Season 15, Episode 5 Recap: There's No "I" in "Team"

As a millennial who lives in New York, I’m not easily shocked – but the way this episode ended SHOOK ME. Sorry to skip ahead to the end, but I am emotional! This robot is in major danger of rusting!

It starts off lighthearted enough. Alex, Cornelius, Roberi, and Rik are proclaiming their dedication to the most fashionable gang on the planet, “310 Power,” named after their beloved apartment address. I’m not saying I can relate to the intense bond of male friendship that might come about after struggling through a grueling reality competition television show, but I’ve had friends before and 310 Power feels real.

On the runway our designers meet Tim and Luis Casco, Mary Kay’s Global Beauty Consultant, and quickly find out this is their Mary Kay makeup challenge. In addition, they’ll be working in teams! And on top of all that their budget right now is just a series of aggressive question marks.

The Challenge:

In one day, create a four look mini-collection in a team of six people, keeping in mind Mary Kay’s goal of fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the modern woman. The contestants on the winning team will each win $5,000. The budget for Mood is yet to be determined.

Tim and Luis explain that a group of three secret investors will be hearing their collection pitches and allocating $1,000 each between two teams of six. As the winner of last week’s challenge, Rik picks first and, no surprise, he chooses his pal Alex. The button bag then chooses Brik as the first to pick for the second team. The teams shake out as follows: Rik, Alex, Roberi, Cornelius, Mah-Jing, and Nathalia; and Brik, Tasha, Laurence, Erin, Dexter, and Jenni.

While the teams discuss plans for their collections, the Rik-based team is in the workroom and heading down a path with a dark, muted color scheme. Mah-Jing very quietly expresses that he disagrees with this plan, but no one can hear him over the sound of the ever-widening void they’re about to fall into. A seasoned businessman, Alex volunteers to pitch for his team. He’s confident that he can sell the plan for the team to the investors, whoever they may be. Meanwhile in the Lounge, the Brik-based team is hoping to keep the looks fun and edgy and bright. Dexter is asking all the right questions of his team about who they are designing for and how that should be communicated in their pitch. Tasha wonders aloud if maybe Dexter isn’t the perfect person to represent the team in the pitch, and although he’s a little coy about it, Dexter’s happy to be the spokesperson. Before they head out onto the runway for their pitches, Rik’s team decides to call themselves Team Unity and Brik’s team decides to call themselves Team Button Bag.

On the runway once again, the teams meet the investors, who are strangely familiar: Heidi, Zac, and Nina are sitting behind an intimidating “Project Runway” desk to hear what the groups have to offer. Team Unity pitches like a well-oiled machine with Alex at the control panel. He explains that they are designing for an educated, entrepreneurial woman. The ultimate goal of the collection will be to enhance the woman’s confidence in the workplace. They are combining structured silhouettes with draping, and they’re basing their color story on black and navy.

For Team Button Bag, Dexter introduces a mini collection for a fashion-forward woman who works in the tech industry. They plan to incorporate yellows and blues, using classic structures with a unique point of view. The investors are more excited by the latter team: all three choose to allocate more money to Team Button Bag. Team BB winds up with $2200, while Team Unity will have to make due with a measly $800.

In Mood, Team Unity is having trouble living up to their namesake. The investors warned that the looks sketched by the team are boring, but when Mah-Jing tries to amp up the mini-collection with some color, he is brutally rebuffed. In fact, Cornelius runs to Alex, saying, “What’s-his-name” doesn’t like the print they’ve chosen.” Alex dismisses the argument because majority rules. Mah-Jing is worried that his team may turn against him if he isn’t a stand out performer on runway day, and rightly so – he’s paired with four roommates and a best friend, and they’re already being a little exclusionary.

Team Button Bag takes Nina’s note about working on their name to heart and decides to rebrand as “House of Bouton.” Nothing like a little French to class up the joint. Speaking of the French, Laurence is making another leather jacket and I’m drooling. I want a closet full of Laurence leather jacket originals, despite the fact that I’m generally morally opposed to wearing real leather. I would literally give up my vegetarianism for a Laurence jacket. I don’t know how much that says about Laurence’s skills, though. It might just be me admitting I’m not as wonderful of a person as I claim to be. Whatever.

Alex and Dexter then go to the Mary Kay Color Design Studio to meet with Luis about their final looks. Alex is hoping for a look that features a strong brow and has a futuristic feel. Makeup lover Dexter is looking for a bold lip and explains that he knows this part of the complete package is essential, particularly considering he has a background in makeup. And this is the Mary Kay challenge, after all.

During Tim’s critiques Team Unity is delivering a modern vibe, but Tim worries they may not be considering the versatility of each piece or doing enough to keep the looks cohesive. He also warns that the judges will take issue with the palette because the colors are so dark. Afterwards, Mah-Jing checks in with his team to make sure they’re all on the same page. They assure him that he need not worry and if there was a real issue they would approach him with it. It seems to ease his mind and the group works really well after his fears are squashed. This moment is a testament to how much peace of mind you can have from just being a little more assertive.

