Project Runway S11: Episode 8, Take It All Off (and as quickly as possible, please)

Remember, back in S4, when Tiki Barber came to PR? Carmen’s not-a-shirt, a swath of fabric tucked under the Members Only jacket like a scarf so her model’s chest hair wouldn’t show? Sweet P’s rumpled mess of laundry claiming to be a shirt? The kindergarten attempt at a suit by… oh, what was his name, I don’t even remember?

Turns out, those looks might have looked pretty good amidst the rubble from last night.

But this was a set-up. In the novel that is Project Runway, the exposition’s over; it’s time for escalating conflict and complications. Yawn.

Picking Sides:

Heidi and Tim join the flock on the runway to create two new teams of four, selected by the three judges. We eavesdrop on their earlier musings:

Zac wants to balance Patricia’s techniques with Daniel’s construction; Heidi thinks Michelle has a cool vibe, so she’s thrown in that group, and Zac wants Stanley to show he can stay strong amid “all these forces” so him too.

Nina pairs Richard’s obvious talent but questionable taste with Layana since he needs her young, hip vibe (and if I never hear the word “vibe” out of these people again, I’ll be very happy). Zac thinks Samantha and her strong opinions will wake up this group. Then we have the inconsistent Amanda because, well, who knows. It’s all bullshit anyway.

All the designers think they’ve been paired up with inferior partners. Funny how that works. Michelle is obviously displeased at working with Patricia again. Layana thinks Richard is good for stuff that’s far out and tacky, Amanda has good ideas but she hasn’t seen it yet, and Samantha is a little tacky as well. You know, guest2visits tried to tell me after S4 that Layana had Pretty Girl syndrome, and I didn’t see it. I see it now. She’s just a little princess, isn’t she. And no one else is good enough for her.

The Challenge

Men.

Not just men. MEN. The Cowboy, the Fireman, the SWAT guy, the mailman, the businessman, the construction worker. An Australian dancing/stripping troupe called Thunder From Down Under, apparently the hottest thing in Las Vegas. Forgive me, but all I could think of was the Village People.

The designers watch them dance and rip their clothes off. Samantha calls them classic action figures. Amanda’s worried her mom’s going to watch this. Daniel would be happy with any one of them; “That was a lot to handle for 10am.” Richard thinks it’s like designing for Thor, The Incredible Hulk, or The Avengers. Am I the only one who still thinks John Steed and Mrs. Peel when I hear The Avengers? Michelle’s a little worried, since she doesn’t know the male beefcake body. Then she recants a little: “My husband is beefcake, but he isn’t that kind of beefcake.” At one point she’s so flustered by the biceps she can’t remember the word “fabric.” And Layana plays Blushing Princess to the hilt.

Each team of four designers must complete three tear-away looks for a new show featuring business attire; one look must be a suit. They have one day. And that’s when I knew it was a setup. One day – a short day, considering at 10am they’re still on site, they still have shopping at Mood to do – to make menswear for guys with thighs bigger than their usual models’ waists, including a suit, using tear-away seams, a technique not many designers have ever seen (turns out Stanley has, but that’s kind of freakish; it might be the reason he was cast). The Season 4 disasters had two days. Nope, this was for the drama, not the clothes.

The guest judge is an actress I’ve never heard of. And I keep wanting to pull up Heidi’s errant bra strap. The runway is hilarious. The clothes are so awful, but you’ve got these male strippers dancing. “It’s like a wet dream,” says Zac. No, no, he didn’t say that, he said “Like a weird dream” but I’m betting they had to re-shoot to clean it up for tv. They all forget to vote, whether it’s because the guys are so attractive, or the clothes are so awful, it’s hard to tell. Nina breaks into hysterical laughter, rivaling Michael Kors’ giggles when faced with the lady wrestlers of S4. The whole episode was like a mashup of S4, now that I think about it. A bad one. Intended to get us sputtering. I refuse to sputter.

The teams

Each team also has to come up with a team name, and given the ridiculous things they came up with back in S1, I wasn’t surprised when they came up with equally, if not more, idiotic ideas. Team Slick & Hip? Didn’t they learn anything from Team Luxe? When you name your team after a look, it’s a given that you’re going to end up with something that’s the opposite of that look.

