If you're anything like me, on Wednesday night at eight, you've settled into a plush chair to watch America's Next Top Model with a refreshing can of YJ Stinger energy drink and a bowl of Campbell's Soup, wearing Covergirl makeup, in your Lee Jeans and rhinestone studded ANTM tank, with ANTM scrunchy cap, and Verragio diamond ring after a long week of diligently dodging spoilers (incidentally, this is why you'll never see me in the show discussion thread, as I live in the Pacific time zone) and driving around in my Mustang. That's because there's just no need for me think for myself when there's all these great sponsors telling me exactly how to live my life from my underwear (La Perla) to my handbag (Dooney & Burke). So thanks, ANTM and your partners, for telling me what to do with my life! Because without you I wouldn't have a clue.
This week, the girls are killing themselves to win the competition, turning Japanese, and, of course, someone gets eliminated--but funny, I just can't for the life of me remember who. [scratches head, bemused]
To Die For
Models are people just like us, my dear friends, with the same insecurities and worries--except of course they are taller, skinnier, prettier and earn obscene amounts of money just for looking good while travelling to exotic locales. Still, we're not bitter (much). We sincerely feel sorry for Norelle as she talks about wanting collagen injections to plump her upper lip, or Ann saying she dislikes her own big shoulders and has always wanted to have Norelle's (GET A ROOM, you two! Oh, wait you already have one...Pink Positive!), or some third person saying she covets thin thighs because she's always felt hers have been too big--funny, for the life of me, I just can't remember who it was that said that.
Oh wait, it's Nicole, who momentarily pops out of obscurity to say this, startling even Ann (stressed over thrice being in the bottom two) who says, "Where did you come from?" before marvelling over how sometimes Nicole is so quiet, how the panel complains about her lack of personality, and yet at other times, like here in the loft, she's more out there. "Panel is not the time for me to go in and act like a tard," Nicole says; then, in defense of her personality, "Just because it's not in front of everybody all the time doesn't mean it's not there." Ah, it's just like that ancient Buddhist koan: if a personality exists in the middle of a forest, with no one around to see it--does it make you a Top Model?
Perhaps some folk just aren't so memorable; however, there are others you wish you could forget. Yaya, whose once admirable pride seems to have mutated each episode into increasingly insufferable arrogance, talks about how she feels more confident than the others, yet isn't "braggy" because "it's so important to still be able to interact with the other girls." She says this, not in a warm, cuddly I-wanna-be-just-one-of-the-gang-type way, but rather in a cold, calculating, I-hate-these-stupid-earthlings-yet-must-remain-incognito-in-order-to-achieve-total-domination-of-their-planet-type way.
A TyraMail card arrives that says, simply: "Prepare to die. Be ready at 9:15." Silly show producers. They have confused the real piece of TyraMail with one that a psychotic homicidal stalker has written to lure the girls into an abandoned warehouse where he plans to skin them then wear their hides as a suit while he does a happy dance in the moonlight. Oopsy! Should have noticed it was written in blood and contained a human ear.
"I was nervous, because you never know," poor, sweet, stupid Norelle says. Oh please, you know the producers would never do anything that would ever really put the girls in harm's way--this is reality TV, not snuff TV--so the girls report to the Sande Shurin acting studio, where Sande herself will coach them on cold-reading techniques. Yaya is excited to learn another thing at which she can excel, in addition to dancing, modelling, foreign languages, and annoying others; someone else is excited because she used to be involved in theater, but funny I can't remember which girl--you know, the one with the red hair?
Sande starts them off with some lame, method-y acting exercise that entails placing one hand on your stomach and the other on your heart. Then you have to rub one and pat the other at the very same time--wow, that is hard! Okay, not really, the exercise is to "see with your mind's eye." Amanda sees roses and rain, then her son's face, and begins to cry; methinks someone's been dropping LSD around the Waldorf loft, and it ain't just the interior decorators!
