Remember the “You’re going to Milan!” rap? That was exciting, once upon a time. Unfortunately for us, those times are long gone, and last night’s big trip-taking episode had to rely on its controversial and weird photo shoot; there’s zero drama among the contestants. I never thought it would come to this, but I yearn for the days of granola-bar fights and “respeito” T-shirts. Tonight, we had to settle for vague immaturity. To the bat cave!
On what appeared to be the way back from elimination — as far as I can tell, they’re in the same outfits from last week — Erin griped about her poor commercial performance, and Brittany confessionalized that Erin is immature: She acts 16 but is actually 18! Pish posh.
Back at Chez Shorty, Tyra(‘s production crew) stuck caution tape everywhere because the girls were so damn messy, but fo reals: Ants in the bathroom?! Messily unpacked suitcase is one thing — even though Tyra claimed that’s where rats like to live, which I don’t think is true, unless they’re taking a huge break from living on the tracks at my subway stop. But food mess? Hairballs? Again, ants in the bathroom? Horses of a different color. Really filthy horses, but definitely of a different color. Anyway, the house is so “contaminated” that, drumroll, they all have to move! To Hawaii! Noted fashion hotspot where real modeling totally, totally occurs!
The ladies were thrilled as anyone would be, and their Hawaiian digs were palatial, though presumably the gorgeous house would be crawling with ants and laundryrats in mere days. Nicole made sure that we all remembered that she’s a little weird by saying, “The beach is something I crave.” Is that weird in and of itself? Maybe not, but her flat affect and unusual vocabulary and syntax choices make her sound like an alien sent here to infiltrate our ranks, observe our ways, and eventually dominate us with strangeness/alarmingly narrow shoulders/perfect curly hair even in humidity, how is that possible?/something else. I mean really, this is exactly what she sounds like. I’m on to you, Bloody Eyeball!
Everyone lounged around, and Brittany complained more about how annoying and loud and immature Erin is. And she definitely seems like those things — plus bleached eyebrows make her seem demonic — but we learned something really, really important in this scene: Erin is the one who knows how to French braid hair. That is some crucial sleepover currency, not unlike being able to get cigarettes in jail (or get cigarettes at a sleep over, really), and we’ve seen a few people sport some cute plaits so far this season, which means despite her whiney immaturity, Erin has done other contestants’ hair for them. I’d stomach a lot of noisiness in exchange for regular hair-doing.
For this week’s challenge, the models had to “tandem” surf with surfer dudes after a quick lesson, which just made me miss that not very good MTV show from years ago, Surf Girls. Memories! Poor Laura continued to sound more and more like Kenneth the Page, noting that she was got sunburned like “a piglet in a skillet.” My Google-fu tells me that’s not a widely used phrase, so hurrah for Laura for coming up with such a bizarre yet catchy way to describe the mighty powers of our planet’s yellow sun. Uncharming Erin won again, and she complained that her prize of a stunning helicopter tour of Maui wasn’t “tangible” enough. “Like whatever, I’d rather win some jewelry,” she said, because she is too young and immature to recognize the Jurassic Parkiness of the whole experience. Immature!
And then it was time for the real challenge: Acting like there’s nothing socially charged at all about race-as-costume! Tyra and Jay explained (sort of) that Hawaii has a history of immigration. “What happens when men and women from different places comes together? Babies! From different cultures!” Tyra squealed. In Hawaii, she said, that’s known as hapa, which she translates as “half,” though others explain differently. And Barack Obama is biracial! Wait, what are we talking about?
The contestants were each assigned “two very different, distinct races,” as Mr. Jay put it, which completely conflates racial identity with national identity, and those aren’t quite synonymous. There was zero acknowledgment of the fact that race play has an extremely problematic history; there wasn’t even a dismissal of the idea that anyone might be bothered by concept for the shoot. Nope, everything just moved right along. Erin, er, portrayed Tibetan and Egyptian, but the only thing she knew about Tibet was that “it needs to be freed,” so Jay encouraged her to “feel that spirituality.” It became clear both here and at the judging panel that the only thing Tyra knows about Tibet is that the Dalai Lama is from there. Laura’s Greek/Mexican get-up worked out okay thanks to Tyra’s “brutal honesty,” and Nicole marveled that she “really looked exotic.” Jennifer’s Batswana/Polynesian shoot started out a little rough (maybe because Tyra said “Botswanan,” which does not appear to be the correct term), but Jay reminded her that in Botswana, “music is heard everywhere you go.” Brittany’s Native American/Indian shoot was stiff, even though Tyra nudged her to gaze at an imaginary eagle. Because that’s what Native Americans do all day! Stare at eagles! Oh, lord. Sundai did well as Moroccan/Russian and appeared to be the only contestant whose skin was not painted another color.
At panel, guest judge supermodel Kristy Hume was barely heard from at all. Jennifer’s shot was praised for looking “almost sort of National Geographic,” according to Nigel. Laura’s shot was way awkward and gave her stumpy legs, but I am apparently the only one who noticed that because the judges liked it. Stumpy legs, you guys! So much for stretching out those petite frames. Erin was deemed “beautifully bored,” Brittany looked a little bit dead in her picture, and Sundai’s impishness played too much “like Gap Kids,” according to Tyra. My bigger concern was that it looked like Sundai wasn’t wearing pants at the judging; she turned out to be wearing very short shorts with a voluminous top, but…that’s not good either. Wear pants, Sundai! Nicole, duh, looked beautiful and did a great job because she’s a good model.
Which is how she came out on top for the week. Jennifer, Laura, and Sundai were safe, and it was down to a battle of the boniest, pastiest ladies left: Erin and Brittany. The lowly mathematician was sent packing, meaning Erin has now had two weird weeks in a row where she won the challenge but bombed the actual shoot. Good thing she can fall back on that French braiding!
Adieu, Brittany. At first I was sad that Erin was sticking around, but then when the goodbye autotune yodel fired up and that montage of shots flew by, it became clear that Brittany just wasn’t very good.
I’ve given up hope that Top Model would recognize that it exists in a real world, where racially-charged fashion spreads raise eyebrows and bother lots of people and are at least worth mentioning. I guess that ship has sailed, so now I’m just going to settle in and root for Bloody Eyeball. You?
Photos: Tyra Banks/Pottle Productions