The models put on body armor and take up wooden swords -- yes, Roman catfighting! -- then ''Mama Tyra'' shoots her ''babies''

This was a good America’s Next Top Modelepisode: Dominique was in rare (read: her usual) form, Tyra was on the floor photographing her ”babies” (and now even knows how to pronounce all their names!), and we got gladiators. Everything is better with gladiators.

This week’s challenge called for the five remaining models to learn how to kick some faux ass from a fight instructor at the Gladiator School of Rome. I imagine that the school’s applications will now double, because that man was awesome: ”The first move I’m gonna teach you is the very graceful way of taking someone’s head off.” Sign. Me. Up. As the girls held what I feared were baguettes but am now thinking were wooden sticks, they were taught a five-strike attack: Go for the head, neck, legs, neck, and stomach. Even though it was easy — I mastered it on my way to the kitchen during a commercial — Fatima got confused. Seriously, how hard is it to learn five steps? Granted, as Katarzyna pointed out, it would be difficult to remain ”modelesque” while doing ”gladiator combat,” but they weren’t being photographed yet. So focus on the damn steps!

Then the girls were paired up for one-on-one practice, and fast-talkin’ Dominique had her crazy eyes on someone: ”I’m like, good, we get to fight. I hope me and Whitney team up, so I can whup some ass….I’m just jokin’. I have nothing against her.” (Very convincing.) Unfortunately, the producers definitely have something against Dominique, but they paired her with Fatima, who was hopeless. Fatima said she was happy to get her aggression out through her sword — ”Like, go home, bitch!…Now!” — but she wielded said weapon with the power of a 2-year-old. It was like the physical equivalent of that classic debate scene — ”And in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty” — in Clueless: ”If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine.” Following ”the teach,” the models changed into gladiator costumes and were met by Mr. Jay and Miss J. (or, Jay-J., as I like to call them) and told that they’d have five frames to pose opposite a beastly gladiator who we’ll call Fernando, because I think that’s what his name was.

Jay-J. told the girls to note where the camera was, make sure their bodies were always open toward it, and please remember to give a pretty-but-fierce face. Anya did great, as usual, actually striking poses she was instructed to use. Katarzyna’s stance, Jay said, looked too weak and her sword overpowered her. Whitney, as a surprisingly complimentary Dominique pointed out, looked like Xena’s boobilicious sidekick, but was comfortable in her own skin and rocked. She had no problem opening her bare midriff up to the camera. (The stylists sure are working overtime to make up for coFvering Whitney’s plus size during that Elle Macpherson lingerie shoot, huh?) Dominique decided she wanted to be different from the other girls, doing a few one-legged poses that, while somewhat ridiculous, were at least interesting to look at. And Fatima…well, she was scared of the fake gladiator man and basically did the same hunched-over pose five times, which peeved Jay because he point-blank told her to change her closed-to-camera stance. Whitney won the challenge and took Anya with her on a spending spree that was about as boring as Katarzyna’s personality.

NEXT: Renaissance nights

Moving on to the real photo shoot, the ladies were taken to a 600-year-old castle and asked to do a modern interpretation of the Renaissance-period frescos adorning its walls. The photographer, ”Mama Tyra,” described her vision for the shoot: She wanted ”exaggeration of an Italian Renaissance woman that went to the club up on Sunset Boulevard.” Um, okay. Here’s how the ladies performed:

Katarzyna Not well. Even after Tyra told her to pose with her arms out, she didn’t. Her stiff hand positions reminded Mama and Mr. Jay of the Bangles’ ”Walk Like an Egyptian” video. (Am I the only one who absolutely hated that song?) At panel, all-knowing Paulina said Katarzyna may have been going for a haughty look in her photo, but she just came off sleepy and bored. Agreed. Paulina figured out Katarzyna’s problem: She doesn’t flirt with the camera with her eyes. Miss J. decided to finally speak and explained that Katarzyna was too busy using her brain during the shoot to use her peepers. ”That’s why there’s so many dumb-ass models, because y’all fashion people like it!” Tyra responded. Sounded like someone hit a nerve. In the end Katarzyna’s bangin’ body and coveted Eastern European bone structure couldn’t make up for her total lack of personality (even Fatima forgot that she was in the competition — ha!), and she was told to immediately pack her bags and return home to her desk job.

Dominique Clearly, the stylists have it in for Dominique as well, because they did their best to make her look like Cruella De Vil. But to everyone’s surprise, the girl worked it. I love how Dominique was downright obnoxious after Tyra praised her shoot: ”I was a real high-fashion model, okay! And Tyra took my pictures. I mean, this is just a slap in the face to everybody else in America, ’cause nobody else can say that Tyra took their pictures except for the other four women I’m trying to intimidate right now, but she took my pictures! And Tyra loves me!” And then she had to hear Tyra say at panel how much she didn’t want to photograph her: ”I’m gonna be honest: I was not excited to shoot you. I was like…she’s probably gonna be the weakest of the day, and I don’t really think that she’s that high-fashion. And girl, you got on that set and made me a damn fool.” Paulina finally warmed to Dominique — who, you remember, she originally dubbed the tranny version of Robin Wright Penn — and acknowledged that she’s getting better each week and has bone structure that only seems to pop in photographs. Tyra, who considered Dominique’s monochromatic shirt-and-tights combo a personal affront, kept it real: Could she get booked on go-sees? Not the way she looks now, Nigel answered. What does Dominique need to do to look like a model in person?

NEXT: Butt out

Fatima I’m with Mr. Jay: I didn’t think the girl had it in her. For the first time she was fluid in a shoot and actually a joy to watch. Her photo was stunning, with a ”busted, broken-down waistline” that made Miss J. moist, and a face that you know made Tyra jealous. Fatima appeared modest as ever at panel, but her arrogance is growing. She doesn’t think she has competition?

Whitney The judges put her in the final two again because they think she’s stuck in a rut. And in that rut she’s pushing her butt out and her tatas up. In other words, she needs to learn the art of the high-fashion hunch, or, as Mama said, ”Think more fashion, less sex. It takes the hooch away.” I was surprised to see Nigel defend Whitney at panel. He thinks her strong personality, which he once told us he didn’t see, will help make her a well-rounded model. Perhaps, if she stops looking directly into the light. Anyone else worried that Whitney’s spirit has finally been broken? She looked so defeated at panel.

Anya As Nigel said, she looked in control of her photograph, and that’s what you want at this stage of the competition: confidence that the model isn’t lucking into the shot but working for it. Of course, Nigel also thinks Anya will never be a top model in the real world because no one will want to hear her speak, which will make it impossible for her to ”represent America.” What country does Nigel live in? In America, we don’t ask our models to speak unless they’re hosting a reality show. Honestly, I know nothing about Gisele’s personality, nor do I care to. It doesn’t seem to be hurting her ability to get jobs. Or men.

So, what do you think? Now that CoverGirl of the Week Katarzyna — who some of you were banking on — is out, who will win? Are you ready to see one of the other judges tell Tyra to lay off the accents? Did Tyra playing photographer (it was her first time using artificial light!) totally overshadow the models this week? How much would you pay to see Tyra photograph Paulina? Will Fatima’s arrogance ever rival Dominique’s (which looks like it reaches its peak next week)? And who would you rather have photograph you: Tyra or Nigel (who gets his turn behind the camera next week and is uninspired by what he sees)?

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Trya Banks
America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel

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