Season Premiere July 24 at 9/8c
Laura Bennett Blog
Category: "episode recaps"
Fans all over the country are swearing that this is it. This time, really, they are no longer going to watch “Project Runway.” I’ve heard this many times before (I read the comments section), but this time, people may really tune out. Never has such an unpopular contestant won the whole shebang.
I’m sure that Gretchen’s mom loves her. I’m sure she thinks Gretchen is the greatest thing to come along since penicillin or nicotine gum but I would be hard-pressed to find more than a few people who agree with that. Not only is the general consensus that Gretchen’s colorless global-hippie look is unappealing, but she doesn’t rate very highly in the personality department either. Her super-high opinion of herself, along with her habit of offering unsolicited advice, didn’t endear her to her fellow designers or the viewing audience. I think the term “Kvetchin’ Gretchen” was used quite freely on the Internet. (I looked up “kvetch” in the Yiddish dictionary, and it means “complainer.”)
Gretchen did well early on in the competition. I didn’t always agree with her wins (remember the plain black dress with the beady shoulder pads, and the jumpsuit with elastic at the ankles and the retractable neckline?), but the judges liked her aesthetic and especially her styling. We could rename this season “Project Stylist” for all the talk of styling victories and failures. But she lost her mojo and had nothing impressive to send out after challenge number four or five. Personally, she lost me after the party store challenge.
Mondo, who gained strength as the season drew to an end and endeared himself to the audience not only with his colorful creations, but with his personal struggles and short-shorts, was the clear winner for the season. In fact, he was so far ahead, in the viewers’ minds, that when I was doing a radio interview last week on the Derek and Romaine Show about the season in general, we didn’t even talk about who we thought would win. Instead we debated the entire time about whether or not we thought that Michael Costello was an idiot, or an idiot savant. (By the way, Michael called in and made it clear that he is an idiot by practically accusing his mother of emotional abuse during Tim’s visit on national TV and then wondering why she hadn’t called.)
Don’t get me wrong; I have enjoyed this season just more for the drama than the fashion. I’m not one of those who claim they only watch “Project Runway” for the creative process. And as much as I love Mondo, I did start to lose interest when it looked like a wrap four challenges ago. When I was watching the finale episode, with all its interview-segment tears and “this is my dream,” I was wondering what the hell I was going to write about. My particular flavor of wit tends to work best when there is a bit of controversy involved. For me, a model not showing up is not drama, it’s expected. There wasn’t even any significant product placement that I could make fun of. HILTON.
But then! This article was practically handed to me on a silver platter! It was a judging cage fight a showdown, with Heidi and an unrecognizable Jessica Simpson in one corner making sense, and Nina and Michael talking smack in the other. It’s like Nina woke up one day and took back everything she had said to Mondo all season or all designers of all seasons. “Gretchen has no color, and we want color; no, we mean color was yesterday.” “That’s so mumsy, and we want youthful; no, it’s too youthful. Youthful is yesterday.” “That’s clothing, not fashion. This show is about fashion. Who wears fashion? It should be commercial! Fashion is so yesterday.” Mondo = Seth Aaron = what was happening yesterday. (By the way, Nina, way to support your choice just six months ago of Seth Aaron as the next great fashion designer.)
Heidi and Jessica hold fast to their position in support of Mondo. Heidi punches Nina in the stomach while Jessica holds her down, but Michael Kors moves in to support Nina with an intellectual uppercut, and the two dumb blondes fall to the mat, taking all of America, with the exception of Gretchen’s mother, with them.
Gretchen’s win is not good for “Project Runway.” Who would travel to a mall to meet Gretchen? Which is exactly where Nina thinks she should be. Viewers in my season were hotly divided. There weren't ardent supporters for Team Uli, or Team Michael. The old gals and the gays were on Team Laura, and hated Jeffrey, but Team Jeffrey was a million strong and just as adamantly against Team Laura. Team Mondo is at full capacity. Team Gretchen is now accepting applications.
In previous seasons, we have seen two designers sent home to make a final collection knowing that they are still competing for a spot in the finals, but this season, all of the spaces are up for grabs, so the stress/torture level is at DEFCON 10. No one is feeling secure, and the joy that we usually see with Tim's home visits is lacking from this episode. We are not treated to Tim on a trampoline.
The first visit is to Andy in Hawaii. Someone must have given Tim a heads up regarding Andy's environs, because he packed his Wellies. When I hear "Hawaii," I think "pineapple-based drinks on the lanai," not "catfish farm." I was instantly reminded of Jay McCarroll and his small town in Pennsylvania. It's intriguing to find out that Andy's hard-edged, urban looks come from this rural setting.
