Actually, this week on ANTM was actually pretty heartbreaking, actually. The competition is actually getting rougher and tougher, and the pressure is actually affecting everyone. One girl actually infects the others’ speech with a certain word—and to think, they were actually worried about the impetigo being contagious! Actually, if there is actually any one person you should actually feel sorry for, it’s actually poor, little Kahlen. In the past few weeks, the sweet girl from the country has actually lost two of her best friends in the loft. Then, she gets news from home that an old friend of hers from home has, yes, actually died. All joking aside, it is actually very, very sad.
All in the (Dysfunctional) Family
The show begins with all our girls still reeling from Tyra’s tongue-lashing of Tiffany and the terrible two-for-one tossing at the last elimination ceremony. What a convenient way to justify wasting the first ten minutes of the hour recycling last week’s footage! Tyra’s Tyrade clip is so nice, they show it twice (as bits in the pre-credit opening and in its entirety as a sepia-toned flashback)! One thing is clear: the girls are definitely shaken. A group, which includes Naima, Keenyah, Tatiana, and Christina, sit huddled around the old picnic table, looking hopeless and depressed, like kids who just witnessed their parents in a blowout argument.
Tyra surprises them with a little visit [cough—damage control—cough). She backpedals on her angry blow-up, playing it sweet and kind, like the way a domestic abuser comes back all apologies and ‘Baby, I love you, it won’t happen again.’ The girls look terrified, and I could swear I saw them all collectively flinch whenever Tyra made any sudden movements. Like many victims of abuse, they start to internalize Tyra’s brutality: like when Brittany says they could all see Tiffany’s end coming, or Keenyah says they need to take the responsibility for their future in their own hands.
One fake, uncomfortable group hug and it’s back to the usual brooding. Michelle is working on her tendency to beat herself up. Why should she, when there’s a whole panel of experts there to do it professionally? She says that, at long last, her confidence has improved and she feels beautiful…in every single waaay. (Oh yeah, you know you’re singing the Xtina song with me, don’t deny it.) Then, like buzzards, buddies Keenyah and Brittany (along with Christina) swoop in to occupy the recently roomier Bel Air room with Tatiana. Despite being surrounded by roomies again, Tatiana feels alone, punctuated by the sight of the other girls’ camaraderie.
Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life
The next morning, TyraMail queries: “Ever been visited by an Extra Terrestrial?” Everyone is really confused by this message. Is this (another) alien shoot? They are brought to a suite at the Renaissance Hotel, where they are greeted by a woman whose appearance still does not lift the fog of confusion. Who are you, generic blonde TV presenter? Are you the airhead who turns the letters, or the ditz who chose to wear Wendy’s Cheeto-colored Big Bird ensemble on Project Runway? She turns out to be Jann Carl from ‘Entertainment Tonight’—‘ET,’ extra terrestrial, get it? [kicks TyraMail author’s ass]
Well this Jann chick is there to coach them on how to handle interviews—from both sides of the microphone. She will conduct an exercise in which one girl will be the interviewer, and the other the interviewee. One of her key lessons is how to sidestep questions you don’t wish to answer, e.g. secrets, intimate topics. Screencappers, get ready for the shot of Michelle on the couch in her ‘I’M WITH STUPID’ t-shirt. Who is the unlucky person sitting directly to where the arrow points? It’s Tatiana, for whom the t-shirt proves sadly prescient. “I have no idea what questions to ask. Whatever,” Tatiana says, shrugging. If Michelle weren’t so sweet, I would say maybe there was black magic involved, with the t-shirt wiping Tatiana’s brain clean, rendering her unable to ask questions.
The girls interview each other as if one of them has won the title of ANTM, then switch off. They start with Keenyah and Naima. Keenyah asks what it’s like to be the winner, and when Naima responds, “It’s awesome, it’s amazing.” Jann steps in and says that she should add something personal now, because simply throwing out descriptive words doesn’t really tell the audience anything about her. Naima plays interviewer and asks if there is anyone in the house Keenyah really wanted to strangle, and in jest, Keenyah says Brittany, making all the girls laugh, since they are clearly best buds. Jann pops in, however, to say that with delicate matters like these, “you may not want to give that much information.”
Kahlen earlier thought she would “have this one in the bag” but finds really doing it to be more nerve-wracking than she thought. Brittany asks her about boyfriends, and Kahlen makes up stories about dating Adam Brody and Colin Farrell. Amusing, but according to Jann, “Kahlen cheated; the most important thing is to be yourself and be honest.” Which is exactly what Brittany does; she answers with the same zany, over-the-top attitude as usual (the one that everyone loves), but Jann tries to put the kibosh on that too. Generic, bland, blonde Jann seems to want to turn everyone into fake, smiling ET clones like herself, like Borg for quasi-celebs.
