Project Runway is all about vision and delusion. The vision that the sponsors get to dream up a challenge. The delusion it will be interesting. The vision to have the bitchiest judges in the biz. The delusion they are enough.

That's right, the best part of last night's episode was the judging. Yes, there were plenty of other excellent parts, but if you watch anything this week, it must be our final clip of Nina Garcia Marie Claire's fashion director, withering one of the contestants with her criticism. But before we get there, first those cackling fashion barristers must have something to rule on, hence the challenge. As happens every year, the Garnier Paris Hair Salon gets to engulf the whole entire show and make up some sort of challenge. This year they wanted the designers to make something based on one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. They did not get to use "heart," the lost fifth element, because Heidi Klum is deathly afraid that Captain Planet will show up and steal her thunder. The challenge was introduced by Garnier head stylist Philip Carreon, who is the human equivalent of something you would stuff in the overhead compartment. He is going to make a signature hair style for each one of the designs, because they don't already do this every week and it's so boring we barely see more than 30 seconds of it.

Really, it's not a bad challenge, but the corporate pandering is always one of the:

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Things We Hated:

  • Speak Up Little Snoozy: Maya is a good designer. She is also a low talker and kind of boring. Other than her intimate chats with her bang clone Mila, we really don't know that much about her, but we're curious. She's like the pretty girl who sat in the corner of your home room who you always ignored and then the last week of senior year you realize that she's really sexy and mysterious and take her out for a few dates, but she's going to Sarah Lawrence early, so you have a torrid two week affair before she is off to the land of the lost forever. (And speaking of Maya, she was the only remaining designer not to show at Fashion Week. Many of us assumed that meant she'd be kicked out weeks ago. I asked a rep at Lifetime why she didn't have a collection but was still on the program. The rep said, "Just watch the show!" We hope that means there is going to be something crazy like she gets disqualified for copying other designers or something.)
  • The Laughter of Children: Jonathan, who chose "air" when selecting their forced elemental muses says his real inspiration, "isn't air, it's laughter." Oh Jesus. That is some modern dance Martha Graham bullshit right there. It's bad enough that you are being forced to have an intangible direction to design in, but to make it even more abstract is totally stupid. Also, if laughter is your inspiration, then you aren't following the rules of the challenge and we know how the judges feel about that. Too bad his dress was stunning or we'd really rip into him.
  • Dead Man Calling: Showing a designer talking to his family on the phone means he is going home. Period! Every time it has happened this season it ruins the suspense of the rest of the episode because we know who loses. These calls rarely tells us anything about these people other than that they miss their families (and who wouldn't!) and now you went and ruined the ending for nothing.
  • You Can't Say "Tits" on Cable: Really? It's 10pm on a channel dedicated to ladies and their vitamins and you bleep out "tits?" In 2010? Is it really that offensive? Tits, tits, tits, tits, tits.
  • Old Hollywood Glamor: Remember how we just said we wished Maya would speak up some more? Scratch that, because she went and said her look had "old Hollywood glamor." This is the worst phrase to ever be used to death on Project Runway. Not only was there nothing Grace Kelly about her ensemble, but the phrase is just short hand for creating something that is a retro knock off of something that people did better in the past. Innovation does not come from channeling history, it comes from co-opting and subverting it and jargon won't convince people otherwise.
  • Shut Up, Models: Next to "old Hollywood glamour," this is my least favorite thing on the show. It's not called Project Wearability. It's not called Project Have an Opinion. It's not called Project Let's Ask Skinny Beautiful People with Absolutely No Design Ability, Experience, or Training What They Think. If I were a producer, it would be called Project Ballgag. If we want to hear fleshy coat hangers saying ridiculous things, America's Next Top Model is just a channel flip away.

Things We Loved:

  • Jay: He dresses like an Easter party on May Day. He says things like "We're a Victoria's Secret push up bra Wonderbra, we lift each other up." He makes wonderful clothes. God, we love Jay. If being kooky and talented wasn't enough, he finished his dress early and went over to help Ben, who was so far behind he was in danger of not completing his project. In the "I'm not here to make friends" world of reality television, this is the equivalent of giving a stranger a kidney. Way to step in and keep it classy, Jay. You are officially our new favorite.
  • Don't Play It Safe: Jonathan bitches about being in the middle every week so he never knows what the judges want from him. Does he play it safe? No! He makes a dress inspired by laughter. As stupid as we think that sounds, it was a great dress and a strategic move. Everyone has to establish themselves at some point, or they have no chance of winning. The folly of last season is that everyone just tried to make something good enough to get through, so we got a lot of boring and unexceptional creations. This week everyone got really ambitious which meant lots of angsting and scurrying around the Mood Fabrics Workroom, but also some really great work.
  • Quality Not Quantity: Finally we have a handful of really talented designers. We know them all, we have some idea of their aesthetic, and we like several of them. This is the point in every season that we really love. Though Lifetime says it to create meaningless tension, really anyone could go home any week. The dead weight is gone and the talented risk takers are left, which means wonderful victories and defeats each week. This week, almost all of the dresses were competitive. It's great when there's not only tension about who goes home but over who wins as well.
  • Getting a Peek: Finally Bunim/Murray productions have learned how to make this show! Last season, we never got to see anything the designers were working on before the runway. This season we get to see just enough so we have a hint if they're in trouble or not, but we're not shown so much that it ruins the surprise of the final show. A perfect, hard-to-find balance, and they've finally got it right.
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mila?: Finally, the judges turned on Mila. Even Nina Garcia Fashion Director of Marie Claire Magazine, who previously decided that Mila should win this competition. Mila stepped out of her mod, geometric, black and white style this week to make something new and thoroughly blase. We applaud taking chances, but showing something different—and bad—just showed the judges that she is incapable of doing anything but staying in her safe little three-month period of '60s London that she has been designing for all season.
  • Nina Garcia Fashion Director of Marie Claire Magazine Is No Longer Getting Laid: Last week, NGFDMCM was getting some and she was all sunshine and unicorns. This week, she apparently broke up with her boyfriend, and instead of giving us the unicorn, she is giving everyone the horn. She was practically cunty to all the designers. She ripped Amy apart, ridiculed Ben, and turned on her beloved Mila, who she has been verbally fellating since day one. Was it guest judge Roland Mouret, the saucy Frenchman who broke up with NGFDMCM? She wouldn't even acknowledge him, which isn't rare for her, but that coupled with an ire that was scorching even for her might give us a clue. Either way, we hope she never gets laid again, because we love this NGFDMCM much more than the horrible nice one from last week.
  • Isn't It Bazaar?: There are three things in this world that Heidi Klum loves: maternity dresses, boobs, and the adjective "bizarre." Of all these things, the last is by far our favorite. To hear Heidi say "bizaaaare" (often accompanied by some crazy face) is like hearing the wind whistle across the top of the Grand Canyon. It is Lolita blowing on a bottle of pop. It is a roaring black hole of delight that sucks us in and spits us out covered in rags and stardust.

In the end, Jonathan laughed his way all the way to the winner's circle for his dress that looked like an ace bandage and a peach melba got stuck in a blender. Seth Aaron's Matrix Goes Wild black leather look was also nice (we hate to admit Seth Aaron can make anything decent) and Jay's swooshingly circular mingle of black, white, and gray that looked like the insides of a Dyson vacuum while in operation was ignored by the judges but not by us.

Gay comic book artist to the stars Ben was sent packing for making an ill-fitting suit that looked like a jock strap had cancer and enveloped the model's entire body. It was pretty bad. Amy also made some ridiculous contraption that was a straight jacket for Lady Godiva and all her hair. At least she failed interestingly.

For more on her withering judging and some funny bits from resident jester Suzanne Sugarbaker, let's have Captain Planet save our day with some videos.

Underminers
Context: Suzanne Sugarbaker (who mere mortals call Anthony) is making a dress inspired by the scorched carcass of his preacher's house and is using darker colors than usual. Mila finds a way to look like she's supporting him but really gets her digs in.
Vision: If Suzanne wants to win, she needs to make something other than gem-hued samples from the Dynasty collection at Wal-Mart.
Delusion: None of these people want you to beat them, Suzanne, and they will resort to dirty tactics. The world is too cruel for your smile.
What Would Nina Say?: "All I see is black, which is the color of Roland Mouret's soul."
Dramometer: 6

Under the Gunn
Context: Tim Gunn is always right, except when he's not. He tells Ben that it is right to make a suit even though he has never made one before. He gets sent packing.
Vision: The judges will miss all the wonderful nuance of his creation.
Delusion: This panel doesn't miss a thing, especially when it comes to something as ugly as this.
What Would Nina Say?: "The only thing I hate more than the crotch of those pants is Roland Mouret."
Dramometer: 4

Trash Talk
Context: Jonathan and Suzanne are more worried about what everyone else is doing than their own designs.
Vision: Amy is an insane crazy person making a dress for a club kid who is on an LSD drip.
Delusion: Seth Aaron's look is too hard. No, it's only too hard for them to understand.
What Would Nina Say?: "I love Seth Aaron's leather blazer as much as I love Roland Mouret until he cheated on me with my assistant. Now I want to kill him."
Dramometer: 7

Runway Arrogance
Context: Jonathan's dress marches toward victory
Vision: Ugh, laughter. Also, that he is god's gift to design.
Delusion: Jonathan, this is a great look, but it is not as amazing as you are making it out to be.
What Would Nina Say?: "This does not give me pure joy. Sleeping with Roland Mouret gives me pure joy, and I don't think your dress is quite as...prodigious."
Dramometer: 2

Back Talk
Context: The judges are amazingly cruel to Amy's concoction. It is awesome.
Vision: We don't know whose vision it was to hire these people, but it was a stroke of genius. The colorful insults fly and then NGFDMCM's dismissive disgust takes over. Breathtaking.
Delusion: Sorry, Amy, you had to know this was coming.
What Would Nina Say?: You must, must, must see for yourself.
Dramometer: 10!