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America's Next Top Model Sashays The Boards

It's time once again to find out who is the least bad actor in a group of models.

Panel Postmortem

Tash may have been eliminated only two weeks after returning to the competition, but her return did have its intended effect: stirring up resentments in Cody, and giving her a whole new shade of instability. Tatiana is right on when she notes that Cody is "feeling herself," perhaps a little too much, as her (digital) Paper cover greets the models on the screen when they return from judging.

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Meanwhile, Coryanne receives a letter and some photos of her hot dad, so we know she's probably going home this week.

ACTING!

Because acting is "an aspect" of Rita's career that she is "very excited about," she's brought in acting coach and theater ghost, Susan Batson, to teach the models how to tap into their very actor-ly emotions. Since this is a Top Model acting challenge, the only emotion producers want to see explored is grief, but this cycle's top five contestants fail to deliver the waterworks in their initial exercise.

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The models are then given thirty minutes to memorize lines for a one-on-one scene with Adrienne Moore, a.k.a. Orange Is The New Black's Black Cindy. No acting challenge script will ever top cycle 4's cockney accent challenge in terms of pure absurdity, but Moore is given at least one ridonk line to chew on for her troubles: "Are you referring to the great pacifist, GANDHI?"

For the most part, everyone performs about as well as you'd expect. Tatiana has only wavered in her monotone once this cycle, and since there's no Binta for her to scream at here, she stays flat throughout the scene. Likewise, India's habit of screwing up her face and adding a question mark to the end of every statement remains unchanged. Coryanne gets credit for pushing out a tear at the scene's climax, but her acting otherwise consists of weird, inhuman stammers. Cody isn't terrible, but she blames her sister's recent elimination on her inability to tap into her sadness, in case you were still wondering whether Cody is a monster.

Despite her overly confident testimonial, potentially tailor-made to precede an embarrassing loss, Courtney does indeed act everyone under the table. Courtney came to play with her "buckets and buckets of bad memories" and her high school drama class wardrobe.

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Courtney easily wins her third consecutive challenge, earning herself a personal consultation with Susan, which I can almost guarantee will never be redeemed. In the limo on the way back home, Coryanne takes issue with Courtney's bragging and penchant to play the victim after Courtney (obviously joking) declares, "Three challenges in a row. You all hate me, don't you?" Coryanne's clearly not that upset about it, but it doesn't matter. Making Courtney out to be a sore winner is just good gameplay.

Getting Ugly-Pretty

I'm not always a fan of this show's forays into video art (see that sweaty music video), but I'm here for this week's micro films in which the models transform into hot messes through the magic of finger paint. It's a tough challenge that requires everyone to follow directions, take cues, and act, all while remaining the pretty model ladies that they are. It's also just fun to watch someone smear paint on her face while contending with a fan and an impish gay creative director screaming, "WIG REVEAL!"

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That said, it's hard to tell how the judges will react to any of these performances, especially knowing that the videos will be shown in reverse. Perhaps Coryanne's Carrie ode or Tatiana's lower energy will translate better after some post-production. The only one to receive unconditional praise from Drew is Courtney, further emboldening Cycle 23's lamest dark horse. Courtney is riding so high, in fact, that she takes on the role of principal shade-thrower during her testimonials, even giddily critiquing India, the only friend she has left in the competition. If the recent narrative focus on India and Courtney's friendship doesn't conclude with Courtney inevitably alienating her last remaining champion, I will be sorely disappointed.

Back At The House

More talk about how anyone could be sent home this week. Tatiana, India and Coryanne are all nervous about panel, and rightfully so. Cody, meanwhile, thinks she's going to win. Here's hoping the foreshadowing of a too-confident Cody makes good on the schadenfreude we were denied with Courtney and the acting challenge.

Panel

First of all, Rita finally pronounces the "H" in VH1 correctly, so big ups to her. That, combined with Law's jumping all over Cody's hideous gladiator kitten heels, means we've got a fully functional panel this week. They're all doing their jobs, and I am pleased.

On to the critiques: Rita believes India is "literally a chameleon" after watching her video, but Drew thinks she only brought 70% to the challenge, as she does every week. India still feels like the frontrunner, though, and Drew's plea for her to deliver "more content" feels like an easy fix she make in the final few weeks. She still ends up taking second place to Courtney, of course.

Coryanne receives more mixed reviews, but we know she's not going anywhere after the mini Roxxxy Andrews act she pulls in front of the judges. For legal reasons, there's definitely something edited out of Coryanne's story about her mother's "issues" -- otherwise, I can't explain Rita's repetition of "this is crazy" while Coryanne breaks down in tears -- but it doesn't much matter. Rita takes the bait and leaves her spot at the table to comfort Coryanne.

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Rita tries her best to make this a moment for herself as well, but her insistence that Coryanne break into an impromptu pose to beat back the tears is hella awkward.

So, it comes down to Tatiana and Cody in the bottom two. Once Law finishes his fabulous ten-minute conniption fit on Cody's shoes, we see that her video is as much the ugly, heaving mess as expected. She gets called out for ignoring Drew's advice not to smear all the paint colors into one indistinguishable mush. It's enough to send her home over Tatiana, whose video I actually liked, but who lands in the bottom two after complaining about her styling in the video. Hilariously enough, Drew tells her he would have helped her out if she had brought it up on the day of the shoot, before delivering one of his trademark "NO WHINING!" diatribes.

Verdict

The acting, on stage and during panel, is hard to watch, but that's part of this episode's charm.

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