The competition proves ever more punishing on the penultimate episode of Cycle 8, as three of the remaining four finalists gang up on one girl. It’s just as brutal as the beatdown at the end of Grindhouse: Death Proof, except in this case these gals use words, cattiness, and jealousy as weapons as opposed to fists, kicking, or lead pipes. That’s how we do it on AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, yo! Although don’t you wish for once someone on this show would break out into a broken bottle fight? If only…maybe Miss J. will, during a particularly heated deliberation some time in the future. Come on, it’s a ratings winner for sure!
Phone Russia With Love
Perhaps to fend off audience boredom (too late!), ANTM mixes things up by kicking off the show with a TyraMail instead of the usual post-judging whining and crying. The TyraMail sounds curiously New Age-y, “Some of you believe that you are born to be a top model, but I sense that only one will have the heart, soul and spirit to make it to the top.” Dionne is tired. Tired and cranky like a two-year-old that hasn’t gotten their afternoon nap, she can’t be bothered to make any guesses what all that TyraMail nonsense means. “Whatever happens, happens, I’m just gonna take my ass to sleep,” she grumbles.
Dionne takes issue with panel’s concern that “I look mean all the time,” referring to the scowl to which her face seems to inadvertently adopt. “I don’t know that I’m doing it, it’s just there.” It is true some people just have a certain type of face that looks “mean” even when they don’t mean to look mean, know what I mean? Maybe it’s true what mom used to say about not making certain faces, they might freeze like that. Dionne’s just lucky it didn’t stop on stuck-out tongue with pig nostrils or upside-down hand spectacles.
Renee, who is suddenly (and suspiciously) all buddy-buddy with Jaslene and Dionne, asks if they can believe this group made it into the final four. They all remark that silence from the panel is one of the worst things to experience because “that’s when you know that it’s coming to you.” The calm before the storm of criticism as it were.
Natasha, meanwhile, is anything but calm. She appears to be getting all hot and bothered over a conversation with her husband (or someone is getting charged $4.99 the first minute, $1.99 each additional minute—Call me now!). She is lying down on her stomach in bed, moaning and murmuring, “Baby, baby, I love you so much, baby, etc.” while nuzzling the upside-down cell phone with her nose in some bizarre form of telephonic 69. You know, Natasha, when we talk about “phone sex” in America, it doesn’t have to be so literal.
The other girls eavesdrop and laugh their rumps off. “Natasha’s crazy, she’s psychopathic,” Renee taunts, like the pot calling the kettle insane. Quick lesson in psychological terms, Renee, Natasha might arguably be delusional at times but you are the psychopath. (Sorry Renee fans, I understand some of you are upset with my opinions on your girl, so I am going to try to be nicer this week! I did have a major crush on her as a dude, though, does that help at all?)
Natasha knows that her fellow finalists seem to watch and judge every move she makes, but she thinks it’s just because they are intimidated by her as a competitor. Apropos of nothing, who else thinks Jaslene’s polka-dotted tote bag is ADORABLE, I want it! PM me if you know where it’s from…but I digress, back to the recap!
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
The girls are riding out deep into the windy, rainy, chilly Australian forest. They trek through the foliage in hoodies, and in Natasha’s case, wedge heels. “You’re gonna get like really sick, Natasha,” Renee says. Ominous portent? Latent psychic ability? Or EVIL CURSE?!! See what happens later in the episode, then decide…
In the forest they meet Uncle Max (he says at first his name is something like “Dodo MunMun but stupid ANTM did not caption it). He is an Australian aborigine elder, but in his plaid shirt, headband, long hair, beard, and glasses, he looks like Jerry Garcia. He introduces his niece Calita Murray, who is in a black shift with paint marking her skin and dress with white stripes and hand prints. Calita explains that storytelling is a big part of their culture, and has been expressed throughout generations by word-of-mouth, body art and dance.
Uncle Max announces that Calita and group of nine other girls will now perform for them, and it is important to pay attention to the story they are telling them through the dance. Renee recognizes how important storytelling is to modeling (“they tell through dance, we tell through pictures and runway”), and gives an articulate, insightful speech that only someone who’s going to be in the top three can give. Sorry, editors, but you’re not sly! You think Renee can go from Evil Bitch on Flaming Wheels to Nurturing Earth Mama Sweetness so abruptly without people (and by people, I mean me) getting suspicious?
