Top Chef: THE FINALE

There were really only three questions going into the finale of Top Chef Season 5: Will Carla continue her hot streak? Will Stefan's early- and mid-season dominance re-emerge? Will Hosea's two front teeth come together to form the Power Sword and reestablish Prince Adam's dominance over Eternia?

(I was so proud of that joke, I couldn't throw it away with the rest of the tease.)

We return to New Orleans for the last installment of the Season of Stefan, so named because it seems like everyone (Stefan included) was hung up on Stefan. Also because he ran roughshod over the competition for the first nine weeks of the show. After that, Carla very clearly established dominance, winning two challenges and being at the top for the other two. Hosea's just kind of been there. All year.

It's that kind of brilliance and keen grasp of the nature of the competition that leads to the following bon mot from the fish guy: "If there was ever 'do or die' in this competition, this is it." Why yes, Hosea, I think you've nailed it!

Full disclosure: LOST ran long this week, so I missed the first few minutes of Top Chef the first time 'round. So there were certain moments prior to the beginning of prep that resonated as though they were placed into that point in the chronology having come from the end of the action. I'll let them be just in case you're actually reading this to find out what happened.

The chefs arrive at The Historic New Orleans Collection, where Padma and Tom assign them the "make the best three-course meal of your life" task. Each course will serve simultaneously, no desserts necessary, and cooking will take place at Commander's Palace. Twelve guests and judges will be dining.

And in the spirit of Top Chef finales, your extra helpers will be....past runners-up of Top Chef! Out walk Marcel (Season 2), Casey (Season 3), and Richard (Season 4), looking more or less like they just walked off the set. Marcel's much cooler now; did you see them shades? He killin 'em.

Knife block determines the order in which each chef will pick, and Carla gets to draw first. Unfortunately, she draws 3, and will have the dregs. Stefan turns his pick over to Hosea (like the arrogant tool he is--sorry, I'm off the Stefan Train), who in turn picks 1.

Hosea chooses Richard because Marcel reminds him of Stefan (hello, obsession) and apparently doesn't think enough of Casey. Stefan takes Marcel, also not thinking too long on the decision ("He's a bit of a twat, but who's not?"). Carla, always the optimist, tells Casey that she wanted her anyway! Yay!

Prep at the Audubon Tea Room begins contentiously, as Stefan's idly tossed-aside foie gras gets snatched up by Hosea before Stefan can stop him. Personally, I think this is a non-issue, but it makes for good chest-puffing fun. Hosea gets to be magnanimous, and Stefan gets to play the suffering saint.

Hosea's thinking seafood (shock!), mostly scallops, but also is running with that foie gras he nabbed. Stefan on the other hand doesn't want "a bunch of bullshit," unless of course he had gotten his foie gras. Carla, in keeping with her general style, wants to do meat and potatoes, classed up slightly. This turns out to be one of those "drums in the deep" moments where people who have watched Top Chef know that something bad is happening. Casey suggests to Carla, and eventually convinces her, that the sirloin should be prepared sous-vide. Does this sound like something Carla would normally do? Meditate on that.

The mid-break vignette features a "voodoo" fortune teller visiting the chefs, and Stefan revealing that he's still got a non-culinary boner for Jamie. A nice crystallization of how far off-track Stefan's gotten as the season has progressed. Chasing tail and buying voodoo dolls of his competition, rather than actually going out and winning like he always used to.

When the chefs return to Commander's Palace, Tom greets them with a tray of some crazy-ass foodstuffs. Crab, redfish, and alligator (which I must note I have eaten and written about here). The twist? You'll be making a fourth course--rather, a new first course of a passed appetizer featuring one of these ingredients. To decide the assignments, you will.....EAT THIS KING CAKE. BUM BUM BUMMMMMMM.

King cakes are known for having a small baby icon baked into one section, and the person who gets the baby gets a prize. The chefs dig in, and Hosea (drawer of the first knife, lest you forgot) gets the baby. As winner, he gets to assign all three strange meats. Naturally, he takes redfish. You know where the rest is going, right? Arch-nemesis Stefan gets the gator (and a finger in the confessional from Hosea), and Carla is left with crabs. D'oh!

Final prep and cooking begins with Stefan unceremoniously chopping off an alligator tail (nauseating many a Top Chef live-tweeter, from the looks of it). Carla gets pinched by a crab, but worse is getting sidetracked by them. She doesn't feel like she's focusing on her main three dishes.

Hosea's plan includes a sashimi trio, scallops with foie gras over pain perdu, and venison. Stefan has in mind a meal of halibut and salmon carpaccio, squab with braised cabbage and schupfnudeln (potato noodles that I'm fairly certain were spelled incorrectly by Bravo), and ice cream. Yeah, basically ice cream. Woo. Sous chef Marcel, meanwhile, is quite dubious of Stefan's plan to freeze the salmon in order to slice it very, very thinly.

Carla's got ideas for red snapper with saffron aioli, that sous-vide New York strip sirloin, and a cheese plate that would include a custard tart. In steps sous chef Casey, who opines that it would be just smashing if Carla swapped out the tart for a bleu cheese soufflé. Let me say that again: A SOUFFLÉ. DECIDED ON THIS LATE IN THE GAME. You know you hear it. ::DOOM....DOOM::

The meal is about to begin, and we get to meet the luminaries that will be dining on the finale meal. There's Fabio! Ti Martin, proprietor of Commander's Palace. Renowned French chef Hubert Keller. NOLA chefs Susan Spicer and John Besh (who lost out to that giggling weirdo Michael Symon to become the newest member of Iron Chef: America). Rocco, Toby... Oh, and in a kind of cool random inclusion, Branford Marsalis.

PASSED APPETIZERS

Hosea's blackened redfish on a corn cake with Creole remoulade, corn shoots, and micro salad VS. Stefan's alligator soup with celeriac, parsley, and a puff pastry "crouton" VS. Carla's shiso crab soup with chayote Thai salsa

This course is almost a complete wash. All three chefs put together strong dishes that each offer something exceptional. Hosea's presentation meets if not surpasses his flavor, while Stefan's puff pastry nugget is a welcome change from the usual crouton, and Carla's managed to once again bring out the best flavors of her main ingredient.

FIRST COURSE

Stefan's smoked salmon and halibut carpaccio with microgreens, American caviar, and a citrus vinaigrette VS. Carla's seared red snapper with saffron aioli, braised fennel, and grilled clam VS. Hosea's tuna, hamachi, and black bass sashimi with hot fennel oil, citrus segments, and fried tempura bits

Since when is Marcel so prescient? His disdain for frozen salmon is repeated nearly verbatim by Tom, who notes the watery presentation of Stefan's carpaccio. The winner of this round is Carla, whose flavors are well-balanced. Hosea's dish has promise, but is a bit bland. I would put a hurt on a bowl of tempura bits, though.

SECOND COURSE

Carla's sous-vide sirloin with seared potato rod and a merlot sauce VS. Stefan's pan-seared squab with braised cabbage, foie gras, schupfnudeln, and a grape jus VS. Hosea's seared scallop with foie gras over pain perdu, apple preserves, foie gras foam, and candied pecans

Oh, Carla. When has a chef sacrificed his or her vision for someone else's and succeeded? Seriously, never. Her sirloin by way of Casey is tough and clearly not "Carla," as multiple diners note. Her sauce, however, is great. What's really great, though, is Stefan's squab. It's Tom's favorite dish of the night, and surpasses Hosea's perfectly fine scallop (although High-Livin' Rocco is frankly tired of scallops and foie gras--good on Gail for rolling her eyes!).

(it's at this point in the kitchen, as Stefan is riding Hosea for doing venison when doing glorified chocolate ice cream himself, that Carla royally fucks up the Casey soufflés and chooses not to serve them)

THIRD COURSE

Strefan's straciatella ice cream and chocolate mousse with vanilla syrup and a banana lollipop VS. Carla's apple tart "coin" with bleu cheese, walnut crumble, and cress salad VS. Hosea's pan-roasted venison with chestnut celery root puree, wild mushrooms, and carbonated blackberries via Richard

Gail throws down some serious commentary in this round, expressing relief that Carla didn't come up with such an incomplete and unimpressive dish as her final product, but that it's extremely disappointing that the full course can't be served. She also slams Stefan's dessert as "very 1982" in its construction and presentation. While Hubert thinks it's weak to back out of doing a dessert course because you're not comfortable with it, Fabio repeats exactly what Hosea expressed much earlier in the episode: a sucky and half-hearted dessert is not the last dish anyone wants to serve on Top Chef. Hosea takes this round, though not uncontestedly.

In the kitchen, Carla knows she blew it. She repeats a sentiment expressed way back at the beginning of the episode, one of the ones I withheld at the time, about success being born of continuing to do what got her here. "The parts that my heart and soul were in, were good." Absolutely and truly heartbreaking.

At Judges' Table, Carla cops to taking Casey's advice on the sous-vide and the soufflé. Other than the appetizer, she didn't create a meal that reflected her as a chef. Hosea's glee in being able to assign alligator to Stefan was not hidden from Tom, although it really didn't amount to much. The venison, his best dish of the night, was a good progression but the blackberries were a throwaway gesture. Hosea defends his choice to abstain from dessert. Stefan challenged Tom to say that his frozen salmon didn't taste good, and Tom lived right on up to that challenge. Stefan almost seemed surprised (that's his problem in a nutshell). More praise for the squab, and more delusion from Stefan in defending his dessert as the best way to close out his cooking on Top Chef.

Then, the question no one likes: "why do you deserve to win?" At least it's not "why should X be eliminated?", which is even worse. Stefan points to his (nearly) season-long dominance. Hosea argues that his food represented him and it tasted good. Carla, clearly out of the running, clearly cognizant of what went wrong, simply states, "When I cook my food, it's really delicious." She cries. Stefan, of all people, comes to her shoulder also in tears. For a sometimes-boring ass season, this was some genuine and honestly compelling emotion.

So it's down to Hosea and Stefan (just like Hosea predicted, over and over and over and over...), and the judges start breaking it down. Stefan's squab was the best dish of all of them tonight, but his salmon was a letdown and his dessert was boring and played-out (despite the fact that Toby liked it, but then he's boring and played-out too). Hosea's progression of dishes was the most intelligent, and his venison was the most satisfying final course of the three.

Toby questions Hosea's abstention from dessert, and Tom reminds him that it wasn't a requirement. Stefan's level of soulfulness in his cooking is discussed, and Toby smartly, if pointlessly, remarks that "if we're going to give it to the most soulful chef, we should give it to Carla." At least Carla, my girlfriend comments, got herself a new car.

The chefs come back out, and it's clear they like Carla the best. She gets the most praise, maybe because they can give it to her without spoiling who will win, but maybe because she should have won had she stuck to her guns. As the ringing note of that disappointment dies, Hosea is declared the winner of Season 5 of Top Chef.

