Top Model: The Nicole freak show (barely) goes on

Reality-TV watchers know early in nearly every show who's in danger of elimination -- and during last night's episode of America's Next Top Model, Louisville's Nicole Fox found herself smack in the middle of what that great philosopher Kenny Loggins once described as the "Danger Zone." She had plenty of talking-to-the-camera moments, with clips apparently chosen to make her seem as odd, dizzy, confused or just plain out of it as possible. In a dance sequence featuring Lil Mama and the Jabbawockeez, she did a routine capable of making Seinfeld's Elaine look lithe before ending a team challenge with a masked staredown declared "scary." Then, following a photo session that featured three contestants posing with Cirque du Soleil performers, host Tyra Banks went out of her way to rip Nicole as the weakest of her trio. Her main sin: not taking advantage of the weird angles and contortionist abilities that judge Nigel Barker had warned her not to overdo the week before.

All signs pointed to her being toast. Yet she wound up placing fifth out of eight participants -- and it would have been fourth had Jennifer not been rescued by being part of the night's best photo. (Mega-bitch Ashley got the heave-ho.) Clearly, producers recognize Nicole as one of the more memorable faces this season -- so much so that they were willing to make her seem like this week's sacrifice to ratchet up the tension. Are you ready for more close-ups, Ms. Fox?

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