America's Next Top Model: “Kathy Griffin”
A

America's Next Top Model: “Kathy Griffin”

Yes, we have seen tears, insane articles of clothing that pass for pants, inexplicable branding announcements, overly aggressive product placement photo shoots, and Nigel’s slow simmering rage, but it took until tonight for America’s Next Top Model All-Stars to reach its full potential. This week’s episode was the best of the cycle to date, despite the dual failings of not containing an appearance by Miss J (where are you Miss J? Come back!) and eliminating one of the most interesting contestants. The unexpected double axing upped the ante nicely after the annoying LaToya Jackson amnesty, but the remaining ladies make the ANTM binary all the more stark: glossy, photogenic, and boring; or unstable, loud, and fun to watch. 

I’m pulling for the latter, both because it makes more interesting television and because I can’t imagine Dullsville never nude Shannon or wishy-washy Angelea representing ANTM in all its reality television glory. Fortunately, Lisa, the captain of team crazy-with-no-actual-marketable-skills, was going strong this week, thanks to two excellently nonsensical challenges. First, the ladies had to design and name their own signature fragrances, which lead to the incredibly fun and slightly disconcerting game of imagining what our beloved model-testants must actually smell like. 

Lisa—who would be, let’s say, a hint of Pinesol and a dash of passed out in the closet—came up with the name Neon, which both suits her personality and seems like it would be at home snuggled in your local drugstore perfume aisle. Most of the names were pretty boring, though there was Bianca’s sort of great brand “Candid” (whiff of burning hair extension, rosehips), Allison’s creepy but potentially awesome “Honey Blood” (scent of formaldehyde and maple syrup), and Alexandria’s horrifically named “Diamondatrix” (cucumber melon). Of course, they then had to sell their perfumes to their “adoring public” (read: baffled LA onlookers roped in by desperate casting assistants) while swanning around in their swimsuit skivvies in the bathtub. 

You could almost see Shannon’s face fall at the proposition of being scantily clad in public, but it wasn’t her weird swimsuit-or-underwear rule that posed the problem. Rather it was Bianca’s recurring existential crisis—model or reality star?—that threw a wrench in the works. While the other ladies were, to varying degrees, fairly game about being thrown into a marketing challenge, Bianca refused to get into the tub. “Tyra would never sit in a tub,” Bianca fretted, “Beyonce would never sit in a tub.” (Though, um, yeah she would and has, specifically for a perfume ad.) 

Bianca falls into the category of loud and interesting, though she also holds her own in photo shoots, which put her in between those two camps. Her kvetching about not being taken seriously seems to break the fourth wall of the show—of course, professional models do crazy things, willingly, to get a great shot. But she’s not wrong. Tyra hasn’t had to sit in a bathtub to sell something in decades, except possibly for her own talk show. It’s sort of heartbreaking to point out that if she wants to be taken seriously as a model, she can’t also be on a reality show, but, basically, those are the breaks. Lisa, on the other hand, embraced the embarrassing herself aspect of the whole show and won immunity as a result. 

As I’ve mentioned, immunity is a rare feature on ANTM and one that doesn’t usually work to the show’s advantage. But in this case, Lisa still ended up with the top photo, thanks to her enthusiasm for the motorcycle photo shoot. I’m not entirely sure why the ladies had to also be impersonating either Snooki or Nene Leakes as they rode on the motorcycle. Tyra’s idea of homage to the reality stars felt pretty weak; I’m more inclined to go with my viewing companion’s theory of a dire wig shortage. But in any case, it became abundantly clear how little this set of reality show characters were aware of their colleagues: Alexandria’s interpretation of Nene was a women constantly scolding the camera. It did lead to a particularly great moment of Bianca’s semi-petulant competitiveness: As the Snooki character, Bianca obtained a large jar of pickles to use on the shoot. At first, she shared, and then, realizing that the other Snooki-fied girls would have the same idea, she scrambled around backstage, taking away people’s pickles. Cut to Allison, crestfallen and glitter-eyelashed. “I’m mostly just hungry,” she protested. 

After all that, Bianca’s pickle wrangling turned pretty phallic, and Mr. Jay ended up confiscating it all together. Plus, her photo sucked. Unsurprisingly, few of the girls did well pretending to be either Snooki or Nene on the back of a motorcycle, but some had the devil-may-care boob-flashing spirit that gave the pictures some spark. Then Tyra had a grab bag of surprises at panel: Kathy Griffin was inexplicably there, there would be two girls eliminated, and, oh yeah, the winner now also gets to be the face of an official ANTM fragrance (which smells, presumably, like broken dreams and body glitter). Bianca had prepped her defense of bathtubgate before panel—Kanye West and Courtney Love were her examples of candid folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in a tub—but it’s no use appealing to the court of Tyra. “You’re not Beyonce, Bianca,” Tyra reprimanded. Touche

It seemed inevitable that Kayla would get the boot—her whole performance has seemed half-hearted for weeks—but the choice to keep Shannon, who has all the personality and aptitude of mayonnaise, over Bianca, who seems to have an actual shot as either model or reality star, was an awful one. Her picture wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t any worse than some of the other girls who stayed, and it guarantees a much less interesting house dynamic. My vote is for Allison or Lisa. They’re our only hope for an All-Star who deserves the title, whatever its worth. 

Stray observations:

  • How great was Tyra’s comment that “all the awkwardness and weirdness is Snooki.” That’s deep, y’all.
  • “Good luck, hussies.”
  • “Smizing into the horizon.” 

More TV Club