<i>Project Runway</i> Episode 3 Recap: Smells Like Team Spirit

By the time I finished scarfing chorizo empanadas and draining the dregs of my melted margarita, it was almost time for. And this, kids, is why you should never drink and recap.
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So last night I found myself in a situation I'm sure you can all relate to: I went for drinks after work with a colleague, one happy hour margarita led to another, and before I knew it we were deep into a drunken conversation about Lost, touching on biblical references ("Is John Locke supposed to be Jesus? Is Jacob the Jacob from Genesis, and then who the hell is Esau?"), character judgments ("God, why is Jack such a sanctimonious little bitch sometimes?"), and fantasy ("Okay, fuck, marry or kill: Hairy 1970s Charles Widmore, Desmond, Richard Alpert. Go."). By the time I finished scarfing chorizo empanadas and draining the dregs of my melted margarita, it was almost time for Project Runway. And this, kids, is why you should never drink and recap.

The above paragraph should serve as a disclaimer for everything below, which is likely to be more, um, impressionistic than usual. In my notes I have actually typed "Write about how drunk and confused." (Atta girl.) And you can't really blame me--last night's episode was like a weird fashion calculus equation, a riddle wrapped in an enigma sprinkled with some Nina Garcia. The designers pair off into teams but then have to make a second garment inspired by one of the other team's original looks? It reminded me of those convenience store logic puzzles I used to buy on family car trips: The team that made the hideous cotillion dress does not take inspiration from the team that made the Hammer pants, but one of the teams headed by a woman takes inspiration from the hideous cotillion team. Even if I had not been drunk I suspect this challenge would have bent my mind like a spoon.

Anyway, here goes:

Previously on, it was a thrilling potato sack race to the finish, with Buh-Ohns and Butt-Ox and some very unfortunate ombre denim. In the end, Pamela was sent back to her Pennsylvania doll dungeon, leaving me with a useless arsenal of Silence of the Lamb jokes and a good idea for a mock version of "Bette Davis Eyes" called "Fucking Crazy Eyes." Kim Carnes would be proud.

This episode opens with shots of the New York City streets set to classical music. What is this, Masterpiece Theater? Oh man, how awesome would it be if Tim introduced every episode wearing a smoking jacket and sitting in an armchair like Alistair Cooke? I hope Lifetime is writing these down.

In the boys' apartment, the chalkboard reads "YAY JAY." As the men get ready, Seth asks Jesus if he plans on being in the bottom two the whole time, to which Jesus replies "I don't know Seth, do you plan on dressing like a Rock of Love roadie the whole time?" Okay he doesn't say that, but I bet he's thinking it. Jonathan invokes Ping's name to a still-sleeping Emilio and he moans, "Don't bring up her name; it's too early!" Speaking of our favorite nutball, over in the ladies' quarters Ping stumbles around, explaining that she can only see through one eye. "Maybe that will help you design," Anna says. Snap!

On the runway, Heidi--wearing the first of what will turn out to be a series of bizarrely-patterned maternity tunics--asks the gang if they want to meet some of the world's most iconic designers. They get excited, bless their hearts, as though Valentino is backstage getting spray-tanned with Michael Kors, even though this is clearly a trick question.

They scurry over to the Upper East Side and Mila says she knows that they're going to the Met, because it's one of the most inspiring places in the world. Indeed, Tim is waiting for them in the American wing surrounded by mannequins.


He looks so beatific in this photo that I can't help but imagine a gay remake of the classic 80s movie Mannequin:


A girl can dream...

Anyway, Tim tells them that they are standing amidst 10 iconic looks from The Costume Institute, and that the challenge will be a team challenge. The designers will pair up to create a "high-end signature look that will fit in with this company." They will have two days for the challenge and will be given $500 to create their look, which Tim will have them know is the highest allowance in the history of Project Runway. Okay, so this challenge is just to create something high-end with a lot of money? Why the field trip to the Met? This seems to me like smoke and mirrors masking an uninspired premise, but oh well, at least they're in teams. Bring on the catfights and the velvet bag!

Since Jay won the last challenge he gets to be a team leader. The velvet bag decides who else gets to lead, and it selects Jesus, Anthony, Janeane, Mila, Ping, and Emilio. "I am excited to be a leader because I am good at giving instructions!" Ping tells us, and I have watched this show for too long not to know that this sound bite will come back to bite her in the Butt Ox.

The team leaders get to select their teammates in the order that they were announced. Jay picks Maya, Jesus picks Amy, and Anthony picks Seth, who cries "Where's my brown sugar?" They should call themselves Brown Sugar and Bandana, like Smokey and The Bandit. Janeane picks Ben and Mila picks Jonathan, which leaves Jesse and Anna. Jesse doesn't want Ping to pick him, so of course she does. Emilio pretends to be excited about being stuck with Anna and declares that she is his "clatthic American girl." Has he always had a lisp?

