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TV Recap: Project Runway – Season Five, Episode Four

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Well it’s the fourth episode of season five. Project Runway has sent three designers home. So far, the rest have managed to bore or annoy viewers – or both at the same time. A neat trick but not what we’ve tuned in to this fashion competition hoping to see. Will this episode see designers substitute passion for pedantry, substance for schtick? We’ll see…

Morning brings golden, smoggy rays escaping through tall buildings – a newsstand, and that already ubiquitous Elle cover featuring an Olsen twin. I’m starting to believe there’s some sort of hidden message there. (Why does that particular shot appear in the opening of every episode this season?) Just what that message is, I don’t want to know. She vaguely looks like Blayne’s female twin; maybe it’s a subliminal ad suggestion — buy Trolli dolls. Who knows.

The usual scenes of contestants groggily rising and splashing water on their faces. Korto and Kenley interview something or other. Back at Parsons, again the usual: Heidi Klum brings out a velvet bag and two models. The winner’s and loser’s model from last week wait for the winning designer to choose between them or the entire group of models. Kenley sticks with her model Shannon, so Leslie goes home. She waves goodbye sweetly. Heidi sends the designers to Tim, who is waiting to take them on a field trip. Another one? They all pile into a grey van. It pulls onto the freeway. They are either going somewhere fun and inspirational, or will pull into an abandoned warehouse in Jersey somewhere and never be heard from again. I’m not saying which I’m secretly rooting for at this point.

Tim asks Blayne about his favorite topic: tanning. Blayne – who is beginning to lose his orange glow and look halfway normal – says he usually tans every other day. He laments that he hasn’t been able to do that here. Blayne obsesses more about tanning in his vlog segment – in the same tone that ‘Rainman’ talked about going to 400 Oak Street. Someone please, put Blayne in a tanning booth. Maybe the next ‘challenge’ can be how much Super Glue it needs to stick shut.

Tim leads the group into a place called The Armory. It is an Olympic training arena. They all notice a man speed skating around the track. He stops in front of them, and Tim introduces Olympic medalist (and Dancing with the Stars winner, but let’s not mention that – other network) Apolo Ohno. He explains their challenge: create the ‘look’ for the American Olympic team to wear during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Summer Olympics. The designers may still be half asleep, but they all definitely seem underwhelmed. Daniel vlogs that he has never watched that ceremony but he’s “guessing that someone holds a flame and runs around”. Sounds more like a rave to me, but okay.

Tim asks Apollo, “What do they like?” Pertinent, Tim. Apolo uses words like “honor” and “runway” and says it is “dear to (his) heart”. The same could be said of Project Runway. I’m not sure that shed much light on what it means to be an Olympian, Mr. Ohno. Tim points out that some great designers – Giorgio Armani for Italy and Ralph Lauren for the U.S.A. – have also designed for the Olympics. Still not a genuine smile among the group. A purple-hoodied Blayne vlogs, “Heck yeah, I’m goin’ for the gold!” I think he meant his tan, though.

So the plan is this: A trip to the Olympic museum so the gang can peruse photographs of past Olympians. Half an hour to sketch. Then, a trip to Mood with $150 shopping money each. And, so that is exactly what we’re shown. Joe is feeling patriotic over this challenge, and wants to show off his sportswear background. Terri wants to design “classic Americana sportswear.” Stella has somehow found the only photograph in the whole place that suggests “fur.” Those pole vaulters really should shave better… no, actually it’s a two-piece shorts outfit with some sort of textural lining doubled over and visible. Sort of like a bumpy sweatshirt lining. Doesn’t matter if it’s animal or man-made though. To Stella it’s just an excuse to go to the leathah zone. She talks hilariously about being a ‘cave girl’ and how she is going to incorporate fur. Did she hear that these were summer games?

Jennifer or Leanne interviews that she will take something from “another era.” Jerell is “instantly drawn” to an old black and white photo of past Olympians in hats and blazers. (The outfits in the photo look amazingly close to what Ralph Lauren actually designed for the current games.) Daniel wants to do “high end glamour”. Sketching time over, they grab bolts of fabrics at Mood. Surprisingly, Korto grabs for a bolt of lightweight leather. Kenley wants blue plaid. Stella takes black satin, and wants to trim it with red, white, and blue. That sounds worse than her fur idea. Terri and Keith squabble over a bolt of hot pink fabric. Why?