The red-haired chick--yeah, Nicole, that's the name, thanks--anyway, she doesn't answer Sande's question because, "The first thing I saw was not appropriate, so I had to just say I didn't see anything." Now what do you think Nicole was seeing? You think she might have been picturing herself dancing in a suit made out of her competitors' skin in the moonlight? She fits the serial killer profile: quiet, keeps to herself, nothing too distinguishing about her...[cue theme from Psycho]
The exercise is just a warm-up for the really big challenge: onstage they see a hospital room set, replete with bed and IV tubes. Norelle is worried that she is "not a good dier"; Nicole is jazzed because she played Lady Macbeth once (ah, see, fits with the serial killer theory). Sande announces that they will be acting out a scene accompanied by none other than hunky actor Taye Diggs who, what a coincidence, just so happens to have a show of his own right now, called Kevin Hill!
Network execs ideal viewer reaction: You don't say! It's also on UPN and just so happens to be on right after ANTM too? Well, how convenient for me! I don't even have to change the channel! Sure, I'm impressionable and lazy, I'll check it out!
Reality: Eh, he's cute enough, but I'm dying to watch the episode of Lost I taped while watching ANTM.
Most of the girls seem to dig the chance to be close to Taye Diggs, but Eva appears to have an apoplectic fit that I fear might send her to a real hospital. Eva gets herself together to act out the death scene, in which she is a dying woman speaking her last words to her lover (Taye Diggs in Poindexter glasses and a silly sweater vest). Eva seemed to be doing fairly well until she hits this bit of dialogue: "If you haven't forgotten, I am a doctor too. The prognosis for restrictive cardiomyopathy with paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea is hardly positive." Eva's line comes out "restructive cardiomapothy with...all these illsenesses..." The rest of girls struggle with the lines as well. "I've got systemic ventricular filling in early diastole" becomes "stolic ventricular filling in early diastotle" to Ann. Norelle just ends up laughing mid-scene, over the "supercalifragilisticexpealado cious" disease she must read off the cue cards.
Turns out the tricky ANTM powers-that-be have made acting the scene a little extra challenging with not only with the addition of ponderous medical jargon, but some gratuitous French as well. Yaya is, not surprisingly, the only one who seems to be able to properly pronounce "Champs d'ElysÚ," otherwise it's mangled (Ann) or avoided completely (Norelle "we strolled...down the park").
Amanda gets a heat flash at the near proximity of Taye Diggs, before delivering the final line before death, "The angels are coming!" Taye, being very game throughout each ridiculous scene, says, "Now you don't have any more pain, my baby's gone away with the angels," before covering the body of his beloved with a bed sheet. He doesn't get to covering Amanda before she moves and opens her eyes, however; and he continues the scene, exclaiming, "Julia, you're alive!" The only way Amanda can think of to save herself is by re-dying--"Julia, that's a cruel trick!" Taye improvises, still in character. I guess this is Amanda's thespian equivalent of a twice-baked potato: the twice-dead corpse.
Taye and Sande call all the girls back for notes: Eva is told that despite having faltered over her words, she still stayed in character; Norelle, that "even though she is a beginner, has a certain quality people would want to see"; Ann, "has good projection but needs to keep it conversational"; Yaya, was "connected" and believable; and Amanda, of course, gets ribbed a bit for having died twice. Sande rushes in to say, "I think we have a winner," but some people have noticed that she's forgotten someone. She has? Really? [starts counting to six on fingers] Oh yeah, she has. This fact is not lost on Norelle, who appears to feel sorry for the forgotten girl, nor Nicole, the forgotten one herself, over whose face a brief flash of "I'ma get Andrew Cunanan on yo ass" is not to be missed.
Taye, nice guy that he is, says to Nicole: "You were very sensitive, which is a good thing," before more quietly saying, "I'm sorry." Sande doesn't give a crap about being nice, she looks like she's rushing the girls out because she has another class coming in or a gynecologist's appointment to hop to; she directs the girls' eyes toward a big screen on which they'll project the winner of today's challenge. For the four millionth time in a row, the winner is Yaya!
