This recap is painful for me in a way that no recap has been before. Having already watched and live-blogged it, I know the heartbreak that's in store for me, and now I have to re-live it. It's like every time I watch Ghost, and I think, maybe this time I won't cry, and then stupid see-through Patrick Swayze shows up and I'm reduced to a puddle of snot mumbling "Sam says it's for luck!" and nuzzling my wine bottle.
Anyway, I'll try to get through it, for you guys, if any of you are still reading, especially since it's a full week later. And for--sob!--Mondo*. To whom I dedicate this song:
*If you love Gretchen, you should probably just skip this recap. FYI.
Oh, my love
I've hungered for your touch*
*your HP Touchscreen notebook, not your sexual touch, since you are gay
A long lonely time
and time goes by so slowly *
*seriously, 90 minutes, y'all. 90 x 13 episodes is almost an entire day of your life
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
Godspeed your love to me
Sorry. Um, previously on: The final four made collections, but only three would make it to Fashion Week. The judges gave VERY SPECIFIC CRITIQUES and made it clear that the designers HAD BETTER TAKE THEIR ADVICE, OR ELSE (that will be important later, hence my ALL CAPS warning--I rock the subtlety like Michael Kors rocks indoor sunglasses). Mondo was theatrical but perhaps too circus-y. Gretchen was modern but lacked oomph. Andy was talented but didn't show range. And Michael C. tried too hard and was too diarrhea-colored. MC got the boot and did not take it well, although we are spared a rehash of his breakdown in the previous scenes.
We open on the New York Hilton, the day before the runway show. Mondo is flat-ironing his hair in a bright pink towel, Andy is asleep on the sleek pillow of his ponytail, probably dreaming of Laotian buddhas and parachute pants, and Gretchen's nightstand holds an empty glass of wine (atta girl). She wanders into the bathroom to chat with Mondo. "We have a one in three chance of winning," he says. "I didn't think I was going to make it very far," Gretchen replies, emphasis on LIES. How many times have we heard her say how much she deserved to get to Fashion Week? Anyway. The finalists have breakfast and receive Tyra Mail--er, Heidi Mail--telling them some "friends" are waiting to "congratulate" them at Parsons. "I hope it's not family," Mondo says bluntly. Gretchen claims to have no idea who it could be, but this is the least cryptic message ever. It might as well have been written by Peaches and Herb, the 1970s sweethearts of soul:
Reunited and it feels so good
Reunited 'cause we understood
There's one perfect fit
And, sugar, this one is it
We both are so excited
'Cause we're reunited, hey, hey
And indeed, all of the season's aufed contestants are waiting at Parsons with Heidi and Tim.
There's Valerie, looking like a fierce little referee in a striped tank; Kristin, still looking sex-starved in a leather dress and bedhead; and Nicholas, looking like Ellen DeGeneres with a five o'clock shadow!
There's Jason, minus the douchey bowler and ever-present scowl! And there's Ivy, being the worst person... in the world! (Alert Keith Olbermann.) So, how does it feel to be back? "Great!" They all insist through bared-teeth smile-grimaces. "Cray-cray!" cries Val. Let's bring out our finalists!
Andy, Mondo, and Gretchen emerge to applause. There are polite hugs. Sitting down, all three finalists look like they'd rather be anyplace but there. Maybe it's survivors' guilt? Or nauseating nerves? The rest of the contestants seem pretty enthusiastic.
We get a little montage of each finalists' journey. Andy's video reminds me how much I liked some of his designs this season--the party-store dress with the woven ribbons! The team challenge bathing suit! The perfect ready-to-wear LBD!--but also makes me realize how boring I find his finale collection compared to the earlier work.
Heidi asks the group how it's been to become TV stars, and Peach announces that she has a huge gay following. Valerie got proposed to on Facebook. Casanova learned a lot of English. Most of the also-rans admit that mostly they get asked about the more dramatic designers; AJ and Nicholas say that people stop them on the street to ask about Gretchen ("Is she really bitchy?"), Jason ("Is he really crazy?"), and Ivy ("Is she really mean?"). Gretchen does not look pleased, but tries to be game about it. "I'm not a bitch," she jokes, "I just play one on TV." No one laughs except for Heidi and AJ, and I suspect AJ's laugh is one of disbelief, because he looks up at Ivy, who makes this face:
Ivy IS a bitch, AND she plays one on TV. Method!
Then Gretchen starts crying and says that being a girl who's confident gets labeled a bitch, which isn't right (which is a valid point, except that Gretchen also snarked about and patronized other designers throughout the season, so she comes by the title honestly), and Ivy shakes her head. "It's fake," she says. April jumps to Ivy's defense, explaining that Gretchen would be really positive in person and then in her interviews on the show would say the opposite. Snap! See what I mean, Gretchen? That's why people think you're a bitch. She mumbles that it's just her opinions about design, not people's characters, but I think she knows she stepped in it. Michael C., however, pipes up that he's gotten really close with Gretchen and that she means well. Mondo says he doesn't think it's fair to pick on Gretchen because there will always be critics, but the point is that Gretchen was two-faced, isn't it? I think that's deserving of a public shaming.
Anyway. Perfect timing for a Gretchen montage, right? It's kind of anti-climactic and doesn't show any of her bitchiest moments, but I guess they're trying to make her look reasonably good since this is basically, like, a video ode. But it does bring me a bit of catharsis: I can finally admit that I never liked her dress from the first episode, with those beaded shoulders. There, I said it.
Tim brings up Mondo and Michael C.'s improbable bromance, and we see some clips. Mondo explains, for the jillionth time, that he misjudged Michael C. and has a lot of respect for him. Tim says that Michael had the last laugh, getting to the final four, but Michael seems to be riding high on his newfound acceptance in the group and doesn't want to rock the boat by gloating. "Sometimes you make a bad first impression," says A.J., who my husband points out is dressed like Tobey Maguire in a cheap Spiderman costume under a vest. Also: Ivy appears to be wearing a blood-spattered tunic. Discuss.
Mondo's montage is heart-warming and houndstooth-y. At the beginning he was this weird little outcast who dressed in crazy get-ups and cried a lot in his interviews. But he relaxed and opened up and made friends even while basically kicking everyone's ass on the runway. And then, when he announced during judging that he was HIV-positive, he did the unthinkable: he gave Project Runway a heart. It only took eight seasons. And the producers wouldn't go and stomp on the heart of their show, and the hearts of the viewers, now, would they? WOULD THEY?!?
Sorry. That's the grief talking. Moving on.
There's another montage of all of the slap-happy antics from the season (Tim's woolly balls, Casanova's sluts and old ladies, Peach's good china) and, to balance that out, one of all of the crying.
So, who's going to win?, asks Heidi. None of the other contestants answer this, not even the bitches. Lame.
P.S. Michael C. appears to embrace Andy and whisper into his ear twice during the reunion. Is this just weird editing of one moment or is he all up in Andy's good china? Discuss.
Back in the work room, the final three put finishing touches on their collections. Tim comes in to announce that they have to remove one look since they now have 11 thanks to the previous episode's challenge. He checks in with Mondo, who's not sure what to show as his final runway look. On the one hand, he loves his long polka dot dress (and so did Heidi), but Michael Kors seemed to want solid colors in the collection, so Mondo also made a black gown. Tim's not really feeling the black gown, and we get the sense that Mondo isn't either, so he scraps it and decides to show the polka dot. Would it have made a difference? Let's drink our pain away while we ponder this torturous possibility.
Andy tells Tim that the judges hated his bathing suit, which he's tossing, but that he has another bathing suit he's going to show instead. It's one-shouldered and doesn't look built for actual swimming, and Tim is bothered by the fact that the fabric looks like hair growing out of the crotch area.
To me it looks more like an old, wet mop, but still not something you'd want anywhere near your genitals.
Gretchen didn't get good reviews for her new look--the potato sack-y weekend dress--so she's getting rid of it. She explains to Tim that Nina and Michael thought her collection needed to be more aspirational, because apparently right now there really aren't enough designer clothes that normal women can't afford. Gretchen says that all she can do is be happy with the designer she is,
Hey, Garnier and L'Oreal hair and makeup consultations! Do you care? Me either.
Model fittings! A few of Mondo's models don't even show up. This happens every season. It's like the models are Punxsutawney Phil's shadow: sometimes you just don't see 'em, but either way you're looking at six more weeks of winter, because that groundhog can't predict weather for shit.
Anyway. I'm a little drunk. Deal with it.
Okay, so that night at the Hilton they all talk about their feelings, but I can't pay attention to what they're saying because Gretchen is wearing a sweater made out of Santa's gay pride beard, or maybe sheep pubes.
Mondo interviews, crying, that he doesn't want to fail but that whatever happens, he'll come out of it a better person. I wish I could say the same, Mondo. But here I am, on the other side, and all I've got to show for it is bitterness and purple teeth.
The next morning, the final three rise at 3 a.m. to get ready for the runway show. "You really look like a million dollars," Gretchen tells Mondo. Gretchen is wearing a transparent skirt over black granny panties, by the way. It is the end of days.
Flash-forward to two hours before the runway. Mondo's lineup is screwed up and he's freaking out. Andy is still sewing a pair of shiny pea soup-colored pants. And--shut the front door, people--at 37 minutes and 57 seconds (oh, God, it's depressing that I'm not even halfway through this thing), in between shots of Jordin Sparks and Betsey Johnson, you can spot ME in the nosebleed seats!!!!