When Michelle is up, she does not freeze, she does not make up any stories, she’s just…herself. They do an interesting cutaway shot of Jann staring at Michelle with fascinated googly eyes and the emphatic voiceover, “I looove Michelle’s naturalness.” Woowoo, Jann and Michelle, sittin’ in a tree…! Next, Christina (paired with Tatiana) wants to prove she’s “warm-hearted” after criticism that she comes across cold. During the interview, they do a countdown of how many times Christina, and then Tatiana say the word “actually.” It spreads like a yawn, and the on-screen tally shows the final total as being something like 8—THOUSAND!—times. They actually just stop counting after a while, like when Tatiana or Jann uses it outside of the ET interview or when Christina, in her confessional, says, oblivious, “I’m glad I had the experience, actually.”
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
That night, everyone decides to get gussied up like they’re heading to a halter top convention (is that a tattoo or a UPC price code I spy on Kahlens side?), and let loose at the El Centro club. The dance floor is packed with all kinds of folks getting their groove on, but the wild child award goes to Michelle, who, according to Keenyah, “was getting really crazy. We had no idea she had that much rhythm.” I’m not sure how much rhythm that is, because from the short clips I see, yes she is shakin’ her moneymaker but she looks like she’s not following the same beat as anyone else in the room.
Keenyah’s not the only one surprised by Michelle’s dancefloor antics. “Whoa, Michelle, where did this come from?” Kahlen asks, eyes widening at the site of Michelle tussling, and grappling with numerous male club patrons. If you ask me, however, I’m not sure if she’s dancing, or wrestling them into submission holds. The only comment Michelle makes is, “I’ve realized that blondes definitely have a little more fun.” I can only pray this doesn’t mean she plans on keeping that brassy lemon yellow monstrosity after the show is over—especially now that the roots are showing, big time. [Note: Roots, a big SFG pet peeve. If you’re going to drastically depart from your natural color, make sure you maintain it carefully! Don’t make me have to strap you down Clockwork Orange-style to watch Courtney Love videos!!!]
Kahlen says it was the best time she’s had the whole competition. Alas, the good times would not last for long. Upon returning to the loft, she checks her messages, only to hear that a very good friend of hers from back home has passed away. Naturally, she is devastated and breaks down. “I don’t know if I can handle this,” she laments, “It’s really hard to have a friend ripped away from you, and not even see it coming.” Tatiana sits with her at the Griffith Park table, which I guess has become the designated area for depressed people, and Kahlen declares that as difficult as it might be, she has to try to put it at the back of her mind, because she has “no time to break down” in this competition.
The Tower of Babble
TyraMail says, “This is the eve of your time in the media spotlight” and to be ready at the “crack of dawn.” Clearly this means that the next competition involves smoking crack. Or not. They are driven to a studio where they will be tested by Yawn Carl of ET, but aside from knowing it has something to do with “being in the media spotlight,” are completely clueless as to what the challenge entails.
The first to disappear behind a mysterious studio door is Brittany, only to discover that on the other side of that door waits rapper and entertainment-hyphenate Eve, who is cute, tiny, has a new fashion line of her own called
L.A.M.B.Fetish, and would not have liked Janice’s comment about chest tattoos last week. Speaking of, imagine if Tiffany had made it to this challenge, the screams of excitement would probably break every bit of glass in the room, and she might have cold-cocked whoever was standing next to her. Probably better that she did go home last week, if only for safety purposes.
Shocked to be in the presence of an actual celebrity (sorry, Jann) the “starstruck” Brittany “cannot even function.” After a rocky start, she recovers and is able to ask some questions. Jann says Brit had good energy, but after every question, repeatedly said, “That’s great, that’s wonderful, that’s amazing!” I really don’t see how that’s any different from any other bobble-headed correspondent I see on Entertainless Tonight, or Asskiss Hollywood (sorry, Jann).
Naima is next, and as the marketing director stares down the stopwatch, she just babbles about how great Eve looks, and seems to have forgotten to ask questions. The “Babble On” technique is something that Jann seems to have taught them, if they get stuck. She has instructed the girls, that if they don’t know what to say, they should keep talking until something develops. It is a wildly ineffective technique commonly employed on shaky first dates by drunken suitors. Keenyah tries to use it with Eve, and she just rambles nonsensically at length like she did, indeed, mistakenly think that today’s challenge involved smoking crack.