The scene stops just as Taye calls for a nurse, then out from the wings saunters none other than Miss TyTy in the sort of nurse's "uniform" that exists only in pornos and the closets of middle-aged couples that wish to "spice up" their intimate relations. In a breathy voice that is meant to be "sexy" but comes out more "asthmatic," Tyra reads the "patient's chart" out loud. The girls learn they will be acting for TV, and that, "It's not going to be easy, you'll be on the go. Pack your bags girls, because you're going to Tokyo!"
Screaming, clapping, jumping ensues. Eva is thrilled (when is she not?) because "Tokyo is one of the fashion capitols of the world. It has the illest, sickest style there is." Yaya learns that her prize for winning today is that, for the 13 hour plane ride to Tokyo, she and a guest will fly luxury class while the rest of the chumps get to slum it with the plebs in coach. She picks Amanda because it was her "turn"--I guess after four consecutive wins, Yaya feels like sharing the love--or it's her strategy to keep everyone from loathing her completely. Good luck with that.
The girls go home to pack. While most everyone else is psyched for the trip, Norelle is "nervous." "I don't know if they call them...Japanese people is from Tokyo? Tokians?" Oh Norelle. Poor, sweet, stupid Norelle. No, I'm sorry, Tokians are little green creatures from the planet Tokia--well, no wonder the poor girl's nervous! (Or is "Tokian" a contraction for Token Asian? I'm not sure.) Looks like Norelle missed class not only when they studied the Far East in World Cultures, but also verb-subject agreement in English.
Despite her fear of flying, and the recollection of her "nervous breakdown" on the way to Jamaica, Ann says, "There's no way in hell I wouldn't get on this plane." The Pink Positive trifecta (Norelle, Ann, and Eva) share a van to the airport, and talk about being the final three in the competition. "All I've got to say is we got to promise not to get bitchy," Eva says. Yeah, Eva says that. What's so funny? Stop laughing, y'all, I'm serious!
The footage of the flight highlights the huge disparity between first class and coach, Ó la the Seinfeld episode, "The Airport." In the front, Yaya and Amanda laugh like rich bitches as they toast crystal champagne flutes and eat hot fudge while stretched out in fully reclinable seats and reading the in-flight magazine that--what do you know!--just so happens to have Tyra on the cover. In the back, the other girls attempt sleep in cramped quarters (did they even get a meal?): Eva with her head against the window, Ann slumped forward in a face plant on the tray table in front of her, Nicole wrapped up to look like a ninja.
Then finally, they touch down in Tokyo, accompanied by appropriately "Asian" sounding music (did they borrow the theme from Ming Tsai's old show?). Ann does her parents proud by not throwing an aerophobic sh*t fit on the plane. Amanda informs us the flight was so long they had to change clothes. They are met by their tour guide Koko Niwa! Who! Says! Everything with such Alacrity! "Welcome to Japan! Welcome to Tokyo!" she says before driving them into the glorious metropolitan wonderland that is Tokyo. "New York looks like podunk next to Tokyo," Nicole observes.
Their first stop is a majestic 500-year-old shrine where they are greeted with a hearty "Konichiwa!" and bow by Tyra, who is wearing a gorgeous, golden silk hooded robe. Looking like the hottest monk this side of nirvana, Tyra explains. "I brought you here because I wanted you to experience the most avant-garde fashion capitol of the world. It's also important for models to know different cultures." They then participate in an ancient purification ritual that will help bring them "protection, prosperity, and good fortune from the gods." The girls drink water from a fountain (am I the only one that saw Norelle not drinking, but simply dumping the water on the ground?), clap their hands twice, then bow.
Then it's off to the city, where the girls get touristy, glimpse local street fashion, and do some window shopping. Norelle screams, elated at the sight of a store selling Hello Kitty (actually, I would too...because SANRIO ROCKS!). After that, it's finally time to check in to their hotel, Fontaine Akasaka, where they are introduced to the Asian custom of taking off your shoes at the door (it's a sign of respect, and hey, what do you think, carpet grows on trees?). That's not the only surprise for our Occidental tourists; they soon find out that the Fontaine Akasaka is a "capsule hotel", meaning their quarters are, in Amanda's words, "coffin-sized cubicles" stacked and lined up against each other along one stretch of wall--to continue the leitfmotif of death in this episode, imagine the drawers lining the walls of your local morgue.
