wanna be on top

Top Model Recap: Fistfights and a Stolen Lighter

Allyssa on the zombie-themed photo shoot.
Allyssa on the zombie-themed photo shoot. Photo: Patrick Wymore/?2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

What’s great about being a few episodes into the season is that producers have now ensured that viewers can recognize each girl, so they move away from establishing personalities and into drama, drama, drama. Victoria, who was the first girl called out at last week’s judging, wins access to the private Tyra Suite for the week, but decides not to ask one of the other girls to join her. This leads to behind-her-back trashing of her “lack of social skills,” with some more mocking of her creepily close relationship with her mom thrown in.

Then Kristin (who’s been suspended from school multiple times for fistfights) pulls a lighter out of Destiny’s bag without permission. What follows is a completely immature — a bunch of girls at my summer camp had an almost identical argument when we were in seventh grade — but totally watchable catfight, wherein Kristin screams, “Please hit me! Please hit me!” to try to goad Destiny into attacking her. And all this before the opening credits!

This is what makes Top Model good TV — whereas in a show like Project Runway, contestants have to try to get along, because personal drama could ruin a team challenge and make it more likely for someone to be sent home, the Top Model girls almost never need each other’s help to move forward in the competition. The girls can prey on Victoria’s mom-loving or scream at each other over stolen lighters, and it does nothing to destroy their chances of winning. It’s a free-for-all and a train wreck.

At this week’s challenge, Tyra is joined by Tyler Perry, who assigns each girl a character to play as a street performer and tells them “the more over-the-top, the better.” The winner of the challenge gets a walk-on role in Tyler Perry’s new movie, and the girls will be evaluated on their performance and by how well they follow the direction Tyra and Tyler give via earpieces. Victoria’s strange British socialite earns her a faceful of fast food, chucked at her by a bystander, but Kiara’s diva gets her the win, even though she had the advantage of playing herself.

Then it’s off to the photo shoot, which is zombie themed. Couldn’t they have held off on this one until Halloween week? Still, it’s a cool shoot, held on the set of War of the Worlds on the Universal lot and shot by Ricky Middlesworth. Johnny Wujek is great on this shoot; to begin with, he’s darling in a zip-up skeleton hoodie and growls at the girls to help them get into zombie character. Plus, now that he knows the girls better, he gives more specific feedback and tells them how to do the things he’s asking them to do. It’s much more supportive of the girls than Jay Manuel’s direction often seemed in previous seasons. Kristin tanked the hardest when she announced that she wouldn’t be able to show emotion on the shoot and told Johnny she couldn’t laugh at any of his “lame jokes.” Wait, what?! Most of the other girls held their own, but Laura’s the real standout of this shoot, as she was last week, too.

At judging, where Rob is wearing a winter coat indoors, Allyssa gets the most entertaining criticism of the night, when Tyra tells her that her photo looks “like Mary Poppins after a car accident.” While I don’t like Kristin at all, I give her credit for asking how to not be pretty — at least she’s trying to do what the judges are asking of her. Then again, the fact that she’s even asking semi-suggests that she thinks she’s so pretty there’s no way she could turn it off. The fan critique videos played by Bryanboy are surprisingly insightful; clearly people have been paying attention to the criticisms Tyra and company have leveled against the girls in past seasons. And, most important, the Kelly Cutrone burn of the week is sung to the tune of what must be the song in Kelly’s heart, and directed at Yvonne. “You look like you died in a USO show in World War I! I don’t think you look like a zombie, I think you look like a stripper!” 

In the end, Laura’s called out first, and Tyra makes a big deal out of her having the highest! score! in! Top Model! history! This would be more impressive if the show hadn’t only been using this scoring system for three episodes. Destiny heads off to model limbo. Given that she’ll be legitimately homeless after she leaves the show, her elimination is pretty tragic.

Next week, there’s apparently lots of yelling, crying, and Alicia Keys, which should be great.