Stefan thinks he only lost for the dessert, which is half-true. Carla breaks down for the confessional, but feels vindicated in that she tried to compete in an unconventional way--with love--and succeeded at that. And oh my god, who's that skanky groupie that made it onto the set and latched onto Hos--oh, it's just Leah.

Congratulations, Hosea. I picked you out as a strong candidate back in the first week, and actually thought you had the look of a potential winner in the promos before the season started. I just wish you'd been more exemplary, but then that's the way this show goes: the true innovators stumble now and then, like Richard and Marcel, while the steady and competent chefs generally make it to the end. Carla should have been that chef, but Hosea won it fair and square.

Normally, I'd tell you now that you can stick around for Project Runway recaps, but I'm sure you've heard by now that the entire season (including the finale) is in the can and has no set air date. It's gonna be a weird season if it ever makes it to the screen. I'm not holding my breath. So in the meantime, I'll continue blogging about food, and LOST, and other random crap, and I hope you stay and read.

Project Runway: Which deserving designer, or Kenley, will win?

This was pretty sad. If this is the way Project Runway "ends," it's a real shame. What a boring episode. Sure, some of it can be "blamed" on the designers. None had the outward personalities of Santino or Wendy, or the drama of Jeffrey vs. Laura or Kara vs. everyone else.

But I really do think that Bravo just scuttled the ship. And that really sucks. So you'll have to pardon me if my recap is a little deflated.

The designers are told right off the bat (3 days to go) that they'll be trimming their collections from 12 looks to 10 for Bryant Park. This gives everyone a chance to get rid of their suckiest pieces, a blessing for Korto (although she ends up making two entirely new looks and scrapping a total of four--wow). Then it's straight to model casting. Oh, God, it's Morgan the "I wore your outfit out to the clubs and it ripped and why are you being such a jerk for being mad at me about it?" model from Season 1! Don't let her out of your sight, girls!

The much-ballyhooed confrontation between Kenley and Tim didn't really happen, sorry to say. The best part was when Kenley told Tim that the judges, for calling her a mimic, could suck a fat one and she'd do what she wanted. Amazing how much she sounds like Morgan the Diva-zilla. Her confessional comment was priceless Kenley. You have to imagine that pouty-kid, nasally overpronounciation: "My decisions are final." Tim's look at the camera (the fourth wall is out the window in this, the final season) is absolutely priceless.

It does seem like the designers all still have a lot of work to do, Korto's new looks aside. Only Kenley appears to be down to minor fitting issues, especially considering all that ridiculous fabric painting she did. Leanne's model's dog, who poops on the floor during the fitting, could have done as well.

The show order will be Kenley-Korto-Leanne, and they wake up at 3 AM to get rolling (there's a 3 in the morning now?). Kenley reveals, like almost every other damn designer on the show, that she snuck into Bryant Park (albeit only last year), but got kicked out right away. I'm hoping they've got her picture distributed to Security and they boot her out again. She also reveals that her parents haven't really been a part of her life for the last three years. My first reaction was, "I wonder why," but that's horrible. So instead I'll point out the funny Bravo editing that juxtaposed Kenley shooing her assistants away as she insisted that only she could iron painted fabric, and Kenley dropping said piece on the ground while ironing.

Leanne gets the OMG moment pre-show, as one of her flouncy wave-forms has been oversteamed and is too floppy on the intended model. She's forced to flip-flop models and looks, which of course is dicey because they've all been custom fitted.

But the show does indeed go on, and Bravo actually airs the "excuse" that J-Lo injured her foot. Uh huh. No one saw the pictures of her competing in a triathlon two days later. Either she wasn't really injured, or it was a bullshit primadonna injury like a stubbed toe. So I guess both options are that she wasn't really injured.

This, however, gives us what we've all wanted for five years: Tim Gunn in the judge's chair! It also gives us the first glimpse that Kenley is aware of the world around her, when she responds to the Tim announcement with a faux-confident "Okay, maybe I should have improved my attitude." This is the kind of thing you'd read on Wile E. Coyote's sign as he's hovering over the Grand Canyon.

My thoughts on Bryant Park:

Kenley

Her shtick is just not my thing at all. I don't understand how something that looks that dated can get so much praise from the judges. Nina calls it "almost couture," and I guess so, 'cause no one "gets" couture. The only look I even sort of like is the cream dress with the stripe of floral painting going up the front like a vine. But there's not much runway fashion to it. You could buy it for probaly under $500 pretty much anywhere. Everything else is so exaggerated and heavy (and heavy-handed). Not sure if the second model with the big-shouldered green thing couldn't walk in it, or if the print just didn't work on-camera.

Korto

The short yellow and green dress with the sort of babydoll look was really cute. As she has most of the season, Korto plays with symmetry in unexpected ways. Her palette is fantastic, and even though it stands out as all the models come back out for the last walk, that blueish dress that came out first is really spectacular. It's made even better by the direct contrast with the rest of the collection. This show has ensured that at least Kenley won't win.

Leanne

Girlfriend should have rehearsed her opening statement just a little. But that's our socially-awkward Leanne. The long aqua dress was amazing, and generally I'm a fan of that palette, but I'm worred about variety. Where's the line between cohesion (bugaboo of many a final collection) and repetition? And while I like the colors, there's not a lot of variation from beginning to end. I know I can see a lot more colors in the ocean when I look at it. But it's definitely a contender. The winner will be either Korto or Leanne.

After seeing them all, I'm voting Korto on the virtue of the broadness of her color choices. Both were well-made, both were visually interesting. But Korto brought a little diversity to the show, and not in the trite cultural sense (but yes, she did manage to work the African angle without, as Michael tells her, looking like a costume show).

Indeed, the judges appreciate that each designer has a distinct identity and well-voiced perspective. Michael likes Kenley's paint work, likes her cohesive separates. Tim appreciates the construction, and while Nina generally liked it, she calls out the (frankly) ugliest piece as another Balenciaga knock-off (I know I've heard that designer's name earlier this season).

Nina likes Korto's cohesion as well, calling it apparently effortless. Michael said that Korto takes expected looks and tweaks them, like the slightly twisted halter-top on the green gown (didn't I say that? I did!). But both Nina and Heidi saw more of the overworking that plagued Korto last week. Too many baubles. I guess I didn't see it. And Michael must not have minded, because he praised the African-ness of the looks, and the jewelry was integral to that look.

Leanne pulled out a magic trick with her droopy top, because Michael said that starting with that look was the best possible way she could have gone. I guess... Nina liked that Leanne offered skirts, pants, shorts, dresses, coats...but worried about the uniformity of the aesthetic (I said that, too!). She doesn't want Leanne to be the "petals" girl ("Petals" Marshall, as Michael calls her. I think someone's gotten herself a nickname, and a mobster name if she needs one). I dig that half of her collection was made of sustainable fabric, though!

The judges kibbutz. I wonder why Heidi says "ideers"; that doesn't seem like an English pronunciation through a German filter. "Idea" in German is "idee," pronounced "ee-DAY." If anything, I'd think she'd stretch out the "i" sound, not add an "r" to the end. Weird. But anyway, they break down the weaknesses from each collection. Kenley's too prone to mimicry. Leanne'e architecture needs to evolve. Korto...well, they didn't really say much bad about Korto in this final evaluation. Wonder if that means anything...

The designers come back out, and the first to go is......Kenley! Yay! In the confessional: "I think it's bullshit." Stay classy, Kenley. I'm sure you'll find work.

Between Korto and Leanne, the winner is.....Leanne! Somewhat surprising, but I think that while the ladies on the panel loved that Korto knows a woman's body (and any shape of woman's body) like no one else, they didn't care for her use of jewelry. Those high-fashion types want the piece to speak on its own. But why the fascination with crazy-ass hair on the runway?

ANYway, congratulations to Leanne! She managed to stay out of her own way and make it all the way to the end. And she really did make some great stuff. I liked Korto most as a person among all the designers, but I definitely preferred most of Leanne's looks. I just hope she takes some of her loot and buys some conditioner, 'cause damn.

That's it for this season. Honestly don't know if I'll be back on Lifetime (if indeed PR is back on Lifetime). But who am I kidding--I'll at least give it a try. Top Chef starts in a month; if you're leaving, be back then! But I welcome you all to stick around and read.

Project Runway: Do you see what happens, Larry?

Welcome to the "You all kind of suck, so keep on plugging away until one of you makes a mistake on one of our ridiculous challenges so we can boot your ass out" episode of this season of Project Runway.

Is there any question, in the event of a tie, that the three best designers in the final four were Korto, Leanne, and Jerell? You could even make the case that Kenley had been doing better than Leanne at some points down the stretch. Gah. I better start at the beginning.

Heidi announces that each designer will be given $8,000 and two months to craft a full collection. At this point, clarity goes out the window (unless I wasn't paying attention), and in some way or another, a wedding dress will be involved. Looks like it'll be the only part of their collection that'll be judged to determine the Bryant Park Three. Fine, but a little cheap to make the designers create such a personal and subjective look for the final elimination. Bridal fashion is totally different than straight-up fashion, and very few designers can do both well.

Tim hits the road for the next few segments, and visits the designers at their workplaces and homes. Korto's working in a cute little artist community thing operated by her Little Rock suburb. Who knew Little Rock was so arts-sensitive? Her collection has a fantastic palette, as agreed upon by Tim, myself, and my girlfriend. One dress is "a little sexual," which is like saying that the Washington Monument is "a little sexual." But it all looks pretty good, and Korto drums us to the next visit.

Tim puts the miles on his Saturn, visiting Leanne in Portland. Leanne's collection is water-influenced, but is in need of some refining and corralling. Like Korto's wedding dress, Leanne's is in need of some serious editing. That's the last of the "serious" in Leanne's segment, as she takes Tim on a deliciously absurd tandem bike ride through the forest.

Jerell, working in Los Angeles, almost looks like a normal adult human with that goatee. His wedding dress, however, looks like anything but a normal human adult. Windtunnel boobs again. Tim calls him out on it. A lot of his looks are kinda trampy, which is the worst kind of overworked. But man, growing up in South Central during the riots? Combined with Korto's civil war story, we've got some hard luck biographies in this final four.

Then, of course, there's Kenley. Kenley, whose grandmother was a calendar girl (SHOCKING). Kenley, who lives in a lovely little apartment in Brooklyn. Kenley, who never gave a second thought to putting ropes around the neck of one of her looks. But Tim's loving her wedding dress, and she gets all weepy. NOW she values his opinion. I'm sure that'll last a real long time. No family visit for Kenley. Huh.