Once it finally dawns on them that this will be their new home in Japan, they check out the community bathroom and try out their capsules. "I've always wanted a bunk bed but I never had a sister," someone says as Eva climbs into one of the tiny beds with Ann and Norelle (at least I think it's Norelle, as she's stuffed way into the foot-end of the capsule--is this a Pink Positive Pill?). Koko comes in with a TyraMail in Japanese for the girls. "What the hell does that say?" Ann asks, rather uncouthly; Koko says, "Be ready to leave in 30 minutes."
Lost in Product Placement
They leave for a beautiful Japanese garden with lakes of Koi fish and elegantly arched bridges. Because they're in Japan, of course Jay meets them in a kilt (Huh?). "Top models; they fly then they gotta go straight to work," Jay says; then informs that the acting skills they learned the other day will be put to the test now, as they do a cold-reading for a commercial. And because they're in Japan, of course that commercial is for Campbell's Soup (Huh? Couldn't it at least be for Cup O'Noodles?).
Oh Sophia Coppola, what hath thou wrought? Thine charming little movie, Lost in Translation has inspired reality show producers from Manhunt to ANTM to re-create the once-charming Suntory scenario ad nauseam. If you haven't guessed, the commercial will be in Japanese. "I can barely speak English and you want me to speak in Japanese?" Norelle asks--no one disagrees with her on this point. They meet their director, Zente Yoshie, and learn he does not speak a lick o' English. Don't worry there's an interpreter; a heavily-accented, mousy little woman whose English diction makes me wonder if she's the one who writes all the instructions for imported electronic products. "So now I gonna exprain you zuh concept of commushuh Campbell's soup," she says, meekly, "All da models very busy and then no time pay attention to this food." The girls smile and nod politely, but can't quite conceal their confusion.
The girls are given their scripts to study, in phonetic Japanese with the English for reference; the first few lines of which are translated as "Top Models are always on the run. So we need to eat a quick and tasty meal with beauty ingredients"--uh huh. The stylists apply beautiful, cherry blossom pink maiko makeup to the girls' faces, and dress them in kimonos before they go out into the garden to shoot with Zente and crew. Yaya is up first, and asks, "What's 'start' in Japanese?" Zente and the interpreter both say, "'Start.'" Easy peasy, right?
Yaya takes a taste of the soup and saying "Oishii" (tasty) like a pro. She says she's been listening to how people in Japan speak since they got off the plane, and it appears to have paid off, except for some strange pauses in the middle of certain words. She's followed by Eva, who can't make it through a single take without severe problems with the Japanese. "'Suzuki washitashi,' did I say that? I feel so stupid," Eva says, mad at herself and hoping not to offend the Japanese crew. A glance at a production crew list shows she did at least 14 takes. It's so bad, she even messes up on the English part. "I know I was horrible, I failed," Eva laments, giving herself a big thumbs-down.
In contrast, Ann seems to zip through her shoot, and when she's done, she returns to the hair and makeup area where Eva is freaking big time about how badly she did. Using an array of expletives to express herself, Eva says that she hopes someone else messes up so she won't have to go home. "So who would that be, me or Norelle?" Ann asks. "Of course not you, Ann," Eva says, with Norelle standing right within earshot, looking despondent. Ann, ticked, perhaps because Eva has insulted her new girlfriend, walks off saying, "Think what you say before you say it." Ann appears to feel bad on Norelle's behalf, especially because, "I feel I'm just as close to Norelle as I am to Eva now." Ah, young love!
When Eva pulls Ann aside to talk privately about how she's afraid she's going to go home, Ann seems to savor the fact that the roles between her and her "Mama" have reversed. The pleasure is short-lived, however. When Eva says, "I hope that Norelle eats it," Ann gets up in arms over the comment, seeing this as a betrayal to Pink Positive. "Would Eva do that to me? Would Eva wish that on me?" Ann wonders. "Go break a leg, fall off the ledge please," Evil Eva says to a leery-looking Norelle.
