The Voice recap: Baptised by Pastor Percival

The wee hostie kicks things off by reminding us that "this is The Voice, Australia", which explains why I'm having trouble recognising anyone from Border Security in the line-up. "It's hard to believe it was only eight weeks ago that those big red chairs started turning around," he adds, and he's right. It feels like years. Maybe a little grease on the bearings might speed things up.

There's only two weeks till the winner is announced, host Darren McMullen reminds us, and the producers waste no time at all in springing the first shock of the night on us: due to technical difficulties, Keith will not be joining us by video link. Sorry, folks, you'll just have to make do with the real thing.

Darren Percival ... covered Stevie Wonder.
Darren Percival ... covered Stevie Wonder. 

Hot on the heels of that curveball comes another: Joel couldn't make it tonight due to a tragic accident in the colourist's chair. Luckily, we've managed to rustle up a replacement. "Ladies and gentlemen, your guest judge tonight will be Tigger."

Cutting straight to the chase, the votes are in for Team Delta. Without further ado, Rachael Leahcar is through on the popular vote and the chances of her singing Pinball Wizard before the show is over climb ever so slightly.

The chances of Delta making a coherent statement before the series ends, though, take a nosedive as she flubs and flusters her way towards a decision on which one of the other three will get to contest next week's semi-final. "I believe everything happens for a reason," she starts, reciting lines she learnt by heart from the Encyclopedia of New Age Claptrap. "I feel like we are a family. I feel like I've made new friends. I just adore the three of you so much. And now I am going to crush the dreams of two of you and take my backing singer through to the next round just like you always knew I would."

Just a reminder, people. This is the show that kicked someone off because she was a backing singer in a video for a song by Guy Sebastian. Whose brother Chris remains in the mix (at least until Seal does the whole fauxmotional torture nonsense in a minute or two). I'm just sayin'.

In the recap of last week's episode we are reminded that Seal loved everyone except Karise Eden. But the public vote goes to ... Karise Eden. Has Seal just been bitch-slapped by an entire nation?

If not, maybe he deserves to be. Having dirty danced with Emma Louise Birdsall last week and told her she could be the next Cate Blanchett this week (can Cate even sing?) he's decided to pick Fatai, on account of her being "so pure" and "so young at a very young age". Not to mention so incredibly economical with one of our scarcest resources, the alphabet, using just the one letter, V, in her surname. Frugality like that deserves a break.

Joel Madden's tiger-inspired hairstyle.
Joel Madden's tiger-inspired hairstyle. 

Oh, and it's goodbye Chris too. "Well done, man," Seal tells him. "You gotta take it from here. It's all you." And your famous surname.

The first performer tonight is Prinnie Stevens, representing Team Tigger with a dayglo cover of Chris Brown's Forever. Nailing his impersonation of Delta, Keith mutters some stream-of-barely-conscious gibberish that apparently translates as "I like it". Joel says she lives life like he does – loud – which is apparently a good thing. Seal and Delta say nothing, which is an improvement on their contributions thus far.

Keith's gal Diana Rouvas is up next and he tells her he is hoping for some intimacy tonight. Hey Nicole. You better get down here, girl, quick smart.

She's singing Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me and it's a superb showcase for her very best sooky face. The judges love her, but if the voting public doesn't she ought to at least score a role on Home and Away with all that anguished emoting. "I wanted to feel your heart breaking," says Keith. "I know you sang I Can't Make You Love Me, but I guarantee you made all of Australia love you." Nicole. Get down here NOW!

Up next is Luke Perry – sorry, Lakyn Heperi – and Joel has the former 90210 star singing The Cure's Friday I'm in Love. He has a word of caution though: the screaming girls, the looks – they fade, man. It's true, too. I mean, before he became a pudgy-faced old man with mad hair and smeared lipstick Cure frontman Robert Smith was ... well, a pudgy-faced young man with mad hair and smeared lipstick.

