Do I have to tell you spoilers are ahead? OK -- spoilers ahead. Some come up pretty fast.
With three out of the remaining 11 contestants (as Wednesday's show began) on America's Next Top Model being from Dallas-Fort Worth, chances are they're going to get a high profile this season. And, for better or worse, all three of them did in Wednesday's episode. Breaking it down:
Ann Ward, from Dallas: Only a few weeks in, this is already Ann's competition to lose. The judges love her. The other models like her. Tall -- 6-foot-2 and a little gawky in real life, she transforms to absolute gracefulness in front of the camera. Rhianna, paired with Ann early on because they're both a little eccentric, kicks off Wednesday's episode by saying, "Even though I like Ann, she's my competition. Especially since we're supposed to be like twins -- we've got the same hair, and her look is extremely strange, like me."
Away from the model-photogaphers' cameras, Rhianna may be the most striking-looking woman on the show. She always seems to catch my eye the most when she's in the informal model groups. In front of the cameras, she's attractive but unimaginative, tending to pose the same way every week. Her opening quote about Ann was a sure sign that either Rhianna would be in the very top this week or the very bottom. Guess where she wound up.
Meanwhile, for the third week in a row, Ann won the big photo challenge. Which, the way the judges were talking, was a bit of a surprise -- not because they didn't like Ann, but because they liked someone else so much.
Liz Williams, from Arlington: In a week in which the first challenge involved having a photo taken while riding a roller-coaster, Liz certainly had her ups and downs. She nailed the roller-coaster challenge, with J. Alexander and Nigel Barker very pleased with her photo. ("I really have to pee," Liz says before getting on the Silver Bullet at Knott's Berry Farm. "Try not to pee when you're above us," Nigel says.)
Liz wins the first challenge, earning a private meeting with Tyra Banks, who also shoots Liz for a spread in Tyra magazine. Liz gets to take along two other models, and brings along Kayla and Arlington's Chris White (more on her below). Liz met Chris and her sister Terra, who was eliminated last week, at the Dallas auditions, and it turns out that Liz and the White sisters actually live pretty close to each other. "I'm so excited now," Chris says during the Tyra meeting, during which Tyra shoots all three models and then sits down to tea with them. "I couldn't thank Liz enough for choosing me." Liz notes that Tyra ate all the carrot-raisin bread at tea time. Geez, Tyra, isn't that a lot of carbs?
During the elimination challenge, however, things don't go so well for Liz. It's an underwater challenge in which the models have to pose with slimy sea creatures while water flows above them. Liz, having a problem with her contacts because of the water, can't stop blinking.
For the second week in a row, Jay Manuel, who's helping direct the shoot by famed photographer Matthew Rolston (Chris: "If you don't know who he is, you're stupid"), says for the second time in two weeks that Liz is becoming a pain in the butt. In fact, he says the exact same thing he did last week, because it's the same clip of him saying it as last week. Jay lectures her and tells her to quit complaining. "She could be the challenge winner this week," Jay says. "But in my opinion, she could have taken that roller-coaster all the way home."
Neither Liz's photo nor her attitude go over very well with the judges at judges' panel. "Don't complain, don't explain," Barker scolds her. Liz winds up in the bottom two with Rhianna.
Chris White, from Arlington: Chris' fate is almost the opposite of Liz's. During the roller-coaster challenge, Chris does not want to get on. Chris says that the idea of riding a roller coaster gives her "The same kind of feeling I would get if a killer was behind me, chasing me down the street with a butcher knife." Chris, as a roller-coaster-phobe, I feel your pain.
But Chris gets on. She's not happy about it, and she looks like she's in pain in her photo, but she rode the ride. "I took my fear and I conquered it," she says. "I didn't lost my job and come all the way here to be sent home." The models all admire Chris for her courage.
Chris has no problem, however, with posing underwater with future seafood. Everyone loves her shot. "It's my favorite shot of the day," Rolston says. "Everything came together. The ripples in the water. The hand on the forehead." Chris has reason to be self-conscious about her high forehead -- during an challenge in an earlier episode, she mentions that her big forehead was mocked in high school. Tyra, who says, "You belong to my tribe," says that there are ways of hiding a high forehead, for example by tilting your head back or, you know, putting your hand over it.
As much as the judges love Chris' shot, though, Ann's name is called first when Tyra announces the best shots of the week. Chris is called fourth. She looks understandably miffed.
Elsewhere: For the most part, the DFW models have avoided the house's biggest drama, the diva-esque Kacey vs. the gonna-knock-you-off-your-pedestal Lexie, which takes up a hunk of the middle of the show. But the fact is, despite her annoying arrogance, Kacey has been doing a much better job than Lexie (Kacey was the second name called by Tyra on Wednesday).
Kacey's prima-donna attitude contrasts with Rhianna's (and Ann's) sweetness, especially when Rhianna is eliminated and Liz gets another chance while Tyra tells her to buck up. (Liz, a single mom who holds down two jobs while attending college, often talks about how the other models need to realize how good they have it -- and although I think the judges are being a little brutal with her, I think she could stand to listen to some of her own advice, at least as it applies to the show.)
Rhianna's exit is greeted with tears and hugs by the other models, notably Ann, who loses her Doppleganger in the house. Kacey and Lexie are still around to feud -- and it looks like next week, Liz is going to jump into the fray.