The first thing that I noticed this week was the brand new cheesy open with all of the judges, Tim and Heidi popping up and mouthing off in BlueScreenLand along with the Season 9 designers. I guess they felt it was time to "freshen" the look of the show (no comment). Well, moving on... to the beloved unconventional challenge, there's one every season, and it's usually my favorite episode. I'm not sure it's ever come this early in the season though... can anyone verify? (My favorite unconventional challenge remains the newspaper challenge of Season 6, followed closely by the party store challenge.)
Maybe this show has been on the air too long because the usual editing tricks are all too glaringly apparent (I also think it's a bad sign that The Soup hasn't made fun of the show yet, and the season is already two weeks old). It's classic to set us up by showing Josh C. early on in the episode telling us before he even knows what the week's challenge is that he's not trying to win this week, he's just trying to get by. This is usually a red flag that he's probably next on the chopping block.
As they get ready to go meet Heidi and hear what's in store for them next, we are treated to some chitchat from the designers in their rooms at Atlas. Josh M. states that it's "different" not to have Rafael there, "I really miss him and his hair." Meanwhile in the girls' apartment, Kimberly says Rafael probably went home to enter the Beyoncé lookalike contest (Seriously, does someone write these zingers for them?).
Apropos of nothing, I'd just like to throw out there that I really admire Danielle's personal style (and I feel she is flying under the radar and will be surprising everyone soon). She looks like someone who reads Emily Bronte with her legs tucked up under her in a window seat in her bedroom and her favorite movie is likely Orlando starring Tilda Swinton or maybe something by Merchant Ivory.
Heidi greets them at the runway to tell them that for this challenge the judges wanted to find them a way to "unleash their creativity." Josh M. immediately starts free-associating: "Unleash. Leash. Fetish? S&M?" Citing an address that has certainly never before been uttered on the show, La Klum tells them that Tim will meet them on 14th Street and Avenue B to fill them in on the details. Loisada!
Tim meets the gang outside Petland Discounts, smiling ear to ear, to advise them that this is the Unconventional Challenge: they are to design a garment using items purchased in the store with a budget of $300 (that's a lot of dog chews). He warns them that the judges don't especially like it when a lot of fabric is used in the unconventional challenge. They'll be able to utilize a muslin backing for their design. I'm already smelling hot glue. And it's making me high.
Olivier shares that he doesn't have any pets, has never before been in a pet store, and used to have rabbits when he was a child but they all died. He's getting more interesting by the minute, n'est-ce pas? (His movie star good looks and strange accent alone should qualify him to become a famous designer). Fallene tells us that she loves "playful," "whimsical," and doesn't take fashion too seriously. This challenge is her kind of thing. Anthony decides to go in a completely different direction than the rest, aiming to use items no one else is using. Tim counsels them that they can buy anything they want (except live pets -- which apparently Bert asked, and I'm not sure if he was serious or not), "you just don't want the judges to see that you got, say, a dog bed and reconstructed it" (Cut to Bert asking if he can get some help getting a dog bed down from the display). Remember this statement by the way -- it becomes totes ironic later.
Back to the workroom they go with eleven hours to complete their outfit before tomorrow's runway show. They settle in for a long day's work and the crazy begins. Julie plans to use dog food bags for her garment. Anthony's intention is to do a dress covered with birdseed so that it looks like textile. Cecilia is thinking of gluing dog food pellets onto her outfit. Bryce's idea is to make a skirt out of blue wee wee pads. Laura Kathleen (whom I'm now calling LK) has decided she's making a skirt out of plastic dog cone collars, covering the transparent parts with aquarium sand.
Josh C. says the judges value imagination and, in a spectacular burst of unimaginativeness that does not augur well he's purchased a cat post, a doggie bed, and an umbrella covered with puppies to be the base of his design. Meanwhile everyone tells Fallene that this is totally her challenge. Close-up on Fallene's sailor girl arm tattoo while she tells us in the voiceover how her parents always let her and her siblings draw on the walls when they were growing up (Welcome to another episode of, When Hippies Have Kids. Our last episode starred Gretchen Jones).
Viktor's not down with this challenge at all, which is ironic considering how things turn out later, "This is horrible. This is not fashion, this is like trashin." The main element of his design is also wee wee pads, but unlike Bryce, he's manipulating them to make them unrecognizable. Josh M. shares that he loves the unconventional type stuff: "I mean, I grew up in the theater so a lot of my design is very costume based." Meanwhile he's spending several hours making some crazy-ass fetishy boots with yellow dog toys attached to their spiked heels.
LK opens up a can of certifiable when she shares that she was raised in "an upper class family" (say what???), "I was able to have brands and access to a lot of fashion, I've been shopping at Neiman's since I was in single digits." Holy Gossip Girl, what planet did this one come from? She's still working away on the dog cone skirt, but is a little concerned as she knows it could be either "classy or assy."
