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What do you get when you take sixteen ugly ducklings, fly them to a mansion with no mirrors, then have them undergo radical transformations including plastic surgery, dental work, fitness regimens, and life coaching, THEN have them compete in a beauty pageant for hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes? According to this show, "the most unusual competition ever devised for television."

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN

Amanda Byram
Experts: Greg Comeaux, Dr. Terry Dubrow, Nely Galan, Dr. Randal Haworth, Dr. Lynn Ianni, Dr. Sherri Worth
Creator: Nely Galan
EP: Nely Galan, Arthur Smith
Packager: Galan Productions, A. Smith & Co., FremantleMedia
Airs: Mondays at 9:00pm ET on FOX

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Episode 9: The Swan Pageant - May 24

Simple plan, right? Take sixteen women who believed that all their worth amounted to was a bus ride to Jersey to poke Gordon with a wooden spoon. Gussy them up with $3 million in plastic surgery. Then have them endure a painstakingly gruesome regimen of diet, exercise, and therapy for three months. After three months, throw in a mirror and watch the squeals unfurl. Simple?

That was only half of the story. The other half occurs tonight, when nine of them will face the world in a beauty pageant unlike any ever attempted, where one will be crowned "The Swan" and take home hundreds and thousands of dollars in prizes.

But really, you're just waiting for the story to end, so we can all learn a lesson, that I'm sure Amanda will bestow upon us. Eventually.

First, we're treated to some self-congratulation, with a montage of press that the show's been getting. Yeah, cool. Let's get to the players. Once again, they are...

Beth Lay; Milton, WA
Marnie Regevich; Chesterfield, MI
Belinda Bessant; Las Vegas
Cristina Tyree; Rancho Cordoba, CA
Kelly Alemi; Abingdon, MD
Cindy Ingall; San Diego
Sarina Voight; Denver
Merline Norman; Victorville, CA
Rachel Love-Fraser; Sammamish, WA

Each one of them has earned their place, but it's up to these five judges to determine who has outshone them all:

Susie Castillo; Miss USA 2003
Valerie Trott; Champagne Trott Model Management
Judith Regan; Publisher, Regan Books
Tara Kraft; Star Magazine
Mike Ruiz; fashion photographer

NOW, we've all heard that the winner gets "hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes". But what exactly are those prizes? Well, we've got a contract with Champagne/Trott, Tadashi , St. Pucci, and Claire's Collection designer wardrobe, vacations in Hawaii and Vegas, a $50,000 scholarship to Western International University, a $10,000 transformational scholarship to Anthony Robbins (yes, THAT Tony Robbins) Mastery University, a 2004 Jaguar, and $50,000 in cash.

Oh yeah, and some crown dealie... In our filleriffic opener, we go in-depth into the no-mirrors rule, which in the end, proved most beneficial and most successful, especially with the mirror police on constant patrol in the flats, in the doctor's office, and even in the gym. If it had a reflection, then it had to be ... well, "sanitized" is the only word I can think of. Let competition commence!

First up, the evening gown competition, as we reintroduce ourselves to Beth (who was unsure of her marriage and herself). If this is like any pageant I've seen, judges will score using standard pageant scoring, which, if I remember my preadolescent era, is 1.0 the lowest, 10.0 the highest, highest and lowest scores removed and the rest averaged.

Then we see Cindy, who is best remembered for her nose and her frankness. And her facial hair. And being the witch as a kid. After the surgery, the nose went, the hardships were overcome, and the family is in the crowd to share in the moment.

Next, the Wild Card pick from last week, Kelly. From a sobbing sop to a sort-of-average transformation, we remember the toll taken from her psychological malform of relationship problems. Tonight, we see that she's been working seriously to get rid of that tiny little lip problem that set me off from day one. 

Afterwards taking the "walk of her life" is Rachel, Kelly's competition from week 1. Construction office worker with extreme self-doubt. She WAS a little average and she DID have a little (very little) support from home. As she takes the stage, husband watches on now. She gets damn near perfect marks.

Cristina is up next, as we remember her as the woman with excessive skin folds. It was threatening her marriage, and the end result was threatening her chances at survival. She persevered, though, as she walks down the runway a radiant beauty my god I'm beginning to sound like these people.

