The Wife:

Even with 12 dances to watch last night, I’m amazed that FOX still managed to find time for the judges to prattle on about nothing (see the segment after Randi and Evan’s samba where Mary and Tyce just made animal noises at each other like the crazy queens they are) and provide some video filler in the form of a producer package about what the dancers will miss about each other when their partnerships are broken up next week (most notable among these, I think, is the fact that Kupono will miss Kayla’s clammy hands and feet, because he finds them comforting). There are many things to discuss, so let’s just get straight to them.

The Excellent

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

Kayla and Kupono (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “Gravity” by Sara Barielles

Even without hearing Kupono’s story about the family member he lost to addiction, this piece would have moved me, and it truly did. It literally took my breath away when Kupono threw Kayla to the floor and they began the synchronized portion of their floorwork together. It was stunning, riveting to watch and brought tears to my eyes. And as beautiful as Kayla was throughout this piece, I have to give Kupono his due for acting the shit out of this. He was completely in his element in this Mia Michaels piece, and I’m glad to finally see him do something that shows me why he deserved to stay over flawless Max. This one goes on my list of favorite SYTYCD pieces of all time, for sure.

Jeanette and Brandon (Jazz)
Choreography by Wade Robson
Song: “Ruby Blue” by Roisin Murphy

Apparently Wade and the wardrobe department recently saw Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom because every single detail of this piece was reminiscent of that film. (Well, except for the Roisin Murphy song. That’s pure Wade.) The piece was about thieves, dressed in black and white with bowlers and red gloves, which lent both a nice cabaret-like feel to the whole thing, as well as providing the most direct homage to the costuming in Johnson’s film. (With the exception of two pieces Rachel Weiz’s character dons at crucial points in the film where she’s acting the part of the mark, the main characters all wear shades of black and white. Rinko Kikuchi’s demolitions expert Bang Bang wears red leather gloves throughout the entire film. Both Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo don bowlers. Also, they’re con men, possibly the most glamorous type of thief.) It was a great, funky piece with which to close the evening and Jeanette and Brandon danced it expertly. I had a hard time taking my eyes off Jeanette, all stuffed into those tight, shiny leggings, because she really can do anything. This might not have been as cool as the hummingbird, or “Cabaret Hoover” or “Rama Lama Bang Bang,” but it was 100% Wade and 100% amazing.

Jeanette and Brandon (Argentine Tango)
Choreography by Marian Larici and Leonardo (who performed that gorgeous tango a few weeks back)
Song: Libertango from Forever Tango

Again, Jeanette and Brandon make my top of the pops list, which clearly earns them the non-existent award for Couple of the Night. They learned a beautiful Argentine tango from the tango masters and performed it expertly. Once more, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jeanette who transformed into a completely different person on that stage. I think her salsa experience prepared her for the fleet footwork in this number and it showed in her excellent flicks. Nigel clearly thought it was the best dance of the night and gave it a silent standing ovation. Mary followed suit, but added on three Official Mary Murphy Screams and two First Class Tickets to the Hot Tamale Train for the couple. Tyce then said something completely incomprehensible about orange juice to Brandon.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

The Good to Very Good

Melissa and Ade (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song:  “Move On Up” by Destination

Even though Melissa fell out of her hold at the end of this routine, she and Ade played it off like it was supposed to happen that way, and I have to commend them for that. This one didn’t start out as well as other disco routines, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Jeanette and Brandon’s from earlier in the season, but it did pick up a lot of momentum toward the end and was very enjoyable to watch – especially the combination of lifts and spins in the final third (i.e. everything after Melissa did that upside-down split lift). Ade was strong and Melissa was saucy, and that’s just what the routine called for. It also called for very, very shiny outfits and was awarded an Official Mary Murphy Scream with a supportive woo for backup.

Caitlin and Jason (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Show Me Heaven” by Maria McKee

My husband and I like to play a little game whenever we hear Mandy Moore’s going to choreograph something. It’s a really simple game called, “What 80s song will Mandy Moore choose?” This one tripped us up a bit, because neither of us knew it, but from the vocals and the synthesizer (and with the help of the internet), we realized Mandy played it close to the vest again by choosing a song off the Days of Thunder soundtrack. I thought the choreography was very strong in this piece, and Caitlin and Jason danced it really well. I thought Jason was particularly good in his lead section, in which he showed excellent muscle control and some very strong lines.

Caitlin and Jason (Foxtrot)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin (YAY! Melanie’s back!)
Song: “Minnie the Moocher” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, one of my favorite bands

Caitlin’s silver and green dress for this piece gets my award for Outfit of the Night. Jason, on the other hand, has too much of a baby face to convincingly pull off a double breasted suit, which detracted from his believability in this number. The good news is, though, that he made up for it with his dancing. Both dancers were very graceful, and Caitlin’s leg lines served her well in this piece, especially in the voluminous skirt of that green green dress. Good all around.