Dionne is confused because when she hears that people are going to dance, she is expecting some “Shake that, all this” dance, and these aborigines are milling around in a circle, picking at the ground. Dionne learns a valuable lesson in cultural difference, realizing that this “more of an acting-type dance” (in this case re-enacting an activity important to them historically, i.e. gathering food) as opposed to your typical rump shaker. Although isn’t the Cabbage Patch a ritual re-enactment of the Americal Colonial tradition of churning butter? No?
It is now our girls’ turn to use body art, movement, and oral speech to tell their own personal stories before an audience of young girls from the local community and Rosenburg, Entertainment Director from Seventeen magazine. With 15 minutes to prepare, the girls rush to get their dresses and bodies painted. Upon looking at the short, thin dresses they have to wear, Renee says she is “shaking at just the thought of it because it is so unbelievably cold.” But she figures “if those girls could do it for us, I could do it for them.”
Renee introduces herself as “Nene” and begins her story about “what made me what I am today.” She starts by telling them that as a young child, she was abused. She gestures to her feet and red-striped legs, which symbolizes her pain. The red starts to disburse, because at some point, Renee says she started to feel “nothingness, I was numb in my life, there was no emotion for me.” The five flowers on her dress represent her sisters and mother, and the way they grew strong together. She painted a heart on her chest as a sign of her wanting to give strength to other women, to also grow strong and be “unified as one woman, saying ‘No more!’” I feel like I am watching a performance artist event at a “Take Back the Night” Rally, but seriously, this is a very moving presentation from Renee (yes, I felt a tear come up in my eye), and she is very careful to act out her story (unlike some others who will be coming out soon).
Jaslene’s story is similar to Renee’s in certain ways (including some similar body paint images). Described as a tale about a girl who was “misled into pain, agony, and suffering” whose “only way out was through true love,” it sounds like Jaslene is pitching a movie to the execs at the Lifetime Television Network. Her true love was her dream, and Jaslene had to “fight through so many obstacles” to get to her dream, which I guess is modeling, but she is maddeningly vague—she also barely moves, making one or two hand gestures like she is giving an oral report in 7th grade Social Studies. When she comes in for her big finish: “And now I stand here so in love, so happy and now all I do is live, love and laugh,” the reaction from the audience is almost as lifeless. After an awkward pause there is a light smattering of applause before Jaslene walks off to join Renee, who offers to share the blanket under which she’s huddled.
Dionne, still in the body paint tent, grouses, “I don’t wanna do no damn dance.” Is somebody still a widdle cwanky wanky widdout getting a widdle nap time? [Coos and chucks her under chin] Who’s a cranky crumb bum? Who needs a nap? “How the hell do you think I can dance while telling a story? Tell what story?” Dionne complains vociferously, culminating in the angry declaration, “I DO NOT WANT TO DANCE. PERIOD!” Dang, okay, so girl doesn’t like to dance! Remind me not to invite Dionne to join me in the Electric Slide at my next wedding reception! Oddly enough, for being so resistant to this challenge, Dionne doesn’t do that badly. She talks about her mom getting shot and paralyzed, her sisters and their children, the path she walked and the decisions she made to get her to modeling, and her own daughter. When it’s over, she also huddles underneath the blanket with Renee and Jaslene.
Natasha comes out holding tree branches in each hand that she shakes like the leafy, green pom poms of some strange forest cheerleader. “When I was a child, I was very weak,” Natasha says softly. So softly, in fact, that some people (like Renee) say they can’t understand a single word she’s talking about. Natasha thinks by speaking quietly, everybody will “pay close attention to what I am doing.” “What the hell is she saying?” Dionne says, with her usual tact. Renee deems Natasha, “A few fries short of a Happy Meal.” The audience does look a bit befuddled, but as ever, Natasha is confident that she did a great job. The Secret!!!
Carissa finally addresses the girls, saying how good it was to hear their stories, since the one who is chosen to be on the cover of Seventeen will have to tell her story and connect to 13 million readers. Not surprisingly, the winner is Renee. Carissa says readers will relate and care about her. A special surprise will be given to Renee and shared by a friend of her choice, who turns out to be Jaslene. “If I win a prize I want to make sure I share it with someone I really get along with,” Renee says. Sharing and caring? Who is this pod person who took over Renee?
