No more teams: There is joy in the land.
Except wait: it’s the Teams Edition of Project Runway. So there must be teams. There will be teams: the designers will have helpers, making communication and management part of the deal. You know by now, right, you can ignore the criteria set out for any given challenge? That they’ll re-configure the criteria before judging into, “What Nina Wants”? But laying out the unimportant criteria gives Heidi something to do at the beginning of the episode.
Soon the designers ascend the giant elevator in the Hearst Building (ooooh, just like The Devil Wears Prada except not) and Nina herself sets out the real criteria:
1. Fashion forward
3. May issue of Marie Claire
4. for Jordana Brewster to wear
5. Not a gown or a Red Carpet look
6. Not t-shirt and pants
7. Bold color
8. Bold shape
9. Bold print
10. Bold Silhouette
11. What’s next, not what’s now
12. Do not disappoint Nina
13. Do not embarrass Nina
Ok, I didn’t number them the way the PR chyron-makers did, but that’s the general idea. One day, $250. Zac is back, and Jordana Brewster herself (whoever she is… she’s yet another in a string of actresses from movies and tv shows I’ve never heard of that PR seems to be able to wheedle onto the judging panel) is guest judge.
Now about those assistants…
Show of hands: who here immediately assumed they would be from an eighth-grade home-ec class? I even wondered if PR had possibly deteriorated to the point where they’d mine a local School for the Blind, but apparently even Heidi (or someone) has limits (or they couldn’t find such a School that would sell out its students). Come on, the possibilities are endless: Prisoners. Politicians. Political Prisoners. Politicians who are now prisoners. But no, it’s just the eliminated designers, which means they can wring one more round of drama out of those who have already been told they’re Not Good Enough.
Back when PR (and Top Chef) were in their infancy, I couldn’t understand how eliminated contestants could not put forth full effort (looking at you, Stephen Asperino and Dave Martin) when called upon to assist those still competing. Don’t they have any pride in their work, any self-respect? I’m over that now. Maybe because I’ve decided most people who go on reality shows, especially the Lifetime version of Project Runway, have no self-respect and are there for fame, not to demonstrate their abilities to potential clients/employers or even to win. Still, I sometimes wonder: what if I were approached to appear on Project American Blogger Star? No, I don’t wonder: I know. I’d laugh and mark as spam. I’m not gonna be anybody’s cannon fodder, nobody’s drama bait. At this point, with Heidi pitching for contestants during each episode, designers who have actual talent and serious plans should to find other ways to promote themselves. Fame whores only need apply.
Round robin of interviews: Michelle doesn’t want to get Richard. Layana hopes she doesn’t end up with Richard. Daniel doesn’t want to work with Richard. Patricia… guess what… hopes Richard is inflicted on anyone but her. Richard is clearly the Devil. The one who doesn’t wear Prada.
Because he won the last challenge, Stanley gets first pick (like it matters; the way Tim roots around in that bag, you can practically see his fingers feeling for the roughened edge of Patricia’s button and the little bit of stickum on Michelle’s. Another side effect of too much Reality TV: rampant paranoia).
Stanley picks Tu, which is something of a surprise. But he thinks Tu will be great at constructing the jacket he’s planning.
Michelle grabs Amanda so they can re-live their prom success.
Daniel takes Samantha.
Layana ends up with Kate, because the alternative is Richard.
And Patricia… Tim: “Déjà vu.” Patricia would pray, but she doesn’t know how to pray any more. See? Richard is the Devil, Evil Incarnate let loose in the world. (see “rampant paranoia,” above).
Stanley plans three pieces, including voluminous high-waisted pants for a magnified silhouette under a tight jacket. He drives Tu crazy. Everything must be neat and organized; every stitch must be perfect. He admits he’s OCD. He’s also pretty belittling to someone he picked when he had the whole palette to choose from, someone who has really nothing to gain from this. Tu’s ready to stab him with pinking shears by the end of the day. On the runway, Heidi asks if they bossed their assistants around (remember the good old days when you believed they didn’t know what was going on in the workroom?) and Stanley ‘fesses up. But boy, do they get it done. When the model pulls the pockets out to the side, forming a perfect rectangle, I actually said, “Oh, wow,” out loud. Ok, it’s not as “something they’ve never seen before” as Stanley thinks, but it’s really, really good. Nina’s smitten: it’s smart to create three pieces since it gives them options for the photo. I think she says “fabulous” three times. Maybe only twice. Heidi credits him with good management for whipping Tu into producing the jacket. Zac and Jordana are likewise enchanted. As am I. My only concern: is a leather jacket Spring? It is in Maine, but in New York? Hah, leave it to me to worry about such mundane things as comfort.