Olivier sheds a little more light on his interestingness (yes, I know I just made that word up) when he reveals that he was born in Columbus, Ohio but moved to London at the age of 16 and later went to University in Milan. I don't know, there's no Ohio anywhere in that accent and it would stand to reason that most of his accent would be from where he lived the first sixteen years of his life. Hmmm...
Early on in this episode, Bert reveals his win last week to be the sham we knew it was with a piss-poor attitude. In his mind the best thing about winning a challenge is that you have immunity, so immediately he is unmasked as someone with little or no ambition. He hates the costume-y thing, "it's not that it's not my strength, it's just I don't want to do it." He'll "leave the clown stuff to the other designers," thank you very much (Bert -- this is the clown stuff challenge! Haven't you ever watched the show?!). Later on in the workroom, he's actually filmed singing tunelessly, "I'm glad I've got immunity, doo dah, doo dah," pretty much making him the most unpopular designer of the week with the others. At least have the grace to pretend you're on a competition show!
Tim comes in to do his drive-by's with the designers. "So, what is this?" he asks Viktor. "This is a lot of wee wee pads," Viktor responds. "Wow, it's like a Depends dress, you never have to get up from your barstool," Tim laughs (um, please show me the woman who can sit on a barstool with a dress that short). At Bert's station, there is a long pause while Tim examines the boring pedestrian garment on his dressform. Bert is warned that the judges are on such a high with him right now after his win, that this could "potentially recalibrate their thinking." The sad truth is, to quote Becky, Bert is "phoning it in." I don't see him lasting more than another week - two at most.
Josh M. is counseled that he may be being too ambitious for the time frame they have, and uses Tim's advice to completely redo his entire idea. He decides to work with aquarium rocks instead of aquarium tubes. Ditto LK, who sees when the models come in for their fitting that her model's ass is hanging out below the dog cone skirt and she has to come up with another idea completely -- and quickly. Her new skirt is cleverly made out of cardboard cat scratcher strips she's sewn together. During all this, Bert is spouting homilies no one wants to hear, like "simple simple simple" and "less is more."
Hey by the way let me interject here, again apropos of nothing, that Anya is so much more beautiful than any of the models (just sayin').
Next morning, Tim comes in as they're putting the finishing touches on their outfits with his usual spiel about sending the models off to hair and makeup and using the Piperlime accessory wall thoughtfully. More than a few of the gang are having Come to Jesus moments. Anthony's concerned that he won't be finished in time: "to go home over birdseed and hot glue, it would be devastating." Anya's not even close to having a finished garment when they first come in that morning. "Oh my Lord of the Rings," Viktor blanches, finding LK's new cat scratch strip skirt idea "very blah." Josh M. is grossed out by Julie's woven dog food bag dress, "A garment out of dog food bags, if that's outside the box then put me back in."
Heidi greets them on the runway, wearing a skin tight hot pink sheath and a slash of bright red lipstick. As she chants the familiar refrain "one day you're in and the next day you're out," the camera focuses on Kimberly saying it along with her. The usual snarky judges are joined this week by guest judge Stacey Bendet, designer and founder of Alice + Olivia.
On with the show.
Danielle, Julie, LK, Viktor, Becky, Cecilia, Kimberly, Anya and Bert are dismissed to the green room, safe. Heidi admonishes Bert that he is very lucky that he has immunity this week. They relax into the couches and commence dishing on who's going to be in the bottom. They're sure Josh C. is in trouble, plus he put puppies on the puppies, says Becky (I'm really starting to like her sense of humor).
Back out on the runway, Bryce is first to be asked to explain his garment to the judges. He explains that the bodice is rabbit and hamster bedding, and the skirt is made of wee wee pads. MK starts warming up like a baseball player working his arm before pitching. "I've been sitting in this chair for (long pause) a lot of time. And we have seen more ugly napkin clothes over the years.... It just never looks right. I don't love the fit of the top, and the styling makes it even worse." Nina adds that the model looks like she's from the Blue Man Group. Stacey says there's something kind of pretty about the texture of the top, but the fit's not great, "and I'm not a fan of voluminous wee wee pads" (I'm wondering if this episode sets a world's record in the number of times the words wee wee pads were said on a television show). Heidi wonders who is this girl, where is she going. Bryce doesn't know. "That's a big problem," says Heidi.
Anthony is up next. Heidi likes his birdseed dress a lot, calling the look "strong" and "modern." Stacey loves it. MK and Nina both agree it's great. Nina says it's really well done, beautiful. MK says she could go to a party in this dress "as long as there are no birds around."
