You’d think that after 11 cycles, the top model candidates would know the routine by now: At least one girl always, always gets her hair massacred during the makeover episode, and Tyra always, always beats down said girl during panel, and threatens to send her home.

And yet, every single season, we get some mannequin wannabe wailing and gnashing her teeth and loosing her pistachio-sized mind when the glam squad comes around with the snippers. Did all 13 contestants grow up in yurts?

I’ll let you guess which twiggy stick turns on the waterworks while I begin the recap of Wednesday (March 11) night's "America's Next Top Model."

Of course no one in the Top Model house is pleased that Isabella went home last episode. Only the viewers are thrilled, because Isabella was boring -- epileptic, but boring -- and Sandra is interesting. Obnoxious and insecure, but interesting.

After receiving a TyraMail about “turning heads,” the girls roll off to a mystery location in a Barbie-cum-Burberry pink plaid ANTM-mobile. The Fifth Avenue John Barrett salon at Bergdorf’s has been selected to remake the girls this season. Contestant Aminat claims that her afro is thirsty, which is good, because there are sinks in the salon.

Jessica, the prettiest girl in her high school, gets a chop, but, mercifully, a shoulder-length one.

African queen Sandra goes blonde, as does wall-eyed Allison, who gets mermaid-style long waves to boot. 

Not sure what Tyra thinks she’s doing, burying those wall eyes under all that fur, but we move on now. Nijah’s flaw is that her hair is too “nice,” so Tyra orders it to be “exaggerated,” which looks like no change at all. Fo craves extensions; she gets a Mia Farrow pixie hacking instead. But she does not cry. Yet.

Celia the Menswear fiend also gets a chop. After a brief shedding of tears, she emerges, wrapped in a new Bowie-style androgyny, and declares herself “liberated.” Aminat’s afro weave is removed and instantly becomes a shrug for Miss J, who models it with more skill than the rest of the girls have -- combined. 

“Questionable, Miss J,” Aminat scolds. “Questionable behavior.”

No, Aminat, sweetie. MODEL behavior. Shut your pretty yap and take some notes.

As for Aminat's new look, it channels Naomi Campbell, with long waves, and the girl loves it. Tyra seems to have a problem with Kourtnie’s tan, but she works with the warmth in the aspiring model’s skin by dying the girl’s hair “code red.”

Street preacher London -- whoa. London gets a Japanese-style chop job, and a dip in bleach on top of that. What would Jesus do? Reach for the peroxide, apparently.

And here, finally, we get the tantrum and the tears. It comes courtesy of Natalie, she of the Madonna eyebrows and dark beauty. She’s one of the most striking models in the competition this year, and if she doesn’t know it now, she isn’t likely to last once the judges start turning up the heat. She appears to offend John the stylist by begging him to keep the scissors away -- and things look horrific, until we learn it’s all a big psych-out and the makeover mavens reveal that they had no changes -- whatsoever -- planned.

The girl who should really be crying is Teyona. The style team -- deliberately -- gives her a Jheri-Curl style with cheap-looking wavy weave. It looks disgusting -- like a mall girl who just got out of the shower and put in too much, well, Jheri-Curl. 

Tahlia, Tyra declares, needs a “mane like a lion,” so she gets a gargantuan blond weave. 

After all the makeovers are concluded, pretty Fo loses her cool again, crying for her lack of hair and declaring herself as the “odd man out.” In the confessional booth she blathers something about living off of food stamps and how that’s not half as bad as having to hide her hair behind a scarf. No comment.

At the challenge, Sutan the makeup artist welcomes the girls and introduces them to Elyssa Starkman, a rep from show sponsor Cover Girl. Part of the cycle’s grand prize is a display in Wal-Mart stores around the country. There are no Wal-Marts in New York, but the show re-creates one for show purposes and lets the contestants loose. The goal: Split into four teams of three, go out into the streets and find a poor unassuming woman who embodies the spirit of Cover Girl. Then bring the prisoner inside and introduce her to Cover Girl’s new eye-enhancing something-or-other.

The team that wins this challenge gets to be featured in a Cover Girl shoot for Wal-Mart’s Web site.

All four teams manage to recruit not-ugly ladies from the streets of New York. But Team Four, led by Natalie and Allison, turn off the judges by taking too much product off of the display wall and bringing it over to their own station. This apparently is a very big deal. Team Two, populated by Kortney and Fo, talk too much, sending Sutan into a kind of brief trembling fit. So it’s Team One, featuring Celia, Sandra and Aminat, that wins the challenge. 

Finally, everyone can relax for a bit. Right? Wrong. The girls are taken to an African restaurant, which delights African Queen Sandra. But when Aminat, who is 21, treats herself to a cocktail, the bitchiness erupts. “You guys,” Sandra says, wagging a finger. “Don’t get drunk.” 

