TV Recap

Jayla Time

On a notably undramatic episode of ''America's Next Top Model,'' the bland beauty self-destructs in the photo shoot, and the girls settle their differences

America's Next Top Model | NO-POP IDOL You couldn't pick Jayla out of the crowd
NO-POP IDOL You couldn't pick Jayla out of the crowd

''America's Next Top Model'': No more drama

You know, there's never really a bad time to quote Mary J. Blige. And for a large chunk of tonight's episode of America's Next Top Model, it seemed as if the four remaining contestants were heeding the righteous words to ''No More Drama,'' the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul's massive 2001 hit: ''It feels so good, when you let go of all the drama in your life. Now you're free from all the pain. Free from all the games. Free from all the stress. To find your happiness.''

Indeed, while last week's Granolagate scandal found a wild-eyed, sobbing, and self-righteous Bre locked in a bitter battle over stolen breakfast bars with Nicole, this week the duo unexpectedly took to sharing wine at a sidewalk cafe, strolling the streets of London with arms interlocked, and (gah!) spontaneously hugging. As for Jayla (a.k.a. Gummi Bear) and Nik, who've kept things icy cool since the ''stolen-secret scandal,'' they spent quality time together, too, working through past hostility by engaging in open and honest dialogue. It was all really evolved, and mature, and, well, tedious. Because while Mary J.'s words make for a good real-life mantra, they're hardly a road map for producing compelling reality television.

Not to worry, though. It's not like Tyra was ever going to let it go down like that. We're thisclose to the season finale. We don't want no stinkin' group hugs! I just didn't expect Nik — sweet, normal, stay-above-the-fray Nik — would be the one to crack open the first can of Haterade. Indeed, by failing to choose her best bud, Bre, to share her prize for winning the go-see challenge and selecting Nicole instead, Nik delivered a satisfying one-two punch of insult and injury that ended with Bre not being allowed to look in a mirror prior to her photo shoot. And as if that weren't enough, Nik followed up by shredding Bre in the confessional for dumping Nicole's Red Bulls down the sink: ''I think it was childish, and I think it was also evil.'' Amen to that! And amen to the fact that the sauciest pose striker in the bunch is also a closet strategist: Nik declared that her relationship with Bre was simply a matter of keeping an enemy close.

Not that Bre was looking all that threatening this week, what with the karma police roaring up to her hotel suite with a special delivery of fever and migraine. Riddle me this, though: Was I the only one who became immediately suspicious when Gummi Bear came to Bre's ''rescue'' with medicine? (Sue me: I'm still convinced Jayla is the one who stole Bre's breakfast treats. Did you catch that brief, wicked smile she fought back when Bre noted that, post-Granolagate, ''nobody sees me here as a good person''?)

Anyhow, even if I'm wrong about that, what kind of model doles out sleep-inducing meds — Benadryl and Tylenol PM — to a rival contestant right before her shoot?

An evil one, that's who.

Frankly, given Gummi's villain status and inability to conjure up more than a single facial expression (that'd be emotional deadness, for the uninitiated), I've been having a hard time understanding how she's lasted for so long, especially given the judges' decision to cut talented and smart (albeit wacky) Lisa at least two weeks too early.

Tonight's challenge, though, cleared up the situation. You see, had Lisa been around for the go-sees, she might've actually understood all those big, taxing words being bandied about. You know, like ''preppy,'' ''punk,'' ''sari,'' and ''Bollywood.'' (''I'm just assuming Hollywood,'' declared Nik, badly misinterpreting the definition of the last of those words. That's like saying if you replace the h in hat with a c and make it cat, it's pretty much the same thing.)

Of course, the contestants' failure to master both the English language and Fashion 101 led to some of the episode's unintentional comic highlights, including the quote of the season from Barneys exec Simon Doonan: ''No offense, Bre, but a crotch-length denim skirt is not the last word in preppy attire.'' Anybody want to ask Tyra if she can clear some space for this dude on the permanent judges' panel? If not him, then maybe the she-beast rep for Ben Sherman, who took one look at Nicole's ethereal white garment, then muttered, ''not by any country's interpretation of preppy.''

Nik, on the other hand, seemed much more comfortable assembling and working a variety of new looks, and the confidence boost she got for winning the challenge seemed to carry over to a photo shoot that made her competitors look sari. The way Nik created varied and magnificent lines with her body, all while maintaining a seductive, steely expression, gave the impression that she was an established pro just stopping by to give a tutorial to three up-and-comers.

Even though Nik's last two photo shoots have been vastly superior to her competitors', though, the judging panel seems determined to fault her. I hope it's for the sole purpose of creating some shred of suspense that she hasn't already locked up the whole shebang. How else to explain the complaint from Nigel — a man who drools openly and lasciviously over her at each elimination — that Nik lacks sex appeal? At least the ferocious-looking guest judge, Barbara Hulanicki, got it right, declaring Nik ''the beauty of all time.'' Testify, grandma!

As for Jayla, meanwhile, Mr. Jay noted that she makes the ''same flat, boring face'' at every shoot. Indeed, I had to rewind my DVR to pick her out of the crowd of Bollywood extras in her photo shoot. (''I guess since she didn't pop, she pooped,'' declared the increasingly random Miss J.) Conversely, there was no missing the lumpy heinousness that Gummi pulled together for her modern interpretation of classic Indian style. Not a pretty final impression, but neither was her parting shot: ''I'm gonna try to shadow the winner,'' she said. ''I am going to make her look like nothing. That is my goal.'' Sounds like someone needs to start listening to a little Mary J. Blige.

What do you think? With three contestants remaining, who's the front-runner? Do you agree with Bre's self-assessment that she's at the very least ''the fourth baddest bitch in America''? And were you surprised when Nigel turned out to be half Sri Lankan?

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Originally posted Dec 01, 2005