Sunday, 22 July 2012

Arabian fights

Top 17: 16th July 2012

BintModel is back, the Voice of Fearne reminds us. This is in case any of us had better things to do last Monday at 9pm like, for example, watching Revenge. REVEEEEEENGE! This timeslot clash is going to cause trouble for me because I would far rather watch Revenge live given the choice, but I sort of feel a responsibility towards this show the same way one feels an obligation towards a drunken friend on a nightbus at 2am. I'm not happy about it, but I made a deal many years ago that I can't renege on just because I'd rather be doing something else.

Anyway, we began last week with 20 girls in Dubai; two of them decided that the life of an international jetsetter was not for them and walked before the first elimination, while poor Danielle got eliminated at breakfast because Elle couldn't see a future for her. There are only 14 places in the BintModel house, so we need to ditch another three by the end of tonight's episode. Even though they're dragging out the qualifying rounds over two weeks, I still vastly prefer this approach to last year's godawful endless auditions. At least the show seems to be setting a pace here, however falteringly. Fearne reminds us of what happened in last week's episode, but you don't need Fearne when you have Helen, so pop over and read her recap of events if you need to catch up. Don't worry, I'll wait; just remember to come back here when you're finished.

All done? Jolly good. Let's continue.

This week, we're still in Dubai, and there appears to be some sort of swimsuit-off as the girls meet all the judges properly for the first time. On first impressions this feels rather more Miss World than BintModel, but I'll reserve judgement until we get there. They'll also be joining Elle and Mad Uncle Julien for a photoshoot, where there will be further cross words fired amongst the hopefuls.

We pick up in the wake of Danielle's exit, where Diona says that it really feels like a competition now that someone's been sent home who watches it as much as she does, a sentiment that's echoed by Lisa [I love how 'Watching this shit' has become a reason that you should be on the show. I should be on this then. If only for Julien's utter shitfit - Helen] . Apparently that whole part earlier in the proceedings where they were being paraded around, photographed and openly judged just felt like a regular Thursday for Diona and Lisa. Risikat (I'm with Helen on this: Best Name Ever), on the other hand, thinks there's no time to sit around feeling bad about poor, unmodelly Danielle, because bitches are going to be cut again and again and again until only one of them is left standing. "And her name will be Risikat" hangs unspoken in the air.

Since the girls are at some sort of aquarium-restaurant (hey, it's Dubai after all), the editors go mad inserting shots of circling sharks until we all get the metaphor until a diver arrives with a board that holds a message for the contestants: "Hi girls, it's time for the judges to get to know the real you. Bikinis on and meet us by the pool in one hour. Love Elle x" Everyone squeals with excitement, because objectification is awesome!

Fearne reminds us who the judges are this year to fill some time while everyone gets changed, and then informs us that this is the only chance the girls will get to spend time with all four judges (this side of their first proper elimination ceremony, anyway), so it's important to make an impression and stand out. Anita is up first, and Elle clucks that she looks nervous, then says that the others have told her Anita was a disaster at the shoot yesterday. Well, that might be why, mightn't it? Anita admits that she fucked up and spent the whole time squinting - she attempts to demonstrate for the judges, but she's so useless that she can't even get that right, and Tyson has to show her exactly how stupid she looked. Whitney says that she only had 15 minutes to do the shoot, but each minute was a disaster, which is a sentence that ought to mean something, but kind of doesn't [She doesn't say anything Steve. She just makes noises. I don't get it. - Helen]. Julien advises Anita to aim more for fashion and less for page three, because nobody wants to be a glamour model if they can be a fashion model. Except fashion models so rarely get asked for their opinions on the deficit crisis while posing in a bikini and coated in lard, so perhaps glamour modelling is the thinking woman's career choice [*Like* - Helen]. Anita gives him a nervous thumbs-up, and I think the main impression Anita created her was "neurotic mess". I wouldn't have minded her calling out Madeleine quite as much as she did last week if she'd had anything to back it up, but so far I'm thinking all Anita has to contribute to the show is stank. And not even particularly high quality stank at that. Anyway, Anita hopes she doesn't come across too glamour-modelly, because that's not her at all.

