The show is abuzz with bees and bee puns as two (count 'em, two) more models leave

By Keith Staskiewicz
March 03, 2011 at 06:11 AM EST
"Alek Wek" -- Photographer Mike Rosenthal and Jay
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Oh, there you are, Top Model. There you are. Like many of you, I felt last week’s perfunctory meet-and-greet premiere, minus even the guaranteed craziness of casting week, felt a little sluggish, a little toned down, a little un-fierce. Where was the drama? Where was the irrational sobbing? Where was the usual nonsensical chaos that makes a Dr. Seuss book look like a Ken Burns documentary?

Ask and ye shall receive. Those thirsting for backstory got it immediately as Molly, last week’s elimination winner, talked about her adoptive parents, whom she credits with everything except, you know, the genes that allow her to be a model. Dominique and Ondrei reclined on the couch dining on pizza and Coke—which differs dramatically from the traditional model regimen of not-pizza and coke—and making small talk. You know, the usual, “I was born in New York but I consider myself more of a West Coast girl,” or “My favorite color is rainbow,” or “Two of my brothers died.” Wait, what? Out of nowhere that bombshell was dropped with the casualness of a handkerchief from the dainty Southern fingertips of the debutante Miss Jaclyn.

Man, the sudden mood shifts on Top Model are exhausting. I swear, the show has more mismatched tones than a deaf barbershop quartet. Ondrei’s revelation, coupled with the double whammy that one of her brothers died the day before her prom, and the dodeca-whammy that it was only a couple of months ago, really made you wonder whether this whole episode was going to be a downer. But nope, because all you need is a change in music and a quick hustling-bustling Koyaanisqatsi-style skyline shot and we’re on to Dominique talking about all the terrible foods she eats, including noodles, tortilla chips, syrup, clarified lard, ice cream sandwich sandwiches, and fried caramel-coated meatballs. That girl clearly has the metabolism of a black hole.

But since not everyone has the benefit of suffering from a gypsy Thinner curse, Tyra decided to trot out both her nutritionist, Heather Bauer, and, for no discernible reason, her best Jacques Cousteau impression. Heather and Tyra, in a French accent, unveiled their healthy secret weapon: “cheaties.” Tyra went on to explain that cheaties are “things that seem bad, but aren’t,” like peanut-butter waffles or that time you accidentally made out with your cousin at the family reunion. Cheaties is also the breakfast cereal of choice for adulterers everywhere. (Unlike Wheaties, they are not guiltless, but like Wheaties, they’ve had Tiger Woods appear on the box several times.)

Drama—with a capital D, like four r’s, and jazz hands—reared its ugly head when some of the roomies found a bowlful of Alexandria’s raw barbecue chicken in the fridge, which they said had been there for days despite the fact that this was only day 2. How is that possible? And when did Alexandria have the time to buy chicken? Did she bring it with her in her suitcase? Regardless of its origins, Dalya freaked out over the unsanitary poultry—although I’m not 100 percent sure whether she knows that Sal Monella isn’t the name of a hot new Italian designer—and, of course, Alexandria didn’t back down. Let it be known that when the rivalry of Dalya and Alexandria finally reaches hair-pulling proportions and we ponder the original casus belli, it was all over a bit of uncooked chicken. It’s like the War of Jenkins’ Ear except a lot cattier and it won’t be on the test.

NEXT: What’s that buzzing sound?

Suggesting the show’s editors have some sense of thematic consistency, Top Model quickly went from domestic drama to stage drama, as the models assembled in a small theater to face their toughest critic: themselves. Everybody got all Stuart Smalley with a self-esteem exercise that had them yelling at an abstract drawing of their fears or their id or whatever. It was interesting to see what really bothered the models: Molly yelled at a depiction of her biological mother, Ondrei at what appeared to be a late-era Chagall sketch of her deceased brothers, Jaclyn at Baby Fish Mouth, and Nicole at a red-eyed witch scarecrow with tattoos and lightning bolts whose name, I think, was Beatrice. It was all very emotional, especially since Tyra was just off screen chopping onions and spraying tear gas at everyone, making them sob like they’d just finished watching My Girl.