Michelle asks Eve if she ever felt like giving up, and Eve admits that even she had moments where she was “crying and stressed out” but to keep believing in yourself. Speaking of stressed, Kahlen blanks out, breaks out into flopsweat, and is generally distracted, despite her effort to keep her terrible loss from affecting her performance today. She does, however, get some points from Jann for being the only one to ask a personal question (Eve is dating somebody right now). Tatiana does a great job, impressing Eve with her skills; and says she feels she might win this competition. Then Christina goes in and asks some wonderful, very focused questions herself.
Once all the girls have a turn, Jann comes out and informs the girls that tonight’s winner will “actually” have their interview with Eve shown on Entertainment Tonight (Is that actually the prize? I knew it, they did spend too much on the diamonds!). Tatiana smiles broadly, looking pretty confident. The winner, however, is actually Christina, and Tatiana’s smile falls like a soppy soufflé. Nevertheless, Christina is happy to win her first competition, especially since after the last elim, she became ultra-aware that she needs to “step it up.”
Back at the house, things are “tense” and “everybody is on edge.” In the Bel Air room, things are far more funky than fresh; they show a shot of a massive pile of rumpled clothing that Anne Frank could hide in. While tidying the room, Keenyah asks Tatiana to pick up after herself, and Tatiana, without even looking back at her, grumbles, “You don’t gotta tell me.” Tatiana, however, feels like Keenyah’s singling her out when there is a lot of stuff strewn about. Tati seems to be feeling alienated in general these days, and calls her boyfriend, crying. “It’s just like how it was in school,” she says, mascara running down her face, “I never had a lot of friends.” So it doesn’t look like she’ll be winning Miss Congeniality or Miss Clean, but will she be winning the top prize of the competition?
Deadly Like Me
TyraMail ominously announces: “Tomorrow, you’ll finally be able to rest in peace and quiet.” The first thing Kahlen says, with great alarm, is “We’re gonna be dead?” This is possibly the very last thing Kahlen needs right now, and part of me is a little suspicious of the coincidence of the timing of this shoot (not to say that ANTM would deliberately plan to torture one of its participants in such a crass way). Christina, at whose expense I’ve made a lot of jokes regarding her crazed laser glare, really impresses me with her genuine kindness. This is how to prove you’re not cold: When Kahlen goes off to lie by herself on the couch, Christina comes over and very patiently and tenderly comforts her. In the thinnest whisper, Kahlen worries, “It’s just gonna be a really hard day tomorrow if that’s what it is.” “I just hope that that’s not what it is,” Christina says, her arm around the dejected-looking Kahlen.
But the fates are cruel to Kahlen yet again, and that’s exactly what it is. Our girls wake up to an unusually gloomy LA day and are driven to a cemetery. The mere sight of the gravestones makes Kahlen’s twist in pained sorrow, and as they drive ever deeper into the graveyard, passing tombstone after tombstone, she finally breaks down into sobs in the back of the van. “It’s really messed up,” Kahlen says, “I know nobody knows the circumstances, but I just don’t want to be here.” Jay, in a skull shirt, meets the 7 of them and says now is the perfect time for them to portray the Seven Deadly Sins, and to bump up the Fear Factor, they must appear “deadly gorgeous” while in a coffin at the bottom of an 8 foot grave. Kahlen almost walks off, looking like she’s fit to puke, but she fights her repulsion and returns to where everyone is staring at the big, gaping hole in the dirt. Christina looks over at Kahlen, concerned. Jay introduces them to photographer Johann Wolf who says they “all look too alive.”
Between the graves and all the gallows humor, Kahlen can no longer conceal how upset she really is. Jay notices, and asks her if she’s okay and if she’d like to talk. She manages to squeak out a yes and a no, and heads off with the other girls to the hair and makeup trailers. Jay asks someone else what is up with Kahlen, and Brittany tells him about her friend dying. Mr. Jay finally understands, and looks truly remorseful as he says, “Oh my gosh…” This is possibly the most inappropriately timed photo shoot you could ever imagine. He goes over to Kahlen, gives her a reassuring stroke on the back, and tells her she can have a break to sort herself out before going into hair and makeup. Meanwhile, the rest of the girls get their Bride of Frankenstein makeovers. The first lucky girl in the coffin is Brittany as Sloth, covered in cobwebs and garbed in a dusty, elegant Gothic Lolita type of outfit, like she just came from a rough Malice Mizer concert.
