You wanna be on top? Well, you better crouch down — it’s shortie season, PopWatchers, and time for episode 3: “Fortress of Fierceness.” I miss when they called the episodes “The Girl who [did something interesting],” and honestly, this name is way off base for the episode. How about “Smize Matters”? Anyway, let’s get down to biznaz!

Bianca reminded us that she landed in the bottom two last week “not because of [her] performance, because of [her] mouth,” which is the only moment of decent self-awareness we got from her all night. Rachel told us she’s a Wal-Mart cashier, and my heart beat a special beat for Walgreen’s cashier Shandi for a hot minute. Miss you. Also, show, stop showing us the video where Courtney breaks her foot! Gaaah. (Spoiler: They’re going to stop showing it.)

Courtney decided to “push herself” by not wearing her injury-protecting boot anymore, and let me just take a second to tell all you recap-readers out there in Internetland: This is unwise. Take it from a girl with a long history of ridiculous clumsiness and absurd accidents that require trips to orthopedists: This is not pushing yourself or proving anything. Immobilize, immobilize, immobilize. That’s how it heals! Lecture over, and yes, there will be a quiz.

Anyway, the girls met Sean Patterson of Wilhemina modeling agency. He and Nigel asked the girls one by one to make a good impression, and uh, some of the them did okay I guess? Has no one been on a job interview, ladies? Jennifer told us she has ptosis, which causes her left eyelid to droop, and which Nigel and Sean misidentified as a lazy eye. Poor Rachel completely tanked, and Sundai remained 5’3”.

Then, shocker! Seriously, shocka-khan! One girl got cut right then and there, and the unlucky lady was Ole Bambi eyes. I’m very sad to see Rachel get the bounce so early, mostly because she seemed like a peach. Catch you on the flip side, Rachel.

The women then headed to a “photo shoot,” where some poor schlub had to act like a mean photographer for five seconds until Tyra showed up and did this bizarre act dressed as a superhero. Then everyone said “smeyes” 900 times, which means, duh, smile with your eyes. I simply cannot abide by Tyra’s spelling of it, though, “smize.” Where would that Z come from? (Satan.) I’m going with “smeyes,” y’all.

This is where I really started worrying about the camp factor of this season. I’ve seen less campy drag shows, and more earnest reenacted performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show. The worst part was that all the women went along with it, telling the camera that “Super Smeyes” did such-and-such. Pssst, you guys, it’s just Tyra, being a lunatic!

But then something weird happened: The show had its single most instructive, interesting, reasonable, and worthwhile segment perhaps ever. Tyra went down the row of contestants and actually taught them how to smile with their eyes. “It’s amazing what Tyra can do with her eyes,” one said solemnly, and as badly as I want to laugh at that, it is totally true. Tyra acts pretty crazy — see: Super Smize [sic] — and says bizarre, sometimes incoherent things, but holy crap, does she ever know how to model. I so wish the show had more of this and less of the stupid stuff that came next, in which the women put on camel-toe factories spandex bodysuits and had a smeyes-off. The losers then had to wash dishes — reality-show bingo points because someone said “I’m not here to wash dishes” instead of “make friends” — and the winners got to eat dinner with Sean Patterson. Well, they said they got to eat dinner with him, but we saw five seconds of chit chat, zero eating, and nary a half-touched dish. Shenanigans?

This week’s photoshoot had the women pose topless, on a horse, next to a jockey. You know, for fashion. (Best jockey day ever? Here, take a break from the endemic bulimia and debilitating joint injury, and just have beautiful naked women drape themselves over you. Thank you.) The women were positively overjoyed to get naked, which again reflects that all these contestants have watched this show before. No one freaked out about makeovers, no one argued over which bed was hers (they were assigned, but still), no one minds stripping down to their, uh, super smeyes. I don’t even know you anymore, ANTM!

First up was Rae, whose butt cheeks got blurred out, then Jennifer, whose not-technically-lazy-eye is now the only thing I can see on her face, then Brittnay, then Mature Bloody Eyeball Nicole, who we barely got to see at all on this episode. I think my favorite line of the night was courtesy of the jockey: “Relax, girl!” he told Mature Nicole. I love you, jockey. Next was Ashley, who gives me a total Joy Bryant vibe, then Erin, who’s a dead ringer for Brooke from season 7, then the ebullient Laura who “just like[s] nudity.” Laura is working her way into my heart, you guys. Lulu was a little awkward, and Courtney was a grouch about wearing her stupid walking cast. Bianca was in a hidjus blonde wig that didn’t not look like E.T.’s wig, so it seemed a little unfair that Jay said she needed to look “a little less she-man.” Kara was deemed “hard,” Sundai was deemed too adorable for words (by me).

At judging, the models were all indeed wearing flats again. This week’s guest judge: Lauren Conrad, who we heard seven words from the entire panel. Why bring on guest judges if they never get to say anything? At least Twiggy would remind us that the camera loved people. Ashley’s photo was a test shot they had to edit a crew member out of because all her other shots were too posed. (“1982 catalog,” according to Tyra. Snap.) Jennifer was told she needs to “figure that eye out,” Rae was told the “freaky” photo kept her from being “hooch,” and everything else was boring.

This week’s winner: Erin! Her photo, while lovely, did not convey smeyes to me so much as the previously desirable fierceness, but asking this show to be consistent is like asking Glen Beck to just chill. Brittany, Laura, Nicole, Kara, Jennifer, Sundai, Rae, Lulu, and Ashley are safe. (Do they mix up the order in the middle? No way was Jennifer’s photo better than Sundai’s.) Will Courtney and Bianca please step forward? Bianca was unpleasant, but Courtney’s photo was worse, allegedly, so the spikey-haired, broken-footed would-be star was sent packing. I so vastly preferred Courtney to Bianca by the end of this episode that I was actually sad to see her go, but given the blandness of most of the other contestants, the show sort of needs Bianca to keep things interesting. And by “interesting” I mean irrationally mean-spirited. When you accidentally put dirty dishes in a dishwasher — as we have all done — just take them out? And say “whoops”? Duh?

Some additional observations about the episode:

++ Rae is still my fave, but I think Sundai could be the sleeper hit of the season. I don’t find her modeling that compelling, but she is fantastically cute and could pass for a lot younger than 18; I would not be surprised to see her on a soap or crappy sitcom or something in the next few years.

++ There was a lot crammed into this episode. I appreciate that the show knows it needs a lot of action to stay interesting, but the trip to Wilhemina, Rachel getting cut, the smeyes lesson, the spandex challenge, the dinner, and then the photoshoot? It seemed like one thing too many. I like more info at the judging panel — was it that Courtney didn’t have potential? Why was Erin’s photo better than Laura’s? — and I wouldn’t mind getting juuuust a little more information about each contestant.

++ Tyra wants “smize” to happen so badly it’s off-putting. Desperation is a stinky cologne, Tyra, and the harder she tries to make this a new thing, the harder I’m going to resist. I know “fierce” has fully entered the lexicon, but I think it hit its tipping point thanks to Christian Siriano’s constant — and wildly irritating — use of the term.

What did you think, PopWatchers? Are you keeping your smeyes peeled? Smeyes on the prize? Smeyes and ears and mo-houth ah-hand nose? Who’s your early favorite?

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