Project Runway Season 9 Episode 5: Off the Track

Picasso's Guernica

First: I’m going to say some mean things about some contestants. So I have to acknowledge upfront that they might be totally different IRL – they’re under a great deal of stress, they’re sleep-deprived, they’re competing for a lot of money and professional exposure, and who knows how things have been edited. So I’m talking about electronic images on my TV screen, not flesh-and-blood people (though I believe I’m getting to the point where if I ran into a couple of them on the street, I’d vomit on their shoes). And I reserve the right to change my mind when I re-view this in a few months. Or even a few days. After all, I change my mind about Anya every episode.

Second: In the opening credits, they cut Tim’s “How do I have attitude?” and then “Attitude!” I’m truly dismayed that I even noticed this.

Now, let’s get started. Bert is a snake in the grass, a passive-aggressive psychopathic monster, and a lying liar who lies. See “First” above.

Now, I’m trying to see Bert as the Michael Costello character of this season: misunderstood, ganged up on. Or as Marcel on TC2 (as opposed to the later Marcel who annoyed me but still didn’t deserve what happened to him way back when). But from what I’ve seen, Bert isn’t misunderstood, or awkward, or autistic. He’s just an asshole.

NOW we can get started.

Little magical elves – oops, not any more – deliver boxes with T-shirts and sneakers to the designers while they sleep. Anthony Ryan asks Bert, “What’s that?” and Bert looks straight at the pile of boxes on the counter and says, “What’s what?” This goes on a while until Bert decides he’s had enough fun. Cecilia is depressed and won’t get out of bed. Becky tries really hard to coax her. Eventually she succeeds. Danielle wasn’t expecting to be in the bottom three in the last challenge, but is glad that at least she was in the top of the bottom three, which I think is called “lowering expectations.” Remember the first week when she wasn’t satisfied to be merely safe? Just wait ’til you see how low expectations can go…

They all get dressed in their tee shirts and sneakers and meet Heidi and Tim at some famous arena. Since the challenge will involve four teams of three, they will run a single 200-meter lap, and the first four to finish will be team captains. Well, it’s a switch from pulling buttons out of the evil velvet bag, but it’s pretty unfair to the women and the 57-year-old. Not to mention the chubbies, but everyone knows we chubbies deserve whatever unfairness we encounter.

Anthony Ryan doesn’t want Bert on his team. Viktor doesn’t want Bert on his team. Bert doesn’t want anyone on his team.

But before we get anywhere, Cecilia tells Tim she’s had it, she doesn’t want to take anyone else’s opportunity, and she’s quitting. Heidi sounds a little exasperated, and they watch her walk out of the arena. Becky interviews “If Cecilia really feels the way she says she does, then its good she’s gone” and sounds a bit meaner than I think she meant to sound.

They run the race. Olivier falls, but gets up and keeps running. Josh, Bryce, Anthony Ryan, and Viktor are the winners. Tim sounds really surprised when he announces Bryce came in second. He doesn’t really look like he gets that much exercise, does he? But the kid can run. Viktor is surprised he did so well, since he never runs unless someone is chasing him with a gun. Bert comes in last, and Heidi joins him for the last few meters. Olivier’s knee is very bruised. Tim says, “That looks bad.” Heidi says, “That does look bad.” I think it looks bad, too. Olivier lies down. Next thing we know a Medic is taking his blood pressure.

Wow, they’re killing designers! Drama! Cut to commercial. It’s pronounced a “panic attack” which seems about as vague as Ivy’s “dehydration.” I wonder if one of the qualifications for this season was the ability to run 200 meters.

They pick teams:

Josh takes Anya.
Bryce takes Kimberly.
Anthony Ryan takes Laura since they worked together before.
Viktor takes Olivier because his style is clean, he can construct, and he compromises.
Josh picks Becky.
Bryce takes Danielle.
That means Anthony Ryan gets Bert. He’s not thrilled. He thinks Bert’s stubborn and childish. He has no idea, but he’s about to find out.