Standard workroom scenes. Except, the chitchat this time is Korto asking if anyone knows how to ‘double dutch’ (competitive jumping rope). Stella says she never did “school sports” but took four years modern dance. One of the Holly Hobbies was a cheerleader and Joe played football. What an athletic bunch. Random athletic prowess sharing apparently is over, as Joe vlogs that he will make a ‘skort’ for his design entry. A skort is a skirt in front and shorts in the back. Actually, it’s shorts with a fake skirt panel covering the front. Skorts were popular about 20 years ago and are mostly considered horrific. Joe’s design doesn’t look bad overall, though. It’s basically a white tennis dress looking thing, with red and blue stripes here and there. There’s another “Joe is such a real, nice guy” video clip. This one's about his kids playing softball. He says he wants to “win this for them.”

Daniel hates uniforms after a childhood spent in boarding school. He is basically making a cocktail dress. Blayne bemoans getting “paler and weaker” due to his not having enough tanning sessions recently. I think he’s beginning to look cuter and more normal as his orange Dayglo tan fades. And I’m unclear how ultraviolet rays increase health or vigor. But he’s a barista/fashion designer, not a doctor. Anyway, moving on…

Leanne (the chiron text told me!) says that she is amazed how fast Terri “cranks out” her garments and “she must have a sweatshop hidden under there.” I’m sure Bravo loved that analogy. Heh. Jennifer (thank you again, chiron!) is cutting some ugly gold striped fabric, and says she was torn between “sporty track suit” and “girly and feminine.” She is making a skirt, camisole, and sweater jacket. Doesn’t sound very sporty to me… I hope she knows what she is doing.

Daniel asks Stella in a casually catty way, “Why are you making your garment all black?” Blayne offers a guess: depression. Stella says, no, it’s “space age.” And she interviews privately that American athletes are “gladiators.” But what she’s making looks like a bad 1970s polyester track suit. The black doesn’t even go with the red, white, and blue trim. It’s just odd. Oh, and while she interviews, she’s wearing a spiked vest or something. If she really wanted to go for ‘different’ why didn’t she make her design look more like what she’s wearing in the vlog? At least it would make a statement, and be "her." Inappropriate to the challenge, but "her." Jean or Lennifer says that Stella’s black track suit looks like something from a “goth night club."

Keith from Salt Lake City vlogs that he had Olympic aspirations as a child, since he was a competitive gymnast. His sketch looks okay: a cropped, puffy, zippered jacket; a blue and white striped tank top; and white shorts. But what he’s fitting to his dress dummy is a puffy blue and white striped skirt and a sleeveless jacket. He’s used silk and fleece fabrics. I think he’s gotten lost somehow along the way.

Next is the bizarre portion of the episode. Daniel spends a whole segment feeling up a giggling Kenley. He’s trying the old “let me try this on you” ploy — well, I assume it’s a well worn ploy. Anywhere there are male designers interested in Bettie Page lookalikes. Wasting a perfectly good dress dummy, he’s pulling fabric around Kenley’s boobs and butt. He even ‘brushes lint’ off her breast. She launches her continual, nervous giggle. I keep wishing she’d use his hand for a pin cushion instead but no such luck. No one steps in to tell him to back off, possibly because it’s unclear how Kenley really feels about it. It’s all pretty gross and uncomfortable to watch (and hear). Joe gripes to the solo camera about all this distracting him from his work. Korto and Jerell grouse privately about Kenley’s ‘caw’ and wish someone would muzzle her. Don’t give Daniel any ideas, guys. Next thing we’ll have to watch him ‘fitting’ a gimp suit on her.

From the ridiculous to the tragic – Korto talks about her childhood in Liberia. She had to flee with her family. If they had stayed they faced torture and death due to the civil war. She is telling this story because the Olympic challenge has made her think about what America means to her: second chances and a chance to make dreams come true. “This is my time,” she concludes assertively.

