America’s Next Top Model 18.10 “Nicholas Tse” Review

top modelOoh, so that happened.

Top Model, dare I say it, surprised me once again in cycle 18 with how the elimination played out. After nearly a decade on the air (think about that for a second), you’d think that the show had pulled out every trick in the book – every outrageous photo shoot, every casting dynamic, every watercooler shocker designed to send the internet atwitter (on Twitter). But look at you, Tyra Banks, finding a way to freshen things up; following several well-reasoned, understandable boots in a row, Top Model managed to top itself by having a double elimination. They may have had weeks where they’ve eliminated two models, most notably last cycle and the first episode of cycle 10, but those were either known about in advance or seemed egregiously artificial to the point that it lacked any shock value. Here, though, Alisha quitting came from absolutely nowhere, which took me that much more off guard. Yes, Alisha had expressed doubts about her standing in the competition and was obviously homesick, taking out a lot of negative emotions in her (quite funny) confessionals, but the girl had made it through the bottom two several times already. And since we’re already in the top five, you had to assume she’d gut it out until her elimination, but honestly, good for her. If your heart isn’t in it, it’s not fair to possibly deprive another person of an opportunity at their dream, so snaps for you, Miss Alisha. With the potential she’s shown on the show, I think there’s a place in the fashion world for her whenever she feels like taking it.

All that aside, I loved that Top Model eliminated Eboni, too. Tyra could have very easily milked that moment for all the emotion it had, one girl sacrificing her place in the competition to save another, and she actually held back and let the result stand. Part of my problem with Tyra in past has stemmed from a need to put on her Oprah hat at the drop of a dime, but darn it, she wore her fashion industry LBD like a champion and I appreciated that.

Aside from a particularly strong panel, “Nicholas Tse” improved from last week’s effort, blending in-house drama with a reasonable challenge and a dramatic photo shoot for a pretty fun episode. The challenge, a acting challenge with a choreographed action scene, may not have been that far into the realm of actual fashion work, but it provided the catalyst for a lot of good stuff in the episode. For one, Laura’s kind of a hussy, using her feminine wiles to charm Tse during their training and going as far as doing a cheesy “seductive” hair flip during her scene. Her sex talk was already reeking of “okay, am I shocking you now? top modelhow about now? am I edgy yet?”, so I couldn’t be too shocked that she mentioned her desire to sleep with Nicholas during her challenge reward (a cameo in his music video), but come on. Laura didn’t do the worst in the challenge (hi Eboni), but she didn’t win based on the technicality of her fight scene, let’s say. You can’t flirt your way to the top, win a pretty darn cool reward, and then get mad at people getting mad at you for circumventing the process. By any means necessary, I suppose, but I think if Laura didn’t lean into the sex talk with every inch of her slender frame, there wouldn’t have been that much of a backlash. She took a trait that annoyed the rest of the house and pretty much used it to win a challenge before rubbing it in their faces afterwards, which I can see being incredibly infuriating. If I’m fighting for something and another person gets it based on something other than ability, particularly if its something as tacky as flirting for it, I’d be as upset as some of the girls here were.

Being a naturally flirty or sexual person is one thing, but you have to be able to turn that part of yourself off while still being charming and pleasant in a professional setting. Laura didn’t and it made her look rather bad as a result.

The shoot, meanwhile, took place on Macau Tower, 764 feet in the air. In the wind. And the rain. I’m already shaking with fear. I tend to not be that into extreme photo shoots, since they’re more about nerve than modeling ability, but I kind of enjoyed this one. Unlike last week, the models had more free reign (ha) on what they could do, the harness helping each girl develop more shape to her posing and more interesting angles to work. As a result of that freedom, the overall quality of the chosen photos was booted up, though the styling ended up being a little sleeker than last week. (And what’s with the constant headpieces this cycle?) Personally, I found Annaliese’s dynamic Greek-archer-in-the-21st-century to be the top photo of the week, as she came more out of her element and really upped her game. Anna tends to be a very bubbly, cutesy model, so having that power and toughness to her posing (and especially her face) was a big step forward in her bid to become a top model. I would feel better about her chances going forward if it weren’t for Kelly’s weird vendetta against her, but the fact that she’s peaking at the right time can only help her confidence both on and off the show. (For a show so into the idea of marketing and branding, you’d think they would encourage Annaliese to be both a presenter and a model, no?) Laura’s photo, though very pretty and unique in the bunch, had too many technical problems for me to be as big a fan as I wanted to be. Her angles may have been on-point, but her hands were cliche, her legs had no extension to them, and her neck could have been elongated that much more. I do think, though, that she has a pretty clear path to the finals, as the cycle’s theme deems it only fair that a Brit takes on an American for the title.

Top Model actually had a pretty solid episode in “Nicholas Tse”, thanks to the genuinely surprising ending that brought the number of ladies down from five to the final three. It had a little fighting, a little fashion, and a little excitement, all rolled into the cracked, multi-colored disco ball that calls itself Top Model. The cycle may not have been able to touch cycle 16’s high fashion or cycle 17’s balls out lunacy, but it’s shown signs of life that have kept my interest in it more genuine, less gawking-at-a-train-wreck. Top Model may be the crotchety great-great-great grandmother on The CW, all wrinkles and endless stories about the good ol’ days, but as long as it can bring out some energy in a fairly standard process, I’m more than content to keep visiting.

Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:
-“Me and my pigtails are going to the top.”
-“You walk on the street, you want to hump a pole?”
-“I’m sorry, hands down, I’m hating right now and I don’t care.”
-“You are a slag. Let’s keep it professional here.”
-“Are y’all ready to eliminate somebody?”
-“She’s lucky a bird didn’t land on her elbow.”
-Final Call Out Order: Laura, Sophie, Annaliese, Alisha (quit), Eboni (eliminated)
-I loved Alisha’s comment about Sophie punching the bad guy and glitter spraying everywhere.
-I wanted to keep a count of how many times Nicholas said “sexy” or some variation of it. It seemed a bit excessive/perv-y.
-Tyra’s church voice is kind of everything.
-Am I the only one tired of the constant background reminders for each contestant? We get it – Sophie used to be a struggling waitress, Laura and Eboni come from messed up homes, Alisha loves her family, everybody was gawky as hell as a child. We get it.
-Ms. Jay was giving me Bea Arthur realness in her ensemble. But I liked the bone straight hair.
-Next week on Top Model: The final three go on go-sees in Hong Kong and shoot a campaign for the Top Model fragrance. I wonder who loses their map. (Spoiler alert: it’s probably me.)

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