Divorce was the driving force of Sarina, who learned that she had to let go of her past in order to embrace her future. After kicking the crap out of her husband, she went on to become one of the best transformations this season. And from the looks of things, the transformation continues. "Plain Jane has left the building."

Caretaker Merline never took care of herself, but took care of everyone else. All she wanted was straight teeth. She got that and then some, and won her spot in the pageant as a result of her competitor bringing in a contraband mirror. And she's still freaky looking with that new smile thing going.

Belinda was a swan before, then she became the swine, and finally, back into a swan. Hopefully leaving behind her past of abusive relationships. And correction, Belinda was the one who kicked the tar out of her ex. But would she continue on that path after the final reveal? Show me "sorta!" (CLANG!)

Finally, Marnie struts out after having been deprived of long-lasting happiness from a divorce caused by kids. She looked and acted like an old lady, and she had a problem with her discipline. She pulled out of her rut and continues on her winning ways, even until tonight. Okay, that's the round. Now to the scores.

EVENING WEAR Beth Cindy Kelly Rachel Cristina Sarina Merline Belinda Marnie
Castillo 9.7 9.5 8.4 9.8 8.0 8.5 7.7 7.7 8.8
Trott 9.3 9.3 8.5 9.6 7.7 8.6 7.9 7.7 8.9
Regan 9.5 9.4 8.5 9.9 7.7 8.8 8.1 7.7 8.8
Kraft 9.7 9.4 8.6 9.8 7.8 8.8 8.0 7.8 8.9
Ruiz 9.7 9.4 8.6 9.9 8.0 8.7 8.0 7.8 8.9

Looks like Beth and Rachel are the ladies to beat, as all nine sashay as a combined force of SWEET JEEBUS! A lot of work went into this, from extra time in the gym with Greg, to learning how to walk and move like beauty queens... in stiletto heels. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. Who says the Simpsons isn't educational? After the assault on the pages of People magazine, they assault the racks and the mannequin for swimwear for the next round. I don't' know why, but I feel sorry for the mannequin.

Anywho, now we go to the swimwear competition, and what can we say that hasn't been said already? I know. "How many dresses does Mole Woman have?!" Remember, they're being judged on beauty, poise, and overall... yeah, you've heard this before. It's swimsuit time. And Sarina's sarong is sa-lipping!
Beth Cindy Kelly Rachel Cristina Sarina Merline Belinda Marnie
Castillo 9.8 9.3 8.4 9.9 8.1 8.9 7.6 7.6 9.2
Trott 9.4 9.4 8.4 9.5 7.7 8.5 7.9 7.7 8.9
Regan 9.5 9.5 8.4 9.8 8.0 8.5 8.0 7.7 9.0
Kraft 9.6 9.4 8.6 9.8 7.9 8.7 8.0 7.8 9.1
Ruiz 9.6 9.5 8.7 9.9 7.7 8.7 7.9 7.8 9.1

Beth and Rachel still have the advantage after this round. They're locks to go to the next round. That would require that someone gets eliminated, though. That's exactly what happens next, as three Swans go bye-bye. The six moving on to the semis in random order are... Cindy, Beth, Rachel, Marnie, Sarina, and Kelly. They move on, and the rest move to the back of the stage, please and thank you.

Now to prove that this isn't just a superficial beauty contest, it's time for the requisite judges' (and host's) questions round. First up, Cindy, who draws Valerie: "You've been away from your husband and children for four months. Do you feel your decision to come here is worthwhile?"

Cindy: It's been difficult, but it's been worth it. In the long run, we're all going to pay off in the benefits.

Beth draws Mike: "Since you've been away from your husband for so long, what do you think your marriage is going to be like when this is all over?"

Beth: I think once I go home, with all the tools I've been given by Dr. Ianni and Nely, our marriage is going to be better.

Rachel draws Judith: "Now that you've completed the Swan program, do you believe that you've exceeded your expectations?"

Rachel: I do believe that I have exceeded my expectations. Through the program, I learned that I matter a lot in this world.

Halfway home, as Marnie draws Tara: "During your time in the Swan program, what have you learned about self-esteem that you'd like to share with your two children?"

