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<i>Project Runway</i> Episode 9 Recap: Eyeshadow of a Doubt

While her dress was on the runway, Gretchen congratulated herself: "I love the side slit action--holla!" She was the only designer to be shown praising her own clothes. Ha, the editors hate her. That will never get old.
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Previously on: The Jackie Kennedy sportswear challenge was so lame that it even incurred Tim's wrath--on a now-deleted video blog he put the smackdown on the producers like they were Taylor Momsen, yo. Gunn Gone Wild -- it's happening. Hide your kids, hide your wife. In the end, Mondo won and our favorite wisecracking, man-cleavage-baring knitter (and generally superior Michael) Michael Drummond got the boot.

It's morning at Atlas. "Another big day!" April croaks from her bed. Gretchen, in the next bunk, coos something in creepy baby talk. No, really. I was trying to control my convulsing gag reflex, so I can't be sure, but I think she might have said, "Another one bites the dust."

Mondo and Chris have to move in with Andy and Michael C. I bet Andy is excited, as he's been cooped up with ol' crazy eyes Misery-style ever since AJ got aufed.

More pillow talk in the estrogen enclave: Valerie tells roommate Ivy that she's not going to give in to the judges anymore. Ivy interviews that Val "was really broken" by the judges shitting all over her sportswear in the last challenge. Valerie tells us that Ivy is her best friend on the show, and that while people might think she's opinionated, "at the end of the day she's a really great person." She still sucks in the mornings and afternoons, though.

There's a knock on Andy and MC's door. "Sorry for barging in -- we're the new roomies," says Chris, tonguing an iced coffee straw like he's making his entrance onto a porn set. Andy has a talking head in which he explains that it's been just him and Michael "for a while now...", and his voice suggests that he's been living his own personal version of Castaway, only with a mouthy egomaniac for companionship instead of a taciturn volleyball. Also, you just know Wilson would have known better than to pair a cocktail dress with a denim jacket.

"Bitch, please."

Off to the runway, but only for pretend because those segments are filmed at like 3 am, after the previous night's judging. And I have to wonder why they even bother sometimes. I mean, I know Heidi's technically the host, but she doesn't even announce most of the challenges. She just announces that Tim is going to announce them somewhere else. It's the department of redundancy department, y'all. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Heidi's shadow appear behind the scrim and thinking, Sweet fancy Jesus, what will she be wearing this week?, but making everyone stay up late and change outfits seems like a lot of effort just for Heidi to tease that if they win this challenge they'll be taking home "a big chunk of change."

ANYWAY. Tim is waiting at Parsons with Collier Strong, who, from the looks of it, has been GTL-ing pretty hard in preparation for his leading role in Miami's first all-gay revue of The King and I (which is a joke, but actually not a bad idea).


Welcome, friends, to the L'Oreal Paris makeup challenge. The work tables are stacked with Jenga-like configurations of eyeshadow, and Tim tells the gang that the challenge is to create a high-fashion look that will be featured in a L'Oreal advertorial in Marie Claire. Michael C. swoons in ecstasy.


(He's starting to bother me again--I think it's the way that every expression he makes seems so smarmy and disingenuous. Because, really, it's an advertorial. We're talking about those pages in ladymags you flip quickly past so you can learn important life lessons like how to wear a shirt or winterize your rompers.)

The part of the challenge that actually merits over-the-top excitement is that fact that it comes with a payout of $20K. I know, right? It's like Tim morphed into Oprah for a second. "You're allllllllllllll getting braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs! (Except for you, Anna Wintour, since you get carried around by bodyguards and I SAW YOU. Oh yes, I went there. Whore.)"

Collier Strong gives his contractual spiel about L'Oreal's eyeshadow duos. They come in five finishes -- metallic, brights, matte, crystal, and velvet -- and each designer has to choose one as their inspiration for the challenge. Tim warns that velvet could be very difficult unless people really know how to work with it.

It takes skill, for reals.

Mondo won last week so he gets to pick first, and chooses brights, unsurprisingly. The velvet bag determines the order of the rest: Chris and Valerie pick crystal; Michael and Andy choose metallics; April goes with , I mean, matte; Ivy gets the other brights; and Gretchen makes a big show of "taking a serious risk" and going with velvet. She's so fucking smug about it that Michael C. gives her a Death Stare, and I take back what I said about his expressions, because that is nothing if not genuine.


