<i>Project Runway</i> Episode 10 Recap: Par for the Kors

In the boys' bunker, Nic carefully irons his hair while Chris marvels over the fact that he's one of the top seven designers left in the competition. Yeah, buddy, join the club--we're all scratching our heads.
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I've been reading your comments (which, by the way, I so appreciate even if I don't reply to each one), and many of you have been saying that you've given up on the show, or don't even watch anymore and just read the recaps. I want to climb up on my little soapbox for a minute before I start this recap and implore you to heed the wise words of everyone's favorite power balladeers, Journey. DON'T STOP BELIEVIN' in Project Runway.

Look, I know this season has been weird. The judging has been uneven and the aufings have often been unfair. The challenges have been mostly tame and the designers are, for the most part, even-tempered and good-natured--it says something that the biggest villain of the season does nothing worse than bitch to the camera in private. With the move to a new city and a new network, the show is undoubtedly slumping in its sixth outing, and it didn't help that we had to wait a whole year to watch it, which probably got our expectations even higher than usual (see my giddy preview post). But I still love the show (sort of like a best friend you just can't stay mad at--maybe you block her from Gchat for a few days but then you come around) and I still believe that Project Runway is one of the best reality shows on television.

For one thing, there's no denying that the contestants are actually incredibly talented, regardless of whether their personalities make for good TV. They're not eating leeches or Jello wrestling for cash (although, hmmm, Lifetime, I'm getting some great ideas for future challenges); they're creating complete, impeccably tailored and often mind-bogglingly intricate outfits in a matter of hours.

I also love that we as viewers can judge the designers' work from our couches--all we need is a set of eyes. I don't watch Top Chef (I know I should), but I wonder how it can be satisfying to watch when viewers can't taste a goddamn thing.

Finally, Tim, Heidi, Michael, and Nina are as compelling a cast of judges and mentors as I have ever seen, each with relevant professional experience, a healthy sense of humor and a unique and very television-friendly persona. If we can get them all together again (none of this Fashion Week bullshit--rent Michael and Nina a nice bungalow by the beach and feed them martinis and do not even let them near the airport) I think some sense of normalcy will be restored.

That all said, I think Lifetime knows that this season is losing viewers, and Tom and Lorenzo over at Project Rungay have it on good authority that producers are aware of the backlash and are looking to fans for advice. Who knows, maybe they even read this. (By the way, if any of the designers, or Heidi or Michael or Nina or--OMG--Tim read these recaps, please know that I come from a place of love. I know that calling someone neon orange or comparing a dress to the pelt of Grimace from McDonald's does not sound like love, but it is.) Lifetime, I believe in you! You're just a small town girl livin' in a lonely world (channel 62??) and you took a midnight train going somewhere specific--LA--but all is not lost! Something about streetlight people. Shadows searching in the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

Where was I? Oh, yes, the actual recap. Previously on: Ironically, no one really sparkled in a Bob Mackie-inspired challenge, and despite creating sequined booty shorts and an ill-fitting bustier, Christopher was granted a stay of execution while Shirin and Bitchface were sent packing.

Project Runway: 90210 begins this week with a shot of palm trees swaying in the California breeze. In the apartments, Carol Hannah says that she's sad to see Shirin leave. Gordana, continuing her complete mental breakdown from last week, is wearing what looks to be a preteen sundress over her regular clothes. In the boys' bunker, Nic carefully irons his hair while Chris marvels over the fact that he's one of the top seven designers left in the competition. Yeah, buddy, join the club--we're all scratching our heads.

On the runway at FIDM, Heidi tells the designers that Tim will be taking them on a trip to Rodeo Drive, and for a fleeting moment I hope for a Pretty Woman challenge in which the designers try on clothes and get scoffed at by bitches in giant shoulder pads, after which they make polo outfits for hookers. The guest judge would be a drunk Jason Alexander! But alas, this is not to be. They are apparently going to visit a designer whose work is known around the world.

