Huge ups to the lovely Mandi for taking over ANTM duties for me, but huge downs on this episode: The commercial weeks are aaaaaalways my least favorite, and the elimination seemed really off to me. The tears, the freaky eyebrow roots, and the best robot I’ve seen on television since Futurama left us — let’s do this, PopWatchers!

Indulge me as I start off with an extended metaphor. Once upon a time, I was a camp counselor in scenic New Hampshire, where I taught swimming. Like any normal person, I owned a handful of bathing suits, and usually the wear it/dry it out/wear it schedule worked great. But here’s the thing about scenic New Hampshire: It rains. And sometimes, it’s chilly. And sometimes? That means the bathing suits that were drying on the clothesline behind the cabin got wet all over again. Have you ever had to put on a wet bathing suit on a chilly New England morning? It’s unpleasant, filled with a level of dread and repulsion that are radically out of proportion to how bad it actually is. The worst part is the waiting for it; Once it’s on, it’s really not that bad, but standing there, with your sad damp suit, knowing the swampy coldness that awaits you…It’s pretty miserable. And that’s approximately how I felt sitting down to tonight’s ANTM: I loathe commercial week, and I’m still not crazygonuts about any of these contestants. Sure, it turned out okayish, but those moment as I fired up the ole TiVo and waited for the episode to start sent a shiver through me.

Anyhow, we opened on the least evocative skyline of all time: Los Angeles! We saw a picture of Rae’s adorable daughter and learned that Nicole is a bit awkward but trying to fit in a little. We also learned that Laura is dyslexic, which came up when she was reading Tyra Mail and couldn’t tell if it was spelled correctly or not.

The ladies headed off to their challenge, where they were greeted by comedian Ant and Lara Spencer, who is apparently the host of The Insider. I would bet good money that the modeltestants had no idea who either of these people are. The women each did an improv exercise-cum-interview with Ant playing different characters, which is basically what journalism school is like.

For their next trick, the ladies were forced to interview poor Jessica Lowndes from 90210. It was excruciatingly awkward, particularly because they all had to ask her the same questions. And then the teleprompter went out and everyone had to think for herself! Two things: Reading off a teleprompter can be tough if you’ve never done it before, so even though everyone seemed incredibly bad at just reading, we should give them at least a little more credit. Two, I liked the “oh no, the prompter went out!” fake crisis better when it was known as the show Dream Job. Blerg.

The winner of the challenge: Erin! Those eyebrows are growing in a little, and they are growing in scary! The judges — Ms. Spencer and the Seventeen editor lady — said that she was charming. Then the show cut to Sundai who shouted in her confessional “Erin is not charming at all!” This was far and away the best moment of the episode, and definitely in the running for the best moment of the season. Erin’s prize was having her photo in a beauty article in Seventeen, photographed by a very poor man’s old Demetri Martin.

Then it was time for the challenge: to write and then perform their own Cover Girl commercials. I was shocked how lucid most of their copy was — I mean, former Top Model contestants have believed dinosaurs were elephants’ ancestors. This is not a show known for the intelligence and clear thinking of its participants. Or judges. Or hosts. But apparently these shorties are everyday Peggy Olsons, because their little segments were pretty decent. Nigel Barker was on hand to direct, and he started with Jennifer, whose paralyzed eye did not seem to hold her back one bit. I was so hoping her commercial would be along the lines of “even if your eye is paralyzed from ptosis, you can still be beautiful with this make-up,” but I guess I’ll learn to live with disappointment.

The others who followed were largely blah, and we got our traditional line-flub suckstravangaza that we get every year. Brittany had her lines memorized perfectly but was too wooden. Nigel busted out an amazing robot impression to make fun of her in his confessional, but it wasn’t good enough to bump Sundai’s outburst from the top slot. Close, though, Nigel. Close. Laura told Nigel her dyslexia makes it hard for her to memorize things, and she struggled through her lines a bit.

And then Erin had a full-on meltdown. So much crying! So, so much. Nigel tried to pep talk her, almost, but mostly she just cried more. Sundai basked in a moment of schadenfreude, and I had to fast forward, because if I wanted to watch women weep uncontrollably for no real reason, I’d hang out in the bathrooms of expensive, annoying bars patronized by college students.

At judging, Tyra stood incredibly awkwardly, as if she’d gotten like, shoulder botox or something. Truly the strangest posture we’ve seen from her, and that’s saying something. Our guest judge was Kim Kardashian, who I guess knows a thing or two about being yourself on camera.

Jennifer’s commercial was widely praised, although I found it a bit bouncy and pose-y. Laura’s commercial was sort of a wreck, less because she had trouble with her lines and more because she doesn’t enunciate very well. The first part of her segment sounded like Kenneth the Page’s impression of how the “Hill People” sound. I expected her to offer us “bonus” turtle meat at the end. Rae’s commercial was pretty rough; she was sort of rolling her eyes through the whole thing, and she seemed like she had drunk-neck, where her head was just sort of barely staying upright. Brittany’s commercial was too forced, and Tyra scolded her for not incorporating her passion for math into her segment.

Look, I also have a passion for math — wow, you guys are learning so much about me today! TMI, Marge! — but I’m not sure how that could possibly be applied to this arena, Tyra’s suggestion of one plus one equaling three notwithstanding. (Why the face?!) The mathematicians I know, while lovely people, are not known the world over for their ease and social comfort, nor are they famously well-groomed or sexy or telegenic. Applying one’s math-self to selling makeup sounds like a losing proposition to me.

This week’s winner: Jennifer! Nicole, Brittnay, and Sundai are safe. Will Rae and Erin’s matching hair please step forward? Rae didn’t stand out enough; Erin wept like a child. So Tyra sent home my beloved Rae, my early fave, and kept the uncharming Erin. Boo! A thousand times boo. Play her off, farewell autotune yodel.

Some additional thoughts:

++ Nicole is incredibly grating, but she is a very good model, and I thought her commercial was a lot more watchable than Jennifer’s. (Give me droll over perky any day. Especially in the morning.) I cannot get over how good her hair looks most of the time, though I didn’t love it straightened at panel. At the Insider thing, though? Holy moly! She’s definitely the best model left, but I can’t imagine her winning.

++ Sundai is hilarious. Her commercial was a little too Billy Mays-ish, but I completely stand by my assertion that she is the most likely to go on to other things. She’s so cute! And pleasant! She’s a little elf of good-sportiness.

++ Boy did I ever miss Janice Dickenson tonight. Remember when they had to interview Janice, and everyone accidentally called her a bitch, and then she complained because she’s in the PTA? The three seconds it took for me to remember that fondly were more enjoyable than that entire Insider segment. Le sigh.

Who’d you find easy and breezey, PopWatchers?

Episode Recaps

Trya Banks
America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel

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