“I’m so close I can smell it,” Korto says, and she isn’t talking about Kenley’s attitude. There are only five designers left, and Bryant Park is within reach for three of them. Problem is there are eight models and three have to go. Jerell won the prior challenge so he is first up and chooses to keep his model, Nicole. Button Bag helps Kenley choose next. She changes models, choosing Tipacio. Leanne also changes models, to Karalyn’s surprise. Leanne chooses Tia. Kenley has chosen Joe’s model, so no harm, no foul. But Leanne has swiped Suede’s. Tia looks none too happy about the change, and Suede vlogs that he will have to “kill Leanne.” See, told ya Leanne wasn’t as sweet as she seemed. Suede uses the third person to choose a new model, Xaviera. Korto chooses Katrina, which means models Polina, Karalyn, and Germaine go home. Karalyn looks near tears. Again, the models were not even in the last runway show, so it seems a bit unfair. Oh well. Onward.
Another establishing shot of New York City, which apparently means a city bus and that newsstand with that same Elle cover. At Parsons, Tim is waiting. He tells the designers this time they will design for each other. Button bag appears in Tim’s hands. Suede will design for Jerell. Well, Jerell is an ex-model so there may be a small advantage there. Suede rejoices in third person. Kenley will design for Leanne. Korto will design for Suede. Jerell will design for Kenley. Leanne will design for Korto. Tim tells them the added parameter: they must each design a look inspired “by a specific musical genre.” Too bad Stella Barbarella, Miss Rock & Roll, isn’t here for this, but then again, I’ve heard enough grommet pounding for a long while.
But wait — they can’t choose their own genres. Button bag is getting quite a workout this episode. The genre pulled will be what the person wears, not what they design. Kenley’s genre is pop music. Suede’s genre is punk. Korto’s genre is country. Leanne will wear something hip hop. Jerell is rock and roll. Jerell is the only one happy with the assigned genre. The group will have an hour to discuss, $150 at Mood and until 1 AM the next morning to finish their work. As the designers confer it isn’t clear who is the designer and who the client. Technically, they are all both. Painfully, Leanne, who will be wearing a hip hop outfit designed by Kenley, decides to rap about it. Jerell asks Suede for a cape. He plans to design for “Kenley Spears.” Korto and Leanne are struggling with a country music-inspired design for Korto. Korto snaps at Kenley who tries interrupting her design time with Leanne.
At Mood, Jerell scours the place for “sparkly” and Kenley latches onto a huge blue floral. Tim fails to “see the hip hop in that.” Predictably, Kenley ignores his concerns. Soon the group leaves with shopping bags in hand, as Tim thanks Mood. Back in the workroom, Kenley jokes she will be Shania Janks for this challenge. She explains that “Janks” means “totally jacked up” or, for those who are still wondering, a complete anomaly or mistake. Kenley plans high-waisted jeans for Leanne, and a floral top. Korto and Jerell laugh behind her back. “That’s country,” Korto’s voiceover says, amused.
Five hours until the group’s work time ends. We see Jerell’s dress taking shape. He is making a “fishnet mini with diamond cuffs” for Kenley Spears, pop star. Kenley vlogs that being sexed up by Jerell is “scary.” Somehow I doubt she’s in much danger. Suede worries he has had a classical music background and can’t understand punk. Korto vlogs that she claims her Bryant Park show “in the name of Jesus.” Suede explains in the third person that he’s making shiny stretchy pants and blabla, huh? Oh. Jerell teases Korto about having to wear country western wear. She gripes about the cowboy boots. “You know you got boots like that at your house,” he jokes. Korto begins singing her version of country music and even line dancing in the workroom.