Team Slip & Fall: Richard, Amanda, Layana, Samantha

Right off the bat, Richard’s out of touch with his team. Samantha interviews he’s headed for a drag race between Ru Paul and Boy George; Amanda worries about his ‘tude, his dated aesthetic (she’s using the word ‘tude and complaining about his aesthetic?) and his inability to speak her language (she’s visual, he’s verbal); Layana seems to think he gave her the wrong answer about something, but it’s pretty unclear to me exactly what was going on. The actual problem is this: nobody knows what they’re doing when it comes to menswear. Richard volunteers to make three white shirts and he’s never made a man’s shirt before. Ok, I’ll admit, I didn’t know what a collar stand was, but first of all, I’m not a designer, and second, now that I do know what they are, I realize a lot of my more tailored shirts (from back in the days when I wore such things) had them, so they aren’t exclusive to menswear; what’s wrong with these guys? Layana’s the jacket girl, but only girl jackets. Amanda has two pairs of pants to make so she knows they’d better be perfect; is it really a surprise when they’re too short and too tight, even though Samantha’s are just fine and they all used the same pattern?

The highlight of the episode is Amanda’s discovery of the penile bump while goosing the manikin: “It has a bump. A little penile bump. And I do mean little.” Your mother’s gonna watch that, too, Amanda. But Amanda shows she kind of knows her stuff, too: she points out, “Another problem is we don’t have a style.” Layana announces she’s thinking Armani. I guess she expected everyone to pick that up by telepathy. But Amanda goes with it: “Oh, so mid-century, slimmer cut, slimmer lapel.” I have no idea if that’s actually Armani, but if so, she’s not as non-verbal as she claimed with Richard. Of course, it could be completely off (isn’t Armani pretty current?) in which case she’s proved her point. I’m flexible.

Richard gets beaten down by the girls to the point where he Skypes a friend in tears. Poor Richard, he has a band-aid on his head over his ear, he must’ve cut himself shaving his scalp that morning, too.

Predictably, the result is a complete mess. Richard’s shirts look like bad kurtas; they can’t be tucked in because Amanda’s pants are too tight, the point where they’re opening up during the Q&A. Even Layana’s tie looks ridiculous – hey, I think I might be able to make a tie, isn’t that the first thing they teach you in home ec? – and her jacket is too small and ridiculously feminine. The only thing that looks halfway decent is Samantha’s vest, but it’s hard to see because Richard’s shirt is so scary-awful. On the plus side, the clothes tear away perfectly when the guys dance. And with these clothes, the faster they tear away, the better.

Shades of No Way

I’m beginning to wonder if someone cooked the books on Michelle early in the season. Why is it that for the first four episodes – at least two of which involved no collaboration at all – were distinctly mediocre, and now for three weeks she’s been churning out the best stuff on the runway? It’s almost as though she had the narrative when she started, and deliberately held back for several weeks, to create a character arc. That isn’t something someone would do, right? At least, not unless she knew she’d already been chosen the winner, or at least guaranteed the time to complete the ascension? Thing is, Christian took a while to get started; maybe a little time to get the feel of things is necessary. Whatever the reason, at this point, she’s actually (almost) equal to her opinion of herself.

Not that her design is good; it’s nonsensical in the context of the challenge and the other looks. But it’s something different and interesting, and it looks like a draft of something that might turn into something interesting, if it weren’t supposed to be related to work. And strippers.

Not only that, but she starts off the planning session with a good idea: an office guy in suit, a more casual worker, and a bike messenger. Stanley shoots her down (after a struggle, during which Michelle admits on national television that she fantasizes about bike messengers on a daily basis; I’m sure her different-kind-of-beefcake husband will be happy to hear that; maybe he’ll tell her about his fantasies, too. Maybe there’s a reason for that rumor about post-PR break-ups). I think her kilt-vest is possibly a thumb in the eye to the team’s more “classic” vision.

Since Stanley just made tear-away suits a few months ago for a photo shoot, he’s doing a suit; he suggests that Patricia make a basket weave textile for the plackets of the shirt, which is a good use of her skills. Of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way, as the shirt she ends up making is pretty hideous once it escapes from under the boring and vaguely obscene trench coat Daniel takes as his destiny. Interesting that Tim sees clergy in that trench coat. Overnight, Michelle tells Layana, “If the ship is sinking and there’s only one lifeboat, I know who’s going over.” Layana guesses Patricia, twisting the metaphor into a soggy pretzel. On the runway, their clothes don’t have quite the same level of horror as the first team, but the tear-aways fail. And this I have learned from Project Runway: There’s nothing funnier than a stripper with his pants tangled around his ankles.