Viktor and Olivier are a team of two. You know they’re going to bring back Julie – that’s probably why Cecilia left, because she wanted to give Julie another chance. But no! They aren’t falling for that this time. They tell Viktor he can pick any of the four eliminated designers. Immediately shouts of “Josh C!” ring out. But Viktor takes a minute, consults with Olivier – and picks Josh C. So Mormon Josh is back. Which means I have to go back to typing Mormon Josh and Not-Mormon Josh. That’s ok, it’s better than trying to tell the difference between Danielle and Julie. And it’s ok for Cecilia too – her plan to benefit Julie failed, but they get to hang out together at the sequester house for a while. She’s probably pissed that things didn’t work out the way she thought they would, but she should’ve quit on the runway before Julie was eliminated.

And now, finally, after someone quits and someone nearly dies, we get the actual challenge. Heidi is shilling her sneakers for New Balance, so the idea is to design outfits, not necessarily exercise clothes, to go with those shoes. Think fashion, it could be a dress or a suit, basic with a twist, it must use the same fabric as the shoes, which is denim and/or suede. Each team must present three cohesive looks, and the winning look will be sold on Amazon as part of the line for NB.

Team Not-Mormon Josh (Not-Mormon Josh, Becky, Anya): Becky is excited because she’s done a lot of knitwear. Except, wait, I thought they were supposed to use suede and denim? She suggests an off-the-shoulder dress and leggings; Josh tells her no, no leggings, not ever, they’re so over. She wants to design a sideways N on the back as part of the straps, and Anya gently shakes her head. Joshua interviews that Becky is not a style icon. Anya interviews that Becky is trying out ideas and it must not feel good that they’re shooting them all down. But apparently Anya agrees with Josh that they’re pretty bad ideas and need to be shot down. They pretty much have Becky doing all the sewing and Anya and NMJosh doing all the designing. Josh interviews, “I need Becky to be working, sewing, I don’t kneed her to be thinking too much, or designing.” She’s not happy, being treated like an intern. Heidi asks during her walk-through, are you just sewing and the others are designing? And Tim says, I don’t want your role to be so triviliazed that you’re thrown under the bus. Becky gets worried. Things escalate. Not-Mormon Josh tells Becky: “You do dowdy dresses, you know that, right?” Becky runs to the ladies’ room, but the cameras follow her (the camera operator must be a part-time papperazzi). NMJ tells Anya Becky’s demographic is forty-to-death which would be funny if Becky wasn’t so upset. I really feel for her, having been the outcast dismissed by the cool kids a lot myself. that’s ok, Becky, you’re the first designer whose name I knew! Anya goes into the ladies’ room to comfort her. NMJ joins them, right in the stall, the camera picking up every sniffle, and he gives what I thought was a very complete apology, not “I hope I didn’t offend you” or “I’m sorry IF you took offense” but more like “I’m sorry, I’m tired, my head is speaking before I’m registering what I’m saying, it was inconsiderate of me to be so crazy.” I was impressed. It’s the most sincere apology I’ve seen on reality TV (or in politics, for that matter) since Stephen apologized to Candace in the TC1 reunion for telling her she was going to fail horribly because she bought foot cookie cutters. I’ve already noticed others disagree. I don’t think he made up for what he did, but I do think he was decent, if belatedly. They share a group hug in the ladies’ stall “with sanitary things all over” as NMJosh says. That gets a laugh out of Becky. I have no idea if they let her actually design her outfit, but she seems reasonably not-miserable for the rest of the show. ETA: With all the drama this week, I’ve neglected to give enough credit to Becky. I name her Mensch of the Week. Or whatever the female equivalent of Mensch is (Mensch, for those who weren’t around when Yiddish was cool, is a Good Guy). She could’ve wrung a lot more drama out of this than she did. Instead, she accepted Not-Mormon Josh’s apology for his disgusting behavior, and got back to work. And she didn’t say a word on the runway when Anya accepted kudos for the dress she, Becky, sewed, because Anya never sewed jersey before, either. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s gonna catch up with her some day. But not today.