It may not be much to look at from the outside, but Andy has carved himself out quite a studio space on the farm, and he and Tim get down to business. The problem is, there's no "there" there. Andy has nothing but a few fabrigami details on a dress form and some headgear. Tim can't be of much help.
By contrast, Michael C. is up to his usual modus operandi, making two garments for every one that he needs. He has two racks of clothes, looking a lot like his work from the season. Having more time to work is yielding more garments, not necessarily better garments. Tim advises him to edit.
Tim is off to Denver to meet with Mondo, who is melding "The Day of the Dead" with the circus, which for anybody else would give us dead clowns, but Mondo can do this and his collection looks fine. Very Mondo. Very expected.
Gretchen's hippy has gone global. To sum it up, no surprises.
The designers return to New York where they gather at the HILTON. The HILTON has provided them with a swanky suite. The HILTON has also offered all four designers a trip for two at the HILTON of their choice. HILTON.
They learn from Tim how this thing is going to go down. Each designer will show a mini-collection consisting of two existing outfits from their collection and one new one. Michael C. is planning to make another one of his effortless dresses. There seems to be a fine line between effortless and no effort. The dress looks fine, a one-shoulder draped number, but we have seen it before and before, and he is supposed to be bringing it. Tim leaves the workroom with a cryptic "Don't choke."
The runway show proceeds and it's pretty clear that Mondo has no competition. He is in and will be showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. (Much easier for me to say than "Lincoln Center.") Gretchen is in, with a huge warning from the judges. Apparently all that is missing are the Birkenstocks, and if she is going to put on a show, she needs to step up the styling. This is a fashion show, not a street fair, and the way she has her garments styled at the moment, they look exactly like the type of clothing you can buy when they close down a few blocks of Third Avenue and set up booths.
Andy and Michael are in trouble. Andy has made some bad choices for his mini collection. We have seen some great bathing suits on "Project Runway," but his is not one of them. To make matters worse, he has also chosen to show shiny shorts with his new green fabrigami. Fabric manipulation is so over, but the judges like his pleated lizard number, so he is in. From the very first episode, Andy was a favorite of mine, but I have to say he has steadily lost his mojo throughout this competition, so I wasn't surprised to see him in trouble.
Michael C. is out. I feel like we are all part of a cruel setup, like a bucket of pig blood is going to pour all over his head right there on the runway. He showed exactly the type of clothing he showed during the season which won him challenges. Granted, I always felt that his clothes were done before with a capital D, and his wins were usually a product of being the least offensive garment on the runway, but it almost seems cruel that he was able to go as far as he did in the competition. He was sideswiped. And it doesn't help that he doesn't seem to have the emotional maturity to handle the let down. It was painful to see him broken, hunched over, standing on the runway. I'm not saying he wasn't the right one to go, it's just that it feels dirty.
To be entertaining, "Project Runway" has to deliver either great fashion, or drama, but this week's episode offered neither and was basically a snoozefest. Like last week's episode of "Glee," it started with so much potential (what's not to love about a grilled cheesus?) but just never took off. We are at a critical point in the competition this challenge will determine who the finalists are but instead the contestants' exhaustion was oozing through the satellite signal, and practically put me to sleep.
In an attempt to perk things up, the designers get to move from their substandard, IKEA-decorated quarters into a swanky suite where they drink champagne and wax poetic on why they are there. Gretchen has vision. April is representing America's youth. This is Mondo's last chance. Michael C. is still in shock that he's not universally loved. Andy needs more champagne. Snooze. At one point I found myself praying Ivy would come busting through the door in full ninja regalia and start kicking Michael C.'s ass just for entertainment.
They drag their half-asleep zombie bodies to the roof of their hotel, where they find the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg (just hanging out, with no major metropolitan city or television network to run or anything), who tells them that he is opening up the city for them. New York is their inspiration for this challenge. They can go anywhere they want, hang out, soak in the vibes and get inspired. I would have asked to be escorted by motorcade to his private billionaire residence. So where do they want to go? A grimy bridge, a grimy neighborhood, a tourist trap and a park all places they could have gone without a personal invitation from the mayor.
They also learn that they have two days and $500. Having that much money is no gift. Give a contestant a hundred bucks, or even better, 50, and the judges will be all, "That looks so great. I can't believe it only costs 50 bucks." Which is totally not true, because a garment that costs 50 in fabric will end up retailing for $400. But if they have 500 to spend, the judges are going to say, "But you had $500 to spend! Why does it look so cheap?" so no thanks on the five Benjamins. Two days for one garment is no picnic either, because if the producers don't surprise you with the added task of designing enough additional garments to dress a small army, the judges will slam you for having so much time and only coming up with "this."
