This week, Tyra Banks Horror Story: Salem Witch Trials starts with he oft-mentioned detail that a contestant can re-enter the competition based on his or her social-media score. Not one minute into the episode and it was clear that someone would be returning by the end of the hour.
And thus began a parade of predictable America’s Next Top Model tropes:
Bold-Faced Lie Told To Give ANTM Artistic Cred: Like every season, the models are faced with the harsh reality that they must go places to get jobs. So Miss Tyra sets up a go-see challenge. Usually this involves the models shlepping to a designer, where some of them get cast in runway shows and others walk back to the hotel dejected.
The difference this time is that Tyra did away with the “go” part of go-sees and coralled the models in front of a panel of designers. Part of me pined for the days when the models had to scramble around some foreign country—stammering about, attempting to speak the language and bursting into tears when they couldn’t find whatever tiny boutique housed the designer who could rocket them to minimal level of fame.
That part of me is a sadist.
Useless Advice: “Be the best to stay in the competition,” says Nina to Phil. Yes, Nina, that is how competitions work. You have to be the best to win them. Unless it is a competition to see who is the worst at something (which, at times, this show feels like).
Later, Jourdan is told her walk is “TOO GOOD.” She is too stupid to know that this was not a compliment. But also, it is not a very useful critique, either.
Uninteresting Hook-Up: Marvin, who is a child, has a crush on Renee. Renee has a crush back on him, despite being what seems like a reasonable adult—at least some times—and they sleep together (as in, cuddle, not have sex). While she denies that they made out, when she discusses the matter with Cory (the only other adult in the house), I don’t think anyone believes her.
Cat Fight: Finally the Cycle 20 girls deliver with some shade, as large chunks of this week’s episode were dedicated to the verbal tennis match between Jourdan and Renee. While it would be impossible to citeg all the insults, let alone catalog all the dolls’ delighted smirks as they deliver their criticism, here are some highlights:
- Jourdan describes Renee’s runway walk as “stomping the yard,” which may or may not be racist.
- Jourdan has a “panic attack” when she’s not chosen for any runway show, to which Renee responds with the eyeroll from hell.
- During said panic attack, Renee comments that her own personality is “100” but Jourdan’s is “a 10.”
- Jourdan’s slimy Alexis Neiers drawl as she says, “Girl, you do what you want.”
- Renee: “I only halfway-like this bitch.”
- Jourdan: “Are those real books?” Renee: “No, they are fake books and we recycled them from Mars.”
Predictable Gender-Normative Bullshit: Cory is given extra-special praise (again) for looking masculine despite being a homosexual. The judges—who love slathering the guys in nail polish, wigs and makeup this season—repeatedly tell the men “to ‘macho’ it up.”
Meanwhile, Renee, who seemed less and less like a reasonable adult, engages in a completely meaningless gender warfare—insisting the competition is about the girls proving they are better than the guys, or something.
Phil, who is not the brightest mannequin in the shop window, replies, “There are five guys and three girls left, why do you think that is?”
Um, because only women and gay men watch this show?
(Faux) Shocking Elimination: After a completely generic photo shoot involving the models laying in a field of grass (challenging stuff, I know), Chris H. wins for looking like a Twilight bloodsucker, which is apparently a good thing. At least it is this week: All season long, the judges’ scores seem propelled by nothing other than their fickle temperaments.
Phil, who has been in the bottom two for the past two weeks (and who shows up to judging wearing the contents of a Hot Topic clearance bin), is eliminated. As he starts to walk off the stage, visibly shaking from anxiety, Tyra makes a “surprise” announcement that’s not even slightly surprising: One of the castoff models will be returning to the competition. (We probably should have told you to sit down for that.) It is also revealed that once this person rejoins, all the models will head out on a magical trip to Bali.
All the rejected contestants are lined up, and completely forgettable Alexandra (I actually had to look up her old pictures because I didn’t remember her) is allowed to rejoin the others.
Part of me was hoping it’d be Shangela.
Actual Shocking Surprise: Tyra actually had an actual surprise hidden in that hair helmet of hers! Another contestant, a male, would also be returning to the fold. My gullible ass actually spilled a glass of wine from shock at this news, and when the credits rolled before his name was announced, I screamed out loud. (Mainly at myself for being so wrapped up in this junk.)
If a pop-culture blogger yelps at the twist ending of a reality show that has been on for 20 seasons but no one is around to hear it, did it ever really happen?
Check back next week, after I conquer my uneasiness with the human condition.