Up next is Roxanne, and Elle wants to know more about Roxanne's daughter and whether being the mum of a two-year-old is going to be difficult in this competition. Roxanne says that she's trying to channel that as a strength, and insists that she's not walking away. Tyson says that he loves that attitude, and the others quickly back him up - presumably since they've lost two models to the quitting disease already and are worried it might be contagious. Roxanne's walk needs work because she keeps looking down, so Tyson gets up and shows her how it's done, holding her hand to guide her through it. I have a lot of fun here imagining how Helen would cope in this scenario; I'm guessing she'd be pretty much an Alex Mack-style pool of goo on the floor by now [*Sigh*. He's so pretty - Helen]. Roxanne goes off to brag to the others about her close encounter of the Tyson kind, vowing never to wash her hand again.

Tasmin is next, and is thrilled when Elle tells her she has a great body. Julien isn't sure whether her swimsuit makes her look like a top model or a pole dancer (I don't see why she can't be both if she wants to; this is the 21st century after all) but he thinks she looks very sexy anyway. Then we have Lisa, who just causes the judges to squawk "good walk! good walk!" over and over again like myna birds. Following her is Risikat, who Elle thinks looks pleased to be here, but Risikat kind of ruins it by saying how nervous she is, because this is her fourth year of applying and she's been trying to do this since she was 18. And really, four years of being deemed inferior to the likes of Kimberleigh, Imogen and Delete Her really would take a toll on ones self-esteem. Julien tells her that it's her time to shine, and that she could almost be his girlfriend. I don't know about you guys, but I'm taking that comment to mean "you look mannish". Everyone crows about how Julien's got a favourite already, but let's remember how that worked out for Jessica last year. Julien declares it's nice to see someone who's gorgeous, glamorous and sexy. Whitney, Elle and Tyson all laugh, but are clearly thinking "what about us, bitch?" Anyway, that cures Risikat's nerves. Hooray!

Next we have Diona, who gets a grilling from Elle over whether she wants to be an actress or a model. Diona says, not wholly convincingly, that she definitely wants to be a model, and there's a finite window of opportunity for that and if she's not careful the ship might sail. Elle retorts that the ship might sail anyway. Whitney says that she hasn't seen Diona act, but based on the past two days, she thinks she might be better suited for acting. OUCH. Diona replays these exchanges for the other girls, who all recoil in horror. Also getting a tough time of things is Penelope, who Julien thinks doesn't look like a model. Penelope stammers that they're not all models yet and that's why they're here, which Elle and Tyson concede is a good answer, while Julien responds that there's only so much he can do: "I'm not the Wizard of Oz." That's a shame: if he was, he could have given Grace a brain, or Charley a personality, or Whitney a point to her existence. Penelope says she doesn't need the Wizard of Oz, just some direction. Afterwards, she and Diona bond over their shared sense of impending doom.

Jennifer is next, and talks about her love of tattoos, including a very special one dedicated to her mother who died of breast cancer. I'm not a fan of tattoos, but I'm also not going anywhere near the idea of cancer deaths as a mine for laughs, so let's move on. Elle asks if all the tattoos and piercings are a deliberate attempt to make herself stand out (duh), and Jennifer says she doesn't want to fade into the background. Julien says that models sell an aspiration of beauty and perfection when they pose in a designer's clothes, and he doesn't get that from Jennifer, although Elle and Tyson don't agree. Whitney kind of has nothing to say apart from asking Tyson about whether his tattoos get airbrushed (which they do), but Elle points out that Tyson is a superstar, so it's not a like-for-like comparison.

Then there's Madeleine, whom I don't love quite as much as Helen does, but I enjoy her being on this show just because it reminds me of Victoria Wood's "modelling, Madeleine?" routine. Tyson reminds Madeleine that he's mad at her, and Madeleine, hilariously, can't remember why at first. Interestingly, the flashback the show uses to demonstrate "Madeleine talking back to the photographer" doesn't actually show her saying anything, and once again the line on this show between "asking questions to ensure you're doing what they want you to do" and "answering back and being sassy" is far too blurred [It's wherever the producers want it to be it seems - Helen]. Personally I think Madeleine was guilty of nothing more than naive overenthusiasm, but hey, I wasn't there. Julien asks her the very loaded question of what the other girls might think of her, and Madeleine says they probably find her intimidating, because she puts on a mean, guarded face - although she doesn't do so on purpose. Still, "I can't control what my face does" is probably not the best line of defence on a modelling show.

Emma S is next, and is nervous. Elle says that she needs to show them she has what it takes to become BintModel and she's not seeing it right now, so "get there". Imagine if doctors worked like that: "I need you to show me what a person who does not have a life-threatening heart condition looks like, but I'm not seeing it right now, so get there." Julien doesn't see a model in front of him, and hopes she can prove him wrong. Emma S goes off for a bit of a cry with the other girls, which leads to the following incredibly apt summary of the roles of the judges on this show.

