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''Next Top Model'': The girls get their freak on

A display of hidden insecurities at the house brings Tyra over for group therapy — and then everyone goes to the Freak Show

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Melrose: De Yonker/The CW

”Next Top Model”: The girls get their freak on

Aw, man. The dramaturgical work on this season’s America’s Next Top Model has just been outstanding. First, the most unbalanced girl in the history of ever gets sent home during the episode about balance, and this week the freakiest freak of them all gets sent home after an ep about circus folk? It’s like Ibsen in here! I get it! Hedvig is the wild duck! Nora lives in the doll’s house! Oh, it is all too much!

Let’s start with your science lesson for the week: Nature abhors a vacuum. And so in the wake of Monique’s wet underwears we were left with 10 girls fighting to figure out who’s the most insecure by spending their ample spare time ragging on each other. Melrose and Jaeda bitched about Anchal in the jacuzzi; Anchal, CariDee, Megg and A.J. hung upstairs smoking and declaring that everyone else was fake. Early leaders for Best New Headcase include Anchal, who thinks she’s fat, and Jaeda, who still can’t get over her haircut. Meanwhile, Melrose chose to deal with her Grandpa complex by yapping a lot of Jade-like nonsense, and every shot of the Wonder Twins looked like it should be subtitled ”We Are Not Really Here Please Point The Camera Elsewhere Seriously We Would Be Fine If Only You’d Give Us A Basketball.”

Yes, without PsychMo hogging all the camera time, we got a nice little peek at every last one of these weirdos… and how they’re eventually going to turn on each other. It got so bad Tyra even had to come in and do a little Oprah sit-down. Here’s what I learned: When you’re pretty, it is apparently hard. And when you are the kind of pretty that gets you on this show (that is to say, so pretty you might not be pretty at all) it is even harder. I want to feel bad for the girls, but at the same time, I want them to know that they are here for my entertainment, and darn right they will develop complexes, because I demand it. Plus, all they had to do was look around them this week to see who the real freaks were. Let’s talk about our guest stars:

1. Stacey McKenzie (Model, judge on Canada’s Next Top Model): Let’s just say that if Jaeda had concerns about her personal mannish tendencies, she need not worry any longer. Taught the girls about posing.

2. Jonathan Nosan (Contortionist, modeling coach, pocket-sized man in tights): Taught the girls about pulling muscles.

3. Bao Tranchi (Designer, very well known for her decadent collections): I know this because she introduced herself as ”I’m designer Bao Tranchi, and I’m very well known for my decadent collections.” Then she tossed her head, and ate her own shoulder. Administered the reward challenge, some pedestal-posing thing that Eugena won.

4. Erica Courtney (Famed jeweler involved in reward challenge): Actually, she seemed kinda normal.

5. Atoosa Rubenstein (Editrix, Seventeen magazine; guest judge): I’m gonna get a phone call from her publicist for even mentioning her name (or at least I did when I mentioned her on the PopWatch blog, like I’d typed ”Beetlejuice” three times or something), but Toosie could not have appeared in a more appropriate episode, and I can only hope that she’ll soon be appearing as the Pale Self-Satisfied Lady in a sideshow near you. Seriously. Madame Tussaud called, and she wants her wax back. Also her wig. And her dress.

The big shoot took place out in a field filled with circus wagons, with each of the girls given a different freak to play. This was a tough challenge, since most of them had something giant obscuring their face or a very strange intention to play, and were simultaneously faced with a barrage of genius comments from Atoosa. (My fave: When she told Jaeda that ”the most beautiful pictures are where there’s, like, a real thing happening.” Like a circus sideshow, Toosie? Real like that? Or are we talking more of a Seventeen magazine relationship-quiz real?)

Save for Megg — who got stuck playing the Bearded Lady, a look so unenviable I actually began to pity her — everyone bore up under the bizarre pretty well. Still, I haven’t the foggiest idea what you could sell with A.J.’s bloody cannibal mouth or CariDee’s elephant nose, not to mention Michelle and Amanda’s airbrushed-together Siamese Twins forehead or Melrose’s wrinkly brow. Melrose, by the way, was made up to be the ”Old Face With A Young Body,” whatever the hell that is. (Atoosa thought she hit it out of the ballpark!)

Judging seemed weirdly rushed this evening, with Tyra even breezing right past a comment about how the fashion industry is just brainwashing us into thinking things are fabulous. (What? Atoosa? Did you know that??) Megg broke down when she saw the tragic photo of her bearded self, making me feel even worse for her, and Jaeda seems to have fallen into that beloved ANTM trope of ”Pretty Girl Completely Devoid of Personality.” These two were your well-earned bottom two, and thanks in large part to concerns that she, too, may be unbalanced, the judges sent Megg home. To paraphrase Sleater-Kinney, that’s no rock n’ roll fun, and CariDee and A.J. both looked like someone ran over their dog. Look, I know I wanted Megg gone, but this was not the way I envisioned it. Is it just me, or had she actually calmed down a boatload? I guess I just expected more. More screaming. Or maybe hair extensions on fire?

Anyway, should be interesting in the coming weeks to watch this group continue to devolve into the nervous wrecks we know they’re all capable of becoming. So will the remaining members of the Rock Squad take on the Hot Tub Hussies in a Battle Royal for all the chips? There’s gotta be a Zoltar machine around here somewhere with the answer. Also: Anyone else catch those scenes from next week? I smell a Very Special Episode!

Were you surprised Megg got the hook instead of Jaeda? Melrose vs. Anchal: Are more tears ahead? What did you make of this week’s guest stars? And how about that teaser for next week?