America's Next Top Model recap: Tea and Apathy
It’s hard to believe that only four contestants are left. I’d like to say that time flies when you’re having fun, but unfortunately it also handcuffs itself to a lamppost when you’re not. With almost no real standouts, minimal drama, and about one personality to share among the four remaining models, trudging through this cycle has been a bit like walking through a swamp of Jell-O with two toddlers duct-taped to your legs. The season finale appears to be ever receding in the distance like a mirage in the Moroccan desert.
Or maybe I’m being too hard on the show.
But as if almost to demonstrate the lack of strong personalities in the Final Four, the models started the episode by going around the room and describing one another. This is what they came up with: Alexandria is a surfer girl with spice (presumably nutmeg, which is poisonous); Brittani is from a trailer park; Molly is scary; and Hannah, poor unmemorable Hannah, is “homeslice,” which is just the other girls’ polite way of saying that they’re not quite sure exactly who she is and how she got into their apartment. I mean, couldn’t they at least come up with one actual adjective? It’s like saying, “No way, Hannah, you’re totally distinctive! You’re the only one whose name is spelled the same forward as backward! Also, you know, that thing you do with the thing.”
Miss Jay interrupted the bonding session just in time to invite them to tea. Surprise! It was with Franca Sozzani, the editor-in-chief of what is, according to Top Model, the only magazine in the world: Vogue Italia. I always wonder how Italian consumers feel about their magazines being filled with pictures of winners from TV shows they don’t even get in their country. I imagine it’s especially confusing since the sexy models who win their reality competition shows are usually just rewarded with a plum job in Berlusconi’s cabinet, like Deputy Commissioner of Bending Over Slowly to Pick Up Stuff.
Each girl handed Franca her portfolio. Molly stayed quiet, but Brittani caught the editor’s eye by engaging her in conversation on a few topics, including, amazingly, the future of print journalism. Franca explained that she didn’t think that Vogue would ever end up entirely online, which I agree with. Until they invent a viable smell-modem, they’ll never be able to transmit all those perfume samples over the Internet. (By the way, don’t any of you even think about trying to invent a smell-modem. I’m on the verge of a patent.)
NEXT: A well-balanced meal
After teatime, the girls were introduced to a professional tea-tray dancer, who had spent years training to dance seductively while balancing a fully loaded tea tray on her head, an ancient Moroccan tradition that dates back to a time long ago when someone said, “Hey, I bet you can’t dance with that tea tray on your head.” Molly was at a disadvantage, since she has a naturally pointy head. Alexandria, on the other hand, has the flattened pate of a Dick Tracy villain, and so she was the favorite going into the challenge. The four models tried their hand at keeping the set on their heads, but ended up breaking more teaware than the March Hare.
Turns out, that was just practice, and for the challenge they would be doing it in front of a live audience. Molly dropped her tray, and an F-bomb, almost immediately. Brittani managed to dance well while keeping everything in place, but Hannah just kind of flailed her arms like tentacles. Alexandria, who was previously so proud of her planar skull structure, got a little too cocky and also lost her tray. Throughout the entire challenge, the camera kept cutting to the customers, who, with the exception of a madly ululating Miss J, looked confused and a little peeved. I’m not positive, but I think it was because NO ONE WAS GETTING ANY TEA! Everybody just kept dancing around with it on their heads, but nobody got their orders. Seriously, that’s some terrible table service. Someone should Yelp that.
Brittani won the challenge, and she and Hannah were given a special lesson in how to walk from Miss J, whose constructive criticism consisted of making goofy faces and yelling “Wrong!” Once that was done, the contestants wandered through the souk and ended up at a local food stand serving delicacies like eye and brain and, if they had only stayed longer, model. For all the cerebellum they munched on, I didn’t see anyone getting noticeably smarter, although it is important to note that by eating brains, Molly was finally able to sample the Weave Beast’s favorite food. In general, a mind is a terrible thing to taste, but the girls all seemed to down theirs with aplomb, with the exception of Brittani, who looked like she was about to faint like Kate Capshaw at the sight of monkey brains in Temple of Doom.
NEXT: Funky old medina
A Tyra Mail with what is officially the worst pun of the season (“The sweet smell of soukcess”) told the girls to head to Marrakech’s historical medina. There they were bedecked in henna and location-appropriate outfits. Jay was there to spout out advice that sounded like commercial slogans: “Live in that moment”; “Different expressions, different moments”; “Reach the destination.” Just from listening to him, I ended up buying two rings from Kay Jewelers and a Toyota.
Hannah tried for intensity but ended up with, as Jay put it, a question mark on her face when it should have been an exclamation point or, at the very least, an interrobang. Molly set her face into the hardened look of indifference and disdain that makes her my favorite contestant at this point as well as successful in these types of shoots. Alexandria, on the other hand, was given the first fez of the Morocco episodes, and while I’m sure she was going for Aladdin, she just ended up with Akbar and Jeff.
It started raining by the time Brittani was ready to be photographed. She explained that she was hoping to continue the narrative from the previous episode’s shoot, saying, “My story is I saw my destination on my camel and now I’m here.” Riveting! That’s some “hero’s journey” stuff right there. To be fair, Brittani was still reeling from the previous night’s brain food, so she probably didn’t have time to flesh it out into three acts.
At the judges’ table, designer Daniella Issa Helayel joined the Terrible Three. Tyra told Alexandria that her best photo wouldn’t be good enough for Vogue, but would probably be fine for Condé Nast Traveler. Bam! Periodical slam! Brittani evoked an air of mystery by leaning against the door with her face half-shrouded, but unfortunately it was the Mystery of the Missing Arm. Hannah looked confused, while Molly looked focused.
It was that focus that won the day for Molly, but Tyra warned her that she’d have to make more than just an intense, mean face, to which Molly responded with an intense, mean face. Personally, I think I’m going to root for Molly until the end. Her profanity is hilarious, and her constant eye-rolling is just what a show like this needs. While it’s clear that some of that apathy is affected, it’s nice to see someone who has a sense of perspective. Earlier in the episode, she pointed out that challenges don’t really ever have anything to do with who goes home, making her pretty much the first to my knowledge to actually realize this.
Brittani was the runner-up. I think it was clear from relatively early on that this was going to be the episode in which we would bid farewell to Alexandria, and so we did. But there was time for one last realization: I didn’t see it until they did the quick succession of her photos, but throughout the entire competition, Alexandria was just making the DreamWorks face.
The quartet is now a trio. Only Molly, Brittani, and Hannah remain and it’s anyone’s game, even Hannah’s. In fact, I could totally see the judges eliminating Molly and Brittani without even realizing that she was still in the competition and then she’d win by default. What do you think, good folks? Are you cheering for anyone? Perhaps a bloody finale in which the Weave Beast returns and leaves no one alive?
Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel