01/12/2012 11:54 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

Project Runway All Stars Recap: A Night Off The Cojones

I know, I know. I should have started my "Project Runway All Stars" recaps last week when it first premiered, but I was too busy huddled in a corner, recovering from the trauma of Tim Gunn's absence, wondering how they will "make it work."

Let's get one thing clear from the start: This is not "Project Runway," no matter what the name implies. There's no Tim Gunn, no Heidi Klum, no Michael Kors and no Nina Garcia. The accessory wall is Neiman Marcus, not Bluefly. They're not at Parsons. Prizes include a year-long guest editorship at Marie Claire and a specialty boutique inside Neiman's. There's not even immunity for challenge winners. So, if you're expecting the usual situation, well ... please don't. This is a new-fangled version.

Okay, now take a deep breath (with me cause I'm freaking out). Is everyone alright? I'm sorta dizzy, but whatever, let's continue. Our usual fearless leaders may be taking a break from TV cameras, whiny designers and bunchy satin seams, but it's our duty to remain committed to the fashion cause!

Here's a quick rundown of last week's episode: The 13 contestants introduced range from highly recognizable former finalists to big personalities (READ: good TV, bad clothes) and a couple nondescript people I spent the rest of the week trying to recall. But some standouts that fans might recognize include Rami Kashou (known for his Grecian draping), Mondo Guerra (lovable weirdo; adores suspenders and short shorts), Anthony Williams (every pageant girl's fave!), Kenley Collins (hocks pin-up style with 'tude) and Austin Scarlett (who -- let's be honest -- is known for mild cross-dressing more than anything else).

The designers are instructed to bring a "recent creation" they presumably had years to create between their respective seasons and the "All Stars" premiere. Then, in the "Unconventional Challenge" famously detested by contestants, they're asked to construct another garment -- out of 99-cent store goods -- that's inspired by the original piece.

In place of host Heidi Klum is model Angela Lindvall. She seems nice enough, but right off the bat, she's missing that charming gestapo-like oomph and candor. Plus, the producers feel they have to enlist the contestants to over-emphasize her fashion world significance, so that's not the best sign. But time will tell. She can still win us over.

The new mentor is Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire, Joanna Coles, who seems to have good insight for the designers, but she doesn't suffer fools. I can't see her crying empathetically as people get eliminated. The regular judges are also designers: Georgina Chapman of Marchesa and Isaac Mizrahi. Wow. Talk about adding insult to injury for Bravo. Wasn't he the host of their "Project Runway" replacement attempt, "The Fashion Show"? Drama. Anyway, this week's guest judge is the senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, Ken Downing.

Rami wins with a super "constructed" piece out of umbrella parts and laundry bags, though the judges fear he might be a one trick pony with this structure. (Like he was with the draping? Yeah. I said it.)

Elisa Jimenez, who you might remember as the kooky artist who spits on her clothes (see earlier reference to "good TV, bad clothes"), gets sent home because her piece requires too much explanation. I'm excited to see how Angela Lindvall has replaced Heidi's "Auf weidersehen!" catchphrase, but she seems to have opted for: "Goodbye." And so the season begins!

Moving on to episode 2: "This week is all about high-end glamour," says Angela Lindvall. The guest judges are Mark Badgley & James Mischka (a.k.a. Badgley Mischka) and the designers have one day to design a "gorgeous evening gown" for a night at the opera. Michael Costello says he grew up with opera (he's Italian). British designer Kara Janx (why do I want to call her "Spanx"?) says this isn't her "Papow," but it is Austin's. I don't know what a "papow" is, but I guess it's a specialty?

Young designer April Johnston wants to make an "ox blood" Corpse Bride red dress because she's known for black. But I'm more interested in why her hair is dyed gray. Is this a stab at maturity? It's one thing to rock your natural gray; it's another to rock it in advance.

Michael and April are both making red gowns and last week, they both made mop dresses, so Michael is concerned. He trades the red in for black matte jersey. That seems weird to me for an evening gown. Isn't that t-shirt material?

Anyway, April takes her red fabric home and decides to dye it ombre, meaning dark at the bottom and fading upward. She really can't stay away from the black. The other designers think she's choking.

Uh oh. Austin feels pressure because evening dresses are his thang. He says he was known as "The King of Couture" during his season, which was "Project Runway's" first. And anyone who watches reality TV knows that -- at least on "Top Chef" -- people always screw up their specialties, cracking under the pressure.

