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‘America’s Next Top Model’ Review: “Nicholas Tse”

America's Next Top Model
CW

We were off last week, but this week ‘America’s Next Top Model‘ has returned! Please, contain your excitement. This week the girls must confront their fear of heights in a photo shoot directed by Hong Kong actor and musician Nicholas Tse.

With only five girls left — Eboni, Alisha, Laura, Sophie, and Annaliese — the notion of teams is quickly crumbling. Alisha talks major smack in the one on one interview, particularly about Laura’s fondness for sex. Alisha seemed like a strong contender in the beginning, but her attitude now is catty and worrisome. It may just be the pressures of the competition, but girls turning against each other over superficial differences is just tacky.

The drama is encouraged by Laura receiving a gift for winning top photo last week, while runner-up Eboni doesn’t receive a prize at all. Are the producers purposefully stirring the pot here?

They waste no time jumping into this week’s challenge: Nicholas Tse shows up and tells the girls they will have to learn and act out a simple action sequence and a few lines. Seems easy enough. Alisha believes she has the upper hand because she was a gymnast, while Eboni thinks she can nail it thanks to some elementary school Tae Kwan Do. Sophie is the goofy cut-up of the bunch, bouncing around like a pink-haired little sprite and not really taking the training seriously.

On the line for the winner is a trip back to Hong Kong to star in a music video with Tse. The girls become concerned when they notice Laura flirting with Tse, but their concern seems born of jealousy that she gets to train with him directly.

Eboni’s performance is stilted, while Alisha comes pretty closing to nailing it — minus some hammy acting. Laura’s performance is unfortunately laughable. Taking a cue from Angelina Jolie, Laura chooses the over-the-top sexy route for dramatic emphasis, but her calculated ponytail removal is absurd. Sophie looks like Tinkerbell having a bad day — it’s just too precious, but she makes the smart move of interacting with Tse more than the others. Annaliese probably nails it the best, but Tse gives the prize to sexpot Laura, only fueling Alisha’s rage.

Back at the hotel the girls rib Laura a bit for her flirtation with Tse, but when Laura says she would have sex with him if given the opportunity, the jokes quickly give way to something cruel as the ladies suggest that Laura is the type of girl who would sleep her way to the top. Laura overreacts a little, but it’s just sickening to see the girls attack her. Laura may not be the most empathetic at times, but just because she expresses a sexual attraction to someone famous doesn’t mean that she’s the type of girl who would sleep around to get work. It’s a despicable suggestion that reeks of immaturity and spite.

The next day the girls are faced with their photo shoot challenge: they will pose atop the Macau tower — at 764 feet, it’s the highest bungee jump spot in the world. The girls will be wired in for safety, of course, but that doesn’t keep them from freaking out. Sophie has expressed her fear of heights before, so naturally she’s the most terrified when she’s picked to go first. She asks Nigel if she can watch someone else to see how safe it is, and notes that she should probably get her make-up fixed from crying. Nigel seems put-off, but it’s a fairly reasonably request. Sophie realizes her error and offers to go first again — visibly terrified, she still manages to give a decent performance.

Annaliese impresses with her strong shoot, but it seems like she’s in the background this week. Not really participating in the drama, Annaliese just isn’t as interesting to the cameras. Laura and Eboni give great, fearless performances, while Alisha’s tough veneer cracks and yields to her fear of heights. Still, Alisha perseveres, even if her fear translates to a too-harsh face.

As Eboni notes, with so few girls left, it’s not just about this week’s photo — it’s about all of the photos they’ve taken. When it comes down to the wire in each cycle, the judges have a harder time choosing a girl to eliminate. This results in discussions about their overall growth and past challenge performances. The difference this season is that this final crop doesn’t seem as strong as past finalists. Laura, Sophie, and Annaliese are probably the strongest competitors in photos, while Alisha does great work in other personality-based challenges and runways. Eboni is just sort of… there? She’s not compelling to watch at all, and her attitude — maybe because of those pigtails she insists on sporting — is just too infantile.

Annaliese’s final photo is very strong and reminiscent of a warrior with her archer-like pose. Alisha’s photo isn’t her best, but it makes Tyra do a really terrible impression of a black woman going to church in the 60s. Sophie’s photo is absolutely stunning — she manages to find something editorial in the midst of her petrifying fear. Kelly Cutrone isn’t the biggest fan of the shot, but there’s something just wonderful about Sophie’s face, especially weighed against Annaliese and Alisha, whose faces are stone stiff. Eboni’s photo is a mess. It doesn’t seem like she’s really learning how to model or use her body at all in this competition, and she’s only made it this far by not being as bad as the worst photo each week. Laura also kills it, naturally, though her lower body is kind of an awkward jumble.

Alisha might be in more trouble than previously thought as Nigel notes her ineptitude and Cutrone agrees that she’s completely un-photogenic. The judges believe Annaliese is probably more suited for television or acting than modeling, which is a fair assessment — her attitude is very energetic and easily likable. The judges also agree that Eboni isn’t so great, either, which really begs the question: How did these girls get this far? Azmarie — arguably better than at least three of the final five — was kicked off for her refusal to wear a fake butt, but at least she was a strong model. Tyra’s priorities this season are so off the mark, and the recent news that she’s let go of Nigel, Miss Jay, and Jay Manuel only confirms that she’s run off the rails.

Laura deservedly takes top photo this week, with Sophie predictably in a close second. Annaliese is safe as well, making this week’s bottom two Alisha and Eboni. Eboni is chosen to go home, but Alisha offers to leave instead because she just doesn’t feel like her heart is in it any more — shocking, considering how catty she’s been for weeks now about her competition. Even more shocking is Tyra’s announcement that Alisha can leave, but Eboni is still getting eliminated as well.

And then there were three.

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