Do I have Stockholm Syndrome, or were these last two episodes kind of good? Sure, it lacked the intensity and lunacy that are supposed to be Top Model’s calling card, but by the time we got to the runway show, I was legitimately wondering who was going to win. But first, we slogged through the outrageous concept of “ugly pretty.” Or as the sane world calls it, “nonsense.”
Krista was flying high after notching yet another win, so naturally Alexandra was feeling especially grumpy. I tried to like Alexandra all season, but it turns out her major contribution to my life will always be her epic wipeout, and no matter how she tries to zing Raina for “acting like a 12-year-old,” all I can hear is myself laughing at her for falling off the runway. Sorry, toots. Your Katherine Heigl-meets-Ali Larter looks just aren’t enough to endear you to any of us.
André swung by Chez Modelhaus: NZ to bring the girls all flowers (um, awww) and answer their obviously coached questions. I’m not going to bodysnark on the guy, but: If you’re large and in charge, and you wear some seriously flowy robes all the time, and you insist on lounging sideways, you run the risk of looking more than a little like Jabba the Hutt. It’s just a warning. He told everyone about being Andy Warhol’s intern and filled their heads with visions of sugar plums and international success. Just kidding, it was visions of having dinner with Karl Lagerfeld. The idea of Angelea and Karl chilling out back and relaxing all cool is both incredibly disturbing and somehow a perfect buddy comedy. Sheeee’s an awkward fish-out-of water who calls everyone a “bitch”. Heeee’s an eccentric fashion genius who speaks only in murmurs. They are both very thin! Coming to NBC!
Anyway. Also, if you haven’t seen The September Issue, allow this moment of André to be your nudge. He comes across as sort of silly, yes, but also kind of brilliant in his own affected, contrived way. It’s kind of charming.
The ladies boarded a flight to Queenstown only to discover that both Mr. and Ms. Jay were there to taunt them. Er, host a challenge. Everyone had to do a fun, personality-filled runway walk down the aisle of the plane! Is this worse than a crying baby on board? How about worse than a B.O.-emitting seatmate? I really hope this was a Top Model only flight, otherwise…sad trombone on the rest of those passengers. When I want emaciated lunatics waltzing up and down the aisle and stealing my sunglasses, I take Greyhound.
Alexandra was deemed overly flouncy, while Raina was too wooden, and Angelea didn’t seem to take it seriously. To the shock of no one, Krista won yet another challenge.
Let’s take a moment here to high five the New Zealand tourism bureau, because boy howdy was the landscape footage gorgeous. I’m not sure what I would do there necessarily – the number of people attempting to slather me in black lipstick and tie me up in a corset is pathetically low – but I want to go and run around and sigh and stuff. That’s what vacations are for, right? Sighing?
The theme to the shoot: “Ugly Pretty.” And also “bye bye, two of you.” Yes, it was double-elimination time, which sent the ladies positively reeling. What sent me reeling was how crazypants everyone looked. Black lipstick is tough, weird-ass Helena Bonham Carter hair is tough, corsets are tough, and 1776 costume castoffs as seen through a cloud of Peyote smoke, well, that’s tough too.
In any case, Krista did a good job, Alexandra looked sort of like Lauren Ambrose on crack, Raina pronounced “corset” strangely, and Angelea couldn’t follow Jay’s directions. It was pretty much business as usual, considering the business is doing ridiculous things and pretending it’s not absurd.
“I’m not here to have Angelea hang out with me,” Mr. Jay insisted. He was thisclose to uttering the reality catchphrase of the century, “I’m not here to make friends.” Oh well. That probably would have destabilized the entire universe if a non-contestant had said it.
Back at the house, Krista had like 19 different little jewelry boxes to open, and some of the other modeltestants noted that a few of the items were the same. It seemed like the nice thing to do would have been to share a little – how many weird silver feather necklaces does one person need? – but whatever, she won them fair and square.
Judging time! Everyone was all dressed up… except for Alexandra, who was wearing gold-buttoned sailor-front shorts. My eyes! Those shorts were not doing her any favors, but given André’s robes and Tyra’s jumpsuits this season, she hasn’t had a lot to learn from. It’s like in Nell, how the isolated twins learned to speak a weird distorted language with each other. This whole show is like Nell language, but with terrible clothes. Tay ina wiiin!
Raina’s photo was fantastic, but she was sporting some intense side eyes, and she was scolded for being too pretty. (Not a thing. This dish is too delicious, please send it back to the kitchen.) Angelea’s photo was out of focus. Like, completely and totally out of focus, so the close-up of her face was blurry and strange. Luckily, no one mentioned it. How does that get ignored? Nigel is a photographer, and everyone has working eyeballs, yet no one felt the need to acknowledge that Angelea’s photo was a technical disaster. Krista, who had reattached her ponytail, had far and away the best photo, and Alexandra looked sort of off.
And then the judges engaged in the most meaningless conversation ever about “ugly pretty” not edging to “ugly ugly.” It was basically this, but not funny:
Blah blah blah, it went on forever. This week's winner: Krista! She bugged out, predictably, and then made that familiar Top Model math mistake of claiming that she now had a 50/50 chance of winning. False! It's only 50/50 if the winner is chosen at random! There are other factors at play here. Come on, people. A little math literacy is all I ask. (Well, it's almost all I ask for. I also ask for Diet Cokes, as far as the eye can see.)
