Before the final Shot showdown, the three finalists got one more chance to toot their own horns, with John referring to himself as “the little engine that could,” Dean listing the only three ways the other two could win (all of which involved his own physical incapacitation), and Maria continuing to giggle. The trio then had a meet-and-greet with the president and CEO of Victoria Secret, where they learned they would be shooting supermodels at a Hawaiian beach, potentially for the 2008 swimwear Victoria’s Secret catalogue. The object was to sell the “emotional brand” through sensuality and the theme of “extreme” spring break. John fulfilled his inner alpha male with three bikini-clad models bouncing around a convertible, Maria got too chatty with the models and then turned on the waterworks after the shoot went beautifully, and Dean turned manic under the pressure. After editing their shots (with John wondering, “How do they create people that look so good?”), the finalists faced the Aussie and an unexpected early elimination. Calling John’s pictures staged and overly-controlled, James sent the wedding photographer back to doing what he does best: shooting photos of the bride and groom.

The Good Life

The second challenge, and final task of the season, was a cover shot for the Vicky’s catalogue at a beachside mansion with the theme of “guilty pleasure.” Maria chose a rocky landscape outside the mansion and took a big risk by dabbling with artificial lighting, her main weakness as a photographer. Dean, in better control of his nervous energy, chose the ocean-side balcony as the backdrop for his final shots. James praised both cover attempts, and fellow-judge Italo Gregorio complimented one of Maria’s shots with a well-displayed supermodel derriere for its “cheekiness.”

The Final Shot

And the prize of $100,000, a fashion spread in Marie Claire, and a national advertising campaign for Victoria’s Secret went to…27-year-old Maria Carmel (see her website or mySpace page for more info). She received the honor with a Halle Berry-worthy acceptance speech (“I hope I can make some kind of difference in this world”) while the clearly shell-shocked Dean resolved to stick to his art, despite these silly Americans. And somewhere back home as The Shot comes to a close, Jason is over-conceptualizing, Piper is piping, and Robin’s inflated ego is still deflating.