WE’RE BACK! It seems like ages since lanky Ann took home the title of cycle 15’s America’s Next Top Model. Now it’s finally time for Tyra to crown a new shining star of the Model-Land Galaxy, and she’s kicking things off with a big change: No casting week episode. No. Casting. Week. Episode. WHAT? Tyra, explain yourself right now!

But it wouldn’t be Top Model, or Tyra, if she simply explained that she’s getting rid of casting week because it’s a largely pointless filler hour full of quick-cut montages of crazy girls screaming, crying, wearing bad fashion and  embodying the various stereotypes of Women Who Are Most Likely to Get Restraining Orders Taken Against Them. That, now that she’s still going for this “high fashion” angle, Tyra wants to cut the antics and get to the “real” “modeling.” Tyra needs to show us. Hence, this intro, which (in true, excessive Tyra form) does nothing to legitimize the tone of the show, but does a lot to make us laugh:

I am honestly impressed that after sixteen (!) seasons, Tyra can still find new ways to a) make it all about her and b) terrify me with her face. I’ve seen a lot of scary Tyra faces in my day, but this is a new one!

tyra-monolog4.jpg“GO TO SLEEP.”

Instead of airing casting week, Tyra has decided to “take a cue from Twitter King [Ed. note: YUCK] and prankster Ashton Kutcher” by “punking” her chosen final 14 model-wannabes. Instead of telling them they’ve been granted access to her Model Mansion in an excessively dramatic selection ceremony, she’s going to pull a fast one, telling the final 14 that they got REJECTED.

Tyra pretends she is doing this because all models (EVEN HER!!!) get told “no, no, no, NO!” over and over again before they make it big. So it’s not just a prank, you see. It’s a Lesson. “If you want Italian Vogue, IMG and a contract with Cover Girl, then you better have skin tougher than a leather Prada bag!” Then she teases a clip from later in the season, when Brittani has a panic attack and loses her ability to speak. (Maybe because, by beginning the season with a cruel prank, Tyra damaged Brittani’s confidence and psyche so badly that she never fully recovers!) Guess your skin isn’t leathery enough, yet, Brittani. I hope they give you some Toughen Up medicine at the hospital. Then there’s Jaclyn, whom we will later see screaming and crying at a drawing she made of herself. And Alexandria, this season’s bitch. All of them will be beloved characters this season, Tyra tells us. But first, let’s see what happened at casting week. Gimme dat prank!

A Tiny Peek at Casting Week:
The Jays meet the 30-or-so finalists at the airport, where they have their first runway challenge on the tarmac. Monique looks slutty, and confirms it by saying, “I’m used to getting all the attention without opening my mouth.” Kasia is a sexy plus-size (or what Tyra prefers to call “fiercely real”) model, and she “better bring it” since she’s got experience.

Sara has a rat tail. That means she’s “eccentric.”

sara-rattail1.jpgAnd that vest means she’s … blind?

To pull off the prank, Tyra has pre-selected her final 14, whom she conveniently labels and even puts into a periodic-like table for easy identification/pigeonholing of her girls: “sexy mama Monique,” “hippie Hannah,” “edgy Mikaela,” et cetera. Sorry, Tyra, unlike you, I don’t like to LABEL PEOPLE. Just kidding. Yes I do. But we’ll get to know the girls later. Right now it’s PRANK TIME:

The Jays give each girl an envelope. If her photo is inside, she’s “going to panel.” (No she’s not.) If she doesn’t have a photo, she’s “going home.” (No she’s not.) The girls with the photos FREAK OUT in ecstasy and are ushered away, thinking they are about to meet Tyra. We are left with the brokenhearted finalists, who say things like “Now I don’t have anything,” and “We’re nothing to anybody anymore” with absolute sincerity.

brittani-nowidonthaveanything.jpg“It’s alright. I just wish I was dead is all.”