Tim time! Tim checks everyone’s progress. He likes Joe’s skort – “it has wit.” Tim frowns at Blayne’s disco-ish white and pastel jacket. “It’s looking a little Sgt. Pepper to me,” Tim frowns at the pointed shoulders. “I don’t even know what that is,” Blayne says. I know it’s possible there are adults today who have never heard of The Beatles. But it’s a painful thought nonetheless. I’d rather just think Blayne has somehow bleached and tanned his brains away. “Gawd – youth,” Tim bemoans. Exactly, Tim.

Tim explains that Sgt. Pepper was a Beatles album. “Well, that’s the era, with the cardigan” Blayne tries. “No, it’s not – The Beatles didn’t happen in the thirties!” Tim grouses. Blayne, in his purple hoodie again (do they have days of the week stitched on them somewhere, his hoodie collection?) vlogs that while he liked the film Across the Universe other people sang those Beatles songs. He allows that “maybe” he “likes The Beatles but a bit more… progressive.” Oh, yes, because The Beatles were so dull and imitative. Other people singing the catalog of songs they wrote constitutes such a step forward. Argh, youth. Blayne the Blah ends with a “sorry, Ringo”. Ringo, who’s 68 and fabulous and currently touring? Who sold out world tours for decades? Fear the Blayne, Ringo. He tans.

Next, Tim is disappointed with Daniel’s lack of progress on the dress dummy. Well, he should have looked at Kenley. She had fingerprints all over her. Tim isn’t impressed with Jerell’s cravat and pencil skirt, either. “These are women who are… muscle-y,” Tim worries. Tim’s emphasis and facial expression are somewhat hilarious. Subtext! Tim also is concerned the outfit looks like “Lucy Ricardo.” Jerell quips, “I wasn’t gonna dye her hair red tomorrow, Tresemme.” He might do better to spend his energy listening to Tim rather than trotting out the quips, though.

Jennifer has made an outfit; she’s almost done. Unfortunately, it’s a prim little skirt outfit with a navy blue cardigan. It might be okay for a social wallflower at an all girls’ Ivy League school. Or for someone’s ‘maiden aunt’ in an old Hollywood movie. But it’s a sad little outfit that the studio would not even put on the lead in the film. In fact the extras might sleep with the P.A. not to wear it. But Jennifer is pleased. So many smiling faces head to the gallows on this show, anyone notice?

Kenley “passive aggression is an art form” Collins now talks Daniel out of adding a bolero blazer to his completed outfit. “Too Wonder Woman,” she cautions him. Exhausted from his trip around Kenley Collins, he agrees. He sticks with his basic boring blue cocktail dress. But wait – isn’t the challenge to design for Olympic athletes? As in, Olympians? Gods and Goddesses of Olympus. Wasn’t Wonder Woman supposed to be the daughter of an Olympian? Oh, but who wants to think. Bitching is more fun! And Joe proves it with his attack on Daniel for using “his” machine. He’s like the guy at the gym who lays claim to every machine in the room for ‘circuit training’ because ‘those are mine.’ Didn’t most of us learn in the playground that saying something is yours doesn’t mean it is? Apparently Joe didn’t. Or he’s forgotten it due to all the stress. Who knows. Joe mimics Daniel as a whining baby, saying “wahhh, it’s all about me, me me!” If he said that without irony about himself, he might be closer to the mark. The other designers witnessing all this just roll their eyes at the whole scene. “We’re all back to high school and I just wanna get to college,” Korto says. And I just wanna get to the end of this episode.

Oh, did I mention Joe lost me as a fan? Yeh. Just about the time he said “too much drama, cos there’s too many queens around, it’s crazy.” Oh Joe, and I thought you were a good guy. The way he said it – he sounded bitter and phobic, not campy or humorous. So much for Mellow Joe, nice guy. That’s just ruined the image for me. Especially when Joe was the drama queen starting, keeping going, and finishing the drama. Wasn’t Daniel just trying to finish his garment? Weren’t there several empty machines Joe could’ve used instead? So why did Joe feel he had a monopoly on the one machine and carte blanche in the insult department? Strange.

