"Alek Wek" -- Photographer Mike Rosenthal and Jay
Keith Staskiewicz
March 03, 2011 AT 06:11 AM EST

Oh, there you are, Top Model. There you are. Like many of you, I felt last week’s perfunctory meet-and-greet premiere, minus even the guaranteed craziness of casting week, felt a little sluggish, a little toned down, a little un-fierce. Where was the drama? Where was the irrational sobbing? Where was the usual nonsensical chaos that makes a Dr. Seuss book look like a Ken Burns documentary?

Ask and ye shall receive. Those thirsting for backstory got it immediately as Molly, last week’s elimination winner, talked about her adoptive parents, whom she credits with everything except, you know, the genes that allow her to be a model. Dominique and Ondrei reclined on the couch dining on pizza and Coke—which differs dramatically from the traditional model regimen of not-pizza and coke—and making small talk. You know, the usual, “I was born in New York but I consider myself more of a West Coast girl,” or “My favorite color is rainbow,” or “Two of my brothers died.” Wait, what? Out of nowhere that bombshell was dropped with the casualness of a handkerchief from the dainty Southern fingertips of the debutante Miss Jaclyn.

Man, the sudden mood shifts on Top Model are exhausting. I swear, the show has more mismatched tones than a deaf barbershop quartet. Ondrei’s revelation, coupled with the double whammy that one of her brothers died the day before her prom, and the dodeca-whammy that it was only a couple of months ago, really made you wonder whether this whole episode was going to be a downer. But nope, because all you need is a change in music and a quick hustling-bustling Koyaanisqatsi-style skyline shot and we’re on to Dominique talking about all the terrible foods she eats, including noodles, tortilla chips, syrup, clarified lard, ice cream sandwich sandwiches, and fried caramel-coated meatballs. That girl clearly has the metabolism of a black hole.

But since not everyone has the benefit of suffering from a gypsy Thinner curse, Tyra decided to trot out both her nutritionist, Heather Bauer, and, for no discernible reason, her best Jacques Cousteau impression. Heather and Tyra, in a French accent, unveiled their healthy secret weapon: “cheaties.” Tyra went on to explain that cheaties are “things that seem bad, but aren’t,” like peanut-butter waffles or that time you accidentally made out with your cousin at the family reunion. Cheaties is also the breakfast cereal of choice for adulterers everywhere. (Unlike Wheaties, they are not guiltless, but like Wheaties, they’ve had Tiger Woods appear on the box several times.)

Drama—with a capital D, like four r’s, and jazz hands—reared its ugly head when some of the roomies found a bowlful of Alexandria’s raw barbecue chicken in the fridge, which they said had been there for days despite the fact that this was only day 2. How is that possible? And when did Alexandria have the time to buy chicken? Did she bring it with her in her suitcase? Regardless of its origins, Dalya freaked out over the unsanitary poultry—although I’m not 100 percent sure whether she knows that Sal Monella isn’t the name of a hot new Italian designer—and, of course, Alexandria didn’t back down. Let it be known that when the rivalry of Dalya and Alexandria finally reaches hair-pulling proportions and we ponder the original casus belli, it was all over a bit of uncooked chicken. It’s like the War of Jenkins’ Ear except a lot cattier and it won’t be on the test.

NEXT: What’s that buzzing sound?

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