Jenah sizzles next to a burning car, and Tyra says goodbye to Ambreal for the second -- and last -- time

By Michael Slezak
November 15, 2007 at 08:14 PM EST
Jim DeYonker
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Talk about predictable! Everything you could’ve expected to happen on tonight’s edition ofAmerica’s Next Top Model did, in fact, occur. Bianca behaved like a she-beast. Chantal displayed the emotional depth of creamed corn. Tyra used a variety of dramatic pauses and smiled with her eyes. And Ambreal got the boot.

Oh, poor, poor Ambreal. If Top Model were a horror film, she would’ve been the one in the dank basement, during a power outage, with a really bad haircut. Okay, so maybe that last part was terrifyingly real. Either way, Ambreal’s cruel fate — Everybody’s going to China…except for you! — couldn’t have seemed more inevitable if Mr. Jay had pulled her away from the burning car in the photo shoot and made her pose with her head on a prop guillotine.

As you’ll recall, two (non-clip-show) episodes back, Ambreal was eliminated by Tyra & Co., only to gain a last-minute reprieve when Ebony — whose existence I had forgotten prior to typing this sentence, and who I’m sure will be forgotten again midway through the next one — dropped out of the competition. From that point forward Ambreal might as well have had the words ”dead-faced model walking” stamped across her forehead. I mean, on a show where the panel is infallible, where its decrees meaneverything, there was no way a girl who’d already been deemed unworthy was going to surge into the final three, let alone win the competition.

It didn’t help that Ambreal consistently underperformed at challenges and photo shoots. I know she got stuck with a grotesque adult-doll dress and a giant lollipop accessory during this week’s fashion show, but in no way did that give her license to skip down the runway like a member of the Lollipop Guild and trumpet her ”bubbly personality” and her ”electricity” in the voice of a precocious child. Even worse, the end-of-episode review of Ambreal’s complete portfolio proved about as modelesque as a random assortment of paparazzi shots of Britney Spears at the gas station.

Of course, even if you didn’t enter tonight’s show feeling Ambreal was doomed, an inexcusable editing error made that a 50-50 proposition coming out of the final commercial break. After evaluations, it was clear that Ambreal, Lisa, and Heather were at risk, but then the pre-deliberation Cover Girl of the Week segment showed a brief flash of Heather working a runway in an Asian-inspired dress — footage that hadn’t been shown at any point this season. So you didn’t exactly have to be Veronica Mars to figure out that Heather was safe.

And yet, while she avoided the bottom two, Heather also, for the first time in weeks, didn’t look like a bet-the-farm lock to make the final three. Yeah, I know that back in my first TV Watch of the season, I noted that Heather’s Asperger’s syndrome would ”seem fascinating to Nigel, Twiggy, and Tyra until it doesn’t,” but then she started taking such great photos, and she was edited so favorably for so long, and she won the hearts of every person in America. Well, okay, more accurately, the plurality of those people in America who go to the CW website and vote for Cover Girl of the Week. But still, how could anyone or anything keep Heather out of the finals?

Well, maybe those moments where she’s required to dabble in public speaking. Indeed, I am 50 percent less excited about the idea of a ”My Life as a Cover Girl” campaign starring Heather after hearing her explain how she inspired her designer for the runway challenge. Her mouth agape, and her words coming out in short, nonsensical bursts, Heather came across as stiff and totally insecure in front of an audience that included execs from Elite Model Management and Seventeen magazine. That said, I found myself won over again by Heather’s description of the runway-challenge dress as a ”pale blue monstrosity,” as well as her spacey-crazy confession of why she couldn’t properly explain the thought process behind her designer’s ocean-theme gown: ”I’m not the ocean. In fact, I’m not even a water sign. I’m a fire sign!”

Here’s hoping Heather proves to be an astrological sign that’s momentarily slipping (before triumphantly regaining its footing), rather than one about to crash and burn in a hurry. Her photo this week, while a tad hunchback-y, certainly didn’t negate all her previous good work. Plus, in Heather’s defense, Mr. Jay demanded on set that she look ”lost in the desert” and yet later complained that ”Heather looked very lost.”