Nicole has her turn in the garden, but I don't remember anything about it. She's followed by Norelle, who gets frustrated during her shoot and declares, "I don't understand. I'm confused." The director and crew are starting to look a little frazzled at this point too. After the sun sets, Amanda goes up. She seems to be doing fine, in fact, the interpreter tells her that her Japanese pronunciation is good, until inexplicably she breaks out into a strange song in the middle of her shoot: "I'm so white, I glow on my own/I'm so white, I glow on my own." Is this the B-side to her smash hit "Certain Bitch"?
At last the day is done. Zente and his interpreter politely thank the girls for the work and politely lie to them about what a great job they did. Zente hands them the TyraMail that informs them that it's time for another elimination. The requisite worrying about how there's no more room for mistakes ensues as the girls go home to the "kennel" (as Norelle calls the capsule hotel) for a night of restless sleep.
In the morning, the girls are, not surprisingly, still worrying over who will get nixed at the next judging panel. "There's one person eliminated every time, and that person should not be me. And if it is, I need to have a talk with the judges," Yaya says sternly. [sarcasm]Yeah, I wonder why everyone thinks she's so arrogant.[/sarcasm] Nicole says something I didn't pay attention to, but Norelle talks about how any little thing can now send anyone home,
Tyra greets the girls with a deep bow and welcomes them to their first judging in Japan, pointing out how everyone (including Miss TyTy herself) has taken their shoes off as it is a sign of respect in Japan. Classy Janice D. pinches her nose and makes a "stinky-poo" face. Aside from Janice, Nigel and NolÚ are there, plus special guest judge, Zente Yoshie (this time accompanied by a considerably hunkier and more understandable male interpreter).
Their test today involves doing a cold read for a commercial for umeboshi. Now, it appears none of the girls know what umeboshi is, so I'll assume some of you might not know what it is. It is, in fact, a pickled plum that is common in Japanese and some other Asian cuisines. I myself have eaten and enjoy umeboshi, but perhaps it's an acquired taste as the girls seem to react with varying degrees of displeasure and shock when they put the thing in their mouths. Like Ann, for example, who does a lovely job reading the sales pitch, but when it comes time for her to eat the umeboshi, looks like she just placed a disembodied human toe in her mouth. "The umeboshi was absolutely disgusting," Ann opines.
Whatserface goes up and also dislikes the umeboshi. Next is Amanda, who can't conceal her surprise and distaste after taking a bite of the pickled plum; followed by Eva, who pops the whole thing in her mouth and, though you can tell she is probably not inordinately pleased with the taste, says "Mmm," in such an exaggerated manner, you can hear the panel laugh a little. Norelle flubs her lines slightly, but her face never registers anything negative in reaction to the umeboshi.
Finally, Yaya sits before the panel and delivers the lines, "With a taste so sweet, you'd swear it's candy" with frightening enthusiasm. Her creepy over-acting almost distracts from the fact that she has sneakily tried to avoid eating the little plum, but the panel notices and orders that she take a taste. The slow motion horror of her popping the umeboshi into her mouth and chewing as if they'd asked her to eat pickled dookie culminates in her leaning down and trying to oh-so-slyly spit it back out into a bowl on the table. All the while, Yaya is giggling maniacally, as if she has plum (pun intended) lost her mind. I will have nightmares about this scene. "No offense," Yaya says, "I just couldn't eat it." This is incredibly rude and the panel does not look happy. Yaya knows that "Respect is a big thing here in Japan." So what happened to the RESPEITO tonight, Yaya?
I'm Sorry, and You Are...?
The girls are all called back in to evaluate their Campbell's commercials. Everyone laughs as they show Eva's best take, including Eva. Janice calls her a "Campbell's Soup rap star," but Tyra says she doesn't even think her English was right. Zente's hunky interpreter says when Eva speaks Japanese it sounds like Chinese to them. They have another good laugh after Tyra does a goldfish-lipped impression of Eva doing her umeboshi commercial. "Like chewing gum in school," Janice hoots. Nonetheless, Nigel thinks she "photographs fantastically" and Tyra says her voice is "great for selling product."
