Project Runway: Licious is the night

It felt like a character-heavy night last night, as Project Runway gave its designers their first trip to Mood this season. Please don't make us hate the show. Characters on reality competition series' are great when they're stumbled upon. Not foisted.

Take Stella. I don't think any of us would think for a second that she isn't in real life exactly how she is on the show. Slow-witted, snooze-button-hitting, and fascinated with grommets. I don't much like her, but God bless her, she's genuine.

Compare that to Suede, who uses more third person in the first 10 minutes of this episode than any person could be expected to swallow in a lifetime. And sweet Moses, those six-guns. Or Blayne, who exits his Atlas flat in the pre-competition dawn holding his lower back like he's pregnant. "Timlicious." 'Nuff said.

Heidi promises a model twist that never actually happens (unless this is literally your third time watching the show and the other two were also this season), and the designers learn that Tim will hand out their challenge during "a night. On the town." It was a very deliberate pause, and if any designer thought they were going to hit up friggin' Meow Mix...well, let's just say that some of the designers aren't very sharp (I'm looking at you, Jerell).

Everyone dons their dorky rain ponchos, and Tim leads the crew out to...a City Sights bus! Their challenge will be to design a look meant for a night out on the town, using New York at night as their inspiration. It's a pleasant enough twist on the Season 2 inspiration challenge, and it's sort of fun to see Stella actually look happy about something as she wheels around on top of the double decker.

The designers are split into groups headed to four different iconic NYC locales: Greenwich Village, Columbus Circle, Times Square, and the New York Public Library (the one with the lions, yes). Stella's genuine charm fades into irritated bemusement on my part, as she rages against the machine (camera) she's been given for this challenge. "HOW DO YOU ZOOM?" Ugh.

Kelli's going post-apocalyptic, which could be good or very, very bad. Emily has an interesting concept with a long-exposure movement and light shot, but we've seen how she can run with a good idea straight off a cliff. Terri's going graffiti; Santino says "NOOOOOO!!" And Keith of the do-rag and wifebeater...well, he's a tattooed, foul-mouthed, gay Mormon. In other words, sinner sinner sinner. How does that work? Oh, and he's rude; Stella and Kenley are none too pleased at his shot-blocking.

The designers are told to choose one inspiration pic, and then they're off to Mood with a hot C-note. Blayne's got five different neon colors in his pic. Oy. Kenley sagely informs us that she models her look and her designs on 40's and 50's calendar girls. Amazing! I never noticed. And once again, Stella needs HEAAALP. Her inability to feel comfortable with any non-leather fabric (or fingerquotes-fabric) causes something of a tantrum at Mood.

Work will end in 13 hours (1 AM), and the designers are looking their most confident so far this season. Terri (my personal favorite) is very happy with her fabric, which thankfully is not the same graffiti print as Santino and Austin of years past. Kenley's happy too, but Joe seems to think she's got "a little Ft. Lauderdale, lawn-cusiony" thing going on. I tend to agree. Meanwhile, our two least favorite caricatures keep on doing their things. Blayne starts staring at Kenley a la Andrew in Top Chef, and--hey, did Suede just say "my" instead of "Suede's"?? It's a breakthrough!

Leanne, I'm fairly certain, is asleep. Not sure. Although she's putting together quite the skirt. Emily's movement-and-light motif is doing the crash-and-burnwe thought it would; looks like hers, and not Korto's, is going to be the "Carmen Miranda moment" we were promised in the promos. It looks like a take on a flamenco outfit. Sinner Keith has a Tibetan prayer flag issue, and it's not working. Stella, meanwhile, is annoying everyone with her grommet pounding. And does anyone else think that Terri's picture wasn't actually meant to be blurry?

Tim's check-in shows that Leanne is indeed doing good things with her skirt, although she's moving slowly with the top. Jennifer, on the other ha--wait a minute. Isn't that Leanne? Shit! Those are two different people! Huh. Keith's windswept look is too shapeless for Tim, but you know Tim. He's still got faith. Tim thinks Kenley's look is verging on costumey, but it's got a nice silhouette. Again, I agree.