After some boring footage of designers being pensive, they go to Mood, where they have an unprecedented 45 minutes to shop. Again, they are given every opportunity to do something fabulous, yet they disappoint. April saw WitchiePoo heading to Brooklyn. Andy saw hookers in the park. Gretchen saw bricks on the Lower East Side, Michael C. saw a dress on the Statue of Liberty, and Mondo saw his outfit on a mannequin from a few challenges ago. Snooze.
Hairdressers are consulted, models are fitted, naps are taken, contestants are not awakened from said naps, and it's off to the runway, where Princess Puffy Sleeves himself, a.k.a. Christian Siriano, is the guest judge.
Michael Kors, in a moment of clarity, calls April out for sending a slightly different version of the same outfit out on the runway for every challenge. It's black. It's chiffon. It's asymmetrical. Hello! At least her model isn't wearing panties this week.
Michael C. wins and makes it to the finals with a just OK jersey dress. Nothing special, but the judges are fawning all over it. Maybe there was some great effect in person that was elusive and unable to be captured on film, but I think it's more likely that it was the least crappy of the crap.
Christian Siriano is not convinced about Mondo's houndstooth bridge translation, but the other judges have seen his entire body of work, so he is in. The judges like Andy's Asian hooker because she looks wet, so he's in. I don't even know how to comment on that one.
April and Gretchen are in trouble. It's a tough choice between Wiccan maternity wear and lace-covered bricks, but the bricks win out, and Gretchen can go home and make a collection for Lincoln Center. (It's going to take me a few years to get used to that.)
The four finalists are sent home with the caveat that only three of them will be actual finalists. They had all better start looking real hard at their grilled cheese sandwiches.
In this episode the remaining designers have the privilege of designing "active wear" for Heidi's New Balance line, available exclusively on Amazon. I thought that active wear was gym clothes, but apparently it's what fashionable moms wear to the grocery store. Sort of watered-down sportswear, which you don't wear while doing sports. This would lead us to conclude that while wearing resort wear you can neither do sports nor go to the grocery store, unless it's white before Labor Day. Fashion is hard.
I'm thinking Heidi doesn't get to the grocery store too often, but that doesn't make her any less qualified to a) be a clothing designer and b) know what grocery store moms want to be wearing, now does it?
We learn from Heidi that what moms want to wear to the grocery store are drab colors and gathered, loose-hanging knits. I doubt this, but what do I know? I order my groceries online and have them delivered. (You try dragging five gallons of milk and a case of ramen noodles through the streets of Manhattan.)
Heidi comes to the workroom, where there is a lot of eye rolling and Heidi-hating. I think there are two reasons for this.
First, everyone is exhausted and over this competition. They have hit the wall. Even Mood is over it. They are now sending the designers back to the workroom at Parsons with plastic bags instead of the fancy canvas ones they were handing out earlier in the season.
Second, the designers don't seem to have buckets of respect for Heidi as a designer. I think this is a mistake. She may not get to the grocery store too often, but over the years she has developed quite an understanding of how a garment is constructed, and she has developed the vocabulary to give a decent critique. She used to be all, "I would wear that," and "It looks cheap," and now she asks questions about how fabrics will fall, comments on proportion, and I even heard her use the word craftsmanship two weeks ago. She may have a completely 1980s "Flashdance" aesthetic, but at least she has one. Heil Heidi.
The producers get an A+ this week for torture by not only requiring two additional looks, but also by bringing back auf'ed designers to help construct them. (An earlier attempt at torture with a model mix-up garnered the producers a C- at best.) There is nothing worse than feeling that you have come so far in the competition only to find yourself in a room full of designers again. We are treated to a velvet bag/playground-dodgeball picking scene, then the drama starts.
Ivy is bitter. Ivy is angry. She has always felt she was one of the top designers despite her track record of shi**y work and repeatedly being in the bottom or safe at best. (I do recall one decent outfit from her, but I think I stated even then that I'm nearly 50 so me liking it doesn't count.) Ivy accuses Michael C. of cheating because he used ... wait for it .... TAPE!
How is tape cheating? Hot-glue guns and safety pins are OK, but tape is cheating? Outsourcing the construction of your final collection is cheating (oh no she didn't); tape is not. I can assure you that not a single fashion show in Bryant Park or Lincoln Center or wherever the hell fashion shows happen these days goes down without the use of tape. Also known as Top Stick or double-stick tape. Also used by every stylist in America. And Europe. Do you think Jennifer Lopez kept those puppies in that green Versace without the use of some industrial-strength stick? I want to see Ivy get right up in Donatella's grille and accuse her of cheating.
