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'The Voice' recap: Korin Bukowski goes home ahead of semifinals

'The Voice' recap: Korin Bukowski goes home ahead of semifinals
Korin Bukowski and Braiden Sunshine wait for Carson Daly to announce their fates on "The Voice." (Trae Patton / NBC)

Turns out Korin Bukowski didn't have nine lives after all. "The Voice" viewers, who had rescued Team Gwen's plucky Florida pre-med student from elimination twice previously, via the Twitter instant save, declined to do so for a third time this week, finally sending her home and saving Bukowsi's bright, broad-smiling 15-year-old teammate Braiden Sunshine instead.

It wasn't an easy goodbye, nor was it an entirely unexpected one. During much of the half-hour elimination show — on which R. City and Adam performed "Locked Away" and Sia sang "Alive" (apparently those face-covering wigs of Sia's keep her from seeing us, too; she had to be led offstage by a "Voice" crew member) — Bukowski looked grim, as if she were bracing herself for the inevitable worst.

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During the question-and-answer bits, before the Top 10 officially shrank to the Top 9, "Voice" host Carson Daly asked Bukowski what she'd learned about herself on the show. She answered that she was "a lot more fearless" than she had thought and that there was "a lot of fight" in her, even (or perhaps especially) after all those close calls.

But once it became clear that she and sweet Sunshine — who sunnily shared that he was just amazed still to be there, having thought that the money spent on gas getting to his audition would be a waste — would battle for the instant save, the fight seemed to dribble out of Bukowski, and she appeared defeated even before the vote, while close, at 51% to 49%, made it official.

Bukowski muffed the words to her save-me song, Colbie Caillat's "Try," in a couple of spots, and seemed to be struggling to hold it together throughout. Daly and the coaches all offered words of support, telling her such onstage disasters had happened to them all, urging her to feel proud and hold her head up, and suggesting that she might be saved again despite it all. Stefani said Bukowski's unfortunate moment had befallen her because she was "deep," "real" and "honest."

It was kind of them, but while Sunshine didn't give a perfect performance of Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe" (yes, Levine complimented him on his "fantastic" taste in music), the fact that he rallied so hard to sing it made him seem like a shoo-in for the save. Levine said he'd love to see the young man stick around, and Stefani marveled at how confident and loose he'd grown onstage. She didn't say anything about it being in contrast to Bukowski, but she didn't have to.

Sunshine won the save, but more than anything he won our hearts (or mine, at least) by instantly sweeping up Bukowski in a big comforting hug and then, after breaking away briefly, flinging himself back in there to hug her again.

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