Emma S: Julien said I didn't look like a model.
The Others: (dismissively) Yeah, but: Julien.
Emma S: Elle said it as well.
The Others: Oh.

The search continues with a group of girls who are marked out by their inability to make an impression, if that makes sense. Elle has no recollection of Kellie from the first day (actually, neither have I) - Kellie's excuse is that she's an Irish country bumpkin who has never seen car parks or aeroplanes or other girls before. After her is Louisa, who works as a stylist and gets praised on her fashionable look by Whitney. Asked where modelling fits in to her styling work, Louisa replies that she's interested in fashion, and wanted to see how far she could go as a model. "So it's not your passion?" confirms Whitney. Uh-oh. After Louisa leaves, Whitney shoots her down for being "so boring", and if Whitney Port finds you boring, you have serious problems. Emma G follows, and says that she's shy until she gets to know people. Elle tells her that the industry isn't just about your look but also your personality. Julien worries that she could blend into the background, so he needs her to "snap, crackle and pop". After her is Amelia, who is sporty and loves animals, but Elle hopes that "your features will be stronger than your personality". Whitney points out that the girls are all so nervous they're actively twitching. Nah, they're probably just getting a head start on that coke habit they'll need to develop if they want to make it in the fashion world.

From there, we move on to the girls who did stand out, for better or worse. Letitia has great norks, much to Julien's delight. She's a 32DD, and "sometimes you just can't hide 'em," nods Whitney sagely. Letitia rejoins the others, and Kellie delivers the line that made me laugh so much I was, probably for the first time, glad we decided to recap this series after all: "I've actually never seen a body like that up close in person. We're all, like, ogling her like a pack of lesbians." At least, I think she says "lesbians" - she gets as far as "les" and starts giggling, but I can't imagine where else she would've been going with it. Either way, Kellie is my new favourite [I love that we're getting some actual personalities this year. Not forced Big Brother style personalities. *cough* Alisha *cough* - Helen] . Anna's walk is criticised ("you look like you're walking to the office," sniffs Tyson), so Tyson undoes his shirt in the hope that it will help her to walk more sexily. It does. Man, Tyson's pheromones must be powerful. They need to bottle that shit and sell it. Flapper-girl Anne is the only girl who didn't look down to hit the mark, which Tyson thinks is a very good sign. Julien thinks she's odd - she has a small head, a massive nose and chunky thighs - but that makes her interesting. The judges dismiss themselves with an impromptu rendition of 'Hit The Road Jack'. Bless.

The girls return to their quarters and find Elle-Mail waiting for them: "Hi ladies, tomorrow will be your final chance to prove to the judges that you deserve a place in the Top Model house. We don't want you to get the hump, so make sure you're ready at 9am. I'll see you there, love Elle x" At the very mention of hump, Diona squeals "camels!" and everyone gets very excited. This lot clearly don't watch enough reality TV - any seasoned viewer of The Amazing Race will tell you that camels are about the most uncooperative animals out there. Anita says to Jennifer: "There's nothing else that's got humps, is there? It's just camels. They're not going to bring camels inside, so I'm going to be outside in the sun - what if I start squinting again?" Alarmingly, that all sort of makes sense. Diona, perhaps regretting her earlier excitement, tells some of the others that camels "stink". Emma S is excited about getting direction from a genuine supermodel.

Unfortunately, the next day Dubai is hit by a freak sandstorm, so there will be no camels and no sunshine. Good news for Anita and Diona, bad news for the production team. The girls look out at the weather glumly: "I may as well be back in Ireland," opines Kellie. Nonetheless, the shoot must go on, so the girls are transplanted to an indoor location for hair and make-up. There are gratuitous close-ups of Revlon cosmetics, so now we know why that Product Placement P was there at the top of the show. Emma G wants to prove to Elle that she can be memorable, and Amelia forecasts that this is their last chance to impress the judges before the next elimination.

The first group consists of Anna, Madeleine and Letitia dressed in colourful Arabian clothes, who go out to meet Elle and Julien. Elle tells them that she wants them to treat it like a shot for Harper's Bazaar or Vogue (what, not Company?) and work on getting a great picture together. It seems to be going well - there is constructive criticism from Elle and Julien during the shoot which is quite refreshing, especially in contrast to Tyson and Whitney's efforts last week. Letitia is praised for her bone structure and long neck. Elle tells them they're all doing really well, and Anna says they're "setting the bar high, that's what we want." I like Anna. Elle calls it a wrap, and tells them how well they worked together as a group - but warns them not to gloat in front of the others. Spoilsport. They troop back in and Anna exclaims to the others that it went really well, and Madeleine reminds her that Elle said not to gloat. Anna's all "how am I gloating? Don't tell me not to tell them the truth!" Heh.