The producers tip their hand as the designers arrive back in NYC. Kenley is the last to arrive, and while she apologizes, everyone is still a little "Sooooo....." about the whole thing. Then, a truckful of beer and champagne arrives courtesy of the show. Here, everyone, drink! Was it on Top Chef that someone said that nothing helps a volatile social situation like alcohol? I think it was Dale this last season.

Surprisingly, everyone makes nice. At Parsons, during the last gatherround of the season, Tim informs the designers that there's one more assignment. No, it's not to get more drunk. It's to make a bridesmaid dress to go with the wedding gown! Come on! This is a lame way to cut the final designer. Korto looks as though she might just throttle Tim with one of her hand-beaded necklaces.

With another trip to Mood, some hard work on those Brother I SAID BROTHER SEWING MACHINES, the designers crank out their new looks. Korto defends the integrity of the bridesmaid, chiding Jerell for thinking they gotta look ugly. "There's nothing wrong with your bridesmaids looking cute, ladies." As a future groom, I say "Hear, hear!" I don't wanna look at three frillsplosions for--well, it's gonna be a short ceremony. But I still don't wanna see that mess. They're gonna be cute all right.

Tim checks in, and immediately tells Kenley to shed the indecision and dive all the way in. Jerell's look is sporting some sloppy construction. Leanne made some big changes with her wedding gown, and Tim's loving 'em. But the bridesmaid look needs editing. Korto, by Tim's estimation, has crafted two wedding dresses. There's no communication between the two pieces. Tim then gets all weepy and shaky-handed, and tells the crew to make confident and defensible decisions, and he's very proud, and I don't know how much more of this I can watch! Stiff upper lip, Tim! The girlfriend's big sad face goes for all of us, I'm sure.

Kenley gets all pissed that Korto and Leanne both shortened their bridesmaid dresses, and originally hers was the only short one. How dare they?? Korto, on the other hand, is just too cool for this show. She recognizes and actually seems sad about the fact that someone's gonna get seriously disappointed by the end of this challenge. Totally my favorite this season.

So here's the last "regular season" runway show before the Finals. The wedding gowns walk first, followed by the bridesmaid dress.
  • Jerell: Whoa, boobs. Like a Madonna bra done by Picasso. Bridesmaid dress better, but definitely sloppy.
  • Kenley: Good wedding dress, bridesmaid dress maybe a pinch short?
  • Korto: Very hippy silhouette, not so sure it's bridal enough. Cute, simple bridesmaid dress.
  • Leanne: I'll say that I don't necessarily "get" it, but it's very well constructed, and the bridesmaid dress is great.

We're down to just the Big 3 judges for this episode, and to start it off, they all just plain LUV Leanne's combo. I have to agree. She's definitely in. Yay!

Jerell's wedding look pleases Michael only so far up as the empire waist. The bodice, the headgear, everything, is just crazy from there up. And again, I have to agree. They also don't care for his bridesmaid look. Lookin' dicey.

Michael immeditely calls out Kenley's look as a dead ringer for Alexander McQueen. Uh...yeah! Really! (okay, I have no idea what Alexander McQueen's style looks like) Anyway, while it's derivative, they all love it. And the little bubble skirt on the bridesmaid look just tickles everyone pink. God damn it, she's definitely in.

And last, Korto. Heidi completely dislikes the wedding gown. Way too busy (I agree). The bridesmaid dress, on the other hand, is both too simple and not "bridesmaid" enough. Like Tim warned, there was no clear connection between the two. While I don't necessarily agree with that statement, it was nevertheless not Korto's best effort. As the designers leave, it really looks like Korto's gone. And that would really suck.

So after Leanne and Kenley get the expected good news, it's down to Jerell and Korto. I'm forced to admit that Kenley's done some well-received work in the closing weeks, and it was destined to be a tough vote to cut it down to three. But damn it, if Kenley had gotten axed when she really deserved it, there might not be the need to send either Korto or Jerell home! In something of a surprise, Korto is kept in.

If there's one designer of the final four who can definitely take the sting of getting cut now, it's Jerell. I ain't worried for a brotha. And while his closing remark, "If you want a plain white tee, you can get one from Michael Kors," seemed a little bitchy and unnecessary, it was definitely funny and not untrue.
But Jerell was done in by his overall goofiness, and I hope he takes it a little bit to heart.

Next week: the finale you've been waiting for! That's right, the finale of Kenley vs. Tim!

Project Runway: I'm a big kid now

Seriously, is Terri really gone? I'm not surprised, but I'm surprised, y'know? It's just friggin' crazy that she burned out so fast. Why couldn't Kenley, who is sticking with her tried-and-true approach (which is to SUCK and BE ANNOYING), have plummeted as fast?

So those special ladeez we were teased with last week turn out to be moms. Not the designers' moms, mind you. And they're not even the clients. The clients are in fact the daughters, who have just graduated college and still look like embryos. God, I'm old.

The pairings, determined by the velvet bag (is Sweet P's name still on the bottom?), seem to go over pretty well. Kenley got the most horrible one of all of them ("I got the cute [designer]!", she chirps a little too loudly in the workroom), and what could be more appropriate? Jerell's client is lanky and likes androgyny. Korto's mom/daughter pair has an appreciation for classy and funky that should go very well with Korto's aesthetic (plus, Korto describes herself as a "hip mom." I like Korto).

I have Suede pegged to be in trouble from the beginning. His client is a photographer. Now, I'm gonna tell you a little secret about Suede. Suede's all about Suede! Photographers, on the other hand, are constantly observing other people and focusing outward. I see a major disconnect in the works.

Leanne's client is fine, but her mother is a total loudmouth. Could be problems there. Joe's going to do a skirt/suit. Is that a 'scoot'? 'Skut'? With no specific instruction on the purpose for the look, some folks (Joe in particular) may end up with a somewhat boring design. This will be a test for applied creativity.

This week, everyone gets the flashback treatment, as the designers reminisce on their childhood and their first jobs. I woulda pegged Kenley for a UF girl as soon as she said "Florida," but turns out she's an FSU grad. I suppose; isn't that where people who couldn't get into Florida go?

Tim came and went this week like a subcontractor on lunch break. First, he brings in the clients for their early fitting. Jerell's is going well, with a nice, subtle (Jerell?) ruffle along the bust. Joe's girl doesn't like pinstripes. Leanne discovers she's going to have to redo a lot; the client is iffy, but the mom is downright monstrous.

Line of the night, at closing time, from Jerell to Joe: "You can work on Nancy Reagan tomorrow!" SNAP.

Another visit from Tim brings the clients back, sans mommies, for a second fitting. Leanne's changes have won her girl over, and Suede converts his client from wanting pants to being happy with a dress.

If you blinked, you might not have noticed that Tim actually left, but he comes back again to deliver the guest helper person. After that awkward "who the hell's this?" moment, we learn it's Jeanie Syfu, lead stylist for TRESemmé. She'll be helping on cut, color and style, plus she tells the designers that the winning look will be shot for Elle. And is it any surprise to anyone that the only designer we see talking over her advice completely is Kenley?

And like a thief in the night, Tim slips out and comes back one more time, finally bringing with him some constructive criticism. Tim isn't feeling Suede's jacket, which looks sloppy and a little uneven. I'm more against Joe's suit coat, which looks way too nautical. Tim asks how this connects to Joe's client's profession, and Joe says that he's not really considering that. Uh oh, Joe. That's a bad omen, going against Tim's advice. Who's in more trouble? Suede or Joe?

Of course, if there's one person who's just crazy enough to go up against Tim's advice, it's Kenley. And she does. Not only that, but she totally talks shit about Tim. That's not gonna win you fan favorite, no matter how much you go on to diss Suede later on.

A lovely moment in the Lounge, wherein Joe calls home to talk to his daughters--and to us about how he's doing this to empower his girls to take chances--can only mean one thing, folks.

It's the morning of the runway show, and the clients are getting dressed. Why is Joe's client under his workbench? While he's sitting there? And why is her first comment after getting up, "A job's a job"? Ahem.

Jerell points out that Kenley's made a miniature Kenley, and--oh, God, she's even got shit in her hair!

Korto's dress is amazing, but the texture-contrast jacket might not make it through to the top. I dunno. Time for Runway thoughts!
  • Joe: Zzz...that flipped-up collar won't save this look.
  • Leanne: Pretty good, and the edits worked. But too buttoned up? And she needs some lessons in walking in heels.
  • Jerell: I'm probably wrong, but this seems too slouchy for such a tall girl.
  • Korto: I feel like the dress needs to be longer, or the coat needs to be shorter. But the colors are great, as is the construction.
  • Suede: Girlfriend is working that dress. Not sure on the coat though.
  • Kenley: Man, that's one miniature Kenley all right. It's good. Dammit.
The moms depart, after having watched the runway show with their designers, and the judging begins. Designer Cynthia Rowley is the guest judge.

So yeah, everyone likes Kenley's look. It actually works better on her client than it does on her. Charming, cute, and Rowley likes the belt-over-vest-over-dress combo. Korto's jacket also wins over Rowley and the rest of the judges. Michael praises it for being very modern and twentysomething-realistic. Heidi goes ga-ga for Jerell's dress and slouchy cardigan. I guess I'm just a stickler for good posture and the appearance of good posture. But I certainly don't dislike his look.

The bads go from "meh" to "guh!" Joe's look is not very innovative, and here Rowley looks like she's getting on a grrl-power horse about "professional" having to mean "suit" (read: "masculine"...I say, why does a suit have to mean masculinity?). Oy. Kenley, laughing out loud at the criticism of a fellow designer, has gone from bad to worse. I know I thought it was a little funny when she did it to Daniel, but she was laughing at what Daniel said about himself. Laughing at another designer getting criticized is so fucking tacky and classless I can't even describe it.

Leanne's look is a little mixed up, in keeping with the conflicting influence of mom and daughter in the workroom. The dress is great--cute, classy, modern. The coat...well, the judges don't care for it. Too buttoned up (who called it?). With Suede, once again, Rowley complains about the "gratuitous" jacket. But didn't you like it when Korto and Kenley did jackets or vests over the top of dresses? And I didn't hear you criticize Leanne for the same...? I wonder what those three have in common that Joe and Suede don't. Hm. Anyway, Nina is so disenchanted with Suede's look that she holds her tongue for fear of overcriticizing. Ouch.

So it looks like I totally misread Jerell's design. Korto's looks the most expensive, but Kenley's is whimsical in a good way (shudder). Leanne's gotta be safe, and either Suede's totally job-inappropriate, no-perspective look (again, who called it?) or Joe's out-of-touch, Working Girl party suit could go home. Hard to say. All I know is that I cannot pick Kenley to win.

The judges don't, either. Korto takes third, and Jerell walks off with his second win in a row. I'm okay with it. Kenley doesn't appear to share my acceptance, however. She looks bitter at losing. heh heh heh...