Jerell has Kenley try on the fishnet mini dress; she giggles incessantly. Turns out she is quite shy about showing skin. The vintage she usually wears covers past her knees. Tim comes in and thinks the mini, now on Jerell’s dress dummy, is “beautiful” but needs more. Jerell is thinking of making a vest. Tim has no comment on that. Tim looks at Leanne’s work and asks if it’s too subtle. Next, he looks at Korto’s “punk for Suede” (almost sounds like a song title) and says it looks basic. “Annihilate it,” he says. Tim’s mouth twitches when he views Suede’s work. The silence “scares Suede” but Tim assures him he’s merely “taking it all in.” Tim doesn’t think it looks “ramped up enough” and says with rock and roll “you can get away with everything.” He reminds Suede that when it’s down to five, everything matters.
And next, it’s the “smackdown” a thousand blogs have breathlessly awaited. Tim begins by requesting that Kenley pretends he is “from the moon” and needs to know what hip hop is. Kenley doesn’t explain what hip hop is. She just launches into her design. She says a lot of rap artists are wearing leather jackets and dark denim, so she made high waisted jeans. “Correct me, I’m an old fart – isn’t part of hip hop fashion oversized?” Tim asks. Kenley’s rotten attitude flares. “NO, that is like ‘80s hip hop,” she says, as if to a stupid peon. “Okay,” Tim shrugs. “I know what you think when you say hip hop, you immediately think oversize. I can see that. But I’m not having her look stupid,” Kenley sneers. Now Tim’s face begins to redden. “Kenley, I’m not disrespecting you; I’m here to support you,” he urges. Kenley looks down and pouts, “But you said oversized!”
Now Tim drags out each word, because clearly it’s Kenley who is the student here. “You need to listen, because it will benefit you tremendously as a designer,” and here Kenley begins to talk over him. “I want you to succeed!” Tim assures her. “I just want you to understand the outfit,” the girl three years out of college tells Tim Gunn. Now Tim seems a bit upset. “It would help if you removed the sarcasm and the facetiousness. It would help a lot. You just think I’m being snarky,” Tim tells her. Does Kenley know what those words mean? Someone send her a dictionary. With words listed phonetically. Kenley’s reaction to Tim’s entreaties, which were for her own benefit, is to laugh in his face. Korto vlogs that Kenley is often rude, even to Tim. Tim puts his hand to his face a la Mr. Peabody, and his expression is a mix of bewilderment, hurt, and anger. “I’m just trying to channel your thinking, and then you led me off a precipice,” he tells Kenley with a frown. Kenley laughs again. Tim leaves with a “Thank you, Kenley.” He tried a lot more than many would’ve. Tim bids the group good night, and exits.
Oh, but wait. The Arrogance Fountain is still bubbling. “I can’t really listen to Tim at this point. And what does Tim know about hip hop, anyway?” Kenley snorts in her vlog. She literally gives the notion of listening to one of fashion’s preeminent experts a “Pfft.” Meanwhile, the pants she is fitting onto Leanne look like bad Wal-Mart pants. A coincidence? Kenley has designed mainly for Wal-Mart and K-Mart. Jerell and Korto seem amused as Kenley brags about her expertise on hip hop music and fashion. “Alicia Keys is R&B,” Jerell corrects her. “I can’t wait for tomorrow!” Korto vlogs gleefully.
Korto takes the jeans and sneakers for Suede’s outfit into the bathroom and douses them with bleach. She’s trying to make them look less new and perfect. Leanne wonders if the bleach fumes are some sort of “sabotage.” The work day ends. Next morning, Jerell admits he has thought about sabotaging Suede. “It is a competition,” he says, in what has become a mantra for the remaining designers. Kenley says she isn’t changing her design “based upon what Tim says” and says she thinks it is “really hip hop” as if saying it makes it so. A quick shot of someone’s unmade bed shows they have propped up a Tim Gunn bobblehead as if to let it sleep on their pillow. Aww.