Olivier's garment is roundly praised by all. He explains that the top is a dog's bed (not to be argumentative, but didn't Tim say earlier that the judges eschew such tricks in unconventional challenges?) and the skirt is pine wood shavings from hamster and rabbit bedding, with a belt made from the piping from a fish tank. Nina finds the look "very editorial." MK loves the ombre effect, "it's interesting and exciting," but is not a fan of the wood shavings glued to the model's eyebrows. He thinks it looks like she was out in the cold and her eyebrows froze, finds it "distracting." Stacey loves the outfit as well but also doesn't go for the eyebrows. Olivier is obviously the golden boy and even looks the part.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Josh C. is next. Heidi grouses that it's too much "normal" material. MK says that the word for today's challenge is unconventional, and "you picked the most conventional materials and you put them in conventional shapes." His decree is that Josh C. missed the mark in every way, "as far as thinking outside the box." MK even brings up the spectre of the nursing bra that was so popular a diss in the past, "the way the top is cut makes it look like you're nursing triplets -- it's just off." Nina is a teeny bit kinder, "you know, it's not terrible, but it's just okay, it's not wow." Stacey decrees that there's nothing fashion about the entire look.
On to the next Josh, Josh M., whom they love as much as they hated Josh C. Nina finds it colorful, beautiful, but she doesn't get the tag on the side. Josh M. explains that it's a mirror for parrots to look at themselves, "I thought it was a nice touch" (did he just call the model a parrot?!). Heidi finds it modern and unique, but wants to wash off the makeup the model is wearing. Stacey loves it also, but thinks he made the model too vampy with the styling and accessories. MK comes out with another Korsism for the ages; it's a fabulous outfit but the styling references "Sea Vixen Barbie."
Fallene's next on the carpet. She starts out by calling her look "hippie chic" but soon folds and begins agreeing as the judges tear the entire concept apart. A fatal mistake in Project Runway Land -- always defend your garment, even if it's lying in pieces on the floor. Heidi declares that it's too "simple," Nina doesn't like the color palette, MK calls the model "Miss Pumpkin." Fallene nods to all and even chimes in with her own statements on how bad it is, and says she was "uninspired." She's treading in dangerous waters here. Good thing there are worse looks than hers this week.
The group is sent off to join the others while the judges go over their final decisions. They're not sure which designer's outfit is the most boring: Josh C., Bryce, or Fallene. Heidi opines that Bryce's is the worst garment she's seen in a long time, "and I want to pee all over those wee wee pads."
Meanwhile, they all agree that Josh M. did a great job, but the excessive accessorizing killed it. Heidi and Nina get in one of their classic knock downs about who should win, Olivier or Anthony (Heidi is Team Anthony and Nina, Team Olivier). Interestingly, Nina always seems to win these things. Heidi argues that Anthony made something completely different than anyone else but Nina's feeling is that it is just too short, therefore "not elegant" (of course, no hem is ever too short for La Klum). MK starts fanning himself with his comment cards, saying "Oh no, here it goes again! It's getting hot or I'm going through manopause."
Predictably, Nina gets the upper hand and Olivier gets the win. He is told that he has immunity for the next challenge to which he says, "I'm only going to work harder" (He's the anti-Bert). Anthony is second runner up, then Josh M. The bottom three are Fallene, Bryce, and Josh C. Bryce is in and told to join the others, you can see he's been having flashes of his entire designing life go before his eyes. Fallene is in the bottom two because she couldn't defend her own work, otherwise methinks it would have likely been Bryce. She gets a reprieve to design another day and Josh C. is sent back to the real world.
The little piano trill that signifies 'you're out' plays and Josh C. gets the European kiss on both cheeks from La Klum and her signature, "Auf Wiedersehen." He goes back for his Tim Gunn hug and told to clean up his space. And sew it goes.
Next week: Teams of Two! Models on Stilts! First outdoor runway show ever! Guest Judge -- Kim Kardashian!
Questions: Who should have won this week (my money's on Viktor)? What was your favorite Unconventional Challenge ever? Who do you think is going to make it to Bryant Park (right now I'm thinking Olivier, Danielle, and Viktor although I think Anthony's another strong contender)? Will they ever get to visit Mood? And where in the world is Swatch the Dog?
Apropos of Nothing: Did y'all note the glorious Twitter fight going on last week between Ivy Higa (@ivyhiga) and Micheal Costello (@michealcostello)? It's worth checking out for sure, since apparently nothing has changed between those two. BTW Ivy's twitter bio is "Minimalist, romantic fashion for the beautiful, strong, and confident woman. Oh, and that bitch on Project Runway S8" while Micheal C's reads "Fashion Designer TV Personality Project Runway Season 8 Final Four Designer Proud Father and Great Boyfriend."
Project Runway airs on Lifetime TV Thursday nights at 9pm
Follow Holly Cara Price on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollycara