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Eurotrip(s)

By laurareineke Fri., Apr. 12, 2013 ,4:34 am EDT

This recap is brought to you by Stanley's confession that as a little boy, he wanted to be a vampire. I am not at all surprised by this.

We ended the last challenge on a weird note. Michelle was on the verge of elimination until a last-minute reprieve from the judges, and now we see the follow-up to their "You have one last chance!" threat. Heidi and Tim meet the designers on the runway to explain that for this challenge, they'll be creating high-end runway looks with a budget of $1000...and finding inspiration and fabrics in Europe.

Unlike in previous seasons, when the whole gang would pack up for the same exotic locale, each of our final five is headed to a different fashion capital. They'll be accompanied by an eliminated designer acting as travel buddy/sewing assistant. I can't remember another season in which auf'd designers were called upon for help so often, so I'm glad Amanda, Richard, Samantha and Kate were given a bit of a reward in the form of a super-quick Europe trip.

The tickets are dispensed: Layana to Barcelona, Patricia to Paris, Daniel to Berlin, Stanley to London...and Michelle to good ol' New York City, where she'll have to atone for her sins in the previous challenge. Womp womp. She handles this disappointment with an understandable mix of resignation, bitterness, and turning-lemons-into-lemonade enthusiasm.

Watching the rest of the group gleefully jaunt around Europe is refreshing. They seem excited and inspired, and the shenanigans they get into—trying to buy fabric on a steep exchange rate; finding iconic spots in which to sketch and discuss—make for a nice change of pace, not to mention a nice change of scenery. And later on in the episode, the judges (including guest judge John Legend) have an interesting discussion about art vs. fashion while debating which contestants should get to move forward. But sandwiched in between is some intense workroom time and a very solid runway show. Let's talk about the looks:

Stanley - "A woman tucked away inside the dark, dramatic Tower of London" is essentially Stanley's story behind this garment. It's not a flashy look, but the judges love the pop of sequins lining the dress, and Stanley gets compliments on the sleek capelet.

Michelle - On her NYC sightseeing tour, Michelle spots the patterns left on the sides of many buildings from old fireplaces and chimneys and incorporates those ideas into a quilted patent leather harness/breastplate and a strapless cashmere-wool dress. Heidi dislikes the messy quality of the dress hemline ("It looks like a dirty horse blankie," HAH), but otherwise the judges are impressed.

Daniel - A geometric, modern building inspires Daniel in Berlin, and Amanda encourages him to work that into a design for a hipper woman. The result is classic Daniel—structured jacket, black dress—but with a more current sensibility than he's known for. The judges love it, and unanimously praise the way the look evokes the city to which Daniel was sent.

Patricia - I like Patricia's intention to emulate the rougher edge of Paris, rather than the uber-romantic ideal many of us are used to, and I'm surprised that this look—one of the more accessible pieces she's ever done—doesn't get a better reception from the judges. Nina is underwhelmed at the oddity of it ("It looks like a collage you put together with paper-mache") and John Legend dislikes the lack of the character in the slacks. Heidi likes it, though. (Patricia is really becoming a point of contention between Nina and Heidi, which could prove interesting as we head into the end of the season.)

Layana - It might've been best for Layana to avoid mentioning that she was inspired by older architecture in Barcelona because the judges latch on to "old" as their primary issue with this look. I am so into the print and piping on the coat, but the judges rightfully call Layana out for its matronly length and the ridiculous sleeves. But Layana isn't phased: She loves her work.

Heidi asks, as she does every season, why each designer feels he or she should go to Fashion Week, and which other designers should accompany them. Michelle and Stanley get the most love here, and combined with their solid work in this challenge, they're shoo-ins. (Stanley gets the challenge win.) Daniel and Patricia are also picked to move on, leaving Layana to be eliminated.

Which look was your favorite? Which do you think best encapsulated the city that inspired it? How are you feeling about the final four? Let me know in the comments.