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Kayla and Kupono (Broadway)
Choreography by Joey Dowling
Song: “The Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story

What I liked about this piece was that Dowling chose to tell her version of the Tony-Maria meet cute through the pre-mambo segment of “The Dance at the Gym,” rather than the iconic portion with iconic movement and snapping. By doing so, she provided something that captured the spirit of the show whence it came, told a story and did so in a unique way. I can’t help but think that when Tyce complimented her on the number, it was tinged with bitterness, because I’m pretty sure he was just a little bit bitter at everything that graced the SYTYCD stage last night. However, I was extremely distracted by the fact that Kayla wasn’t wearing shoes. As Dowling explained it, two kids run into each other on a rooftop and fall in love. Why the hell wouldn’t you wear shoes to the rooftop of your Manhattan apartment building? That just doesn’t seem sanitary to me. And that dress with its adorable bubble skirt needed to be completed with some heels. That’s not Kayla’s fault, but I have to wonder if Dowling specifically told the wardrobe department not to give the girl shoes. And if so, why? That just didn’t make sense to me.

Melissa and Ade (Waltz)
Choreography by Ron Montez
Song: “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Mary J. Blige

Melissa and Ade continued their strong showing tonight with this Ron Montez waltz. Melissa was allowed to be as graceful and beautiful as a ballerina is taught to be, and I thought Ade partnered her well. Mary commented on how Ade’s only fault was that his twinkles weren’t good enough, but I’d have hardly noticed. Critiques then rapidly descended into a discussion of English muffins and Brooklyn brownies. What is a Brooklyn brownie, Miss Deeley? Does it have weed in it?

The Mediocre

Randi and Evan (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Halo” by Beyonce

This one winds up in the mediocre category not because of its choreography or because it wasn’t danced well, but because, compared to everything else, it just seemed to fall short. It was a nice piece danced nicely. Nigel made an astute, if slightly culturally insensitive, comment about how TabNap allowed Randi and Evan to dance a hip-hop routine as themselves rather than being “urban.” I understand what he meant, but the way he said it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. What he probably should have said would have been something like, “It’s great that they gave you two a softer, more lyrical hip-hop, rather than asking you to do something very hard-hitting and edgy.” He also made another off-color remark expressing his dislike for people who have babies out of wedlock, which I’m sure didn’t gain him any fans. He was kind of a douche tonight in general, actually. And those are only two examples. But enough about Nigel! I enjoyed this number, but would find it wholly unforgettable if not for the awkward incorporation of the titular “halo” as Evan looped his arms around Randi’s body. That I will remember, which is unfortunate, because I didn’t like that part at all.

Randi and Evan (Samba)
Choreography by Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis
Song: “Ritmo di Bom Bom” by Jababa

I was very excited to see a Pasha and Anya number on the show, as I love when SYTYCD alums return to choreograph. However, the execution of this piece left something to be desired. Mary seemed to think that Randi was flawless in it and gave her a Hot Tamale Train ticket and an Official Mary Murphy Scream, but I didn’t think so. I thought she was better than Evan in it, if only because she had a little bit better extension and shimmied more easily, but she still wasn’t her best. My poor Evan was not at all comfortable in this style and his posture and extension left something to be desired overall. Tyce attempted to explain this to Evan by quoting the onomatopoeia from “Cell Block Tango.” Tyce made no sense tonight.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

Jeanine and Phillip (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin
Song: “Stuff Like That There” by Bette Midler

My husband may have been way into Jeanine’s breast- and booty-shaking, but I was not into this piece. I think it showed of Jeanine’s ample talents beautifully, but also exposed Phillip’s weaknesses, even though Nigel declared that this was the best Phillip’s ever been out of his own style. (I dunno about that. I think Tyce’s Broadway hid that better than this jive did.) Chbeeb’s floorwork in the beginning was really rocky for me, and he did improve toward the end. It was definitely not their best, even if Jeanine got her own Official Mary Murphy Scream and a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train. (Man, there be a lot of ladies up on that train this week, no?)