Girls Night Out
After a long day, the girls open the door to see someone new waiting for them in their apartment. Only on ANTM would one not call the cops or break out the pepper spray at the sight of a strange older man waiting for you before you got home. He’s neither a pervert or a panty thief (at least, I don’t think is…I’d say check his pockets but that might be exactly what he wants you to do), but Justin Schwarz, CEO of Autore Pearls in Sydney. He presents them with their prizes, gorgeous, flawless South Sea pearls, “the type of jewelry that Royalty wear.” Renee says that she is “grateful” and doesn’t even mention pawning them for her son and husband. Jaslene has “never seen anything like it” and “it’s like a dream come true.” She thanks Renee for picking her as friend for this wonderful prize.
Now Dionne is mad at herself for not rallying to at least try to win the challenge today. She acknowledges that she could have given a little bit more. Looking worn out, Dionne announces that she is at the point where “I just really want to have some fun.” Don’t we all, Dionne, don’t we all? Renee, who has become Julie the Cruise Director (and if you don’t get that joke, you don’t know the glory of The Love Boat), thinks if you work hard, you should play hard, and the girls all decide to go out on the town (Jaslene and Renee in their pearls…don’t get mugged!).
Correction: not all the girls decide to party hearty. Natasha has fallen terribly ill, and, red-faced and snuffly, decides to stay at home at rest. Hmm, is this simply because they spent a day out in the cold and her resistance is down? Or based on some of the comments from Renee earlier, should we be searching for chicken bones and a pentagram under Natasha’s bed? Renee gets all motherly and advises Natasha on some remedies, then gives her a hug and tells her to feel better.
“We’re so excited to actually get out of the house,” Renee says of their night out on the town. Jaslene thinks they’re better off Natasha didn’t come, adding, “She was this funny Russian girl but now she’s just annoying to me.” Renee encouraging Jaslene and Dionne to do well on the shoot tomorrow because “We need to send someone home and you guys all know who I’m talking about.” There’s my Renee!
As annoyed as she is by Natasha, “I don’t see her going home right now,” Jaslene admits, “She’s improving week by week.” Dionne says she wants Natasha to go home because she’s “over” her. She finds her strange, speculating that there are “lies floating around her.” Jaslene is curious “how she lives her life with her husband.” Renee finds it suspicious that Natasha doesn’t wear a ring and doesn’t show off pictures of her husband and daughter—like in the back pages of her portfolio perhaps?
The girls gossip about Natasha with great relish, like vultures enjoying a particularly delicious carcass. Personally, I feel bad for Natasha, who is sick at home and unable to defend herself. I wonder where all this cruelty came from? Could it be Xenophobia? Fear of foreigners, that is, not to be confused with Xena-phobia, fear of the awesomeness that is Lucy Lawless.
Don’t Know Much About History
When Las Tres Amigas get home, TyraMail awaits. “Sorry, girls—You’re History!” it says. Natasha has not had a restful evening at all. She wakes up in the middle of the night, and as she tells it, “I was havin’ a fever. I have de stuffed nose, and de sore throat, to de point where it’s really, really hard for me to swallow…I am scared that I am not gonna be rockin’ in this photo shoot today.”
The girls meet up with Jay Manuel to enjoy another day in the great outdoors.
And judging from the puffy parkas and drawn up hoodies, it’s the great, cold outdoors. Jay says that today they will be shooting with members of one of Australia’s aboriginal tribes. Each girl will be assigned a specific story to act out in their photos. Kane Skennar is their photographer for this shoot.
Sharon Williams of the Ngemba Tribe explains that each girl will portray a different legend of aboriginal culture. Dionne thinks, with displeasure, “Please tell me we don’t have to dance again.” She needs to move to that town in Footloose! When Sharon reveals that, yes, they will dance, Dionne’s face looks not merely mean, but positively murderous. In make up, while everyone gets aboriginized, Natasha complains that she is still sick.
Jaslene is first, and if you ask me, she looks a little bit more like the singer from some cool 80s New Wave band than a traditional aborigine, but what do I know? Her dance is about the Red Breast Robin, but Jaslene likens the turning and knee-shaking to a chicken. “I would never take those moves back home,” Jaslene says. Awww, no funky aboriginal chicken dance for Cha Cha Diva? I would love to see her pull that out at a club. Jaslene gets great feedback from the photographer and Jay. Jay likes her intensity, only warning her to keep her head down to avoid that straight-up-the-nostril-like-those-inner-body-transition-scenes-in-House shots. He commends her for capturing the spirit of the traditional, but adding her own twist.
Dionne gets her favorite! The Food Gathering Dance. She and the Ngemba girls crouch down and pick up stuff from the ground and the trees. Before they even start the shoot, Jay pop quizzes Dionne on what he’s been warning her about week after week. “Stop making that mean face,” Dionne answers. Ding ding ding! You have won the prize. Jay tells her that the other women their have such a “beautiful energy about them” he doesn’t want her “scowl-y energy” to bring them down. As the shoot begins, Jay likes her body poses but wants “more in the face.” He has to continue coaching her every movement, and she still has difficulty not looking mean. Mr. Jay finds working with Dionne “frustrating” because he has to “leave the training wheels on.”
Natasha’s dance is about the Wiggly Wagtail Bird. It’s a bright, sprightly, happy dance, and unfortunately Natasha is everything but. Her shoot is interrupted by nose-blowing, coughing, and…well just read off the symptoms on any bottle Nyquil. She’s got it. Mr. Jay looks unsympathetic, disgusted even. He is correct in observing that “she looks miserable.” In every shot, Natasha looks absolutely horrible. There’s zero energy, zero life in her eyes. The photographer asks if she’s all right, and Jay steps in to tell a story about a shoot he and Tyra were working on in St. Bart’s. Tyra was very sick but as soon as the photographer picked up the camera, Tyra transformed into a supermodel. “This is do or die. It’s down to four girls. I would hate to see you throw the whole competition away because you couldn’t push through this one shoot.” The speech doesn’t seem to help much. One of Natasha’s last “poses” is to lean weakly against a tree. Perhaps she is portraying the wounded Wiggly Wagtail?
Renee gets a sweet deal; her gig is about the Flight of the Butterfly. Renee thinks it’s a “beautiful dance” with a lot of ways to work it. Renee seems to have the easiest time coming up with new, innovative poses, and is the most comfortable on camera, earning much praise from Jay and Kennar. “That’s glorious!” Jay declares of Renee’s last shots, as a butterfly with wings outstretched. “I feel like my shoot is going to impress Tyra,” Renee opines, “I made it very fashion. I just went for it and I feel like I got some killer shots.”
Back at home, Natasha reads out the customary “Judging is Nigh” TyraMail. When she asks what everyone thinks will happen tomorrow, Renee and Dionne sarcastically answer that they will meet with the judges, and someone will be eliminated. Ya think? Natasha is in full-speed happy delusion mode, proud that she did so well on the shoot. Renee hopes that Natasha doesn’t use her sickness as an excuse because if she dos, the judges might “eat her alive.”
Axis of Envy
Tyra Banks loved her shoot so much this week that they included four, count ‘em four of her aboriginal shots in the show this week. Collect them all! Tyra goes through the rigmarole of prizes and introductions. Tyra, Nigel Barker, J. Alexander, and Twiggy are joined this week by Seventeen Entertainment Director, Carissa Rosenberg.
Individual evaluations begin with Dionne. They find her Food Gatherer picture “very strong” and “beautiful” but Carissa picks up on Dionne’s ongoing problem with eye contact. Tyra notices a bipolar quality to the photos that probably stem from the panel’s advice to stop looking mean. Tyra says it goes from mean to psycho smile and back again; Dionne needs to find a happy medium. Mr. Jay also gave some notes to panel: Dionne seems to get “possessed” in front of the camera, and still seems to need a lot of coaching.
Today there is also an additional judging test. Tyra asks who each girl thinks has the most Top Model potential, and who has the least. Dionne answers that she loves “Jaslene’s appearance” which is not only “striking” but she also has a great personality. As for who she thinks has the least potential, Dionne singles out Natasha; she thinks “something is missing” from Natasha’s personality.
Jaslene’s Red Breasted Robin is “very beautiful,” however Nigel thinks this is a face they’ve seen from her too many times before. Tyra concurs, saying it reminds her of Nigel’s Executioner picture from the beginning of the cycle. Tyra said that models can get booked for having one strong signature look, but there’s not much longevity in that kind of career.
When asked who she thinks has the most Top Model potential, Jaslene considers it for a moment, then answers, “I would say me just because I know most of these girls came here just to take a chance or have this experience, but my heart, my soul and my spirit is in here as well.” Nice answer, in fact, it sounds very familiar—maybe because she copied and pasted it straight from the first TyraMail they received this week! She then says that Natasha is the person with the least potential because something about her comes off as “fake.”
Renee strides up the proud challenge winner, showing off her beautiful pearl and diamond necklace. They love her Dance of the Butterfly; Twiggy found it “evocative” and Nigel likes the way she was able to “find the light.” Tyra says Renee had the most poses from which to choose. Renee naturally thinks she has the most Top Model potential because “I want to take my family places; they are the fire under my butt.” If winning ANTM doesn’t help, try Preparation H for that! Renee also throws Natasha under the bus, confirming the strange Survivor-type alliance going on.
