I knew things were heading south for Jane when she started talking. Top Model Jane doesn’t talk! Up until tonight’s episode, the show’s fifth, she’s been edited as a complete non-entity, a near-mute. Want proof? Someone on the Internet — not me, I swear — has strung together every single moment of screentime Jane’s gotten so far. If you have a minute and twenty-five seconds to spare, check out Jane’s episode three contributions in their entirety:
“Glorified extra” about sums it up.
But there Jane was, in tonight’s opening scene, no less, combining tonguetwists and lungbreath and repeated, vigorous jawflapping to produce the units of language most commonly known as “words.” Words! Unfortunately, these words were, “My father is a pulmonologist.” Then, in a confessional: “Growing up I was very fortunate. I haven’t had the struggles that other people have in their backgrounds. [What about Dean's Date, Jane? What about Bicker?].“
A third time, again, with the words: “A lot of these girls I would never have met.” Words, words, everywhere, far too much to drink! (Up until this episode, even your friendly hall-patrolling RA would have been forced to concede that a shot-a-sentence Jane Drinking Game was nowhere near “high risk.” Had people played the same game tonight, however, Princeton Medical Center would have run out of beds.)
Another model, Liz, says that if she could switch lives with any girl, she would choose Jane, because Liz is a single mom going through a recession and could really use some of that pulmonology payola.
You want to respond, Jane? Perhaps with a head nod? A shoulder shrug? An eyebrow raise? What’s that, Jane? Is it a… — it is! — it’s a… lip purse! A pursing of the lips! She’s pursing her li— nope, they’re opening: “For the record, the rest of the world is in a recession, too. I’m just throwing it out there.”
I repeat: Oh my. Words. Oh my words, Jane! They could be your doom.
Here’s a tip for all you casual Top Model viewers out there: when a girl who hasn’t talked all season suddenly begins to flap her gums at the start of a new episode, that girl is most likely going home at the end of said episode. The editors are focusing on that girl for a reason — the reason being that they want to keep the audience from going, “Who???” when Tyra announces her elimination.
And when words perform dastardly double duty by feeding into the pampered/privileged/Princetonian characterization the forced on Jane during the show’s casting special? All the worse. As I’ve mentioned before, Tyra tends to hate the Big-Name-College girls and boot them early — Yale’s Victoria exited third in Cycle Nine, and last season Duke coed Simone got cut fourth.
Things continued to head downhill for Jane during tonight’s challenge, a runway show that, in true Top Model form, took place for no apparent reason on conveyor belts installed in a blocked-off freeway tunnel. The closest the show came to justifying such an unorthodox setup was to point out its novelty; one contestant said something along the lines of, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” America’s Next Top Model: going pointlessly where no reputable fashion program has gone before (or will go hence), just because they can. And, to be fair, because stilettos on conveyor belts leads to a parade of tumbling models, and therefore big-time laffs.
Jane didn’t fall, but she didn’t exactly fly, either. “Jane is very academic in her face,” said Ms. Jay, the show’s runway coach. “She’s not fully comfortable yet in who she is, in what she can deliver.”
Now, the phrase “academic in her face” makes about as much sense (when used to describe someone not wearing sexy librarian glasses) as holding a fashion show in a conveyor-belted freeway tunnel. But Ms. Jay was right in saying that Jane’s been performing below her potential. In the first third of the season, Jane’s evident beauty has been overshadowed by her even more evident inexperience.
In photoshoots, this inexperience manifests itself not so much in flailing desperation, but in a certain uncomprehending listlessness. Tonight was sadly no exception. The models portrayed luchadores, the masked, flamboyantly costumed Mexican wrestlers featured in the movie Nacho Libre (Again, you could ask,”Why?” but doing so would be like asking that same question after your mom tells you this week’s Powerball numbers. Some things in life are random and nonsensical; no things in Top Model are not.)
Jane’s brief was to pose atop a heap of vanquished opponents. The shoot’s artistic director told Jane she wasn’t connecting to the setup. Later, at judging panel, “noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker” said Jane’s pose — legs spread, back arched — looked porn-y. Vogue Editor-at-Large called it “dreckitude.” The phrase “Plain Jane” was predictably bandied about:
Elimination time. One by one Tyra calls up models to safety, until only Jane and Lexie-from-Illinios remain. Bottom two. Tyra decides to go all Oprah up in there: “Jane. Nice pictures, week after week. But who is she? There’s something there. She just doesn’t want to show it. And because you don’t want to show it, it makes your pictures so-so.”
The girl whose name Tyra does not call must return to the Top Model house, pack her belongings, and go home.
Jane steps forward. Her face shows only blankness — in my recollection, no girl has ever looked less relieved or grateful after surviving the bottom two. Perhaps her close brush with elimination has left her frozen in shock. Or perhaps she knows she doesn’t really need this shit to live a happy, successful life.
Tyra [direct quote]: “Jane, who are you? We want to see that.”
Jane [direct quote]: “K.”
Not a word, but a letter — well played, my Princeton poser, well played. But I fear it’s too late for all that now. Now, Tyra wants your pretty and your personality. It’s a whole new ballgame.