Lisa, meanwhile, wound up in the bottom two this week, and although I know there’s not a whole lot at stake on this show (other than maybe a future gig on a VH1 reality series, if a gal gets lucky), my heart broke a little when her tears started streaming as she stood before Tyra. Granted, Lisa has been my favorite all season (a product of Jersey City pride, perhaps), but I suddenly have a nagging feeling she’ll wind up no better than fourth (or maybe third) this cycle. True, when guest judge Neal Hamil of Elite Model Management opined that Lisa wasn’t ”quite fresh enough,” Tyra winningly demanded to know ”why is the modeling industry obsessed with big girls looking like children?” Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the model exec’s damning critique sinks into Tyra’s brain, so that in two weeks, she can use the ”too old” card to boot Lisa, just as she did in previous seasons with Melrose, Jade, and Renee.

NEXT: Brain dead

Before that, though, I’m betting Chantal gets cut loose. For starters, her photo shoot this week was a hot mess, and not just because she was standing alongside a burning automobile. Twiggy seemed thrilled that Chantal didn’t ”look sweet” for a change, but is a gnarly, up-nose shot really an improvement? Even more appalling, every time Chantal speaks, three of my brain cells commit hara-kiri. Seriously, how can one woman utter so many words and yet fail to infuse a single one of them with any kind of human emotion?

And that brings us to Tyra’s top 3 for this week. Saleisha (who last night reminded me a lot of pop star Rihanna) clearly has three times as much brainpower as Chantal, yet brings a similar vacuousness to her Top Model work. I laughed out loud when Jenah threatened to gag after Saleisha gave a wink at the end of her cutesy, butterfly-costume runway show (although Jenah’s ”rocker hand” move wasn’t much better), and while Saleisha’s photo struck me as being quite pretty when I first saw it (or so my notes say), hours later, I’m having a hard time recalling what it actually looked like. To take a page from Tyra’s book, she’s a beautiful girl, but is she a model?

Bianca and Jenah’s best shots, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been out of place in a high-end fashion mag. True, no one this season has been more irritating than Bianca — especially when she’s kvetching about her competitors — but seeing her perched alongside that smoldering convertible, her face proud, strong, and just a little scary, I momentarily forgot her ever-present insecurities and competitiveness. Still, it’s going to be tough to give first prize to someone who utters a bitter complaint almost as often as she takes a breath. Plus, she drops insults so quickly and carelessly, they sometimes border on the nonsensical. Exhibit A: ”I used to think of Heather as a really big threat, but now I think Heather has an amazing face, but she has an amazing face.” Model say what?

Similarly, Jenah has a little bit of an edge to her — like when she raised an eyebrow and asked her student designer to add a little ”rock-star element” to her ballerina dress. The difference is, though, Jenah’s attitude is served with a side of playfulness. And even more important, the general success of her photographs seems to be based on skill more than dumb luck. Her damsel-in-distress hand in the burning-car shoot was just natural enough that it didn’t look pose-y, and Twiggy was right — Jenah’s gams looked fantastic. It might be cruel of me to say, but week in, week out, I’m always surprised by how Jenah, with her bulgy eyes, wonky teeth, and tragic blond weave, manages to take a stellar photo. Jenah may occasionally be too blasé — or betray a little too much disdain for the judges’ comments — to win the panel’s final vote, but darned if she’s not on the brink of making me think she ought to.

And on that note, let’s end with a moment of pure, unadulterated lunacy, courtesy of Tyra: ”This lion just told me that we are going to China!”

What did you think of this week’s episode? Who’s atop your current Top Model standings? With all the whining and complaining she did, does anyone want to bet Heather is going to be Cover Girl of the Week again next Wednesday? How hilarious was Tyra’s dramatic speech about ”compartmentalizing” her emotions on stressful days? How did crazy Benny Ninja come up with that loopy outfit of his? Did he skin Batman alive and sew him to a kilt? And anyone have any theories on why the producers bothered to identify wardrobe stylists Anda and Masha?

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel
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