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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 1 - April 7

Okay, GSNN-R quiz time. Hands on signals, no conferring. What do you get when you put "Extreme Makeover" and the Miss America Pageant in a blender and set said blender to kill? For the answer, read on.

You've seen the commercials earlier in the TV season during "Family Feud", another FremantleMedia production. Now, the results of said search begin, as sixteen ugly ducklings will be worked and disciplined like crazy for the chance, not unlike a character out of Hans Christian Andersen, to be named "The Swan". Some will make it through to the end. Others will not. But all will be transformed forever. What a pitch. Really.

Rules are simple. For three months, a team of trainers, beauty consultants, and plastic surgeons will transform two women a week. And for those three months, there are no mirrors. AT ALL. After that, the team will discuss which of the two will be judged beautiful enough to move onto the finale... a beauty pageant. Seems logical enough. Overseeing everything is Amanda Byram, who, if you recall, was proprietor over last summer's "Paradise Hotel." New rule at Fox, in order to be a reality show host, you have to be a) British/Irish, b) a woman, and c) a British/Irish woman. She reminds us that two women will go head to head in pursuit of a dream come true, to be named a beauty queen. After all, isn't that was the American dream is all about? Reaching goals through hard work and sacrifice?

Anyway, let's meet tonight's ducklings. First up, Kelly Alemi from Abingdon, MD. She has no idea that she's been selected, and she's crying like all heck about it. Kelly's a flight attendant who would like to look in the mirror and be happy with what she sees. Patricia, Kelly's mom, always thought she was down, and for good reason (we think), as she was always looked down upon and spat at. One thing she does have going for her, a boyfriend (Bob) who loves her for who she is. "Bob and I have been intimate for about seven or eight times in the last three years." Okay, enough about your sex life... or in this case, absence thereof.

But what do the panelists see? They see a cute little girl with a lot of potential. A boob job here, a little liposuction there... and there... and there, some physical training, collagen injections, cosmetic teeth whitening, and an endobrow lift whatever the heck that is, we may yet have something. "We're ready to Swan her," says one of the experts, Dr. Terry J. Dubrow (a plastic surgeon). They'll be Swan-ing her with some face work (apart from the previously mentioned, photo facial, microdermabrasion, laser hair removal, and Lasik) and a fitness regimen of 1200 calories a day, cardio twice daily, weight training, therapy, and coaching.

She could make the final, but not if Rachel Lafrasier, a construction clerk from Semamish, WA, has anything to say about it. Like Kelly, she has no idea what's in store for her. She's a cat person who wants to take care of her profile and her "chunks". And speaking of her chunks, husband Mike says, flat out, "She's a little average." It gets worse, as her father Tony says that she's "a female copy of me" and that in the third grade, he told teachers not to expect too much out of her. Aww, be kind. But when she's happy, she's a cute person. She wants to make a difference...

... and a difference will be made away from the father, says Dr. Lynn Ianni (therapist). The plastic surgeons, Dr. Dubrow and Dr. Randal D. Haworth, think this one's a toughie, but decide on working the nostrils, eyes, breasts, and all the excess body fat. Greg Comeaux (trainer) thinks she'll need a lot of cardio on the stair climber. Life coach Nely Galan (who, aside from creating the show, was co-host of "Storm the Castle", an American translation of "Takeshi's Castle" before it was reedited into MXC) wants to be informed of the progress. Dr. Sherri Worth (dentist) wants to reconstruct the teeth so they close.

There are your two plain Janes. Time to sexify. Rachel and Kelly arrive in LA on day 1 of the program to the primary rule. "There's no mirror!" They each receive a note telling them of their pending life-altering transformation, and that the program begins now. I'd be scared, too.

Kelly's initial consult with Dr. Dubrow: "She's clearly going to need a lot of body work and major liposuction. But enhancing her facial features and really defining her face could be the ticket to getting her into the pageant." They also go into the breast implants.

Rachel's initial consult with Dr. Haworth: "The key to getting Rachel to the pageant is to bring out her femininity. It's going to take a lot of work." They focus on nostrils, lip injection, and liposuction. Initial consult with Dr. Worth: "Rachel was super excited to be here. She has kind of a tough situation. Once we bring those teeth down and kinda bring them back into her face again, she'll look beautiful." Good for her, but bad for Kelly, as we see in her initial consult with Dr. Worth, whom she's dreading despite the fact that they've never even met yet. The good doctor sedates her before the cleaning, filling, and prepping for veneers. And if anyone knows what a veneer is, I'd like to find out.

Next up: the weigh-in. Kelly's at 159, but she'd like to drop 39 to a solid 120. "Thirty-nine pounds is a lot of weight to ask for," Greg says, even after surgery. They work on the arms and abs, the weight machine and the treadmill, the joy and the pain.

And speaking of pain, Rachel just found out that she tips the scales at a projectile-vomit-inducing 190. Her goal is 145. In three months, you're talking suicide. That night, Rachel and Kelly have one more walk on the pier before they are separated for three months.

Day 2, and Rachel's being marked for surgery. She thinks it's weird to see herself with lines drawn over her face. Okay, we had one mirror, but I swear that's it. "It's a nice memory." Next time she sees herself, she's not going to look like the person she remembers. Presumably. She makes a quick call to her husband, who doesn't answer. Oh boy. Cowboy U all over again.