Designers design and helpers help and gray knits are gathered and it's off to the runway, where we learn that Norma Kamali, who has been in hiding since 1982, has not aged a day.
Mondo is in the top because he has put together several well-constructed pieces that would not be embarrassing to wear to the grocery store. April is in the top because she used the color black, chiffon and panties again. Andy wins because Norma Kamali loves the graphic quality, so Heidi will be producing all three of his pieces. I hope he gets in on the deal!
Gretchen is in the bottom because her model's Spanxs are showing (been there!). She gets a slap on the wrist for disrespecting Heidi, but she can stay. Michael C. is in the bottom because he still can't style, but this is "Project Runway," not "Project Stylist," so he can stay. Did I miss the memo on harem/Hammer pants being in? That leaves Christopher to go home, and rightly so, with a collection of prison pajamas.
"Project Runway" is a rare bird in reality TV. We are able to get a glimpse into the creative process, with a minimum of fake tans and Bumpits. There may be manipulation from the producers to drum up some drama in the name of entertainment, but the success of the show will always be about watching creativity, and the producers know better than to cross the line. But this episode went even further. It showed us something we have never seen on "Project Runway": a rare view into the process behind the creative process. How a human brain deals with incredible obstacles and develops it into art.
I have come to learn that a true artist is someone who sees the world differently than the rest of us. Perhaps their brains are wired differently, a language-processing disorder producing strengthened visual and spatial centers. Or perhaps they deal with such pain in the form of mental anguish that their vision, as we understand it, is clouded and their minds seek alternative avenues. Maybe pain provides a clear message and it comes through, giving art purpose, elevating it. We have always been aware that there is a link between suffering and the creative process.
There are examples throughout history. Picasso's blue period, his first true evolution as an artist creating in a unique style, was set off by the pain of losing his best friend to suicide, coupled with being poor and far away from his family. Joni Mitchell's moving lyrics were driven by a childhood of isolation because of polio and having to give up her only child when she was 21. The poet Sylvia Plath, the designer Alexander McQueen the list goes on and on.
Like Mondo's design work, the work of these artists, despite the anguish, was never morbid. Pain was not romanticized. We sensed there was depth, but we never knew why. It was elusive. There was maturity, a worldliness that came through. We only later learned that the great works were the product of a heavy heart and a tortured mind.
Mondo's brave revelation of his sexuality and his HIV status sheds light on many things about him his fragile nature, his initial trouble connecting with the other designers, his eventual bond with the outcast Michael C., but most of all it sheds light on his clothing design. It was screaming to us the entire time. "I am colorful!" "I am young!" "I am alive!" It is a message more to him than the rest of us. If he can believe those things, he can overcome HIV. And he will. And we will all be rooting for him.
Not only has Mondo helped himself by coming forward and earning the support of the "Project Runway" viewing audience and, hopefully, eventually his family; he has also done a great thing for countless young people around the country. He has given a youthful face to HIV. He has reminded us that it is still here, and still devastating. He has helped to make the way clearer for targeted prevention work. He has shown that coming forward with a painful secret is cleansing, and perhaps he has inspired other young people in his position to come forward and seek the support they so desperately need.
For this, Mondo wins it all. Our sons and daughters win. We all win.
Young people seeking support coming out or dealing with a positive HIV status can find help at www.chadzboyz.com/chadz.
For this week's challenge the designers are asked to create a couture outfit inspired by eye shadow for an L'Oreal "advertorial." As additional inspiration, the designers pick an eye shadow finish: bright, metallic, crystal, velvet, matte. AND L'Oreal will fork over an additional $20,000 to the challenge winner. I have no problems with the challenge. The assigned inspiration is fair enough, because the resulting photograph is about eye shadow.
What I do have a problem with is the word "advertorial." It was used at least 80 times in this episode as if it were a real word! And as if we all know the word! And as if we all are in agreement that it is OK to invent words by slamming the beginning of one word into the end of another one. Like products that are "prosumer" or people that are "Brangelina" or couture that is "craptastic." How can these people use the word "advertorial" with a straight face? Especially Tim Gunn, whose complex lexicon and mastery of the English language are personal trademarks. He should have refused and used the word "advertisement," because that's what it is. It's an advertisement!
