Cycle 16 comes to an end, and a new Top Model is crowned. Or appointed. Elected? I don't know.

By Keith Staskiewicz
May 19, 2011 at 08:57 AM EDT
Walter Sassard/The CW
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  • TV Show
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And we’re done. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a moderate-length, straightforward trip it’s been! After 12 episodes, we finally have a winner, winner, chicken dinner, so give that victorious model a single cellophane-thin slice of steamed chicken on a bed of low-calorie lettuce substitute. Remember last week when I said I didn’t like spoilers and therefore wouldn’t include one in the first paragraph of my recap?

Well, this is technically my second paragraph, so…Brittani won, much to the chagrin and presumably edited profanity of Molly.

The episode began, as all of the Marrakech episodes have, with a short ride on the Memory Bus. I’m not sure where they are going to or from, but that shuttle bus appears to be the place where the girls go to ponder the meaning of their lives and the vicissitudes of fate. By now, I’m pretty sure we’re familiar with the home life of both these contestants, but the Memory Bus is a place where the past is forever present, so we learned about them once more. About halfway through the episode, I thought up a fun idea for a Cycle 16 Season Finale Drinking Game. The rules are as follows:

1.   Every time Brittani says the words “trailer park,” take a shot.

2.   Every time Molly says the word “adopted,” take a shot.

That’s it. Trust me, it’s more than enough. Unfortunately for all of us, I decided to maintain my sobriety, but here is a sample paragraph of what my recap would have looked like had I decided to play with just those two rules:

“Deaerest ew people, thanjh yu for beingheere tonight to reaad my rescap!!1 Oh, god birtanni WON! Hahahaha, whhaaaattt??? I lovve you guys does anyoen have any food i’m hungry like oooh a soft pretzil that wouhld be soo good lol goodnight”

Yes, yes, I know. Only slightly less coherent than usual. The point is that if those two factoids were previously the show’s building blocks of characterization, the finale put those blocks in a burlap sack and then hit us repeatedly on the head with it until we collapsed, bloody and defeated. I’m halfway sure that the only reason Tyra & Co. invited Molly’s parents was that they knew Brittani’s couldn’t come.

Both of them were striving hard for the top spot—Molly especially, as she so eloquently put it, “really *beep*-ing wanted to win this *beep*-ing *beep*”—but only one could prevail, so it was off to their first challenge. This week things were a little different. The initial challenge was actually going to factor into the final judging, meaning it wouldn’t be as useless as braille on a billboard. Brittani was understandably worried since it was a commercial, and she did not fare well in previous challenges that required her to act like a human being in front of a camera. Molly, who did so well in her hard-hitting news piece about eye shadow last week, was certain she’d do well.

Unfortunately for her, while she managed to memorize the spiel perfectly, Molly was about as bad as Jack Donaghy when it came to figuring out what to do with her hands. They kept creeping up into the frame like they were trying to photobomb her. Brittani, on the other hand(s), kept hers under control, and while her speedy delivery was at first only one notch below auctioneer, she managed to scale it back to something resembling natural.

NEXT: Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fiercest of them all?

After a brief sojourn at the house, it was back for some photos, this time posing with mirrors because there really isn’t enough narcissism in modeling as it is. The photographer asked Brittani to “touch the mirror super-softly,” which in her accent sounded infinitely more suggestive than it needed to be. Molly was still crabby from her less-than-stellar showing at the commercial shoot and scowled such a scowly scowl that I was certain she would turn to stone as soon as she saw herself in one of the mirrors.

She perked up, however, when she got back to the apartment to find her parents waiting for her. I’m sorry, adoptive parents. (Take a shot.) Did these parents constantly introduce her to friends as their adopted daughter or something? Is that why she’s so hung up on it? In any case, their presence just made Brittani feel like that one kid after school who has to wait awkwardly with the drama teacher because her ride isn’t there yet. Sadly, her mom was back home in the trailer park (take a shot) and couldn’t make the trip out because of her panic anxiety disorder and recent back surgery. But they could still Skype, which they did.

At last, it was time for the main event. Jay, sporting a mime-level amount of black eye shadow, surprised Molly and Brittani by bringing back Alexandria, Kasia, and Hannah, who had all been either wandering around the streets of Marrakech for the past few days or detained at the airport when Alexandria threatened to “cut a bitch” if she didn’t get some more complimentary peanuts. Ann, Top Model’s previous winner, who was last seen wearing a terrifying neon clown wig on the cover of Beauty in Vogue, also joined them, sans the Cheetos-colored Afro. All six would be modeling in a Vivienne Westwood show.

How big the show was is anyone’s guess, considering the photo snap sounds and After Effects lens flares added in post were about as convincing as the ones in your aunt’s wedding video. Molly was visited by the Ghost of Weave Beast Past, and both she and Brittani looked as if they had just come out of a losing fight with a Tesla coil. Mr. and Mrs. Molly talked with Tyra, who told them how proud they should be of their daughter. The whole conversation had a distinct parent-teacher conference feel, even if those parents adopted her (take a shot) and that teacher is as crazy as Mary Kay Letourneau. That’s right, I just pulled out a Mary Kay Letourneau reference. Deal with it.

The two remaining models, flanked by their former competitors, strutted their stuff down the runway. Everything went well until Molly and Brittani posed together and their awkward bumping and grinding caused Brittani to have a fit of giggles. As if that weren’t enough, on their way back, she slipped on a rose petal and tumbled in the least dainty way possible. You know what they say, every rose has its thorn. And apparently you should watch out for those petals, too. Also, the stem can be pretty pointy. In fact, you should probably just avoid roses altogether. Stick with something safer, like parsley.

Brittani limped her way through the final catwalk, still sad that her mother couldn’t be there to support her. Molly was overjoyed that her parents were there, but nervous about losing. Once everything was over and done with, there was much crying from both of them. But tears can’t win you the competition.

NEXT: No, wait, they totally can.

Brittani, whose mid-photo-shoot face leakages had helped her tremendously earlier in the season, used her sad trailer-park story (take a shot) to her advantage. The allure of such a great Horatio Alger, up-by-the-designer-bootstraps story was very strong and, as it would turn out, impossible to resist.

At the judges’ table, it was revealed that the two girls had been Emma Watson-ed, and now sported closely cropped locks. Brittani won the commercial round hands down, while Molly lost it hands-all-over-the-place. Tyra tsk-tsked Molly for looking too “mean girl” and haughty in her ad, while Brittani was truly a model for the people. Tyra also criticized Molly’s bouncy runway walk, although not really in any terms that could be rendered intelligible by a human being. In fact, I transcribed her exact words, which were “It’s what kinda looked like hey girl, hmm mmm, you know!” Yup, I’ll definitely work on that!

The judges deliberated and looked back on photos from episodes past. All together, Molly seemed to have the stronger portfolio, but Brittani showed more variation of emotion than just “angry” and “super-pissed.” Honestly, I wasn’t 100 percent sure who was going to win.

Only like 98 percent. Tyra looked once more upon the two beautiful girls standing before her and stretched out the tension as far as it would go. Molly and Brittani were on tenterhooks, Tyra looked intense, André Leon Talley seemed a little bored. And after a few moments of manufactured anticipation, we found out that America’s Next Top Model is…

Brittani! From the bottom to the Top, from the trailer park (take a shot) to Bryant Park, from eating radiator dogs to not eating much at all, Brittani beat out everyone to take home the prizes. I won’t reiterate them here since I know you all have them burned inerasably in your memories from the 4,722 times they’ve already been mentioned this season. Of course, as always, other than the money from the contract, being on America’s Next Top Model tends to be worth more than all the prizes put together. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Brittani will end up as more than just Winner No. 16.

As Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Top Model also appears to be eternal, as does Tyra (thanks to all that baby blood), so you can be sure that it will be back once more in less than a year. And if you found this season to be a bit ho-hum, I’m sure the concentrated crazy of the upcoming All-Stars edition will be more than enough to make up for it. I know the wait won’t be that long, but in the meantime, I think I’m going to go get myself a weave.

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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