Well, folks. It's been a long season. Although I haven't had cosmetic surgery, I've also gone through my own transformation. I'm firmer with my own opinions and know, even so, that they're only opinions. Tonight, with its final pairing of self-proclaimed ugly ducklings, The Swan is near to the end of its season. The finale will air next Monday at 8. At this point, I thank you for sticking around for this long, although I dare say that I don't know why you have.
We start with a grand entrance by Amanda Byram, former host of Paradise Hotel. As is their modus operandi, two tuxedoed gentleman open the double doors while Amanda sashays in wearing a black dress with a plunging neckline. She assures us that tonight will be extraordinary, and she begins ascending the spiral staircase. Somewhere on the second floor, real or imagined, is a boardroom. In it is our team of experts, who aim to take over the lives of insecure, troubled women and transform them into feathered fowl.
The first featured woman for today's show is Tanya, 31, a data processor from Olympia, Washington. We see the crew approaching her in her driveway and offering her a congratulations. For what? You have been chosen for yadda yadda graceful poultry. Before we meet the next contestant, we see Tanya's bio. When she looks in the mirror, all she sees is her nose. As a child, the other children would pick on her, but they would not pick her nose. She laments that the pain from their teasings has been with her all her life, although those kids had the benefit of being able to get on with their lives. Since then, Tanya expresses the desire to be invisible. Even her SUV boasts tinted windows, a way of hiding herself from the world. Tanya's goal? She wants to be able to look people in the eye.
The Swan Team discusses Tanya's case. Randal hopes to open up Tanya's face, and, yes, he plans to cut it open, but this is not the "open" he means. He hopes to lift Tanya's eyebrows and add sexiness to her lips, which by now simply means he plans to inject her lips with fat--and likely that fat will have been exported in from some other zone, maybe her butt. But it wouldn't have gone over well if Randal had said, "I plan to inject Tanya's lips with ass fat."
Lynn, Tanya's eventual therapist, muses that Tanya has experienced many incidents teaching her the world is a scary place. As a result, Tanya retreats. Next, we hear Nely's famous line, "This process is not easy!" I will steal Foreshadowing from our FoRT's own fluff, the recapper of Survivor. Although the FOX producers are not as mature, filmically, as Mark Burnett, we meet foreshadowing here. We know that the difficulty of the Swan Program will be emphasized again and again before the hour is up.
In any case, Amanda reads off the list of Tanya's surgical menu, and she will be ordering every course. A nose job, brow lift, chin implant, lip augmentation, lasik eye surgery, tummy tuck, breast augmentation, and what looks in my notes to be a "b.j." or "b.l." I think I wrote this to stand for breast lift and hope that Randal, our nice doctor, will be paid in monies and not in kind.
Next we meet Merline, 29, an interpreter for the deaf from Viktorville, California. She has been a paid interpreter since she was 18-years-old, but she interpreted for both her deaf parents since she was 3-years-old. She says that sign language is her first language, a detail both unique and touching. Merline remembers back to being 10-years-old when her dad had a heart attack, the painful experience of interpreting for him even then, and eventually watching him flatline. Merline is someone who still takes care of everyone else before she takes care of herself. She says that after working and taking care of the kids and her home, she only has time to shower and get to bed every night. Merline bemoans not having straight teeth; each time she has the money to pay for braces, she has to spend it on something else, bills or the children. She also hopes for fuller breasts. What do swans and full-breasted women have in common, though, really? They both look good squirting water in fountain sculptures.
Amanda asks the team, then, what their projections are for Merline. Sheri exclaims that Merline is the reason she entered the dentistry profession. She is excited to work on her. Randal says he will perform an upper lip lift on her and will aspire toward bringing out Merline's playfulness. Terry, the other surgeon, comments on Randal's remark; he says something about how increasing her breast size will add to Merline's playful look. I have no idea what he's saying, unless he means that jiggly breasts are funner (sic). By now, I've tuned out most of what Terry says. To me, Randal is the nice doctor, and Terry is the groping counterpart. He's the guy who meets women during their surgical consultation, cops a feel, and squawks, "This breast is deflated!" Deflated, eflated, flated, lated, ated, ted, ed, d, echo echo echo. For some reason, I listen to Terry and think aerobics instructor, a la Richard Simmons. But, hey, it's L.A.--maybe everyone there is touchy-feely, bubbly, and ready to launch a diet craze.