Tim encourages everyone to "get inspired" by the iconic pieces surrounding them (this is smacking of last season's Getty Center challenge). Seth marvels that "I'm standing thisclose to a classic Dior. No glass, no security guards, no pit bulls." Gee, do you think he's ever thought about art theft? I was typing too much to see a lot of the gowns, but I did take the time to write "Balenciaga Pepto Bismol sack," which either means that it made an impression or that the empanadas weren't sitting right. TMI!

Over at Mood, the designers have 45 minutes to spend their cash. Amy says that she and Jesus want to do a dramatic dress with a large vest, which sounds like all kinds of wrong. Vests can go horribly, horribly awry, especially if you were a pre-teen when Kris Kross was big in 1992 and someone convinced you to wear your tapestry-printed vest backwards for an entire day. Not that I know anyone that happened to. Mila interviews that she wants to do something '60s-inspired, which is not at all shocking.

Ping and Jesse seem to be bickering right from the start over ideas and fabrics and who knows what else. Ping runs around crazily and Tim openly laughs at her. At the risk of sounding incredibly racist, I am going to go ahead and tell you that Ping reminded last night of Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, despite the fact that I realize they are from different Asian countries. I actually wrote down "OH SEXY GIRLFRIEEEEEND!!!!!" in my notes, but remember, I was drunk. Mostly she made me think of that scene in which Samantha Baker's grandpa calls the police when the Donger goes missing and his side of the phone conversation goes: "What was he wearing? Well, uh, let's see, he was wearing a red argyle sweater, and tan trousers, and red shoes... No, he's not retarded." Anyway.

Back at Parson's, Jonathan interviews that Mila is very meticulous and the she's doing a lot of thinking before she executes anything. Mila explains that being the team leader, she's at a greater risk, which is true--it's pretty much guaranteed that one of the team leaders is getting auf'ed. Although Maya is not the team leader, she wants to take a leadership role, and complains that Jay is resting on his elimination-immune laurels and slacking off. Ping says that it is very difficult to work with Jesse, while Jesse tells us that Ping is constantly changing her ideas and that he feels like he's always trying to "reign in the crazy." Anthony and Seth's color palette is bright yellow, red, and black. "We're designing a gown for the vice president of McDonalds!" he quips. I like that he didn't say Mrs. Ronald McDonald, since everyone knows Ron swings the other way--specifically, towards Officer Big Mac (who can resist a man in uniform?)

At the start of the second day, Tim comes in and asks everyone to gather round. "You will be creating an additional look," he says, and the reaction shots are priceless (I stole the screen grabs from Gawker):

Emilio's soul dies.

Jay and Maya demonstrate the many faces of "Oh, fuuuuuck."

Jesse tries to keep his brain from falling out through his nose, while Ping freezes in blowjob face.

Tim explains that the second look will be for a mass-market customer that likes to wear fashionable but affordable clothes. It will be a "look for less" that will cost only $50 to make. And the kicker is that it will be derived from the look of another team. I think at this point I actually said "Ack!" like I was in a Cathy comic, probably because I realized how much Photoshop side-by-side comparisons I would have to do. And also: this challenge makes my brain hurt (Tim, it should be noted, looks and sounds in this scene as if he has just taken a massive bong rip). Of course the velvet bag comes out again , and I am not even excited because I can hardly keep the teams straight as it is and now the teams are choosing teams. Ack!

Try to follow along: Ping and Jesse are going to do a second look derived from Emilio and Anna's high-end look. Janeane and Ben are doing their Look for Less based on Mila and Jonathan's first look. Jay and Maya choose Ben and Janeane and Mila and Jon pick Brown Sugar and Bandana, who go on to select Jesus and Amy, who then choose Ping and Jesse. This leaves Emilio and Anna with Jay and Maya. Need a visual aid? This should help:


Jesus points out that Ping's construction is very drapey (Oh rlly? ), so he wants to make some droopy pantaloons (he doesn't use those words, but just wait until you see them). Emilio notes that Jay and Maya's dress is very sculptural. Anthony and Seth are going to work with lace to make a downmarket version of Jesus and Amy's gown. Mila wants to make a cute cocktail dress for The Hamburglar's next drag ball. One member from each team is dispatched to Mood to source fabric for the new look. When Ping returns she says that she got a fabulous fabric, but Jesse thinks it looks like a synthetic hooker costume. Whatever, Jesse, we can't make everything out of porkpie hats and chin pubes.