Inside Parsons’ workroom, Tim dutifully enters and informs them all they have an hour before heading to hair and makeup. Leanne fits some pants onto Korto while Jerell vlogs about Korto’s “junk in the trunk” possibly being a challenge. Suede has no such problem with skinny, skinny Jerell. Suede vlogs that despite what Tim thought, he thinks “the judges will love it.” Kenley loves her Wal Mart-ish pants on Leanne. She says the judges will not notice the “bunching in the crotch.” Jerell thinks what Leanne is wearing is child size and “ridiculous.” It does look as if a child got into their mother’s closet for dress-up. Circa 1960. “Hip hop. Right, Jerell?” Kenley asks, holding up huge gold earrings. “Mm-hm!” he says, obviously sarcastic. Strange Kenley didn’t recognise it as such. Korto merely smiles.
In hair and makeup, we hear “Brady meets Pussycat Dolls,” “Halloween” and “channeling Lenny Kravitz.” It’s fun seeing the designers all ‘dressed up’ in their costumes, and the hairstyles are hilarious. Tim enters and can’t help laughing. “I’ve forgotten why I’m here!” he quips, momentarily thrown by the sight. “It’s not going to be dull!” he says, as he exits. Kenley vlogs that she will win. “I nailed it!” she brags. Jerell vlogs that “Kenley Spears would be rocking this (design) at Madison Square Garden. And then, probably kicking her panties off and falling asleep in the back of a limousine.” His design does look amazing on Miss Snarky. “I should probably win again,” he boasts.
Tim returns and says it’s time. “This will be the most unique show Project Runway has ever seen on that runway,” he announces. It just might. I believe it was in season three the designers had one another as clients, but it wasn’t quite like this. Now they are all rock stars after a fashion. Heidi appears on the runway and faces the judges’ panel. There is no other audience, since the designers are also the models this episode. Heidi welcomes hip hop star LL Cool J as guest judge. He and Michael Kors are both dressed in black from head to toe, but LL somehow makes it much cooler. Nina Garcia wears a beige sleeveless top with a diagonal bodice, and a dark brown mini skirt. Heidi is, once again, all in black. Heidi’s hair is styled loosely and she seems very relaxed. There is an air of anticipation and humor as the judges wait.
Country Korto is out first. Country music twangs as she does a country western walk down the runway. She wears a dark, maxi-length skirt, a gold belt, a purple sleeveless top and a black and white checked neckerchief. Her hair is gathered up atop her head with tendrils hanging down. The long skirt appears to have a small slit and pleating at the bottom as well as a bit of dark fringe. “She definitely sold it,” Leanne approves in her voiceover. Korto even gives a little dip and nearly winks as she leaves the runway. Very sporting of her. After all she is modeling a competitor’s design.
‘Kenley Spears’ strikes a rock and roll pose behind the scrim. She struts down the runway and looks like sex on a plate. Jerell has designed a black fitted mini dress with huge cut out panels (a gownless evening strap, as Groucho Marx once said). The panels have fishnet fabric sewn into them. This makes most of the dress see-through. Jerell has covered Kenley’s bustline with silver fabric that looks somewhere between sequins and studs. The silver fabric also comprises a high neck collar atop the fishnet top. Kenley is styled with chunky plastic black or blue bangles on one wrist, and knee length black boots. Her hair is swinging long and loose, not like her usual prim 1950s look at all. In closeup we can see a slight purple shrug vest, and large dark sunglasses perched atop her head. Jerell thinks Kenley looks like “the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls.” The back of the dress is mostly fishnet (all but the rear end) and the purple shrug vest does not even cover her shoulder blades. LL Cool J is scribbling a mile a minute on his score card.
Next, someone bends their arms akimbo behind the scrim. Leanne rounds the corner in her bizarre Kenley Special. The music playing is something like one might hear at a circus sideshow. How can I describe this look? There are dark high waisted jeans, that would not even qualify as ‘mom jeans’. They are very fitted, and although Leanne is quite slim, this silhouette makes anyone look like a pear. The crotch hangs low, the zipper is crooked, and there are huge gold buttons at the waistline. There is a floral satin blouse of Kenley’s usual preference, a necklace with huge gold links, a shrunken jacket that seems made of Naugahyde. The earrings are like a string of huge gold coins. Leanne carries an enormous handbag that seems bedazzled with seashells. There are metallic high heeled sandals. This look is Miami Granny circa 1960, not modern hip hop. Not hip hop of any year. Even Leanne’s hair needs help: it looks like Cameron Diaz’ hairdo in Something About Mary the second it fell flat. Kenley whines in her vlog that “Leanne is not selling my look.” Honey, gold bullion giveaways couldn’t sell your look. LL Cool J appears to giggle as Leanne exits.