Logan interviews that going to Rodeo Drive means designing something higher-end. What Logan, are feathered Cher costumes not fancy enough for you? She wore that to the Oscars. Chris tells us that he's worked at mall stores, and they didn't have YSL. I bet they had The Limited, though. Whatever happened to that store?

The designers arrive at Michael Kors' LA flagship, where Tim and MK await them. I am not going to even mention the color of a certain citrus fruit, but I will say that someone looks like they've had some Botox--for the entirety of this scene the only thing that moves is his jaw, as if Tim is actually a ventriloquist and has his hand stuffed up ... nevermind.

All around the store are photos of exotic vacation locales, and Michael explains that his aesthetic is inspired by jet-set travel. The challenge will be for each designer to choose a location and create a look that both represents their style and embraces the style of that place. Here's the actual list of places, with my suggestions for more interesting choices in parentheses:

Palm Beach (Papa New Guinea)
Greece (Colonial Williamsburg)
Aspen (Phnom Penh)
St. Tropez (Sarajevo)
New York (New Delhi)
Santa Fe (Santa's workshop, a.k.a.The North Pole)
Hollywood (Dollywood a.k.a. Pigeon Forge, TN)

Carol Hannah won the previous challenge, so she gets first pick and goes with Palm Beach. Tim busts out the velvet bag and proceeds to draw names. Nic gets picked first. "New York is too easy for me!" he declares, before choosing Greece. Irina picks Aspen, where it is as cold as the blood that runs through her veins. Althea goes next and picks St. Tropez, and deep in the recesses of my brain, a tiny Burt Bacharach begins to sing "Do You Know the Way To San Jose?" even though that is totally not the same place. Also, Althea interviews that St. Tropez has yachts and parties but is also an old fishing town, and how amazing would it be if she made a fierce version of the Gorton's fisherman's rain slicker? Do they have wellies on the Macy's accessories wall? Anyway. Gordana chooses New York, Chris picks Santa Fe, and Logan, who is last, is left with Hollywood.

At Mood, the designers have $150. Gordana spends almost all of her money buying jeweled pieces for a necklace that will reflect a strong, independent Park Avenue woman. Irina is all about the fur. She needs to put together a winter look, which she thinks is impossible given the budget. Let's hope so (cough--bitch!--cough).

Back at FIDM, Logan says that he's going for a bohemian look with tight, skinny jeans and a comfy top. Irina is making pants, a cowl neck sweater and a fur vest. Nic says he is designing for a fabulous tomboy (Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful?). Carol Hannah, who is crafting a long, flowy dress, wishes she had more fabric. Gordana, who is awesome, is cracking up over her own jokes, so of course Irina interviews that people are cracking jokes instead of working. You know who she reminds me of? That mean orphan from Annie who's always threatening to punch people.

Gordana notes that when under pressure, some people crumble and some prevail. Nic is nervous because Michael Kors looks at every last detail, so everything has to be perfect (what's he going to do, raise his eyebrows? He can't!). Chris says that he's been on top many times (of the competition, people. Gawd.) but then has been in the bottom for three weeks. He needs to show sophisticated, high style. I will not make the Major Duh joke from last week again, even though I was super proud of it, so I'll just say that Chris' observation is abundantly obvious. He needs a phenomenal look this week to win back my affections.

Tim checks in. He loves the necklace Gordana has made, but she hasn't even started on the dress, which worries him. Chris shows Tim a sky blue top and baby shit brown skirt that do not look promising and says that he's putting a lot of effort into a belt. Tim warns him that it can't all be about the belt, and advises him to avoid cliches (like making a New Mexico-inspired dress that is quite literally the color of mountains and sky--oops, too late!). Irina interviews that she's surprised that Chris is still here, and that his dress looks Amish. Carol Hannah is worried that her dress will end up looking like it could be bought anywhere, and Tim agrees. He tells Irina--who has actually made kind of an amazing three-piece outfit--to watch proportions. Nic tells the camera that Irina's outfit is borderline costume. ("Wait, isn't his whole thing costume?" my friend Kerry notes. Yes, Nic. Men who flat-iron their hair should not hurl insults.)

