November 28, 2007

Shanghai Surprise

When we last left the girls of America's Next Top Model, they were saying 再见 (good-bye) to Ambreal, as they were far too excited to pack their bags for China!

And suddenly, we're in Shanghai. The girls are astounded by how busy the city is, and by the immense amounts of neon lights. Heather mentions that the closest she's experienced to this is Las Vegas. I would assume that Shanghai also has less Celine Dion.

After some driving around and being impressed at the sights, the girls meet the Js at a fountain. They receive a perfunctory welcome to China, and are sent off to their hotel. This time around it is very, very swank - a penthouse suite in a hotel! 非常好! (Very nice!)

But even in China, things are not without drama on ANTM. The girls make a mad dash for beds, of which there are only 5. But one is over-sized. Take a wild guess as to what happens. That's right! Heather is the last in the room, and Saleisha has the big bed...and won't share it. Which the other girls find to be funny (or more specifically, Lisa/Bianca/Saleisha find it funny). I think there are several forces at work here. First there is a bit of jealousy (Heather is a clear frontrunner). Then there is Heather's challenging personality (her Asperger's, and perhaps a touch of being spoiled). And of course the fact that Saleisha is hanging around Bianca too much and becoming a bit of a beeyotch.

Anywho, there is a lot of arguing, crying, etc. Chantal finally decides to be the mediator, and brokers a deal where Jenah and Bianca will share the big bed, so that Heather can have one to herself. And all is well. For now, anyway.

Next the girls move onto meeting this random guy who shows them a movie set, until he is "attacked" by some martial arts guys. Our girls are a bit nervous, but it ends quickly. The dude (Louis Liu, professional martial arts instructor) explains that he will be teaching them some martial arts poses. Heather is geeked, as she always wanted to do this.

And indeed, they learn what their challenge is after changing into colorful tunics. They watch a couple guys do some martial arts, and then suddenly leap into the air a'la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Fun on high wires! The challenge is that the girls will be lifted up in the air, and have to take various poses that he calls out to them, as demonstrated earlier.

They are nervous, but excited. Well, 5 little girls are excited. Bianca is terrified. Yep, Ms. Tough As Nails is somewhat afraid of heights, but it becomes more apparent that she just doesn't trust putting her life in someone else's hands.

Whatev, let's do this. Chantal and Jenah face off first. They have great fun, but are a bit awkward in their poses. Lisa and Saleisha show more control, even though Lisa was scared and crying a bit. Then comes Bianca vs. Heather (of course). And bless her heart, Heather tries to encourage Bianca to do it. But after going up in the air, Bianca demands to come right back down, and is disqualified. So Heather continues solo, and goes onto win it.

As a reward, Heather wins a huge shopping spree ($537!) to roam around Shanghai for the night. She gets to take a friend, and I was curious who she would choose - Jenah her sometime defender? Nope, she decides to go with Chantal the peacemaker. So the two of them go out shopping, and looks like they have fun together, which is cool. (I admit I was curious how inexpensive the shopping might be?)

The next day it's time for our traditional foray into another country - Cover Girl commercial shoot! This time around they will be promoting the Queen collection, so they have to inject their own personal styles. This means picking out their own outfits from what they brought, and also ad libbing a bit about, "I'm a queen because..." And then they will finish up with a glamour shot that emphasizes their individuality.

Saleisha is up first, and she is her usual self in front of a video camera - buoyant and confident. I must say, if modeling doesn't work out, she probably has the best chance of an acting career from any girl I've seen on the show in several cycles. Bianca exudes confidence, but her delivery is a bit rapid fire. And then Heather. Oh, Heather. She keeps getting caught on the words, and rather than pause and recover, she wrinkles her nose, sticks her tongue out, etc. OJ tries feeding her lines, but even that doesn't go well. Oh dear. Jenah is all teeth (which is odd, considering those eyes), and also struggles with the lines. Chantal does her best pretty-pretty princess. Which works in this case. Lisa? Lisa also struggles with the lines. She deals with her stress as she has in the past - she begins to cry. And it's not good. In every take she's on the verge of tears. It's too bad - she just can't deal with the pressure, it appears. Maybe she can go hang out with Ricky from Project Runway and they can watch Terms of Endearment together.

Saleisha tries to offer Lisa some advice and comfort. But Lisa isn't having it. Saleisha is all, "Whatever, I can go enter that Facts of Life lookalike contest now. Later!"

Panel! Tyra greets them with a "Ni hao!" (Hello) Prizes, judges. Guest judge is their director of photography for the commercial and photo shoot, Jeffrey Chu.

Lisa's struggle is apparent, so that she comes through a bit angry or panicked. Tyra advises to just let the tears flow. Her photo is not bad (like Sophia Loren?), although I think she looks too old. Jeffrey is kind enough to say that she was able to pull off a great photo after her commercial meltdown.

Chantal's commercial is bright, cute and fresh. Too cute? Her photo would be nice if it weren't for the outfit. Ms. J calls it Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Word!

Bianca is first called out for her challenge disqualification. Her commercial is poorly paced. Bianca's photo is lovely, although the shadows make her head look slightly disjointed from her body. Not sure how I feel about that.

Jenah's commercial is called out by Nigel for lacking charm. And he doesn't seem to believe that she is really understanding him. Ugh! This is the beginning of the end I feared for her! 10-to-1 she's eliminated next week, or at least in the bottom two. Which is too bad, as her photo is fun and rockin' - just like my beloved Bug Eyes.

Twiggy points out that she thinks Saleisha is a natural actress in her commercial. Her photo receives a stronger critique, as she is squinting a bit, making her eyes get lost. (Also I think her smile shows too much of her gums.)

Heather's commercial is as disastrous as you may expect. Cue the sad music. Tyra challenges her and asks why she couldn't even do it with her lines being fed to her. In other words, Tyra isn't letting her off the hook just because of her Asperger's. Nigel and Jeffrey encourage her to focus. But her photo? Crazy good - it almost doesn't look like her. My first thought - Evangeline Lilly, anyone?

The judges deliberate. They are not happy to see that all the girls on a whole were not strong this week. And they don't like that Lisa isn't taking criticism well at all. Ms. J is unsure if Saleisha is really progressing. And now Nigel suddenly is all anti-Jenah, and Tyra buys into it. Noooo!

6 beautiful girls, 5 photos. Tyra says that they as a whole did poorly. First photo goes to...Chantal. (She may be from Sunnybrook Farm, but her commercial was the best.) Photos then go to Saleisha, Bianca and Jenah. Will Lisa and Heather please step forward?

You both screwed up, seriously. Lisa, you are not showing your inner strength and personality. Heather, the judges worry if you can handle the pressure of a performance.

Tyra tries to pump up Lisa's self-esteem, but the girl is just broken. She's picturing the bikini she will have to wear for her next shift as a stripper. And as we see her photos, it's pretty clear that she's been going down for weeks now. (Ahem.)

Next week - go-sees! And something bad with Jenah at the photo shoot. Ugh, here it comes...

In Model-related news, it was reported today that Twiggy will not be with us next cycle. Sadness! I'll miss you, Twigster. Go hunt down Victoria and give her a good slap. Although I admit we could use a more aggressive personality on the panel next season. Now please just don't tell me that Benny will be the new Ms. J!

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