As I figured, Leanne is safe. That leaves Suede and Joe, and it is ol' straight Joe who gets to head back to Detroit and empower his daughters. A pretty harsh boot to kick someone out with, but hey. He never really seemed cutting edge enough. Good luck, Joe. Someone's got to make something with all that Dacron.

But next week. Oh, next week. It's a hip-hop themed somethingorother with Cool James (who, I've heard, the ladies love), and boy does it look like Kenley's finally headed for that breakdown I've been predicting. Can't wait!

Project Runway: Stars, and how they fall

Following Stella not being stellar, Project Runway takes us to a planetarium to see some stars. And let it be known that I saw the signs last week, and predicted bad tidings for one of the best designers this week.

Kenley provides the lead-in line of the night, announcing to no one and everyone that, after last week, she definitely feels like one of the best designers here. While this statement is patently false, it's also right up the producers' alley for providing an envelope for the closing action of the episode. So don't expect big things for Kenley.

Despite the impression we got from last week's promos, the special guests at the runway to open the show are not designers from previous seasons, but previous designers from this season.

The challenge? Each remaining designer will be paired up with a dispatched designer, and the team must create an avant garde look. The look must draw inspiration from the astrological sign of one of the two team members.

Gotta say, it's a pretty cool challenge (even if Korto didn't like the pairing-off: "God, Jesus, help me."). Interesting to see how uniform the remaining designers' signs are. Two Aquarius (Korto, Kenley), two Libra (Leanne, Blayne), one lonely Aries (Joe), and three Sagittarius (Terri, Jerell, Suede). Lots of animal signs on the loser side, though: Leo, Taurus, Scorpio. I'll leave further analysis to the astrologers. I just think it's cool.

With $250 and the designs sketched, everyone heads to Mood. Leanne's displaying more of that "late-onset personality" (HT: AV Club) that was first introduced with the spy act last week. I hope that's just a glitch. Meanwhile, Terri -- whose only wish was to not be paired with Keith -- is ignoring the surprisingly sage advice of her teammate, Keith.

Back at the workroom, I swear I saw a beef-patterned fabric on Joe's table. But that was quickly put aside by Kenley bugging the hell out of Leanne with her over-confidence (you-n-me both, Leanne). Kenley's response, in confessional? "I'm just having fun, and [begin "between us" tone] some girls don't like that." But Kenley, I thought girls just want to have fun! Man, what else did the 80's lie to me about? I hope you're not telling me it's not hip to be square.

Tim will set us straight. His visit reveals a few things to be true that we've known for weeks. Leanne is brilliant. Jerell's looks will either win, or crash and burn. Blayne's stoner/stream of consciousness thing produces some truly fucked up looks. And Kenley's sketch looks like a tooth (okay, we didn't know that before). Tim thinks Glinda the Good Witch. Hey, I know -- it's the Tooth Fairy!

But it's Terri we've gotta look out for this week. She is not feeling Keith at all. Sure, she's put down the pants pattern. But she's doing Leo. There's a faux fur mane in the works. Keith advises against. Terri just shuts him down. Tim tries to foster teamwork through flattery. Doesn't fly. This is bad news, people. I know I've been down on Terri a little in the last two weeks, but shit. I don't think she should be gone this early.

The next morning, we get to see a little shirtless Wesley, and I'm forced to remember how much the mere appearance of Daniel's face makes me want to punch it. The designers arrive at the workroom to learn that they won't have until midnight to finish, because they've been invited to meet Heidi and show off their looks to a small group of VIP guests at the planetarium in the Ameican Museum of Natural History. Oh yeah, and two designers are getting booted this week, plus immunity is gone for the remainder of the season, starting riiiiight....now.

Those VIPs? Why, they're those stars I mentioned: former contestants from previous seasons of Project Runway! Yay for Alison Kelly! She's cute, and definitely got stiffed in Season 3. Jay's great, too. Kara? Meh. Never understood her success.

Terri's not happy because the guests get to judge based on incomplete looks. Well, shit, sister. You just giddily said "60-second skirts" last week, but this week you just can't abide by it? Kenley, on the other hand, is supremely confident. Much too confident. She's lecturing Heidi on where her model's boobs should be (but please, Heidi, keep on telling us to look at your boobs). I just don't understand where Kenley's coming from, but like I said in the comments last week, I think she's cruising for a major breakdown.

Jerell and Blayne are looking sketchy, too. As the designers return to the workroom the morning of the show, I'm thinking that these looks are going to be a hot mess by runway light compared to the nightclub atmosphere at the planetarium. Terri, who swore the previous night that the fur collar was "her look," and Christian was wrong for disliking it, takes it off the next morning. Uh huh. I see smoke comin' out that tailfin, Terri. And Kenley's fixing the boob issue. Where's all that crazy confidence?

Keith, who has long since given up trying to help Terri in any way, has been napping in the Lounge. Tim comes to wake him up for the runway show, and my thoughts on it are right here, right now.
  • Blayne (with Stella): Oof. What's the cohesive idea? Or, more succinctly, WTF?
  • Kenley (with Wesley): No. Model looks like a spaceship.
  • Terri ("with" Keith): Not necessarily awful. The mane would have been awful.
  • Korto (with Kelli): I'm not crazy about the cape thing, but it's good.
  • Joe (with Daniel): Also good, but the corset is a little sketchy.
  • Jerell (with Jennifer): That headpiece is pure Jerell, those hip bumpers are pure Rami Kashou.
  • Leanne (with Emily): Yes. Yes. Yes.
  • Suede (with Jerry): Not terrible, but again with the cape.

Nina's back from wherever she went, Francisco Corta from Calvin Klein is the guest, and Heidi's awfully cheery for someone reminding the crew that two are going home.

The designers are split into top half and bottom half. Tops are Korto, Jerell, Leanne, and Joe. They depart, while the bottom half of Blayne, Kenley, Terri, and Suede stick around to get the bad news.

The criticisms for most of the losers is pretty simple, with some vintage Michael Kors-isms. Blayne: haphazard, costumey, POOPING FABRIC. Terri: taste level flew out the window, Voodoo Princess in Hell (a line at which the MODEL let a moan of shame escape her lips). Suede: not cutting edge enough, felt straight off the department store hanger (and ugh, with the blatant and inconsistent third-person).

Kenley is the best, though. Maybe she should yell more, and that would get the judges to see her side. Her look, she shouts, was ALL Aquarius: "rebellion, strength, strong, and purple," as if purple was the most important part.

Based on attitude, Kenley and Terri should go. But Blayne's look was awful. Suede's definitely safe, because his was just boring. How do you pick between three terrible looks? At least the winner's a sure thing, right? I mean, there's no way Leanne coul--

"Congratulations, Jerell."

What?? Jerell??? They did say "avant garde" and not "haute couture," right? Because the look was so over-the-top, it just wasn't...guh...I can't speak through my shock at this outcome. At least nothing was riding on it.

Kenley is the first to escape dismissal, and as the judging progressed, I can't say I was surprised. Blayne's was awful, and Terri's behavior and look were just plain bad. Wreaking havoc with my odds, those two get to pack up. Blayne, who got no cheek kiss from Heidi, at least got a "Why? Why?" from Kenley when he said he was gone. Terri...what a waste. Damn.

Next week, a group of special ladies! I'm guessing librarians, from the looks of it.

Project Runway: A bore and a pair

In this episode that didn't feature much pre-challenge chatter (Suede didn't want new roommates, so Suede is sad), and an episode that we knew would feature one of the huge names in fashion (Diane von Furstenberg), you'd think it'd be all business, all the time.

And yet there were still two scenes set during meals in the Project Runway Lounge. Why?

A truly unpleasant two-car pileup occurred in my brain when Blayne's unhealthy (and apropos of almost nothing) fascination with Mary Kate Olsen and the designers' walk to the Meat Packing district were juxtaposed on the screen.

But that's where the esteemed DVF makes the magic happen, and she descended a grand-ish staircase to really open the show. You will design a look for my upcoming collection, she announces, and it will be inspired by the 1948 noir-comedy film, A Foreign Affair.

It's worth noting that, at this point, Kenley is dehydrating herself panting and weeping over the presence of Ms. Von Furstenberg. It's kind of embarrassing.

The designers will get to use DVF's fabrics from her Sample Room (admittedly, pretty cool even to a non-designer like me), and the winner's look will be made available for purchase to American Express cardholders (y'know, Tina Fey?). The proceeds will go to CFDA, which stands for Council of Fashion Designers of America, and I might have missed why they need the money, but oh well.

Stella demonstrates her uselessness once again, unable to pull the bolts of fabric down from the wall on her own. Throughout the episode, she's a crabby, obstinate, bitter pain in the ass--a bore, if you will--and sets about putting the lockdown on her creative process. Ain't no one gonna see what Stella's up to.

While everyone latches onto the layered aesthetic shown in DVF's look book, Kenley decides she's going to do just a dress. The inspiration from the movie comes from its three main locales--Berlin, Shanghai, and New York. You'd expect that a lot of uninspired Mandarin collars would follow, and they do. Including Kenley's. And it really seems like she's gonna be the sore thumb.

When Tim checks in, it's more like Project Runway normally is: Tim's concerned, confused, and occasionally impressed but worried about time. Last week was such an anomaly. Personally, I'm worried, because Blayne's sketch looks really promising, and he's not doing the colorsplosion thing. Plus, he takes a shot at Terri's (counting in head) seventy-fifth return to the Pants well. I don't want to have to like him, too!

It seems to me that the way to really excel was to go for the German influence. China is just so easy to underwhelm with (ooh, look at the buttons all the way up to the collar!), and while the potential to bomb out with a German look is there, it's got a higher reward potential.

But a lot are going Chinese. Joe is; Tim appreciates his ambition, worries about his time. Korto is, but she's actually doing it in a cool way. Her print is a little more modern Chinese, but is really pretty too. Tim recommends an editing eye with regards to the placement of Korto's (developing signature) yellow flash. Suede's look is too hippy, Stella bitches about the guest judge last week, and Leanne needs to refine the look of her jacket. Oh, and Kenley blubbers some more.

When show day arrives, it's shocking how unfinished the designers' looks are. This is Diane von Frickin' Furstenberg. Get your shit in gear! Terri shouts out "60-second skirts," and she ain't kidding. But even Kenley, with her low-impact single piece look, is still stitching like mad, and Stella's got a 900-number of a vest going out the workroom door. The thoughts?
  • Joe: Better than it looked in the workroom, but still baggy and sloppy.
  • Leanne: Could Leanne be the first since Jeffrey Sebelia to win with immunity? Yes. Yes she could.
  • Terri: C'mon Terri. It's fine, but break out!
  • Jerell: Way too costumey.
  • Korto: I'm not feeling the 40's inspiration, although that could just be me. It's pretty, though!
  • Blayne: Oh Blayne. Such promise with your sketch. Shoulda known better.
  • Suede: Hello, HIPS.
  • Stella: Meh. What's up with that crotch?
  • Kenley: Decent construction, but no "wow" to speak of.

Terri's pants, Jerell's crazy hat, and Blayne's diaper pants are safe. The rest will be judged. Fern Mallis from IMG is subbing for Nina.

Right off the bat, I will say that my immediate reaction is that Leanne has to win this one. Her ruffles down the back are a favorite of the judges, and the coat has been adequately tailored and shrunken. But Korto provides ample challenge, as the judges appreciate her blending of international and New York influence. They all like the placement of the yellow (remember Tim's advice, which she followed--sign of a potential winner). These two designers are the definitive force to be reckoned with this season. I'm consistently impressed.

The other surprise contender for the win is Kenley, whose simple Chinese silhouette nevertheless attracts the judges' favor. Although, like the superfan who insists that she and the object of her affection should really be together!, Kenley makes the innocent mistake of telling DVF that her look is what the collection is missing. And she keeps on cutting Heidi off. What's gonna happen in her head when she doesn't win this (cause she won't, no chance)? She's gonna put someone's bunny in a stew pot.

The three bottoms are all worthy of dismissal. Joe continues to display a lack of design awareness, as his look turns uneven, messy, and non-cohesive when it's actually walking down the runway. Stella's inspiration isn't the inspiration the challenge asked for, and the tailoring (hello, crotch) is awful. And Suede turns a pencil into a pear with the weight at the model's hips, and color, pattern, and cut are all a mess.

Fern puns it up throughout the judges' kibbutz, but they all agree that Leanne had a lot of really good design going on with her look. Very thoughtful. And while it turns out to be Kenley who takes (unofficial) second place, Leanne rightfully takes the win. My last-minute guess of Joe as the loser turns out to be wrong, but he does fall to the bottom two. It is Stella who gets the boot, and she puts a smiling face on a shitty disposition.

I didn't get Tim's comment about being happy to tell her to clean up her space, but everyone else in the room did, because it wasn't edited as controversial. Whatever. Just go home, Stella. Ratbones is waiting for his Hot Pocket.

Next week: Nina's back, and she's pooping fabric! (see how I edited that?)

Project Runway: Runnin' down a dream

I must have woken up in some far flung future last night, because the episode of Project Runway I saw was nothing like the episodes earlier this season. First of all, it was all post-apocalyptic and Mad Max-ish. Then, all the weirdos were kind of acting like normal humans.

Really, did Bravo put something in the water at Atlas?

I missed the first ten minutes because I wasn't feeling well, and I haven't been feeling well today either, thus the delay in getting this out. But that's a blessing and a curse because I got to see those first ten minutes in the mid-afternoon replay!

Also, in case anyone wonders why I predict anything about upcoming challenges, it's because I'm steadfastly avoiding the full-season Bravo-approved spoilage. (I'm also, incidentally, trying my best to boycott EW.com for putting LOST spoilers on the front page...see a couple posts ago).

The challenge is to take Saturn car parts (fortunately, mostly the cloth ones, rather than brake drums and fan belts) and make an outfit out of them. Tim says it's a second chance at the first challenge, whose call to extreme innovation went mostly unheeded. Keith's got no do-rag, Kenley's wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and Blayne is speaking in mostly complete and non-nonsensical English. I just don't know how to process this.

Lots of folks are grabbing seat belts. Who'da thunk that Korto and Stella would be using the same base material? Is Suede going to shave Suede's blue 'hawk next? Although to be fair, Suede's toned down the third-person to almost non-existent. And Stella, it sounded to me like you called it "muslim" rather than "muslin." Sweetie, you got it wrong.

Keith's all down on himself and passive-aggressively taking it out on everyone else including the judges. Looks to me like he's falling on his own sword to show everyone how awesome he used to be.

I guess this is our last goodbye
And you don't care, so I won't cry
But you'll be sorry when I'm dead
And all this guilt will be on your head
I guess you'd call it suicide
But I'm too full to swallow my pride


And I'd like to ask, where did Bravo find the models for this season? They're generally pretty boring, and now two have bailed on their designers! Kenley loses hers this time, and it's so matter-of-fact that I can't imagine it wasn't expected or planned. If not, it's hard to believe that a model would be so cavalier about an assignment like Project Runway.

Tim visits, and it's back to my Twilight Zone theory. He's liking way too many of these looks! So few "I'm concerned"s! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? Tim latches on immediately to Jerell's vision; he completely understands Leanne's look; he thinks Korto's coat-dress (which I was getting worried would look like the lead smock you get at the dentist) is 60's-era fab. He leaves by telling the designers that he's very happy; I'd say so, given what kind of a turnaround this is from previous weeks.

Terri gets a little sassy to Korto, playfully. Jerell has a pretty great call-out in confessional. "She's got two faces and four patterns. That's it. Don't trust the bitch." What the hell, am I liking Jerell now too? I'm certainly not liking Keith, who thinks that he deserves to win PR more than anyone else, even though he acknowledges that they all feel that way. Ugh. What a tool.

Personal interlude: Stella's boyfriend goes by the lovely moniker "Ratbones." Is anyone surprised?

With that, we come to show day. Keith gets all the waaaaahlibi he'll need when his model sits in his high-waisted seat belt skirt and tears a stitch right up the front (those goddamned stylists!). While Keith literally demeans the models, Leanne only seems to--the saddlebags she gives her model are a pretty daring silhouette, and Leanne's giggle (damn it, it's true, I like her now) tells us she knows it.

I'd love to know to whom Tim was directing that under-the-breath remark when the designers and models left the workroom. "Sexy..." For now, my runway thoughts will have to do!
  • Jerell: Oh, Mrs. Simpson, you are looking very prosperous today. Might I interest you in some of our impulse items here by the cash register? Perhaps a crazy pseudo-futuristic hairstyle. Oh, look at... the craziness.
  • Keith: ZZZ....the hem is horrible.
  • Terri: Decent, but pants again. Now I'm starting to get annoyed.
  • Kenley: The model looks like a car cigarette lighter.
  • Leanne: YES. The bustline is tremendous.
  • Suede: Kinda cool. Good movement on the skirt.
  • Korto: Impressive workmanship. A solid effort.
  • Blayne: The glass is interesting, but the fit looks poor.
  • Joe: WAY too similar to his Olympic look. Not a loser, not a winner.
  • Stella: The model is moving awfully slow. The seat belts are puckering in the back and the front. Not cohesive.

Michael and guest judge Rachel Zoe (who?) sit flanking Season 3's Laura, who provides almost no worthwhile commentary in filling in for Nina. They hold Jerell, Keith, Leanne, Korto, Blayne and Stella for judgment. Once again, Suede is safe with no commentary. He's got to start making his move, or he's gonna get Kit Pistolled.

The judges (useless Laura excepted) provide the expected commentary. Jerell went over the top, but for a solid concept and with good craftsmanship. Blayne had a good enough idea, but failed in fit and overall execution (and Germans...jeez, Heidi, 7 years of no sex? Is that what Germany defines as "bad luck"?). Korto's coat-dress has tons of class and shows a strong sense of self-editing (definitely one of Korto's best features in this competition). Leanne gets perhaps the most effusive praise, as her dress is called chic and her silhouette, proportion, craft, and daring are all lauded. Stella, on the other hand, is obviously outside of her comfort zone and it shows in her look's total lack of identity.

And Keith. Poor, abused Keith. He accuses the judges of going past criticism and into the realm of insult with the "sad chicken" remark from last week. He blames his model for his look's sloppy finish. No one gets him, and he even tries to rope Laura into buying his lament. No such luck. Doesn't he know she's the ice queen? Michael basically tells him to hike up his skirt. Keith is so far into his own head, he's got to be gone.

The judges commune, and it's looking like a duel between Korto's slick repurposing of a very utilitarian material, and Leanne's flawless risk-reward gamble. On the bottom...well, let's just say that Michael busts out an "insane" in describing Keith's work. That's never good.

Leanne does indeed win, and Korto looks mildly annoyed. I think. She's kinda hard to read. But when Keith gets the boot, he's very easy to read. He makes a big show of his tears "forcing" their way out, despite his manly protestations of toughness. "This is what fashion means to me," he sobs. Look at what you made me do, you Luddites! Yeah, bye, angry Mormon.

Even with the spoiler, giving the designers a shot at Diane von Furstenberg is a pretty big re-ward. I'm guessing no immunity will be on the line.

Project Runway: What a drag it is being bold

This would have been a friggin' hilarious episode from the very start, had Bravo not given the meat of this episode away in previews (so to speak). It was still pretty enjoyable, but I have to say that Bravo's bridge-burning MO--snarkily charming at first--sucks hard.

If any one of us thought that Chris March wouldn't be back on the boob tube, shame on you. He's another one of those genuine characters, full of personality and TV appeal. Oh, and he's got tremendous knockers.

Balancing his Brunhilde helmet mighty precariously, Chris tells the designers about the drag queen nature of this challenge, and Terri confidently exclaims that she's been waiting for this challenge. Um, why? Don't tell me Bravo told the designers about each challenge before the season rolled.

Heidi, looking about as out of place as she possibly could, had the ladeez roll out onto the runway for pairing off. Keith picked Sherry Vine. Daniel chose Anita Greenkard ("with a K"). Blayne went--appropriately--with Miss Understood. Kenley selected Farrah Moans. Joe paired up with Varla Jean Merman. Korto took Sweetie. Suede teamed with the disarmingly pretty Hedda Lettuce. Leanne took the prize for most cognitive dissonance, and Sharon Needles. Jerell takes LeMay. Terri seemed perfect for the frighteningly tall and harsh Acid Betty. That left Stella and Luisa Verde, but everyone seemed happy.

With immunity on the line, the designers will have to make a look that maintains the queens' personae, and stay under $200. How expensive are sequins, anyway? Plus, they'll get two days to go completely balls-out (so to speak). At the end, the looks will be auctioned off for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The designers have all the motivation they could ever want to just go apeshit.

Some designers, though, just seem destined to fail from the beginning. Poor Joe...he bemoaned the queens in a previous episode, and now there's twice as many! Plus, he's going into this challenge thinking about what his daughters might wear. Joe! Get a parenting book! You're off the rails!

The usual stuff happens. Designers go to Mood. Kenley announces she's going for an "old Hollywood" look. We see a shot of the Elle cover (hey, it's Jessica Alba now! No more Olsen sister! Yay!). And Blayne irritates the fuck out of everyone by having a liciousgasm all over the workroom. Leanne quips, "Even 'licious' is licious." Guh. We're with you, Leanne. Wait, am I starting to like her?