Natasha’s Wiggly Wagtail is, no shock here, a dud. Nigel thinks she’s
not connecting” and Carissa finds it “awkward and uncomfortable.” Miss J. advises that “when all else fails…get something going in the face so we have something to say looks great.” Tyra believed this film was “worse than your first photo shoot.” Tyra says it looked like she wasn’t ready for “90 percen tof the shots.” Tyra said she heard that Natasha was sick, but it looked like “you didn’t know what you were doing.”
As for who she thinks has the most Top Model potential, Natasha also names herself as the one. “I do have the features that are in fashion right now,” she explains, in full Car Salesman mode. As for her cohort’s harsh comments, Natasha says she is “thankful” for the “critique” the other girls gave her and still likes them. “They are still my friends,” Natasha says with a smile. Twiggy can’t help but express how “shocked” she was to hear what the other girls had to say since “you are one of the warmest girls, you make us laugh, you take critique and so…I suddenly thought, well you are very, very beautiful, so is this the truth coming out or is there a slight jealousy because they think you’re ahead of them?” Natasha says if Giselle Bundchen were there, “I’d say she had the least potential because she’d be the biggest competition for me.” Natasha ends her defense by saying that she is aware that the other girls talk about her, but like a modern-day Oscar Wilde, she feels “It is better to be talked about than being not noticeable.”
While the judges deliberate, we get a glimpse of the girls as they await the judges’ decision. Natasha says to all the girls that she truly wishes all of them luck, and that they know that’s just how she is. “At times we don’t accept who you are,” Jaslene responds. “Seems fake,” Renee adds. “I’m not fake at all,” Natasha answers calmly. Jaslene says they’re letting her know how they perceive her from the outside and also says that she’s not jealous. Renee watches this conversation with way too much delight in her eyes; you have to admit this girls loves conflict.
The judges get to work. They seem to agree that Dionne has consistently the weakest pictures out of all the girls. Jaslene takes great photos, but Nigel is worried that she gives the same look over and over again. Tyra, doing her aggravating Miss Contradicto act, feels like this competition is Jaslene’s life—in a bad way. Tyra says she loves for the girls to have the drive to want to live and breathe ANTM, but if it doesn’t happen for Jaslene, she’s worried about how that might affect her. “She might be stalking your ass,” Tyra says to Miss J., making Miss J.’s eyes widen in fear. That would be the time you'd want that broken bottle, Miss J.
The panel loves Renee this week, but Nigel doesn’t think she’s “the youngest freshest face on the block.” Tyra notes how she had to hold an intervention with the girls, who were all against Renee at one point, and now everyone’s hating on Natasha. When Nigel tries to imply that this is some kind of girl thing,Tyra snaps, “Guys are just as catty and shady as girls are!” Finally, that brings us to this week’s shooting target, Natasha. They agree this is her weakest photograph, but Twiggy feels she dealt with the hate-fest “miraculously.” Tyra weighs out the fact that her photo shoot was a “disaster” against the fact that all the girls may have ganged up on her because they see her as a threat.
When the girls return, Tyra hands back the pictures. Renee and Jaslene are the first to officially be in the finale. The bottom two are Natasha and Dionne. Who will be so close but so far to the title of Top Model? Dionne started off rough, but then got better, but then sputtered out; the judges also found it curious that when asked who had the most Top Model potential, Dionne was the only one who did not name herself. Similarly, Natasha started out unable to capture her beauty in a good picture, but also got better and better, until this week, that is. Tyra says this last picture was “dreadful” and the “sick thing is the oldest Top Model story and we are over it.” Furthermore, when asked who had the least potential, the answer was unanimously Natasha. Tyra wonders what could cause the girls to band against her? Ultimately, Tyra slides out one photo, saying, “The judges think maybe they’re just jealous.”
Tyra hugs Dionne, and says, “You gotta take the training wheels off, they’re still on.” Dionne simply nods in assent, before hugging Renee, Jaslene, and even Natasha goodbye. Dionne is disappointed, thinking she could have done a better job, but claiming she really did try. She will actually miss getting up early in the morning to get “beautified”—and although she’s mad she failed, she still got a shot at doing something very few other people do. She made it this far in the competition and has every reason to be proud. Now that’s something to smile about.
What’s your story? Email it to snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com, and I won’t even make you do the funky chicken dance!