Modelling is a world in which things you and I have known how to do since nappy-crapping are known as skills. Talking. Walking. Playing dress-ups. Pulling faces.
This week's episode is almost entirely devoted to Learning How To Walk, although I sincerely hope that Learning How To Talk follows swiftly behind. I'm looking at you, Natasha. And Jaslene. And Jael. And Felicia. And maybe Tyra. Not you, Nigel. You're perfect.
Put one leg in front of the other, stick your norks out, and pout like you're sucking on a marble. It's the Walking The Dog episode of America's Next Top Model.
· First, for the time-poor, The Nutshell Version: Twelve girls go back to school, walk around in outfits plucked straight from Satan's Ironic Punishment Range (available at Target), Renee scowls, Jaslene thinks she's the Modelling Messiah, Tyra's still a pirate, and someone goes home.
· As in every episode of every series, the modules express their insecurities to loved ones back home by way of telephony. Jaslene speaks Spanish to her madre, telling her how fierce she is, and sounds a little like she's deaf. Samantha obviously is deaf, as she apparently hasn't heard me yelling "DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE GOD-AWFUL EYEBROWS!" repeatedly at the television. Why, oh why, must we wait so long for a makeover episode? Bring tweezers, a whipper-snipper, and some ordinary household bleach, STAT. Samantha tells her mother that she feels different from the other girls (because she has gigantic unkempt eyebrows), and that she'll never forget who she is (you're the girl with the gigantic unkempt eyebrows).
· A Tyra-Mail arrives, saying "Babies learn how to do it – can you?", and the girls correctly guess that the theme of the week is "walking" and not "poohing in a real toilet". The Big Pink Hummer (which I'm just dying to turn into a euphemism), delivers the modules to a high school football field, where they're met by Miss Jay leading a marching band with a series of disturbing arse-wiggles. Watching Miss Jay sometimes feels like I've just walked in on an uncle trying on a dress. Dionne displays her vast fashion vocabulary, commenting that "he has on his little - whatever kind of hat that was". Miss Jay tells the girls that runway walking is all about timing, precision, and choreography, to which I would add "moving one's feet" and "looking constipated".
· Miss Jay and the modules all get changed – the modules into bad high school sportswear (read: ugly polyester shorts and shirts with heels and sun-visors), and Miss Jay into an outfit viewable in several nightmares I'm having next week. He's dressed as a private school girl, in a skirt, blouse and plaits. My gorge rises, but then recoils quickly in horror. I hate it when my gorge does that. Each girl is required to walk up and down a white line (I don't know whether to make a joke about Johnny Cash or Grandmaster Flash. What's that? Neither? Right. Carry on) whilst Miss Jay critiques their technique. Nobody really sucks, but we see the first glimmers of Jaslene's diva fever as she works the running track like it's her bitch, saying "I found Miss Jay's suggestions helpful, but this is who I am". Renee throws her a narrowed acidic squint, pinpointing her as enemy number one for the week. In Spanish, that's numero uno. My favourite part of this segment, though, and the reason I want a talking Natasha doll, is when Miss Jay tells her she "walks like she's marching" (which is actually being nice, as she walks like she's controlled by a fitting puppeteer). To camera, Natasha is a little confused, saying "Miss Jay – he say I walk like Martian". Seriously, if this girl ever learns English, I'll be very, very upset.
· The second part of the lesson starts, and Miss Jay splits the girls into groups of three and gives them a choreographed runway routine to perform. He says "Three girls walk from point A to B, the girl in the middle stops, the other two continue and cross over. On the way back, the centre girl will walk while the others wait, then they'll all go back together". Understandably, Natasha says "What?". Sarah, right before falling out of her shoes, smarms "I think it's much easier to walk in heels because you have more elegance". Unfortunately for you, dear girl, you still only have the same amount of chin.