Group 2 is Amelia, Roxanne, Emma G and Emma S. They have a bit more trouble, with Elle advising Roxanne not to get lost and warning Emma S that her feet are making her look all warped. "Like a preying mantis?" asks Emma S, and Elle agrees. Amelia is advised to close her mouth, and Emma G gets as far as "because the dress is so floaty..." before Elle cuts her off to say that if they're not saying anything, it's because you're doing it right. Heh. Things improve after that, it seems. Julien liked Emma G in particular. Emma S is not convinced she got a good shot.

After the ads, we're up to Group 3, which is Jennifer, Anita, Tasmin and Anne. Julien likes Jennifer better now he can't see her tattoos. Anita just about manages not to squint. Elle tells them they all did great, but after the girls leave, Julien points out that none of them were spectacular either, and wonders if the clothes were doing all the work. Group 4 is Louisa, Lisa and Diona. Louisa is warned not to look too much like Barbie, and Elle starts criticising the photographer's direction. After a while, Mad Uncle Julien gets bored and throws himself into the pictures. Outside, the Group 4 girls are all agreed that they have absolutely no idea how it went, and don't know if that's a good or a bad sign. Back on set, Elle thinks that group aren't strong beauties individually, and Julien thinks there's "not much left" beneath the make-up and the hair.

Finally we have Risikat, Kellie and Penelope. Julien tells them they've got the worst outfits of any of the girls (he's not wrong) so they'll have to work that much harder to get a good picture. The photographer begins, and Julien thinks the outfit is making Risikat look "huge", so he and Elle encourage her to bare her legs. I imagine that's not normally an option that's available to an Arabian bride, but sure, why not? There's better news for Kellie, whose kaftan turns out to be quite photogenic, and Penelope, who has great legs. Elle thinks that despite Penelope not being as naturally pretty as the others, she really worked the shoot. The girls fret about the upcoming elimination.

Later, in the models' quarters, Elle-Mail arrives on a platter. Letitia reads it: "Hi ladies, it's now time for the judges to deliberate which 14 girls will continue in their dream to become Britain And Ireland's Next Top Model. The Top Model house is ready - are you?" The girls gasp at the mention of 14, because they are relatively clever by model standards and have worked out that means three of them are going home.

The next day, everyone is preoccupied with the impending elimination. Anna says she's had a fun few days in Dubai, but she wants to know if she's in now. Diona says that she just wants to get into the house: "that's the biggest achievement, it doesn't matter when you go." I feel sad for anyone who has "get as far as the Top 14 on BintModel" as an actual life goal. Risikat and Letitia talk about how they don't want it to end. Emma S still thinks she's going, and Roxanne pulls out the "I've left my whole life behind" card. Anne says this is a massive opportunity, and Penelope just wants to know if she's going home so she doesn't get her hopes up.

Meanwhile, the judges have cocktails and sofas on the beach, and are deciding who to put through. Anna, Letitia and Madeleine are up first. I have to say, the front-on shot of Anna really does not flatter her nose at all. Whitney doesn't like Anna in this shot, but loves her personality in person. Tyson isn't a fan of the picture either, but likes her personality. On to Letitia, and Whitney thinks that "boobs are all you can see in this picture". Julien thinks she wouldn't fit into any of his samples, to which my response is, as ever, "then make samples based on the shape of an actual woman and not a 14-year-old boy" [WORD - Helen]. Elle thinks Letitia could be a very successful Victoria's Secret model. Julien likes Madeleine's personality, but doesn't think she's gorgeous. Whitney, on the other hand, loathes Madeleine but likes her in pictures.

On to group 2: Emma G's face is "exquisite" according to Whitney, and she really stands out. Elle thinks she worked well and understood what she needed to do. Tyson thinks she's giving the best face of all of them. As far as Emma S is concerned, Tyson is not a fan of her stance, but he loves her look. Julien thinks she was awkward when she moved, and vacant when she stood still. Roxanne has chiselled cheekbones and determination, according to Tyson, and Elle chips in that she has "dignity". Tyson just wishes Roxanne wasn't being blocked by Emma S. Julien thinks Amelia is boring, and Elle wonders if Amelia's strength was entirely in her hair.