Which two were going to be sent a-packin', and who was going to move on? By now, there wasn't really any suspense: Alexandra had failed to deliver at any point in the competition, and Angelea had been slipping for weeks. Raina had the advantage of being really beautiful and good at modeling, so I wasn't all that surprised when she made the cut. Farewell, Angelea, and thanks for squeezing in "bitch" just one more time. Also, nice leopard-print bra! (I lame the Nell factor again -- Tyra's bra, after all, has been showing at various points all season.) Bye, Alexandra! You were a non-entity!
Whew! That's usually where I'd wrap up my recap. But we have a whole other episode to go. To my complete shock, this finale episode was solid, and it even contained emotions. Like a real show, almost.
"Holy schnike," Raina said, because that is totally a saying. Back in the day, Tommy Boy fans, myself included, dropped a "holy schnikey" or two, but an abbreviation that rhymes with "hike"? Not allowed. Also, Raina's only 22 -- Tommy Boy-ish references this week, a Full House one last week... isn't she a teeny bit young for those? Here's hoping she busts out some Empty Nest references next.
Raina and Krista gushed about being in the top two, but I was pretty distracted by the flipped-over bed in the corner and what seemed to be writing on the sliding door. What the hell did they do to this apartment?
A helicopter ride and some sumptuous landscape porn later, Krista and Raina were in new, un-destroyed digs, where they were presented with the script for their Makeup Company commercial. It's this point in every cycle where I wonder: Has no one on this show ever gone to middle school? I know rote memorization isn't a particularly sophisticated pedagogical technique, but didn't you guys have to take quizzes? I can still rattle off the first 10 elements on the periodic table, recite the first chunk of the Gettysburg Address, and get through most of the Greek alphabet (but only to the tune of "boomdeyadda”). No one else? How hard is memorizing what seems to be a one-minute monologue? Use the method of loci and pull yourselves together, modeltestants.
Last season’s winner, Bloody Eyeball Nicole, was on hand to coach the girls, but I was too distracted by her strangely ratty and too-orange hair. This made me a sad panda. Nicole’s hair was so perfect, even in humidity last season. She gave curly-haired ladies such as myself a shred of hope. Oh, well.
Raina’s glamor shot went well, but Krista froze during the commercial shoot. Duh. This happens every single cycle. Raina also flubbed her lines a few times, and Krista looked a little harsh in the still shots. Maybe it’s because her bedtime attire appeared to be a heavy-duty sleep mask, a scarf, and a gigantic velvet (?) blanket/hood over her face. I guess she really means business when she goes to sleep.
The Seventeen shoot was nondescript, even if they seemed to skip over the magazine’s primary purpose, which as I remember it was to tell tween girls that using tampons doesn’t mean you’re not a virgin. Apparently there’s also fashion stuff?
And then the whole season seemed to redeem itself (well, almost), when Tyra surprised Krista and Raina with a visit from their families. Krista’s mom and stepdad and Raina’s father were there, and they each did a family portrait photo shoot. I am not above admitting that I got a little choked up. It was very adorable! I just wish we had seen those photos at panel. Oh, well, again, times infinity.
Half the season’s cast got to walk in the Anna Sui fashion show along with the two finalists, but the show itself didn’t seem nearly chaotic enough, based on previous cycles, Project Runway, and the jillions of behind-the-scenes fashion TV shows and movies I’ve apparently watched. Where were the bare breasts? The too small shoes? The Polaroid wall? The panicky intern with a headset? This hardly seemed like a real fashion show at all! What’s that? It wasn’t? Oh.
Raina’s walk was slow and sort of stampy, while Krista’s was more graceful, but it was tough to see either through the bizarre and worthless filter the show used for this part. I’m glad a music video from the early ’90s was so inspiring for everyone, but it was seriously distracting as a viewer.
Backstage, Tyra tried to trick Raina and Krista into saying things that were personal and meaningful, as if she gave a rat’s ass. Once upon a time, Tyra used to go to the models’ house and talk to all of them about, oh, body issues and girl fights and stuff, and then everyone had one-on-one sessions where they bonded with Tyra and often cried. Nowadays, we get two measly, poorly thought-out questions backstage after a fashion show. Thumbs down.
Time for judging, again! Tyra’s jumpsuit this time appeared to be an avant garde architectural interpretation of a Grimace costume. Raina’s feathery skirt had a bustle/tail, and Krista’s shoes were ridiculous pouf balls. It was…a lot of look.
Raina’s beauty shot was gorgeous, but André said she didn’t glow enough. Krista’s close-up was my least favorite photo of her all cycle – it was harsh and sort of flat. The commercial was atrocious (that was a given, right?), and neither woman really distinguished herself with her on-camera style: Raina was squinting, but Krista looked a bit pained and sweaty.
So who would it be? Krista or Raina? Chalk or cheese, per Nigel’s description? No eyebrows or serious eyebrows? America’s next top model is…
I was a tiny bit sad for Raina, but her sunny disposition seemed to be fully intact, and it’s tough to argue with a winner as gorgeous and consistent as Krista. Are most “real” models pretty much retired by the time they’re 25? Sure. Does reality affect this show in any way? Obviously not.
So, there you have it, Model Citizens. Another cycle down. Despite a pretty good finale, this season was a dud at best, rock bottom at worst. Krista deserved to win, but does the show deserve to go on? How would you save it? And what was Tyra’s worst jumpsuit of the season?