Mixed signals start coming in hot and heavy at this point (so to speak). Jerell and Suede get the sentimentality treatment (Suede even gets a visit from his Ghost Grandpa!), while Joe, Suede and Keith appear to be flailing. When the ladies come in as dudes for their fitting (Blayne seems amazed that there's 'dude' under there...what a dingus), Lettuce starts busting Suede's balls (or is it vajayjay?). Suede digs in Suede's heels.

Tim comes back with Big Chris in tow, and Chris is given the pleasure of delivering commentary. Blayne's look is as ridiculous as Tim's commentary paints it. Joe, after a very positive feedback session with Varla, appears to have rebounded into contender status; Chris loves it, and thinks Varla will too. Tim busts out the bitch in soothing Suede's ego (Suede has an ego?), telling him quietly and firmly, "You can tell her that you've been to a different rodeo, and don’t you-know-what with me, sister." Daniel, finding yet another cultural phenomenon of which he has exactly zero understanding, is obstinate once again.

I wonder if we're being set up for Stella missing a runway show or something because of her inability to wake up on time. I also wonder if drag queens even need any further hair and makeup work. But oh, you drag queens, you do love the camera. Even RuPaul, who (don't tell anyone I said this) is showing her age. Allow me to give you my somewhat deer-in-the-headlights runway thoughts.
  • Kenley: Nice feather work (although I'd like to slap her feather right off her damn head), seams are iffy.
  • Blayne: Worried about it looking shoddy? Well, it probably is shoddy. Certainly full of bad ideas.
  • Joe: Solid. Good construction, good fit.
  • Stella: Doesn't quite seem to fit the persona.
  • Suede: Decent, but monochromatic in a bad way (unlike Joe's).
  • Daniel: This is not a drag queen dress. Period.
  • Terri: God strike me down if she ever holds back. This is an ass-kicker.
  • Jerell: Something's not right. Not loud enough. Not classic enough for the persona.
  • Korto: The flames up top are well done, but is it possible for a drag queen dress to be too short? Maybe I just want it to be shorter.
  • Keith: More strips and shreds? Not so much.
  • Leanne: Well-built. Safe.

Daniel, Joe, Terri, Jerell, Korto and Keith will be judged. The rest are safe. Snap judgment: Daniel, Jerell and Keith are the bottom 3. Any of the top three could ostensibly win it. Only Jerell seems safe from the bottom.

The judges generally agree. Terri's kabuki-esque look is powerful, dramatic, and exciting. Michael wants the boots. RuPaul lauds Joe's look for doing everything a good drag queen outfit should do, including hiding "the candy." For being so ill at ease with the aesthetic, Korto made a look that walked well, gave the queen a "Heidi Klum body," and the judges found it obvious that Korto did in fact have fun with this challenge. Korto? Fun? It's about time the two were introduced.

Keith defends his scrappy crappy thing, and RuPaul busts out a mysterious Aussie accent thing in chiding him. I didn't get it--help? Anyway, Jerell's look is too normal, too long, too boring. Very un-Jerell. And then there's Daniel. Daniel, who complains--out loud--that sequins and feathers would have been too gaudy.

Honestly, there's no real question as to who's going home. The title of this recap actually hinted at it. David, who looks like he's about to fall asleep weeping, couldn't be less excited by cutting edge fashion. And I'm happy to say that, once the names were read off, I picked the winners and losers exactly. Superfecta!

So Terri's safe, again. When Joe takes the prize for his pink sailor suit (Nina calls the candy-hiding belt a "true lifesaver"), Terri looks pissed at not winning, again. Korto's in, in what had to be a very close second place vote. Jerell's in, simply because Keith and Daniel were just too bad to be that safe.

And finally, the coup de grace--Daniel is sent packing (so to speak). THANK YOU TRANNY JESUS. Keith is surprisingly broken up about it, and that's saying something for this moist-eyed buncha drama, well, queens. So to speak.

Looks like next week we get the long cool woman in a black empire-waisted dress, Laura, to guest judge what--to my eyes--appears to be a car scrap challenge. Project Runway: Beyond Thunderdome! VIGILANCE.

Project Runway: There's no "Suede" in "team"

Okay, so the title is apropos of nothing, except the (very funny) first-person/third-person joke, and the fact that this week's episode was the first team challenge of the season.

The episode opens with Keith and Daniel straight pumping those weights. Well, Keith is, anyway; Daniel's obviously going for reps over weight. Ahem.

But we might as well get the challenge out of the way, because it's just so thrilling that I can't wai--oh, that's right, Bravo continues to scuttle the ship by revealing every possible reason the casual fan would have to watch each week.

So we already know that it's Brooke Shields who's going to walk through that door with a preternatural grimace-smile and announce that the designers will have to put clothes on her back. Oh, did you know she has a SHOW AIRING THURSDAYS AT 10/9 PM ON NBC? At least with PR, the promotion is kept at least 50% within the GE family of networks.

The second-least surprising surprise is that Brooke's character will wear the look on the show. It'll have to be flexible, going from work to nightlife with minimal alteration. Tim announces that the designers will be pairing off to design this look. Exactly NO ONE is thrilled about this.

The top six designs, as pimped to Brooke, will grant team leadership. Fortunately, Brooke is unawed by the spectacle that is a room full of Project Runway designers. Her fashion wits about her, she picks Keith, Korto, Kelli, Terri, Jerell, and (stating clearly her extreme apprehension) Blayne. She also notes, in one of the few on-screen criticisms, that corsets aren't exactly SFW, Stella.

The designs are always a mixed bag, and you know that a handful of designers are going to go completely off the rez once they get needle and thread in hand. But initial thoughts lead me to worry about Kelli's leopard-heavy look, and also about Terri. Terri, whom I love. Terri, of the many pants. Be careful, Terri.

The designers begin the arduous task of choosing from a panel of sad sack second-placers. Blayne/Leanne. Keith/Kenley. Terri/Sueude. Korto/Joe. Kelli (in a decision over which she agonizes, not wanting to send Stella home if she performs poorly...?) picks the muscular moper, Daniel. Jerell, in a pairing that is so fucking crazy it just might work, gets Stella.

$150 and a trip to Mood later, the designers return with their goods. It becomes clearer and clearer that Jerell and Stella ("Jerella" to the tabloids) actually have some design chemistry, and could actually pull it off. As Tim announces that the win is big enough to remove the need for an immunity reward, Kelli goes into a confessional monologue about her childhood and her grandma and, I don't know, her second grade crush's pet hamster. THIS must be the sentimentality bullet that Korto dodged, only because Korto's sentimentality involved dodging actual bullets.

Line of the night: Terri, in a confessional criticism of Suede's whiny manner, proclaims "I ain't got no babies, and nobody sucking on my titties, so man up." Ah, Terri. Always good for some street slang.

Stupid of the night: Blayne calls Yakima (WA), with an 80,000+ in-town population and a 210,000+ metro area population, a "super-small town." Blayne....you're an idiot.

Tim visits bracket the commercial break, and we see Daniel completely cocking Kelli's design up, and completely and unrepentantly not caring. Fiancee and I agree: When does he get to go home? And Terri's titties continue to be unimpressed by Suede's work (boy, that's a David Dust line from me if there ever was one).

Tim's thoughts are great, as usual. Blayne's is too casua--BLAYNE, STOP IT. Enough with the goddamn -licious, already. Anyway. Team Jerella is cranking it out and Tim is pleased, as opposed to Kelli and Daniel's sad lingerie look. Terri is officially reinvigorated by Tim's positive appraisal of a look in which she had zero confidence. Kenley gets her balls busted by Tim (hello!) for the horrible 1980's sofa fabric she had wanted to use.

And Korto/Joe. Oh, Korto. All season, I've been riding you to show some emotion! And when Tim expresses concern about your look, you offer a blasé defense. But then Joe agrees with Tim. And apparently, this was Joe's first comment of the sort; he even says that the reason he's saying something is because Tim did. Not only does Korto take him to town in front of Tim, but they step into the Lounge (as indicated by the sign on the door that reads "Lounge"), and continues to hash it out.

Bottom line is, don't fuck with Korto. Second best line of the night: "There's a BUS comin'!" I have to say, when Korto feels it, I have a crush on her voice.

But here's the interesting thing. Two different teams had problems in the workroom. And both teams resolved those problems in the workroom. It's amazing! Gotta be a PR first.

On runway show morning, Daniel is redoing his entire godawful skirt. Seriously, I could have sewn a better skirt, and all I ever sew are buttons back onto shirts and shorts. Jerell talks some smack to a sista's back (not Korto; he knows better), and Blayne is obviously losing his mojo. He's starting to almost talk like a real human. Almost. Tim offers a coy "some of you are still sewing...question mark?", and we're off to the runway. Thoughts follow!
  • Korto/Joe: Not awful, but too monotone. Okay, the fit on the dress is awful.
  • Kelli/Daniel: Holy trampy. And is that a cami? I think we know where Michael's "slutty" line will fit in.
  • Jerella: Tim's approval of the palette is well-earned. Works for both purposes at once.
  • Keith/Kenley: Seems like there's too much skirt. Would make a woman like Brooke look really hippy.
  • Terri/Suede: Not professional enough for work. Cute though.
  • Blayne/Leanne: Completely inappropriate for the challenge. Blayne insisted throughout the workroom that his Bermuda shorts would work. They don't. And they're not even ugly. They're just totally not what this challenge was about.

Korto/Joe and Terri/Suede are safe, the rest will be judged. Looks like I'm wrong about Keith and Kenley's fluttery, layered skirt. Oh well.

While Brooke isn't crazy about the belt, Jerella's look appeals to every one of the rest of the judges. Texture is good, color is good, style is good. Seems like a winner to me. Not so for Kelli's "hooker with a heart of coke"-look. Yes, Michael says it's slutty. But Nina is concerned for the taste level of both designers. After the most irritating question that can be asked on this show (which one of you should leave?), Daniel defends his taste (meekly and sleepily, as usual) as "impeccable."

And Kenley starts laughing. Visibly. Audibly. Right there on the runway. After everyone gave her shit for her laugh last week, is there any doubt that every one of us would have done the same thing if Daniel had stood next to us and said the same thing?

Anyway, Kenley's collaboration with Keith does indeed draw praise from the judges. Michael appreciates the somewhat counterintuitive blending of the two desigers' styles. I will admit that the work is really strong; I just don't like the look. And of course, Blayne's shorts get panned, and everyone is so disappointed in Leanne that they hardly address her at all, except to ask her who should go home if they lose. Naturally, she says "Blayne."

It's clear that Leanne's going to skate because Blayne just bowled her over with his overpowering tackiness. The winner seems like it should be Jerella, since Nina was concerned about the day side of Keith and Kenley's look...but they Keith and Kenley win anyway. What the hell.