They get $300 and two full days to complete their look. There is much (naive) rejoicing. Mondo is going very literal with the "brights" theme and is basing his design on the idea of a kaleidoscope, while "bright" for Ivy recalls the beaches of Hawaii; she's planning an electric blue gown... with waves on it. Oy. Gretchen is thinking big kimono sleeves on a wrap dress with a plunging neckline. I am thinking: Gretchen, how did you give yourself a half bowl cut? Because that is really impressive, actually.

As usual, nothing really happens at Mood, which is why we watch Swatch cough up a hairball for at least ten seconds.

When they get back to Parsons, April interviews that a lot of people decided to kick back and take their time because of the two-day challenge, but that she wants to get her look done fast because "you never know." I would amend that slightly: YOU ALWAYS KNOW. As one of my favorite Twitter feeds, @TimGunnHaikus, wisely and poetically postulated, "Oh no! Second look?!?!/ Hey designers--have you not/Seen this show before?" But I'm getting ahead of things.

Valerie is kicking herself for picking silk, which is a hard fabric to work with. Mondo says he's not really paying attention to the other designers but that he knows "who has issues." Michael and Gretchen have chosen the same color palette (the bordeaux shade that the judges have repeatedly said they hate), and Gretchen seems to take this as a personal slight. "I don't feel threatened by him," she interviews. "I just feel like some boundaries were crossed." Oh, Jesus, SHUT UP. Did he touch you inappropriately? Did he orchestrate a panty raid and hang your thongs from the Piperlime accessories wall? No? Then do me a favor and get off your high horse. People don't own colors, the same way you don't own chevron patterns or grandpa sweaters or Ren Faire capes. But perspective is not something Gretchen has in spades. "Somehow, I've created a monster," she marvels.

"Bitch, please."

(I'm sorry; I can't get Wilson to shut up now.)

After some extended makeup consultations with Collier Strong (which I'm not going to write about because A) Seriously? and B) No.), Tim comes to check in on everyone's progress. Valerie, bless her heart, is doing a raised shoulder bedecked with actual crystals. (Chris snarks that Val's "doesn't look avant garde.") Mondo is working with not one, not two, but three colorful striped fabrics, but Tim tells him to "go big; be you." April is loathe to do an evening gown, an instinct Tim encourages. Andy says that after being in the bottom, "the fighter in me has been awakened." As a result, he's doing a very literal warrior costume complete with helmet. Gretchen is going for a kimono/caftan effect with her gown, but Tim says it's looking like a robe. Ivy's working on her very literal beach dress, and Tim is concerned. "This could easily go pageant," he warns.

Gretchen and Mondo eat lunch. "Did you hear Tim during mine?" she says. "He said this challenge would solidify some people's futures in the show. Like, if you don't create a "Wow!", why would they let you go to Fashion Week?" Mondo kind of nods as Gretchen gnaws on a spring roll. "I believe in my heart that I'm supposed to be at Fashion Week," she says, and just as I'm about to vomit all over my legs she adds, "And I believe in my heart that you're supposed to be there, too." Hmmmm. If Gretchen's heart wants Mondo to win, how can it be so wrong about everything else? Conundrum.

The models come in for fittings. Michael C. has his dress pretty much constructed, while most of the others are still working in muslin. Andy has to fit his model's head for her helmet, which involves a plastic bag and some packing tape (she survives). Mondo has his bodice done but it's way too big on his model, who is smaller than the size 6 dress frame. He frantically takes it in but it looks like crap, so he has to start over from scratch. Also, since when does Mondo have a neck tattoo? Has that always been there? What does it say? And does this mean he's a shoo-in to win this thing (see also: Jeffrey Sebelia)? Fingers crossed!

The next morning, Tim comes in to announce... a surprise twist! Since most designers can't get by just designing high fashion, he explains, there's a second part to the challenge: the contestants must create a less expensive ready-to-wear piece to complement their couture outfits. They have $100 and must finish both looks by midnight. Everyone is shocked and dismayed, but none moreso than Gretchen and April, who have been temporarily replaced by blow-up dolls:


"I can't believe this," April mutters after Papa Gunn has departed. "I can," says Mondo. It's good to know someone in the cast watches the show. April interviews that she's in a good place with her design but that there are several others who aren't -- specifically, Ivy, Valerie, Gretchen, and Mondo. Andy decides to reuse the patterns he's already made to save time, and Ivy hopes that her fast sewing will save her. At Mood for the second time, she decides to get more of the same fabric she's already using. Swatch seems unmoved.