House of Bouton meets with Tim and alerts him to their name change. He is classically Tim about it: “Whatever it takes,” he says. They present to him four bright yellow and muted tan looks. He worries that their pieces might not make sense for the woman they pitched. He warns that each piece needs special attention and to be aware of “all the moving parts.” They adjust by scrapping Brik’s skirt and adding embellishments of texture to Erin’s big yellow coat.

Team Unity has progressed much farther than House of Bouton and their model fittings go fairly well. Alex realizes that his metallic grey dress needs some fit adjusting, but his team rallies behind him, assuring him that it won’t be too difficult to fix. Meanwhile, the House of Bouton models are all half-naked and wandering around like baby deer, though everyone agrees that Laurence’s jacket is killer. The members of each team band together and focus on finishing, working on each other’s pieces in the true spirit of teamwork.

The next morning continues much the same way, with House of Bouton struggling much more than Team Unity. It basically looks like they are creating a collection inside of a workroom that is fully engulfed in flames. I’m thanking sweet baby Zeus and every last one of his lightning bolts when firefighter Tim finally comes in to save them all and escort them to the runway. Which, admittedly, is its own kind of danger – but we’ll get into that in a minute.


Rocking a tiered maxi dress, Heidi introduces Zac, Nina, and this week’s guest judge, actress and recording artist Sabrina Carpenter. Tim Gunn will join them for the runway, that golden ticket of a Save still on the metaphorical table.

House of Bouton, the winners: Representing an edgy working woman, the collection is four statement looks. Erin and Jenni created an ankle-length yellow coat with sequined details at the mid-section and lapels and sleeves made of a tan mohair. When the model walked the runway it kind of looked like a pair of bedazzled, creepy hands were wrapping themselves around her. But in a fashionable way! The judges really appreciate the yellow bringing some life to the runway. Laurence expertly crafted a badass black leather jacket with a strong shoulder, and using the same bright yellow fabric from the coat, Tasha made a sharp-looking pencil skirt. Heidi loves the jacket and the judges all say they could tell immediately it was Laurence’s work. Jenni and Brik worked together on a super tight mini dress made of the tan jersey fabric as well as some mohair detail at the neck. Zac dislikes the jersey dress, saying it was the worst part of the collection. Even Heidi says it is too short. Dexter and Jenni collaborated on a smart tailored denim suit with a simple and effective embellishment at the sleeve and pant cuff. Nina appreciates that the line is incredibly versatile. Heidi especially loves the embellishment details, saying it “elevated the whole collection.”

When asked who should win, the House of Bouton designers melt into a cheesy love fondue. It’s sweet to see how much they admire and honor each other. Dexter, Erin, and Laurence’s names are all thrown out there as should-be winners, but ultimately Dexter claims the title.

Team Unity, the losers: Marketing to the modern businesswoman, this collection is four dark looks. Heidi acknowledges that even though they are the “losing team,” what they have done with so little is a valiant effort and they should be proud of themselves. Alex created a knee-length, tight, shiny metallic grey tube dress with ruching at the chest and a silver belt around the waist. Zac points out that the dress is not perfectly fitted and with this particular kind of shiny material, fit is essential to making a look work. Nathalia created a tailored black jacket with a silver faux lapel and it was paired it with Roberi’s interpretation of a black tuxedo shirt and black, blue and green jogger-like brocade trouser. Zac likes the jacket but thinks the pants are a poor choice. Mah-Jing tailored a futuristic fitted grey belted vest and paired it with a wide-leg black trouser. Heidi calls the vest out as the best piece of the collection. I think Mah-Jing has finally redeemed himself for that embarrassing display under the black lights two weeks ago. Cornelius created a bomber jacket of the same black, blue, and green material as Roberi’s pant, and it’s like a vacation for the eyes after this collection walks down the runway. The team has paired this jacket with an actually-pretty-great grey wool lamé dress with very modern lines made by Rik. Heidi complains about the pairing, saying it looks overdesigned. Nina is mostly disappointed that the collection is not more in line with their original pitch.

The team as a whole attempts to defend themselves but eventually realizes that there’s no getting out of it: Someone is going home. Many of them through streaming tears attempt to fall on their own swords, but Alex, citing his pitch as the team’s ultimate demise, is the only one that can successfully convince the judges to eliminate him. Alex leaves in the classiest way possible – even the judges point out that accepting responsibility for the team is respectable. On his way out he tells the story of meeting Tim during his first audition way back in Season 4. Tim advised Alex to spend some time back at school, and boy did he ever: After receiving his associates, bachelors, AND graduate degrees, Alex returned to “Runway,” and although he didn’t win, he was triumphant. I’m really going to miss Alex and I’m curious to see how this emotional loss will drain the designers who are left. 

For more of me talking “Runway” be sure to subscribe to The Official Project Runway Recap Podcast on iTunes, or stream here on the site. Until next week, keep your passion for fashion burning bright!

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