As for the losers, it was Kelli's horrible look, but Daniel hasn't done anything at all this season. And Blayne just didn't take the challenge to heart at all. Daniel gets safe first, and while Blayne is told, in no uncertain terms, to get over his damn self, he is allowed to remain for another week. Goodbye Kelli, Week 1 winner! It's obvious everyone liked you, because they're all crying--OH WAIT, THEY DO THAT AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Jesus H. Weepypants Christ.

Next week...eh, I'm officially tired of Bravo spoiling itself. Chris March is back, and it's a drag queen challenge. Woo.

Project Runway: At least it wasn't the FIRST Olympics

If I'm extra bitchy this morning, it's because my car got towed for the second time this week. Yes, it's my fault for being absent-minded and lazy. Does that mean I'm going to be a ray of sunshine? Probably not.

The first target of my wrath is that goddamn Olsen Twin Elle cover. I don't want to see the thing one more time. I fear that we'll be seeing it all season, unless a new issue released somewhere during filming.

This season sure is shaping up to be a big sloppy kiss good-bye to New York. Tim takes the kids out on another field trip around town, this time by van. They arrive at the Armory Track and Field Center, and see that graceful wintry god, Apolo Ohno, come gliding toward them on the track. We probably could have guessed; it's an Olympic-themed challenge. Jerell's female wrestler phobia is staved off for another week.

I have to say, I was worried the designers were going to have to design track suits. That would have been ultra boring. Instead, the challenge will be to create a look for the female half of the US Olympic Team to wear during the Opening Ceremonies. Not that they'll be wearing them or anything, since Ralph Lauren designed this year's actual outfits. This is a just-for-funsies challenge.

Oh, and I was absolutely correct that this challenge would be a crucible of cultural ignorance. The doofosity kicks off right away, with wee Daniel indicating that he's never, never, ever seen the Olympics. Never. Not even, like, a picture. Everyone clasp your hands together and cackle; it's gonna be a trainwreck.

After a tour of the on-site Olympic museum to gather inspiration (my fiancee coined the joke in the title, saying "use the first Olympics!"), the designers head back to start brainstorming. And dood, Joe is SO FIRED UP about this challenge. SPORTS RULE. I'M STRAIGHT. SHOCKN' Y'ALL. USA! USA! USA!

Another Keith-related non-issue happens at Mood, where it appears he may have ganked Terri's cloth (heh, I promise I won't use that one again). Big deal. Give it some screen time if you think it's important.

The workroom gives us more character insight, and some irritating occurrences. The first irritating occurrence is that Blayne is actually amusing. He's been sort of likeable so far; his weak voice in the back seat of the van, matter-of-factly explaining that he prefers to tan every other day...almost kind of precious in its lameness. But when they get back, Blayne busts out the line he had to have been working on for the whole day. He declares that he's an Olympic-level tanner, but that the medals only go up to 'bronze'. Okay, yes, that's pretty funny. Dammit!

Joe will be the best designer Wal-Mart has ever corralled. His skort is immediately lessened by his use of the word 'skort' so many times. Terri is blessed with a Christian-esque level of productivity, as she is working on pants, a shirt, a jacket, and a scarf. Whoa.

The two worst things a person can do to Joe, however, are 1) laugh and make jokes, and 2) thread and use a sewing machine that he has used at some point in the past. Daniel and Kenley are committing the former, and it's actually pissing a lot of people off! What's the deal? No Fun Zone? As for the thread, Joe's...well, Joe doesn't like queens. And there's a boarding school queen riding his thread right now! Well I never!

Jennifer's going girly-girl anime-caucasian, and it doesn't bode well. Tim thinks it's both matronly and juniors. Now that's surreal! Stella's doing her thing, too--namely, all black. "There's a lotta bikers in this country that watch the Olympics." Sure, Stella. That doesn't mean the whole friggin' team has to dress like 'em.

Tim's commentary is unfortunately brief this week, but we learn that mixing two colors of zipper is somehow really witty and creative. What am I missing? We also find out that Blayne is as much an idjit as we suspected he was. His only awareness of The Beatles is Across the Universe...and not the song. Blayne also criticizes Jerell's too-tight and very antebellum look as "Titanic." Y'know, 1870's vs 1910's...same difference.

Daniel's looking superhero-y...and purple. Kenley's using the same shade in her fabric, but she's breaking it up a bit. And Korto. Dear Korto. Born in a foreign, slightly impoverished nation? Forced to flee internecine violence? Trying to live the dream in America? Why, that personal story is just touching enough to get you eliminated up in this network.

With that lovely moment behind us, we arrive at runway show day. A day that sees Jerell wake up and suddenly realize the nature of the competition: "I woke up this morning and realized that one by one, they all must fall. Except me." Whoa! Is that how this works?

Let us then move to the "What the hell is Jerell wearing? A Depression-era Boy Scout uniform? World War I doughboy? Robin Hood??" edition of RUNWAY THOUGHTS:
  • Korto: A little bland, but all-white does it for some people. Well-made.
  • Suede: Cute, but the top is super boring.
  • Kelli: 50's housewife. Stewardess. Something. Blech.
  • Joe: He doesn't think it's retro, but I see 1950-1969. Looks like a Gemini rocket.
  • Leanne: Nice work on the neck flourish.
  • Daniel: Couldn't be more purple. Fiancee points out Daniel's wearing a purple shirt, probably to try to make his dress look more blue by comparison.
  • Jerell: Nothing makes me feel more patriotic than the Grand Old Flag, seven lavender stripes, six navy stripes, and a hell of a lot of stars.
  • Stella: Notes: God, no.
  • Keith: Too bubbly at the bottom. Flashbacks of Season 2's Angela! Ugh.
  • Terri: Tube top looks too tight (of course, she had to put a knee in her model's back to close it up, so...).
  • Jennifer: Nothing "Olympic" about it. It's The Buckle.
  • Blayne: Retro space cadet. Appropriate.
  • Kenley: Very Kenley, but that "blue" is still purple, even in plaid. And no red!

Korto, Joe, Daniel, Jerell, Terri, and Jennifer will stand judgment. Blayne and Stella continue to skate. The good three are pretty clear from the start. Only Stella seems like a clear miss on the judges' parts, but her stuff is at least well-made.

Terri dug the blazer look from the old photos, and her work on the jacket is great. Apolo likes the color combos, and Nina thinks the whole thing is versatile and smart. It's the most everyday wearable piece up there, and Michael likes the sportswear aspect. On the other side of the spectrum is Joe, who was the only one to really go all-in with the athletic look. Again, acclaim for the zippers. Really, what am I missing?? The skirt part of the skort is too long, but it's generally well done. Korto's all-white gamble appears to pay off, as Nina finds it very chic. Apolo thinks it looks comfortable and functional. None of this appears to impress Korto, who offers a bland "thank you Apolo." Wake up! They like it!

The three uglies all feature the same complaint: there's nothing in the looks that says "Olympics," "athletics," or, in general, "good." Jennifer, Nina remarks, can't separate her girly style from the substance of the challenge. Daniel's purple t-shirt plan backfires, as the judges all agree he used purple fabric. His "striking blue and striking red" doesn't say "USA," either. What a tool. At least Jerell's crazy look showed that he's got some ideas, even if none of them are appropriate for the challenge. It's a costume, the judges remark, but not an Olympic costume.

I would like to add that I have never seen a bigger crew of Weepy Weepersons than this bunch of designers. They're crying about every single damn thing that happens. I'd hate to see them watch Bambi.

At this point, my mom called, and I missed some of the commentary, but the right person won. Terri's safe for making a great sportswear look that maybe didn't emphasize the "sports-" part of that word. Joe's safe for a very straightfoward athletic look that had some dimension problems. Korto's blend of sporty and fashionable, however, takes the day. Winner!

Jerell's an obvious safe for his creativity, and that leaves Boarding School Olympic-phobe Daniel and Somnambulism Is Not Surrealism Jennifer. The ultimate loser, for creating once again a completely boring, forgettable, and low degree of difficulty look, is Jennifer. Now, with Jennifer and Emily gone, the two sets of twins are broken up! But really, Jennifer. Do you even know what "surrealism" is? And why is everyone crying??

A team challenge to dress Brooke Shields (don't take that wrong, Brooke. We love curves) seems to be on the horizon. Vigilance!

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!

Project Runway: Green is the new, well, green.

I came into this episode of Project Runway 15 minutes late, so I guess it's appropriate that it took me 5 days to get the recap up. I took a mental health vacation on Thursday and Friday, and was out of town for the weekend, and just didn't feel like sitting at the computer.

This episode begins with the usual 2nd-ep model swap, and Jerell is all salty 'cause someone took his model. He better get used to it. We learn, in short order, that this challenge will see the models work as clients, and they'll even get to choose the fabric and general feel of the cocktail dress look. That fabric, it turns out, will be green.

No, not green like Kayne's splatter-painted paper dress. Green like every other damn thing is nowadays--environmentally friendly. Unless you count sight pollution as environmentally unfriendly, because there will definitely be some of that tonight.

The models prove to be no more eloquent than the majority of the designers, and Jerell is justifiably worried that they'll all come back with "remnants of nonsense." Wasn't that a Strawberry Alarm Clock song? Regardless of how the models do, Suede wants to (predictably) "put a little Suede into" his model's look. Someone needs to tell him suede ain't green.

Blayne adds "-licious" to about fifteen new things tonight, and someone let a very drowsy Iggy Pop compete in this challe--oh, wait, that's just Stella. In this competition, seriously, she's a waste of space. Even if it is mildly entertaining to see Blayne and the other designers mock her audibly for her leathery desires. At least everyone's getting tired of character-y shtick this year; no one's got much patience for Suede's third personing.

Oh, hey, this is a design competition. Korto's exoskeleton of darting seems to bewilder Tim, but Korto just plugs on with her constant references to being African (yes, we remember from last week's introductions). Suede's look is reminiscent of Mumm-Ra the Everliving in electrical tape, as he cuts his model's fabric into thin strips and wraps them around her torso. But wouldn't you know it; by the time he nears the end of competition, it's actually starting to work.

Wesley and Leanne are stuck working with a very temperamental swath of brown satin (temperamental as all satin is), and things do not progress well with them. As they stitch on, Tim informs the crew that there will be no immunity granted this week, but that instead, Bluefly.com will produce and sell the winning look. The guest judge for such a challenge will be a young and glamorous Hollywood star that they'll meet later. I'm guessing Suri Cruise.

This bunch of designers has to be the scrambliest, least efficient crew on PR yet. I can't have been warped by Christian's furious fingers this much, can I? There's a ton of work they all have to do as the clock hits midnight, and the goal was to be done by then. Wesley's fit is godawful; things aren't looking good. But the whole bunch is kind of embarrassing themselves with the amount of work they have to do.