“Keep it cute,” Aminat responds later in the confession booth, “or put it on mute.”

The next TyraMail offers a quiz on how many models it takes to screw in a lightbulb. I don’t care. Get me to the next photo shoot.

Cut to a dark alley. It suddenly gets very, very hot as gorgeous Nigel Barker emerges to photograph the girls. Jay Manuel is there too, but let me say again that Nigel Barker is there, and he is bringing the part-Indian hotness. The goal this time for the ANTM contestants: channel the spirit of rock and roll while remembering where the light is.

Also: This is a group shot, and the girls are instructed to light themselves. 

Allison continues to show promise. She can find both the camera and the light simultaneously, all while highlighting her high-fashion alien wall-eyed looks.

Jessica, meanwhile, forgets that placing a light under one’s face is scary, not pretty. She does terribly and can’t seem to find her light. There’s always one girl in every cycle who relies too heavily on her pretty looks. This is definitely that girl.

On to Aminat, she of the late afro weave. When Aminat grabs the hand-held illuminators and takes her turn in the foreground, Celia quickly outshines her rival -- without any light. Celia also nails her own shoot and greatly impresses Nigel. Nigel looks really incredible when he’s impressed.

Then African Queen Sandra gets her turn, and the deadly question is finally asked. “What are you thinking right now?” Nigel queries. That question, when asked at a photo shoot, is never, ever good. But at least it’s not as bad as Kortney’s shoot, which bores Nigel. The good news: Nigel looks hot when he’s bored.

Next up: London, who does more than fine, praise the Lord, thanks to incredibly high-fashion positioning. Teyona, who follows, does more than great. Of all the aspiring models, Teyona seems the most confident on set and moves from a merely amazing-looking pose to a dazzling-looking pose. 

Fo, possibly fazed by her hair, falters. She’s stopped by Jay Manuel, who manages to get the aspiring model to step up her game, but not before the girl spills a few tears under her rock-n- roll makeup. Last to be shot is Natalie, whose frames are declared to be “beautiful.”

And just like that, it’s panel time. Tyra claims not to recognize anybody, but wasn’t she the one who orchestrated the makeovers?

Oh wait. There’s Nigel. He’s back. Give me a minute to process the stone-cold flaming hotness. Supermodel Paulina is also in force, as is Miss J and a guy named Nole Marin.

Fo is the first to be judged. On the subject of her short hair, Fo tries to rally, claiming, “I am thrilled to have this.”

“I don’t believe you,” Tyra sings back. Tyra also wonders aloud whether Fo has what it takes to be a model, given the girl’s tears on the set. But whatever. Her best photo is quite nice, even though, as the stunning Nigel puts it, “Fo, you let your makeover get the best of you.”

Kortnie is next. She has lit herself from the side. Not flattering, as Paulina points out. Nijah’s eyes look dead in her best photo, leading Paulina to proclaim her a “beautiful corpse.” London’s energy and poses impress the judges. Hallelujah. Wall-eyed Allison also earns high praise and remains one of the top contenders in this competition.

Poor Sandra. She has no “tension” in her photo, whatever that is, and falls flat. Bowie, I mean, Celia, however, has tension in spades.

“When I was photographing other girls,” Nigel says. “I found myself focusing on you.”

I am sure Nigel was actually speaking to me when he said that.

Up next is pretty, pretty Jessica. “That’s an ugly picture,” Nole declares. Ouch. Even worse: she relies on her beautiful face way too much, and in her shoots forgets that she’s there to work.

Tahlia flops too, with a photo that goes nowhere and does nothing for nobody. Natalie catches flack for “doily” sleeves on her shirt, but oo-wee, girl, you can model. And light yourself. Teyona steps forward, bearing her new Jeri-Curl weave, which was apparently supposed to channel Beverly Peele. Tyra does not like. But, like Natalie, she rocks her photo. We won’t dwell too much on Aminat. Her face “looks like a hush puppy,” Nole says. Again, ouch.

So who gets called first? It’s Teyona, who basically owned the shoot, followed by Bowie-slash-Celia. Allison, whose alien features worked in her favor for this shoot, comes next, followed by the striking Natalie, and then London, who won high praise for dramatic and daring poses. 

In the bottom two: That pretty Jessica, and Fo, who apparently cannot function without hair. Of course Fo, with her interesting “blaxican” looks and fabulous freckles, is given a second chance, and Jessica is sent packing. 

“I am going to go home with my head held high because I think I am way prettier than some of the other girls that are left here,” she declares.

In other words, Jessica, you didn’t learn a thing. Personally, I’m glad that wall-eyed Allison stepped on your gorgeous neck. 

Did the right girl go home? Or did Fo deserve a smackdown for crying over the fierce new do?

Want more Leslie? Why not grab a copy of the critically adored "The A-List Playlist."


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