Moving on, Tyson thinks Anita's eyes look closed again. I don't think they look closed at all, so now I'm wondering if this is just going to be the sum total of Anita's journey until her eventual (presumably early) elimination. Julien was surprised by Anita's transformation, though. Elle thinks Jennifer is stealing the shot, and Whitney thinks her eyes look piercing. Tasmin bores the panel, with Tyson thinking she looks like a postcard, and Julien arguing weakly that "she's not the worst girl we've got". Whitney thinks Anne looks like a witch, but Julien likes that she's interesting - he thinks you want to ask questions about her.

In group 4, Whitney thinks Louisa looks like "a 50-year-old Beverly Hills housewife". Julien thinks she's gorgeous, but the others don't agree. Whitney, on a roll at this point, sneers that Louisa is "5'6 at best. She said she was 5'8, but even 5'8 is too short!" Diona has improved on last week's terrible picture, and the judges like her features here. Elle mentions having seen Diona and Madeleine in the gym - the only two girls she saw in the gym - and she likes the fact that she was there. She also likes her striking eyes. Whitney thinks Lisa is straining her neck too much, but she's one of the stronger girls overall. Tyson remembers Lisa having a good walk.

Finally we have group 5. Everyone laughs at Risikat's picture and Tyson thinks she's playing up the sexiness too much. Quite how she was supposed to avoid that when Elle and Julien basically told her to get her upper thighs out from under her kaftan is anyone's guess. Kellie looks like a milkmaid in the picture, but Elle likes her fine features and her delicacy. Whitney gives Penelope the excellent back-handed compliment of "she looks amazing, I almost didn't recognise her." Julien doesn't think she looks special, though - much to the consternation of the others. She really does have fantastic legs, mind.

After the ads, it's time for the deliberation and narrowing the girls down to 14. There's lots of vague "I think we should lose her and this one" which is all very enigmatic and precisely no fun for the viewer. Essentially, the judges can't agree on anyone. Eventually, they settle on three girls who will no longer be continuing. Voice of Fearne reminds us of the prizes (and that luxury apartment is still a kickass prize, I don't care what anyone says) and then it is night. Burning torches flicker on the beach giving a bit of a Survivor-like atmosphere as the top 17 troop down to meet Elle, waiting to see who amongst them will be spared.

Elle refers to the Top 14 going into "the model home", which is quite funny, and then gets down to business. The first girl advancing is Emma G. Joining her in the house will be Jennifer, Letitia, Kellie (hooray!), Amelia, Tasmin, Lisa, Roxanne, Anne, Madeleine, Anita, Emma S and Penelope. Only one spot left, and the last girl guaranteed a spot in the house is...Risikat. So Diona, Louisa and Anna are gone. I'm kind of surprised they didn't give Diona a shot over Emma S based on that last picture, but I guess Diona's fate was sealed the minute they found out she had a drama degree. Elle thanks them for everything they've done, and wishes them well for the future. "This is just the end of the journey for this time," she assures them vaguely. Diona interviews that this was a really big rejection to handle, while Anna is equal parts gutted for herself and pleased for her friends who did make the cut. Louisa interviews that they're all a lovely bunch and she wishes them all well. With a reasonable attitude like that, you can see why she wasn't really cut out for reality TV. Anna vows to return next year. Yeah, well, Catherine did that and ended up quitting, so good luck.

Elle congratulates the Top 14 and departs. Anita says that getting into the house was her aim, and now she can't wait for the competition to start. Jennifer is happy. Penelope is shaking. Risikat is pleased to have finally made the cut. Emma S was convinced she was going home. Kellie thinks this is the best feeling she's ever had. Letitia is on a high. Tasmin can't stop laughing. Amelia says it still hasn't clicked in her head, and she's going to go crazy when it does. This is perhaps an unfortunate end note, as it is immediately followed by the Voice of Fearne informing us that Amelia subsequently withdrew from the competition for "personal reasons". Presumably it eventually clicked, and she actually did go crazy. We get a montage of shots from the competition set to Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida', and then a preview of the model house (which looks suspiciously like the Dating In The Dark house) and the trials yet to come. Makeovers! Snakes! Waterfalls! International travel! Alesha Dixon! Jade! Rizzle Kicks! Men in bathrobes! Tarantulas! This series might actually be quite good, you know. I'm quietly confident. Join Helen next week to see what the first challenge is!

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