Ha! Punk Suede is up next. Korto has designed this look. She’s made him some baggy pants that have large orangey splotches on them and a grey sleeveless slouchy top. The top has dark strips of jagged fabric sewn down the front. There is a black leather belt with silver studs hanging low on Suede’s hips. A thick silver chain hangs from the belt. Silver chains also are draped across Suede’s shirt. Still more silver chains are threaded into Xs along one shoulder. For styling, Suede’s got multi-colored extensions woven in which hang over part of his face. The other side of his hair is still bleached and short. His makeup seems more goth than punk. Michael Kors smiles, clearly amused. Suede hams it up out there, giving a sneer and a ‘rock and roll devil horn’ double handed salute as he turns on the runway. “When Suede gets up there, he’s totally gone,” Korto wonders aloud in her vlog. As he walks away, one sees there are still more chains draped across the back of his pants. It seems artful and yet is believable as if a person could have done this at home, which is how punk originated: In his autobiography, “Johnny Rotten” says he used safety pins to hold his clothes together because he couldn’t afford new ones. Punk began with people making do with what they had. Punk Suede could have bought a length of chain and done all this draping at home, so to me this outfit is successful.
Suede gives another hilarious pose just before he exits the runway. Korto is very pleased in her vlog and says a whole new persona overtook him up there. Dr Korto and Punkenstein? Rock and Roll Jerell is out next. He walks calmly down the runway like the former model he is. Suede has made a low rise, slim black pant, a beige tank top that’s been cut into, and a black leather vest. The pant’s silver zipper has been left visible. The top seems like a ‘wife beater’ that has had the neckline cut much lower to show off Jerell’s pectoral muscles. It also looks as if the top has had dye splashed across it. This look seems more punk than rock to me but there is some crossover. The thick black boots also seem more punk than rock to me. They almost share a silhouette with Doc Martens, the prototypical punk boot.
The designers/clients come back onto the runway as a group. Heidi introduces the judges’ panel again – as if the five remaining designers do not know who they are. Heidi announces that LL Cool J is debuting a new album, Exit 13, and his own clothing line soon. Kenley is smart enough to realise this could spell trouble for her, since “he is the king of hip hop” and her design, well, isn’t. Unfortunately, her vlog comments seem to blame Leanne for her “embarrassing” dilemma. Heidi asks Korto to explain her work. She says she distressed some metallic denim with bleach. LL Cool J says the outfit has a lot of energy and is “right on the money.” Nina thinks Suede looks like (goth rock star) Marilyn Manson. Michael Kors thinks the silhouette is flattering on Suede.
Suede explains that the outfit he designed for “rock and roll” Jerell would be comfortable onstage and good for a party after a show. Heidi asks Jerell what rock means to him. He replies, “Aerosmith.” Jerell likes the outfit and its palette. Michael Kors likes the vest but thinks the pants are “expected.” Suede says the detailing up close is beautiful. LL Cool J says subtlety is lost on stage. Nina and Kors thinks it needs drama and oomph. Heidi says Jerell looks like Jerell. Speaking of Jerell, he says his outfit for Kenley took bits from Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls and would “read way up into the nosebleed seats.” Heidi asks Kenley what “pop” means to her. Kenley says she thinks this outfit is pop and she likes it. “If I was a pop star I would wear it,” she says. She giggles, and wipes her hand across her forehead. Nina thinks the look is like “Britney as a brunette.” Nina says she likes the silver… ”Cups?” says Kenley, opening her vest to show her bust a bit more. Heidi perhaps gets back at Kenley for her dig at Heidi’s boobs during the Planetarium party: “I’d have liked them supported a bit more.” LL Cool J enthusiastically says, “They looked supported!” Kenley thanks LL. He says he wished it showed more skin, then when she took the vest off, “I got more skin.” Kenley removes the vest again and we see the back is all fishnet. Her behind is covered by the dress’s black fabric. The judges rave more. Kors says she looks sexy but not vulgar. Kenley smiles. The silver sparkles under the stage lights. Jerell quietly thanks Kors.
