Project Runway Season 12, Ep. 4: Tie the Knot

Image by Illustrator Chris Piascik

Image by Illustrator Chris Piascik

Remember June 26? It wasn’t that long ago. It’d been a horrible week so far; the Supreme Court was shooting down civil rights out of the sky. On Monday, they punted on protecting affirmative action. On Tuesday, Down went Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act; Texas and North Carolina got to work passing laws effectively disenfranchising voters of color. But Tuesday afternoon, evening, night, into early Wednesday morning, a Texas legislator made a pair of sneakers famous and when the men shut her up, the crowd carried it over the finish line. Over Wednesday’s morning coffee, it still felt like (albeit temporary) victory. Then, at about 10am, a real victory: Prop 8 and DoMA were finally defeated. Remember how good it felt, how happy everyone was?

This episode recaptures some of that.

There’s some crap, too. But that’s fitting; there’s always crap, and it just means you have to try again another day. The nice stuff was really nice. Although…I’m not sure what’s real and what isn’t in this episode, and that goes for the good stuff as well as the bad stuff. I’m edging toward wondering how much of last week was set up as well. If this trend continues, by the end of this season I may well stop believing you are real; I may stop believing in my own existence, for that matter. What the effect of this will be, I can’t say, but if I should disappear in the middle of a

Now, come on, I’ve got a recap to do. “I do believe I do believe…”

We start at the end, with Sandro, who plays a leading role this week: nobody puts Sandro in a corner. Then we go back to the beginning and find out Jeremy’s grandmother died, which, believe it or not, is a step up from Sandro in terms of pleasant TV. He casually slips in that it wasn’t his grandmother, it was his husband’s maternal grandmother. Reality is on shaky ground from the start.

Tie the Knot websiteTim meets the cast in the workroom and introduces Special Guest Star, Jesse Tyler Ferguson. I’m pretty out-of-touch with network TV; seems he’s someone famous for wearing bow ties. His charity “Tie the Knot” sells bow ties and contributes the proceeds to marriage equality organizations, which is cool. I’m proud to live in one of the first states to enacte marriage equality by voter mandate, and I suspect adopting the term “Marriage Equality” instead of “gay rights” or “same-sex marriage” had something to do with that. Sometimes you have to make the point clear: it’s not about gay rights, it’s about civil rights. That’s reality.

Tim clarifies the details: The bow tie is the point of departure for any look they choose to create, and they must incorporate at least one bow tie into that look. They expect more creativity than just slapping a bow tie choker on the model: the bow tie must evolve. He suggests a budget of $200 (plus all the bow ties they can grab from Jesse’s stash) for this one-day challenge. They head to Mood, where Swatch is sleeping again. Swatch, baby, you ok?

Perfect Knots (top three):

Dom wants to incorporate bow ties into the neckline in origami shapes to make a bold statement and incorporating the Equal Sign by use of stripes. Tim wonders if the piping on the tie is looking pot-holdery and heavy, which is a great point. She says she plans a black wool jacket, and he encourages her to Dom's dressfocus on getting the chevrons to match perfectly instead; this goes into the Hall of Fame of Best Advice Tim Ever Gave in the Workroom. Helen teases Dom because her bow ties look like vaginas (what?) and Sandro thinks they’re more like seafood or glands (I’m not even going to try to figure this out). Her dress is terrific. It’s a bit problematic in photographic terms because the stripes strobe a little, but it’s cute, the seaming is terrific, and it fits perfectly. I don’t see origami, but who cares. The crowd goes wild! Zac loves the stripes and how she made everything work. Nina again uses the word “adorable” and “happiness” and calls it a celebration, very appropriate for this challenge. Jesse finds it heartwarming how they’ve incorporated the story behind Tie the Knot into their designs, and he’s crazy about the bow tie hair on the model’s head. Ok, a few points here, first, that back in S3, Alison got sent home for, among other things, the exact same hair, which Heidi proclaimed “funny” and “Minnie Mouse.” Reality, people. And by the way, I’m a little concerned about all this adorable from Nina. Is this going to go the same way Mondo did, with them heaping praise on her, then suddenly deciding her work is too junior? Nevertheless, on Closer Look they only have nicer things to say; Heidi says she’s standing out as a good designer and has a great eye. She does, too. Could this be the year? Don’t get my hopes up…

