The episode opened with a sweet little letter from last week’s evictees, Eva and Lauren, read aloud to add poignance to their absence. Sample line from this week’s missive: “Danielle and Holly: I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you two – you have such interesting personalities.”
That might be one of the better backhanded compliments I’ve heard, at least in reality TV land, where back-handers tend to be very literal. And it turned out to be as portentous as the orange jacket incident from a couple of week’s back, with Holly taking her dead, Mako shark eyes home to her baby and (as she was so fond of telling us) ridiculously hot boyfriend. You could not argue with the result, and there was much cheering at DeadBall HQ when they finally cut her – but I for one feel a little hollow inside.
For better or worse she provided 60% of the drama on any given Friday. And while it had begun to feel rote and repetitious there was still a tension in the air whenever she was on screen. With one notable exception the girls remaining are so damned nice (exemplified by the twins deranged fawning over one another at the birthday dinner) that we might have to work hard to find much in the way of teeth going forward.
This will mean a heavier reliance upon two people: Dakota, who took her possessed mania to great heights without having the wax melt as in episodes prior; and Colin-Mathura-Jeffree who delivered what was probably his best all-around episode yet*. So maybe we’ll be alright after all.
1. (LW: 1) Elza
“Thanks for the best 18 years of my life,” Elza giddily intoned to her mirror image at the opposite end of the table, and that line, with all its absurdity summed up the twins down-time performance for the episode. What was so recently very charming started to feel a little sickly sweet today, and when Elza was hit in the back of the head by a flying shoe from Danielle you were praying for her to drop the facade and get (very justifiably – a predictable outcome of kicking your shoes off is hitting the person in front of you) mad for once in her life. Instead it was just as ‘funny’ as every other incident, and while her performance remains utterly immaculate (you could convincingly argue for her winning every challenge this week) the cutesiness is starting to grate. But the judges are still smitten with her work (same with the photographers: R-Flatts described her as “the highlight of my day”), and rightly so – it prompted Colin’s line-of-the-season-so-far “I felt dangerously straight just looking at her!” (does that man ever utter a sentence without an exclamation mark as punctuation?)
2. (LW: 4) Dakota
She’s feeling it right now. There’s something a little extraordinary about her new habit of talking directly to the camera – the jokes are often quite funny, but the main attraction is the way it makes you feel a part of an exclusive club. And then enjoy that sensation. She’s still a maddening combination of extreme immaturity and precocious self-awareness, and the judges might be right when they say she ‘doesn’t understand her body’ (though one on the panel would love to give her lessons) but she’s becoming a real force on this cycle. Her mangled definition of haute couture showed a genuine dedication to her task (even if she ruined it seconds later with the Juicy Couture clanger) and her inability to turn left or right – the walking lessons had amazing unintentional comedic value – is counter-balanced by the spell she has over her fellow competitors (“she’s really sexy,” intoned a transfixed Lara, a sentiment echoed by Nellie). That gives her mind-games real impact, something very useful at the looming sharp end of the draw.
3. (LW: 2) Courtenay
A fairly flat episode sees her drop a spot, and if it weren’t for many of those around her having similarly disappointing performances she might have fallen further. Maybe I’m just biased because I had somehow missed her announcement that she was a Christian in the Rotorua episode, so when she blurted it out again today it altered my conception of her entirely. I’ve nothing against Christianity whatsoever – fully 50% of the founding Fathers’ of this website ascribe to some strange, perverted version of the faith – but resent it being used as a crutch to explain away lacklustre performance. Michaela’s faith is mentioned far more frequently, and correspondingly seems a bigger part of her life – yet she’s never complained about the normal run-of-the-mill modeling assignments these girls have faced. Put simply – if you have a problem wearing a bikini, don’t enter the show. Countenay’s photo was actually OK in the end, incredible legs and shape countered by a reticence in her face (which admittedly I could have been projecting). They had fixed her teeth in post (same with Dakota’s disappearing shoulder mole), which was interesting and perhaps points toward a late-season procedure a la Laura in the first cycle. I’d counsel against it now as I did then – but they just don’t seem to be listening…
4. (LW: 3) Michaela
To be fair on Michaela she actually had a fine week – she could walk reasonably well and was invisible during the lesson with Ella Drake (better than being publicly shamed a la Holly and Danielle). But though her photo was in fact very pretty I started to wonder if she wasn’t perhaps a bit too pretty to win this show. Because as much as she is never less than stunning on screen she perhaps lacks that edge, the one strange quality which models tend to possess. Though that might well be because we’ve been on a commercial rampage lately – they really need a Karen Inderbitzen-Waller arty editorial shoot to balance out all this fluffy Herbal Essences shit. Give Michaela credit though – the best non Colin line of the day was definitely her asking Danielle “which way do you look when you walk?” The latter paused for a moment before pointing straight ahead. “That way.”
5. (LW: 6) Nellie
While I tweeted, in a moment of what felt like clarity but was more likely madness, that I thought she might be a co-winner of the comp with her sister, Nellie is actually coming apart at the seams pretty swiftly at the moment. It’s bizarre, because her photos are generally very good, but she has completely psyched herself out of the competition. The scene with her sobbing under the blankets while a level-headed Elza tries to console her was all the evidence you’ll need that her head-game is all wrong. Not long after she was intoning with an entirely straight face that “she [Elza] has a better face than me I reckon”. Her IDENTICAL twin. Sheesh. Another fun photo, she walks well – were it not for Elza’s dominance she might herself be near the top – but all signs point to her being but one meltdown away from one of the saddest eliminations of all time.
6. (LW: 7) Danielle
First, the obvious – that photo was stunning. Maybe top ten of the comp so far. Her hair, her expression, the sense of play – very impressive effort. But it was the only thing she did right, and it’s starting to make me both furious about and deeply suspicious of the judge’s motives in continuing their wheedling encouragement of her. At some point she’s just another competitor, surely. The way Colin ripped Lara during the lesson versus his softly, softly criticism of Danielle during the same set up jarred mightily. I did love her line going into class that she “felt the urge to be real mischief”, but that country bumpkin “I’m just used to wearing jandals” schtick has got to go. Fully half the girls are home now. She’s got to carry her own weight from here on in.
7. (LW: 5) Lara
Whenever the judges make jokes about someone looking like a stripper my general feeling is they’re over-playing it. You hear the ‘constipated’ jibe a lot less frequently, and in this instance it was dead on. Lara was straining hard, and it showed. Flatt was extremely short with her, and Colin seemed to have none of that maternal instinct (in the shot atop this post he was genuinely targeting the poor girl). I don’t think she’s an awful person or model by any means. But she does seem quite frustratingly disengaged, a characteristic you expect early in the season, but entirely out of place right now. She’ll get junked next week, then we’ll have a clean half-dozen who really bring it, and the game will be on in earnest.
* One more classic, in response to Ella Drake’s listing of her luggage on shoots: “I usually just have chicken wings!”
** ALSO – MUSIC VIDEO THIS WEEK – predictions/wishlists etc below please.