Jeanine and Phillip (Kalinka)
Choreography by Yuri Nelzine and Lila Balenko
Song:  “Kalinka” by Barynya

And then there was the Kalinka, a Russian folk dance that I was pleased to see if only because you all know I’ve been begging for more ethnic dances on this show ever since Bollywood started cropping up. I’ve tossed this one into the mediocre category because I agree with the assessment that the dancers both could have been stronger throughout the piece, especially Phillip, who made several errors in his footwork at the beginning. However, I have to express my disappointment in Nigel’s reaction to the dance, a dance he, as executive producer, presumably greenlit to add to the mix because he knew what it would look like. Instead of saying that Jeanine and Phillip could have performed it better, he chose to possibly insult a whole cadre of Russian folk dancers (and the choreographers!) by calling the piece “childish” and not strong enough to be on the show. He kept comparing it to the trepak, which I think is also a conceptual mistake on his part because the trepak and the kalinka are different dances. For him to compare the two as though they’re the same style because they come from the same country would be like comparing a waltz to a jive just because they’re both in professional ballroom competition. So what gives? Yes, Jeanine and Phillip didn’t perform it as strongly as they could have, but I didn’t dislike the dance itself or its inclusion on the program.

You may notice that I’ve left off a category this week, and that’s because we truly are at a level in the competition where we’ve successfully separated wheat from chaff and I believe that everyone left is good enough to make the top ten. Even the two couples that I think were the most mediocre of the bunch this week are fully deserving of Top 10 status, and I’d be happy to see any of them on tour as no one was bad this week. However, all things considered, I do have to make predictions and enter them in the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game, so here goes:
I think Jeanine and Phillip and Randi and Evan will definitely land in the bottom three this week. Ideally, I’d like Caitlin and Jason to join them. This is not because they didn’t perform well this week, but because of their general performances up until this point. If I had my druthers, Caitlin and Jason would both be gone. But I think that when you compare the guys, it will probably be between Phillip and Evan. I like them both. In fact, I love Evan. And as much as I like Chbeeb and what he does in his own style, I think he has begun to outlive his usefulness in the competition. I think this might be his last week with us. (But don’t worry! He’ll still be on tour as an alternate!) As for the girls, the judges love Jeanine, so we know she’s safe. Between Caitlin and Randi, I think Caitlin’s the weaker of the two dancers, and we already know that she doesn’t have as big of a fan base as Randi does. So my choices for the dancers that will be leaving us tonight are Chbeeb and Caitlin, who will both make fine alternates on the tour this fall.

But I’m still worried about Randi and Evan. I just don’t want to think Evan could be leaving me so soon!

Other thoughts:

  • I loved Cat’s very vintage LBD, but I think the makeup folks did her a disservice with that shade of red and the smoky eye. She needed a brighter red to liven up her face against that messy 40s-inspired coif and that austere frock.
  • I do not understand at all what Mary was wearing.
  • Most tragic moment of the night: when Nigel complimented Caitlin on being Grace Kelly-like in her foxtrot, followed by the completely blank look on her face because she clearly had no idea who Grace Kelly was.
  • Remember back in the day when the guest judge du settimane always choreographed the results show group number? I almost wish they still did that so I’d know what to expect, because now I never have any idea anymore.
  • So, following the theory that TabNap only choreographs about their marriage, should I assume that Tabitha is incubating a tiny little hip-hop choreographer in her womb? Yes or no?
  • Total Hot Tamale Train Tickets tonight: 4
  • Total Official Mary Murphy Screams: 6, plus an enthusiastic woo.

The Wife:

Parks & Recreation 1.6 “Rock Show”

All I can say is that I hope Ann and Andy never break up because Chris Pratt is the best part about this show. I completely understand Ann’s anger upon finding out that Andy had lied to her about when his casts could be removed just to get another two weeks of complete servitude out of her, but I also get how nice it is to be taken care of the way Ann had taken care of Andy. Let me give you a list of how funny Chris Pratt’s Andy is:

  • His songs about things that are physically near him: “Sandwich! Are you turkey or ham?” (To which Ann responds, “Ham.”)
  • The sundry items that fell into one of his casts, including some gummi bears and Ann’s iPod.
  • His long list of band names which appear to change frequently: Scare Crow Boat, Mouse Rat, Fourskin, Threeskin, Teddy Bear Suicide . . . many other suicidal inanimate objects included there.
  • The Pit song.
  • His genius plot to get back in Ann’s good graces, which I infer entirely from the look on his face when he sees the pit outside his door after she kicks him out: fall into the pit again and get hurt.
  • His reaction to Mark falling drunkenly into the pit, which is basically just an excuse to get back in Ann’s house and watch TV while Mark suffers.

