<i>Project Runway</i> Episode 9 Recap: Mackie the Knife

The designers will not only be creating a Sparkle Dance number, but they'll be creating it specifically for a Grammy-winning, risk-taking fashionista diva, namely Christina Aguilera.
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Hi y'all! Don't worry, I wasn't trapped under something heavy, I just had a can't-miss work event that kept me from my TV Thursday night. Why didn't I just DVR and watch it afterwards, you ask? Because, cruelly, I have no DVR. Because my block--I can barely even type this, it's so upsetting--is not even wired for cable. I know, right? I live in Prospect Heights, not the Pyrenees. Bloomberg: Get on this! Anyway, I had to go to my dad's house on Friday to watch, and until then I couldn't even check my favorite websites, lest I see a headline that gave away who got the boot.

Before I begin, I did some Internet reading (is there any other kind, really, these days?) and found these two interviews with Nina Garcia and Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman illuminating. Both bring up the idea that perhaps the eliminations in Season 6 thus far have been, shall we say, occasionally surprising because the judging is not consistent; in previous seasons Michael and Nina could make decisions based on a designer's entire body of work, not just what they showed for a specific challenge. But due to the musical judging chairs this season, no one except Heidi really has any perspective on the designers' growth (or lack thereof). Personally I think Ra'mon would have stayed longer had Michael and Nina been around more (Nina agrees). But apparently the show was shot during fall fashion week 2008, hence the absences. Lifetime, you had best keep this in mind moving forward.

Previously on, nine divorcees attended Oktoberfest with disastrous results: Epperson, the calm, creamy nougat center of Season 6, was brutally auf'ed!

As the show opens we see Christopher making his bed and interviewing that he is here to make it to Fashion Week. He knows he has to step up his game, and says that in the next challenge he wants to go huge, but not too huge to scare judges. Oh honey. That's what she said! Over in the girl's bunker, Shirin is practicing yoga (thankfully sans hat). Carol Hannah says that she hasn't won a challenge yet, but thinks she's still one of the top designers. "Slow and steady wins the race?" she asks, obviously totally unconvinced. On their way out the door to FIDM, Shirin cries, "Let's do this!" And somewhere, I'd like to think Mitchell sheds a silent tear.

On the runway, Heidi is wearing distracting, blod clot patterned pants with hip zippers. Now that there are only eight designers left, she says, it's time to take the challenge to the next level: "If you really want to shine, then your look must upstage the rest." She tells the gang that Tim is waiting for them with a Mystery Guest who is very excited to meet them.

The designers arrive at the FIDM museum to find Tim with Bob Mackie, "the sultan of sequins," who has dressed Diana Ross and Tina Turner, but really all you need to know is that he is responsible for this:


Back in my early twenties I was in a play with an actor named Dickie and he taught me a dance he called "The Sparkle Dance," which involved full-circle jazz hands, PLUS hula girl hip sways and hand-jiving. And if I had to sum up Bob Mackie's aesthetic... nay, entire reason for being, it would be: Sparkle Dance. Feathers! Pailettes! Tim says that the challenge is to create "an extravagant stage look," and Mackie points out that creating something for the stage requires taking a normal garment "many steps above" for a wow factor that reads even in the nosebleed seats. (My dad says, awesomely, "Thank God Gordana has immunity!")

Nic is happy as a pig in shit about a Mackie challenge, since Nic's background is also in costume design. (On a roll, dad observes of Nic: "He has all these inappropriate facial movements. He's like a child and yet he's kind of a sarcastic bitch.") Bob Mackie is super cute, I will say, even though he is dressed kind of like he's about to guest host The Price is Right (or, maybe, more appropriately, The Price is Fabulous, Darling!). Then Tim adds that the designers will not only be creating a Sparkle Dance number, but they'll be creating it specifically for a Grammy-winning, risk-taking fashionista diva, namely Christina Aguilera. Oh, yeah. Her. What's she been up to lately? Was she doing something important in fall 2008?

Chris declares that it's frightening and exhilarating to create an iconic look for an icon. Nic gets so excited he just starts yelling "Lace! Feathers! Crystals! Ombre!" like he has Accessories Tourettes. And he gets to buy all that and more at Mood, where the designers run rampant trying to snatch up anything shiny, furry, or feathered. If Dita von Teese had walked in, I imagine they would have stripped her down to the bone like piranhas.

