During the second week of battle rounds on "The Voice" Monday night, friends faced off, unlikely duet partners found common ground and late-blooming crooners gave their careers one last shot.
Those all made for some tough decisions for the judges, who collectively had to pair up 12 contestants and oust six of them from the show. The same happened last week, and next week the rest will face the same unenviable task of competing against their teammates.
Christina Aguilera challenged Geoff McBride and Sera Hill to a rendition of "Chain of Fools," a tune both were pleased to sing.
"This is the stuff I grew up on," 51-year-old Geoff said, and his young hotel receptionist rival said she was confident because the song "showcases a lot of attitude."
That meant that after the battle, the judges faced a tough call, their first of several: Sera's diva strut and impeccable technique versus Geoff's calm command of his powerhouse voice. Sera won out — a blow for Geoff, who had admitted earlier, "At my age, 51, this is it for me."
Later, Christina had to choose between two unique young singers who faced very different stumbling blocks.
Lindsey Pavao, a big Nirvana fan, was eager to perform the band's "Heart-Shaped Box," but her shyness concerned her mentor Lionel Ritchie. Her rival Lee Koch, initially intimidated by the song, had to study the song's structure before he could make the number his own.
During their battle, their very different styles split the judges (and Blake Shelton caught flak from the others when he admitted he'd never heard the song before) — but Christina went with Lindsey in the end.
Once it was Blake's team's turn, he pitted brash Jersey girl Charlotte Sometimes against low-key Austin, Texas, native Lex Land.
The duo's approach couldn't have been more different. (Charlotte on Lex: "I want to destroy her." Lex on the task she faced: "I have to perform well and not let another opportunity pass me by because I wasn't assertive enough.")
Lex's mentor Miranda Lambert praised her charge's sense of mystery, but after the battle itself, ultimately Blake sided with Charlotte — though he admitted that she "didn't take the risks" that Lex did during their performance.
Cee Lo Green made two tough pairings Monday night — albeit tough for very different reasons. He pitted the countrified Sarah Golden against the gravelly-voiced Juliet Simms, who was pleased that the pair was assigned Rod Stewart's "Stay with Me."
After some hemming and hawing about their impressive performances, Cee Lo chose Juliet, whose voice is often compared to Stewart's.
And his next pairing was a little more personal, with fresh-faced Chicagoan sandwich-maker Jamie Lono pitted against his new friend, New York-bred former meth addict Jamar Rogers. The song: Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is."
Jamie's voice cracked during rehearsal, but his mentor Babyface assured him, "You just need to do what your voice tells you to."
During the battle itself, Jamie seemed to hold back out of nerves. That meant Jamar, with his wide-ranging belt and a personal narrative that perfectly meshed with the song, won handily. "You are ridiculously, ridiculously good," Adam Levine told him.
"I feel like there was a reason to be here, and maybe that was to let Jamar go on to win," Jamie said tearily backstage, after hugging his new friend hard to congratulate him. Talk about a gracious loser.
And Jamar said the fact that he was sticking around proved something for other people about the possibility of comebacks.
Another unlikely comeback came from Adam's team.
Despite Geoff's departure from the show earlier in the night, Monday's episode of "The Voice" did sound a note of hope for older aspiring singers when 50-year-old Kim Yarbrough beat the much younger Whitney Myer.
The pair sang Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama" and got quite the compliments.
"I truly felt like I was watching one of those diva concerts," Blake said.
"You could handle each other," Adam added.
And with belters like those, that was saying something.
The last installment of the battle rounds, when another six hopefuls will head home, is set for next Monday, March 19, on NBC at 8/7 Central.