Until she finds out that he lied to her, Ann spends her time flyering for Scare Crow Boat’s first concert on Andy’s newly healed legs, which she still attends that night because everyone else on Leslie’s subcommittee has agreed to go . . .except for Leslie, who attends what she thinks is a business meeting but turns out to be a date with a 62-year-old man, set up for her by her mother. Mark spends the evening at the rock show realizing that he has somehow become the third wheel to everyone in the Parks department: Ron Swanson attends with his new girlfriend, his ex-wife’s sister, who hates his ex as much as he does; Tom Haverford attends with his wife, a hot doctor who, he reminds Mark, makes, like, a ton of money; and even Intern April shows up with a gay guy she makes out with sometimes when she’s drunk. Mark tries to get Ann to see the light about being with Andy, but she rejects him outright, knowing that he’s not any better at relationships than Andy is.



Leslie and her date show up right as Mouse Rat (formerly Scare Crow Boat) finishes its set, but Leslie’s date is too old and he falls asleep, so she spends the rest of the night drinking with Mark until last call. After which, they go to the pit and have, actually, a really sweet conversation about Leslie’s hopes to turn the pit into a park in which Mark proves to her its already a park. (“Ring Around the Diaper” and “Duck, Duck, Glass” are two games he imagines children playing there.) And then he falls in.

I’m still not 100% sure about Parks & Rec, but I think it’s starting to settle into its own groove, and I was very surprised at the sweetness and realness of this episode. Often, Leslie’s idealism and naïveté make her incredibly unrelatable, almost like she’s actually mentally insane instead of a misguided go-getter. But here, especially in her scene at the pit with Mark, she seemed the most real to me that she’s been all season, and I’d like to see more of that Leslie.

[Husband Note: I very much like the show and am 95% certain it can find a great groove next season. In addition, it might be my favorite new opening theme music of the year, but I can’t really explain why.]

30 Rock 3.22 “Kidney Now!”

Jack prepares to give his father a kidney, until Dr. Spaceman reveals that they’re not a match at all, leaving Jack to resort to the very thing the liberal media is best at: putting together fundraising telethons and gala concert events to solicit money for causes. So he pulls out all of his favors with various celebrities to get them to record a “We Are the World”-esque diddy coercing the entire nation to donate just one kidney (just one!) to Milton Green, because he really needs it. I think the plea for a kidney was best summarized by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine: “And while you don’t have two beards, you do have two kidneys. Let’s put it this way, if you had two dollars, you’d give me one, right?”

I think Cyndi Lauper might need a new liver soon . . .

I think Cyndi Lauper might need a new liver soon . . .

And how did Jack acquire some of these celebrities? It was easy to get Clay Aiken, because his cousin Kenneth promised he’d do it. Mary J. Blige owed Jack a favor because he got her out of a 20-year concert contract at Seaworld. And as for Elvis Costello? It is best that no one ever finds out that he’s actually an international art thief. Sheryl Crow ended up being the only one to get paid for it. Cyndi Lauper did it for the free booze. (I think that’s also why she was in The Threepenny Opera and on Gossip Girl.) I have no idea why Adam Levine was there, but he got the funniest lines in the whole show. In addition to his kidney appeal above, there was also him pretending he wasn’t a celebrity in front of Jenna (whom Jack didn’t want in the concert) by acting like he was from Europe (“Pleased to meet!”) and his intense desire to harm Elvis Costello in some manner: “When he isn’t looking, I’m going to punch Elvis in the back of the head.” Oh, Adam Levine. I love you. So much.

Clearly, Jack’s insanely overkill kidney drive was the crux of the episode, but there were also two other silly plots. Liz gets dragged onto the Vontella show with Jenna to promote the Dealbreaker sketch by doling out relationship advice (although, Jenna’s usual appearances on that show involve intense catfights with women pretending to be her half-sister). While Jenna is unable to answer any of the questions the audience poses to her, Liz becomes surprisingly adept at dishing out bon mots about fruit blindness (when you’re fiancé is gay and you don’t know it) and other such dealbreakers. My favorite: “Only one snake in the bed. Dealbreaker.” Eventually, because her appearance on Vontella was so popular, the women of 30 Rock start asking her for advice. Angie wants to know what to do when she finds out that Tracy rents a hotel room twice a week for two hours. Likewise, Pete’s wife wonders why Pete doesn’t want to attend their family vacation. Tripping on the power of fake advice, Liz tells both women to “S that D: shut it down,” incurring the wrath of both of her coworkers. You see, Tracy only rents a hotel room so he can shit in peace. (Angie should instead be worried that he only poops twice a week.) And Pete doesn’t want to go on his family vacation because they’re going to work on a farm, and he’s the only one with hands dexterous enough to steer the bull during mating season. But Liz refuses to stop, especially with a book deal in the works and Jack encourages her: Liz is finally getting hers.