Back in the workroom, Carol Hannah observes that she doesn't usually make showy or avant garde stuff, while Nic announces, "I'm going to blast the industry with my knowledge." Irina bitches that some designers know what they want, while others stumble around like "stressed out deer in headlights," and the edit makes it plain that she is referring to Shirin. Then she says that Carol Hannah bought "cheap, crappy-looking Hallowen costume fabric." I hate her SO much, even more than I hate Sweet Valley Twin Jessica Wakefield. She (Irina, not Jessica Wakefield) makes Shirin look like an adorable moppet.

Chris' (somewhat troubling) concept is "80s punk prom" and involves a beaded corset. Logan interviews that he doesn't follow Christina Aguilera as closely as the other designers do (translation: "I'm straight.") Then for no apparent reason he dresses Carol Hannah in a giant fur vest. Gordana is struggling with her fabric, which is losing beads. She gets depressed and frazzled and has to take a catatonic moment. Nic says that he doesn't think ProjRun has ever had two such big stars [meaning Mackie and Aguilera] on the show before. It's certainly never had two such big gay icons at once. I sense that feathers are going to fly, quite literally.

The next morning, Gordana decides to start over from scratch. Althea appears briefly, looking more and more each week like Charlene from Designing Women and my dad asks "Is she still in it?" Ha! Nic interviews that he's not sure what to do with the top half of his dress because "Christina Aguilera likes to show off the girls." He also complains that his look is wearing him out because there is so much featherwork. Oh, STFU, Nic. You know you love it. Shirin, who has abandoned her Peter Pan yarmulke for what looks like the golf cap my grandfather kept on the dash of his Cadillac for the entirety of the 1980s, says that she is going for a Hollywood 1940s glamour look, but she's clearly confused. Carol Hannah giggles that she doesn't know what Shirin is making.

Tim comes in for his visceral uh-ohs. Chris tells him that his outfit has a tearaway that reveals a corset and hot pants. "If you're going to have a reveal," Tim says, "it should be super sexy slut or something." TIM SAID SLUT. He's also wearing what looks to be a corduroy blazer and no tie. Is he drunk? Althea is making a huge furry jacket over a sequined dress. Gordana explains that she had a meltdown and started over and Tim looks vexed, but she's got immunity so it ain't no thang. Of Nic's dress, Tim says it looks way too much like the ice queen look from the movie genre challenge. Nic thinks his garment is amazing (healthy ego, that one) and decides not to change anything, saying only "I'm praying that Tim is wrong." (You can pray all you want, Hodgman, but much like Shikira's hips, Gunn don't lie.) Tim thinks Carol Hannah's black gown, which incorporates many different fabrics and feathers, can have a major wow factor, but poor Shirin gets pilloried. "This looks like student work," Tim says. "Like a 16 year-old's really bad prom."

As he departs, Tim says, "A few of you have lost your way, but you have to work like there's no tomorrow... because for one of you there won't be." He said almost the exact same thing a few episodes ago. Is this an attempt at a new catchphrase? I hope not... it's so depressing. If you can make it work, don't fix it, Tim!

At the tail end of day two, everyone is stressing out. Well, everyone except Logan and Carol Hannah, who flirt instead. (Logan's stocking cap/head condom is such a chick magnet.) Gordana is cracking up from stress in a hilarious way, and everyone joins in, except of course for Irina. Everyone knows that good bitch don't crack.

On the morning of the runway show, Shirin is nervous and Nic fears that he will choke in front of his Big Gay Idol Bob Mackie. As the models get fitted, Irina audibly rags on Carol Hannah (presumably out of earshot of CH herself), opining that "if you're going to be a mediocre designer, then at least have a good personality." Them's fightin' words, Kardashian. Nic thinks Irina is a good designer but that "the problem is she's a bitch." Um, Major Duh, starring Gerald McRaney.

Christopher says that he has a bustier and sparkle panties and that "You can't ask for anything more." And--musical interlude! Apologies to Gershwin!

I've got Mackie,
I've got sequins,
Sparkle panties,
Who could ask for anything more?

I've got feathers,
In my nethers,
I've got a bustier,
Who could ask for anything more?

