Harken, gentle readers, and I will tell you a tale of abiding love and beauty, dark deception and intrigue, and harrowing adversity and endurance. Vestem virumque cano. This is the story of episode eight of America's Most Smartest Model.
This chapter continues the heroic epic of the competition to win the glory and reward of being crowned the nations' most intelligent model. The contestants include, among others, two arch-rivals: comely Brett Novek and determined VJ Logan. Brett has used his inherent qualities of love and charisma to charm the judges and become one of the top contenders while VJ has relied on his raw talent and ambition to push himself into the upper echelon.
In the first part of episode eight of America's Most Smartest Model, it was seen that model Brett Novek had not followed the better angels of his nature1 and had instead joined a plot to prevent fellow contestant VJ Logan (an inexperienced but talented model) from winning. In listening to the bad little Brett on one shoulder and the good little Brett on the other, he had chosen to follow the advice of the bad one.2 Granted, depending on how dirty he talked to me, I would have probably followed the commands of a bad little Brett Novek on my shoulder also. Hell, if I could see a good Brett and a bad Brett on either shoulder, I might never face forward again.
However, having chosen the ways of the dark side, Brett faced divine retribution and it was quick in coming. He and his AMSMBFF3 Jeff Pickel lost the Edge Challenge (along with co-conspirators Andre Birleanu and Aussie Rachel) to VJ and Angela Hart. The penalty for losing was at first stated to be nothing but a greater distance between changing room and runway for a runway show, so Brett did not see the foreshadowing of worse punishment to come. If he had, he might have tried to reverse the situation instead of joining in with Andre(!) the night before the show in badmouthing Angela's runway experience.
At the start of the Callback Challenge, Andre, Brett, and Pickel found out that not only would their changing area be farther away, but that they also would have to go through an obstacle course in between getting dressed and doing their walk. The other three (Rachel having been give the Edge as well) started the challenge. They each had to do three outfits, completing the task from start to finish in fifteen minutes. VJ had a great performance, looking like he had been doing runway for years. His hair and makeup were fantastic. You might have to slow down the replay to fully appreciate it, but the backside in the swimsuit walking away was truly saucy4. His teammate Angela, who usually wore her hair in an unflattering way, looked incredible. You won't see me saying this very often about a member of the other gender, but she was super hot. The body, the hair, the clothes, the walk, all worked together for a superior performance. I didn't know she had it in her.
Rachel, on the other hand, walked like (in her words) a horse. Perhaps it was a little intercession from St. Eligius5 to teach her a lesson for joining the alliance against VJ. Still, she's a pretty little filly. Maybe there's a second career there in human dressage6.
The three bad boys meanwhile were getting ready for their attack run. It didn't seem possible that these unknowing participants in this little morality play could put themselves in a worse position, but they did so with a invocation to the pagan "gods of fashion" and a strong display of Pride (as in "... goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."7).
They started the task in a flurry of dressing, which reminded me of being in a situation of jumping out of a trick's bed realizing I was late for work and not sure where all of my clothes were. They went through the obstacle course and it didn't seem to be too much of a hindrance for these physically fit men. When they got to the runway it did seem to have a residual effect. Brett did a so-so job, which looked very different from his walks in previous competitions. He was so stiff, looking like he was trying to balance a book on his head. It was amazing he could walk so upright having spun around a baseball bat five times, but the walk and the expression really detracted from the presentation of the clothes, which is the whole purpose of being on the runway. Pickel did a pretty good job while Andre looked like someone shuffling on their way to the dining hall at Rikers8.
The models received their reviews from the judges and they were consistent with what any lay person could see. Angela won the automatic callback and Brett and Andre received the brunt of the criticisms. Andre was stoic about it but Brett got very agitated with Mary Alice Stephenson. Under other circumstances, I believe he would have been polite about it, but in this case, he was watching the alliance's plans totally blow up in his face and the explosion was painful. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad9 (or just plain pissed off). At the ceremony to announce who was leaving, he started talking again and Ben told him the show came down to something really simple: Mary Alice judging the models' fashion sense and Ben judging their intelligence. Here I disagree with Ben but concur with an earlier statement: the show comes down to being grist for gay-themed blogs and I say hoyay!10 (See the breathtaking Pickel package extension11 during the quick change competition as evidence.)
Pickel, Brett, and Andre were sent to an eighth circle of Hell12 as the bottom three and Pickel paid the price for the alliance's transgressions by being sent packing. America’s favorite scrubs-wearing, organ-pulling, clothes-making, female-touching, body-washing, self-tanning, chicken-loving, young Einstein impersonator13 was banished, leaving his beloved companion to gasp a Kerriganian "Why?"14 before one last embrace in a tableau of unbearable pathos15.