After viewing her commercial, Ann is told that she needs to learn how to "hold [her] face more pretty," however, the both the panel and the director think she did very well. Norelle's delivery in the Japanese commercial is panned, but the judges love her "bubbly, radiant" personality when she sold the umeboshi. Amanda, who admits she looked like "a pair of ears on an onion," is not a hit with the judges this week; Tyra says she was begging for the Campbell's spot to be over, but Zente thinks she went too fast. The judges also have issues with Yaya's Campbell schpiel, it was "sooo long" for Janice, and Nigel says it sounded like she was talking in "morse code." She is only saved by the fact that "the camera loves you." The judges ride her ass hard for spitting out the umeboshi. "It was completely insulting to the client, the Japanese people," NolÚ scolds her. Tyra says, "This is your one shot...You gotta just suck it up." Zente, via the hot interpreter, says it looks bad in front of the client and cameras to spit out the product. DOI!
Tyra begins to announce, "So now it's time for the judges to delib--" when there is some rustling up at the judges table. They remind Tyra that she has forgotten there's one more. "Oh," Tyra says, bowing her head down and laughing, embarassed, "I'm sorry." Nicole shakes her head at being forgotten yet again--OUCH! Tyra tries to play it off, saying, "There you are, behind Yaya!" like she was just playing Peek-a-Boo. Janice sums up the panel's thoughts on the Campbell's commercial by saying, "You looked great but your delivery wasn't great." NolÚ says, "It wasn't there." Tyra repeats a criticism she's made before, "It's almost like I didn't remember when you finished. Not memorable." It's almost like Tyra had underwent the Lacuna Inc. treatment from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to have Nicole erased from her memory.
Now it's really time for the judges to deliberate. Tyra liked Norelle's "chutzpah" today, but the director didn't like the way she gave up so easily when she found lines difficult. Amanda "has to get over the fact that she's gorgeous, has amazing blue eyes," Nigel says, because she is not connecting; Janice found her "alien-esque" and Tyra found her "dead." Zente said she might be a great editorial model, but lacked the personality for TV. Ann was "likeable even in her mess-ups," Janice thought, Tyra was pleasantly surprised to see her "leading the pack" tonight. Though they all agree Yaya looked beautiful, the panel was incredibly disappointed by her spitting out the umeboshi tonight. Tyra feels that this was "pompous" on her part. Nicole...well, everyone seemed to find her pretty enough, but as Tyra said, "Nicole is BLAH when it comes to connecting with a broad audience." Finally, regarding Eva, NolÚ declares her a "Tokyo disaster" and a "Cocoa Puff mess" (What, is Cocoa Puffs also a sponsor?), however, according to Janice, "When she stands in front of us, she smolders."
Tyra calls the girls back in to hand out the fateful photos to the fortunate five. Ann is called first, because even though she's stiff in pictures, this week she blew all the competition away; Eva is next (and she looks shocked as shiznit), because of the pleasant tone of her voice (I didn't realize Tyra is also looking for America's Next Top Voiceover Artist and/or Phone Sex Operator); Norelle is also invited back because they all find her "adorable"; Amanda is also still in play.
This leaves the bottom two for the week: Yaya and Nicole. Tyra tells Nicole: "It is important for a model to be memorable. Some of the girls standing behind you right now might not have done a job as good as you did, but something about it is memorable. And today the judges found it very difficult to find anything about you that stood out." To Yaya: "It is important for a model to respect product. This is not the first week that the judges felt you have insulted product. A Top Model has to humble and likeable." Well, except for Naomi Campbell, but that's another lawsuit for another time, kids.
The photo goes back to...Yaya. But not without an additional tongue-lashing from La Tyrant: "I suggest you go to the nearest bakery in Japan and order up the biggest slice of humble pie." I think it's in the cold case next to the mortified tarte tatin and the profiteroles of utter despair. The girls see Nicole off with an emotional goodbye. "I didn't stand out, and I did my best," Nicole says, crying, "[But] no matter what they said, I didn't give up." And on that note, Nicole disappears completely, leaving not a single trace behind.
Make it Suntory--I mean, Campbell Soup time. [lifts can up to face and flashes cheesy smile] Direct all questions, comments, and umeboshi recipes to snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com