Models sit astride camels in Marrakech as Tyra sentences one of them to abandonment in the desert and/or being sent home.

By Keith Staskiewicz
April 28, 2011 at 06:29 AM EDT
Franca Sozzani/The CW
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Welcome to Agrabah!

Wait, this is Marrakech? Sorry, I was confused by all the desert shots and the sounds of generic, public-domain Arabic instrumentals playing in the background.

Welcome to Marrakech!

We’re on the road to Morocco, a land with lots of pop history: Humphrey Bogart waffled between political neutrality and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day were mistakenly embroiled in a plot right here in Marrakech, William S. Burroughs experienced epiphanies in the Interzone (a.k.a. the dirty bathroom of a Tangier drug den), and, most significantly, Morocco is where a gaggle of loud, bedazzled women from New York made culturally tone-deaf jokes and obliviously blathered on about menopause and Jimmy Choo shoes for nearly three hours.

Can you guess which cultural milestone Cycle 16’s first abroad episode resembled the most? If you said Sex and the City 2, you are correct. If you said nothing, because you had successfully blocked that movie out of your memory using advanced mnemonic erasure techniques, you are a luckier person than I. Last night, the five remaining models posed on camels, indulged in some carefully orchestrated culture, and continued to whine and moan as if they weren’t on a free vacation.

We were only two minutes in before we heard our first joke about the yonic semblance of a certain ungulate’s cleft foot, if you know what I mean. (I’m not even sure if I do.)  Once the airport shuttle dropped the models off, they headed straight to the square, absorbing culture through every pore of their bodies. Luckily for them, CoverGirl makes a special culture-removing face scrub that will clear that right up. They stopped at a man kneeling on a blanket, in the midst of entrancing a slew of cobras. The two Jays then revealed themselves like a pair of harem girls, replete with diaphanous shawls, kohl-rimmed eyes, and the faraway gaze of those who have done everything to everyone.

Miss Jay explained—in a voice learned from the Tyra Banks How to Do Borderline Offensive Accents series of instructional audiotapes, featuring lessons like “Mocking People to Their Face” and “Everything Just Ends Up Sounding Irish, Anyway”—that before their photo shoot, the girls would get to enjoy a traditional Moroccan lunch. And so, after a 12-second perusal of the souk, they were hurried off to what I can only assume was the Moroccan equivalent of Rock Sugar. The Top Model accountants said they could afford this with the money they’d saved by having the five models sneak onto the airplane in Tyra’s luggage.

NEXT: Silly clothes are a universal language.After the meal, it was off to the showroom of designer Noureddine Amir for a straightforward walk and pout in some ridiculous outfits. André Leon Talley was there, out from behind the judges’ table for the first time, proving that he does, in fact, have legs. One of the models referred to him as “one of the biggest people in fashion,” which is true. He was actually the biggest at one point, but he’s lost weight since last season.

Speaking of weight issues, Kasia was a little too fiercely real for the dresses, especially around the thigh area, where fierce realness tends to accumulate. She ultimately found something that fit her, but not before the humiliation took a toll on her self-esteem. Brittani donned a large wicker basket that she must have mistaken for a dress, but somehow she went on to own the challenge anyway. Molly, despite being tremendously tall, had to shuffle around in a far-too-large dress like she had just downed a small bottle labeled “Drink Me,” while Alexandria was a black Koosh ball and Hannah was trapped in a cocoon straitjacket like she was being saved to be fed to the alien queen. Fa-fa-fa-fashion!

Arriving at the models’ new Moroccan digs, you notice two things: One, the place is nicer, probably because rent’s cheaper than in Los Angeles, and two, it appears that all rentals in Marrakech come already adorned with pictures of Tyra. I’m not convinced that it’s just unbridled narcissism that makes Tyra decorate every wall with images of herself. Rather, I think she’s using them as a clever spying tool. I’m almost positive I saw one of those Tyra pictures’ eyes move.