Back to her passive-aggressive little digs, Kenley Collins undermines Daniel’s confidence in his creation by insisting he’s made a purple dress, not blue. She says it in the guise of being helpful. I’m finding it hard to like any of this group so far. “I’m a little bit worried for him,” Kenley vlogs, not fooling anybody. Tim pops into the workroom and says they have three hours to runway. He also sends in their models. Daniel can barely tug his dress onto his model. Joe’s outfit at least looks appropriate, and he feels confident. Jerell’s model in her big, floppy, polka dot hat looks just like Lucy Ricardo. Jennifer’s model looks unhappy in the gold and white skirt outfit. Terri says Jennifer should’ve chosen something red somewhere instead. I agree; the gold makes no sense. Not to mention the outfit is better suited for a tea room or study hall.

Runway time! Heidi gives her “in/out” speech. She reviews the challenge parameters. She introduces Michael and Nina “Gah-see-ah” (I never tire of hearing Heidi say that name, heh). Heidi calls guest judge Apolo Ohno “one of the most stylish Olympians ever.” Take that, Babe Didrickson. And let’s begin. Korto’s outfit looks fantastic. It doesn’t look like a leather outfit. The leather she chose looks more like linen, and hangs beautifully. She has made a white flared-leg pant, indicative of Katharine Hepburn in the 1930s. (Hepburn, by the way, wore pants in an era when women wearing pants was scandalous – but she was so athletic and pants were so comfortable she wore them anyway.) She’s paired the pants with a sleeveless white top, and a sleeveless white vest. There is a blue and red stripe at the pant’s waist, and the vest has a red slanted yoke across the top. The vest’s collar is blue. The overall effect is very chic, stylish, sleek, and athletic. Perfect.

Suede (the designer, not Stella's favorite fabric) is one among the group who has ignored the point of the challenge and has designed a dress. It’s fairly boring as well. The only thing resembling Olympic design is the red white and blue color scheme. But, it’s hardly anything new. A navy blue swingy A-line above-the-knee skirt attached to a white sleeveless high necked bodice. Yawn. But, he raves about its beauty in his vlog. Kelli has also designed a daytime look: a straight, navy blue skirt with white piping under a sleeveless red and white polka-dotted blouse. Huh? She looks like a 1950s housewife. She should be spokesmodeling a refrigerator-freezer in an hour-long black and white infomercial, not strutting proudly in the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics. “She looks fabulous,” Kelli raves in a voice-over. I disagree: but more importantly, this design is not relevant.

Joe’s skort walks down the runway (by itself! it was the strangest thing! no – kidding). Joe has that frozen, fixed smile that’s made me begin to worry about him (almost). His skirt panel is way too long in front. It looks as if it had to be, in order to accomodate the vertical letters spelling “USA”. To me the “USA” was redundant, and way too large. It ruined the effect he was going for overall. A knee-length skort does not say “modern athlete.” It’s okay; at least it looks fairly sporty. But it isn’t innovative or fresh or hugely appealing visually. It could just as easily grace a clothing catalog, and not even make the cover.

Leanne’s design is up next. It’s a fairly baggy shorts outfit – white with blue and red panels. She’s paired the shorts with a sleeveless peplum jacket. There is a modified cowl neckline. It isn’t bad, but again does not necessarily look athletic. It’s sporty, though. And it doesn’t look like everyone else’s. It is not a track suit or a skort or a cocktail dress. There is no blazer or cardigan. I think she’s done fairly well here. Daniel’s hot mess of a shiny purple and red cocktail dress walks down the runway next. The less said about it the better.

Jerell’s Lucy in the Runway with Polka Dots (Sgt. Pepper reference again, well, kinda) struts out next and it’s another confusing mess. Polka dots, stripes, puffed sleeves, a skirt, pants, a kerchief of some sort around her neck. It looks like costume day at the jumble sale. "Fifty cents for everything in this box!" Her mom didn’t want to make a real costume for her, so she dumped the box over her head and said, “There – I don’t think this contest thing is fair anyway.” I have no idea what Jerell actually was aiming for, so I’ve made up that little scenario in my head.

As an aside, what was with all the polka dots this week? I don’t recall any past Olympian ever wearing dots. Stripes either, really, but those can at least be natty. Polka dots are more for the ladies’ bridge club circa 1950. Half the designs this week seem petulant. Stella at least is sincere if misguided in her choice of black cap-sleeve track suit with shiny silver and red stripes at the waist and sleeves. Her smile watching her model on the runway seems natural. The model is scowling, though (styling choice? hard to say). Maybe she’s cold. The zipper in the vest gaps and there is a half cut-out to show off the model’s navel.

