America’s Next Top Model Recap: A Fiercely Real Goodbye

America’s Next Top Model Recap: A Fiercely Real Goodbye

By this point I’m so used to covering my face in horror and shame at Tyra’s attention-grabbing antics (don’t ever change, Ty) that I’m never quite sure what to do with myself when Top Model somehow manages to pull off an episode that’s almost entirely free of made-up words and our beautiful host’s foam-at-the-mouth self-delusions. For so long the faithful watchers among us have complained that the show has long lost its way, that it quit being about fashion roughly around the time that CariDee was allowed to win her cycle by stumbling down that Spanish cave screaming her head off, and that it’s really only a matter of time now until even Cover Girl starts to feel like they’re too classy to be associated with it.

The end is nigh for Top Model, and with free-falling ratings and the recent announcement that standbys like Nigel Barker and the two Jays won’t be returning after this season, it’s starting to look more and more likely that the show’s next two cycles (The CW is lazy and hates finding midseason replacements) very well might be the show’s last. 20 cycles is a nice number to end on, and for symmetry’s sake, can also represent the age that most models start heading out to pasture.

It’ll be interesting to see what next year’s reboot looks like, and while I’m glad the show still is able to find room for Kelly Cutrone and her endless supply of witch costumes, this week’s episode painfully let me know that even as I furrow my brow at the show’s usually baffling challenge choices, Stockholm Syndrome has apparently sunk in just enough that I’m a little bit bored when things aren’t cranked up all the way to 11.

After finally being able to throw away her Kyle voodoo doll, Laura and the rest of the girls quickly get back into the thick of things by participating in one of the most purely fashion-driven challenges in recent years when they’re called upon to walk in 4 different shows for finalists in the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize. While each girl gets to walk in each fashion show, the girl who opens the show is selected by each of the participating designers and it’s here that we see how utterly screwed the U.S. team is without the benefit of Azmarie’s commanding presence. None of the Yanks (or Catherine for that matter, whose walk Cutrone later describes as resembling “someone on drugs who escaped from the hospital”) get picked to lead off any of the collections and our obvious front-runner Sophie even manages to end up scoring two of the four slots. Alisha’s designer wins the challenge and she gets a two night’s stay at a Dorchester hotel out of it even though she’s pretty aware that her runway performance had very little effect on the actual outcome.  Seymone and Eboni struggle the most at the challenge, with the latter being criticized for her pinched face and the former being told she swings her arms too much when she walks. Actually, the direct quote from Cutrone is “you’re like a big arm swinger, like you can’t be swinging your arms that much,” which might be favorite quote of the season for reasons I’m not really sure of yet.

The photo shoot this week is a pretty good one as it’s full of the girls covering every inch of their bodies in Hello Kitty couture, which basically means a lot of plush dolls, snap bracelets, and lunch boxes. Unfortunately, the merchandise only draws upon the Hello Kitty character and I’m reminded that a less restrained Tyra would have likely made this shoot one where each girl represents one of Sanrio’s second tier characters. “Laura, you’re going to be Bad Badtz Maru because you’re really punk rock. Annalise, you’re going to be Keroppi because you have such an infectious and bubbly spirit. Eboni, I think I’ll make you Pochacco because I feel like there’s a wounded puppy dog hiding beneath those eyes. Catherine, you can be Spottie Dottie because I can’t think of any of the other ones right now.”

The photographer for this shoot is a Ann He – a 16-year-old Seventeen contest winner – which is actually really cool, but Mr. Jay doesn’t seem to pick up on He’s obvious timidity about barking orders at women older than her and lets a few of the girls drift by aimlessly without direction. Eboni resists her youth-oriented brand and barely moves during her shoot and Seymone continues her overall awfulness by complaining about the discomfort caused by her comically oversized Geisha headpiece. There’s very little sympathy for either, especially as Alisha nails her shoot by resuming one of her strange episodic hot streaks after last week’s bottom two appearance.

Eboni get slammed pretty hardcore in this episode, first for “dissing all of us” by not wearing her forced-upon signature pigtails at the runway show, and then again at panel when Cutrone said her photo made her “feel like you’re a hitchhiker in Hello Kittyland who’s been left.” Tyra manages to put aside her “Goodbye Kitty” puns and calls for the girls to practice their “Novocain faces” (flash forward to a vision from next year where Tyra leads a seminar on teaching the girls how to make drooling high fashion) for a second to agree, although it ends up being Seymone’s bad attitude on set that really ruffles Banks’ feathers. Seymone is finally sent home and it’s with slumped shoulders and an even worse attitude that she walks out the door only so she can later yell at the camera crew to get out of her face. America has just two girls left in the running, and considering one is Eboni, it’s not looking too good.

Marcus Michalik