Team Viktor (Viktor, Olivier, Mormon Josh): Viktor starts talking about a motorcyclish jacket; it has Michelin-man sleeves which is much cooler than it sounds. Olivier is talking about a longer skirt, and Viktor says it has to be activewear. Olivier reminds him about “think fashion, it can be a suit” and Viktor says, “Yeah, you’re right, ok.” So much for Viktor being hard to work with. Mormon Josh thinks Viktor does a great job as leader, keeping them on track, but then again Viktor is the reason he’s back in the competition so he might be biased. Olivier makes a long elastic-waist skirt, and Viktor and MJosh worry it’s a little Amish. When Heidi does her walk-through, she says it’s a little farm-y, and tries it on. They think it looks great with her jacket, but as she points out, they don’t have her jacket to cover it up. Tim points out they have very different looks: “Auntie Em is not going to get on a motorcycle.” That’s pretty good. Olivier interviews he can prove them wrong. Uh oh.

Team Bryce (Bryce, Kimberly, Danielle): Bryce goes back to the cowl in spite of Nina practically having a seizure over his idea to do a cowl last week. When Heidi does her walk-through, she is dubious: it’s a hoodie-cowl, and she asks if it’s really cool, in a tone that suggests it isn’t anywhere near cool. She doesn’t like any of their initial looks, in fact, so they pretty much start over. Laura interviews that Bryce is a sunken ship (I’ll have to remember that one) and he should’ve stayed in the back of the race so he wouldn’t have to lead. Laura isn’t even on his team, but she’s one of the Cool Kids so she can say stuff like that about other teams.

Team Anthony Ryan (Anthony Ryan, Laura, Bert): Things start out bad. Bert does three sketches and they don’t like any of them. He interviews that it’s like they’re the team and he’s just tacked on. Yeah, that’s accurate, and it isn’t nice. Except… it looks to me like Bert creates situations so he can exploit them. Remember the opening scene where he couldn’t see the boxes AR was telling him about? The boxes right in front of him? Well, now he can’t remember AR’s name, because AR is “insignificant.” When Heidi does her walk-through, she’s concerned about AR’s “Grecian Goddess high-waisted jumpsuit.” That doesn’t sound too complimentary. Bert has little other than a narrow skirt and muslin top, and Heidi says she loves chic but she doesn’t wear sneakers with chic. Heidi, if you’re going to be designing shoes, you must learn: they are not sneakers. They are running shoes. Athletic shoes. Walking shoes. Sports shoes. Shaper-shoes. Anything but sneakers. No one pays $129.99 for sneakers.

After the walk-through, Heidi points out time’s a wastin’ and they only have a few hours – but then she announces that instead of working until 11pm they have until 4am and everyone cheers. Because wouldn’t you cheer if someone told you that you were going to work until 4am?

Now, here’s the thing: AR explains to Bert that if he’s not interested in changing his design as they’ve asked him to, they will explain this on the runway and he should not consider it throwing him under the bus. Bert intervieews something awful about them being from the Midwest, and he has some kind of problem with Not-Mormon Josh over which sewing machine he’s using (I’m not sure how you can call dibs on a sewing machine but apparently NMJosh thought he did and Bert wormed his way in while NMJosh’s back was turned) which isn’t important but just shows what a total ass he is, and how he ends up in the middle of all these little skirmishes. It’s not coincidence. He just thrives on creating chaos and then sitting back and saying, “See how everyone’s against me!” NMJosh gets in a parting shot about Bert being closer to death than he is. I’m not sure if he means literal death, as in being old (which is mean), or in the competition. I’m trying to be fair here. But I still say Bert creates these things. I’ve been around people like this, they’re all calm while the people dealing with them are frothing at the mouth. I was married to one of them.

The Runway

Heidi comes out with the same hands-in-pockets pose as Nina used last week. On Nina it looked kind of sexy and hip. On Heidi it looks like she’s doing a hands-in-pockets pose, and it doesn’t help that she’s wearing a sparkly black pants outfit with her famous sneakers. Mormon Josh is wearing a shirt I really love, bright colors in checkerboard arrangement. I love that shirt. Mormon Josh beats Heidi in my book.