Keith’s creation is up now. He’s made a baffling summer dress. There is a high cowl collar, a huge scarf overwhelming the front, and a flouncy short skirt. The bodice seems stiff and formal; the scarf looks like wintry fleece; and the skirt is fluffy and confectionary. It’s red, white, and blue but a mishmash of competing ideas and feeling. It is vaguely retro/1980s and in no way suggests athleticism or the Olympics. It’s almost as if the designers felt anything red, white, and blue was okay.

Are we there yet? No — Terri’s outfit is up. Thankfully though, she’s designed something more appropriate. Similar to Korto she’s made a white easy pant. But there the similarity stops. The top is a red white and blue striped, fitted top. Looks like a tube top, and its tightness creates a type of bustier cleavage. There is a strange ruffledy ‘dickie’ scarf in thin red and white stripes. The outfit is finished by a dark, navy and white pinstriped fitted suit coat. It’s a bit too small, like Charlie Chaplin might wear. An interesting choice, but for me the design stops where that pinstripe jacket starts. If she had gone with something that incorporated and flowed into the rest of the design, she might have had a perfect outfit. It would have been a tossup between Terri and Korto for the win this week. As it is, the pinstripe formality is jarring to the eye against the fresh summer breeze the rest of the clothing conveys.

There’s more? Yes, here comes that wallflower of an outfit – Jennifer’s prim yet ugly gold and white skirt, white top and navy blue cardigan. Unbelievably she has even bedazzled the cardigan with ugly white and gold faux jewels along the neckline. Because it didn’t already look enough like something someone bought at an estate sale. I had forgotten about Blayne – he’s adapted his 'Sgt Pepper' disco-military blazer somewhat, and has sent a one sleeved white suit down the runway. The suit coat has a backward lapel on the front. It reminds me a bit of Celine Dion’s backwards Oscar suit, which is ironic because it was Blayne ridiculing Jerell’s “Titanic” design earlier. “His heart will go on,” Blayne jibed. Well, now who’s sinking?

And last but hard to say if it’s least, Kenley’s retro blue and white plaid dress. Again the less said about it the better. But I can’t believe how far of the mark the designers were, as a whole, this week. Cocktail dresses? Crazy costumes? Disappointing, to say the least. This should not have been such a hard task to follow.

Heidi calls out the mediocre designs and they leave the runway. The best and the worst remain. Their models come out to join them. A smiling Heidi asks Terri about her design. Terri calls it an American look. Apolo agrees and loves the colors. Michael Kors compares the look to Lauren Hutton in the 1970s (a sporty, high fashion model, for those who don’t remember The Beatles either). “Smart and sharp,” Nina praises. Next the judges puzzle over Jennifer’s gold skirt. She has the most friendly, clueless smile during it all. Poor Jennifer. The model seems to know what’s up though, judging by her frown. The judges are all tactful. Maybe they can see that if she thinks this outfit is appropriate, there’s no explaining to her why she’s failed. “She almost looks silly,” Nina says at the end. Well, so much for tactful.

Joe explains his garment as “summer, Olympics, modern, USA.” (Yes, the "USA" would be obvious by the huge letters U, S, and A down the front of her skort.) Heidi likes the double zipper with blue and red together. Apolo likes that the line of the outfit shows off a woman’s physique. Nina likes that someone designed sportswear. Michael says a skort was a good idea but he’s made this one too long. From the angle we see now, the skirt panel in front looks ridiculously overlong, almost like something got caught in her waistline. Kors concludes it is still “very smart.” All I can say is it was an easy bell curve this week. The judges almost seem grateful for the few who actually listened to the challenge.