Not pictured: My awesome BrickBreaker score.
Backstage, one of Mondo's models hasn't shown up so they sub in an alternate with a pixie cut, which kind of harshes Mondo's Garnier mellow. (Upon second viewing, all of this foreshadowing is vomitous.) Heidi emerges on the runway in an electric orange pantsuit and introduces some douchebag who can't be bothered to take off his sunglasses even though it's (and here I will recycle a joke I'm quite proud of) dimmer than Heidi Montag up in here.
Gretchen shows first. She is still pantsless. Her collection is called "Running Through Thunder." No, for reals. It's like a sequel to A River Runs Through It, in which Brad Pitt goes fly-fishing for trout and ends up electrocuted.
It pains me to admit this, but Gretchen's collection does not suck. I'm not saying I love it and want to have 10,000 of its babies, I'm just saying it blows fewer chunks than anticipated. For instance:
I mean, somewhat derivative of Missoni, and with a kind of Sex and the City 2: Abu Dhabi Boogaloo vibe, but not hideous. For the most part. There were some misses, like the ash-colored diaper and J. Jill Kwanzaa jacket that opened the show...
...or the look I like to call "if urine were vinyl":
For a full slideshow of Gretchen's finale show, go here. Why? Because I'm lazy! (But there are 30 looks, y'all, and I'm fighting to get through this as it is.)
Andy shows next, wearing some of those fetching drop-crotch pants favored by Aladdin and people suffering from prolapsed vaginas:
He dedicates his collection to his mom, which is sweet.
Overall, I was underwhelmed by Andy's finale show. It says something that one of the best pieces was the crotch-hair bikini (that model worked it, girl)...
And sometimes, when he went simple, it was elegant in a more textured Calvin Klein sort of way...
But seriously, I cannot deal with the head pieces. Especially when paired with pants my grandma would wear to a boozy luncheon.
For a full slideshow of Andy's collection, go here.
And then, last BUT NOT LEAST (ahem), there is Mondo. He comes out looking like some magical combination of k.d. lang and Ed Grimley:
Now, I have been biased about Mondo since about episode 4, but even I'll concede that there were weak spots in his final collection. Like this middle-aged Katy Perry disaster:
Or this overworked look, in which the charm of his patterns gets completely lost:
But by and large it was bright and fun and totally Mondo:
And yes, since you asked, it was my favorite. Especially since, in the middle of it, my friend Alex was on the tee-vee! He was Sarah Trost's date, and thus had way better seats than I did.
For a full slideshow of Mondo's collection, go here.
Post-runway, people are speculating about who will win. "I loved Andy's," crows fat-hating Marie Claire editor Joanna Coles. Betsey Johnson loves Mondo; Mr. Jay from ANTM loves Gretchen. Eh... they're kind of equally ridiculous, so that's a wash. But to anyone who thinks Andy will win at this point, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.
Heidi, Michael, Nina, and guest judge Jessica Simpson, best known for sporting unflattering high-waisted mom jeans and not being able to identify canned tuna, take their seats. The designers come out and I think right away the sane choice is clear:
Vote Mondo: The Goldilocks of pants.
The judges usually kiss ass on the finale critique, but they were a little more honest this time. While everyone said nice things about Andy's collection, MK pointed out that there wasn't much diversity of color, and Nina bluntly said that she thought Andy went overboard with the "Orientalism" and lost himself. Everyone loved Gretchen's work, and Nina predictably liked the pee pants, but questioned the choice of the gray diaper as an opening piece. Nina specifically praises Gretchen for listening to her critique from last episode, which I'll come back to later. MK loved the look of Gretchen's models, probably because they look just like Michael Kors models! (Also, more on that later.) Heidi asks if Gretchen made her own jewelry (chevron necklaces, natch), but she says it was forged for her. Jessica Simpson, who shall heretofore be known as The Voice of Reason despite the tuna mix-up, wonders how many pieces of Gretchen's collection she would buy if she saw them on a rack in a department store. And last but not least, AGAIN, is Mondo. Heidi loves the collection, but then singles out the hideous Katy Perry tee shirt (Mondo hand-beaded it, if you're wondering, in addition to making all of his accessories himself). Nina calls the show "cohesive," but chides Mondo for going too far into teenager territory. J-Simp loves everything, especially the polka dot dress. Heidi wonders, though, why Mondo chose "the polka dress" for the final runway when MK and Nina hated it so. Hmmm.
The deliberations, as most of you know, were crazy. It came down to an epic battle of wits between MK/Nina and Heidi/J-Simp. (I can almost hear Kors laughing, Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against an Oompa Loompa when a $50,000 technology suite from HP & Intel is on the line"! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha...)