The designers get off to a good start, no doubt because the challenge is well-defined, and color and finish are assigned. As I always say, the fewer open-ended decisions to make, the easier any design solution is to achieve. That being said, it's off to Mood, where Ivy translates "bright" to "beach" to "water" to "waves" and makes some frightening fabric choices. Mondo is pulling fabrics that match his bright yellow rain boots, and Tim is chasing Swatch.
In the workroom we learn that Gretchen (who is looking more and more like Karen Carpenter) has been awarded patent number 6420015 from the US Patent and Trademark office for the color Burgundy. April is wisely suspicious of the fact that this is a two-day challenge, and Valerie can't cut silk. Tim, who realizes he's the bearer of bad news, comes in to announce that the designers are also required to create a ready-to-wear look to go along with their high-fashion look. They get an additional $100 and another trip to Mood, but no extra time. This time the producers succeeded in torturing the contestants. April is catching on. And she wants a miniature pony.
It's runway day, and with the help of some hot-glue guns the designers manage to dress their two models in two outfits and send them down to the runway. It sometimes doesn't seem possible, but they manage to do it. Amazing. Heidi is wearing some bad eighties outfit and looking like she has no right to judge. She also reuses the word "advertorial" just to piss me off for dissing her outfit. We're even now. Evening-wear designer Naeem Kahn is the guest judge, which is weird, because I'm having dinner with him tonight.
First out on the runway are April's garments. There are those panties and black chiffon again. Next up is Mondo with a dress that looks a lot like Jeffrey's winning couture dress from Season 3. Ivy sends out her blue satin and chiffon wave number that looks like an incomplete craft project. Her ready-to-wear is moderately more successful. She feels safe. Michael C. sends out a model with a train that doesn't fit on the runway. Is that wire in the hem? Are you kidding me? Christopher Collins ends up safe with hip halos. All I can say is he is lucky the others designers messed up worse than he did. Gretchen's bohemian velvet kimono has no relationship (that I can see) to her ready-to-wear, and there is talk about side-slit action that I am missing. Valerie is up next with a white/black duo of ?*!!? Both dresses look like high school sewing-class projects. She is nervous, and rightly so. Andy does Warrior Girl with giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers on her shoulders.
If I sound harsh, it is because I am generally disappointed in the products of this challenge. Remember Chris March and Christian Siriano's couture dress? Nothing I'm seeing here even comes close.
Mondo wins even though Nina thinks his fabrics look cheap. Things are bad when you win a "Project Runway" challenge because your outfit sucks the least. He now has $20,014 in his bank account.
Ivy, Valerie and Michael C .are in trouble. Ivy is still in denial, Valerie is ready to go home, and who knows what Michael C. is thinking. The judges are thinking he can stay, but can't seem to agree on which is worse: Ivy's Little Mermaid or Valerie's My Fair Lady. Kors declares it a "tight race for hideous." I think they should both go, and for a moment, Heidi makes us think that it will happen, but no, we have 16 weeks of programming to fill, so Valerie can stay. Even Valerie is shocked.
This week the designers are asked to design an outfit for a modern-day version of style icon Jackie Kennedy. Like the previous "redesign an ugly bridesmaid dress" or "make a dress from the party store," it almost doesn't seem possible that this challenge hasn't been done before. This entire season is starting to feel like an only slightly altered version of what we have seen before. Of course, if the producers threw some completely wacky and totally un"Project Runway" challenges my way, like "make a dress out of raw meat," I would complain about that too.
All the designers begin babbling about how honored they are and what a risk-taker Jackie was, but I disagree. In a time of Paco Rabanne chain-mail dresses and Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian minis, she wore Chanel and Cardin lady suits. Not so risky, really, but iconic enough, so let's go shopping at Mood.
Tim reminds the designers to think quality, taste, style, sophistication and expensive, so one of the designers immediately goes for a zebra print, which basically says none of those things. You can lead a designer to Mood but you can't make her stay away from animal prints. Ivy says she's lost, and Mondo has no plan, so he is waiting for the fabric to speak to him. A giant purple, black and ivory houndstooth tweed calls out to him from the bottom of aisle five on the second floor, and before nary a form is draped, I tell Uli (who is still staying with me) that he is the winner.
My psychic fashion powers aside, I actually have two logical reasons to rush to this conclusion. For one, Jackie's clothes, while not risky, were crisp and classic. Many designers proclaim that they do "classic with a twist" (it's right up there with "Hollywood glamour"), but few really do. An overscaled purple houndstooth tweed really is classic with a twist. At this point Mondo could wrap the fabric around his model and secure it with a safety pin (left behind by Bowler Boy) and he will have met the parameters of the challenge.