Layana is inspired by the architecture of the Hearst building. She also goes for leather; seems leather is her thing, and judging from the final collections I’ve seen, it’s a leather kind of year. She cuts cobalt blue leather into triangles and attaches them with chain links, draping it over a nude lining and using a frothy sheer swirl for the skirt. She hurts her fingers bending the chain links, the poor darling, reminding me of Elena in S10E2 having a meltdown over hot glue on her finger. Not to mention Jillian, long ago, weeping over her licorice sticks and claiming a needle went through her finger. Ah, it’s the “I was wounded in the line of fashion” trope. Tim’s impressed with the appearance of armor. I liked it in the workroom; I was less impressed with it on the runway, and in the photo it’s a downright mess. I love the idea, but somehow the contrasting color of the metal rings looks sloppy, the leather looks unfinished, and overall it looks like the model is bursting at the seams. What’s impressive is how well it matches her inspiration of the architecture. The judges are impressed, but I’ve long since given up taking what the judges say seriously. It’s a good draft, and given more work, it could be impressive. But it’s not ready for magazines.
Daniel hears “fashion forward” and thinks Star Trek. Then he hears “spring” and thinks “peeps.” And again, I swear to you, I wrote this (and selected the header pic) before I read TLo. It’s a jacket with Peeps shoulders and shorts. In yellow. Tim: “the whole look is yellow?” Oh yes, it is. “How will it keep its shape?” Daniel is so proud of the interfacing he’s created for shoulders that can be molded, just like peeps heads. He demonstrates this mutability on the runway; I don’t really see it. Looks like the change is minimal, no more than you’d get when squooshing any pile of fabric. Heidi, who’s been too long at Victoria’s Secret, sees wings. Zac’s not sure about the closure, which I hadn’t noticed until he pointed it out; yeah, it’s very sloppy. While Daniel thinks the sheen of the linen is a plus, I think it looks like it’s been ironed at too high a temperature. Nina thinks it’s good, if a little FTD (which cracked me up; Nina gets the prize for best line of the night, and I’m betting that was truly ad lib’d); it’s the sort of thing that would be on a rack for a celebrity model. On the rack, sure. On the model, not so much. They seem to be falling all over themselves looking for ways to say, “This is horrible” without saying “This is horrible” since it isn’t Daniel’s week to be horrible. But I’ll tell you this: I am cravin’ me some Peeps right now. Even though they’re the most horrible tasting food-like product ever manufactured, I want Peeps.
Michelle plans “bitchin’ giant pleated linen pants and a weird t-shirt.” “Wait,” I said, “didn’t Nina specifically say not to make a t-shirt and pants?” I actually said that. Out loud. Yes, I talk to myself. Another side-effect of Reality TV. But Michelle has just begun: “A see-thru knit tank that opens when you walk.” That sounds similar to what Daniel was proposing last week, the idea that Layana thought was so out-of-touch. By the time Tim gets around to her, it’s a matador pant with a black bra. Tim: “Don’t you care tremendously about that bra?” Of course she does. Except no, she’d rather not have a bra, but she can’t have the “lady bits” exposed, that would upset the censors; we’re not in France, after all. Tim: “There’s a far cry from nothing to a black bra.” Further evidence of Tim’s decline: the man whose control of the English language has in the past made me swoon is mixing his metaphors. Michelle has some kind of epiphany in the restroom (which is a great place for an epiphany), but I don’t quite catch exactly what it is. Maybe it’s along the lines of “Is it enough.” And I again say, out loud, “No, it’s a t-shirt and pants, and Nina said not just a t-shirt and pants.” But Michelle doesn’t hear me. I’m a voice crying in the wilderness here. But y’know what: I love her look. The pants have that same relaxed sexiness that Kara Saun first surprised me with in the Postal Worker challenge: they could be a mess, but they’re great, which shows how little it takes go to from great to a mess. I love the shirt, though I wish the back matched up better at the waist. The nail in her coffin is her capsule description on the runway: a take-off on muscle tee and pegged pant. Heidi’s shocked… (I bet the writer/director/editor spent all day working on this suspenseful pause) at how good her sewing skills are. But is it enough for editorial? Nina says it’s impeccable but not strong enough, and reminds Michelle of the brief (with a refresher rewind for those of us playing at home). Jordana would wear it all day, but it’s not editorial. Zac sums it up really well: it’s the look you want in your wardrobe, but it’s not what you want to see in a publication. Which may be why I don’t understand fashion magazines. Aren’t you supposed to want the clothes? Nina explains it to me: the magazine is part fantasy and part reality, to make a woman think, wow, I’ve never seen that before. And since the American reader has the memory of a mayfly, “haven’t seen before” can mean “this week” or “this year” or maybe even “this decade” since it’s only 2013. Ok, got it. Thanks, Nina, for explaining the mindset of the fashion magazine reader. I wear clothes (when I need to), but when I want something I’ve never seen before, I go here. Or here. Or even here.
