America's Next Top Model: “Estelle”
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America's Next Top Model: “Estelle”

Don’t be fooled by her towering heels and predilection for suspenders: Tyra Banks is out to conquer the world, one utterance of “tooch” at a time. At the judging panel this week, Nigel jokingly mentioned that last week’s “Art of the Booty Tooch” lesson was far from a one-off sketch. And for a moment, you could glimpse a vision of the future as conceived by the smizing America’s Next Top Model overlord. Soon, it will be a young adult novel, a popcorn movie, a Saturday morning series, and, before you know it, Booty Tooch: The Musical will be taking audiences by storm. Tooching action figures at fast food franchises! Tooch specialists on every block! The end times heralded by tooching horsemen!

But maybe that’s just the effect of having two episodes of ANTM in a row focus on that dubious skill of “scooping out your lower back” and pushing out your butt. I could have sworn that last week had the highest instance of the word “tooch” per minute in the history of broadcasting, but “Estelle” gave it a run for its money.

The first challenge is blessedly tooch-less. Tyra, whom you sense dearly misses her daytime talk show, requires both teams to create a two minute PSA for her anti-bullying campaign, BIO. This announcement elicits an excited “ooh” from roughly half the girls, while the other half ask, almost in unison, “What’s a PSA?” Having their efforts go to a good cause doesn’t prevent the inter-team cattiness from peeking out, though. Both teams paint backgrounds for their television spot, but the Americans get overzealous with their multicolored splotches. “They just drew a little poo at the bottom,” Sophie comments about an unfortunate brown flower.

Each model gets teamed up with an adorable little girl to talk about inner beauty, and some of the contestants bond quickly with their younger partners. Alisha breaks into tears when her teammate talks about being picked on for her skin color. It’s as Oprah-approved as ANTM gets. Team U.K. wins the PSA challenge. Their prize: encouraging video messages from loved ones overseas. Most are heartfelt and emotional, but poor Sophie just gets a clip of her boyfriend wondering aimlessly about the weather.

It’s the photo challenge that brings the tooch-pocalypse to a head. The ladies roll up to a sprawling Bel-Air mansion that makes the Fresh Prince’s digs look piddling in comparison. Mr. Jay explains the shoot as a high fashion tooching affair. The girls are supposed to “extreme booty tooch” as they pretend to be art installations at a hoity-toity dinner party. The hostess of this bizarre affair is Estelle, the voice behind 2008's ubiquitous radio hit “American Boy,” who looks alarmed at the exuberance of tooching happening on the dinner table in front of her.

When Mr. Jay described the challenge, I was expecting the ladies to be living statues. But the challenge actually is more of a food fight, or a portrait of models as entrées. It didn’t help that photographer Ben Shaul was using phrases straight out of Austin Powers. “Don’t be afraid; be British,” he advises one girl. “Be extravagant. Be eccentric. Watch out for that meringue pie, it’s real!” he yells at another.

Alas, not all of the models pull off the tooching on the table effect. With Estelle and the rest of the models fighting for attention in the background, the weaker girls don’t manage to push through the commotion. Alisha’s lackluster shot gave Nigel “a tooch-ache.” Sophie, on the other hand, got one of Kelly Cutrone’s highest ever compliments when Cutrone compared her appearance to “Ivana Trump’s divorce party.” Now that’s classy.

Earlier in the night, the U.S. and U.K. girls had finally begun to bridge the continental divide with Laura and Sophie’s mutual disdain for Kyle. Azmarie’s unexpected departure gave Kyle another week in the house, but her performance was lackluster. It’s bad when the judges notice that you’ve been making the same face in every picture. Alisha and Kyle end up in the bottom two, though Alisha had sworn high drama if Kyle was to take the picture over her. “I did not cross this water for nothing,” Alisha protests. Kyle gets sent home, thus preventing a series of riots. But if Tyra doesn’t give the verb “tooch” a rest next week, I might start some riots of my own.

Stray observations:

  • Alisha gets into the challenge with some Suessian mind games: “Some bootie hoochie, toochie fruity.”
  • Estelle was a great judge. Her advice to the ladies was “watch out for what’s in front of you,” which is as useful as any smizing technique.
  • Seriously, that photographer was amazing. One more from him: “You know the drill: decadence, decadence, decadence.”

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