Erin Wasson is guest judge. I don’t know who she is. Apparently she’s a model and a designer. Just like Heidi!

Team Viktor:
Viktor made a grey drawstring-waist dress, loose and flowy, and his motorcycle-ish jacket with Michelin-Man sleeves. There is a nice feel to the dress which could easily have been capital-D-Dowdy, and the jacket is impressive. I wonder if they go together, but maybe the differences unite them, like this team.
Mormon Josh, who joined the team late and had no say in shopping or overall direction, sends out narrow black pants and an asymetric-necked grey t-shirt and a model in a back brace. Oh, wait, no, her backpack fell off the straps! No, that’s a design element, these black ribbed cuffs around the shoulders. It looks like pajamas to me, including the rumples. But he did make decent pants. And I have to relunctantly admit the diagonal seam across the tee is interesting.
Olivier presents The Crucible, Act II. Remember Michael Drummond and his dumpy grey skirt for the Jackie Kennedy challenge? This is its sister. It looks like the fabric is ribbed horizontally. And on the Lifetime Rate the Runway pic, she has a horizontal something just below her crotch. It’s bizarre, completely unexplainable. Maybe the top is long and is tucked in? Or she’s wearing some kind of strange chastity belt? It didn’t leap out at me on the runway, so it could just be a fluke that got caught on film. On top is a black shell (there are some interesting seams or darts horizontally, kind of nice) with a – say it with me, chillun – racerback! And there’s either a belt, or something has a black banded waist.

Team Bryce:
Bryce is the huge surprise this week. Considering how awful his work has been so far, he sends out a really nice short grey dress with buttons on the side. Wow. This is one of my favorites. It’s casual but crisp, and the way the armholes are formed make it interesting.
Danielle makes a turquoise chiffon tank (it’s got black knit lining which peeks out at the neckline but looks like a double tank) with a racerback (another season trend?) and a black slightly high-waisted skirt. I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong with it, but it is a little sloppy looking, especially the neckline of the tank and the waist of the skirt. Apparently it’s a lot more sloppy looking in person.
Kimberly sends out grey shorts with a black cuff (I think it’s weird – it’d be fun in bright colors but the grey-and-black is too restrained for such a fun element, as if I know what I’m talking about) and a shortish buttoned jacket with roomy sleeves over a black tee. The jacket looks really elaborate, but it’s hard to tell because it’s all black. I think Kimberly might be the dark horse in this thing. I don’t particularly like this outfit, but it looks like quality to me. Again, like I know what I’m talking about.

Team Anthony Ryan:
Anthony Ryan brings out a horrible flabby charcoal grey romper thing. Rompers are nasty under the best of circumstances, but this one is extra-special-nasty. The shorts part looks like he gathered up some fabric and passed it between the model’s legs, then sewed it on the sides. Diapery. And there’s a light grey patch on one shoulder that I suppose at least gives you something to look at besides the massive herd-of-camels-toes. The sleeves do a sort of pleasant drape when viewed from the back, if you can take your eyes off the crotch. Anthony Ryan is in big trouble. I kept thinking, he’s toast.
Bert has a watery blue print off-the-shoulder top and a narrow short grey skirt. It’s very nice, actually. That galls me to say, but it is what it is, and it is quite nice. I’d call it one of my top three looks.
Laura sends out light-on-dark horizontal-print shorts (maybe it’s a skirt, I can’t tell, it’s too dark) with a dark-on-light vertical print tank and a khaki flutter-front vest. Hmmm. I think the vest might be interesting, and I think the reversal of top and bottom in print and toning is an interesting concept but all together it just looks sloppy. Not horrible, but not great. At least it’s interesting.

