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How Do I Torture Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

By CaitlinBergmann Thu., Oct. 6, 2011 ,5:01 am EDT

1. I torture thee with $20,000.
We never had cash prizes for individual challenges back in my day, so I can't say for sure, but I would venture to bet that the added incentive of instant money would add some stress to an already stressful, exhausting competition. At this point in the game Lincoln Center, $100,000, and an HP technology suite are still far enough off to feel a bit intangible, while cash on the table is a whole different story. Joshua was definitely tortured, and seemed to feel that the prize was based on financial need.

2. I torture thee by placing the designers in pairs.
In this episode's first appearance of the dreaded button bag, Tim announces that the designers will be placed in pairs and randomly draws buttons to form the teams. For these designers, this defines torture. This season has had more team challenges than any I can remember, and the inability for said teams to work together harmoniously has been the source of much distasteful drama. This late in the competition, the thought of being eliminated due to a bad team dynamic is a frustrating and frightening prospect.

3. I torture thee by assigning your teammate.
Not only is participating in another team challenge a major source of stress, but the fact that the designers were not able to choose their teammate just adds insult to injury. In most challenges designers get to choose who they work with. It's true that the all-powerful button determines the order that they get to choose, and some get stuck with the last Bert standing, but there is some degree of hope that your destiny is not completely in the hands of fate. When it comes to the button bag, all hope is lost.

4. I torture thee by pairing Joshua with Bert.
Teaming Joshua together with Bert is nothing short of sending the both of them to Dante's special place in hell. Bad button karma or producer intervention? We viewers will never know. What we do know is that when Tim announced the two names together, it was like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard.

5. I torture thee by assigning inspiration.
The damn button bag makes yet another appearance (by now it must have a cringe-inducing Pavlovian effect on the designers) and the designer pairs are in turn paired with a bird. Designing a garment based on a non-fashion inspiration is not always easy. Normally on "Project Runway," designers get to choose their own inspiration by driving around in a golf cart or traversing the city with a camera. You see something that grabs you and ideas for a translation start flowing. But having an inspiration assigned is doubly difficult, because you didn't choose the starting point and those ideas just may not start flowing. Bert has the clearest problem with his assigned avian, clearly an inspiration he would not have gravitated toward on his own.

6. I torture thee by pitting you against each other.
Oh. Did you think you were working together? No, actually you will be competing against each other. Happy with your partner? Sorry. He/she has just become your worst enemy. Even if the two of you have the best garments on the runway, one of you will be in the bottom and at risk of being sent home.

Six mind freaks and we are just in the first two minutes of the episode. But wait, more twists to come.

7. I torture thee by doubling your workload.
Tim enters the workroom (the designers must be wary of the sight of him by now) and announces to the designers that they now are responsible for a second look. Imagine having a certain amount of time to do a designated amount of work. You plan and budget your time accordingly. Suddenly you find out that you are expected to do double the amount of work in the same allotted amount of time. You may be forced to scale back on an ambitious design, or scrap it altogether in order to have time to make two.

8. I torture thee by making you choose which design to scrap.
Tim enters the workroom again to make a special announcement. I'm not sure why the designers don't start hurling scissors at him. I suspect that the only reason they don't is because they think he couldn't possibly be there to deliver yet another twist. They are wrong. With just two hours to go until the runway, he informs the designers that they will only be showing one look, and they now have to decide which to finish and which to scrap. At first thought this may seem like a gift, but it's not. The original designs were potentially compromised to make time for a second one. Which one should they choose? Like children, all designs have positive and negative features. Just because you like one better than the other, it doesn't mean the judges will. It's a difficult decision to make when you are already at the end of your rope.

I get the feeling that the producers worked extra hard to jack around the designers in this episode. A twist here and there is expected, but this amount struck me as just plain mean.

In one case their plan backfired. Every twist seemed to work in Joshua's favor. He was released from working on a team with Bert, he definitely did his best look all season when he was forced to make the orange dress, and God help him, being able to scrap the green and yellow craft project was a gift.

I am going to go completely out on a limb here and say that I think Joshua deserved the win. I was not impressed with Anya's black structured dress. "Not what you usually do" is not good enough for me. The dress appeared puckered and not well made, I hated the bird-beak shoulders, and it was merely a bad version of the dress Viktor made in the Nina Garcia challenge.

Hang in there, "PR" fans! I was in L.A. filming the After Show and I heard from several sources that the fashions in the upcoming "Project Runway All Stars" are fantastic! God knows we could all use a fashion boost right now.