And now for another episode of Sad but True: Every Wednesday afternoon I distract my coworkers Dawnie Walton and Annie Barrett by marching up to their desks, putting on my very best Tyra voice, and posing the Dramatic Question: ”Who? Will be eliminated tonight?” This ritual is a source of great amusement, or at least great procrastination, resulting in heated conversations about the relative merits of the remaining contestants on America’s Next Top Model. (Last week we all correctly guessed Ambreal, but then again, everyone but her parents saw that one coming.)
Anyhow, wouldn’t you know that after a season’s worth of completely predictable ousters, we’d end up getting a nail-biter of an episode smack dab on Thanksgiving Eve? Making matters worse — and in the interest of full disclosure — I was already scheduled to travel to my mom’s house Wednesday night, so I had to beg the folks at The CW to send me an advance copy of this week’s show in order to file my column early, and not miss the Thursday-afternoon tryptophanfest going down at my sister Debby’s. The only problem is, those paranoid CW publicists cut off the last five minutes! So now I’m writing this TV Watch without knowing the answer to my all-important weekly question. (That said, if my mother figures out how to work her VCR, I’ll log back on in the wee hours and weigh in with a PS about this week’s results.)
On the other hand, it’s kind of freeing to write this column without knowing which contestants will cause Miss J.’s afro to grow another inch next week. Unencumbered by the judges’ final verdict, here’s my take on the performance of the six remaining ladies, ranked from best to worst:
Positives Unlike most of her competitors, Saleisha doesn’t need subtitles to be understood — maybe they taught enunciation at Camp Tyra? — and that’s a huge advantage, especially in light of the way Jaslene’s been lisping and stammering and trying to mute her accent during those unspeakable ”My Life as a Cover Girl” ads. (Side note: After last week’s Wal-Mart debacle, I’m pretending these spots simply do not exist.) Indeed, Saleisha’s CoverGirl spot was the only one that seemed remotely ready for prime time.
Negatives Setting aside the heinous mushroom Ken Paves sewed to her head, Saleisha’s photos always seem to warrant a B plus more than an A. I can’t believe I’m going to pull a Tyra here, but this week’s grinning, squinty-eyed photo said ”pretty girl” to me, and not ”model.”
Bottom line Saleisha’s got a sweet-but-no-pushover personality — remember her shouting match with Bianca earlier this season? — that the judges are likely to reward. And without any glaring flaws, she’s edging her way closer to the final three.
Positives This week’s print-ad shot — head thrown back with abandon, eyes closed, arms reaching skyward — had the potential to be a hot mess, but it turned out gloriously. Indeed, Jenah uses her peculiar features to deliver top-notch photographs with such consistency that you can’t write her off as a fluke. The girl knows what she’s doing in front of the camera.
Negatives Granted, she’s been saddled with a weave so heinous it makes Saleisha’s look like it came from the pages of Vogue, but there’s really no excuse for Jenah to show open disdain for the judges. They were right, her TV commercial contained all the joy and energy of a prison laborer breaking up boulders in the sun. I loved how Nigel dismissed her with that ”okay, well, I won’t tell you again, then,” when Jenah lethargically shrugged that she understood his critique.
Bottom line Based on photos alone, Jenah has to be considered the front-runner, but it’s hard to ignore Tyra’s use of phrases like ”not sure she’s so invested in this competition.” Plus, as a reality-TV character, Jenah has all the freshness of month-old salad greens.
Positives After seeing Heather’s gorgeous, smiling, front-view shot, it finally struck me who she looks like: Once and Again star Ever Carradine. Not only does Heather take a fierce photograph, it’s hard to root against the season’s awkward beauty when she dorks out with ”hell, yeah!” excitement over things like this week’s martial-arts challenge.
Negatives It pained me to watch Heather struggle with her CoverGirl Queen Collection commercial because, when she’s not trying to memorize her lines, she’s actually pretty articulate.
Bottom line How can you not fall in love with Heather, who gave ”tough love” to Bianca during the chop-chop challenge? As for the whiny baby who cried when it looked like she might not get her own bed? Maybe Heather needed tough love back at her.
Positives Perhaps the Kool-Aid I drank five or six weeks ago is still in my system, but every week I get excited about Lisa’s photos in a way that I don’t with most of her competitors’. Look at this week’s CoverGirl photo: Lisa managed to look sweet and playful without losing the odd, angular edge that’s her calling card.
Negatives To paraphrase that ditty from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, sheeeee is the woman of constant sorrow. There hasn’t been a moment in the last two weeks when Lisa didn’t look ready to burst into tears. And while I imagine her years spent working the pole as a bikini dancer took a toll on her self-confidence, it’s time to get it together, or go back to the Shanghai hotel suite, immediately pack her belongings, and go home.
Bottom line I’m praying Lisa’s reached the bottom of a carefully edited ”woe is me” phase, but I’m betting her elimination will be the talk of tuned-in Thanksgiving tables everywhere.
NEXT: Holiday turkey