Hmm…a My Girl reference? So soon? I wonder why that would be. Or should I say “bee”? No, wait, I’m sorry, I was right the first time, “be” is grammatically correct. But still, much like in the end of the Macaulay Culkin-Anna Chlumsky weepfest, bees played a very important role in this episode, as Jay revealed with maximum punnage. The models took the news that they’d be posing with a mass of bees dry-humping their pheromone-soaked jewelry pretty well. Even Jaclyn, who is allergic (nooo, Thomas J!), didn’t give in to any Nicolas Cage-style thrashing and screaming.

Personal disclosure: I find bees to be utterly hilarious. I don’t know why, I just do. Especially what I call “unexpected bees.” Like, say you unwrap a Christmas present and it’s actually a beehive, or you try to pour out a box of cereal and instead of delicious Cheaties you get a face full of stinging bees. Just the mere thought of those scenarios makes me laugh uncontrollably. Hey, shut up, everybody’s got a thing. The point is that I was laughing so hard during this whole bit that I missed most of what happened. All I ended up seeing through my bee-induced hysteria was that photographer Mike Rosenthal had them all dressed up like extraterrestrial albino Cholas, accentuating everybody’s eyebrows except for Mikaela, because if they accentuated hers any more, she would just have one big facebrow.

At the judging table, we had the usual three suspects, plus guest judge Alek Wek, who Tyra explained was originally discovered at a town fair. (Although, since it was in England, I guess it’s spelled towne faire.) André Leon Talley once again wore his mesmerizing hat plumage—which waved jovially to the camera as he accused others of fashion overkill, and which I’m now hoping is actually one of those fiber-optic lamps from The Sharper Image that can change colors. That would be so André Leon Talley.

The episode took a predictable, but still saddening turn, when Ondrei announced that she would be voluntarily leaving. She was clearly one of the most interesting contestants and probably would have made it pretty far, but while her emotional arc this episode was as smooth as a seismograph reading, it was still pretty clear it was leading directly to her early departure.  Still, Ondrei’s self-sacrifice didn’t mean the rest of the girls were off the hook. Someone else was likely to join her.

NEXT: Woe is me, to be cursed with such hard face-bones!

Most of the girls did well, and only a few photos were harshly critiqued. Tyra issued her usual mix of helpful commentary and Whuh? nonsense. I’ve decided to keep a running tally of Tyra quotes that sound like they could have also come from a psychopathic serial killer. This week’s contenders include “When you don’t take control of your face, your face takes control of you” and “We are feeling your insides coming to the outside.” [Shiver]

The show also managed to be topical this week. How? The same way it does anything right: completely by accident. In a weird twist of fate, not only did Wek mention the recently disgraced, anti-Semitic-remark-making John Galliano, but she did it in reference to model Shalom Harlow, whose first name everyone kept repeating. Shalom, irony!

Deliberations, deliberations, deliberations. And by deliberations I mean non-sequitur discussions about salons and swap meets. Hannah’s tears were declared the bee’s knees and won her first place, a fact that will undoubtedly lead to a lot more bawling and thinking about dead childhood dogs during elimination challenges, while Brittani settled for silver for the second week in a row. The bottom was composed of Dalya and Nicole, who were informed that one of them would indeed be leaving. Tyra tossed out another one for the Complisult File, telling Dalya she had bone structure “almost like a young colt’s face.” Wow, really? Thanks, Tyra! Who wouldn’t appreciate being told they look like a horse?

At least she said “young.” Poor Nicole was sent packing because she photographs too old. She’s only 20 but she practically ends up looking like a wrinkled, cane-waving 22-year-old. The most mind-boggling thing was Tyra’s recommendation for what Nicole could do to look younger: “Soften every bone in your face.” Of course, it’s so easy! Soften your bones! Jeez, Nicole, why even attempt to be a model if you don’t have the ability to rearrange the components of your face like some sort of ancient lizard shape-shifter. That’s basically the first requirement for the job. Seriously. And so two more models disappeared from the group photo just as if they had gone back in time and prevented their parents from ever falling in love.

With backstory, crying, mood swings, chicken drama, and bees, bees, bees, it’s almost as if Top Model is getting back on the right, guano-crazy track. What did you think? Was Ondrei’s sudden departure a surprise? Is Alexandria already this season’s Big Bad? Does anyone have any idea why I find bees so funny? Anyone?

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Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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