Patricia is thinking two pieces, off-the-shoulder, organics, bulbous shapes like flowers about to bloom (for some reason that sounds outrageously pornographic to me; I’ve never thought of “bulbous” as particularly obscene, but from now on, it is), and a collar across the shoulders which I suspect is another version of the disaster from E6, the Senior Citizen look. Then she finds out she’s got Richard “helping” her, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. Except, Patricia never executes what she sets out to execute, or at least what it sounds like she’s saying she’s setting out to execute, so I’m not that surprised. She’s unable to communicate her ideas and needs to Richard, she’s also unable to send him away so she can work in peace, so she spends 40 minutes teaching him a French seam she could do in 15 (and for the record, I haven’t sewn anything in 20 years, and I might be able to fake a French seam. I learned how watching Project Runway. Maybe Richard should watch back episodes of the show). Tim: “This is an opportunity to heal and repair, since it didn’t go so well last time.” Yes, I’m sure that’s why you felt for that scraped button with Patricia’s name on it, so we could all watch the healing. Tim: “Why are you introducing blue?” She doesn’t have another opaque color, except suddenly she does. She perks up a little. Tim: “You feel better, you look better.” She sounds better. Unfortunately, the outcome is not better. There’s nothing particularly innovative in slicing up leather into fringe; most seven-year-olds have done something like that (albeit with felt or construction paper) to make an Indian Halloween costume. I can’t even tell what the dress is: it seems like a sheer poncho over neutral. She tries to defend it by talking up the dancing fringe, but it’s nonsense. Again, the judges struggle to say “this is crap” without saying, “this is crap,” which again puzzles me, because – and I support Patricia’s oddness – this is crap. I’ve liked having her around this far, because she’s come up with some interesting things even if they often were a bit stillborn, but this is crap. I’ve liked how she sometimes uses Native American ideas but turns them into something barely recognizable, but sometimes, like this time, she just produces crap. This is what I might make if someone told me (who knows little about Indian motifs and nothing about textiles or sewing) to make an Indian dress. Nina sees to think the problem is that the tent-like shape wouldn’t be flattering to Jordana. Zac sees spring texture but not enough movement and it’s “not a totally finished look.” Heidi isn’t sure: does she like it, or is it borderline Pocahontas? Oh, Heidi, give it up, it’s not even a close call. Why are they trying to maintain the suspense?
Stanley’s the winner, of course. I still think Michelle was a challenger for the win, and it wouldn’t have been the first time they changed their minds or said, “You made a t-shirt and pants that’s more than a t-shirt and pants.” Because it truly is. But that’s not how they’re playing it this time. That’s fine; Stanley deserves the win. It’s a great outfit, and far more complicated than Michelle’s.
But now we find out what they’re up to. It comes down to Patricia, and … Michelle.
What? Patricia and Michelle? Not Patricia vs Peeps? I could tell it wouldn’t be Patricia vs. Armor-All from the (imo undeserved) praise they heaped on Layana, but… Michelle? I guess they did this so they could auf Patricia without guilt; obviously they’re not going to cut Michelle, who’s won so many challenges and has really shown herself to have more of an artistic sense than she initially showed, in favor of Patricia, who’s mopped up the bottom over and over again.
Except… Patricia’s in.
As much as I hate the manipulation that’s going on here (and it’s only just begun), and as much as I hate myself for promoting that manipulation, the reaction of the designers in the Lounge was worth watching this entire miserable season for. Layana has Patricia dead and buried since no one with a grain of sense can comprehend the possibility that the judges would keep Patricia over Michelle. The girls, in their overnights, have had this “boys vs. girls” riff going, but let’s face it, they know the score. And even if it weren’t Patricia’s turn to go just by looking at her portfolio, she turned in crap. Layana’s priming her tear pumps and working up an aura of sympathy towards Patricia. “She’s so good at textiles, if I had a company, I would use Patricia for sure.”
Then Patricia walks through the door, and says, “I’m in.”
You can hear the screeching, smell the burning rubber, see the skid marks in Layana’s face. “Oh my god… I mean, I’m happy for you, but oh my god.” Daniel’s trying to work out his own shock. “What? We were just going on how…” How what, Daniel, how it’s such a shame she’s out when she’s so creative and talented? …”how much you inspired us.” Quick thinking there.
To be honest, I felt the same way. I had some warm, “Hey, you had a great run” feeling for Patricia, and it never occurred to me she’d survive this auf. So I did my own little spit take. Even though I know what PR is capable of, it never occurred to me they were capable of cutting off their nose – and both ears, a right arm, and both feet – for the sake of a ten-minute Twitter trend.
Turns out, they’re not: Michelle isn’t out. She gets another chance.
No, we don’t know exactly what that means (oh, that suspense, can’t you just feel it), but I’m guessing it’s something along the lines of two people will be cut next week, and unless Michelle wins, she’ll be one of them. It’s the “both of you will design collections for Fashion Week and show us previews, but only one will be in” moved one week early. Michelle, Stanley, and Layana are still going to be the Top Three. All this nonsense is smoke and mirrors (and by the way, I have to applaud Michelle for the lack of jaw-drop and eye-roll when Patricia was announced in; she was a little brittle backstage, but still held her composure and didn’t bitch or whine); this was a planned maneuver.
And how am I so sure of this?
Because Next Week: they send them all to different countries. And you just don’t cobble something like that together for an extra person on a day’s notice. That is, if they’re actually sending them to real countries and not some Vegas imitation of other countries.
We’ll all Watch What Happens. For sure.