Project Runway is all about vision and delusion. The vision to create conflict with mismatched pairs. The delusion this is fair. The vision to allow the models to talk. The delusion they will have something to say.
Our first problem last night was it was one of the loathsome team challenges, where designers have to work in groups for maximum conflict and minimum output. They went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they were supposed to be inspired by couture. Team leaders were selected at random (which is just how any successful organization picks its readership [sarcasm punctuation mark TK]) and then each leader chose his partner. They were then given $500, the most in Runway history, to create a dress inspired by the couture they saw at the museum. But then they were sprung with the shocking second look. And it had to be a look-for-less. And it would be inspired by the couture creation. But not their couture creations, one of the other team's. Say what? This Byzantine challenge structure was based on a subplot axed from a David Mamet heist movie. We still can't make heads or tails of it, but like all team challenges it was one of the:
Things We Hated:
- Group Grope: Whenever the producers decide to lump the designers together it makes me feel like I'm a woman and I just walked down the gauntlet during a Tailhook convention. It's just obvious, malicious groping for drama. Also, the eliminations in these challenges always go to the "team leader," who were randomly chosen. Knowing that, only half of the contestants were really up for elimination last night. Sure, the conflict can make for some great moments, but the more inventive thing would be to ramp up the internal combustion engine of competition. These are some cut throat bitches that want to win, let them get in each others way and see the sparks fly. I suggest next season have one designer buy all the fabric for another designer. Then they both get to create a garment, but they can do something mean at the same time.
- No More Talking Hangers: First they gave the models the Show That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Then the show started dictating how the challenges were structured (that's why everyone had to make two looks, rather than collaborating on one, because otherwise the models wouldn't have anything to do). Then they get to serve as clients. Now they are actually allowed to talk at judging? What? That's like asking an intern to be on the board of directors. Stop empowering the models. If we could just put the clothes on hangers one of those rotating tracks like they have at the dry cleaners, we would.
- The New Opening Sequence: Can't we just let this opening die. Heidi explains the competition in her Phone Operator From Hell voice while the contestants mug for the camera and say stupid things like "[These scissors] are my weapon of choice." The girls just laugh and the gays all pose like they're the Charlies fucking Angels of fashion design. Can't we just splash Project Runway across the screen and get to the sewing?
- Where's Anna Wintour?: They go to the Costume Institute at the Met and Anna Wintour doesn't come down from on high to say a kurt hello? Why, oh why, couldn't this season have happened during Anna's Make-People-Like-Me-Contract-Renegotiation-World Tour 2009? This would have done wonders for her image, and for all of her fake charities, like the Costume Institute.
- Lazy Fashion Terms: Here are some things I never want to hear again: "fashion forward," "old Hollywood glamour," "look for less." These are just easy ways to convey an idea. Get inventive designers. I know you think visually and not verbally, but these things are not really what you think they mean, especially when Mila says she wants something that's a "fashion forward" but inspired by the '60s. If you are creating even a retro look it can not be fashion forward. There is nothing revolutionary about recreating an old style. That's called updating, not inventing. And, "look for less" Tim? Why not call it a knock-off. I swear, if I ever hear him talk about a BOGO sale at Mood I will slit his throat and drown myself in the shallow pool of blood.
- Glory Hogs: Mila, you're not the only one who worked on those two garments. Actually, it was Jonathan who did most of the work. Now stop acting like smug She-Ra holding aloft your magic sword and saying "By the Power of Greyskull." Give your He-Man some credit too.
Things We Loved:
- Suzanne Sugarbaker: Our initial impulse was to hate the quick quipping Anthony, (who we are officially calling Suzanne Sugarbaker) but he has really grown on us. He's not the best designer, but he is funny, quotable, and full of personality if not a little empty of taste. He handled himself gracefully in judging this week rather than being an over-anxious buffoon like in the first episode, so all is forgiven. Kudos, Suzanne, you and your shoulder pads have earned your spot at the end of Julia's couch.
- Return of Mood: It's like coming home for Thanksgiving during your first semester at college. It is warm, comforting, and familiar, but due to your traumatic time away, it will never quite be the same again. That said, we were happy to frolic in your familiar aisles.
- Emilio: Emilio is like Suzanne Sugarbaker with 10 years and more talent. He sure can bitch about a designer, but every one of his outfits has been exquisitely tailored. We're glad that he's going to go far, because we're going to need someone to stir things up when all the less-talented characters like Ping and Suzanne are sent packing.
