Anchal: De Yonker/The CW
Whitney Pastorek
November 09, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

”Next Top Model”: Who’s ready for Action Shots?

Well, that was a short week off, wasn’t it? You’d think with all that extra time, the remaining writers — whichever ones aren’t off filing complaints with the National Labor Relations Board — could whip up something at least marginally compelling, but no such luck. Tonight’s ep of America’s Next Top Model was a combination of reheated Self-Esteem Casserole and a leftover side dish of Condescension and Unfairness, with a glass of Random to wash it down. I found it a little bland.

Speaking of bland: Hey, did you know Anchal thinks she’s fat? Can you believe that? She’s been so bubbly and outgoing the whole time that I never guessed she had any body image issues at all. I mean, when someone’s so obviously glowing with self-confidence, I find myself looking right past their love handles and dress-popping bosoms and focusing only on their glistening smile and intriguing personality and…

OK, I cannot talk about this anymore. I am worn out. Sweetcheeks deserved to go home, especially after her comment that Melrose should get the boot for being ”annoying.” Oh, Anchal. Perhaps the ”life lesson” that you learned by choking on the awesome opportunity you were handed will prevent you from making such harsh misjudgments in the future. Nice to hear Nigel toss out the line of the season during judging, referencing our whiny friend in the context of the product the gals were shilling tonight: ”This foundation is whipped, and I think she is, too.” Bam! Don’t let the door hit you in your giant ass on your way out!

(What?? She said it, I just took notes!! Jeez! Sorry!)

Tonight’s theme was ”action shots!” Action! Like Gabrielle Reece/pro beach volleyball/sand-in-your-wedgie-type action! Somehow, they enticed Ms. Laird Hamilton to leave her palatial estate on the island of Maui to come down to Venice and toss volleyballs at the girls all day; the most interesting thing about this little segment was when we discovered something Jaeda is actually good at: volleyball. No way did I see that coming.

Up next: the reward challenge, featuring legendary club kid James St. James and some random NASCAR driver. And when I say ”some random NASCAR driver,” I’m not kidding around: Who the hell is Stanton Barrett??

Oh. My research shows that Stanton Barrett is Paul Newman’s godson. That makes everything clear now and I — wait, what?? Wikipedia, don’t tease. That doofy, marble-mouthed, jumpsuited scruffball has Paul Newman for an emergency father?? Well, I’ll be. No way did I see that coming, either. (FYI: He also enjoys cooking with Lucini olive oil.)

Anyway, the girls had to leap in the air and attack poor Paul Jr. while taking their own picture with a remote-controlled camera. (You’d think they could afford to hire a photographer with all the money they’re saving on writers these days.) Michelle won, and took CariDee, Amanda, and Melrose with her to participate in a Supermarket Sweep-style shopping spree, where whoever grabbed the most clothes won them all. I shall give you one guess who now owns all the clothes. And it’s not Michelle. Which kinda sucks.

But Melrose is perfect, you see. Melrose is so perfect, in fact, that they are now having to drum up fake conflict at the shoots to keep us in something resembling suspense. Don’t fall for it, niblets; if you participate in some sort of mid-show oddsmaking scheme, do not bet on her to lose. In tonight’s high photo concept — and when I say ”high,” I could really mean any number of things — the girls posed while flying in an indoor skydiving facility, reaching out as though to grab a floating tub of Cover Girl TruBlend foundation. (Because when you’ve been cast into outer space with nothing but your Willy Wonka suit, it is important to otherwise look your very best.) Before Melrose gets in, Mr. Jay says, ”Make the girls hate you even more!” and MR responds, ”I don’t know if that’s possible!” And when Melrose gets out, Mr. Jay says that she had a ”blank face.” And I’m sitting there thinking, Ooh, that’s it! She’s a goner! After all, as far as I can tell, Tyra considers cumulative results about as useful as a decent stylist this season, so all it takes is one mediocre shot to send you packing, and I was legitimately nervous that I would have to write two super-indignant columns in a row.

I needn’t have been. Melrose’s shots turned out fine. ”Brilliant,” even. Meanwhile, Eugena was compared to a ”weaker Naomi Campbell,” Amanda was told she was too skinny to get good angles (figure out the geometry on that and call me), and Jaeda — who has yet to take a decent photo — mostly looked like Michael Jackson. The only other person with a good pic was, naturally, CariDee, proving everyone’s theory that, barring some freakish accident or psychotic Tyrannical decision, this thing will come down to a Battle of the Blondes.

More important than the photos tonight, however, was the judging test. The gals were given a verb and an adverb to act out, and the losers comprised your bottom two: Michelle, who giggled her way through ”swim ferociously,” and Anchal, who when asked to ”dance aggressively” just stood there, in a sort of heap, petrified by her own lack of personality. Michelle vs. Anchal. Accidental talent and lack of drive vs. beauty that continues to frighten Tyra and lack of personality. Michelle got off with a warning to step it up in the caring department (she’d previously admitted that this whole modeling thing is not her dream, much to Melrose’s chagrin), and Anchal hit the showers. I do not plan on missing her at all. And hey, look at it this way: More snacks for the other girls!

(What?? Oh, learn to take a joke.)

Next week: We go abroad! My TiVo cut out before they revealed where we’re going, but it looks muy buena, no?

[Here’s a quick side note that’s gonna push me right over my word count again: I’d like to take this moment to congratulate frequent ANTM guest Atoosa ”Jigsaw” Rubenstein on her decision to abandon Seventeen magazine in order to start some sort of ambiguous teenage consulting service and spend more time on her MySpace blog. And since there are way too many snarky comments for me to make at this juncture, how about we just leave it at that? I’d hate for the Toos to have to spend her last days siccing her minions on me. Cupcakes and hair product all around! P.S.: Paris Hilton + lazy eye = worst Seventeen cover ever! OMG LOL WTF, etc!]

Now it’s your turn: Was this week’s episode a letdown? Is the competition heading toward an inevitable Melrose-CariDee showdown? Any sympathy for Anchal’s body-issue struggles on her way out the door? Are you looking forward to next week’s apparent road trip? What did you think of Tyra wondering if they’d wasted slots this season on girls who don’t want it enough?

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