Merline will have a brow lift, an upper lip lift, which will no doubt increase her smile to such magnitude that, in comparison, Carly Simon will look like Holly Hobbie. She'll have liposuction beneath her eyes and chin, lasik eye surgery, a tummy tuck, a boob job, and a fat transfer to her lips. Randal may call it sexiness, but I call it exported wattle fat.
Insides and Outsides
After commercial, we're treated to the usual sunrise clip, waves of orange clouds and then blue skies. Tanya and Merline move into their respective apartments. They read their notes. The program begins now, the notes say. They check out their bathrooms, onto which the crew members have nailed some type of dull lucite--I really can't tell what it is; in any case, the mirrors are covered. Tawnya says, "I rarely look at mirrors at home anyway." Dun-dun-dunh!
At their surgical consultations, Randal tells Merline he wants to give her natural-looking breasts. I think, in cosmetic surgery terms, this means she won't be up to her neck in cleavage. Merline says she wants her surgery to ultimately reflect what she feels inside. Literally speaking, they'd have to construct an exoskeleton and externalize her organs for the two to match up, but I think I'm getting the colloquialism by now.
For Tanya's consultation, Randal says he wants to remove the bump on her nose and refine the tip. He doesn't want her nose to have a pig-look, he says. Oh, no, not the pig-look, says Tanya. Tanya is very sensitive about her nose, as it is, and doesn't need Randal to go all snout on her.
At the dentist, Sheri extracts a decayed tooth from Merline's mouth and says Merline will be back three more times, for her three root canals and for her bleaching and temporary veneers.
Both Randal and Terry high-five, which either demonstrates they won their municipal ultimate frisbee game or that they'll be performing Merline's surgical procedures as a team. When they finish the breast augmentation and tummy tuck, they start on Merline's purple-markered face, lined with a map of their cutting plans. They snip at something with a latex-gloved hand, maybe for her upper lip lift? Randal professes to giving Merline a Brigitte Bordeaux look. I looked up Brigitte Bordeaux on the Internet, and her measurements are 36-24-36--oooh la la! Merline, wrapped in bandages, rolls out of the operating room in a wheelchair.
Before surgery, Tanya is anxious, nervous, and concerned that she may not breathe when she wakes up. Hooked up to her equipment, Tanya beeps out high peaks on the EEG. She registers a heartrate of 115 beats per minute. Randal says he hasn't seen a patient this nervous in some time.
After Tanya is etherized, Randal performs an open rhinoplasty, which means he cuts out cartilage from her nose and uses sutures to redirect the nose tip. He then places implants into Tanya's breasts, to help her look more "rejuvenated," because full-breasted, lactating women look very alive. In a fast-forwarding of their surgery, Randal and Terry dance around their patient, blurred out, because this isn't cable. They give Tanya an abdominal-plasty, thereby closing up the loose skin around her stomach area. Randal predicts she'll look great, but that she'll suffer an emotional meltdown.
And She Does
Bedridden, Tanya looks up at her doctor, who greets her with "How are you?" She says, "Horrible." Later, her nose covered in gauzy bandage stuff, she yells out her famous line from the kitchen: "I feel worse than I expected and I need to lay down before I punch someone in the face."
Nely visits Tanya, who defends herself with, "I'm not Little Miss Cheerful with everyone." Tanya, you're not even Little Miss Mildly Contented. You're a downright pain in the lip. Anyway, to help get her in gear, Nely shows Tanya her audition video. In it, Tanya says that being on The Swan would be a dream come true. Nely offers some encouraging words about seeing greatness in Tanya and wanting her to have a great life.
Just after surgery, Merline is bedridden, too. After her eight hours of surgery, Randal visits her and tells her she looks great. Half-conscious and face bandaged, Merline seems to just moan. Randal asks her if her breasts hurt, and she says no. Merline will be fun, jiggly, playful, and ready for Terry's Aerobic Workout in no time.
In therapy, Lynn encourages Merline to take care of herself first. Lynn acknowledges Merline's childhood, in that she was consistently a parent. That's not her job, Lynn says. You're free.
These words fall on deaf ears--I hope you'll permit me the pun. After her session, Merline calls her husband, who seems incapable of handling the bills. After 61 days, her husband hasn't paid her credit card and simply answers, "I'll do it tomorrow." Week after week, her husband seems more and more foolhardy, just another kid who'll leave all the responsibilities to Merline.