They are ushered into a “basement-looking room” where “their luggage is like plonk,” and there Tyra shows up to “say goodbye.” And just when they’ve lost all hope, all will to live, Tyra literally pushes a big green button on the staircase (like a real-life super-villain) and drops a curtain revealing that they’re actually in the Top Model Mansion, because they’re IN!




It is never addressed that the girls who thought they were moving on are the true victims of this prank, and were almost certainly ushered straight into a garbage shoot that led to an incinerator with a quick, “Just kidding. GUHBYE!”

But who cares what happened to those girls, right! They’re losers so their feelings aren’t important. The important thing is that all the photos inside the house are of Tyra when she was 16 years old. With that essential bit of info shared, Tyra leaves, allowing the girls to quickly establish who the alpha female (read: HBIC) of the house is going to be. Dominique campaigns for the job by calling a “house meeting,” but Alexandria’s big mouth has also expressed interest in candidacy. Mikaela (the gossip?) runs down some of the other girls for us: Jaclyn is the sweetest thing ever, and Sara is a weirdo with a “unique look.” (A rat tail. You mean she has a rat tail.)

TYRA MAIL! “Let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?” Jaclyn thinks this means they’re either “going to a ball or a bowling alley.” So sweet, so naive, so in for a big mind-blowing realization that nothing on America’s Next Top Model could ever be so straightforward, even on day one.

THE CHALLENGE: Bubble, bubble, walk and tumble…
Jay Manuel, clad in glorious gray leaf-print plaid, greets the 14 with model/stylist/jewelry designer/jean-short enthusiast Erin Wasson, who is this week’s guest judge. She explains that they’ll be wearing looks by the great Alexander Wang, and jewelry by her, Erin Wasson. Legit, right? But the audience will not be able to really see or appreciate the clothes, because this isn’t a normal runway show, it’s an insane Fear Factor runway show! The poor girls are going to be walking a 12-inch wide runway over water, and they’re going to do it inside these gigantic plastic bubbles:

j-bubble1.jpg“What if I get stuck in there for the rest of my life?” – Jaclyn, bless her heart.

Jay explains the photo challenge: They’re doing a backstage photo shoot before the runway show with Russell James, ANTM‘s favorite Fabio impersonator.

, who “has natural swag” (and takes hat advice from Aretha Franklin) loves to sex it up for Russell’s camera, but some of the other girls look lost. Trying to get their hair and makeup done, worrying about getting trapped in a big plastic bubble, and posing at the same time is just too much for their brains to process. We learn that Molly is a former “band geek” and athlete who hates to lose. Angelia, a military baby, says being Top Model is her dream “because of the traveling and the fashion.” Hannah is sweet young Analeigh-lookalike.

“A buncha busted-up girls. C’mon, chil’!” are Miss J’s final words before each of the girls take turns getting inside the bubble and trying not to tumble. Alexandria and Monique start things off strong, except for Monique’s little “doin’ the dougie” move at the end of the runway.

Ondrei doesn’t have much runway experience, and she’s the first to fall victim to the bubble:

ondrei-fall1.jpgShe eventually mouse-in-a-wheels her way back up and off the runway, and looks entirely demoralized for doing so. NEXT!

Sara stomps down the runway like she’s Godzilla and the plastic is a Japanese village. Dalya puts her hands on her hips, which insults Jay’s very being. Brittani is far from her future panic attack, and she attacks the walk instead. Jaclyn is just OK. Angelia is lazy and clumsy. Mikaela looks like she’s walking toward a future murder victim. Dominique is the next to fall. She blames her “defective bubble.” She does a weird, pageanty wave as she repeatedly attempts to get back up. For this, I blame her defective brain.

dominique-fall1.jpgJust kidding, it’s actually pretty cute, and she has a good sense of humor about herself. She reminds me of Angelea from two seasons ago. “I’ma end this bitch with a bang!” she recounts about her little “Voila!” wave.

Miss J critiques the walks: “You all walk as if you were on an overdose of Viagra.” (Does he know from experience?)