· A bell rings, and the modules are corralled into the school gym, where they're met by Roy Campbell, best known for organising community fashion parades in churches, because Jesus Loves Fashion. Roy, like Phillip Bloch last week, also has a creepy pencil moustache. Seriously – has that look ever really worked for anyone? I'm offended on behalf of pencils. This week's challenge is announced, with the promise of a BIG prize – the girls must take part in a fashion parade in front of school students and their parents, executing the same choreographed moves they just practiced on the football field. The theme of the parade is "Prom", with sub-themes of 'modern contemporary', 'the Eighties', and 'ghetto fabulous', my current favourite oxymoron. Miss Jay walks out in a blue taffeta meringue and an up-do. Honestly – he's just not trying anymore.
· A "make-up stylist" is introduced, and her only function is to say the words "Cover Girl" as many times as possible. Whilst a shameless and repetitive product plug pretending to be a beauty seminar should be interesting, I'm momentarily distracted by my knees.
· Parade: yes. Fashion: no. Puffy taffeta and polka dots: hell, yes. Hollywood tape: regrettably, no. The parade starts with relatively sedate beauty-pageant-esque gowns, moves on to re-hee-hee-volting puffy taffeta and crimped hair, and comes to a climax with hoochie slut frocks of the kind that prostitutes dress in briefly between clients. Jaslene spends a lot of time telling the other modules in two different languages how good she's going to be. Renee announces that this is her time to show people what she can do. Way to summarise the whole point of the challenge, arsehole. The second time Sarah walks out, she winks at the audience, but on her final strut she gives them so much more. In front of students and parents alike, both of her boosies escape her dress and lead her down the runway and back, neither winking nor blinking. She says "I just kept on going – I'm not going to let anything ruin my runway walk". How about an indecent exposure lawsuit, honey? Would that do? After a quick Yearbook Committee meeting, the students vote her Girls Whose Boobs We Wanted To See Least. The other modules barely notice, busy as they are with bumping into each other.
· Roy assesses the girls' performance, and is most critical about Sarah and her double exposure (She claims she didn't know it was a bad idea to flash at children), Renee and her dishwater-blandness (She says "I really don't care – the crowd was loving me"), and Jaslene and her general air of being lost (initially thinking she's going to be complimented, she does the best facial impression of instant heartbreak ever seen off Broadway). He tells Natasha that she "wasn't cognizant of the other girls on the runway", and he might as well have told her she was a purple reticulated aeroplane. Surprisingly, no criticism is thrown Brittany's way, despite the fact that she looked like she was trying to mix two separate cakes in different directions, and she wins the BIG prize. The prize is a gigantic four-foot trophy. With a gold spray-painted shoe on top. Gold. Spray-painted. Shoe. It's like winning a Mary Schneider album in an orchestral eisteddfod or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like winning a cup of cold sick in a chook raffle.
· Ladies and Gentlemen: we's got us some bitchy. Renee, smirking and smoking, asks Jaslene how she felt about her critique. She then says to camera "I feel that Jaslene is self-centred and cocky, but I also feel she's insecure". Aaah, the pot and the kettle – together at last! Felicia, able to be catty without the assistance of actual eyebrows, looks directly at Jaslene when she says "People are mad because they're not in the top anymore – they're just hang-around girls", and I don't know what she means. Jaslene says "Speak for yourself, darling", and "Coming in here and talking about all that smack", and I don't know what she means. Then Jaslene says "Dumbaaaasssss". I know what she means.