My second reason is a bit more complicated, so stay with me. Last week here in New York it was Fashion Week. You know, the one Heidi always mentions, that used to be in Bryant Park and is now in Lincoln Center. Because Fashion Week is a public event, and the producers don't want anyone to know who the finalists are, every designer who hasn't been eliminated up until now gets to show a collection. This way, collections come out one after another and the audience has no idea if the designer is an actual finalist or just what they call a decoy. Of course, through the magic of editing, only the finalists' collections are shown on TV. This lengthy explanation of how reality TV really works is relevant because in Mondo's Fashion Week collection (remember, I have no idea whether or not he is a finalist; see explanation above) he used a giant houndstooth tweed. Designers on "Project Runway" have a history of reusing a fabric in their final collection that they were successful with on a challenge. Uli, for example, who is sitting right next to me.
So Bam! Classic with a twist/repeat performance, I say Mondo wins and we can all call it quits and go channel surfing for a "House" marathon (or "Housewives" I'm not judging), but no one listens to me and the designers are sent to the workroom, where they are given the added task of adding an outerwear piece to the outfit. They are also given added money and an added trip to Mood, so again, the producers fail to adequately torture the contestants. This twist does provide us with a genius bit of editing when Christopher is weirded out by his own choice of animal fur for his outerwear and the camera cuts to Swatch, the incredibly chill dog that hangs out at Mood. This dog is so chill that when the store is slow the employees make costumes for him out of trim and photograph him. These pictures alone are worth a trip to Mood.
Back in the workroom, my boy Andy South is having a bad day. Apparently inspired by Heidi's belted satin harem pants, he is working on a pair of his own. A very wrong pair. Not that even a right pair of harem pants would be right for Jackie. His first big clue to bail should have come when Tim grabbed his chin in that concerned way that he does and said, "Jackie O would not have cameltoe." Which is actually camel-butt, if we want to be accurate here. (At this point my husband is now watching with Uli, and I have to explain to him what cameltoe is.) I love me some M.C. Hammer, but I've never seen anything in any of his videos, legit or otherwise, that remotely reminds me of any first lady. Or second or third, for that matter.
Valerie is having a bad day, too. Not only is she the only designer not to benefit from the outerwear addition, because she already did an outerwear piece and now she has to add outerwear to outerwear, but she has chosen some seriously somber colors, charcoal gray and deep purple. Uli says (feel free to insert a German accent here), "Her model looks like ein trummer frau." For those of you who are now looking at Uli with their head cocked to the side like me, trummer fraus are the women who cleaned up the debris from fallen buildings during WWII because there were no men around to do the job. It's always educational to have Uli around.
It's runway day, and Mondo gets out his Sunday best. Wearing eyeliner, knee socks and what appear to be tiny little lederhosen, he looks adorable and, sure enough, ends up in the top. Also in the top are Ivy with a very chic look (but I may just think that because I'm nearly 50) and Christopher with a dress that the judges like, but his animal-fur outerwear piece looks like a ShamWow after it has been used to wash the car. Heidi asks Mondo to tell the judges about his outfit, and after his explanation of his model's look, she says, "No, I meant YOUR outfit." This joke is so good that I have trouble believing she came up with it herself, but I am going to leave it at that because any more would require another lengthy explanation of the realities of reality TV. Mondo, in all his cuteness, wins the challenge.
Left on the runway are Valerie, Andy and Michael Drummond. Valerie can stay because someone needs to clean up the war debris. Andy can stay because he took a risk and didn't bore Nina. Michael Drummond has to go because his outfit looks like mall-wear, and Jackie O might have been a bulimic chain-smoker with a cheating husband who married a shipping tycoon for money and then lived with another married man until the end of her life, but she would NEVER be caught dead in a mall.
Why the bus? Why do we throw someone under the bus? Why not the ditch? Throw someone in the ditch, or off the roof. Or better yet, out of the moving car. From here on out, let's all agree to throw someone out of the moving car. Settled.
This episode begins with April having to leave her womb of safety now that her mom has been eliminated. Michael C. is hurt that no one will congratulate him, and Valerie feels undervalued.
Heidi is too busy trying to figure out how to belt satin harem fatigues to give the designers a new challenge, so she sends them to Tim, who passes off the job to Michael Kors. Looking bloated and farty, Michael tells the designers that they are to design a resort-wear outfit that expresses their point of view. In order to help them feel the resortness of it all, each designer gets a pair of Michael Kors rip-off Ray-Bans. It seems to work for everyone but Mondo, who thinks his underwear is resort wear. Personally, I think Mondo's idea of resort wear is pretty much on target, because I would bet that .003 percent of the population actually either a.) spends any time at a resort or b.) shops for it from a special collection, because piling your kids in a minivan and heading for the Jersey shore requires no special wardrobe.