Bradon had guessed earlier they’d be doing wedding outfits for gay couples (Sandro calls him a witch); I wonder why he’d guess that, out of thin air, hmmmm… He talks a lot about his Brad's short suitpartner of 18 years, an opera singer he met at Julliard (that’s some high-power couple) and how you can go to the Czech Republic and get married but can’t in most of America; he’s from LA, so he’s one of the lucky people who’s seen his rights granted with one hand and taken back with the other. Tim’s crazy about the top he’s making out of pieced-together ties; Bradon debates making a shingled skirt with more ties, and Tim asks, “Would your customer wear the two pieces together?” which goes into the Hall of Fame of Best Advice Tim Ever Gave in the Workroom. He gets into a time bind but comes through. I love the top, but is the fabric for the jacket and shorts really the right fabric weight for this? He explains how he used faggoting to stitch the ties together for the top, as a pun. That’s pretty clever, and you’d have to be well-versed in technique to know how to do it. Heidi loves it; Nina and Zac are impressed with the combination of tie patterns. Jesse: “I think of people who wear bow ties as being brave, and that’s something we need for marriage equality. This is brave, home run.”

Kate's outfitKate goes hunting party/equestrian. Tim advises her to watch where the tunic cuts the model, and to consider a tuxedo stripe to make her look long and lean. Kate does a leather tuxedo stripe in a bow-tie wave which isn’t really a tuxedo stripe any more. She apologizes to her model of getting up in her “business” to fit the crotch, but what’re you gonna do, the pants gotta fit. It’s a little Sherwood Forest; wait, no, it’s from Michele’s S11 final collection. But that’s not how they’re selling it: Heidi sees a sexy modern look, and Nina proclaims the pants “sick.” Good-sick, that is (come to think of it, maybe Mila did those pants too). Zac proclaims Kate a “clever cookie” who’s growing in strides. Kate’s glad she showed them she can sometimes be a tough princess. She certainly can.

Slightly Askew (middle):

Sandro starts with Top Gunn, which apparently is Tim’s nickname among the designers. Sandro gets into a big “I don’t know what they want” discussion that’s really a thinly disguised version of “Tell me I’m an unrecognized genius being treated unfairly by that mean Zac Posen.” He really wants to get into a fashion industry version of a cock fight with Zac. Tim tells him not to make decisions on what the judges want to see, but on who he is. Thing is, Sandro wants to do that AND win. He claims he’s not getting any direction. He’s been in the bottom, in the top, and in the middle; when you’re in the middle, yeah, you don’t get feedback, that’s how the show works. He seems Sandro's dressto think it should be different for him. He’s in the safe group, but he raises his hand – raises his hand! – and asks for feedback anyway. Except he doesn’t want feedback; he wants to fight. I think they should tell him to shut up and leave the runway, but Zac engages. “It looks like someone went home with an evening gown and came back ripped, it’s the walk of shame after an awards show,” which, yeah, I can’t do better than that. Sandro pulls out the “I only had 11 hours” and Zac tells him the construction is impressive but the taste isn’t there. Sandro asks what he wants, at which point I wish they’d just get out a measuring tape and settle it right there on the runway; Sandro has the zucchini stuffed in his pants again so he’s ready (it occurs to me, he said he had cancer at age 18. The most common cancer in young men is testicular cancer. Is he taking too much testosterone? Could he have a prosthetic? Do I need to stop worrying about what Sandro has in his pants? Yes, clearly). Somehow Heidi gets dragged into things, and finally she shuts it down, which, Heidi, you should’ve done right off the bat. But he’s revved up now; back in the lounge, he gets into it with Helen (who tries to turn the spotlight back on herself, and fails) and Ken and even Karen, all because he was in the safe group? And yes, he storms out, leaving a trail of dead mannekins and a punched camera in his wake. I wonder if he broke Everybody's looking for Sandrothe camera. I wonder if they made him pay for it. I wonder if the camera operator got combat pay. Back on the runway, just before Closer Look, Tim informs Heidi (leading to her widely promo’d “NOoooooo…”) that he’s missing and they’re looking for him. Why? Let him go; if they’ve got his passport (as I understand they do on these shows), he’ll have to be in touch some time. In the meantime, he’s an adult, he left under his own power, he’s not their responsibility. Don’t give him any more of the attention he obviously pathologically craves. Frankly, I wonder if he told them he wanted out, and they arranged a super-dramatic exit. And dramatic it was – two thirds of the identified search terms for this blog today, are looking for Sandro. Seems I’m not the only one curious about the mysterious bulge in his pants.

Helen is emulating the shape of the tie on the front of her dress. I’m not sure she should emulate so much. She thinks it looks like menswear; she intended to evoke a tailored suit. Tim doesn’t see it, and boy does that take the wind out of her sails. It wasn’t even Tim at his snarkiest (and he can be snarky), it was a mild observation. But she’s devastated; she thought she knew what she was doing, but seems not, and now she’s left with a prison matron uniform. She cries on Sandro’s shoulder for god knows why, and interviews, “Once I’ve been criticized I freak out and I hate my work.” Well, gee, this certainly is the right place (and the right industry) for you to be, it’s a happy factory all season long with nothing but positive affirmation for all. In the workroom she asks if everyone else is struggling, admittedly to comfort herself with the misery of others. She has immunity, so they leave her in the Safe group, but Heidi gives her a scolding and Nina wonders if the win the week before should’ve gone to Kate. I’m beginning to feel sorry for Helen. No one’s more surprised about that than me. But it’s evident her “I’m a bitch and you can’t touch me” act was pretty tenuous.

Justin doesn’t just do prison matron, he does prison matron in mourning. What happened to Justin? Come on, guy, you’ve got chops, it’s in your portfolio. Find your footing.

Ken doesn’t even get to show off his bow-tie tattoo, which seems like a waste, but there’s too much drama and not enough time. His leather dress isn’t bad, but the bow tie is barely used. He regrets the exposed zipper in the back. Not as much as I do, man.

Alexander does what looks to me like the proverbial student work: a rainbow collar of bow ties over black pajamas. I can appreciate the rainbow, but, yeah, this is the sort of thing someone shows up with at casting and Tim goes, “You’re not ready.” The fabric is too flimsy to support the collar.

Karen can’t figure out flattering proportions to save her life. At least this one shows some work, but it’s borderline-student in it’s use of the bow ties (piping and a belt) as well.

Alexandria tells her model to look “a little bitchy” when she walks. It’s kind of prison matron tennis, isn’t it? In North Carolina, state employees can already get prisoner-made eyeglasses; maybe they’re branching into sportswear as well. What is it with the institutional grey everyone seems determined to use? Is it the color of the season?

Clip-on versions (bottom three):

Jeremy is making an outfit inspired by his grandmother. “NO, DON’T” viewers scream in unison; we know it’s not gonna end well. Remember Casanova? He admits to Tim the loss of his grandmother “has kind of knocked me off my game.” But Jeremy's pant suithe’s so quintessentially British when he says it. He goes for an updated tuxedo with a lace jacket; Tim wants him to think about the lace. “Another fundamental question: where is the bow tie?” Leave it to Tim to get down to the fundamentals. It’s around the back of the neck, which seems to be a popular hiding place for lower-scoring designers. On the runway, it’s absurdly red (though it looks orange in the photo) and, yes, slutty-grandma. The dumpy cut of the pants doesn’t help. Still, it’s an actual garment and it’s made well, which you can’t say for everything on the runway today. Heidi’s sorry about his grandmother, but he made his young gorgeous model look Madame. ” Yes,” says Jeremy, like that’s a good thing. Zac gives him credit for beautiful craftsmanship, but has “an offensive problem with the belly button, the highlighting of her tummy eye, it’s winking at me.” I have an offensive problem with Zac thinking an exposed navel is winking at him; it isn’t like it’s the only one ever on PR. Then I reviewed the tape. He’s right. I don’t know if the model has a piercing or just a very deep navel, but it’s winking. You have to want it, though. On Closer Look Zac’s impressed with the edging. Nina agrees he does fine work, but she wishes it were more contemporary.

Sue normally does volume and bigger shapes, so she’s eager for a challenge. Tim: “I’m looking at two garments, one read and Sue's dressone black.” Yes, that’s the way she works. Ken: “You made the same dress in two different colors?” Yes, that’s the way she works. Ok. Something about an exoskeleton, which is really a bow-tie harness with a bow-tie train dragging behind. Ok, this is different, and PR only likes different that’s been done before. Problem is, it’s not different enough to be interesting, and it’s not pretty enough to care about. Heidi thinks amateur. Zac thinks “Octopussy.” Nina gets Sigourney Weaver (which is who I assume she meant when she said Signore Weaver) in Alien, arts & crafts. On Closer Look, Tim points out she spent twice the suggested budget, and they wonder where it went. I say, wait a minute, they have the option to spend as much or as little as they want, no fair judging them on that. Zac drags the model away by the harness. End scene.

Miranda worries because she’s always under budget at Mood. Tim loves her houndstooth jacket, but he’s “disturbed tremendously by the prim fussiness” of the planned pink ascot-Miranda's suittie-ruffle-thing blouse. It isn’t quite “the inequity in the distribution of your ranks” (S11E4) or “viscera” (somewhere in S7 with Anthony) but it’ll do until Tim starts talking real dirty this season. He advises her it needs some pizzazz, some sex appeal. So she makes a Christmas-green satin cropped top under a tailored white houndstooth suit. The bow tie is a kind of thick piping on the neckline. Even Miranda hates the crop top as the model is walking down the runway. Zac says it’s killing the whole look, and besides, he wants to see more than pencil skirts from her. Nina wants more modern. Jesse loves a blur between masculine and feminine, but she didn’t get there. Heidi of course doesn’t think it’s cool. “Cool” and “hip” are the extent of Heidi’s positive vocabulary. Oh, and “hot.” On Closer Look, Tim admits he advised against her first impulse for a top and told her to sex it up, but wasn’t expecting a bare midriff. Zac isn’t seeing a designer here yet.

In or Knot:

Bradon wins (I wonder if it’s the faggoting reference and his story rather than the look; regardless, another black woman gets screwed on the runway) and is spontaneously moved to propose to his fiancé. It makes more sense than you might think. After all, the plan is, he’ll be watching this episode with Joshua at home and the proposal will make more sense then. It’s kind of sweet, and does seem to be spontaneous. Later, he Skypes with Joshua, who joyfully tells him the news of the Supreme Court decision striking down Prop 8 and DOMA, and… proposes to him. Bradon tells him he proposed already though it won’t air for a while, so he beat him to it. They’re very sweet… it brought me back to that day, the beam of light in an otherwise grim summer of oppression.



Thanks, Bradon, for taking me back there. Reality be damned. I’m enjoying this too much to quibble.

Since Sandro is now officially gone for good, nobody’s out. Don’t you just love it when everybody’s happy? Can we have some peace now?

Next Week

Ken and Alexandria bring the drama. Wait, what? I though we were going to have peace… nope. Drama is the New Normal. “This is your unconventional materials challenge.” Now wait just a minute here: this is the third unconventional materials challenge this season. Every other week is unconventional materials. What’s going on here? And there’s this: “It’s totally unprecedented that a model would leave the workroom not dressed.”

17 responses to “Project Runway Season 12, Ep. 4: Tie the Knot

  1. Heading off on vacation to your latitudes (Niagara Falls), but we crammed this in last night and fake or not, the proposal brought tears to my eyes. Sure PR is preaching exclusively to the choir on this issue, but it was still sweet.

  2. I’m not buying any of it. Ken, Justin and Jeremy have been howling on Twitter all week about the insincerity of Bradon’s proposal, calling it an Oscar worthy performance. Go ahead and make fun on Mr. Conspiracy over here, but this season has been scripted from Day 1 with a mix of semi-professional actors and just enough clueless designers to feign reality.

    It’s become an overwrought, overproduced soap opera. A sad shell of its former greatness and an insult to its viewers.