First, can we talk about how weird it was that they decided Andy was out right away? I mean, I agree with them, but whatever happened to a little suspense? Damn!
So it was down to Mondo and Gretchen. Heidi and Daisy Duke were Team Mondo while MK and Nina backed the Pantsless Wonder. Here are some of the best quotes from the fight and what we can glean from them:
Heidi: "Gretchen... I really like her, I really do. As a designer." But not as a person. Ha!
Nina: "She makes those accessories herself." Um, no. Lie.
MK: "The hats helped, the jewelry helped, the makeup helped. Heidi: "So, did the clothes need help?" Touche, Klum.
MK: "I think a black dress could have been his best friend." Just because most of your best friends are black crew-necks, Kors...
Ugh. I can't do this all in quotes. The bottom line is that Nina and Michael are pissed that Mondo didn't heed their golden advice and instead was--gasp!--himself. Whereas Gretchen listened to their gospel truths and Kors-ed herself up within an inch of her life. Kors even compares Mondo and Gretchen, in the heat of the moment, to John Galliano... and Michael Kors. One is a showman whose clothes border on costumes, and one is... Michael Kors. Hey, MK: When you compare a designer to yourself, you're biased. And THEN, Nina compares Mondo to Seth Aaron from last season, even though their aesthetics are really nothing alike, and argues that it means Mondo is not current. Way to support the designer who won a mere six months ago, Garcia. And of course both of them hate on the polka dot dress, because how DARE Mondo be proud of something that they don't like?
MK and Nina -- you're dead to me. I hope you both end up old and bitter and the color of Tang. Oh, wait, that's already true.
The designers come back out. Andy is out, as we already know. It's down to fan favorite Mondo and season villain Gretchen. You'd think the answer would be obvious.
But you'd be wrong.
GRETCHEN wins Project Runway.
And then the judges ask her how she feels and she says, "Like a hundred thousand dollars!" And oh, how I wish Michael Kors had held up a hand and said, "OK, you know what? Backsies. You're a fake idiot and the fumes from my spray tan got to me, but now I've come around."
But he doesn't. Gretchen still wins.
I wrote a little rant on my blog about why I'm pissed at the outcome of this season. You can read it in its entirety here. But here's an excerpt that gets to the heart of the matter:
Mondo's story arc this season was the stuff that great underdog movies are made of. He started off the weird outcast, he gained his footing, he started to prove himself, week after week, and then, as if we weren't already rooting for him enough, he revealed his very personal struggle with hiding his HIV-positive status from his family. WE HAD EVERY REASON TO WANT HIM TO WIN.
Then, we had Gretchen. Gretchen started off strong, winning the first two challenges, but even from episode 2, we started to get the message that she was kind of a bitch--a message, that, in my opinion, the editors made even louder than it needed to be. Every show needs a villain, and Gretchen, with her oblivious narcissism and superiority complex, fit the bill perfectly. As the weeks went by, she got more and more insufferable. We wanted her to fail. She almost did, landing twice in the bottom two, but made it to Fashion Week anyway.
To lose to Mondo.
I mean, that's how the story was supposed to end.
And before you accuse me of just being biased, let me ask you this: Have you seen the movie Hoosiers? OK, so first imagine that Hoosiers gets stretched out to 21 hours (say, about the length of 13 hour-and-a-half episodes plus a two-hour finale). The tiny, underdog Hoosiers still, against all odds, make the state championship, but in the final minutes of the game they lose to the tall, athletic team from South Bend. And the end credits roll.
You see what I'm saying? Storytelling matters. Reality television is still a story, crafted by producers and editors. This season, the story had a hero and a villain. We might have liked Mondo and disliked Gretchen without the guiding hand of editing, but that certainly helped us along. I'm sure that the producers could have cast Gretchen in a more favorable light, and I'm surprised that they didn't, considering that she won. A television franchise needs its audience to be satisfied with the show in order to keep coming back. I trusted Project Runway, and it let me down.
I already decided not to recap after this season, and now I'm glad I did. Not only will I not be recapping, I won't be watching.
Goodbye, Project Runway. FOREVER.
And to all you wonderful readers who've stuck with me and been patient when I took for fucking ever with these recaps, and made me feel funny and relevant and needed, even if only for inane musings on reality TV shows that are well past their prime, thank you. I couldn't have done it without you.
I'll leave you with a pick-me-up from Our Lady of Perpetual Carrying On, Tim Gunn, who made my night during the finale when he came out to "congratulate" Gretchen just saying "Wow! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!" and wringing his hands:
If you miss me, you can always find me on my blog, The Sassy Curmudgeon. Don't be strangers.
Follow Una LaMarche on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sassycurmudgeon