Next it’s Kenley’s turn to explain her design. She says she thinks this is hip hop but in a “classy, expensive way.” Heidi says the pants are “the most unflattering I’ve ever seen in my life.” LL Cool J says the high-waisted jeans are a problem. Heidi asks LL if this is “hip hop to you.” “No,” he says simply. Kenley’s whiny voice comes out. “I didn’t wanna put oversized pants on her with a backwards…” The judges nearly shout her down. Nina smirks. LL Cool J extends his hand as if to say ‘stop’. “No, no, no, no,” he says. Leanne is also smirking up on the runway. “I wanted her to look stylish and fashion forward,” Kenley says. LL Cool J tactfully explains, “I don’t think she looks like she’s a part of the culture.” Nina says the outfit doesn’t make the point as some of the other designs have done. Kenley folds her arms and snorts. Michael Kors says nothing in the outfit is luxurious without being garish. “I can make something look luxury in a few days, not one day,” Kenley says angrily. Korto’s facial expression says “please.” Nina tells Kenley that everybody’s was hard. Kenley rolls her eyes and makes a face. Nina looks a bit disgusted. Jerell suppresses a giggle. Now Kenley frowns. Seems maybe it’s sunk in she might not win.
Heidi asks Korto to move next to Leanne as Leanne explains the work. She says she infused vintage Dolly Parton with modern chic glamour. Heidi asks Korto what country means to her. Korto says she wanted something “old school like Tammy Wynette or Loretta Lynn, but also to have some elegance.” Nina thinks the outfit should’ve been more glamourous especially from the waist down. Heidi loves the skirt’s shape. LL Cool J thinks it is subtle. Without seeing the boots he wouldn’t have known it was a country outfit. Kors likes the silhouette but thinks it could’ve been taken up a notch. Heidi excuses the group so the judges can talk amongst themselves.
Heidi asks the panel what they think. Nina and Michael basically think the results were a mixed bag. Kors says, “A bit spotty.” LL Cool J laughs a bit. Is he imagining “hip hop Leanne” again? Heidi says they will begin with the designers they liked. They discuss Jerell’s design for Kenley. “Talk about a transformation! This was pop,” Kors says. LL Cool J says when she took the vest off, there was “another chapter to the book.” Nina thinks the look was sexy without being trashy. They also liked Korto. Kors is impressed with the jeans’ fit and that she distressed the fabric as well. The judges like that Korto incorporated the chains into the outfit. “I thought she nailed that outfit,” LL says. Well, not technically. For that we’d need Stella. Kors agrees with LL Cool J. And it isn’t often one gets to type that sentence!
As to Suede’s outfit for Jerell, “rock and roll goes to the grocery store,” Kors yawns. Nina thinks Suede is too safe and guarded. LL Cool J says it should have been explosive. Kors says there was no transformation. The judges all agree. “His everyday looks are more out there and creative than that,” Kors sums up. Next they discuss Kenley’s hip hop Leanne outfit. “Something you’d buy in a mall,” Kors says and continues, “An okay jacket, a tank top and a pair of really unattractive jeans.” Heidi says if she was going to make high-waisted jeans, make them something really special – maybe leather. “Don’t make mom jeans!” LL Cool J offers. Nina smiles. Nina and Kors think Kenley was “freaked out” when she was “taken away from her ‘50s prom dress” and into something she didn’t know. Oh, but Kenley assured Tim she did know hip hop. Too bad the judges were not privy to that little exchange. Not that it should matter; nothing should other than the actual work.