As for Tracy, he’s invited to speak at his old high school’s commencement. He refuses because he vowed never to go back there after he left school for crying over being forced to dissect a frog in science class. He also vowed never to cry again, a fact he admits to over a montage of all the times we’ve seen Tracy cry about something. Kenneth convinces him that he should go, though, to prove to himself that he isn’t that kid anymore. When he does give his speech, he is awarded with an honorary high school diploma, which he cries about. Tracy’s plot was the weakest in this whole episode, but because Jack and Liz’s stories were so funny, this all adds up to be a pretty good, silly and weird season finale.

Other funny:

  • “Science was my most favorite subject – especially the Old Testament.” – Kenneth
  • “My Mary J. Blige Foundation is celebrating its 10th year of searching for the Loch Ness Monster.” – Mary J. Blige
  • “We called him Mean Steve. But his real name was Steve Killer.” – Tracy
  • Jack and Milton playing catch.
  • Liz and Sheryl Crow played Kidneys in the 5th grade school play. And Sheryl does not like Liz at all.

[Husband Note: In case you didn’t catch all the celebrities, a commenter on AV Club listed (I think) everybody else. That would include The Beastie Boys, Michael McDonald, Rhett Miller, Robert Randolph, Sarah Bareilles, Norah Jones, Moby, Wyclef, Talib Kweli and Rachael Yamagata.]

The Wife:

Welcome back to the temple of the Goddess of Fierce, everyone! And when I say that, I am not referring to Tyra Banks, but to myself. Because if Tyra can find a way to make last summer’s gladiator sandals still relevant (and yes, that casting special probably was filmed last summer when they were actually relevant) by stealing my theme for my next murder mystery dinner, I can steal her title. With all due respect to Miss Tyra, I’m really more like a Handmaiden of Fierce, but I digress. I’m always happy to have ANTM back in my life, but it’s pretty clear to me that the show is starting to outlive itself when Tyra manages to cast a series of girls who have stolen all of my gimmicks for ANTM auditions. See, next cycle is going to be for girls 5’7″ and under. I’d be too short coming in right at 5’7″ for a regular season, but I’d likely tower over all the shorties next season. The casting call was on Tuesday in San Francisco, and I ended up not going mostly because it was wet outside, but I’ll tell you all about what my dastardly plan to infiltrate the temple of the Goddess of Fierce would have been a little later.

TyTy and company took their 34 semifinalists to Caesar’s Palace in fabulous Las Vegas, made them dress up in Roman slave girl costumes with golden knee high gladiator heels that (I think) are either by Dolce Vita or came straight out of Fredericks of Hollywood. Mr. Jay made the girls take profile shots, you know, like an ancient bust or something, while Miss Jay made the ladies embrace their inner goddess by having them walk down a runway covered in clouds (a.k.a. dry ice). Even during these two funzie challenges, a catfight started brewing between Angelea, a girl who just can’t wait to get the hell out of Buffalo, and Sandra, this season’s high-strung African goddess who says goddess in such a way that I want to rub up against her and purr like a kitten. (What? You know African accents are sexy.) The problem with both of these girls is that they have it in their heads that they both better than everyone else. That never goes well.

When the girls were brought before the judges, we got to meet a select few of them, and I’ll provide you here with a list of my preliminary notes:

  • Sandra – Girl, keep it together! Now is not the time for crying!
  • London – You are the worst street preacher. Ever.
  • Tahlia – This girl is a burn survivor, and I think her scars are beautiful. I am also really mad at her because she totally stole my “girls with scars” angle, although, really, her scars are much worse than my cancer hole. (More on that later!)
  • Monique – Conspiracy theorist! She’s insane, but I like her peacock shirt, and I kind of love her killer poses.
  • Aminat – Bitch, you fierce! And tall!
  • Kathryn – Your pen collection is a shitty pen collection. Tyra, the queen of gimmick, can indeed spot a gimmick a mile away. It’s disappointing that Kathryn can’t name any working models other than Agyness Deyn, but she rolls with designers pretty well, and that counts for something.
  • Isabella – She has epilepsy. I do not think fashion shows are going to go well for her.
  • Felicia-who-goes-by-Fo – She’s a self-proclaimed Blaxican, which Tyra claims is a term she doesn’t know. I highly doubt that Tyra. I highly doubt that.
  • Angelea – Uh, you’re 22 and your daughter is dead? I suddenly feel awful about hating you.
  • Celia – Holy shit, this girl is leaps and bounds above the other models in terms of her personal style. Her circle flare mustard skirt and purple sweater combination are fabulous and remind me very much of Claire Danes. I love this girl!
  • Kortnie – Token plus sized model. Used to date Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Her parents hate her because they spelled her name that way.
  • Alison – I saw a photo of this girl prior to this episode and I was like “WHAAAA? Where did Tyra find a lemur?” That said, you do not forget a face like Alison’s. You also do not forget that she loves blood and misuses the term hemophilia. Considering that’s when you can’t stop bleeding, I would probably refer to her love of blood as “sanguinophilia.”
  • Teyona – Quoth Tyra: “Her face looks like its in a wind tunnel. Wind tunnel in a good way.”