· Reading a eulogy for a dead horse, this week's high-school-themed photo shoot gets underway, in which the modules are dressed as "high school clichés" and photographed in situ. Mr Jay reads out the list of clichés, apparently from the Roget's Thesaurus entry for "slut". To summarise:
o Jael is the Class Nerd, and in a surprise comparable to finding three equal sides in an equilateral triangle, she's given a pair of spectacles to wear. And a knitted vest with a raccoon on it. She's happy, and says "this is definitely something I'd wear".
o Sarah is the Class Flirt (Slut), and she sits at a desk and giggles. Her giggle frightens me to the core of my icy soul, and she's about as sexy as Julie Andrews. Jay loves her, but she says "because I used to do photography, I think about it too much. Did I tell you I used to do photography? I used to do photography".
o Dionne is the Class Bad Girl (Slut), and she looks like a very pretty biker skank mole indeed.
o Cassandra is the Cheerleader (Slut), wearing a demure cardigan open to the waist. She explains her special method of channeling the spirit of the cheerleader: "I got to be reluctant".
o Renee is the Class Clown in a frilly ruff, harlequin-printed bodysuit and bright pink bra. She pulls strange faces and jumps up and down, and whinges that she's been treated unfairly. "Why can't I get things I'm good at, like the other girls are? They keep giving me stuff that they know I'm not good at". Clearly, Renee feels that she should have been dressed like a slut. Poor Renee.
o Samantha is the Girl With The Bad Reputation (Slut), and she feels a bit uncomfortable. "This is not me at all," she complains. "Last week I was a lesbian, and now I'm a ho". Samantha, Miss Butterbean Festival 2006, you are clearly, clearly neither.
o Brittany is the Valedictorian in a bad frilly blouse and a mortarboard. She has a pretty face. Next.
o Whitney is the Mean Girl, which is apparently Big Girl Who Owns A Handbag. Yawn.
o Diana is the Student Body President in a beret and a bob. She poses well, and has a seriously stunning face and a great, fashionable outfit. But… um… she's like, fat and stuff. I don't get it.
o Felicia is the Girl Jock in a wrestling leotard, and I have to admit – when an outsider is brought in to draw proper eyebrows on this girl's face, she's gorgeous. Jumps around gracefully. Nails it.
o Jaslene is the Weird Girl in goth make-up, overcoat, and deerhunter hat. Comment on school report: "Jaslene has been told repeatedly to not hide semi-automatic weapons under her clothing. A troubled, troubled young man". Jay wets himself with enthusiasm. Renee pops herself a new forehead-vein of jealous rage.
o Natasha is Teacher's Pet in big curls and a shapeless printed sack, and says "I don't unnerstand – should I be innocent or more saxy?". Jay just tells her to stop looking like she's sitting on the toilet. This modeling shit's hard.
· A Tyra-Mail arrives announcing the impending elimination. Jael reads it to the house wearing only a black wig and a pair of undies. Scene.
· The modules pile into the Elimination Vestibule to learn their fate, and Tyra is again dressed as a pirate. She drones through the prizes which I think include a pair of tweezers and a pineapple, and introduces the judges including Spunky Nigel, who I'm laundering my gussets for. Miss Jay is wearing a jaunty ruffle around his neck, which is explained as a new Elimination Element. Every time a module is eliminated, he'll add another ruffle to his outfit, confirming my suspicions that at ANTM Production Meetings they serve coffee, tea, and crack. Photos are picked apart one by one, accompanied by Tyra's invaluable advice, including golden nuggets such as "You can look like a 'ho, but make it fashion", "You know how to jump and keep your face nice", and "I call it the novocaine mouth". Natasha is given some stern criticism which makes her beam with delight – with her IQ and command of English, I suspect all she hears is either praise or a brisk polka played on the accordion.
· Names are ominously called until only Natasha and Samantha are left. Natasha is told she's got a gorgeous face that doesn't translate into good photos (you've got a gorgeous face, oom-pah-pah), and Samantha is told that she takes gorgeous photos, but that she's not ready for modeling yet. Time passes, an accordion distantly plays, and Samantha is given the elbow. Bye, Samantha! Don't lose your keys in your great shaggy eyebrows on your way out!
· Wait – Renee didn't mention her son all episode. Maybe he died.
Next week, the girls FINALLY get a makeover, Renee lets off some more bitchy steam, and Jael gets a tragic message from home. New hues. Short fuse. Bad news.