The models arrive, and Gordana kind of freaks out because she literally has no dress to even fit on her model. The jeans Logan made don't fit on his model, so he'll have to take them out. I can't tell if this is his fault (doesn't he have her measurements?) or if the model just put on a few pounds. Maybe they're getting Arby's care packages from the Roastburger Queen! (What, I haven't brought that up in forever.) Irina bitches that the creativity and craftsmanship shown by her fellow contestants hasn't increased, and Carol Hannah interviews that Irina is not here to make friends. Nic is still working in an all-white palette, but says he doesn't want to evoke a Grecian goddess. (Doesn't he have Greece?) Chris decides that his dress is "too Little House on the Prairie" and lops off twenty inches.

Back at the house that night, Nic thinks he's in trouble. The designers gather around for some wine and bonding--Irina included!--and it's kind of cute. Kerry notes that Althea needs to get her roots done.

The next day in the workroom, Nic says to everyone, "You all remember my mental breakdown last night," and COME ON, editors, really? Why didn't we see this? Tim comes in and does his spiel--"Garnier, L'Oreal, Macy's, are all of you sponsors fucking happy now? Did I mention the Brother sewing machines?"--and I catch a glimpse of Chris' dress and OH GOD IT IS HORRIBLE. Logan says that Nic went off into his own world. He says he doesn't see Greece in Nic's outfit, but that "someone could wear it in Greece." Ha! Logan also says that he went for a "young Hollywood" look, and I am sad to imagine the Old Hollywood look that might have been--something saucy for Cloris Leachman, perhaps? Nic interviews that there no more weaklings in the bunch, and that it's do or die.

It's runway time. Heidi is decked out in leatha, which reminds me that my hubby Jeff saw Stella on the street awhile ago. I miss her. She had the soul of Sylvester Stallone in the body of what Cher would look like if she had aged naturally. Every time I think of her I think "YO, ADRIAN!" and also about that little girl in Annie Hall who says, "I used to be a heroin addict, and now I'm a methadone addict." Sigh. Anyway, this week Michael and Nina are both in LA at the same time! Oh happy day! The guest judge is Milla Jovovich, who actually has a reputable fashion label, so that's something. The lights dim, and the show begins. Do they know the way to San Jose? La la la la la la la la la.....

In honor of Bitchface this week, I have Photoshopped her head onto all of the models. I hope this does not break any laws.



Bitchface says: "If I have to wait another second for this motherfucking yacht I will shit in my golden shorts. Somebody get me a Xanax!"

But seriously, Althea does great work. It's just so boring to root for her.



Bitchface says: "It's fucking hot up in here. Where am I, Brazil? I passed out on the jet during my foot massage. Someone fan me."

This is very pretty. It does look like I could probably find a near-exact replica at Bloomingdale's, but Carol Hannah's braiding (the back is especially artistic) takes it up a notch, Emeril-style.



Bitchface says: "Oh HELL no. Why am I dressed like fucking Liesel from The Sound of Music trolling for ass at Oktoberfest? I'm not sixteen going on old German hooker, OK?"

I agree with Bitchface.



Bitchface says: "I am fucking fabulous. This isn't even a scarf, it's just something I swat at the hoi polloi when they get too close. Is my driver outside? I'm late for my weekly interaction with my children."

I'm not loving the baseball seam-like detailing on the dress, but it does come off as elegant. Still, as much as I love her I think Gordana is one of the weaker designers left.



Bitchface says: "What do you mean 'Do I ski?' Do these shoes look like skis to you? Honey, the only skiing I do is on my coffee table. Now light me a fire, it's fucking cold."