Only a lucky 21 girls got to go to final elimination that night, so Mr. Jay made them all sort through jewelry boxes in the slave girl costumes to find some pretty laurel wreath headbands. Here, we said goodbye to the conspiracy theorist and a ghetto white girl from Tampa. The remaining 21 girls then got to do a final test: a photoshoot in which they were asked to pose exhibiting the qualities of a goddess. I had high hopes that ANTM was going to be somewhat educational here and be like, “Your goddess is Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and childbearing. Your goddess is Kali, the goddess of chaos. Your goddess is Inianna, the queen of the heavens. You two will be the Wawalak, the aboriginal singing sisters who guard the Rainbow Serpent.” But no. Just goddess of victory, goddess of justice, goddess of love, goddess of success and so on. During this shoot, the catfight between Sandra and Angelea came to a head, and Mr. Jay seemed to side a little more with Sandra, chastising Angelea for starting shit with a well-placed, “Really?”

At the end of the evening, Tyra awarded 13 girls a spot in the house on New York’s Upper East Side. They were: Aminat, Natalie (who has a squishy face, but legs for days), Fo, Alion, Tahlia, Celia (who wore yet another adorable piece of clothing), Nijah (who I’m going to start calling Ninja), London, Teyona, Kortnie, Isabella, Jessica (she’s from Puerto Rico) and Sandra. Ever graceful, Angelea continued to hate on Sandra well-after her elimination from the House of Tyra.

The finalists all gathered atop NYC’s Empire State Building to get their house keys from Paulina and Nigel, who told the keymistress Celia that she could have first pick of beds. The Top Model Townhouse’s ground floor is covered in Tyra’s “Sofia Loren” series of photos from last season, including my ultimate favorite in which she is draped in an American flag bathing suit with a head full of curlers. Other floors had Tyra-shot portraits of past ANTM winners, because Tyra loves herself just that much. (She’s a pretty good photographer, in all honesty, no matter how much I make fun of her incredible narcissism.) Distracted, perhaps, by all the pretty shiny photographs of people more famous than she is, Sandra began starting some shit by stealing Celia’s bed. Everyone then pretended they’ve never seen this show before and acted shocked that there were only 12 beds in the house, meaning one person would be leaving very soon. Sandra and Celia got into a crazy-person-versus-person-who-is-obviously-correct standoff about the bed, and London decided that it wasn’t worth the fighting, taking a cue from her man JC to be a blessed peacemaker by offering to sleep on the floor so crazy-ass Sandra could have a bed. Look, I like Sandra and I’m glad Tyra chose her over Angelea, but the bitch is already more haughty than Nenna and Fatima combined. And I fucking haaaaaaaaaaaated Fatima. (Nenna, her I liked. She was only haughty because she was smart. Fatima was haughty because she was a fucking bitch.) I do not know why every single African girl they get on this show somehow falls into the category of aloof/haughty/utterly bitchy. I realize there are cultural differences between growing up in Africa and growing up here, but you would think that someone who fled a desperate political situation when they were young and had been living in, oh, say, Maryland for half of her life might have acclimated a little more than these girls do.

The girls then received their very first Tyra Mail: “Get ready to bridge the gap between good and bad.” They were shipped off to the 59th St. Bridge to Gustavino’s to walk in a fashion show for Laura Peretsky of Abate, who explained her current collection as a mixture of naughty and nice. Each of the girls would be asked to play either a good girl or a bad girl in the show. When they received their clothing for the night, Tahlia grew distressed that she was the only girl in a full suit, feeling that the designer had intentionally chosen to cover up her scars. Tahlia needs to realize, and fast, that not everyone is going to want to see her scars on the runway. Some designers will book her because of them and show them off, some designers will book her only if they can cover them up and some designers won’t book her at all. That’s just how it’s going to be for her, and the sooner she accepts that, the better. I would also argue that she was put in the suit because she’s almost the same size as Kortnie, the plus sized girl. I’m sure that had just as much to do with it as her scars did.

Scars or no scars, this is not a rail-thin lady.

Scars or no scars, this is not a rail-thin lady.