After warning Kelli against falling short of the judges' expectations of her and of this challenge, Tim embarrasses himself and all of us by trying to decipher Blayne's street slang. Tim, please: don't try to add a new phrase to your lexicon. The forced character rule works for hosts and advisors too.

On runway show day, Stella dons a horrible pair of striped pants, and Keith learns somewhat matter-of-factly that his model had to drop out of the competition. He will therefore get the model that was most recently eliminated. Daniel gets the designer line of the night: "Could you lift a boob up a little?" Meat market fashion talk always makes me laugh. At the runway, Sandra Bernhard is introduced as the guest judge. Please God let her shtick be kept in check.

And now, my runway thoughts.
  • Keith: Yep. Prayer flags in the breeze.
  • Blayne: Actually, a decent effort. Good depth of texture.
  • Joe: A little literal, but cute.
  • Emily: Oof. More unfulfilled promise.
  • Leanne: My notes simply read: "Strong." She done good.
  • Jennifer: The previous contestant critiques as "matronly" are dead on. The model looks pregnant.
  • Jerell: Good effort, loose fit.
  • Kelli: A little too punk?
  • Daniel: Too busy in the middle.
  • Kenley: Tim nails it in my book. Good silhouette, ugly otherwise.
  • Suede: Suede has concerns about inspiration being too far from the final product. Suede's concerns are well-founded.
  • Stella: Kinda lifeless.
  • Korto: A plain, black jumpsuit? You ain't winnin' with that.
  • Terri: I cannot like her more at this point. She's great!

Keith, Kenley, Emily, Terri, Jennifer, and Leanne will be judged. I have to say, I'm feeling good about my judging ability. With the exception of Kenley. What are they seeing?

Well, they're seeing the same damn thing I am, except they like it. They like it for being a little "Joan Collins, power-bitch," as Michael puts it. They like the gauzy little blob on one hip. Nina goes so far as to acknowledge the dated quality of the dress by saying basically that if the girl were young enough to not know how ugly it is, that girl would like it and wear it. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Keith, predictably, has too much white and too much fluttery. Toilet paper is Michael's comparison. I still say Tibetan prayer flags, but whatever. Jennifer's "Holly Golightly goes to a Salvador Dali exhibit" is more "Headmistress joins the Navy," and none of the judges particularly like it. And yes indeed, Emily's design is the Carmen Miranda Moment (what a great band name that would be, although I don't know what kind of music it would play), and it draws wide scorn.

The real duel, to me, appears to be between Terri and Leanne. And the overall winner for line of the night comes from Sandra Bernhard of all people, who describes the attitude conveyed by Terri's very slick open-backed dress over long and really chic pants, if the wearer were confronted in a dark alley: "I have a knife and I will cut you up." Everyone loves Terri's look. I don't see anyone really stepping to her.

But Leanne's design is pretty darn good, too. As a separate, it amazes the judges for its finish and versatility. The judges comment that Leanne's a quick study in self-editing. Inspired by a grate around the base of a tree, Leanne created a really professional look, and if it wasn't up against Terri's, I'd say it's the winner.

But then when the designers come back, and Terri is sent back safe first, my jaw drops. The winner? Kenley. I'm really not prone to this, but my notes read "WTF?"

At least the bottoms look predictable. Leanne is obviously safe, and Keith gets by on the basis of good karma. Emily shares a wink with Jennifer that reads just as much as "catch ya later, loser" as it does "don't worry, we're both in the same boat." There's no way that Emily is gonne los--EMILY LOSES. Again, my shock overrode my typing skills. The notes say: "EMILY? SRSLY? COME ON!!"

That about sums it up. I think the bottom and top groups were generally well-defined, but the winner and loser were just plain wrong. I ain't mincing words. Wrong. You hear me, Heidi?

Sabotage, cultural ignorance--and maybe even a little homophobic blaze o' glory?--all coming next week! Vigilance!