For an episode of America's Next Top Model to be deeply satisfying, at least three of the following five things have to happen. First, there has to be someone freaking out, preferably about something as minor and deal-with-it-girl-please as a haircut or learning how to read a map or their applesauce being stolen. Second, it's usually a good sign if there's a challenge that seems totally unrelated to modeling, such as beekeeping while looking sympathetic or hanging from a rope while imitating one of the archangels for a hat commercial. Third, a delightfully weird special guest should say something confusing and alarming, throwing all contestants into some sort of model-ish infinite thought loop about their face structure. Fourth, Tyra should mangle an imitation of someone. Fifth, Ms. Jay should show up.
It's not the most scientific scale, but by my calculations this episode of All-Stars checked off all five categories. After the lackluster arena shenanigans in the premiere, it was great to see that Tyra knows just how much crazy she has on her hands. Not only was it the hotly anticipated makeover week, Tyra also debuted an opening credit reel that looked cribbed directly from a Twisted Sister video. There was also the magically nonsensical portion at the beginning, in which the ladies got summed up into one word by the Danish branding expert Martin Lindstrom, a cross between Karl Lagerfeld and Dieter Sprocket. The idea was to stretch those 15 minutes as long as possible, I guess, but he just made marvelously useless gnomic pronouncements. "Your value is daring," he advised Lisa, who was oddly surprised that no one trusts someone who seems like they might punch and/or plaster you in tequila-vomit at any moment. "Being a lesbian was hip five years ago," he told the shocked Kayla, "Find something else." Yeah, LGBT, so 2006. What?
But let's be honest: The makeovers are the best part of any season. While this one did have a lot of great moments, particularly Bianca's breakdown that "A weave is tacky; extensions is what I have," I think the show missed a real opportunity with these. First, all of them have gotten the Top Model treatment before, so it would have been interesting to see some before and after makeover shots from both cycles. (By the way, I love you Jays, but stop trying to make "Ty-Over" happen. It's not happening). But the real problem was the total lack of anything more serious than some mani-pedis and the occasional pageboy cut. Come on, this is All-Stars. Who's going to get a face tattoo? What about tooth-gap widening or a cheek piercing? At least a radical hair color or a head shaving?
Nothing of the sort, alas. Allison seemed to just have her roots touched up, Kayla got a reddish tinge to her hair, and I couldn't even tell you what happened to most of the girls. The only real changes were Lisa's shorn locks—which she agreed to after Mr. Jay described her long hair as "dowdy housewife"—and Bre's pretty unreasonable freak-out about her short hair-do. "At first I was upset," we hear her weeping to some poor producer locked in the bathroom with Bre, "But now, I'm at rage!" Oh, please.
All bets for elimination were on Sheena pretty much as soon as she decided to go against the "extreme hair chop" Tyra had recommended, but she was really doomed by the incredibly complicated photo shoot that the Top Model team concocted as a product placement for Pink's hot dog. You see, the girls had to flaunt their "brand"—that value that Lindstrom assigned them earlier—while eating a hot dog they had designed on camera. Normally the Jays can make a shoot seem like it makes more sense than "a random jumble of events that must somehow come together in this photo" but Mr. Jay's advice was pretty much what you'd expect: "Sell yourself and the hot dog while keeping your brand in mind." What actually happened was an album of drunk prom queen photos. It's hard to look good eating a hot dog, let alone to look "persistent" or "trustworthy" or "tough" or any of the other mantra-brand words. As Mr. Jay noted, Sheena just exuded "I need to pee." It did, however, lead to some real gems of advice from the photography team, such as "If you were Kim Kardashian, how would you eat that hot dog?" I suggest everyone get that tattooed on your wrist immediately.
Poor, poor Kayla. After that dispiriting Lindstrom comment, she then had to embody "free" on camera. Mr Jay stopped her at one point, wondering if she could "not look disgusted on film or fill both your cheeks with hot dog bun." Tough times. I barely even noticed Allison or Isis this week, but I feel like the producers are determined to have them do well, so they slipped by. Lisa, bedecked in American flag pants, won over the judges by her gross open-mouthed hot dog picture. Guest judge Ashlee Simpson—not the best person to advise 25-year-olds who feel past their prime—wasn't getting a word in edgewise with all the Tyra banter, which feels like it's for the best. In a stunt that will make me have nightmares for the next ten weeks, Tyra, maniacal glint in eye, shaved Nigel's head midway through judging, the most desperately needed makeover of all. I guess they judged the photos, but you know? It didn't even matter. This cycle it feels like a competition for the person who can keep the judges interested. Lisa got best picture for her "See food diet" picture, and Sheena went home because the most interesting thing about her was her jumpsuit. Bre hung in there because she got mad, but I'm guessing Kayla doesn't have long to go. In this season, you have to start out-crazying people if you really want to stay.
- So Nigel clearly just grew the hair so they could do that stunt, right? Somehow he didn't shake his lecherous look though.
- It was sort of distracting to me that the girls wore headscarves throughout their individual confessions, thanks, one presumes, to the makeovers. Couldn't someone have gotten a hat?
- Ms. Jay, Ms. Jay, Ms. Jay. I have never seen you look frumpy before, and I never want to again. Capes! Jewels! Ruffles!
- Isn't it weird seing Andre Leon Talley in a suit and not an extravagant muu-muu?