Team Not-Mormon Joshua:
Not-Mormon Josh makes a sleeveless tee in grey-on-grey zigzag print, black shorts, and a very interesting vest that’s half sheer cutout. I didn’t get too good a look at it – maybe it’s only sheer cutouts in the back? – but it caught my eye and I went “oooh, what’s that?”
Anya sends out pretty much the same dress she’s made twice before. At least the back is the same. It’s mostly that grey-on-grey zigzag print, nice, with a bright neon pink outlined grey insert down the front. These front inserts must be this season’s latest trend, because everyone’s doing them. It’s the same halter-into-racerback she always does, with a very exposed zipper. There’s more pink around the hem. I wonder if she’s going to be another April: “what a nice black sheer with cutouts thing” “very chick black sheer with cutouts thing” “you’ve been doing the same thing every week, you’re out”. Or if they’re so smitten by her charm they don’t even see that she can only handle one neckline. Remember, Laura helped her sew the neckline and collar on Nina’s Jumpsuit look. It’s a nice look. The zipper is a little horrifying, but that’s just me. It is quite pretty. Another favorite.
Becky has a grey and black tank top with a short tight black skirt with a horizontal striped side panel and that same neon pink outlined insert off to the side. It’s not terrible. It looks kinda hubba hubba to me, but most things do.

The judges announce there is no clear high or low team, so they’re going to talk to everyone. Which they would’ve done anyway since they would’ve had to have had two high and two low. But this way it sounds like they’re doing something different.

The interrogation

By the way, did you know ombre is gradation in tones? I know because the same commercial ran at least three times during this show.

They go for Team Anthony Ryan first. It goes bad, fast. AR disses Bert’s look, and turns out it’s the one the judges like the best o their group, which makes Bert do a little dance of joy and makes me want to pop him, but I understand. In his mind, he’s been abused. This is Bert’s talent, to make it look like he’s the one being dumped on when he’s got everyone else so messed up they can’t function. He’s very good at it. He should run for office in the Tea Party, except, oh, yeah, they’d bar the door if he got too close and fumigate the room afterwards. AR points out that he took Bert aside and told him they were going to say they tried to get him to change his look- and Bert denies it! It’s on tape! I saw it! Bert is a lying liar who lies! Either that or he forgot, just like he didn’t see the boxes he was peering over the morning before. Fact is, Bert has passive-aggressiveness down to a science. He should give lessons on how to drive people crazy. AR’s Fan Favorite rating is 34%. Bert’s is 4%. (Anya is in the lead with 43%). But my heart is sinking, because all signs are AR is going down tonight, and Bert is going to gloat. In the judges’ “little chat” they conclude that Anthony Ryan lost control of the bus. Well, there it is, he’s the team leader, he failed to lead his team, and he made a crappy garment. Butter him, ’cause he’s toast.

Team Not-Mormon Josh is up next. Heidi says he used the extra hours she gave them to bedazzle everything. He defends the pink accents – I like them, too. But Heidi is looking for boring, I remember that from last season, poor Mondo working in grey. Everyone loves Anya’s look, especially the exposed zipper. Her model looks very much like Kojii from a few seasons ago, but it’s probably just the hair. MK tells Anya it bothers him that she took something so soft and tried to tailor it too much. But he loves it anyway. Nina likes NMJ’s shredded vest (it isn’t shredded, really) and the side insert on the shorts, but thinks Becky’s shirt is too short and her skirt is too tight. Yeah, that’s the hubba hubba factor. MK calls it a hacked tee. Then comes the question we’ve all been waiting for: how did you work together? NMJ presents it pretty honestly, and Bekcy doesn’t dispute anything. The judges note that in spite of the conflict, their collection is much more cohesive than AR’s conflict-ridden team. In their Chat, they note that NMJ picked one teammate for her vibe and one for her sewing skill, and he led well. Yes, he led well in recovering after he beat Becky into a bloody pulp.

Time for Team Viktor. They love Mormon Josh’s backbrace tee. The model says he’s reinvented the t-shirt, it looks like the straps of a backpack. Yes, it does, are you saying that’s a GOOD thing? They love that Viktor went road warrior and ask who came up with the vibe. Viktor, of course, which is kind of a surprise to me. They aren’t crazy about Olivier’s Amish look, it doesn’t go with the others. In chat, they praise Viktor’s leadership. Maybe this goes some way towards identifying where the problem was in the Stilts challenge. Heidi notes he also made a very ambitious garment.