It’s All Over but the Shouting:

I lost track of the criticisms somewhere along the way. Heidi even suggests auf’ing everyone, but of course she can’t do that, she’s got more thigh to flash. So Team Oil Slick loses, and while that means Team Named After Mommy Porn doesn’t lose, it doesn’t mean they win, either, they’re just a little less terrible, and the most important consideration was the tear-away feature which they completely screwed up. The conversation with the judges is hilarious:

Nina: “Why not be creative?”
Patricia: “We were thinking office looks…”
Zac: “Stop – what office story does this tell you?”

He’s got a point. Ever seen these guys in an office?

The Decision:

Heidi falls all over herself in Little Chat trying to convince the actress these really are designers and they have produced some decent looks in past challenges, but in the end, she just can’t name a winner. Best decision all season.

As for the losers, it’s evident that Samantha is safe, and somehow the Princess gets by, so it’s between Richard and Amanda, who can’t decide if they want to snipe at each other or kiss and make up. Amanda’s out, so it’s moot.

Next Week:

Didn’t they just do a Lord & Taylor challenge? No, that was last season… they’re all beginning to run together.

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5 responses to “Project Runway S11: Episode 8, Take It All Off (and as quickly as possible, please)

  1. This episode was stunningly bad. Why didn’t they think of Italian men’s wear and use gorgeous bright colors? It seemed like no one (besides Michelle) had a clear vision. isn’t that where you begin? Stage clothes can be bright. In Italy businessmen wear red suits, and every other color along with brightly colored silk shirts. They are yummy to look at. I wish Kate could have joined in. I think she was from Brazil where the sensibility of sexy businessmen is totally alive and splendid!

    What ultimately failed on this challenge was the time frame. The team format did not help either. I bet Amanda’s error making pants to small was not allowing enough seam allowance for the velcro, as her original pattern was good for Samantha. If she wasn’t so pressed for time I doubt she would have had a problem in tailoring pants to fit with the right hemline.

    I wanna see episodes where it is hard to pick who was best rather than who earned a score above a 2. I don’t like watching anyone fail and watching everyone fail is a waste of my time.

    • Yes – even if the clothes had been perfectly constructed, they were still ordinary pants and suits, with nothing at all to give them any interest. I was thinking about the ping-pong outfits for the men – they didn’t do too bad on that, Richard with Joseph (sigh) came up with that back harness thing which was clever, and Stanley turned out perfectly serviceable if blah Seal Team wear (though Nina loved it). It wasn’t office wear, but it was a lot better than this week.

      And now that I’m looking a that challenge, Michelle was the one who thought up the kilt idea that week (and everyone hated it except me), which was what her vest was really made for. I wonder if kilts and Scotswear is her specialty…

      • Good question Karen. I loved the kilt idea too. I went to a wedding in Seattle a few years ago and about a third of the men wore kilts. It was cool, they looked great and I finally learned what they wear underneath– although I’m sworn to secrecy. Maybe the Scottish sensibility is alive in Michelle’s town of Portland too? She seems to be softening her edges to be more amiable as time passes.

  2. Oops. Now I have to keep an eye out for vengeful princess types. I hate to mention it but I will, of course… but did you hear Layana ask the guy if he was married FIRST, then when he asked her back she repeated his query aloud; and as if she was surprised he would ask such a thing… and all in that coy, syrupy whine. She’s almost a page out of Gone With the Wind. If there was ever a disaster that underscored the importance of the time lines for these challenges, this silly mess was it. If there’s one thing that needs to change to improve the show, it would be to add at least 5 hrs. to a day to everything. There are already enough reality shows that are about making people look and act like idiots; I hoped PR would be about getting the contestants to show their craft and judging who did best, not about tripping them up to the extent they have no choice but to get something on their models as quickly as possible; with no time for risk of creativity. Instead, it’s about a parade of boring to almost tragic, every week. They don’t need strippers to increase the ‘watchability’ of the show – they just need to let the designers have the chance to make better stuff.

    • Her flirting was downright painful to watch. That’s actually when the Pretty Girl thing hit me – it was so phony.

      Agree on all points – the core audience isn’t primarily interested in catfights but in seeing what creative people can do. Designing tear-aways for strippers is already a challenge, and could’ve been handled creatively if they had two days; there’s no need to make it impossible with a crazy time limit. It just isn’t fun to watch people fail. Then again, from what I’ve seen of the Dance Moms lady an the Double Ds promos, Lifetime has viewers with very strange tastes.

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