Back in the sewing room, everyone fantasizes about what they'd do with $20K. Andy and Gretchen have debt to pay off. "I'd pay off my student loans... and get a miniature pony!" says April. Hahaha. "I need some drinkin' money, man," Mondo laughs. He then interviews that the prize is leaving money signs in some of the designers eyes, and that he hopes they'll drop the ball as a result.

Tim comes to check in again. Valerie is not happy with her gown, which is looking more Crystal Pepsi than Cristal. "Well, you can't forfeit!" Tim says. Val realizes that she's wasted a whole day and has to re-work everything, so -- quite understandably -- runs to the bathroom to weep. Ivy and Gretchen rush to her side and try to coax her out. "I'm going to make an ass out of myself, and that's not how I want to leave," Valerie tells them tearfully. Aw. Ivy has a talking head in which she says that Valerie tends to complain a lot and that "it's very wearing."

Val pulls herself together and starts over as a new set of models (previously aufed) come in for the second look fittings. Ivy's dress is too small. MC brags that he's been done for hours. By the end of the night everyone is either panicked, despondent, or both. The ass-slapping hijinks of yore seem all but forgotten.

At Atlas the next morning, the boys discuss Valerie's "emotional breakdown." Andy saw her ready-to-wear look. "It was... black," he says gingerly. Over in the ladies' quarters, someone is drinking a blurred-out Diet Coke. And yet there is a non-blurred Smart Water sitting in plain view! And yes, I was paying too much attention to that discrepancy to listen to what they were talking about. Oops.

As per usual everyone has two hours at Parsons to send their models to hair and makeup and to finish sewing their garments. Gretchen and Michael C. use the time to hate on each other some more. He says: "That velvet dress with beige feathers looked dated and old and just ... dreadful." She says: "Michael C.'s train is trouble. It's so stiff and rigid, it just seems weird to me." Ivy, meanwhile, is freaking out, trying to get her dresses finished. And oh, they are awful. But more on that in a minute. Mondo interviews that sometimes when you're under a lot of stress you do your best work*, so he's crossing his fingers. To the runway!

*This is totally true. This one time, in college, I pulled an all-nighter writing an Italian film paper about virgins and whores in Fellini's 8 1/2 and around 3 am my brain stopped functioning and I'm pretty sure the tub of Alouette I face-planted into finished writing it for me, but somehow I got an A.

The guest judge this week is Naeem Khan, whose designs I drooled over at Fashion Week. He looks adorable, like an Indian Buddy Holly. Michael and Nina are as bronze and impassive as ever. Does everyone have their judgment pants on? Are they tight in the crotch? Good, then we're ready.




I was about to write that I didn't really believe that anyone would wear booty shorts and a fur-shouldered ruffle cape with a full train as high fashion, but then I remembered Posh Spice. And Johnny Weir.

I don't hate April's designs. I, too, wish that Tim Burton and Desperately Seeking Susan-era Madonna had spawned, and that their progeny had gone on to front a Goth band version of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. I'm just seeing the same fabrics and shapes and zippers and (lack of) color over and over and I'm starting to get bored.



Obviously I'm incredibly biased toward Mondo, but that's because he's the best. I love the over-the-top Beetlejuice-at-the-Ascot Gavotte statement gown (and hat!), and the ready-to-wear look, while relatively tame, is flattering, kicky, and still totally Mondo.



Oh, the horror. The horror. And the streamers.

The dress on the left looks like a couture gown like I look like Giselle Bundchen. Which is to say, only if you took off about a foot and added facial hair.

But seriously, that looks like a crepe paper costume that wouldn't even pass muster at the Mermaid Parade, which takes place each year in Coney Island, regularly features exposed nipples, and is judged by a panel of drunks. The colors make me cringe. The dress on the right (obviously a last-minute effort) has an exposed hem that I fear is not intended. And the necklines! Why does everyone think that a nice, normal, even neckline is the mark of the Beast? (I am also looking at you, Christopher, and especially you, Valerie.) No one needs to scale a mountain to reach your collarbone, OK?


