'America's Next Top Model' recap: Life's a Ball

antm-cycle-16.jpgIt's Top Model Cycle 16! I really put the exclamation point there more out of habit than excitement. This season Tyra is totally shaking things up. There's a new curtain behind the judges at panel! Wild times. And the traditional casting week has been truncated in favor of an elaborate ruse in which no girls have to tell their tales of woe in front of a mini-panel, and the actual final fourteen think they've been eliminated early on. The nine minutes of misery that they are forced to endure during their faux-elimination is more than made up for as they realize they're actually standing not in a bus stop, but their own model house. Finalist Dalya falls over from the excitement, and generally there is a lot of wailing. Dominique and Alexandria quickly prove to be the primary irritants of the season, while adorable, baby-faced Jaclyn ensures that everyone in America wants to give her a hug.

The girls head off to a runway show combined with a backstage shoot, and shots of them getting their hair and makeup done will be their photos of the week. While the photo shoot itself is pretty uneventful, the runway show is of such whackness that it makes the days of the giant swinging pendulum seem relatively innocent. The girls must walk in giant confetti-filled hamster balls onto a twelve-inch runway that is placed in a swimming pool. It's a very glamorous kind of walking the plank, designed solely for our amusement. Though there are lots of awkward walks and a few stumbles, only Ondrei and Dominique actually fall off of the runway and are forced to nurse their head wounds while sloshing around in the ball and trying to make it to dry land. It's at times very hilarious and at times very troubling, much like this show in general.

At panel, in which supermodel Erin Wasson is a guest judge, several girls rock their first photos. Brittani and Monique remain lovely while makeup artists poke pencils into their eyes, while Molly, Alexandria and Mikaela also excel and get major kudos. The heretofore unmemorable Molly gets best photo of the week while stank, freckle-faced Dominique and pretty, bland Angelia land in the bottom two. Dominique's potential for causing drama ensures her retention, while Angelia packs her bags, but not before Nigel compares someone's mouth to a cat's anus.