Michelle will be doing Pride. In the trailer, everyone’s talking about how timid Michelle “brings out the cockiness” in front of the cameras. Michelle is the only person who seems to be enjoying the morbid aspect of the shoot, which Naima finds “freaky.” Michelle repeatedly talks about zombies, like when she brightly chirps, “We should have gone to see a zombie movie before this shoot!” “That’s a good idea, Michelle,” Brittany says flatly, as if she’s thinking of calling the authorities. I don’t understand why they think it so weird, as I myself am an enormous fan of the zombie genre, and let me assure you, I am perfectly normal [fixes you with creepy, unblinking stare as music from an Italian giallo swirls in the background]. Michelle is made into an undead beauty queen, and she feels pretty damn confident about herself. During the shoot, however, she is giving off some severe Anna Nicole vibes—Trimspa, baby!—or “I’m Miss World, somebody killed me.” “She doesn’t know what the hell to do,” Jay says, looking into his monitor, aghast. It’s not good.
As storm clouds gather, Kahlen, is sitting in a quiet room away from the shoot, where Christina has gone to console her. Kahlen is distraught, crying, red-faced; Christina strokes her back reassuringly, and encourages her to “look at this as if this is a challenge for you. This is your personal challenge.” Later, Christina confides to the camera that she can’t even imagine what Kahlen must be going through, and “I’m just trying to comfort her, because I don’t want to see her go home over something like this.” “I’m heartbroken,” Kahlen declares.
By the time it finally rains, Tatiana is lowered into the ground in a cash-filled coffin to play Greed. Jay warns her that “there is a fine line between this looking kitschy and like a high fashion story.” In my estimation, she does one of the better jobs acting in today’s shoot. Christina finally reports to makeup, and she is being transformed into Lust incarnate. She says she feels she’s “beautiful” but not “ultra sexy,” so today will be a stretch. Speaking of stretch, they outfit her in a red satin merrywidow that just barely stretches across her taut bod that I’m sure is making more than few viewers feel lusty themselves. Rowrrr. “This is about you experiencing your body as a lust machine,” Johann says, demonstrating how he’d like her move her hands over her body. It looks much less attractive when he does it, also the way he gives orders skeeves me, moaning “Mmm, oh yeah,” in a way that makes me want to back away from him slowly. Jay also steps in to coach Christina on being sex-ay, “Hey big boy, you wanna come on in? $10 bucks a pop,” Jay coos, seeming incredibly experienced using such a phrase. It must be his favorite tagline, next to, “Hey sailor! New in town, Joe?”
Naima is Envy, and in vibrant verdant hair and makeup, she makes it looks easy to be green. She really looks fantastic, no mean feat since she could have easily gone the way of the female Gremlin from Gremlins 2. Stumbling after her in the rain is Keenyah as Gluttony. If Michelle was the post-Trimspa version of Anna Nicole, then Keenyah is the pre-Trimspa version of Anna Nicole, in a soiled negligee and sitting surrounded by piles of half-eaten food.
Kahlen is being made up as Wrath and, in a Medusa-like blood red hairpiece and in a grommeted black/red ensemble, looks like groovy goth girl all gussied up for a night out at the club. As she’s lowered in the grave, Jay yells down some advice for her: she should channel all the emotions she’s feeling into the character she’s playing. Down in the box, she screams and writhes and claws at the walls. In light of all she’s been through, it is admirable to see her push through and give this shoot what little energy she has left. When they finally tell her that the shoot is done, she just drops completely still and looks numb for a second before they lift her out.
At the end of the day, Kahlen is “so mentally exhausted” she doesn’t even want to get out of bed. Christina checks up on her again, and sticks around to rub her back. Kahlen says Christina is “probably one of the sweetest girls in the house,” and I am filled with deep remorse over every psycho-eye joke I’ve ever made. That’s remorse, but not regret, because c’mon those eyes are CRAZY LIKE A FOX! [Cut to clip of Christina cutting through steel with her laser glare.]
Don’t Fear the Reaper
Appropriately, Tyra’s photo this week visualizes her as the Grim Reaper, replete with scythe and black cloak. At times, she certainly does seem to have the power to suck girls’ souls right out of their bodies. As usual, she runs through the prizes, introduces the judges (today joined by Johann “Mmm, oh yeah, Baby” Wolf), and administers another test. Today, the girls will be involved in a mock press conference for ANTM’s “new clothing line,” however, like so many media events, the press will not only be interested in what they are immediately plugging, but also trying to weasel in a few questions on “gossip we heard about you”—some they heard from the hair and makeup people (because, aside from gynecologists, these are the people who really get up close and personal with the people with whom they work), and some completely made up.