While it is sad and depressing to see Pickel go, I hope it was a wake-up call to Brett to listen to the good little Brett for the rest of the series.
At the close of the previous chapter, virtuous Brett was faced with a terrible moral dilemma. VJ's sworn enemy in the game, Andre Birleanu (the Bizarro World's grotesquely imperfect copy of Borat), had conspired with Brett's AMSMBFF Jeff Pickel in a harebrained scheme to form an alliance to reverse the ascendancy of VJ and bring him low. The impetuous Pickel asked Brett what he thought about the plan. Brett wavered, torn between being true to his personal integrity or to being loyal to Pickel, his showmo mate. Unsure of what to do, he expressed his confusion and displeasure to Pickel saying, "I don't know what to think of you, bro." Finally, rather than risk losing the affection of his most favored friend, he reluctantly agreed to join the star-crossed relationship with the malevolent Andre. The three plotters added Pickel's secret friend Aussie Rachel to the group and the coterie was complete.
Episode eight begins with the conspirators lounging by the pool, reveling in their imagined future victory. Like all close-knit alliances on reality shows where there is but a single winner, they successfully suspended disbelief enough to somehow enjoy the thought of all four of them winning together. It is here that we first see Pickel take the extra step from only complaining about people to using a term like "pick off". Following his lead, Brett exclaims the most cursed words in reality TV: "Final four!" If only Brett had known me before the start of the show and if he called me and said, "Hey, you watch a lot of reality TV. Hypothetically, if I should ever be on a reality competition show, and if I should find myself in some kind of alliance, should I ever gloat about my group being the final set of contestants?" My response would have been "Yes, but only if you absolutely want to make sure that it won't really happen." I would then have gone on to teach him the entire theory of reality show karma and saved him from the pain that was yet to come.
Unfortunately for Brett, no one warned him about dancing with the devil either. The Dark Prince, who sometimes appears in the form of a Russian/Romanian model, wants to use people to do his bidding and to encourage them to become evil enough to condemn themselves as well. Brett and Pickel naively let Andre's hatred of VJ to lure them to turn from working to win as the model with the most talent, the most integrity and the best sportsmanship, to being Andre's willing pawns in a decidedly uncharacteristic attempt to spoil someone else's opportunity to win. Can you feel the aura of bad karma starting to hover over our dynamic duo?
The models found running shoes and tank tops and realized that the next Edge Challenge will somehow be physical. The accompanying notice indicated there would be a grueling test of bodies and minds with the models in teams of two. VJ surprisingly asked Andre to be his teammate, explaining in the post-interview that he thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know him. VJ clearly never misses a trick, capturing good karma for his willingness to make nice with his enemy. On the other hand, Brett and Pickel met with Aussie Rachel and Andre in the bathroom and talked about smashing VJ. If you are keeping track of net karma, you would realize that the episode might just as well have ended right there. Brett and Pickel didn't stand a chance from that moment on.
The challenge was for one member of the team to answer correctly as many trivia questions as they could in one minute, and then after that, have the other team member run on a treadmill with a setting related to the number of correct responses. The one with the most correct answers would get the lowest setting. Brett and Pickel were a team, Andre and Rachel another, and VJ and Angela the remaining one. In the question segment, Angela and Rachel tied with most correct answers and Pickel had the least. He was unable to name a water fowl, presumably preferring only land ones (see last week).
VJ and Andre started running on their treadmills with a setting of 6 while Brett started at a 9. After five minutes, Pickel thought Brett should consider stopping to prevent overexertion. He convinced Brett to stop by asking him coyly, "Do you want me to pull it?" Brett (having waited for this for seven episodes) agreed to stop and said pleadingly, "Pull it."
Andre and VJ settled in for the long run (pun intended). As time went on, the settings increased. VJ was firm on winning for America while Andre declared that he felt "Soviet!" This reenactment of the Cold War played out to its expected end and VJ, All-American Boy, beat the commie. VJ saluted his conquered foe and then he and Angela discovered that their Edge would be a changing room close to the runway for a runway show. It didn't sound that important to the alliance so it didn't worry them too much.
An added twist came a little later when VJ found out that he needed to share the Edge with one of the four losing models. The obvious pick was Rachel since she was currently the weakest player and would most likely not benefit from the advantage. Rachel was glad to get it. Other than allying with Pickel because of her off-camera friendship with him, Rachel would have allied with anyone - Andre, VJ, last week's donkey - whatever would have kept her from being on the bottom.