Jay says that he is nervous that he won't be able to finish but that he has immunity so it ain't no thang. Maya reiterates that she wishes she wasn't working with Jay because he would work harder if he wasn't safe already. Janeane and Ben feel really good about their looks. Mila is still working on the coat for her high-end outfit while Jonathan sews everything else. Jonathan is, predictably, kind of bitter about this. Anthony tells us that Seth is not comfortable working with other people but that slapping the hell out of Seth is not a good idea. I don't know, Anth--go with your gut. He may dress like a twenty two year-old but I bet he doesn't have the reflexes or the lung capacity.

Ping complains that Jesse doesn't take her seriously as a leader and that he's behaving very unprofessionally. Emilio wishes that Ping would just "keep her damn mouth quiet," observing that Ping and Jesse bicker like Lucy and Ricky and that they ought to just shut up and work. Yes, because when Lucy and Ricky put their minds together they always came up with great ideas, like that time they decided to raise chickens with the Mertzes!

Tim comes back to check in on the teams' progress. "You two look stressed out," he says to Jay and Maya, although he likes their work. He compares the fabric Ping has chosen for her Look for Less to "cheap and cheerful wrapping paper," which makes me wonder what kinds of gifts Tim gives as the fabric is scaly and black. He stops by Anthony and Seth's station as well as Mila and Jonathan's and generally likes what he sees.

On the morning of the runway show, Anthony and Jay do their hair while Jonathan interviews that Mila's time management problems concern him. In the women's apartment, Ping tells Anna and Janeane, who are both dressed in black, that they look nice. "We look like we're going to a funeral," one says. "Yeah, the death of our hopes and dreams," quips the other. They're like Statler and Waldorf, and I love it.

At Parson's, everyone rushes to finish both looks. "Anthony and Seth's dress is a great concept," says Emilio, "But the execution is hideous." Ouch. That is way harsh, Tai. Maya once again reminds us that Jay is slacking off and that she's doing all of the work. Ping says that Jesse is much more concerned with his own safety than with the quality of the work. Mila suddenly worries that the fact that she only made the coat will be an issue. "I think Mila would sell me out on the runway," Jon interviews. "And I know I would sell her out." Someone call Andrew Lloyd Webber, 'cause it's gettin' catty up in here.

Tim comes back with the models, reminding the gang that it's a big day, since it's the first team challenge (this is where I wrote "Write about how drunk and confused.") Instead of "Make it work!" Tim leaves the designers with a hearty "Let's do this!" and a kind of effeminate fist pump. I think someone's been watching too much Jersey Shore.

Ben is concerned for Jesse and Ping since they've been fighting. He says that their Look for Less doesn't resemble Emilio and Anna's look at all and that they missed the mark. Jesus says that he can't be in the bottom two anymore. Jesse admits that being safe will be a victory for him. "It sucks to shoot that low," he says, "But safe is all I want."

It's runway time. Heidi is wearing a giant starburst-print top that accentuates her big pregnant belly. The guest judge is British designer Matthew Williamson. "Okay," Heidi says breezily. "One of you will be named the winner and one or more of you will be out." One or more? Way to throw that in at the end, Mommie Deutschest. Let's start the show.

I'm going to show you all of the original looks before I show you the Looks for Less, so that you can better understand the inspirations for the second looks. Because I want you to be less confused than I was. Just remember that Desmond is your constant and you'll be fine.




This has a Metropolis vibe that I'm digging, or maybe SNL's Land Shark going to a state dinner. It's definitely high-end and high-art, although my friend Jess notes that "the front of the labia look bad." HA.



This model makes me love everything she's in, plus I found out that her name is Brandeis, which is all kinds of awesome. But the problem with this is that instead of the draping creating or adding to the garment it just kind of hides it. It's like she's carrying a set of curtains around, just for kicks, or heading to a black-tie toga party.



This is pretty, but lacks a wow factor for me. The challenge was to create something iconic, and this looks like office wear dressed up with a shrug. And yet it seems quite glamorous and dramatic when compared to...



This little black dress. Nice? Sure. But iconic? This has no personality. It's too basic and understated.



Now this has oomph, and I love the ruffled bolero or whatever that is. The model is all, "Yeah, I might be wearing Goodyear tires on my shoulders, what of it?" Fierce!



I like the idea of this. Bumblebee comaprisons aside, I love yellow and black together, and I think the skirt is fabulous and dramatic. I even like the featherwork on the bodice. There's just something a little off about it. Something about the proportion or the fit or something. Can you guys pinpoint what it is?



This photo is not flattering. It makes the model look like Eric Balfour in drag and the garment look like a track suit made out of Shamu. But I promise in reality it was cool-looking.




This is a pretty literal copy of the original and similarly boring, but I think I like it better, maybe because the model reminds me of Patricia Clarkson.



This looks better in the photo than it did on the runway: The top was really ill-fitting. Also it's a pretty lame derivitave (though I must point out that most cheap knock-offs are, so well done, Ping and Jesse!)



