Previously on: Still auditioning to be on the show even though they are in front of cameras and thus technically already on the show, 17 designers were forced to cut up each other's favorite items of clothing and create something new and innovative in 5 hours. Gretchen got a leg up with a unanimous win, while a confused Casanova, indignant Ivy, and mopey McKell were left on the chopping block. New mom and dreadlocked bohemian Utahan McKell became the first casualty of season 8 and, according to the rules of the challenge, wasn't actually on the show. It's like the Sixth Sense -- rewatch all the scenes and she was never really there.
This week we get to see the credit sequence, in which contestants are forced to spew awkward sound bites and make awkward hand gestures for our amusement. "Let's go!" yells Casanova, with an enthusiastic side kick. "I was BORN ready," chirps Ivy, smile-grimacing. "You know you want this," Mondo purrs, showing off his outfit, which seems to combine the legs of a young English schoolboy, the torso of a waiter at a black tie orgy, and the head of Mr. Slave from South Park, only with less facial hair and astigmatism.
It's morning at the Atlas apartments. "I wake up and I'm dead," Sarah interviews. "Like, literally, take my pulse, it's not there." Oh, well, at least she's with Elvis now.
Gretchen and April say they're surprised that McKell was the first one to go home, since her dress was safe but not terrible. To that point, reader Anka has an interesting theory that she emailed me last week:
Let it be known that the judging panel has a special hate for blue dresses with outdated shiny fabric and/or embellishments (and, in particular, when it shows sideboob or ass.) See Season 6: Qristyl; Season 7: Pamela; Season 8: McKell. That dress is like a "questionable taste-level" trap that that those who want to stay in the competition should see coming, but someone puts their presser-foot in it every time. Enough! Think of the children--and me yelling at my television like it's some B-movie horror flick, "No! The axe is right behind you! Don't go that way!"
Got that, designers? Moving on.
In the boy's room, Michael C. makes fun of Andy for having an airbrush makeup machine. "Don't judge me," Andy retorts (and seriously, Michael, not everyone can have perfect skin, okay? Cystic acne is not a life choice.) In the other Y-chromosome apartment, Mondo is not having an easy time making friends. "If I don't click with people right away, I run away," he interviews. "So it's been really difficult." Aw, sad. It's even sadder when someone looks sad wearing a vest with no shirt. It's like, try picturing 80s-era Duff McKagan weeping. I KNOW, RIGHT? I'll give you a minute to compose yourselves.
Everyone gathers on the roof of of Atlas, where Heidi and Tim are joined by Joanna Coles, the scowling, Wintour-lite EIC of Marie Claire. The challenge is to create a single look that tells the audience in a very brief glance who the Marie Claire woman is. I can tell you in one sentence: A woman who cannot find Vogue, Elle, InStyle, or Glamour at the newsstand. Hey-oh! The winner will have their look featured on a billboard in midtown. Here are a few of the contestants reacting to this piece of news. Guess which one reflects my own excitement level:
"Getting your look on a billboard is huge," Andy says, being unintentionally literal. "It's just so operatic, I can't stand it," Christopher says, being unintentionally hilarious.
Also? Jason? IS STILL WEARING THE BOWLER HAT.
You guys, I thought that was a ONE-TIME THING. Why is this happening to me?
In other hat news, A.J. is now a skipper. He is designing a look inspired by "Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Blondie... an outfit that they would wear to a rock show." I don't read Marie Claire, but I somehow doubt Ms. Love is their target audience.
Gretchen is throwing herself a curveball, she says, and making pants. But Gretchen?
That is not pants. That is a jumpsuit. I wear pants. Power Rangers and prison inmates wear jumpsuits. (Forgive me for my prejudice, but my aversion to rompers extends, naturally, to jumpsuits, which are just rompers with longer legs.)
Jason is making an "infinity dress," based around the infinity symbol because it's like an 8, for Project Runway season 8, and because it's "a positive symbol... people get anxiety when they think about death, but infinity is forever." Apparently the bowler hat is also forever. TAKE IT OFF NOW, DANZA!!!
At Mood, Casanova accidentally drops one of his bolts of fabric on Peach's head, which is possibly to blame for the fact that Peach then selects bolts of brown silk and pink polka-dotted cotton. Even she doesn't know why she picked these fabrics, and acknowledges that she's not moving out of her comfort zone, potentially to her own detriment.
Back in the workroom, Casanova asks A.J.'s advice about the draping of his garment. "No offense, but I'm not going to help you pattern," A.J. says. Casanova interviews that A.J. is really into the competition, and that the other designers are willing to help each other. The first time I watched this scene I thought A.J. was being an asshole, but I get it now. When I'm a contestant on America's Next Top Recapper For A Show No One Really Watches Anymore, I am not going to be doing any bitches any favors.
Tim checks in. His first stop is Valerie, who is making a modern take on a trench dress with a fitted skirt. "I'm really responding to that," Tim says. Next up is Mondo, who has no sketch but is making a skirt and halter top. Tim gushes about Mondo's dress from the first challenge and decides to give him blind trust based on that. As Tim moves over to Jason's workspace, the music changes -- bad sign. It only gets worse when Jason explains that the concept for his dress is basically Buzz Lightyear's catchphrase from Toy Story. Tim says he's concerned (and so am I, by Jason's bracelet, which appears to be made of shark teeth), and then Jason has a (bowler-free!) talking head in which he says, "Everything's stacked against me. I'm a straight man in a gay man's world. I mean, what the fuck? Don't be so hard on me, man." Did I say last week that Jason was growing on me? That was a typo. What I meant to say is that he's a douchetard.
Tim stops by to congratulate Gretchen on her win and get an update on her jumpsuit, which is not yet finished, but he's not worried and neither is anyone else because Gretchen's the front runner and everyone knows it (although April snarks a bit that Gretchen "is not creative.")
Next, Tim pays a visit to Casanova, who has done a complete 180 and is following up his Showgirls outfit from last week with a navy nun's habit. "It's so matronly," Tim grimaces, and guys, if we do start a drinking game, "matronly" will give us alcohol poisoning. Casanova pretends not to know what he means, and Nicholas interviews that Casanova speaks perfect English in the workroom and that his confusion is an act. Ooooh, the claws are coming out. I love it.
Nicholas, for his part, wants to show how much he can accomplish (i.e. three pieces) and how innovative he can be. Unfortunately what he sees as innovation (a backless top), Gretchen sees as a rip-off of her design from last week. Meanwhile, Peach's poo-colored top is "discordant" with her polka dot skirt
Michael C. is making a jacket. "I got this in the bag!" he interviews, before Tim rips it apart, calling it old and comparing it to Blanche Devereaux. Hold up, Tim, did you just hate on Rue McClanahan?
Them's fighting words.
We get a montage of anxiety -- Peach starts her dress over not once but twice, Michael C. questions Sarah's color choices, Andy doesn't like the back of Nicholas' top -- and them Tim comes back to announce another element to the challenge. The next morning, each designer and model will have a Marie Claire photo shoot, and the photo will factor in the judging process. Everyone is thrilled except for Jason, who feels that the photo shoot is just going to keep him from getting his garment done in time. "It's just sitting on my brain," he moans. Well, maybe if you take the hat off it will release some of the pressure. Just a thought.
The models come in for their fitting, and Casanova asks Gretchen's opinion on everything from the collar on his jacket to a belt from the accessory wall. "Casanova would be annoying if he wasn't so charming," Gretchen says. Wait, what? I think he would be charming if he wasn't so annoying. Peach is convinced she's going home and tells her model as much. Nicholas observes that everyone is making friends except for Mondo.
We then are treated to a Real World-esque glimpse into after hours at the Atlas apartments. Valerie, Gretchen, Sarah, and Ivy are roomies, and they all stay up late playing M.A.S.H. and syncing their menstrual cycles. April is stuck in the old folk's home with Peach and Kristin. The gays are suspicious that Jason hasn't shared of himself. Mondo is lonely and antisocial, and sleeps with a Pee-Wee Herman doll on his night stand.
But he's really sad, guys. He breaks down while wearing his leather hat and white bow tie and I can't even make fun of it because I'm too busy hysterically weeping. You see, I know where Mondo is coming from. It's like when I went to Quaker sleep-away camp and I didn't know any of the Quaker songs and everyone made fun of my unibrow and didn't appreciate how I knew all of the lyrics to "Part of That World" from The Little Mermaid. It's like Mondo and I are sisters from another mister.
The next day is the Marie Claire photo shoot. Jason ran out of time and so used safety pins instead of buckles, a move he calls his "back-up plan." Right. That's like me showing up to work in pajamas, being all "Hey, guys, don't mind the high school track sweatpants -- just my back-up plan." All of the other designers pretend not to think Jason's dress is a giant infinity turd.
I can't say much about the photo shoot since I'll critique the looks on the runway, but suffice it to say Valerie's and Mondo's are awesome, everyone else's are OK, and Jason's is the very definition of suck. "I'm not prototype Jack!" he protests, after the fashion editor of Marie Claire dares to question his choice to put a gaping hole in the center of his dress. No, Jason, you're not Prototype Jack, because Prototype Jack is a camouflage-wearing robot street fighter from Tekken 2. DUH. (Thank you, Google.)
