On ''America's Next Top Model,'' the judges send clumsy Sarah home to her boyfriend, ending her flirtation with Kim; meanwhile, Cassandra resigns over a haircut

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

”America’s Next Top Model”: Two girls walk

Well, that settles it. I’m working from home tomorrow, and if any of my editors complain, I’m using my inaugural America’s Next Top Model TV Watch as my doctor’s note. After all, as part of my commute, I have a ten-minute walk from my front door to the train station and, on the other end, another five-minute stroll — up a very bustling section of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, I might add — before I arrive at EW headquarters.

Granted, this pedestrian portion of my daily trek to work has never been a problem in the past, but that’s only because I hadn’t realized what’s been missing from my life for more than three decades: a signature walk. I came to this harrowing conclusion after observing the problems most of the Top Model contenders faced this week simply trying to put one foot in front of the other. The whole ordeal sent Kim, the resident lesbian, into an existential crisis. ”I’m constantly trying to figure out what my gender is,” she said, discussing the perils of working the runway. Kim’s bi-curious crush, Sarah, meanwhile, had it even worse; she was barely able to stay upright during her catwalk lessons with Miss J. Alexander. ”I actually didn’t use to be such a bad walker,” she said. ”I think I’m just thinking about it way too much.” And I could so feel her pain.

Not with me on this one? Well, try looking at it this way: What if your coworkers suddenly started judging, well, not your walk, but some other action that you’d previously never given much thought to? Like getting oxygen, for example. Imagine if you had to consider the fierceness and elegance of every breath you drew while you sat in your cubicle and shopped for lightly worn Paul Smith shirts on eBay. Or caught up on paperwork. Or something. And then try to imagine there was a world-class breather right down the hall from you — someone who inhaled and exhaled magnificently, with a Spielberg-ian flair for drama and the lingering cinnamony scent of Dentyne Fire all around her.

Well, when it comes to sauntering from point A to point B, that world-class performer is Bre. The Top Model wannabe’s gait, which looks something like a testy Tennessee walking horse striding toward a bale of alfalfa hay, is a thing of odd and genuine beauty. So much so that while I was watching Bre demonstrate her signature strut for the judging panel, my right arm took on a life of its own, flew up over my head, and let loose a succession of finger snaps. And if that makes me crazy, then I’ll be pleased to share my padded cell with host Tyra Banks, who was moved by the same exact spirit, exclaiming, ”Your walk is so fierce, I had to give you a snap.”

Not that Tennessee Walker needed a confidence boost. ”I’m Dorothy Dandridge, and no one can tell me differently,” Bre boasted during the impromptu fashion show of Sue Wong’s elaborate Asian-inspired costumes. But she might’ve felt more like Whoopi Goldberg if she’d been stuck with Sarah’s ungainly outfit. In typically cruel Top Model fashion, the producers clad the clumsiest contestant in a white bridal gown featuring some sort of inflexible, built-in rudder. Oh, and an elaborate, foot-high, rhinestone headdress, too. (As if those enormous pillow lips weren’t enough to throw off the girl’s balance.)

Still, as unfair as the clothing distribution seemed, there was something refreshing about seeing the contestants get judged — first by Miss J. (clad in a bejeweled bathing suit and cap and a sheer, hot pink cape), then by Wong, then by the panel — on something as tangible as their catwalk prowess, on something beyond just a ”best” photo (which always seems a tad dubious to me, given that we never get to see outtakes of the ”non-best” pictures).

With gait getting so much weight, though, it was clear that (after Cassandra dropped out of the competition — more on that in a minute) a sad ending was inevitable and that either Kim or Sarah would get the axe. Well, sad if you (like me) were enjoying the ramped-up flirtation between the women: Kim feeding Sarah an omelette for breakfast; Sarah admitting her bi-curiosity; Kim admitting her heart has few defenses against ”such a blond-haired girl” as Sarah. And you knew the minute Sarah wished aloud that she and Kim would be spared the indignity of the bottom two, that that’s exactly where they’d end up. Sigh.

Ultimately, the elimination of awkward Sarah, who at no point in this competition resembled a top model, was the right move, even though I doubt Kim will last much longer, either, given the fact that her offbeat beauty doesn’t seem to translate to film. (She could always be a stunt double for Melissa Etheridge’s wife, Popular‘s Tammy Lynn Michaels.) For now, I’m going to take a wild guess that the final five will be Nik, Nicole, Bre, Kyle, and Coryn. Nope, I’m not picking Lisa, whose self-described ”sexy, confident, and playful” strut betrays the kind of ego Tyra loves to shatter.

Oh, and speaking of shattered egos (that was just too easy a transition), let’s all bid good riddance to Pageant Patty (a.k.a. Cassandra), who is no longer in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Model after refusing Tyra’s request to cut an extra inch off her hair. To me, seeing Cassandra pack her bags and leave on her own terms was a shoulder-shrug moment. She was never interesting enough to truly despise, never fierce enough to make you worry that she might actually win.

I’ll give Cassandra this much, however; she delivered far and away the evening’s funniest unintentional punch line. ”I’m gonna go back to Texas, and I’m gonna get some hair extensions, and hopefully you’ll see me as a future Miss USA,” she said matter-of-factly. And if that’s code for saying she’ll go home and fade into utter obscurity, then clear the runway, and let Cassandra get where she needs to go.

What do you think? Has last night’s episode made you reconsider the way you walk? Are you happy Cassandra and Sarah are gone? And who’s the early front-runner for that great Gilles Bensimon photo shoot?

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America's Next Top Model

Tyra Banks searches for the next great supermodel

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