Amazingly, they all manage to finish (more or less) by the runway show. At the runway, we finally meet the guest judge: star of stage and screen, Natalie Portman. My fiancee accuses me of having indecent thoughts about Ms. Portman, and her comment was "well, this certainly works out well for you!" Anyway, THOUGHTS!
  • Keith: Okay, but fit is questionable. A little baggy.
  • Terri: Again, I love her look. My notes read, "winner."
  • Wesley: Notes: "Ugh."
  • Jerell: Did he use human hair for the fringes? Too damn short, too damn crazy.
  • Jennifer: Cute, but not cocktail.
  • Daniel: Nice babydoll look, safe.
  • Joe: Great fit, seaming seemed invisible to my eyes.
  • Suede: Interesting visual, but is it too "ballerina"?
  • Kenley: Not bad, but very "Christian".
  • Kelli: Tight, boring.
  • Leanne: Notes: "Yeah, no."
  • Stella: Again, so short! Nothing special.
  • Blayne: Problems with fit.
  • Emily: Okay, is this a cocktail party challenge, or a naughty maid challenge? Short as hell, definitely unfulfilled promise.
  • Korto: Interesting. Maybe not a winner, but certainly safe.

Kenley, Wesley, Stella, Korto, Suede, and Leanne are held back for judging. The rest are safe. Again, I totally flub it on Terri. Is it just me, readers? Is she getting the shaft, or fair treatment?

During judging, we learn that everybody dug Kenley's look, and Tim's comment about the striking look of the belt saving the design is supported by the judges. Wesley took an amount of fabric he was uncomfortable with, and worked it within an inch of its life. Nina calls "tight and short" "the quickest way to look cheap." Ow.

Stella marks a significant improvement over Week 1, with nice lacing and a strong self-statement while still sticking to her model's wishes. As for the outer darts Tim warned Korto against...well, the judges say it best: "even curvy girls don't want fins off their butt."

The most universal and vocal praise is saved for Everyone's Favorite Third Person, Suede. Natalie likes it. Nina likes it. If Heidi were ten years younger, she'd wear it (oh Heidi, you don't have to worry about looking old for a good couple decades yet). Michael likes that he used satin completely differently from everyone else who had it. Such as Leanne, whose model did nothing to salvage what was another overwrought, underlong brown satin turd. Natalie's best compliment is that, combined with the hair, it's got a certain cute Peter Pan quality. Not a strong contender.

My guesses were Suede FTW and Leanne to depart. Both Leanne and Korto are showing signs of impeding Early Season Emotional Breakdownitis as we head to a commercial break that features some creative math. The circled winner of the poll (between most "crazy!" designer tendencies or characteristics) had 37% of the vote, while second place held down...47%? I've heard of "less is more," but this is ridiculous.

With Stella safe, Suede takes the prize over Kenley. Suede gives props to his mom. Meanwhile, his mom is somewhere asking, "Who the hell's 'Suede'?" Korto is also safe, and completes her triple lutz breakdown in the waiting room. That leaves the two brown streaks racing to the bottom, and the ultimate loser is...Wesley?!? But Natalie really liked his little bowtie dealie! Huh. Oh well. At least this way, we get more top-notch weepiness, as Leanne consoles Wesley in the waiting room, crying "I can't imagine you not being here!" on his shoulder. Sheesh. It's been two friggin' days.

Stay tuned next week uh, later, this week for a field trip in rainslicks with Tim, and an unfortunate "Carmen Miranda moment" that cannot bode well for Korto. "My veggies!!" Vigilance!

Project Runway: 10 items or mess

Well, here we are, beginning a new season of Project Runway on Bravo. Disregarding the pending litigation against Harvey Weinstein, this will be Bravo's last chance to pummel viewers with Heidi Klum's signature line, "NEEEEENA GarCIIIIIIA." Here's hoping something gets worked out, because I don't anticipate good things for the show once it moves to Lifetime.

The first episode is always a little awkward. Part first day at a new job, part first day of school, part first day of MTV's The Real World, Day 1 is a goofy mix of childlike awe and false bravado. The boys -- Jerrel (28), Blayne (far too tanned, 23), Joe (41), Jerry (32), Suede (37, and yes, it's just "Suede"), Keith (26), Daniel (25) and Wesley (23) -- settle into their rooms, while the girls -- Stella (42), Jennifer (the only nerdy girl currently living in Italy, 27), Kelli (27), Terri (39), Korto (33), Leanne ("the silent fashion assassin," 27), Emily (27) and Kenley (who got an absurdly late intro by the editors, 25) -- do the same with theirs.

It's clear that this season will be a youth movement. The oldsters stand out in the crowd, and Bravo doesn't do 'em any favors. They let Joe's pronouncement of having two kids at home hang on the screen a little too long, and biker bar regular Stella looks tired and irritated from the get-go. Only Terri, who describes her style as "Michael Jackson-meets-Aerosmith," appears to have the juice to keep up with the kids.

The designers get the memo to head up to the roof, where they see Heidi and our man Tim. Of course, the usual invisible barrier prevents the designers from getting closer than 25 feet from the real stars of the show. "Please come no further! You all smell like economy class." After some exceptionally corny chatter, the designers are told that there will be no instruction tonight; let's get plastered!

First observation is that most of these designers have their own lines and labels already. While they may or may not be as talented as, say, Season 2's lineup, they're certainly established in the industry.

They get the Tim Alarm Clock at 4 AM (there's a 4 o'clock in the morning now?), and after a hasty cleanup, they all trudge out into the New York dawn. Their destination? The familiar Gristedes Mega Store, aka the grocery store from the first Season 1 challenge. The guest judge and visiting sprite from the land of toadstools will be the winner of that challenge, the indefatigable Austin Scarlett. He and Tim explain that the designers will have $75 and 30 minutes to do what they did back in the old days: innovate something out of -- in terms of fashion value -- nothing. They all flagrantly violate the crosswalk laws of NYC and barge into Gristedes.

Second observation is that Stella just doesn't have the demeanor or outlook for PR. She reminds me of Nimma from this most recent season of Top Chef: "I'm not here to have fun." Oh, and thank you Bravo for making the transition from food show blogger to fashion show blogger that much easier for me by having the first challenge of Season 5 start in a grocery store. It's like an old pair of pink Crocs!

Somewhere, Chris March winced when Korto violated the Don't Design with Food rule, going with leafy greens and cherry tomatoes to mock up a jeweled brooch. One hopes that these guys are all well-versed with the history of the show, because nothing was as embarrassing as when Santino used the same fabric in his graffiti dress in S2 as Austin did for his Grammy dress in S1 (did I just type that sentence?).

With immunity on the line, the designers get back to the workroom and start stitching--er, melting plastic and burning coffee filters. Most of the first episode is getting to know the designers on a personal level. We see that Joe might be the PR version of Nikki from Top Chef; unflinchingly Italian. Jerell is no Santino in the "impersonating Tim" department. Blayne is an absolute beachbum tool; how do you even become a beach bum in Seattle?

At first, Kelli's look seems like trouble. She appears to be going more along the Waste Management challenge route, and Jerry notes the same thing about a lot of the designers. Seems like more trash than groceries. And a hell of a lot of tablecloths. Suede is worried that his will look like "just a tablecloth". Newsflash, Suede: it is just a tablecloth. In fact, there are so many tablecloth sewers that Tim's first visit closes with a remarkably stern chiding: the point was to use "untraditional and unexpected" materials! The judges are going to say you're all a bunch of slackers!

Third observation: the longer Blayne sticks around, the more we're going to be treated to moments like this:

Blayne: "Holla atcha boy, Tim."
Tim: "All right."

My thoughts as we move to the first commercial break in the workroom scene is that Daniel's plastic cup shell dress has promise, Kelli's coffee filter marbelized thing is actually coming along, and Terry and Stella are totally in the weeds. When we come back, everyone is encouraging Stella to get her ass in gear (as in, "we want a friggin competition, not some winded smoker quitting early!"). Jerry's raincoat, a cute idea in the grocery store, is looking freaky. Another designer pegs it perfectly as very reminiscent of Christian Bale's American Psycho. Too true! The designers get their models dressed (Blayne's is a little curvy, and needs the ass let out a little; welcome to national TV, models!), Korto runs out of the room shouting "my veggies!", and the runway show is on.

On the runway, it took me a moment to connect when Nina was introduced as still working at Elle. Since she doesn't start at Marie Claire until September, I guess we'll be seeing her connected to her old job for the rest of the season. Kind of appropriate for a show on the way out at Bravo.

Runway thoughts: Leanne's look is sexy candy striper from the front, Audrey Hepburn from the back. Korto's is well-built but feels a little Carmen Miranda. Daniel has constructed a clamshell topped with jiggly boob (mmmm....jiggly boob). Terri did some nice braiding with her mop heads. Suede's is a mess. Stella's is terrible. Joe's skirt moves well, and has nice color. Kenley's isn't awful. Jerry's is truly odd, as is Blayne's. Kelli's skirt is fantastic, but the coffee filter bustier seems kinda silly. Keith pulled off a low degree of difficulty pretty well. Korto, Blayne, Jerry, Kelli, Daniel and Stella are pulled out for further comment.

(nice collage pic of all the looks at Blogging Project Runway)

The couch appraisal at the HQ here is that Kelli is looking strong (Nina calls it resourceful, great), Daniel's was pretty good (Austin thought it stood out, Michael likes the creativity), and Stella and Jerry are in a race to the bottom ("It's a yawn" vs. "Is she, like, a bridal nurse?"). Blayne's "Playboy bunny gone grunge" is obviously going to sruvive on sheer audacity, and Korto's construction is way too good to be eliminated for relying so much on tablecloth.

The judges commune, and Kelli's overall creativity and fashion sense take the day over Daniel's singular innovation. Congrats Kelli! While Stella's is "butt ugly" according to Heidi, Jerry's is too slasher. Jerry, ya gone. Sorry pal, there's got to be a Simone every year.

As always, you end the first episode hoping that the season doesn't devolve into a self-referential snoozefest. The upcoming scenes promise some drama, but it's hard to say. I think Daniel, Keith, Kelli and Terri are potential front-runners. I think Kenley is stealing her clothes from Leslie Feist's closet. I think Blayne has a lot of work to do to get from totally obnoxious to charmingly obnoxious. I think Stella is on borrowed time. And lastly, I think this recapping thing will work out all right. I encourage your comments!

Project Runway 5 starts tonight

And I, your faithful Top Chef blogger, will be diving in completely over my head to recap it.

Things I learned about fashion from Project Runway
  • "Empire" isn't always pronounced like the New York building or the Star Wars movie.
  • Making quality leather pants is actually just as hard as wearing them.
  • Designing every dress to look like a toga party costume is generally good, but being an actual costume designer is a liability.

What will I learn this season? Stay tuned tomorrow morning as I recap the fifth -- and final for Bravo, maybe -- season of Project Runway.