The judges think Leannimal’s outfit for Country Western Korto was too quiet. “There’s a fine line between looking like you’re a waitress at a theme park, and looking like you’re a star,” LL Cool J describes, although he did like the skirt. “It was a little too much like a woman going out to eat ribs,” Kors says. Now for some reason I’m thinking of Korto as a waitress in one of those ‘shoulda checked my credit online’ commercials. It doesn’t seem that bad to me but it also doesn’t seem overly ‘country’ to be honest. You don’t see a whole lot of maxi skirts at Gilley’s. The judges have now finished talking. Heidi calls the designers back onto the runway to hear their decision.
The group waits quietly. They look a bit grim. Heidi says she will start with the winner. “Congratulations, Korto,” she announces quietly. Korto grins and looks very pleased. Suede smiles at Korto and seems to say ‘congratulations’. Jerell doesn’t look especially happy. Korto half-dances backstage. Her vlog says she’s happy because she not only did menswear but something she was unfamiliar with. She says the judges and LL loved it. “I did it,” her voiceover says, as Korto bites her thumb and exhales backstage. Next, Heidi says, “Jerell, good work,” and excuses him. He leaves the runway. She says Leanne is in and can leave. Leanne thanks her and leaves. Leanne taps Suede as she walks by him — a gesture of support, I think.
Heidi tells Kenley and Suede one of them will be out. “Suede, you played it safe and rock and roll is anything but safe. You could have turned up the volume, but instead, we got silence.” (Why am I picturing Christopher Guest saying, “This one goes to eleven?” Never mind.) Heidi addresses Kenley: “There was no glamour, no bravado, and you missed the attitude of hip hop completely.” Heidi announces that Kenley is… IN!? Yes, the Teflon Whiner is still in the competition! Kenley leaves the runway.
Heidi sadly says, “Suede this means you’re out.” Suede thanks them all for the opportunity. “It was really great,” he says. Punk Suede gets the double air kiss of doom, and waves goodbye to the judges’ panel. “You’ll see Suede rock it! All my love,” he says. Michael Kors laughs. It isn’t clear whether it is with or at Suede. Kors has remarked in a previous episode upon his dislike of Suede’s use of the third person. Backstage, Suede and Leanne exchange hugs. So do Suede and Jerell. And we get one more dose of Third Person Suede – sadly, not in his blue eyeshadow from the runway show – saying his goodbyes. Suede says that Suede is proud of himself for making it to the top five. Tim appears and hugs Suede and sends him “upstairs to clean up his space” as he does with each departing designer. The hug is one of those ‘pat pat pat’ hugs. “All my love,” Suede tells Tim. Suede turns to the other designers and tells them, “Rock it for me. I will see you guys on the runway.” Korto smiles. As Suede packs up his belongings he says he can’t be disappointed since he gave it his all. He adds, “Madonna says get up over and over. So Madonna, I’m ready to dress you in Suede!” He accentuates this promise with a ‘hand pistol’ gesture. Suede, you were tacky and a bit odd but at least you left good-naturedly. And there is no way your design was worse than Kenley’s. I am now convinced she has charmed the judges. Next time out, wear a fishnet mini and giggle a lot, ‘kay?
Previews for next week show Heidi in an animal print dress announcing another field trip. Jerell surmises the challenge will mean their clients are “all Hedda Lettuce” and it will happen at Gristedes. “Who told you?” Tim jokes. Leanne comments about stress and pressure. Jerell says he is not “assisting Kenley in any way.” Kors says something “looks like a beauty pageant” and Korto is crying on the runway. Nina says someone’s design “looks like a reptile.” Kenley bites Heidi’s head off. Why is Kenley still there? Kenley bursts into tears and says she has fought her way through life. I have trouble imagining what her struggles may have been. She sure seems to feel like the world’s biggest victim, whatever the reason. So, more Kenley drama next episode? Sadly, yes. Let’s all close our eyes, take a deep breath, click our heels together three times and say “There’s no place like reality TV… there’s no place like reality TV…”
See you next time.