Ahem. Logan's dress, which has gotten barely any screen time, looks sort of like a Flintstone's costume. And with ten minutes to go, Carol Hannah is glue-gunning feathers onto her model's ass.

Runway show! Heidi introduces the judges: Mackie the Knife, Nina Garcia, and Christina Aguilera, whose presence at panel is supposed to be some big surprise even though I thought it was implied all along. Whatevs, though, because it's Sparkle Dance time.



This does the trick. It's almost cliche glamour but it's so well-executed that I don't really care. I wish Althea were more interesting; I'd totally root for her.



This doesn't stun me, but there's a lot of detail going on that I'm sure I can't really see because this is black. That said, it looks polished. (It should be stated that I'm prejudiced against black formalwear. Fashion is eye candy, and nobody likes the licorice. Cough, Tina Fey, cough.)



SWEET FANCY NO. From the Frederick's of Hollywood bustier to the weirdly loose booty shorts festooned with tinsel to the awful garter (um, did that come from the Macy's accessories wall?), this is a mess. I will give the model points for her perfect "It's Britney, bitch!" facial expression, though, which brings the total to -287.



She's immune and we all know she had a complete mental break, so you know what? Pass. I will ask one thing though: Is it chilly in there? You could cut glass with those.



Irina, if you're planning on continuing to talk so much smack, I would avoid making cheap-looking Victoria's Secret knockoffs. In other words, if you're going to be a mediocre designer, at least have a good personality.



The animal print fails Logan here, I think. I get what he was going for--a more punky vibe--but it ends up reading more like Pebbles Flintstone moonlighting as a bassist for Jem and the Holograms.



The craftsmanship is impeccable, but this feels incomplete. It needs a headdress worthy of Cher. Nic didn't really push the boundaries with this at all, and since it's his niche I feel justified in judging him on a harsher scale.



I kind of love this photo because it makes it look like Bitchface's legs are made out of toilet paper, and she's all, So? The neckline and bodice of this works, but the skirt is a disaster. Also the shiny black fabric makes this bear more than a passing resemblance to an Elvira costume I saw the other day at Party City.

After the show the designers assemble on the runway. Only Irina is deemed bland enough for immediate safety. Gordana is of course safe, but Heidi tells her that if not for her immunity she probably would have been auf'ed. Gordana still has that crazy look in her eyes. I wonder if she's cracked up permanently (is it wrong that I kind of hope so?).

The judges like Althea's silver glamour gown, Carol Hannah's black feathery magic, and--somewhat surprisingly--Nic's understated ice dancing queen. They hate on Shirin's dress, Christopher's heinous sparkle panties (Christina Aguilera gives him an E for Effort...I think this is just to keep him from crying though), and Logan's cavewoman look, which they think was not over the top enough. They send the designers backstage and actually have a great, lengthy deliberation for once, after which I am 100% certain that Christopher will finally be dismissed. As long as he doesn't sob too much, I think I will be able to deal.

The designers return and Althea is in. Christina Aguilera announces the winner... Carol Hannah. Aw. I like her, even if her dress was kind of boring. Nic is in, obviously, and then Logan is in, which leaves Chris and Shirin. I'm not even hating on Shirin anymore, and I completely believe that Christopher deserves to go home. Which is why I'm shocked to hear Heidi tell Shirin that she is out.

I'm sorry, but no. You all know how little I liked Shirin, but there is absolutely no question that she deserved another chance. I mean, Chris has struggled for three straight weeks. Yes, he's made some nice pieces, but three straight weeks shows a pattern of bad judgment. Shirin just messed up once. In what universe does that equal an aufing? Jeff and I have conferred and we believe that the producers must have had a hand in the decision. Maybe it's a personality thing, I don't know. All I know is that a twist ending is only satisfying if it makes sense. I really feel bad for Shirin, at least until she puts back on her yarmulke for her exit interview. "Oh take that hat off, Jesus," my dad says, and while I still laugh, it is bittersweet.

So now I've decided I want Carol Hannah to win it all. That is the only acceptable outcome. Thoughts?

Oh, and although my dad didn't DVR it, apparently Bitchface bit the dust this week on Models of the Runway. Which is also sad, in its way. I feel like I could have gotten a little more mileage out of that stink eye of hers.

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