We've known all along that tonight's finale episode of America's Next Top Model All-Stars would be a hot mess, but, lord, who could have predicted just what a muddled, bloated, confusing bungle it would be. The whole season had such potential—Crazy Lisa! Bitchy Bianca! No-no-nude Shannon!—but the cycle barely lifted off from it's fumbled beginning, and ended with an episode that seemed both overly compressed and bloated, too packed with activities for the first half and overly drawn out in the second portion. It wasn't so much ANTM elevated as ANTM floundering for attention. Add to this the whole abrupt jettisoning of Angelea from the competition forty minutes into the finale, and what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is an All-Stars ending unworthy of the hype.
Our final three, Lisa, Allison, and Angelea, presented the classic ANTM trifecta: the ethereal but compelling weirdo, the loud and brassy fighter, and the "just a regular girl who made it anyway." There's the usual reveling in their final three status followed by the standard bitching about each other to the confession cams, but it seemed rather half-hearted. Being through the ANTM wringer once didn't seem to put more fire into everyone's convictions so much as dampen them. There was more talk of the show as "an amazing platform" to work from than as a freaking out, life-changing experience.
It was odd to me that after forgoing the usual Top Model standard challenges like the go-sees that the last episode would still cram in the ladies doing their Covergirl editorials, though I suppose that it's still a part of the prize package worth noting. In any case, it was about as riveting as it normally is, which is to say, on the level of watching liquid eyeliner dry. The biggest crisis came when Allison, she of the overly sensitive eyes, couldn't keep her eyes open for a tight close-up shoot without them watering. Solution: keeping her eyes closed. None of them seemed particularly compelling in the commercial either. Allison went the forced weather girl route, while Lisa had a hard time seeming natural while sporting 1960s-diner-waitress level green eyeshadow. Angelea's turn seemed the best of the bunch, but only because she treated the script as more of a conversation and less of an awkward interview.
Things didn't improve much during the Beauty in Vogue shoot, which was basically unremarkable. Considering the insanity of the runway show, it didn't really need to be included at all, aside from, again, the obligatory shout-out to the prize sponsors. In fact, the runway was the highlight of the whole episode, as convoluted and crazy as it turned out to be. The elements of it perfectly represented the hodgepodge that the whole cycle was: the girls were to start out by jumping in a pool of water, step out of it, get attached to a harness, get put down on a runway and then strut back and forth to their viral video single. "It represents your transformation from mortal to goddess, from model to all-star," Mr. Jay enthusiastically explained. But really what it represented was that no one had any idea what the hell was going on.
When the girls arrived, they were outfitted in Michael Cinco gowns, raccoon eye makeup, and terrifying masks with two inch long eyelashes. The theme was apparently Real Housewives of Olympus crossed with an overly ambitious high school production of Peter Pan. It was as unnecessary as it was nonsensical, and it wasn't even that interesting. The girls rushed from the swimming pool performance—where, of course, Lisa managed to get slightly lost during a theatric mermaid move—back to the stage, but it all felt much more like a talent show than a runway performance. My favorite part of the whole thing was seeing Ms. Jay in a red toga, jumping up and down with excitement on the sidelines as Andre Leon Talley golf-clapped nearby, clearly long checked out of his final season as a judge.
But the real wrench in the proceedings came after the show, when we were abruptly thrown back to the Los Angeles judge's panel. As it was briefly explained, information came to light about Angelea during the course of production that disqualified her from the competition, leaving only Lisa and Allison to vie for the crown. The way they presented this information made it sound like Angelea did something incredibly scandalous—secret porn career!—or incredibly boring, and, rumor has it that it's the latter. Apparently Angelea leaked finale information over her Facebook page, which lead to her expulsion. (http://www.ology.com/americas-next-top-model-recap-all-star-finale) It's not entirely clear, but it seems like Angelea actually won the competition after the runway show—her performances in the last couple challenges certainly made it seem that way—and her little slip meant that Tyra and friends had to recall the runner-ups to decide between them.
That's annoying on all kinds of levels. First, you could tell that both Allison and Lisa were feeling kind of bedraggled and unenthused by the prospect of being re-judged and re-rejected, and the insanity of the runway show, which could have fueled a decently interesting ending, was long gone. My guess is that the panel was put together long after the runway—Allison's eyebrows were back to brunette, and the whole procedure had the air of a frustrating late-night meeting on something you already thought had been settled. Secondly, though I suppose there was no way they could have reshot the whole shebang without Angelea, the judging seemed to drag on forever. I would have preferred more breathing room for the earlier challenges, lackluster though they were, than another 15 minutes of the judges debating between the two girls. Third, if they really had chosen Angelea originally, then honestly, what's the point of pretending that they were excited about the prospect of Lisa or Allison?
What it came down to, it seemed like, was the model who was most consistent about her own self-promotion, and there's no question that it was Lisa. I'm not worried about Allison—it seems like she has things going for her, and not just in the modeling arena—but it did all just seem so deflating when she had to give a tight-lipped smile and walk off as Tyra congratulated "La Pucinera." It was a disappointing ending to a disappointing season. Not even Nigel with hair could have saved this one.