America's Next Top Model, Season 7 Episode 12, "The Girl Who Becomes America's Next Top Model"
Originally aired on Wednesday, 12/6/2006 Episode Rating: ** (2 out of 5 stars) Episode Overview: Only three girls remain: Melrose Bickerstaff, Eugena Washington, and Caridee English. The girls' first challenge involves shooting a commercial for Covergirl Cosmetics. Following the commercial shoot, the girls meet with the judges to determine the final two. Eugena's lack of passion leads to her elimination, setting up Melrose and Caridee as the last models standing. Before the final runway show, however, the girls speak with Tyra Banks's life coach Dr. Michelle who gets the girls to open up about their strengths and flaws. For their final challenge, the girls dress as ghost brides in an outrageous fashion show, full of yelling and controversy.
Episode Highlights:
  • The girls flex their acting muscles for a Covergirl commercial.
  • The final two girls strut their stuff underground in the final runway challenge.
  • Caridee is crowned America's Next Top Model.
Recap: Before I get into tonight's recap, let me share with you a little theory I have: any show that starts out with Jay Manuel in a blue mesh shirt is bound to be a winner. And that's exactly what we get as the final three girls meet Jay (and his shirt) to shoot their commercial for Covergirl Cosmetics. The stakes couldn't be higher either, as the winner of America's Next Top Model will have this ad run in a national magazine. Jay then introduces last cycle's winner Danielle Evans, who's now going by 'Dani' as per agency edict. She tells the girls to always have fun and stay grounded. The girls get ready for their close-ups and Caridee is feeling confident, saying she's studied her lines but not studied them too hard because she doesn't want to over-think things (A problem Caridee hasn't had all season). Melrose, on the other hand, attacks the page with a surgeon's intensity, reciting her lines over and over, wanting to make it as perfect as possible. First up is Caridee. Her natural bubbliness shines through and she nails the tone and feel of the ad. Next is Eugena who, after a few bland takes, turns on the charm and delivers a great read. Backstage meanwhile, Melrose has already whipped herself into a near panic and it shows on set as her line readings feel stiff and calculated. Her anxiety also transfers into her print ad shots which are far from her best. Next is Caridee who says she wants to look "really blissful, and not sexy." Afterglow girl, the word is afterglow. Eugena meanwhile focuses on not giving dead eyes, a regular complaint from the judges, and delivers some passionate shots.
Melrose Caridee Eugena
With the Covergirl shoot in the bag, the three finalists meet with the judges to determine which two girls will compete for the Top Model crown. Show creator Tyra Banks also introduces Victorio & Lucchino, the designers (and, judging by their appearances, aspiring hobbits) whose runway show the final two models will be walking in. The judges compliment Melrose on her great smile, but feel her photo's a little flat. Eugena gets high marks for her lively commercial but the judges question whether she really wants to be a model. Caridee, meanwhile, sparkles in her commercial and surprises the judges by delivering a subtle, relaxed photo. The girls return to the judging room and Tyra starts handing out photos. First is Caridee, leaving Eugena and Melrose in the bottom two. Tyra tells Melrose that although she's been consistently good, she failed to live up to her own standards this week, while the judges still aren't sure if modeling is Eugena's passion. Tyra gives the last photo to Melrose. Cut to Caridee scowling. A tearful Melrose accepts her photo. Cut back to Eugena and Caridee both scowling. Eugena walks over and embraces Caridee, who promises to win the competition for her friend. Melrose tries to get in on the love fest, but the other girls practically push her off. The scene is now set with Melrose versus Caridee and only one thing's for sure--we're about to see the first blonde winner in Top Model history. In preparation for the final runway challenge Tyra sets up a sit-down with Dr. Michelle, a life coach who appears on "The Tyra Banks Show." Dr. Michelle asks Caridee how she plans on taking the criticism that comes with being America's Next Top Model. Caridee says that growing up with scoriasis has taught her how to handle criticism and to keep smiling no matter what. Melrose, meanwhile, admits that she has a habit of misspeaking and maybe that's what caused a lot of the friction between her and her castmates (talking behind people's backs probably didn't help either). The next day the girls meet Jay Manuel in what appears to be an outdoor cavern. He asks if they can imagine a more beautiful place for a fashion show. Why yes, Jay, I can think of a few places, New York or Milan come to mind, or any place that's not below sea level. The theme for the show is 'ghostly brides' (huh?) and as the show progresses each walk will become more theatrical until the end where each girl is expected to tear around the catwalk like a mad woman (I swear I'm not making this up). As night falls on Barcelona, the girls get outfitted with their wedding gowns and a pound and a half of pancake makeup and prepare for the show. Now, I normally don't comment on the show's pacing, but this all feels very rushed and underdeveloped; I mean the skydiving shoot had more dramatic buildup than this. Anyway, the show begins and immediately Melrose sets herself apart. Her walk is strong and her face is haunting, while Caridee (who looks eerily like Kate Blanchet in Elizabeth) appears oddly reserved in the outlandish gown and makeup. A quick change and they're both ready for their second look, this time with a twist--each girl must stop and stare at each other halfway down the runway. Melrose and Caridee stop to face each other and--Caridee steps on Melrose's dress, leaving a gaping hole in the train! Scandal! The finale approaches kicked off by Miss J. Alexander who appears on the runway in a long black dress, yelling and screaming (Did I mention I'm not making this up?) with the other models following in tow. Melrose manages to strike a balance between drama and modeling, unlike Caridee who, as expected, goes way over-the-top and comes off, not as a model pretending to be crazy, but just a crazy model. The show ends dramatically with the two girls staring each other down before disappearing through the magic of the black arts (or maybe just the magic of tape splicing, same thing). Back in the judging room, the girls face the panel for the final time. The judges praise Melrose for looking like a real model, but criticize Caridee for being too stiff on the runway and for going too far with the theatrics ("The Runaway Bride of Chucky," as Miss J. puts it). During elimination, the judges discuss the differences between the girls. While they like how knowledgeable and prepared Melrose always is, she sometimes comes off too clinical. In contrast, Caridee is a ball of fire, likely to explode at any time. Course, as Jay Manuel points out, the fashion world loves its extreme girls. The girls return and Tyra asks the girls what fashion means to them. A tearfully Caridee, expresses her love for modeling and thanks the judges for believing in her, while Melrose says mostly the same thing but in a more prepared (read: fake) way. Tyra announces that the judges have reached a decision and America's... Next... Top... Caridee! Caridee and Tyra both celebrate as Caridee reflects on always wanting to be in the fashion industry and now she's America's Next Top Model. --Scott K.