Tanya makes her own phone call, to her mom. She tells her that she feels like a dead cow. Her mom encourages her to stick it out, that she's gone this far and that she can't quit now. Knowing that her mom believes in her, Tanya is refueled and re-energized, for the nonce.
The Honest Part, My Butt
Amanda welcomes us back to the long-necked bird show. She walks toward the experts, standing in V-formation. Before introducing us to the transformed contestants, Amanda instead shows us an unusual circumstance: one woman smuggled a mirror into her room. As it is against policy to view a mirror, she is kicked off the program.
The clip starts like an episode from a bad cop show: a security guy, based on rumors that Tanya might have a mirror, breaks into Tanya's apartment and unearths a small, rectangular mirror from her nightstand. To questions of culpability, Tanya responds that some part of her was stronger than the "honest part." In some respects, she sabotages the remainder of her existence on the show because of a self-defeating thought; weeks ago, she says, she knew she wasn't going to make it. Lynn's interpretation of her behavior is that Tanya is so dependent on external support that she couldn't withstand the isolation.We see Tanya fade into the background, a little form walking down a long hallway, her suitcase rolling in tow.
Before Merline enters the room, Sheri happily boasts that she built Merline's mouth from scratch. Merline emerges in a long black evening gown with plunging neckline, a cut not unlike Amanda's dress. Merline's hair is banged and layered, and her large white teeth could dwarf the Chicago skyline. Merline is ecstatic; she is confident that, though her inside hasn't met her outside, she feels good on the inside.
The red curtain parts when Merline says she's ready. Merline, as we predicted, screams, "Oh my God." Then she says, "I am as hot as I feel." Mm, toasty.
She says, "Look at my teeth. I love me." Merline fully appreciates the record-breaking quality of her smile. The woman, into whose mouth Simon Cowell would drive a truck, cries.
Amanda asks Merline if she wants to go on to the Swan Pageant, the contest next Monday in which the winners of each episode compete for cash and prizes. Merline responds that she would love to participate in the pageant. Amanda grants her this wish and tells her that her competitor was disqualified. The experts applaud Merline and surround her near her spot by the mirror. Sheri comments on Merline's radiant smile. Nely comments on Merline's goddess-like status.
Wild Card Pick (the Nose)
Amanda tells us, now that the eighth spot has been filled, the invisible judges will choose a ninth person from the pool of previous contestants.
We see clips of all the previous contestants and briefly view their transformations all over again. Amanda says that two women have been selected from this group, and that one woman will be chosen as the wild card pick.
First, Amanda welcomes back Kelly who participated in the first episode. Kelly tells Amanda that she's really blessed to get a second chance. Amanda asks her how much weight she's lost, and she says she's lost 25 pounds. She mentions that, with therapy, she's still working on herself and letting her inner beauty radiate on the outside.
Next, Amanda welcomes Kristy from episode two. She spins onto the scene, the fringes of her black dress whipping about. Kristy started the program, having been transitioning out of the army. She was the self-professed "funny girl" who instead wanted to be glamorous. To Amanda, Kristy says that she's been functioning in "maximum overdrive," given her second chance.
Before Amanda reads the results, the two women clutch at each other, their black dresses blending into one, their blond hair strands intertwined. They begin to look more and more like siamese twins. Amanda, taking her cue from Ryan Seacrest, tells us she'll reveal the winner after the break.
After the break, Amanda says that one woman will be the wild card pick, while the other woman will be the pageant alternate. She reads the contents of the envelope, and the winner is Kelly. Kelly, her white-blond hair still interlaced with Kristy's, says Kristy is a good girl and "I'm gonna represent for both of us." Way to represent. Good intentions are so cool.
Kristy is still in good spirits, as ever, and she asks if they'll throw her a departure party. She waves back at the camera. Amanda wraps her arm around Kelly, who looks as if she'd fall asleep on Amanda's shoulder. Kelly's eyes glaze dreamily and she smiles sweetly. The bleach must've seeped into her skull, but she seems happy enough.
Next week nine women will compete for the Swan crown, and to forever be known as the ultimate web-footed waterfowl.
Again, I welcome your comments and suggestions -- write to firstname.lastname@example.org