Isabella got a little freaked out at the runway show because it utilized strobe lights, which are every epileptic’s worst nightmare. I wasn’t planning on taking this angle if I had actually auditioned for ANTM, but I may-and-or-may-not have epilepsy. My sister is epileptic, and I’ve had one seizure in my life and received an inconclusive diagnosis from it. If I do have some form of the disorder, it is not nearly as bad as my sister’s, and it’s certainly not as bad as Isabella’s. Nevertheless, I am wary of strobe lights. I generally don’t go clubbing for that precise reason. So I totally get Isabella’s fear, but I’m proud that she strutted down that runway with a smile on her face in that little candy-striped dress that said, “If I have a seizure here, I’m going to make it look like I did it on purpose.” All my doubts about Alison were quelled on the runway, as well, because that girl is freaking fierce with makeup on. She has the face for it. And those giant lemur eyes! Celia also became a favorite of mine when she rocked out her bad girl persona in that Phillip Lim-ish yellow dress. And then there was Sandra, who became a huge disappointment when she only made it half-way down the runway. What the fuck? It’s not like she has night-blindness and couldn’t see the end of it! And even cycle three’s Amanda made it down the runway in that very dark and windy Heatherette show! (Thought: what if Amanda from ANTM Cycle 3 hooked up with Scott MacIntyre from American Idol? I don’t know where I’m going with that.)

After their photoshoot, Sandra got really mad at everyone for talking while she was trying to sleep and let her discontent be known in the rudest of ways. Really, this is why you go to college people, so you can learn to be diplomatic with roommates. Instead of saying, “I’m trying to sleep! Go have your dumb conversation somewhere else!” You should politely try something like, “Hey, guys? Could you go talk in the living room? I’d really like to get some sleep.” If she keeps this up, Sandra is well on her way to being murdered in the shower by Alison just so the girl can see some blood.

The next morning, the girls got the following Tyra Mail: “Eenie meenie mynie moe! Make it fierce from head to toe!” I hope to the Goddess of Fierce that little girls on playgrounds across America adapt that version of the phrase. In keeping with that theme, Mr. Jay showed up in Central Park riding a bike in what I can only assume was an outfit leftover from Tron or a paintball tournament he just had with Sutan. He told the girls that they would be doing a shoot about good girls and bad girls shot by Fadil Bershin. Like the homelessness shoot from Cycle 10, the girls would have three “bad girls” in the scene that they would have to model with and stand out from. This shoot went really late into the night, which was surprising, but it seemed like they had to start late in the afternoon due to the rain. During the shoot, Tahlia noted that she was again covered up and started to feel shame for herself. Girl, that is the wrong emotion. You can feel insecure, but you cannot feel shame. That is the incorrect emotion to have.

At panel, Tyra talks about the importance of her good and bad girls photoshoot, because she feels girls in America grow up too fast, citing some statistics she gleaned from a very terrifying episode of her talk show in which she featured girls who were 15 and seriously trying to get pregnant. I agree with Tyra on this point, and you will likely never hear me say something like the following again, but I’m pretty sure that the dominant media in our culture tells children to be adults far sooner than they should be. I am never one to blame the media for anything, but it’s Tyra’s particular medium of fashion and beauty that keeps insisting that girls in middle school start acting like they’re four years older. There is a problem when we are marketing thongs at the Limited Too. No twelve-year-old should give a shit about panty-lines, but they’re being told they should by the rhetoric they encounter in the junior versions of adult fashion magazines. As with any blame laid on the media, it’s largely the fault of those who buy into it. And sadly, children are really impressionable, creating an epidemic of kiddie thongs and, I assume, the birth of tween culture as a whole. Anyway, I digress. Here were the reactions to the photoshoot at panel:

I believe London more as a small child than I do as a street preacher.

I believe London more as a small child than I do as a street preacher.