Molly whined (as she did all episode) about being forced to share a bed with two other models. She says it’s because she doesn’t like sleeping next to other people, but I know better. We’ve all been to summer camp, Molly. Just don’t drink any liquids right before going to bed and you should be fine. And you should totally learn how to store your water like…

NEXT: My humps, my humps, my lovely Bactrian humps.…camels! Camels are awesome. They don’t take guff from anyone. Sure, you can ride them, but unlike subservient horses, they’re going to let you know that they don’t like it one bit. Look any camel straight in the face and tell me that it gives a s—. You can’t, because it totally doesn’t. Like the honey badger, camels just don’t care. Molly wishes she were a camel. Like a camel, she complains, emits loud groaning noises, and affects an air of total apathy, but deep down she is very competitive and cares a lot about what the others think of her, as do all of the contestants. If Tyra tried to tell a camel that it was acting like a diva, it would just spit in her face, yell whhaaanghh, and walk out, because camels are badass. Also, they can go for months without water and sometimes wear sunglasses and pastel blazers.

Molly channeled her annoyance into her shoot and rode the camel like a mechanical bull. Kasia, still self-conscious after failing to fit into those clothes earlier, was extremely awkward, especially since she was wearing an emblem on her forehead that looked like it could direct the sun’s rays toward the exact location of the Ark. Jay tried to comfort her by saying, “There is a huuuge place in this business for plus-size models,” which might not have been the best choice of words.

The British photographer was put off by Alexandria’s baseball allusion that she would “knock it out of the park.” Instead, she should have said, “I am going to drop a banger on the wicket and then tiddles your Uncle Jasper, lovely,” which means essentially the same thing. Unsurprisingly, she tried to direct the shoot once more, much to her detriment.  Hannah did something that I can’t remember and then worried about not being memorable enough. It’s not her fault, like recent U2 songs or girls named Plant, she just doesn’t leave much of an impression. Although the Brit did mention, “When the camel got up, it was like she was on a lift.” For those of you who don’t know, “lift” means “elevator” in British. Also, “camel” means “turnip” and “up” means “down,” so I’m not exactly sure what he was driving at.

The models barely had time to use their new outdoor shower at the house before they got Tyra Mail—delivered internationally par avion—beckoning them to the judges’ chambers. The terrible trio was joined by the editor in chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, a version of whom was played by Sophia Loren in the Italian remake Il Diavolo Veste Prada.

Kasia looked as uncomfortable as she felt in her photo, and Alexandria stood up straight with a look of utter gastrointestinal distress, probably from the food at Moroccan Rock Sugar. Brittani looked good in hers, balanced precariously on the camel (which, for the record, looked like it couldn’t care less) as her headdress billowed out like Florence of Arabia. But it was Molly’s picture that was clearly the best, since it appeared that she was somehow lifting up the camel by its rump even as she rode it. Even the camel was like, “Meh, not bad,” which from a camel is extremely high praise.

Despite having anger-management issues and being a complaint factory, Molly rightly won top photo. Brittani took runner-up, and Hannah…oh right, Hannah! I totally forgot about her. Her photo was okay, I guess. Or not, I don’t really remember. In any case she was snugly in the middle, while Alexandria and Kasia were in the bottom two. Alexandria seemed to get the most scathing criticisms during the Judging Hour, and she also had her third strike for trying to be the boss of the shoot, but it was Kasia who went home. Or at least I think she went home. I’m not sure if Top Model provides return flights for losing contestants. She may be wandering around Tangier as we speak, trying to hide in a crate of oranges to get on the boat over to Gibraltar. Godspeed, Kasia.

And so the five were whittled down to a Berber shop quartet. At this point I’m not really rooting for anyone, although Molly’s unmasked disdain for this whole competition is starting to be very camel-like, which is cool in my book. What about you folks? Was the change of scenery enough to keep you interested in the competition, despite the fact that it still feels exactly the same as L.A.? Do you hope we’ll get to see more of Morocco’s modern life in coming episodes?

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Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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