Shopping at Mood yields no drama worth mentioning. It isn't until the designers return to the workroom that the monkey wrench comes flying out of left field. (Now that we are no longer using the bus cliché I feel free to cram two others into one sentence.) Tim enters with the dreaded velvet bag and informs the designers that they will not be executing their own designs. The real fashion industry is a tough place, baby, and you need to learn to give directions to a sample maker. The designers immediately start taking baby steps away from Michael C.
Everyone seems happy with their assigned sample maker, except for Mondo, who gets Michael C. They turn out to be a match made in heaven, the hated one and the unconnected one, and arm in arm they charm the judges with their camaraderie. Literally, arm in arm.
Ivy and Michael Drummond are not having as much luck. Ivy is hounding Michael to the point where he can't sew. She claims she is having to dumb down her design so that he can construct it. Here she goes again, talking the talk and never showing the goods. We hear a lot about what killer skills she has and what a great designer she is, but we have yet to see any evidence of it. Though I must admit she did a great job of putting together Michael Drummond's look, but it was a good design it has worked for Calvin Klein for years.
The garments are looking pretty good in the workroom, actually even better than they end up looking on the runway. A lot of long in the workroom becomes short on the runway, and I kind of like the long for the beachy resort look. Tim comes in and announces that the designers may now take possession of their own garment, and Ivy practically grabs Michael Drummond by his collar and throws him off the sewing machine chair. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing she can do at this point to save this outfit. It's a tent over a tent inspired by the colors of the ocean on a rainy day.
Heidi comes out on the runway in her fifth "out" outfit in a row. I swear to god she looks like she has been shopping in my closet, and that's not a good place for her to be. She did take a scissor to the hem, though.
On the runway I immediately pick Andy's gray and purple bathing suit and cover-up as the winner. Uli likes it but claims he stole the design from her. (Uli is staying with me, and we are watching the episode together.) She chooses April's punk sheer baby-doll as the winner and notes that April has balls to send panties out on the runway after she was almost sent home for panties. I like April's outfit but I liked it better long in the workroom, and I would like to see a bit more positive space on the chest. But what do I know. April wins with short, predominantly negative space. Uli always beats me.
The sendoff is between Ivy and Casanova. I am looking at the two outfits side by side, and there is no question in my mind that Ivy's is the clear loser. At least Casanova's has a bit of shape to it. Ivy attempts to THROW MICHAEL D. OUT OF THE MOVING CAR, but Heidi is having none of it. Truthfully, the previews made her attempt look worse than it actually was. The fashion gods shine on Ivy (again), and in one of many ?!*? judging moments this season, Casanova is (wait for the last cliché) sent packing.
In the opening of this episode, we learn that Ivy wants Michael Costello to go home and that she thinks that Gretchen needs to be brought back to reality. I want Ivy to stop deciding the fate of her fellow designers and produce a decent garment. The reality is that Gretchen has won two challenges, and Michael C. has won one (about to be two) and Ivy has given us nothing but capri pants and maxi vests.
Heidi appears on the runway to give the designers their next challenge. I'm not sure, but I think she is wearing the dress that McCutie was sent home for in the first challenge. She parades out a gaggle of girls in gowns and announces that the challenge is to remake their ugly bridesmaid dresses into something cool and wearable. The designers all roll their eyes, cover their mouths and claim the dresses are hideously ugly, but I don't see anything worse than what has been sent down the runway this season.
This challenge, which I can hardly believe hasn't already been done, brings about two rants from me:
Rant Number One: Real Women on "Project Runway"
I cringe every time I see real women up on the runway, lined up and ready to be chosen by the designers. It happens every time; the largest girl is the last to be chosen. It is painful to watch, I can't imagine how painful it must be to be left standing there. I understand why the designers do it. This is a competition, and the judges will respond better to a thin girl in a garment on the runway. I am certainly not saying anyone over Size 6 should not be included, I am just saying — no, begging — the producers to assign the women to the designers and save us all from having to watch this embarrassing process. Models are accustomed to being rejected. It's their job. These women have been kind enough to participate and should be treated better.
Rant Number Two: Satin
Satin is not a nice fabric. It is difficult to work with. It is not flattering or forgiving. It shows every construction and figure flaw. Do not make your best friends wear it in your wedding. Do not make capri pants out of it, Ivy. This is not personal opinion, it is science. Satin is shiny and reflects light; things that reflect light appear larger. Fabric that reflects light makes your ass appear larger. Matte fabrics absorb light and (you guessed it) minimize. A head-to-toe, one color, all-satin dress will flatter no one.