I really like how this is inspired by Jay and Maya's original in a non-obvious way, and I would totally wear it to a summer shindig.



I like this Look for Less better than their iconic outfit. It maintains Mila's Mod aesthetic without being an exact copy.



"Harem pants!" my husband called out as these rounded the corner--he likes to warn me whenever rompers and their ilk are in the immediate vicinity since he knows how much I loathe them. The lace top and parachute pants make even this model look like ass, and as my mother always tells me, if it doesn't look good on the model, there's no hope for the rest of us.



Much like Ping and Jesse's, this Look for Less is exactly what a cheap knock-off of Jesus's gown would look like on the rack at Forever 21, which should get them points, as should the almost imperceptible shoulder ruffles. The bodice doesn't fit great but I honestly don't think this is so bad.



Sideshow Bob here looks okay, but on anyone else this would read as six months pregnant. Empire waists and flouncy skirts are not friends, nor should they ever become lovers.

The designers come back onto the runway and Heidi calls the following names: Janeane, Ben, Jesus, Amy, Emilio, and Anna. They are safe. This leaves four teams in danger: Jay and Maya, Mila and Jonathan, Ping and Jesse, and Anthony and Seth. Heidi immediately reveals that Ping, Jesse, Anthony, and Seth are the bottom two teams and that they can leave the runway for now.

The judges love Jay and Maya's statement gown, although Heidi pointedly asks Jay if he slacked off because he had immunity and he says no. Michael asks Janeane and Ben's model to come back out on the runway and says that Jay and Maya's $46 copy blows the $500 original out of the water.

Nina loves the clean, graphic look of Mila and Jonathan's signature piece, and Michael loves that they did separates. Nobody is too thrilled with the second look, however, and MK points out the unflattering baby doll silhouette. Neither Mila nor Jonathan calls each other out on the runway, despite earlier threats.

The top teams retreat and the bottom two come back out. Of Ping and Jesse's first look, Nina says "I feel like this is just a piece of fabric wrapped around a model." MK says that it's ill-fitting and blah, and when they make the model drop the fabric it is revealed to be nothing more than a very long train. The judges hate the Look for Less, and when asked why it sucks so hard Jesse explains that he had to teach Ping to sew while he was working so it slowed him down. Michael asks the model how she feels and she hisses that Ping never even fitted it on her. What bitches! Ping is fairly silent through all of this.*

Anthony and Seth explain that the classic Dior dress from the Met was their inspiration, but MK says that it's costumey (um, weren't those dresses from the Costume Institute? Just sayin'...) and that it reminds him of a cotillion party from hell. Anthony asks what the judges would have done differently and Matthew Williamson snipes that they can't design it for him. Nina says flat-out that both dresses are really ugly.

The top two teams return to the runway. Jonathan is the first one safe. Mila is commended for her unique and innovative work and is declared the winner of the challenge. She is pumped. Maya is in, as is Jay (duh). Seth is in, and then turncoat Jesse is in, which leaves my two very favorite people, Anthony and Ping, on the chopping block. Noooooooo! "Anthony," Heidi says, "You're in." Which is as it should be. I mean, Ping is amazing and fun to watch but this was her time to go. Still, she cries and it's sad and she tells us that she thinks she did an amazing job and even surprised herself. You surprised us all, Ping. You surprised us all.

Next week: Heidi tells the designers that they will be making clothes "for a very inspiring group of women." THIS HAD BETTER NOT MEAN THE MODELS, HEIDI. Someone says that this is the largest challenge they have ever faced (Biggest Loser contestants??? Ohpleaseohplease.) and Heidi and Nina have an exchange that goes:

NINA: "Good bosoms."
HEIDI: "Yes, excellent."


As always, if you like these recaps, check out my blog or become a fan on Facebook.

*So, I got hooked up this week by Lifetime's awesome publicist Kannie, and not only am I--OMG--going to get to attend the Bryant Park show during Fashion Week, but I also get to be in on a weekly conference call with the eliminated designer. So today I got to ask Ping some questions along with a few other journalists. Ping said some interesting things, such as that since Jesse is a professional actor (let us not forget that he plays Cap'n Jack Sparrow at Disney World!) he is desperate for attention and camera time, and that he made a big drama out of nothing. She also revealed that she argued back during panel when he tried to throw her under the bus but that all of her protests were edited out. You'll be happy to know, though, that Ping is doing well and doesn't feel that the show defines her in any way. "I'm not bitter," she said. "I don't base my serious, hard-earned work on a TV show."

Stay tuned for an interview with Anthony, to be posted next week. Got any questions for him? Let me know in the comments! (This does NOT mean he is eliminated, don't worry--I'm just interviewing him for kicks!)

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