Dr. Haworth is prepped for surgery, and since it's a long process and we only have an hour, we time lapse through to the nose, which is hard because of her skeletal features. "I can make improvements, but there are no guarantees when it comes to plastic surgery." But Rachel's in high spirits now. But what about Kelly? She's frightened that her loved ones aren't there to watch, but Bob is one call away ("and you is my baby!"). She shows Dr. Dubrow a stick figure drawing that her friends made as a road map/dedication to what should be done, but if you honestly want to look like a stick figure, then you have some serious issues in the head.

He starts with liposuction and her breasts, following up with her face. First up, her butt. "Ah. That would be Gerry... So Gerry, this butt's for you." Next is the breast area and... "Whoa, baby! Those look awesome!" Of course we can't see them. F'in FCC. But will Kelly be able to handle them? Emotionally? He says that some patients go into depression right after surgery, and that Kelly is at a high risk for that.

Now, we said that they would be transformed at the end of three months, but we didn't say that it was going to be easy. Nely's concerned about Kelly's attitude. She'd been depressed afterwards. That prompts her and Dr. Dubrow to make a house call. She really has to bear down if she wants to make it to the end.

But that's chicken and beer compared to what Rachel's going through. Sure, she's in high spirits, but Mike's not exactly Mr. Supportive. "It's going to seriously piss me off if he doesn't answer this phone today." But he does answer the phone (eventually). Rachel rants about not getting any support. Mike rants about his endless cycle of work and sleep. "It's the first time he has to take hardly any frickin' responsibility in our whole entire lives together, which is going on five years now. I've taken care of everything. The least he can do is just sit there and talk to me for ten minutes."

And she brings that baggage to therapy with her, as Dr. Ianni notes. She lets it all out in the open, which is good if she is to transform her inner Rachel. Meanwhile, Kelly's inner Kelly still has Dr. Dubrow worried about her outer Kelly. But she's down with the upswing once she discovers her missing turkey gizzard and her new boobies. But at her weigh in, she discovers that she's actually gained a fifth of a pound worrying herself to death. "My boobs do not weigh eight pounds!" Maybe not, but you might have to take off your shoes, you dimwit. She goes even as far as to use the scale to measure her chest. And how one can do that is beyond me.

In physical training, Rachel's giving it her all. Kelly would be devastated if she doesn't get into the pageant. Jumpstarted by the surgeries, Rachel only has 20 pounds more to lose (owed to science, genetics, and a little luck), while Kelly still has 35. Advantage: Rachel. And they still have one month to go.

Fastforward one month. And the reveal. Remember, they haven't seen themselves in three months, so we will be seeing the new bodies as they are... well, a little before hand, anyway. We cue on the experts, as we prepare to see Rachel for the first time. She came in at 190, and Nely and Dr. Haworth have nothing but praise for their (and Rachel's) work. We see her three months ago... and then we see her now. And then she sees herself now in a mirror concealed by a draw curtain. Quote my good friend Doug Morris... "Yeowza". What a job. Got rid of the whole crooked nose and everything. Amanda tells her that she looks absolutely unbelievable. She walks up to the mirror as it is drawn open, as she is drawn into laughter and tears, all at the same time. "Boy, this is going to take a little getting used to." The average girl just became... well, far from average. She thinks that her husband's going to be "absolutely positively stunned."

Okay, we've seen Rachel. Now let's look at Kelly, who, truth be told, is a basket case. Dr. Dubrow's main challenge about her depression was overcome, as Greg notes that while she didn't meet her goals per se, she did gain a lot of self-confidence. Three months ago: a spitting target. Today... a spitting image of Monroe? Well, not exactly, but better than what we started with. I would've done a face lift as well, but, yeah. Anyway, Amanda asks her what she did with Kelly. Kelly transformed herself from the inside out, which explains why she didn't really meet her fitness goal (if you recall, the inside part was a long battle in and of itself). Kelly asks that Amanda go with her to the mirror, but Amanda has to reminder that this step she must take on her own. And so she does. Eventually. She breaks down into tears and asks if that's her. "I look beautiful. It's not like one of those fake mirrors that make you look skinnier or prettier." No, only a few pints of Jagermeister will do that. In the end, she believes it was all worth it.

But was it enough? I mean, as amazing as the transformations are, this is a competition (otherwise, it would be on another site somewhere), and only one of these Cinderellas will be judges as fair enough to go to the big dance, per the experts. The ladies reunite in the foyer, and let it not be said that Fox doesn't know how to drum up a theme song. Both Kelly and Rachel have been judged on beauty, poise, and overall transformation. And for the first time, we see just how much weight is carried with being the Swan: hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. Because after all, it's not the power, but the reward, right?

The first person through to the Swan pageant is... Rachel Lafrasier! Kelly congratulates her, as Dr. Dubrow is disappointed by her wanton lack of "taking it to the next level." It's all about that next level, after all. Nely says that Rachel won because she "surrendered to transformation in the most incredible way." Gee, that's putting it bluntly.

Amanda says goodbye to Kelly, as she has one last surprise in store... It's Bob! Hi, Bob! "She... she's gorgeous." They embrace, and... Okay, you two, get a room. And we're not done yet, because we also brought in her family. "I think the cocoon has finally broken and the butterfly has been set free," Patricia says. Gee, how sentimentally Hallmark. Actually, you want to talk about Hallmark, here's Kelly: "I could never ask for anything more, and I want to tell everyone in the world that if they have a dream to follow it, and things do happen for a reason, and that dreams come true."

All this and no Mike. Almost seems hollow. Anyway, the next time we see Rachel will be at the pageant. But right now, we look to Monday's show, where two more duckies will try and waddle their way to "the most unusual pageant ever devised."

And let it not be said that Fox doesn't know how to string together a tagline either. See you soon!

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