OK, back to the show.
Gretchen seems to have learned a lesson and keeps her head down. April wisely stands up to her client. Mondo goes mod. Valerie is sending her bridesmaid to play tennis in Connecticut and Michael C. scares Tim with some lace. He actually scared me too, because I thought his dress looked great without it.
It's runway time, and Heidi is out for wearing spiral stockings with shorts and a top that looks like the product of an unconventional materials challenge. My pick for the win, April, is safe in the middle. The judges love Mondo's graphic pink and black dress, but they give the win to Michael C. because Heidi thinks it's cool for him to win a challenge just after his team threw him under the bus. There is that expression again! Everyone else on earth thinks Mondo should have won. but we are OK with Michael C.'s win because his humble expression upon hearing the news is endearing.
Peach is in trouble. It's not even a "maybe" that she is going home. Even if she wasn't being sent home for the avocado goiter dress on the runway, she should probably be sent home for wearing the pink sweater with the shoes, sunglasses and purses all over it. I'm thinking she has the snowman Christmas and pumpkin Halloween versions too.
Bad sweaters and all, Peach always had a likable "I'm just along for the ride" kind of attitude and never had a bad thing to say about anyone. I'm sad to see her go, and I'm not just saying that because she friended me on Facebook.
First of all, I want to thank Valerie for the best line of the season, if not the best line in "Project Runway" history. For me, anyway. "Put your panties back on and do the job." I have already told my boys to put their panties on 18 times today. Thank you, Valerie.
I am going to surprise everyone and take up for Gretchen. Mixing the work of their team's designers was a good idea. The number one criticism of any team collection is the lack of cohesion. The judges love to use the word "cohesion" or better yet, "cohesiveness" because they think it makes them sound intelligent. Gretchen's plan made perfect sense: mix together a series of separates, executed by the designer whose skills are best for that particular construction. It's never been tried before on "Project Runway," but in theory it worked, and if they had been able to put together a few more decent pieces, it would have been hailed as a genius decision.
And speaking of decisions, not only was Gretchen's plan unanimously accepted, but the team members sat around congratulating themselves on their quick and complete consensus. It wasn't until Tim gave his unprecedented lecture as A.J. was being sent to clean up his space (by the way, did I ever tell you that there are no light switches under the tables?) that Ivy acted all horrified to have been handcuffed by Gretchen. If there was anything kinky going on (I didn't see the handcuffs, I'm just going by what Tim said), Ivy was a willing participant, as was the rest of Team Redux.
I can even defend Gretchen's behavior on the runway. Here's the way the runway critique works, or any critique, for that matter: You explain your idea to the panel, then listen to their comments. Even their negative comments usually make sense; you just can't see it through the veil of fatigue and stress. Instead of disagreeing with the judges in some delusional manner, Gretchen came to see that the collection sucked, and admitted it. As far as throwing someone under the bus (Where does this expression come from, and why is it used so much on "PR"?) many a season a contestant tries to do the right thing and sacrifice no one, but heartless Heidi just won't let it happen. The runway segment that takes about 15 minutes of television time takes eight hours to film. It literally becomes an interrogation. You are standing up there exhausted under hot lights, and they will continue to question you until you give someone up. They're making television here, people.
I don't usually pay too much attention to editing, unless "Kissed by a Rose" comes out of nowhere, but when the editing is as clumsy as it was in this episode, it can't be ignored. From the get-go it was obvious that Casanova was getting the underdog edit (what is with the contestants threatening to quit this season?), and even my 10-year-old figured out, "Watch, they are going to put Gretchen in the bottom just to punish her, but there is no way they are sending her home." Granted, my kids have been watching this show for years, but how bad is it when a 10-year-old is two steps ahead of you?
It was touching to see Casanova's teammates rally around him in his moment of self-doubt, though I think their motivation was more about needing him fully functioning for the team. I am fine with his win, but I believe that his outfit was sheer luck and he does have taste issues. Remember Vincent from Season 3, who won the Everyday Woman challenge? It happens. Casanova certainly hasn't been listening to the judges as Nina proclaimed, because we know he doesn't understand a damn thing they say.
If you came here for commentary on the clothes in this episode, you will have to click above or below, because I have nothing to say. To quote Michael Kors, "I am underwhelmed." Team Misfit won with some Forever 21 sale-rack items, and Team Redux ... well, the problems are numerous. Maxi vests? Belted blouson jackets? Wonky sheer shirtdresses? Put your panties on, people.