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Rubbernecking: Project Runway, Episode 9 "Race to the Finish"

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...And we're down to eight designers as week 9 begins. Last week we lost the fey, wisecrackin' Michael Drummond to the vicissitudes of reality teevee in the Jackie O. challenge. BTW if you hadn't heard, a shitstorm took place around the entire episode last week due to Tim Gunn's weekly vlog which he had been posting weekly on Facebook. His Episode 8 vlog was 12 minutes plus, in which we learned that the challenge had originally been built around outfits for Katie Holmes to wear in a History Channel biopic. That concept was trashed, a whole new challenge idea was presented, then switched up with Jackie O. again in the mix with classic American sportswear (which Tim says makes no sense).

Additionally, La Gunn also revealed that he'd been sent to the wrong location not once, but several times this season, claims the producers gave him incorrect info for last week's challenge, and for the first time ever he apparently interrupted the judges' circle during filming to explain what he had been told to tell the designers. It's well worth checking out the whole story and the vlog, here on starcasm. And there have been no more vlogs since, alas. Tim, come back!

As we rejoin the remaining eight, Gretchen shares that not having Michael D there makes it feel more like a competition, as he was well-liked. Another bit of fallout from Michael D's departure is that Mondo and Christopher now have to move in with Andy and Michael C ("Which should be very interesting" says Mondo mysteriously). Meanwhile in girltown, Ivy and Valerie are praising each other for being good designers and great people. Valerie says Ivy is her BF on the show, "she's a good designer and she's passionate over what she does, people might think she's opinionated but at the end of the day she's a really great designer." To which I say, humina humina.

As the girls go out the door to face this week's challenge, I notice that there's a pair of stockings tied around the inside door handle of their atlas apartment. Hashtag random!

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At the runway Heidi comes out to tell them Tim will fill them in on the challenge but reveals one thing; if they win this one they'll also receive "a big chunk of change." Tim meets the gang in the workroom along with Collier Strong, consulting makeup artist for L'Oreal Paris. For this week's challenge, Tim says, they will create a high fashion look for a L'Oreal Paris advertorial in Marie Claire Magazine along with 20K. Everyone is overwhelmed. Collier proceeds to pimp out Studio Secrets Eye Shadow because one of the finishes (Bright, Metallic, Crystal, Matte, Velvet) is to be their inspiration for this challenge.

Since he won last week, Mondo gets first pick and chooses the Bright finish. Tim digs in the black velvet bag of doom and reads off the other's names for them to pick their finish. He warns against choosing Velvet because it's difficult to work with, so of course Gretchen picks it ("I'm going to take a serious risk and go Velvet"). Christopher and Valerie both choose Crystal as their finish. April takes Matte. Michael C and Andy take metallic. Ivy takes Bright. They get 30 minutes to sketch and a budget of $300 for their shopping trip at Mood. Also, they'll have two days for this instead of the usual one. A big cheer goes up and Valerie dances around.

Swatch the dog gets a speaking role this week as we see him barking. As the designers shop for their fabrics, I take special note of Mondo's bright yellow boots. Everyone's running around frantically and Tim chases Swatch.

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Back in the workroom, Andy says his concept is a futuristic warrior girl. Valerie's agonizing over having picked silk ("cutting silk is hard, finishing silk is really hard"). Gretchen starts sniping on Michael C because they both are using a Bordeaux burgundy color for their designs. I love that everyone still calls him Michael C. Meanwhile, "I love that color, I'm addicted, I'm going to do it better than she can," says Michael C. "I feel that certain boundaries were crossed," says Gretchen. She further postulates that Michael C "replicates." "I don't see a point of view in his work, I see other people's point of views" <sic>. Yeah, right. We're over two months into this and you still don't see that Michael C has a point of view.

Collier consults with each of the designers on their model's makeup and how it meshes with their look. And then it's Tim Time. Tim thinks Valerie's look is "incredibly ambitious." He advises Mondo to "go big, be you." Andy is still smarting from being in the bottom last week with his cargo pants and says to Tim, "Coming out of the last challenge, a fighter in me has been awakened." Gretchen tells Tim she was initially feeling very kimono and caftan-y, to which Tim says that right now, "this looks very much like a robe." Ivy explains to Tim that her concept is the ripple of the wave and the waters crashing. Tim makes an ehhhhh face. "This is when it's getting too literal. Keep your critical eye on it so it doesn't become a pageant gown."

Tim's ehhhh face
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Gretchen and Mondo are shown at a snack break where Gretchen magnanimously tells Mondo, "I really believe in my heart that I'm supposed to be at Fashion Week and I believe in my heart that you're supposed to be there too." Oh Gretchen, buttering up the front runner! You go, girl!

The models come in for their first fitting. Michael C criticizes that a lot of the others are still working in muslin and have nothing for their model to try on, but of course he's well on his way to a finished look, albeit it is a ball gown that has a train which dusts the floor very nicely. Mondo's bodice is too large for his model and he has to start over from scratch. "I wasted twelve hours." However with Mondo, this kind of tension usually presages fabulousness at the end.