  • Sandra: Miss J scolded her for not completing her runway walk, and none of the judges like her Hide and Seek photo, saying that she looks lost and that she may have misunderstood the game.
  • Celia: Tyra approves of her high-waisted jeans and compliments her fashion. I now think that she reminds me of Chloe Sevigny, who is a risk taker in the fashion world if ever there was one. The judges all love her Hula Hoop photo, saying that she faked hula hooping really well.
  • Fo: Tyra tells her that she looks adorable in her Ring Around the Rosy shot, but not like a model. Paulina later comments that the photo has nothing to do with Ring Around the Rosy.
  • Aminat: Miss J tells her to be conscious of her long legs, which look knock-kneed in her London Bridge photo. Tyra compliments her on her fierce runway presence, but does not like that her face is the same in her innocent little girl photo as it was on the runway.
  • London: Her Tug of War shot turned out totally great, but she looks like a hot mess at panel. Tyra makes her fix her hair and take off her oversized leopard print Cosby sweater.
  • Jessica: Today, I learned that people from other countries do not know the game of Jacks, because Jessica said she didn’t know what it was in her photo shoot and Paulina also insisted she’d never heard of it. This is odd to me, because I think its something we Americans picked up from the British. The judges like her angle in the photo, but not much else.
  • Teyona: The judges love her Hopscotch shot, but Tyra and J warn her to tilt her head forward in photos because she, like me, is a Little Head. They remind her about the basics of perspective, which I found oddly insulting.
  • Isabella: Nigel complimented the dance-like qualities of her pose in this dodgeball shot, but the rest of the judges agree that it’s weird and totally not good. I am reminded of the Beat Freaks’ illusion-based performance on America’s Best Dance Crew.
  • Nijah: Her photo was Musical Chairs, and the judges thought she looked fabulous in the face and hair in this shot.
  • Alison: Her Double Dutch shot, although there wasn’t much actual jumping rope, was definitely the best of the night. She looked freakin’ amazing.
  • Tahlia: Like about six other girls, Tahlia had one leg up in her Tag photo, which the judges found kind of weird. Tyra talked to her about her insecurities at the runway show and laid it down for her as I did earlier. Some people will book you, some won’t. Just deal with it.
  • Natalie: The judges had mixed reactions for her Leap Frog shot. Tyra saw potential, Paulina didn’t.
Like a high fashion Emily the Strange.

Like a high fashion Emily the Strange.

Callouts: Alison, Fo, Teyona, London, Celia, Nijah, Kortnie, Natalie, Aminat, Tahlia and Jessica, leaving Sandra and Isabella in the bottom two. Tyra decided to give Sandra another chance, which made me kind of sad because Isabella is just so beautiful. However, I do think this will probably be better for her overall health, as runway shows are not going to be her forte. I see her as a print girl, and I know Tyra sees her as a commercial girl, per this quote:

“Isabella – I just wanna buy cornflakes from her. But model fierce cornflakes.”

Uh, Tyra, where can I get me some of those?

So, now that recapping is done, I promised I’d tell you about my plan to infiltrate the House of Fierceness and how it was ruined by this season. I thought, since I have this hole in my arm and a giant scar from the melanoma I had removed last year, that I would go and campaign to be on the show, talking about how important it is for girls to have scars and, with respect to skin cancer, how the beauty industry needs to step it up and make safe products with UV protection. After my diagnosis and surgery, I became pretty obsessive about what products I’m using on my skin. There’s a whole list of sunscreens at the Environmental Working Group’s website that show only the select few that are actually effective, and I only buy those. I also have switched to buying beauty products from Bare Essentuals here in San Francisco, specifically because their mineral foundations have high SPF in them. I’ve even toyed around with making myself some cute, lightweight jackets and dresses for the summer out of UV protective fabrics. That, and I’m bringing back the parasol. My goal, I planned to tell Tyra, was that even if I didn’t win, I wanted to change the beauty industry from the inside out and to become a spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation. Getting melanoma when you’re 23 will do that to you. At the very least, I figured that I would get 30 seconds in the casting special and get to be told by Tyra that I’d be a good spokesmodel, but a spokesmodel is not America’s Next Top Model. (She tells someone that pretty much every cycle.)

But then came Tahlia, and her burn scars certainly trump the hole in my arm. She totally stole my angle, but I’m okay with that. I just wish she didn’t doubt herself so much. If Padma Lakshmi can make a career with her giant arm scar, Tahlia can work around her burns.

The Husband:

I really don’t know what they were thinking in keeping Sandra. To use some Mr. Jay words, she’s a hater, and I can’t remember a Top 13 contestant having so much time dedicated to her in the first 13 episodes as to what a complete hater she is. There’s something that almost every ANTM winner has, and that’s humility plus an aversion to that drink known as Haterade. Drama is one thing, but to quote Mary J. Blige, “don’t need no hateration.” Slow your roll, Sandra. Because anybody who doesn’t even know where the end of the runway is need boast of their greatness.

On another note, I’m finding myself having a particularly hard time with the names so far and who, in fact, has said names. They all seem to either end in “ah” (the curse of my generation) or just be something I’ve never even heard of before (I still wasn’t sure, until the callouts near the end of the episode, how to pronounce Nijah or Aminat). But it was far worse for me before they were whittled down to the Top 13, so I guess the fact that my wife and I were watching ANTM somewhat later in the night than we usually do (a two-hour Modelfest after Idol results AND Lost is a fairly tall order as far as sanity is concerned) will be my excuse. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a week with matching everybody’s name to a face, and will look back on this paragraph and shake my head in shame.

At least nobody has had to make up an arbitrary name like last season. But if they did, I suggest Wackamolé, just to see what Tyra would say.