The song starts and Dylan – sorry, Lakyn – quickly establishes that he can't really sing, doesn't dance and may or may not be able to play guitar. But boy, has he got talent.

Keith says he has a unique style, which apparently is one in which "pitch is a real issue". Seal thinks Keith is being a bit harsh. "What kind of impressed me tonight is that you didn't look disinterested." Big ups there, man.

But that's not all. "You're a good looking guy," Seal adds. Well, it's getting late and with Emma Louise gone ...

Joel tells Lakyn he just wants to push him off his skateboard because he sees greatness. Or maybe that was "grazes". Whatevs.

From Team Keith, Brittany Cairns is next with a cover of Silverchair's Straight Lines. She admits she's struggling with the song because she doesn't have a "high chest voice". Nothing a push-up bra couldn't fix, surely?

When she comes on stage she looks like she's time-travelled to 1993 and brought Daniel Johns' hair back with her. It doesn't help much. Delta bags her performance, Joel bags Delta, Keith bags the nice guy vote by kind of admitting he gave her the wrong song. Sort of. "What I expected and what I got were two different things, but I really liked what I got," he says. Kind of like you might really like it if you asked for Corn Flakes and got haggis.

After a brief bouncy interlude in which Tigger leads his charges through a shouty take on Good Charlotte's shouty Dancefloor Anthem, Adam Martin is on stage to sing and strum his way through Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet, one of the all-time great love songs. But for some reason he seems to think it's a song set in the deep south. When's he going to realise, it's just that the twang is wrong?

Still, Joel likes it enough to pummel his now-redundant red buzzer into submission. Seal tells Adam "I'm trying to get into you, I'm trying to dig what you're about, but when you take on a song like that, that is an iconic song ... I wish I could see some of your style more." Which, to the lay person, sounds like a slating, right? Only Seal caps it with, "Overall, a very good performance".

So there you have it. If nothing else, the contestants will surely leave this show with a heightened understanding of the value of insincere doublespeak.

Joel leaps to Adam's defence. "He just came from behind, man." The precise meaning of which we will leave to others to divine.

Moving right along, Joel has set his girl Sarah De Bono the challenge of making Whitney Houston's How Will I Know her own. She's got competition, though, with Keith singing along from his big red chair and Delta leading a jig around the metaphorical white handbags on the dancefloor (personally, I prefer to sing it in the bath).

The wee hostie asks Joel if she nailed it. "I have a team full of rock stars," he says in a masterly display of answering by not answering. "You don't need me any more." Guess who's not getting his vote next week.

At last, it's time for Darren Percival, the standout vocalist of this competition, but one with, you suspect, an underbelly of self-doubt that could yet be his undoing. He sings Stevie Wonder's I Believe (When I Fall In Love) and he absolutely nails it. He hops around the stage like a hopped-up Baptist preacher and blows the roof off. The judges are all on their feet, the audience is screaming, Joel says "There is not another voice in Australia like yours, brother," and for once someone on this show is not speaking utter crap.

The wee hostie asks Keith, "What did you think" and through the squeals of the crowd you can just about hear him say, "I feel like we all got baptised; all the atheists are confused". Amen to that.

Team Joel's final performer is Ben Hazlewood with Avril Lavigne's I'm With You. He has family from New Zealand in the audience and a tragic back story about a brother who lost his battle with depression and the emotion of his performance almost compensates for some horribly flat notes.

Joel makes silly noises while Delta tries to say what she thought – admittedly, not easy to distinguish from silly noises. "Stop it, I'm going red," she says, but she's been orange on my telly for weeks so I don't know what she's worried about.

After one final batch of words from our sponsors Team Keith is back en masse to sing Keith's very own "worldwide smash" I'm In. What is the point of these all-in numbers, anyway? Nothing, surely, except to prompt a bunch of downloads of the original versions on iTunes.

That and to get the contestants to line up alongside their coach, thereby demonstrating just how tall Darren Percival really is. Head and shoulders, really, in more ways than one.