If Ivy's high-fashion dress is Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Michael's is Ursula the Sea Witch. For real, what is up with that hem? It makes me recoil from childhood memories of getting pinched by a broken Slinky. And you can't see the train here but it is major. It's like she's dragging a set of parlor drapes attached to her thuttocks. The shiny wine-colored fabric works better on the ready-to-wear dress, I think. It's still slutty but it's at least... less.



Oh, Chris. What made you pick "crystal"? Don't you know that no good can ever come of that?


I mean, those dresses aren't as bad as crystal meth, but they're nowhere near as good as Crystal Waters and her breakout dance hit "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)". The one on the left looks like a Frederick's of Hollywood wedding cake topper and the one on the right looks like the only ice cream sandwich allowed at Diddy's White party.



I'm sorry, but that there on the left is a bathrobe. Granted, it's a fancy bathrobe. I mean, if I showed up to pay my Chinese delivery guy wearing that I'm pretty sure he'd think I was trying to seduce him, since normally I am in a pair of man sweatpants and a bleach-stained tank top that says "BRIDE 07." But it is a bathrobe. As for the outfit on the right, meh. It bores me. But Gretchen loved it. While it was on the runway, she congratulated herself: "I love the side slit action -- holla!" She was the only designer to be shown praising her own clothes. Ha, the editors hate her. That will never get old.



[See crystal montage above.]

The "couture" dress is some hybrid of Crystal Barbie and one of those Precious Moments figurines, or Tinker Bell at a quinceanera. (To Val's credit, she knows it's fugly. "It's like an angel with a missing wing, or Rainbow Brite on crack!" she says as she watches the show.) But the ready-to-wear dress I find even more confounding. It's black wool with a lopsided top and three buttons. It's ugly no matter how you slice it, but crystal it is not. That poor model. First Jason's infinity dress and now this. Plus she has Draco Malfoy hair. Sad.



I'll start by saying that I love Andy's ready-to-wear look. I think I love it even more than Mondo's. It's sexy and simple but it's flying its little freak flag with those metallic sleeves. Speaking of freak flags, however, Andy's high-fashion look is a little too freaky for my tastes. As anyone who's seen Lady Gaga recently knows, there's a fine line between fashion and costume. I just can't picture anyone actually wearing this. It also seems, compared to the others, like it's the product of a different challenge -- some hybrid of the genre movie and Gristede's episodes from seasons past, a Mulan-meets-Battlefield Earth costume constructed from coffee filters and Hefty bags. Obviously Andy gets points for creativity, though.


So guess who's not getting $20,000? April and Christopher. Being safe has never felt like such a let-down. Of the remaining six, Heidi announces, Ivy, Valerie, and Michael have the lowest scores. Valerie totally saw this coming, but Ivy says she didn't expect to be in the bottom. You guys, I don't think her eyes work.

The judges critique the highest-scoring looks first, starting with Gretchen. MK thinks the high-fashion dress is very wearable (well, duh, people live in their robes) but that the headpiece makes it costumey. Heidi wishes there was more beading. Naeem Khan says that, as a rule of thumb, the front part of a dress is really important because people, you know, see it and stuff when you're talking to them. His point is that the back of the dress is more interesting than the front, and that no one wants to wear a dress mullet to a cocktail party. Nina comments that the makeup is extraordinary, which is totally just her opinion and not at all related to the fact that L'Oreal paid for this episode.

Naeem Khan likes Andy's couture look because he stayed true to his vision. He especially likes the technique and detailing. The cocktail dress, he says, is real and wearable. MK thinks the translation between the two pieces works beautifully, and he and Nina just adore the boot/pants. Heidi thinks the craftsmanship is great and likes the day dress but doesn't love the high-fashion look.

Mondo explains that his muse was a kaleidoscope. Heidi loves the hat. Naeem also loves the hat, the frizzy hair, and the makeup (oh, rlly?). MK thinks that the gown is too short and that the fabric choice reads as inexpensive, but that the back is "very dreamy, like a Kentucky Derby ribbon exploded."

There's a changing of the guards in the designer lounge as the winners return and the losers head out to get their tongue-lashings, and April and Chris play devil's advocate. "How do you guys feel about the designers in the bottom? Do you think they deserve it?" they ask. "Yeah, I do," says Gretchen. Eh, I can't disagree.

