After last week's seasonal high point, ''ANTM'' comes back down to earth: Brooke misses her H.S. graduation, Jaeda misses her hair, Tyra misses the point... at least we had Fabio

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated October 26, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Brooke: De Yonker/The CW

”Top Model”: Wherefore art thou, Fabio?

Hard to say what was the bigger disappointment tonight, niblets: the World Series rainout, or this episode of America’s Next Top Model. I’m not sure what I was expecting after last week’s glorious festival of splendor, but tonight’s show was scattershot, dull, marginally offensive in a couple ways, and for the first time this season, I felt the effect of the writers’ strike. And save for a brief cameo from someone famous/hideous, it was actually pretty depressing, too.

[Quick: When I said ”famous/hideous,” who did you think I was referring to? If your first instinct was to say ”Atoosa ‘Jigsaw’ Rubenstein,” you’re technically incorrect… but do you wanna hang out sometime?]

Yes, only Fabio’s participation stopped tonight from being a soul-sucking self-esteem matrix in which Jaeda whined about her hair, Anchal whined about her weight, and Eugena whined about the whining. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. We also heard a little from Brooke about how she’s missing her high school graduation — she got a care package from her mom full of celebratory decorations and proudly put them up in her corner of the dorm room, even taping a copy of her diploma on the mirror. It was really sweet. It also marked her as a Dead Man Walking from about the fifth minute of the show, but I think we all pretended we didn’t know that, right?

Eventually, Melrose just happened to wander into the backyard, where there was a setup for a shoot. And by gosh, who should be the photographer but… Tyra! Yes, it was time for the traditional Tyra-puts-thick-black-eye-makeup-on-the-girls-and-sticks-up-their-hair-and-tells-’em-to-look-angry photo shoot, this year with goth contact lenses that turned the gals into creepy-eyed sewage monsters. I had very little response to this except to hope they weren’t sharing those contacts. That’s just a hotbed for pinkeye.

Next, the gals traveled to a nightclub where they were greeted by their hairdresser, Sutan, who was all dolled up in drag. And as we all know, on ANTM, the appearance of a drag queen = time for a lesson on femininity! Sutan brought out Dita Von Teese to give a burlesque demonstration and coach the girls in being sexy, and the gals made writhing, choppy, juvenile stabs at this concept. This was all intended to assist them in the challenge: using the dinner table of Cathy Gould, director of Elite Model Management, as a runway. To model the contents of my closet from 1985. While people were eating. This was odd. Melrose won; the prize was an Atoosa-rrific editorial shoot for Seventeen; everyone rolled their eyes. CariDee channeled the ghost of A.J. — ”Good for her. She wins again.” — and my inner monologue begged, don’t go down that dark path, CariDee. Please. Go towards the light.

The main photo shoot this week had the girls appearing on the covers of fake romance novels, and the TyraMail introducing it was particularly overdone, a swooning paragraph from a faux-Harlequin text that included the phrase, ”he yearned for her modelesque, yet Rubenesque body” (to which I gave a hearty B.S. sneeze). This, in case you haven’t guessed, would be where Fabio comes in: They’d all be posing with him. More specifically, they’d all be draped in him. Swathed in him. Immersed in Fabio breath. Basted in the face of Fabio. Etc. The entire process was so nauseating, I could barely keep down my nightly bottle and a half of Shiraz.

The pictures turned out fine, if slightly blah; CariDee and Melrose, as usual, came out on top. (Keep up that excellence, Melrose, and let the haters hate away…) At judging, Tyra & Co. basically had a choice between two gals: Jaeda, whose Tyra shot was good because of the contact lenses and whose Fabio shot was horrid and bland; and Eugena, whose Tyra shot was good because of the contact lenses and whose Fabio shot demonstrated that she continues to have no modeling ability whatsoever, plus she got yelled at tonight for having an attitude problem.

Somehow, though, the final two turned out to be Eugena and… Brooke. And they voted off… Brooke.

Brooke, who was missing her high school graduation, literally, during that panel. Brooke, whose Fabio shot was crinkly and not great but who’d never taken a picture half as bad as the ones Jaeda takes on her best days. Brooke, who Nigel deemed ”too pageanty,” probably just because she’s not moping around calling herself fat and complaining about her hair all the time. Brooke, who made the mistake of breaking down while still in the judging room and thus elicited the following words of consolation from Tyra: ”Oh, Brooke? One thing I heard you say was you wish could be at graduation right now? And there are a lot of other girls graduating?… Do you know how many of them would rather be in your place?” Oh, shut it, Banks!! I screamed at the television, channeling all the energy I’d stored up for the baseball game. Let the girl have her cry!!

But was that the worst thing Tyra managed to pull out of her cleavage this week? No. No it was not. The worst was the way she treated poor Michelle, after the gayer of the two twins admitted that she was uncomfortable in bed with Fabio because she’d never been in bed with a man before. That’s a pretty brave thing to admit, pretty personal… so did Tyra exhibit anything that could be called sisterly compassion for this girl who is struggling to come to terms with her sexuality while on national television? No. She hollered at Michelle for making an excuse, told a story about how when she was 15 and a virgin she still knew how to ravage men because she is Tyra Banks and she has always known everything about everything ever, and tossed her back in line.

To this, I say: Come on, Tyra. You cannot be both people, ”empowering” them and tearing them down in the next breath. Yes, Michelle made an excuse. Yes, if Michelle wants to be a ”top model,” she needs to get over her fear. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you show a little sympathy for the tomboy/possible lesbian who had her cuddle-virginity flower taken by Fabio. No one should have to go through that. No one. And you owe me a bottle and a half of Shiraz.

Now it’s your turn: Did Brooke get a raw deal? Was Tyra too tough on Michelle? What did you think of the photo shoot with Fabio? Is anybody going to be able to beat out Melrose?

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America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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