Marnie: You only limit yourself and you can accomplish so much more than you think.

Sarina draws Susie: "Who is Sarina today and what are your plans for the future?"

Sarina: "Sarina today is a person who loves to do for other people, but knows that first she has to do for herself."

That leaves Kelly with our dear Amanda: "Do you feel as if you've been able to let go of the past and finally be comfortable in your own skin."

Kelly: I feel completely comfortable in my own skin. I'm very confident, very happy, and I have a new start in my life.

Scores, please?

Q&A Cindy Beth Rachel Marnie Sarina Kelly
Castillo 8.5 10.0 9.6 8.0 9.4 9.9
Trott 8.8 8.2 9.2 8.0 9.2 8.0
Regan 9.2 9.1 9.2 8.5 8.6 8.8
Kraft 9.5 9.6 10.0 9.0 8.8 9.3
Ruiz 8.6 9.1 10.0 8.5 9.0 9.2

From Q&A we go to T&A. Better get the kids to bed, because things are about to get hot up in herre. After each get a ritzy photo shoot, each lady, who swears by their mothers that they have never worn lingerie in their life, get to strut their stuff off for the modeling cameras (and those of any prospective stalkers) on national television, baby. Any feminists and fans of decency on TV watching, please remember that all mail to GSNN does not reach Fox. All we do is report. Thank you. no secret, Beth and Rachel are my favorites thus far.

Cindy Beth Rachel Marnie Sarina Kelly
Castillo 9.8 9.7 9.9 9.5 7.9 9.8
Trott 9.1 8.2 9.3 8.1 8.2 8.1
Regan 9.5 9.4 9.6 8.0 8.4 8.5
Kraft 9.4 9.3 9.9 8.9 8.9 9.0
Ruiz 8.9 9.0 9.9 8.4 8.8 9.3

Ball of fire in the background. Again... SYMMMMMM-bolism! Well, in a moment, three of these ladies are going to crash and burn. Time to announce which three, out of a pool of 200,000, will be one step close to becoming the Swan. Once again, in random order, here are your final three... Rachel, Beth, and Cindy. One more round to go, as each lady must tell the judges why they deserve to be the Swan.

Rachel: I believe that this program has given me so much. It's given me my self-esteem, and a sense of who I am. I'd like to teach everyone that they matter, that they have a place in this world, that they can bring out the best they can possibly be. Because even thought you might think it's a dream, they do come true. I'm living proof, standing here today.

Beth: I came here with very low self-esteem. I found my heart and soul here. I have a man in my life that I love dearly. And if I can just share this with one person in my life, then I would've accomplished one goal in my life. *tear tear*

Finally, Cindy: I feel that any one of us could represent a Swan beautifully. I would not only represent the women on stage, but all of you who had a dream and went for it. It would be my honor.

Gee, she sounds like she's an ambassador. It's just a fricking television series, not the queen of the world contest. Well, it all comes down to this, as all of our ladies are ready to crown the first Swan. But first, let's show off some hardware, as all nine contestants are wearing a nice set of bling with three stones representing their past, present, and future. And get this... they get to keep them. Some of them will also receive furs from FICA, cell phone packages, Beauty Collection products, and a gift from SprayTans.

Alright, enough chat. It's game time. But first (*groan*), let's bring out Nely, we all know that she's gone the whole episode without being seen. Finally, at long last... the judges' decision.

The second runner-up this evening is... Cindy Ingall. Yay for her. Now the winner, and should the winner for whatever reason be unable to carry out her duties as prescribed by prize sponsors, FremantleMedia, Fox, and their babies' daddies, the first runner-up will carry out the remainder of her term. I'm running out of breath, take it Amanda.

"Our first runner-up this evening... is Beth Lay." With the bouquet, and the tiara and the sash and everything, Rachel Love-Fraser turned into a beautiful Swan. And they lived happily ever after the end.

Well, it leaves me the question: what price beauty? I'll tell you, $3 million not including the prizes. Not for wanton lack of taste, this beauty chase got ugly fast. Next season promises, because this is Fox, and that's the way it works, more. And another will live happily ever after.

All I have to say is that the moment someone thinks of "World Swan", I'm walking. Casting continues at See you next season.  Chico... out!

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