Back on the runway, Heidi tells the gang that the prize for this challenge is so -- wait for it -- huge that the winner will not have immunity. Also they might kick off more than one designer this episode. It's about to get craaaazy up in here, people. Guest judge Joanna Coles looks like she just ate a fart, and Heidi flashes her eyes as if to say, "Who are you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?"
So, who is the Marie Claire woman? Judging from these looks...
- She's not afraid to repurpose a napkin ring as a belt.
- She's seen Working Girl waaay too many times.
- She is still fucking pissed that the Grinch stole her Christmas.
- She loves science (her belt is mitosis, bedazzled).
- She might be an amputee.
- She's hot under the collar (kudos, Christopher).
- She has to get completely naked in order to use the ladies' room.
- She can probably change your tire.
- Unlike Tobias Funke, she is not a never-nude.
- She is Courtney Love, she has been trapped in a Jennifer Convertibles for days, and she is wearing the remains of a two-piece chaise sectional that she dismembered with her bare hands.
- She is infinite. Obviously. I'm not Prototype Jack, fuckheads.
- She is... somewhat unkempt.
- She is wearing Peaches n' Cream Barbie as a cravat.
- She is... Pebbles Flintstone, slutting it up at prom.
- She is tangled in mosquito netting.
[Michael D., BTW, has the best voice-over while his model is walking the runway: "I see my dress and I think I am going to die. Because it is so short. It should be a rap video. But I'm going to keep my poker face, because I know Nina is looking at me right now." HA.]
- She is Asian Carrie Bradshaw.
- She is en route to grandmother's house.
- She is too old for this polka dot shit.
- She has nice cheekbones, but her feet are really jaundiced.
- She wants to give me her dress immediately.
Out on the runway, Heidi calls the following names: Mondo, Peach, Nicholas, Jason, Valerie, and Gretchen. The people she has not called are safe. Backstage, A.J. breaks down; since he wasn't happy with his dress, he feels like he got let off the hook. The safe designers agree that Valerie should win and Nicholas will probably be the one to go home (although Michael D., my new favorite person, opines that Jason's safety pins were "nails in a coffin.")
The judges think Peach's dress is matronly (DRINK!) and unsophisticated, they tear Jason a new asshole much bigger than the hole in the infinity dress, and give Nicholas a terrible nostril twitch with their harsh criticisms of his overly complicated Red Riding Hood costume. On the other hand, they love Valerie's simply elegant dress, Gretchen's janitorial eveningwear, and Mondo's fun, flirty ensemble.
Time for delibereiterations! They say great things about the good designers! They further insult the bad designers! Backstage, Jason tries to blame his failure on his model. His douchebaggery knows no bounds!
The top/bottom 6 return to the runway, and Mondo is the first one safe. He's feeling more confident now, and it warms my heart when he starts to socialize with the other designers, even thought he is wearing lensless neon glasses and what appear to be brooches made from the severed heads of several Fraggles.
Time to announce the winner of the challenge. It's... Gretchen? I mean, it's Gretchen! But nobody is that excited for her this time around because they all wanted Val to win, you can totally tell. Valerie, obviously, is in, and also bummed that she was denied by a clavicle-baring jumpsuit with ankle ties.
Peach is the next one spared, and understands she dodged a bullet. (Someone yells, "Mom's back!" when she enters the green room. Aw.) News is not so good for... Jason, who is OUT. He seems to take it well, but then pulls a total dick move and leaves (!) before Tim can usher him out properly, accompanied by sad piano music and shots of Jason packing up his bag in the dark. Since we were denied this emotional send-off, I'd like to serenade hottest -- and moodiest -- straight man ever to attempt to make it work with a version of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" (lyrics altered by my husband, circa age 15):
Hold me closer, Tony Danza
Get a hand job on the highway
Dress me up in pants of leather
Don't tell Mona that I'm gay...
Ahem. So, show's over, Nicholas is in, right? Wrong. Nicholas is OUT, y'all. It is a 2 for 1 -- they really did it! And poor Nicholas marks another first in Project Runway history, because he just openly weeps. I'm not saying I blame him -- hell, I cry watching Very Special Episodes of Saved By the Bell -- but it's kind of uncomfortable. It just goes to show, I think, that Nicholas was too fragile for the show.
As a coda, we get to see Gretchen's photo shoot for the billboard, with Coco Rocha (I was under the impression that the photograph taken earlier was going to go on the billboard, but this is a much better idea.) I hate to admit that Coco makes the jumpsuit look pretty badass.
Next week: The designers have to source materials from what looks to be a stationery store! (I will totally pay someone to fulfill my 5th grade dream and make me a Lisa Frank evening gown). A.J. and Gretchen fight! And someone gets taken to the hospital! (I'm gonna go ahead and call it for Ivy, from an anxiety attack.)