The next morning, Day 2 of the Challenge, the girls are exhausted and dragging ass out the door after a few hours of sleep as April comments that she needs a Red Bull. Of course as they are starting their second day of work on their looks, Tim enters and announces, "Designers, I want you to know on the one hand I'm loathe to present what I'm about to present, on the other hand I sincerely believe it will help each of you." Everyone is frozen like a deer in the headlights. "You will be creating a second look. This look is to be a ready to wear companion to your high fashion runway look." April and Gretchen have big gaping open mouthed stares, it's like they've never watched past seasons of this show. Who saw this coming? A show of hands, please?

Meanwhile, Tim says "Even I'm shaking over this."

April's in a good place, the others (except for Michael C) not so much, with still quite a lot to do to finish the first look and now given 15 minutes to sketch out their new look. Ivy's all "I believe in myself, I can do it." Valerie is overwhelmed. Off to Mood for a quick shopping trip and a budget of $100. And then back to the workroom.

As some of them discuss how the money win would affect them, Mondo feels that the cash aspect of the win may be "blindsiding" some of them, which he's good with. Gretchen would like the credit card companies to stop calling. April tells us that 20K would not only help her pay off her student loan, "but I could also get a miniature pony. I want a miniature pony so bad." Okay, then... (OMG, she really is a young version of Peach. I am now fantasizing about a reality show with April and Peach opening a shop at the Mall of America).

Tim comes in for the afternoon pep talk. Valerie's having a crisis of conscience as she's not completely into her look and it's too late to switch gears. Tim advises her to fake it, explaining that every designer faces this - you have a vision, you don't want to compromise but there's no time; ergo you're now released from it. Valerie appears to not be taking a word of this in. She goes into the bathroom, crying, followed by Ivy and Gretchen who attempt to help. Meanwhile Ivy confides to the camera that Valerie tends to complain a lot, "it's just very wearying."

The models come in for the second look fitting. Ivy's freaking out because the measurements she was given for the model are smaller than her actual measurements. Michael C is bragging to a group of models that he was done yesterday with his first look so all is good. And here I want to go on record that if you ever do get your own reality show as rumor has it you're aiming for, Mr. C, I'll pass. Santino you're not.

The morning of the runway show, Andy looks like he's about to star in an Adam Ant video right down to the metallic fingerless gloves that match the material on his models' two looks. Mondo's nattily attired in a black and white newsboy outfit, double swoon. Valerie, on the other hand, is wearing a strange little white party dress with a weird black splotch on the side. I have to say I'm over her at this point, and this dress which she no doubt designed herself is the icing on the cake.

As the typical morning of runway show drama takes place in the small amount of time they're given to prepare for the show, Michael C and Gretchen equally hate each other's looks. Ivy knows the construction on both her looks is a disaster and just hopes she'll get by this week.

Heidi, Nina G. and MK are joined this week by Guest Judge Naeem Khan who, we're told, dresses many celebrities including First Lady Michelle Obama. And so it begins.

APRIL
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- The high fashion look is the same gothy spiderweb woman in all black we see every week, and the hot pants are back.
- The ready to wear look is a take on the high fashion look, with puffy sleeves. Gretchen remarks that the makeup's really pretty by which I think she means the look sucks.

MONDO
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- Apparently Mr. Guerra whipped up a really cute little chapeau at the last minute to go with his avant garde gown.
- The ready to wear look is just darling. Very Mad Men. January Jones would have loved this one.

IVY
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- The high fashion look has a strong resemblance to a sixth grade art project festooned with what looks like tissue paper.
- The ready to wear look is just...boring and unattractive.

MICHAEL C
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- Very Merchant Ivory, methinks, and the flaps on the side don't work for me. The train kind of goes with the whole vibe. This look could also work for one of the 17th century flashbacks on The Vampire Diaries.
- The ready to wear look seems to be admired by the other designers, for once. But it has the same weird side flaps.

CHRISTOPHER
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- This dress reminds me of a moth trying to shed its skin to become a butterfly. But that's me.
- The ready to wear look is okay. Not very exciting.

GRETCHEN
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- The high fashion look could work very well on the cover of a 1970's Joni Mitchell album but has no place at all in today's world. I'm frankly horrified by the sloppy, ill fitting look of this dress. Meanwhile, quoth G, "the dress is so pretty. It is probably the best work I've done."
- The ready to wear look is okay and the fabric is beautiful and moves well on the runway. Gretchen: "I love the side slit action, Holla!" (Oh no you didn't. Try to get away with ghetto speak.)

VALERIE
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- The icky shoulder piece looks hand sewn and homemade. Even Valerie says, "...kinda reminds me of Rainbow Brite on crack."
- The ready to wear black dress is just hideous, boring sportswear mall wear.

ANDY
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- His high fashion look is very Lady Gaga. No one else would wear this. That being said, it's impeccably made and spectacular. Andy whispers, "this week is about redemption." I had about written him off after last week - glad to see him kicking ass. I'm actually rooting for him to win the challenge.
- Also, his ready to wear dress is impeccable. You can practically see Heidi drooling over this one.

Time to face the music. Christopher and April are declared safe and dismissed. Highest scores: Mondo, Andy, and - what??? - Gretchen. Lowest: Ivy, Valerie, Michael C. Back in the dishing area April and Christopher are both surprised Gretchen is in the top. That makes three of us. After all these weeks I'm beginning to think Gretchen possesses some kind of witchcraft skills that make her able to convince the judges she has talent. I'm, to put it mildly, flabbergasted.

All the judges kvell over Gretchen's look. MK thinks her high fashion dress is very wearable. They're impressed by her hand appliquéd feather work. Heidi loves the beading on the back, she wishes that the back was actually the front, "that to me brings it to another level." MK doesn't love the hair on the high fashion model "because I think that the look is so costume-y and I think the hair makes it feel a little costume-y." Nina thinks the makeup is perfect. Naeem Khan also thinks it's beautiful overall. Gretchen has a smug vindication face.

Gretchen's vindication face
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Everyone loves Andy's high fashion look except perhaps Heidi, although she does like his day look very much. Naeem Khan calls out the technique and detailing on the high fashion look as exemplary, and also loves the cocktail dress. MK's favorite thing is the bootpants and he thinks they could translate into something quite wearable. Nina's fascinated by the boots and wants to know how he did them.

Mondo's looks are praised as well. Heidi is impressed by the hat, which he apparently whipped up just that morning. Naeem Khan loves the hat, the frizzy hair, thinks the cocktail dress is beautiful, simple, wearable. MK loves the back of the dress - he finds it "dreamy." "I think it looks like a Kentucky Derby horse ribbon exploded." That said, he does think the gown is a little too short and Nina thinks the fabric choice looks "inexpensive."

Mondo's look du jour flanked by his two models
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The top three go off to the dishing area and the bottom three come out for their critiques. Ivy is first. MK, deadpan: "I think they look like bridesmaids under the sea." He hates the necklines on both dresses, finding them "really nurse-y." Nina thinks there are serious problems with the fit of both dresses: "Your model is a very young girl and she looks ancient." Naeem Khan is slightly less cruel, "you tried very hard but its overkill in every way." Heidi allows that she didn't hate the high fashion dress as much as the others did.

Valerie steps up next to the slaughter. She tells the judges that her initial inspiration was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady and commences to be sliced and diced. MK: "You're trying to do a structured dress out of soft fabric. It's like trying to make a winter coat out of Kleenex." He adds, "the metallic weird diamante hoop at her shoulder is just wacky. I mean the only possible accessory she could use with this is a wand." Nina thinks it looks like a beauty pageant dress which the hair and makeup only add to, "She looks like Miss Guatemala." Valerie shares that her family is actually from Guatemala. Oops!

Next up, Michael C, who starts babbling to try to explain his vision. "I'm not good at this, I've never been in the bottom before. I'm kind of nervous up here." He gets the least criticism because, as MK says, he is the only one standing there whose outfits are constructed well, sewn well and tailored well. That being said, MK is not down with the wired hem and the "ridiculous train" as well as the styling which looks like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. Heidi thinks the cocktail dress is a problem because you have to choose between boobs or leg, not both. She would have made the dress longer.

As the bottom three go off to await their fate Nina comes out with one of the best lines of the season, "It was My Fair Lady, Gone With The Wind, and The Little Mermaid." MK calls Valerie's ready to wear look "like a Xanax, it's such a bore" and points out that she really has no understanding of fabric at all. As for Ivy, Nina calls her efforts "tragic" and MK thinks Ivy "pretty consistently bites off more than she can chew." The judges have a hard time deciding who's worse - Ivy or Valerie. MK: "I think it's an unbelievably tight race for hideous today."

Mondo's declared the winner for his bold, playful, interesting look. He apparently left home two months ago with only 14 dollars in his bank account. Back in the dishing area with April and Christopher, he wipes tears from his eyes. Way to go, M! (Even if secretly I did think Andy should have won this week - Mondo still has my heart.)

Andy and Gretchen are in. Michael C is in. "Valerie...Ivy... one of you will be out," Heidi intones as the dramatic music pounds that sounds like a big swishing metallic broom. The reign of Poison Ivy comes to an end and Valerie is safe, but doesn't feel it. She is stunned and thinks she should have been the one sent home. In the dishing area, Ivy shares how much she will miss designing. Valerie: "I wish I could go home for you, I really do." By which I know now that Valerie is doomed and will no doubt be the next to go, unless the judges stop drinking that Gretchen Kool Aid for a week, which is not likely this late in the game.

Ivy goes to clean up her space after telling Valerie to stay strong and stop complaining. "I'm definitely going to keep on going (sniff)," she says to the camera.

At the end of the show, we get a glimpse of Mondo attending the advertorial shoot, doing a little bit of directing, and posing adorably with the model for the ad. And then there were seven...

And sew it goes!

Project Runway airs Thursday at 9pm ET on Lifetime TV.