- Nina Garcia Fashion Director of Marie Claire Magazine: This week, NGFDMCM gets some love just for showing up. We thought you would always be there for us and then you abandoned us. But now you are back and we love you twice as much. You're no Anna Wintour, but you're still neat.
- Tim Gunn's Laugh: Tim is back in New York and he is happy. Every time he chuckles it's like Grampa Gunn threw a handful of Werther's Originals over the designers and their foil wrapping is glinting sparkles over their outstretched hands as they spin and giggle as the candies fall among them like a golden shower.
Mila won by hogging all the glory for her black and white butterfly coat with a sparkly cocoon and matching pants. Mya and Jay had a good showing with an asymmetrically ruffled gown that looked like Alice in Wonderland if she got attacked by psychedelic mushrooms. They probably should have taken the trophy because their second look was better than Mila an Jonathan's and was even better than the second garment from the designer on the left after the third Thursday two days after Lent begins or whatever the fuck it was they were supposed to be inspired by. Amy and Jesus (of all people!) also had a great look like a printed brown sheath with a pleated crazy bolero vest thingy. Sure, Jesus is the god of brown, but this time it actually worked.
But, in the end, it was our beloved Ping who had to go. We expected she would last one more episode, but her lack of solid experience and completely wacky aesthetic was never going to make it far. But she was a wonderful character: flailing around like an Asian Olive Oyl, always forgetting her shoes, grinning through her insane glasses with the frames only on the bottom. You were too good for this world, Ping, and only the good die young. But seriously, that thing that she and Jesse made was an abomination. It looked like the bed sheet toga that I wore to Connecticut State Latin Day in high school that I made out of Mickey Mouse sheets and an old tie-dyed T-shirt.
But really, it was Jesse and an errant, horrible model that really did her in. For that tale, let us escape to the videos.
Ping Vs. Jesse
Context: From the outset, Jesse did not want to work with Ping and he decided, rather than to try to go with the flow and try to make her idiosyncratic aesthetic work that he was going to be a big prick and just fight her the whole time so. It started at mood where her bobble-headed befuddlement was met with the menacing punch of his palm.
Vision: By threatening this goofy gumball of a woman with physical violence, she would do what she is told.
Delusion: That he was in charge and that Ping's solidarity of vision had room for his Snidely Whiplash undermining.
What Would Nina Say: "Did you just punch your fist at me, young man?"
Context: Seth Aaron Jingleheimer Schmidt freaks out because they get to look at fancy frocks at The Met.
Vision: That rubbing up against a beautiful creation will transfer greatness to him by osmosis.
Delusion: That he can come anywhere close to Dior. His talent can't even buy him a key chain from their diffusion line!
What Would Nina Say: "Why don't you make something like that!"
Under the Gunn
Context: Suzanne Sugarbaker and Seth Aaron Jingleheimer Schmidt have been at odds since the beginning. It is an affable but fraught collaboration and when Tim comes to visit they spend more time bickering like, well, Anthony and Suzanne Sugarbaker, than they do listening to Grampa Gunn.
Vision: Suzanne thinks if she says something funny, that people will listen to her.
Delusion: Remember when she said that she was "making a dress for the vice president of McDonalds?" That was funny, and correct. Maybe Tim could have helped.
What Would Nina Say: "You are disgusting."
Context: Jay and Mya's dress walks down the runway.
Vision: A little bit of zhush, a little bit of pop, a smidge of asymmetry, a whole lot of ruffles, and a shit ton of wow.
Delusion: No delusions here. We hope Mya does a good job in the competition and then graduates to become the head designer of Torrid, the big girl's Hot Topic.
What Would Nina Say: "I am speechless. Good Job."
Context: The model—who looks like Lindsay Lohan immediately after taking a sip of vodka and lemonade—speaks! It is like the Bride of Frankenstein has come to life and put on a pair of aviators. We hate this creature, because it is against nature. And her words vanquish our hero Ping. Well, her words and Jesse's. It's like Ping got thrown under one of those buses that is two buses joined together with a weird accordion panel. It's a double bus called Jesse/Frankenmodel.
Vision: Talking shit about what a crappy designer Ping is will send her home.
Delusion: For the first time in Runway history, a designer made his vision come true.
What Would Nina Say: See for yourself!