The winner of this challenge: Brittani. But all she really wins is respect, because Erin Wasson, in her infinite generosity, decides to “gift” (I haaaate when people use this as a verb) each girl a piece of jewelry from her collection. EVERYONE’S A WINNER! (Except Dominique and Ondrei. Everyone point and laugh at the ones who fell!)

Back at Model Mansion: Alexandria teaches Jaclyn how to walk, pose, eat and breathe. Then she brags about how she did all the Fashion Weeks last year, so she basically does not need to be here, but she really wants to be here, and also that hat is still dumb.

And speaking of dumb hats…

Let’s review the prizes, check out Tyra’s ALT shirt, and drop our jaws in awe of Andre’s newest look.


alt-hat2.jpgCapes are old news. It’s all about suits and hats and brooms-attached-to-the-hats. Write that down.

The judges look at the girls’ final photos (which you can look at, too! right here!) and give their critiques to the girls:

Alexandria: “Your bone structure is phenomenal.” “It’s beautifully raw.” “Very dramatic.”
Dalya: “Your natural beauty comes out.” Tyra then does a demo of how to “look natural, but it AIN’T, chil’.”
Nicole: “You look 15 years older than you are.” Nigel thinks Nicole’s mouth looks like a “cat’s bottom” in this shot.
“Miss Rat Tail” Sara: “This picture looks like a 19-year-old boy with makeup on. But that’s what I like about it.”
Ondrei: “It looks like you’re holding on to an electric chair.” “I see the nerves.”
Angelia: “There’s a little bit of mystery.” “I don’t see a model. It just looks like a really pretty girl. But you don’t want the boys to want you, you want the girls to want what you have on.”
Hannah: “You’re surrounded but you’re popping.” “There’s something young Jennifer Aniston about it.”
Kasia: “I’d like to see your personality come out more.” Tyra gives advice to her “fiercely real” girl: “You have to be better than, just to get the same thing.”
Monique: “It’s a real moment.” ” I feel the excitement.”
Mikaela: “You look like, that’s the new star.” “You’re there, you’re present.” ALT sees a potential big Italian Vogue cover.
Dominique: “It’s not striking.” “Your personality could show through more.” She needs an “injection” into her soul, and Tyra has a big makeover planned for her.
Jaclyn: “Cinematic.” “Stunning, luscious.” “This was your only good shot.” She’s “sweet as sweet tea can be,” says Erin.
Molly: “A lot of character.” “Energy. It’s dynamic.”
Brittani: Andre Leon Talley screams at her to get rid of the outrageous feather in her hair, as if he doesn’t have one on his own head! Then, the photo: “Unique.” “You look calm, gorgeous, stunning.” “Frighteningly beautiful.”


The winner of this week is …


Tyra then calls:


The bottom two:

angelia-dominique-bottom2-ep1.jpgAngelia and Dominique

Tyra has only one photo in her hands, and this photo represents the girl who is still in the running to be America’s Next Top Model. There’s Angelia, whom Tyra says may be the prettiest girl in the room (“HEY!” – Everyone else) but not the best model. And there’s Dominique, whose freckles the judges adore, but they want to know what’s “inside her soul.” (Geeeeez. Really? In week one?)

Remember at the beginning of the hour when Angelia said “I AM America’s Next Top Model! Get used to seeing this face!!!”? Yeah, about that …  She’s not. She’s the first to go.

Angelia says she didn’t get the chance to prove herself, but she’ll make it on her own. Just you wait.

Next Week: The girls will go through “cathartic” acting psycho-therapy (that’s when they yell and cry at the pictures of themselves that they drew), and do a photo shoot with KILLERRRR BEEEES!!! (Well, not “killer.” Unless one of them stings Jaclyn, because she’s allergic.

What did you think of tonight’s premiere?
Did you like the changes Tyra made? Who’s your favorite so far? Mine are Jaclyn (so cute!) and Mikaela (so pretty!). Those comments down there are all for you. Learn more about this season’s models:

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.