta Dawn,” Tanya Tucker) Ben gave a classic country delivery, honest and straightforward, on this Luke Combs track. His voice has a strength and consistency that made it sound like we could have been hearing his record playing on the radio, which is impressive for a live performance. But in that same vein, it was lacking a little of that emotional resonance we want from the storyteller genre.

We agree with Usher and Blake that Jaycee needs to grow a little in confidence — or stop getting solo parts — as her single line was probably the weakest of the whole performance. That said, it was still solidly consistent. But it’s the heart and incredible harmonies of this family trio that brought new life to a true country classic. We loved the tempo switch, offering them a chance to show even more of what they’re capable of, and the way they share the stage with one voice is magical.

Blake’s Winner: Worth the Wait

My Winner: Worth the Wait

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Payge Turner & Ryan Berg

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(“Creep,” Radiohead & “Makin’ Me Look Good Again,” Drake White) Payge was just pure emotion on this Radiohead classic, injecting all of her own experiences of not fitting in to the template and lyrics. It’s a slow mover, so it requires everything of a singer to keep the audience enraptured with interesting choices, and Payge’s deviations from the original were all so intentional and absolutely sublime.

And then Ryan brought the lights down metaphorically, inviting is into an incredibly intimate performance. His voice was almost a whisper, but with that beautiful, soulful rasp that just tugs at your heart. He didn’t need the tricks or even to soar ever because he sold the story of this song and we felt every bit of it. It was just effortlessly unbelievable.

Gwen’s Winner: Payge Turner

My Winner: Payge Turner

“The Voice” Knockouts continue next Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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