Michelle sports the same rhinestone ANTM tank that everyone has changed into (oh-so-conveniently available for purchase from UPN’s online store!), and Nolé asks if the clothing collection is for “heterosexuals, or bisexuals.” A slightly rattled Michelle manages to respond that it’s for “everyone.” When asked what her sexuality is, she admits she’s bi, but “that has nothing to do with the line.” Vegetarian Naima must defend herself against accusations that she was “grubbing on a burger, and it was meat.” Kahlen laughs off questions about her hair weave; Keenyah demonstrates picking her nose; and Tatiana stumbles and stammers over questions about her dating a man twice her age. Brittany easily fields questions about drunken misbehavior by saying, “I love making a scene, because it gets my line in newspapers.” Janice seconds that emotion by saying she sees no problem with drunken tabletop dancing, as she does it herself. It’s official, Brittany has to have the same DNA as this woman. Finally, they ask Christina about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and flatulence—let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
Time for evals, starting with Christina. The judges seem to think she still sounds too much like a “business woman” when she speaks (I’m not sure why this is such a sin, as with April from Cycle 2, but don’t they want a model who acts professional?). Her picture garners some wows, but considering she is supposed to embody Lust, Johann and the panel still don’t think she went far enough with the sexy. Perhaps they should have had Brittany coaching her on over-the-top sensuality. Naima is perceived as having been too “stiff” in the mock press con, but her Envy photo is undeniably “to die for,” in Nigel’s words. Tyra’s only criticism is that she could have been more “I want what you have, bitch” (i.e. Tyra vis-à-vis Naomi Campbell, circa 1990s).
Keenyah is docked points for dignifying the nose-picking accusation with a response, her Gluttony pic is deemed lackluster. “Piggy chic,” Janice mutters. Nolé blasts Brittany for being more a spokesmodel for “getting drunk” than for ANTM. Her Sloth shot is called “subtle” by Nigel (for me it’s “subtle” verging dangerously on meh), but Johann enjoyed working with her due to her fun personality. “Now that’s the attitude of a Top Model,” Janice hoots. Tatiana, as far as the press conference, is dismissed as “boring” but her Greed picture is praised for really acting—except for Nigel, who says it’s his least favorite shot. Johann points out that Tatiana is beautiful in person, but has a “strange” face in pictures.
The panel finds Kahlen “sweet” and “real” in her interview, and her Wrath photo gets a round of enthusiastic praise. “See the fierceness of this?” Tyra asks. When Johann commends her for working through her difficult situation, Kahlen bites her lip. Janice asks, “What happened, honey?” And Tyra hushes her with a quick, “No, it’s serious, Janice,” and tells Kahlen she doesn’t have to talk about it. Classy move not exploiting a personal tragedy. For once.
Michelle is relatable in person, but panel would like to see that translated in her pictures. Her Pride pic is not a shot to be proud of: “Gay Pride on a float,” cracks Nolé. Michelle tears up at their criticism, and Janice says they’re here to help, and if she doesn’t capiche she’ll be gone with a quickness.
The judges deliberate. Tyra tells them about Kahlen’s friend, and they are impressed that despite this she was still able to “deliver.” They debate over Michelle, recognizing that perhaps out of everyone, she is the most committed to working hard at being a model, but Janice doesn’t think anybody would book her the way she is right now, quipping, “She should be working at a diner on roller skates.” Then, they again discuss the lack of lustiness in Christina’s pic, and Tyra asks Janice to again use Nigel as a prop to demonstrate how you really display “Lust.” I don’t mean to overshare, but I had to change my bloomers after that scene!
The girls return, and photos are handed back to: Kahlen (whom Tyra congratulates for “facing adversity and being able to get past that”), Christina, Naima, Keenyah, and Brittany. The bottom two this time around: Tatiana and Michelle. Per usual, Tyra gets on her high horse, telling the girls while they are both pretty girls, but being a top model more than being pretty, blah blah, it’s also about being able to present themselves well, or have self-esteem even when things get tough. The girl the judges they see as having “a bit more potential” is…Michelle.
Tatiana fights back tears in order to say goodbye to everyone. “This competition meant a lot to me, I just wish I could have gone further,” Tatiana says in a later confessional. She admits that when she gets nervous, she doesn’t know how to handle herself. “I’m very disappointed in myself,” she says, but thinks she still can make it as a model, and that the experience here could only help her to improve. On that note, our island girl returns home. Mahalo, Tatiana, and best of luck.
You can actually email me at snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com