    • Hey, what are you doing, bringing reality into reality tv? 😉

      My original lead-in was the rationalist-empiricist debate of “can you believe what you see” complete with Borges dreaming up everything past S4… but it just felt too cynical (not to mention too influenced by the philosophy course I just started), so I went with the message instead, which is valid, even if the source isn’t. Maybe somebody’ll Kickstart a “real” design competition series, or even a documentary series showing problems and solutions, for web. Until then, we’re stuck with Heidi getting rich off Marie Clair and yogurt. And Belch. Uh, Belk. Making fun of all that is the least I can do. But not at the cost of a genuine good.

  3. Hi Karen,

    What lacked in this show was good design. It seems each week there are only a few candidates possible to chose for top 3. Sandro’s behavior was abhorant, but he could construct garments magnificently. If he would have listened to himself he had all the feedback needed from Zak: “I have too many ideas.” Essentially, that is what Zak said one final time before Sandro blew up.

    If you can’t take criticism you can’t grow. The difference between Hellen and Sue is that, while their dresses were equally bad, Sue took criticism graciously that it was about her work, while Hellen took it personally. Hellen will probably be the next to go.

    Is it only me that is affronted by Tim’s tattle-tail to the judges about the designers in the workroom? It is one thing to talk about what Tim suggests about improving the design, but I thought it was unnecessary to spill that Sue spent $400 vs. the recommended $200. The judges already did not like her design. why not leave it like that? why further cloud the judges view? I liked it better without Tim in the judging arena. He is losing some credibility in my eyes.

    • No, it’s not just you – it’s one thing for Tim to explain that the idea someone had is the direct result of his advice, like Miranda, so they know she took advice badly but at least she was able to take it. It’s another entirely to talk about something totally unrelated to him, like how much money was spent. That’s why I called him out on it above. It was initially explained as totally up to them; if they’re being judged on what they spent, it’s a different ball game. And this discussion takes place with them all backstage, so they never know about it.

      • You are so right! I guess I am so nonplussed about how Tim tattle-tailed on Sue I forgot you already wrote about it. I sure hope PR improves or it is going to be like the story of TimTim and the sinking of the Titanic. They may need his life vest next week.

      • Tim (aka Top Gunn?) sold his birthright for this mess of pottage long ago, much to my dismay. Money, fame, and glamour are too hard to pass up. I’ll never know. Maybe that’s a good thing.

      • Tim is definitely not the same mentor/instructor he was before the show moved to Lifetime. Sadly, I no longer respect him.

  4. I’m probably the only one who enjoyed the give and take between Sandro and the judges. Even though it’s clear he wasn’t looking for direction as much as he was looking for affirmation that his work was nothing short of spectacular; it gave me a thrill to hear some talk related to what attracted me to the show from the start.
    Designers and their ideas, skills, and work.
    Not the jumble of products they are hawking every other minute. Not the various sewing room dramas. Not goofy chases or challenge themes.
    Instead of fixing what ails the show they are amping up the reality show circus. I am so pleased that others have noticed that Tim’s consult with the judges is not the contribution that we were lead to think it would be. I think we all thought more Tim-Time would mean better things for the designers and more insight for the fans.
    Instead, his chat with the judges is a bit lopsided and unfair. Not informative, either. It’s kind of gossipy and not the kind of information I want, or I imagine the designers need from Tim.
    I wish they’d pull the plug on feeling up the garments off stage; just because something isn’t finished expertly doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea – it’s one of the biggest complaints about the show that there isn’t enough time to execute a design well (not that PR is aware of fan likes/dislikes). And nothing has ever kept the judges from springing off their perch and running over to inspect this garment or that before.
    I loved Braden’s work; loved the tweedy fabric, color and textures. I also loved the way Dom used her ties; so charming. And I would have picked Kate for an interesting 3rd look. So many offs… Sandro obviously, but I thought Miranda and Helen both could have taken the auf spot.
    (Sandro’s extra large belligerence has kept me from noticing anything else extra large about him. Not saying that I will Google any such details…* And who can tell whats real and whats not on this show anymore…including zucchinis).
    *yes I will.

    • All the changes that seemed so positive a few weeks ago have crumbled to dust. I still like the Closer Look, though, since it only applies to garments already selected as top and bottom; the kind of perfectionism it theoretically rewards means something about craft, I think. And what are we talking about anyway – I suspect they make these choices before anyone hits the runway.

      I may never eat zucchini again.

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