In talking heads, the designers keep being forced to sing the praises of having Joanna Coles as mentor. Me thinks the producers are worried that we'll miss Tim and rebuff her in all her British glory. Rami says that Austin is his biggest competition, so she marches right over to Austin and says, "I know this is your favorite thing. Everyone is watching you. No pressure." He looks like he might faint. Then he uses the word "lamé" in describing his creation, which makes me nervous for him.

Meanwhile, Kara's fabric choice is called into question. It's a pastel floral taffeta and Joanna and April both think it may not skew nighttime. Mondo says Kara is the weakest designer in the room because she spends so much time doubting herself.

Sweet P's dress is colorful, per usual. And sort of looks like a hot mess, per usual. But we'll see. Anthony's dress is white and may look too bridal. Austin says Michael's dress is "too celebrity and not enough socialite." By that, I think he means that it's too flashy and low-cut.

Kara doesn't feel like her design is going "off the cojones." I'm pretty sure she has no idea what she's saying, but I'm sort of enjoying her invented expressions and mixed metaphors ... especially about male anatomy.

Mila Hermanovski says Austin's gown is too basic. She wants her model to channel Angelina Jolie.

And everyone is off to the L'Oreal Paris salon!

Angela Lindvall introduces the runway show and judges per usual, but just as she did in the first episode, she says: "As it's been said on 'Project Runway,' in fashion one day you're in and the next day you're out." Why can't she just repeat the catch phrase? Did Heidi copyright it? Are there different producers? Someone explain what the hell is going on!

The fashion show begins and the dresses come down the runway ...

  • Kenley: A pink cotton candy explosion with polka dots (she loves polka dots) on the bodice.
  • Gordana: A violet dress, sort of flapper-inspired, with a bloused beaded top. (Ain't my thang.)
  • Rami: A magenta drop waist number. (He's nervous the judges will spot imperfections.)
  • Mila: A fitted black sequined gown with a slit and military sash of chiffon across the decolletage.
  • Sweet P.: A poofy floral skirt with sloppy ruched coral bodice. (Reminds me a little of my grandmother's house dresses, I'm sorry to say.)
  • Mondo: A slightly futuristic white number with silver brushes of color and a box at the back of the sash.
  • Jerell: An empire waist gown with a sheer top. Jerell, who used to have different hair and now I remember, is proud and says he is "reachin' around and patting" himself on the back. Dirty!
  • Kara: A classic floral strapless taffeta dress with full-skirt and black sash.
  • Anthony: A white, low-cut draped satin gown paired with audacious black gloves.
  • Austin: A gold backless gown with black tulle embellishment.
  • April: A red dress of various fabrics, which looks a mess, but not because of the ombre particularly.
  • Michael: A black gown with feathers decorating the top, super backless with a dramatic train.

As usual, the highest and the lowest are called out and explain their designs ...

They like that Anthony "added edge" with leather gloves and black shoes, though they're not sure about the purse and jewelry.

Unfortunately for April, the Badgley Mischka guys hate red and black together and Isaac says: "Congratulations that you did a color, but maybe the opera isn't right for ombre or tie-dying." Georgina cautions her to be careful when using multiple fabrics in the same color.

Sweet P. is told that her dress is more like a prom dress than a ball gown. They feel it's not well-executed. They like the use of color, but say it's more of a daytime dress. (When the designers exit for more deliberating, one judge exclaims, "Tell Scarlett O'Hara that that's a ball gown!")

Austin's dress is a huge hit. (Phew for him.) Isaac says, "I love this dress. It looks fresh and classic and expensive." Georgina would lower the bust line a touch, but it's good otherwise.

The Badgley Mischka guys like Kara's dress, though the other judges feel it's too simple. Isaac loves that it's "completely pure," but thinks simplicity must come with perfect execution.

The judges flip out over Michael's gown: "I can't believe you made this dress in a day. It's perfect," raves Isaac. They love the matte jersey! Angela wants the dress for herself.

The outcome ...

The winner: Austin, mais oui. That's good, since I think he might have had a breakdown otherwise. His dress did look really well-made. He and his mustache are free to leave the runway.

The loser: They say no one does color like Sweet P., though I think Pucci fans might disagree. Still, she has "lost her way" and is out.

Until next time, "Auf weidersehen!" Or, as they say on "Project Runway All Stars," "Goodbye."