I’m guessing Tyra can’t even remember whether or not Top Model has centered a challenge around anti-bullying ever since Glee and Lady Gaga made it into last year’s important zeitgeist-y social issue, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to take any chances and let the opportunity to deeply inspire pass her by completely. You can always see the gears turning in Tyra’s head beneath the smize, and while this season that look has fixated almost completely on making “booty tooch” into a marketable brand (aided by some skills she learned dorming it up at Harvard Business School, no doubt), I couldn’t help shake the mental image of Ty-Ty, obviously proud of herself, sitting in her office and brainstorming the idea of throwing a bunch of finger paint and crew member’s kids at the models and calling it an exercise in female empowerment. “This is how I won my Emmy. This is why they love me.”
It’s unclear then why the episode chose to open so coldly, with Laura (someone a reader helpfully noted I called “Lauren” at least two times in last week’s recap. Forgive me, there have probably been a whole two seasons worth of girls named Laura/Lauren, Sarah/Sara, and Ebony/Eboni by now) ragging on Kyle, mainly because she still doesn’t trust her after Kyle threatened to leave the show earlier this season. Trust me, if I were in this house (god-willing), I’d probably find myself in at least a dozen “so-and-so doesn’t deserve to be here anymore” bitch sessions, but after well over 100 episodes, they’ve become even more boring to watch than Tyra reciting the winner’s prize package.
Things quickly get to business when the girls meet at an undisclosed studio somewhere to shoot a self-empowerment PSA (the British girls don’t seem to know what a PSA is, but that’s probably because this one doesn’t have any of the horrific violence they’re used to.) The winning team will get their ad show on The CW’s website (for an audience of 10 Ringer watchers), but more importantly, will also get a taped message from home.
The setup allows for the backstory info dump the editors have been praying for, with audiences having the chance to learn about Laura’s alcoholic parents and the relentless racist bullying Eboni endured as a child. There are genuine moments of emotion that I’m not sure how to process in the context of this show when the models get paired with wise children to talk about beauty, with the sweetest moment coming from Alisha when she breaks down in tears after her teammate tells her she feels ugly because of the color of her skin. It’s nice to see the contestants pull it together and work in unison (as they mostly have all season) for the challenge, but I have to admit to being an asshole and laughing when Laura’s youngster misspeaks and says “freedom is mold” instead of “freedom is breaking any mold.”
Despite there being a moment where Annaleise’s cross-legged short shorts position required some inconspicuous vaginal censoring, the U.K. girls handily walk away with the win thanks to their breezy and heartfelt commercial, and are treated to videos from home broadcasted proudly off a Virgin Mobile phone. Annaleise’s message is weirdly from her roommate, but the one from Sophie’s boyfriend is even worse as it mainly contains him rambling on about the weather and generally looking like he wandered off the set of a Klaxons music video.
This week’s photoshoot is pretty strange, mainly because it’s initially presented as if it’s supposed to be a live performance art installation. Instead, it’s week two of booty tooch lessons, only this time in the context of a fancy Bel Air dinner party instead of a mall kiosk music video. Alisha instantly endears me to her by promising that she’s going to offer “some bootie hoochie, toochie fruity.” “American Boy” singer Estelle and her mushroom cap hairstyle are there for some reason and is quickly hailed as one of the only U.K. singers to achieve crossover success by girls that have apparently never heard of Adele.
Almost all the girls approach the challenge by climbing on top of the table on all fours and presenting themselves like they’re in a nature documentary, and while some are able to make holding prop pieces of fish work for them, every single one of the girls seems to forget that Estelle is standing behind them in their photos. Estelle hilariously ends up a floating head and craning neck in each photo, hers sole piece of advice “watch out for what’s in front of you” falling upon deaf ears and mouths full of grapes. At one point the photographer yells out “Watch out for that meringue pie, it’s real!” and that’s really all you need to know in the end.
Kelly Cutrone isn’t as funny as she usually is at panel, although she does manage to compare Sophie’s photo to “Ivana Trump’s divorce party” and mean it as a compliment. Tyra again displays alarming self-awareness by laughing at her own “booty scooping” wordage, but things go back to normal when Nigel jokingly mentions “Booty Tooch: The Movie” and an obvious light bulb goes off in Tyra’s head.
Eboni and Seymone go the contortionist route in their pics and mainly get praised for it, but it’s Alisha and Kyle that end up in the bottom two, as editing clearly warned us of earlier. Laura is still salty over the fake butt pad Kyle is given during the challenge to help aid what nature has cruelly made flat, but it ends up being of no assistance as Kyle gives the British girls their first ever numbers advantage after she ends up getting the booty tooch boot. I’m half expecting next week’s episode to ask the girls to write college dissertations on booty tooching. It’s also in this moment that I’m finally telling my Microsoft Word to add the word to its dictionary.