Irina's pleasantness obviously has an inverse relationship to her design talent. This actually looks super chic AND cozy, and while I think the belt makes it a little more precious than I'd like, I am in awe of the sweater. Again, you can't see the back, but there's a cut-out. Functional? No. Gorgeous (and drafty)? Yes.



Bitchface says: "Take this vest and burn it. And why are these belts around my shoulders? Suspenders? Do I look like Gordon Gekko to you? Get them off of me and then get me on a sailboat so I look like I fit in for Christ's sake."

This outfit is perfectly made, but it confuses me. I think it's the top--it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the outfit. If it were a different color and didn't have the weird striped collar I think I'd like this a lot more. Also the suspenders are questionable.



Bitchface says: "Okay, I'm not even going to look down, I just want you to tell me: Am I in fact wearing sensible office pants? Like the kind working people wear? Oh my God. If only my entire upper body weren't bandaged I could do something about it."

Aside from the fact that this outfit has nothing to do with Greece, it's really unflattering on the model, and I'm perplexed by the top. Is it a bodysuit? Is it just tucked in? I hate tops that defy architectural explanation.

The designers return to the runway. Althea is safe, and the rest represent the best and the worst. First, the best: Irina, who the judges think did a great job on her cut-out sweater and evoked the spirit of Apsen; Carol Hannah, whose print choice was perfect and whose braiding they covet; and Gordana, whose necklace saved her ass this week. The boys are on the bottom. Milla Jovovich loves Chris' belt but the judges agree that the rest of it sucks. Michael Kors thinks that Nic misheard the challenge as being about Grease the movie, which still doesn't make any sense since the bland office wear that Nic created has no place in The Pink Ladies. Heidi thinks that Logan's outfit just looks like "basic clothes," which I guess is kind of what he was going for but not in a bad way, which is how it ended up. Milla awesomely says that if the show was called Project I Didn't Mind It, that the outfit would pass. I think a better joke would have been Project Blandway, but sadly I do not have the right forum (say, the stage at FIDM) to share this with the world.

Carol Hannah is the first one sent safely backstage. The winner of this challenge is...Irina, which I guess is deserved. Gordana is in, as is Logan, which leaves Nic and Chris in the bottom two. And oh, look, I'm getting flashbacks to last week! Chris has now been in the bottom for four weeks. When Mitchell got kicked off, didn't Heidi says something like, "Three strikes, you're out?" Nic's outfit is boring and unflattering, sure, but LOOK AT CHRIS' DRESS. It looks like the costume for a children's choir production of "The Lonely Goatherd." The only thing missing is the clogs! And don't forget that this is on the heels of the sequined booty shorts, the Red Cross relief blanket cocktail dress, and the disco pumpkin/Cabbage Patch special. I do like Christopher and I think he's a talented designer. But he has much less professional experience than the rest of them. He's self-taught. He buys fabric at Wal-Mart. He is just not quite up to par among this kind of competition.

And yet... he's IN.



If there is a reason the judges are keeping him around, I wish they would articulate it, because as it stands it feels like something is being put over on the audience. In any other season, and even in this season (see also: Mitchell), the judges base their aufings not only on the outcome of that specific challenge but also on past performance. There is no precedent for this kind of extended stay of execution for someone who clearly has issues of taste. And the fact that Chris was chosen over Shirin and Nicolas, two designers who have shown more talent, range and consistency, just doesn't make sense.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the producers like Chris and they like his story, so they want him to win. He doesn't have fancy training or expensive tastes; he's worked his way to the national stage and charmed people despite his lack of experience and spotty record. He is the Sarah Palin of Project Runway.

Listen, Lifetime. I appreciate the need for reality TV show winners to be liked by the audience, but Project Runway is a great show because, as I mentioned at the start of this post, the contestants are incredibly talented. Don't let that slide. I don't want to have to block you from my Gchat, okay?

Hugs, Una

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