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‘Rising Star’ recap: Let the duels begin

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “The Duels Begin” | Aired July 13, 2014

Last week: We ran through every terrible group name known to man (Unselfish, OhMG, TX3). Karen Hornsby made us all cry. Kesha sported purple hair and voted “yes” for anything on two legs, while Brad Paisley performed a song about cavorting by the riverside. Now let’s see what’s happening this week on Rising Star.

We open to a super-dramatic segment that introduces tonight’s duels, highlighting the six performers who’ll be competing. It’s like a ’90s Masterpiece Theater opener made love to Cinemax After Dark. There’s lots of red velvet, cursive writing, frenetic violins and chanting.



Oh, and I notice a ton of light bulbs just hanging there because bare light bulbs are cool.


Josh Groban continues to play the role of our favorite adjunct professor, comparing tonight’s duels to the Roman Colosseum (yeah, not so much). He then makes the weirdest transition of the night, saying, ”Speaking of loincloths, hello Brad Paisley!” Brad retaliates by asking to see Josh’s socks, and Josh reveals this week’s design is puzzle pieces, which he defends vigorously. (I’ll say it again, Josh! No one will love your socks until YOU learn to love your socks.)

Here’s a quick breakdown of this round: Two contestants are paired against each other for a “duel.” Each will sing a song of their choice, and whoever receives the most votes wins. This is where it gets tricky. The first contestant will perform directly to the experts and the audience (sans wall), while the second contestant performs to the wall. The second contestant can only raise the wall if they get a larger percentage of votes. Because this is the Wild West, they’ll use a coin toss to determine who goes first.

OK, having to perform to a wall rather than a studio audience puts contestant #2 at a distinct disadvantage (it’s much easier to connect to an audience than THE WALL). The rules don’t seem designed to give each competitor a fair shot, but I’m trying to just go with the flow. While I have this internal debate, Josh Groban hands the West Coast a tiny breadcrumb—apparently their highest score will save one of the bottom three from elimination. Otherwise, all of the West Coast power is completely ornamental (much like the British monarchy).

Tonight’s first duel is a showdown between Alice Lee and Lisa Punch. (I wish they would play a piece of their original auditions, because between me and you, I can’t totally recall either of these girls.) I reviewed my notes to refresh myself, so I can confidently tell you Alice is a 25-year-old musical theater performer who is very animated onstage. Lisa is a 21-year-old originally from Guyana who lives in a two-bedroom house with 13 family members.


Alice goes first, and her “Wings” is not great. She looks fantastic, but the vocals are pitchy and strained. (Maybe the song is too high? Maybe she’s nervous?) It doesn’t seem to improve as the song progresses, but all three experts vote “yes” like they’re hearing the “Halleluiah Chorus.” I’m not really getting their enthusiasm here.

Note: This is when I realize the second contestant is forced to watch the first contestant perform from the audience, which seems kind of cruel. They’re also forced to listen to the experts give feedback to their competitor and talk about their possible weaknesses right before they go onstage to perform. Um, what is happening with this show? Rising Star just went from occasionally awkward to cringeworthy with this whole setup.

Lisa’s “Perfect” isn’t amazing either. Her delivery is a bit stiff for the song, but her vocal performance seems superior to Alice’s from a technical standpoint. However, Ludacris and Brad both say “no” at the last minute, and Alice wins with 69 percent of the vote versus Lisa’s 66 percent. The girls then have to stand together onstage while the experts justify their decisions. It’s intensely uncomfortable.

It becomes clear at this point that the experts have a ton of control over this portion of the competition (and it’s felt more keenly than it was in the initial auditions). Is this really the show where the viewers have all the power, when the experts can wield their percentages so aggressively to sway the vote toward a particular contestant? I don’t think so.


Moving on, our next duel is between Megan Tibbits and Sarah Darling. In case you don’t remember (because who can?), Megan is the 26-year-old who played the harp like a boss. Sarah is the 31-year-old Nashvillian with one of the prettiest voices in the competition.


Megan has the coveted first slot. She’s ditching the harp for the guitar this week in order to showcase her voice, and her “Summertime” is pretty good. She has a softer tone that’s delightful, leaning heavily on melismas (sometimes to the point of obscuring the melody of the song). She doesn’t necessarily nail every trick, but this doesn’t deter all three experts from voting “yes.” Ludacris labels her “most improved.”

Sarah’s “I Hope You Dance” is markedly different. Her vocal is lovely, natural and melisma-free, and of course the experts are unimpressed with this simplicity. Brad votes “yes,” and Kesha and Ludacris vote “no.” I vote, “What is wrong with you experts?” because I am starting to lose faith in their ability to judge these performances. Megan wins this round with 71 percent of the vote versus Sarah’s 69 percent.

The last duel of the night is 24-year-old Will Roth versus 20-year-old Jesse Kinch. I remember Will primarily for PUPPIES! I remember Jesse for his compelling performance and glorious head of hair.


Will’s rehearsal features some inappropriate beard-touching from Kesha, and his “Wrecking Ball” performance is solid. It’s definitely a creative choice, but he doesn’t quite reach all the peaks of the song. For the first time all night, we watch someone vote “no” for the first contestant (Ludacris), while Brad and Kesha vote “yes.” Kesha calls his song choice “genius.”


Jesse’s “Whipping Post” is the highlight of the night—wild and charismatic. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the experts all vote “yes,” and Jesse wins with 90 percent of the vote (versus Will’s 57 percent). Then Will has to come onstage to watch the experts fawn over Jesse and give Will a perfunctory “Good luck to you,” and it’s just painfully uncomfortable.


In our last segment of the night, Josh announces the West Coast save as being Lisa Punch (who had a tiny percentage more of the vote than Sarah). Everyone looks exhausted, because they’ve probably been in that room for hours.

Things I learned this week: The experts and I had VERY different opinions on vocal ability during this round. Going second is a horrible liability that’s hard to conquer (unless you’re Jesse). I need at least one bottle of wine to get through this, and Josh Groban is never going to feel truly confident about his socks.

Who were your favorites this week? How do you feel about the setup of the duels? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll see you next week to chat about another episode of Rising Star.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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