On the runway, Ivy explains that "bright" made her think of the beaches in Hawaii, and that she took that theme way too literally, even down to the model's hair, which is shaped like a wave. MK thinks her models look like "bridesmaids under the sea," and the the necklines look really nurse-y (does he mean like a nursing bra? I think he does). The colors could have been gorgeous, he says (um, no), but they needed lightness. Nina notes the problems with fit in both garments. She says that the high-fashion model looks "ancient." Naeem Khan grants that she tried very hard but that every aspect of the design and styling is overkill. Heidi thinks the back of the evening dress is better than the front.

Valerie says that her inspiration was Audrey Hepburn, which, looking at her sadsack models, is a pretty serious dis to Audrey.

Ebony, ivory, livin' together in disharmony...

Naeem Khan, who, FYI, is hands-down the best guest judge of the season so far because when he speaks actual sentences come out of his mouth that make useful constructive criticisms when strung together, says that the number one thing you learn in fashion is to let the fabric talk to you, and that Valerie "forced the fabric." MK is horrified that she tried to make a structured gown from soft fabric, likening it to erectile dysfunction (no, not really, but that was totally what he was thinking). Nina thinks it looks like beauty pageant dress, calling the model "Miss Guatemala." When Val points out that her family is actually from Guatemala, Nina says, "No offense." LOL. But seriously, Valerie, she really questions your tase. MK really does not like the "metallic, weird diamante hoop" on the shoulder. "The only possible accessory she could use is a wand!" he says. He also points out that the black dress is a total fail and that three crystal buttons do not make the dress "crystal." Shockingly, no one mentions the lopsided neckline.

Michael C. starts to defend his looks and then falters, saying, "I'm not good at this, I've never been in the bottom before." Wait, really? Can that be true? Have the judges been drunk this whole time? Maybe we are in Coney Island. Naeem Khan says that the fabric spoke to Michael and that he worked well with it, but that the proportions are off and that he doesn't like the color. MK and Nina mock the Gone With the Wind grandeur and the ridonkulous train. Heidi hypocritically calls the dress too short, telling him he has to "choose boobs or legs." Heidi should work at KFC.

So, this is neither here nor there, but I learned a few things from the photos on the Lifetime site this week.

1. The judges have little photos of the designers' looks on their scorecards!


2. At the end of the runway show there is a finale walk that we never see!


3. Seth Aaron and Meana Irina showed up this week and whatever they said was obviously so boring they got cut from the final show!


Weird, right? Anyway. The judges deliberate, making it clear that the aufing is down to Val and Ivy. "It's an unbelievably tight race for hideous this week," says MK.

All of the designers gather on the runway. And the winner of the challenge is... MONDO. Yay!!!! He is ecstatic, which for Mondo means kind of stuttery. "I left Colorado with $14 in my bank account," he interviews. "So now I have $20,014." Aw, keep on keepin' on, Mondo. If you don't win this season, there's no justice in this world.

Andy and Gretchen are in, obviously. So is Michael, who makes a dramatic show of being shocked and relieved. I hate him again. I'm so mercurial.

So it's down to Val and Ivy. I once had such high hopes for Valerie. I loved her from the moment she showed me her NKOTB fridge magnets. But she's been struggling these last few episodes, and it hasn't been pretty. Ivy has never grown on me and I also don't like her designs. I think you know who I'm rooting for.

And Ivy is... OUT.


Valerie is pretty shocked. Her confusion is cute, though:


Backstage, Val says that she's stunned. "I felt like she had more fight than I did," she says. "It should have been me."

Ivy comes in and does the whole "no sad faces" speech. (For the record, in case I get a karmic kick in the pants and end up on this show in my next life, I'd accept no less than snotty sobbing, preferably paired with balled up fists raised in angry defiance to God and cries of "Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?" But that's me.) Ivy does get teary, though, when she says that she's really going to miss designing. "I wish I could go home for you," Valerie says, and Ivy makes a face that's just like, Yup.

As she packs up her space, Ivy interviews that she felt she had more to show, and that she has a lot more creativity than a lot of the other designers. "Wow, what a bitchy way to finish," my husband said casually as he walked through the living room at the end. I couldn't have put it better.

Next time: Hey, guys, it's the HP challenge! Get excited! The designers create their own textiles and there are very special guests. "Fashion is not for sissies," says MK. And--OMG! Someone gets accused of cheating. Which reminds me of the time I ate at a restaurant called Wo-Hop with Keith Michael from Season 3. But that's a blog for another day.

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