As harsh as we’ve been on this season of Top Model, we can appreciate the fact that modeling itself is very difficult work. Truly! Mixing up poses for an extended period of time while holding a tube of Pantene Pro-V Gold Series is a feat of athleticism rivaled only by mixing up poses while holding a bottle of Pantene Pro-V 3-Minute Miracle. To succeed at modeling is to be completely aware of the esoterica that goes along with knowing where the light hits your zygomatic arch, and some of our “true” final-four girls are better equipped for the Top Model title than others.
We start this episode with Jeana settling back into her old room, shivering at the frigid specter of Rio’s absence. Meanwhile, Shanice, Kyla, and Khrystyana frolic on the balcony and enjoy one of their last sunsets together, tasting their final breaths of rarefied supermodel air just as Jeana glumly saunters over. It’s an awkward vibe that we get to experience for no more than three seconds. Shanice then delivers the umpteenth iteration of her “I’m from Tennessee and I need this” talking head and Khrystyana heads into the phone room, which is clearly a repurposed elevator. She calls her mom for a sweet but tearful conversation, all while feeling sad that she hasn’t confided in her mother the sexual trauma that’s resurfaced in her memory while being on the show. Kyla is probably in the kitchen throwing a voodoo doll of Liberty in the garbage disposal, and also we miss Erin! Her constant reminders that she is 42 years old have become a warm, comforting blanket that the show tried to smother us with for 12 straight weeks, but now all we want is a talking head of her saying, “I don’t get social media! These kids are crazy!”
The next day our models head to their first challenge shoot, where Ashley Graham introduces them to Pantene’s VP of communications Kelly Vanasse and celebrity hairstylist Danilo. Each girl is assigned a Pantene product around which they are to creative direct a campaign with various props and styling options in under one hour. Kelly and Danilo check in with each of the girls and exchange some cute, semi-organic sounding ad copy, especially with Khrystyana. “I’ve actually used 3-Minute Miracle, and it got rid of all the brassiness!” “That’s the great thing about [3-Minute Miracle], is that it’s getting in there.” “Yeah, it really penetrates!” Such a relatable conversation means that we are all brand ambassadors.
There’s a bit of a stir when Jeana picks a blonde wig for the shoot, which incenses Khrystana since she did in fact invent blonde hair. We thankfully do get the first quickenings of a truly amazing villain-edit around Jeana, who says gorgeously basic producer-bait like “I don’t care about anything else but myself” and “I don’t really care honestly. One less girl.” Go off, simplistic villain queen! She then marches into her shoot with an hourglass for some reason and does decently. Psoriasis-ridden Shanice throws every idea at the wall with her Gold Series conditioner, while Kyla elegantly tosses rose petals in the air
Everyone’s final, self-selected photos are mostly misses (Jeana’s shot doesn’t even feature the product whatsoever), but Khrystyana’s extremely on-the-nose pic of her holding up three fingers next to a grandfather clock earns her yet another win. She picks Kyla to partake in a special surprise the next day, which is a visit from their mothers! Meanwhile, the producers hand two Greyhound tickets to Jeana and Shanice’s moms and tear up their release forms.
Kyla’s reunion with her mother is pretty unremarkable, while Khrystyana’s is fraught with recounting to her mother the details of her molestation years ago. It’s a powerful moment, and whether or not it was overly engineered on the producers’ part isn’t really relevant. Svetlana is as warm and supportive and heartbroken as any parent would be, and Khrystyana feels like a weight has been lifted.
The models meet up with Kelly again the next day, this time with Drew briefing them on the high-end editorial that is this week’s main challenge. In hair and makeup, Jeana leers through yet another blonde wig, which upsets Khrystyana again. In another Villain Edit of the Year moment, Jeana says in confessional that she’ll “do whatever it takes,” jump-cutting immediately to a petulant Jeana laugh. It’s a gloriously transparent edit that only gets more ham-fisted in mere moments, when Jeana walks over to Khrystyana’s shoot and aloofly side-eyes her the entire time. Up until that point Khrystyana succeeds in delivering some coquettish poses, but the mere presence of Jeana is enough to sabotage her into some comical state of malfunction. Seriously, go back and watch the cutting pattern for this: Khrystyana makes a minor fumble, and we whip to Jeana parting her lips along with a musical sting because Jeana is evil. It is the Citizen Kane of forced villain-edits, so we demand that you have some respect for this reality show that clearly does not respect you! For this reason alone, we give the episode five stars.
Kyla does great in her shoot while Shanice has fun with her new curls, and Jeana goes for a Marilyn Monroe à la Milton Greene’s Ballerina series sexpot vibe, which completely misaligns with the Pantene product. “Too sexy, Jeana! Be careful!” Drew screams, giving us the “Danger, Will Robinson!” for a new generation.
The judges’ panel next evening is sort of hijacked by guest-judge Philipp Plein, who is very dumb and lame. We refuse to elaborate on why he is dumb and lame, but the case should be explicit once he goes off on an aimless, sex-obsessed rant in the middle of the girls’ critiques. So yeah, Philipp Plein is dumb and lame and sells black zip-up hoodies for $900. Hard pass. He’s there to personally choose which three models he’d like to feature in his runway show during next week’s finale, and also to make Law Roach giggle like a sycophantic fool.
Shanice gets clocked for hiding a bit too much behind her curls but still gets a pass for having potential, which at this late stage should count for nothing. Jeana’s photo opens up a silly debate on whether or not the pic is too sexy (it is), and Kyla gets rightly praised for her angelic, pitch-perfect shot. The movement in that hair! Giving you kinesthesis and motion! Dumb lame Philipp Plein wishes it were more “hip,” which is not the assignment, sweetie.
After Khrystyana receives some decent feedback, the judges deliberate over who should move on while Philipp Plein butts in with dumb and lame Plein-isms. To see an obnoxiously styled Swiss man say “Inglewood’s in da house” while throwing up a pseudo-gang sign makes us want to escape our bodies. There’s apparently no consensus, the girls are brought back in with Kyla winning Best Photo, and in a dumb and lame twist, no girls get eliminated. For those keeping track at home, we’re going three episodes in a row with “true” top-four fake-outs, because perhaps this show is on the same page as we are and understands that this whole thing is meaningless after all.
Join us next week as we recap this cycle’s thrilling, merciful finale and find out which one of these sweet girls will be the best at wearing a $2,000 distressed skull-and-bones sweater. Mad respect for Kyla, Khrystyana, Shanice, and Jeana and none for dumb lame Philipp Plein.