Team Bryce front and center – MK likes Bryce’s grey dress the most. I agree! The other two look like they were designed by more than one person. He’s very critical of Danielle’s turquoise chiffon tank, especially the knit lining. Nina doesn’t understand adding that color in only one place. They suggest it would be better to have Kimberly’s terrific jacket over Danielle’s yuck top, because the jacket doesn’t go with the shorts and it would cover the jacket. In their little chat, Nina points out Danielle has ambitious plans but thinks she’s more of a wizard with chiffon than she actually is. I don’t think Danielle’s look is all that bad. But I didn’t think her Nina look was all that bad either.

In the lounge, Anthony Ryan gives his much-touted quote: “I have not been this pissed since I had cancer.” Ok, Anthony Ryan, that’s two, one more mention of cancer and you’re outta here. And I’m on your side!

In the Judges’ Chat, Heidi goes off on Anthony Ryan. Nina fights for him. Wow, I’m on Nina’s side for once. That scares me. Because AR does deserve to go home. Except I hate to see Bert win this round like that – and make no mistake, Bert is fighting a war, and it’s less overt than Penny coming after you on FNS, but it’s just as calculated. You say one thing wrong to Bert, he hates you forever, and he’ll do everything he can to destroy you. Of course, Anthony Ryan cooperated.

They get into the very interesting debate about whether it’s “the worst garment that runway” or if overall performance and promise are taken into account. No one on PR, to my knowledge (which isn’t vast), has ever claimed they judge each runway without considering the past, as they keep claiming on TC (and given Jen’s elimination in Episode 2 of All-Stars, I tend to believe them). But come on, Christian Siriano should’ve gone home for his prom dress, Gretchen should’ve gone home for several of her looks, Santino should’ve gone for the exploding phoenix skating costume, Wendy for just about everything she ever made, etc etc. They’ve always considered past performance and who they want to keep around for balance or drama or whatever. They’ve never claimed otherwise, until now, and now they’re pretty much disowning a policy they never had.

Heidi lines everyone up and says, “This is my challenge and you might have noticed I’ve been changing the rules a little bit. So I want to do mone more thing to mix it up.” I never realized that the person whose challenge it is could change the rules. After the garments have been made.

Viktor wins. There is clapping and dancing. He gets immunity, and his dress and motorcyclish jacket will be in the NB collection on Amazon.
Not Mormon Josh wins, too. He gets immunity, and… Ah, here comes the interesting part – Anya’s dress will be in the collection. Huh? Doesn’t that mean Anya wins? It means Heidi is picking looks for her line and getting them cheap, making money from the designers designing the looks, in fact.

For elimination, it’s down to Danielle and Anthony Ryan. Danielle? What did she do that was so awful? Danielle is eliminated in one of the most blatantly unfair aufs ever. I’m flabbergasted. Ok, so I’m glad Bert doesn’t get to dance on AR’s grave. But Danielle was no way no how deserving of this. Heidi tells AR he would’ve been out if it had been up to her, but she was overruled by the Marie Clair machine.

I just visited Amazon:

Anya’s dress (“This edgy-sporty maxi dress has such great details, like contrast piping at the hem and an exposed zipper in the back…Designed by Anya Ayoung-Chee and Joshua McKinley“) [emphasis added] in slightly different fabric – more like camouflage, and by the way with the pink-piped center insert eliminated – costs $118, which is very reasonable. I don’t see any contrast piping at the hem. I also see the model is wearing open-toed sandals, not sneakers, unless they make open-toed sneakers. Still, it’s nice.

Viktor’s dress (“Soft and deconstructed, this little frock has a cool, crinkly texture, making it ideal for traveling.
Designed by Viktor Luna”) is unavailable – now there’s good marketing right there. The motorcyclish jacket is shown on the main page, but not on the item page, so I’m thinking it’s not part of the deal. [ETA: Viktor’s dress is now up for $98, the motorcycle jacket for $398]

Next week, they work with children. Olivier glues the top to his model, which is against the rules. I love the fashion industry, where you have to have rules against gluing things to people.

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