Heidi’s tight smile and squeaky voice betrays her hatred of Daniel’s design. Her smiles are that much warmer when she likes a design; when she doesn’t, she is overly polite asking about it. Daniel explains his outfit was inspired by the 1940s but he “modernised” it. It looks like a costume. I’m not sure of what, though. Shiny PTA mom? Daniel’s doing a brave job of selling his idea and creation. I’d feel sorry for him if we hadn’t seen him spend most of his work time feeling up Bettie Page. “There’s nothing athletic about it,” Apolo sums up succinctly. Nina is blunt: This has no relevance to the challenge. “How would we know this is the U.S. Olympic team?” she adds. Daniel points out the “Olympic blue.” Heidi sarcastically asks if his shirt is also blue. Daniel’s shirt is purple as a bunch of grapes. He begins to look upset. Daniel begins to dig in deeper by making excuses — the color changed under the lights. Apolo said he should’ve played with the colors more. More excuses: Daniel said he did at first, and almost made a jacket, too. “But it ended up looking like Wonder Woman,” he explains. Kenley must be laughing her bangs off backstage.

For some reason they gave Jennifer an easy pass on the criticism and are going for Daniel’s jugular. Michael asks if the model is “from the Republic of Cocktail Land” and Daniel rubs a tear from his eye. Okay, I think he gets it – he flopped. Next up to be judged is Korto’s garment. The judges all concur, they love everything about it. “Chic, proud, unique” etc. Jerell’s confusing mess is up next. Apolo said it looks like it "would come from a movie set". Nina says it “looks like Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Michael begins to slam it also until Heidi says Jerell has “great idears”. Then Michael begins praising: “It’s creative, it’s interesting”. But he does add it is also “meshugganeh” (crazy). Now the judging is over. Daniel seems to have fully realised the danger he’s in and is openly crying. The designers and models leave for backstage so the judges can speak freely amongst themselves.

And again this week they pretty much echo what they said while the designers were standing in front of them. They love Korto’s and Terri’s. They like Joe’s very much also – Apolo admires how quickly Joe put togeher a finished look. Michael and Nina like that he took the challenge so literally. They all dislike Jerell’s “costume” and Apolo thinks Jerell had a “really hard time grasping anything”. Except the bolts of polka-dot fabric, that is. Of course they also dislike Jennifer’s “prim, bland, romantic” take on the Olympic challenge. They conclude Jennifer “can’t get past herself”. Bad sign. If there’s anything the judges usually deem unforgivable, it’s an unimaginative designer. Kors is still catty about Daniel’s design: “If her sport is drinking, it’s a good dress”. I think Jerell’s was worse because at least Daniel’s is wearable by someone, and that someone would not be in danger of a 5150 hold. The judges discuss the unfortunate irony of Daniel avoiding Wonder Woman allusions in his design. “An Olympic athlete is as close to a superhero as we have,” Michael almost hisses.

Judges’ final decisions made, the designers file back out. “One of you will be the winner and one of you will be out,” Heidi reminds us all as if we needed to know. Joe is “in” and is excused. And the winner is…Korto. Well chosen. I also liked Terri’s but her workaday pinstripe suit coat addition was jarring aesthetically. “I am worthy of this. It’s about freaking time” is Korto’s humble reaction to her win. Heh. Terri is congratulated on her “good work” and is excused. Now who’s going to be out? Jerell is safe. He leaves the runway. Heidi tells Daniel and Jennifer one will be out. Now she berates them both in her punitive Teutonic way. “Daniel, you gave us a sad purple cocktail dress.” “Jennifer, you are stuck in the past and ultimately we are looking to the future.” Again much harsher on Daniel than on the other bad garment. (Bad garment. Bad, bad!) But, it turns out they have damned Jennifer with faint praise. She is out. She seems a sweet enough person but still has the faintly bewildered smile as Heidi imparts her double-cheeked kiss of death.

Bye, Jennifer. Well, at least now I will know who the other one is. “We’re going to miss you terribly. Incredibly talented” gentleman Tim tells her as she’s sent packing. Jerell and Daniel look teary but it’s unclear whether that’s due to their narrowly escaping her same fate. Jennifer still sees her designs as “surreal” and “isn’t sure where they’re going to take” her. I hope it’s somewhere nice, Jennifer. Eternal sunshine.

Next week’s preview actually shows us who the guest judge will be. Brooke Shields. A ‘high powered woman.’ The designs look bizarre again, not in a good way. “Slutty, slutty, slutty,” Kors remonstrates an unknown designer. In other words — more of the same. See you there.

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