On ''America's Next Top Model,'' the girls learn how to deal with the paparazzi, and the attention-starved Lisa doesn't click

By Michael Slezak
January 17, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

”America’s Next Top Model”: Paparazzi attack!

Okay, so I’m officially conflicted. There are only two remaining contestants worth cheering for on America’s Next Top Model, and suddenly, they’ve entered into an ugly and escalating war of words. My problem, of course, isn’t that I want the show’s mannequins to start imitating the cast of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I understand that hateration is the backbone of good reality TV. It’s just that, for me, choosing between Kim and Bre would be akin to choosing between two things I can’t live without, like, oh, air and Diet Coke.

Okay, maybe I sound a tad melodramatic, but the same could be said of the participants in this week’s battle royal. In one corner, there’s amusingly gossipy lesbian Kim, the contender who’d make the best ANTM viewing companion. After all, only a few minutes into tonight’s episode, she managed to surpass even my harshest opinions about three of her rivals. Nik: ”Sane, but boring.” Lisa: ”Alcoholic and insane.” And Jayla: ”An ugly, annoying, bad joke deliverer.” Mean? Maybe a little. But then again, three out of three ain’t bad.

In the other corner, we’ve got Bre, the queen of the sound bites. ”Even though we’re a lot of pretty girls, a lot of pretty girls don’t use deodorant. And I want to know the pretty girl who thought it was cute to pass gas in that little box,” she huffed, after being forced into a phone booth for a photo shoot with her fellow contestants. Bre may be overly self-assured and way too judgmental, but most of the time, she’s also refreshingly honest. Well, at least when she’s not playing mind games with her fellow competitors.

You see, as much as Bre may be fed up with Kim’s loose chatter — not to mention the hilarious harmonica ditty Kim composed in anticipation of Jayla’s elimination — I think Bre’s even more perturbed by the way her formerly gawky rival has grown in confidence over the course of the season: A few weeks ago, Kim was staggering down the runway like a drunken sailor; now, suddenly, she’s passing for a pinup girl and getting lines of dialogue on Veronica Mars. What better way to congratulate her than by offering the gift that keeps on giving, a tag-team-style, self-esteem-crushing character ambush?

Even more hypocritical than Nik and Jayla lecturing tearful Kim about her behavior — wasn’t it Nik who spent almost an entire recent episode trash-talking Jayla? and since when did Jayla (and her gargantuan gums) exchange the House Shrew mantle for one of House Victim? — was the way Bre hugged Kim after the blow-up and said, ”Give Mama love.” Um, okay then, if by Mama, you mean Mommie Dearest. I have to say, Bre, you weren’t oozing maternal warmth when you roared to Jayla about Kim, ”That bitch ain’t right. She ain’t right. I have a problem with her.” But don’t go thinking I’m mad at ya. What mere mortal could resist the exaggerated finger wave and unforgettable facial expression you offered at the end of your tirade? Not this one.

With Bre and Kim at center stage, the other girls all got smooshed against the sides of the phone booth (figuratively speaking), and that’s never a good sign this far into the season. Nik looks like the only contestant who might pull off an upset, but only if she can step up her intensity level and learn to face the camera head-on. The panel’s hints to the girls are usually less than helpful, but Tyra was spot-on in her observation that Nik’s sideways glances look eerily similar every week.

I’m not sure what advice they could give to Nicole or Jayla at this point, aside from suggesting some deep-thinking exercises to expand their repertoires of facial expressions beyond the somewhat limited realm of vacuous surprise. Not to say Nicole’s blankness isn’t quite fetching, but at the end of the day, it’s still blankness. Jayla, meanwhile, achieved her first official moment of fierceness during the paparazzi shoot, but more so because of her white plastic shades and saucy scarf than through any skills of her own. And too bad her best shot in the phone booth looked like it was snapped during one of those unfortunate gassy-model moments Bre so bitterly complained about.

Lucky for Jayla, then, that the judges had no choice but to eliminate Lisa this week. I mean, with every episode, the contest’s ”edgy girl” became just a bit more unhinged, culminating in her moment of on-camera urination last week. While one can only hope that gross act marked Lisa’s furthest push of the unscripted-television envelope, could ANTM‘s producers really afford to keep her around and find out?

What did you think? Were you as surprised as Lisa that she didn’t make the final three? Did you roll your eyes over Tyra’s passport-photo anecdote? And who the heck were those random British dudes who took Bre and Nik out on the town in a horse-drawn carriage?

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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