This episode begins with Terri singing “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” She’s referring to Stella, who was sent home last episode. But wait, Terri. Not so fast! Heidi announces that the remaining designers will have help this time. Guess who?
“We’re baaack!” Emily says, as ghosts of ousted designers past appear on the runway. Each pair of designers will create one avant garde design based upon the astrological sun sign of one on the team. In the workroom, Tim pulls names out of the button bag. Teams are made. The teams will be: Korto and Kelli, Kenley and Wesley, Joe and Daniel, Leanne and Emily, Blayne and Stella, Terri and Keith, Jerell and Jennifer, and Suede and Jerry.
A bit about the phrase "avant garde" now. It means advance guard, literally. What it means in the arts, including fashion, is something ahead of its time. More than merely innovative, it could even be seen as shocking. Typically in fashion it means something abstract and conceptual, and which hasn’t been thought of in recent history. A tall order. Being inspired from an astrological sign, then, is merely their starting point.
Tim informs the group they will have two days to finish their work. It’s up to them whose sun sign each pair chooses. Tim hands each person a “dossier” about the twelve sun signs. The teams huddle around their work tables and study their dossiers. Blayne likes Libran colors — ivory, pink, and turquoise as listed in the dossier. Korto likes the water imagery associated with Aquarius. Kenley likes Aquarius also. Jerell, a Sagittarian, thinks the descriptors “postive, adventurous, carefree, and fun loving” apply to him. He asks Jennifer what she wants to do. They both choose Sagittarius.
Joe and Daniel choose Joe’s sun sign, Aries the ram. Emily and Leanne choose Scorpio over Libra. And it’s time to shop at Mood. Kenley has her teammate Wesley grab “an amazing plaid.” Suede and Jerry choose silk charmeuse. Jennifer wants some turquoise fabric. Terri barks at Keith to find some “lioness colors.” Keith vlogs that he warned her not to go for the faux fur. “You’re creating a lion costume,” he warns. Terri’s vlog self sniffs that “Keith’s skill level is not the same as mine.” The two do not get along well at all during this challenge. Terri seems hostile towards Keith from the beginning, and his plea, “Be gentle with me right now – I’m kinda fragile,” seems met with derision.
We see random clips of the various teams as they work: Joe likes the idea of a ram as inspiration. Kelli and Korto discuss their garment’s silhouette. Jerry says he has won awards in the past for avant garde design. Kenley brags about her design to the point Leanne whispers sotto voce to Emily that Kenley “never shuts up.” Kenley returns this fake whisper with a comment to Daniel: “I can’t believe people are talking about me right in (bleeping) front of me.” And then night falls and Tim makes his entrance to give helpful nudges to the various teams.
First Tim goes up to Blayne and Stella. Or, “Stella Barbarella,” as we’ve learned Stella’s first and middle name are. Blayne explains the team’s concept to Tim; it sounds convoluted. Apparently, Libra means “nude” and “manifesting each new situation.” Tim asks Blayne to clarify. Blayne says something about colors on the left side and leather straps. Tim asks why. “Kind of like they strap you down and give you the rules,” Blayne defines. Tim advises them to make sure there is “cohesion among all the parts.” As he walks away, he is not smiling.
Tim next approaches Jerell and Jennifer. Jerell explains a concept of “armor and fluidity” springing from the Archer, Sagittarius. As the camera pans up the dress dummy, we see an awkward, long skirt in brown and white pseudo-houndstooth print. It is topped by a glittery gold sleeveless bodice. The skirt’s fabric is very heavy — like bad, double-knit blazer fabric. Tim requests a justification of the skirt fabric. “It’s like you took a schoolmarm’s old winter coat, and tried to make it into a couture dress.” Tim has summed that fabric up perfectly.
Jerell thinks the work is “bold.” Tim says they will either win or “crash and burn” because they are “so far out there on that precipice.” Well, at least then they are approaching the notion of avant garde which, by definition, considers a risk. Leanne and Emily’s work is looked at next. Their inspiration is Scorpio, the scorpion. Leanne begins explaining a “hard exterior” and “an exoskeleton.” Tim likes the exoskeleton idea. Leanne explains the exoskeleton will wrap around the garment. Tim tells her she has a lot to do but to “go for it.”
Kenley and Wesley show Tim a dress that looks like a costume for the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. There is a leather bustier over a purple plaid shirt with enormous balloon sleeves. They plan a skirt with zebra print and florals. Tim says the sketch looks like “Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.” Kenley dismisses his objections and his fears it approaches the costumey. “Don’t listen to me,” he shrugs. Tim brightly wishes Kenley and Wesley good luck and walks away. Wesley remains silent throughout but vlogs that he is staying clear of this design because “it will get ripped apart on the runway.”
Terri shows Tim the garment she and Keith have made. There is a beige (looks like linen) long skirt, a brown cummerbund and a lighter brown fur piece for a top. A large scrap of faux fur is on the ground underneath. It looks like a battle has been fought and lost. If so, Keith must be the gazelle. Tim subtly praises Keith’s abilities to Terri, who’s having none of it. Stony silence. Keith holds up a shiny piece of fabric and offers an idea. Terri accuses Keith of showboating; he hadn’t given her any feedback before this, she says. He disagrees, and Tim escapes them with a simple, “Make it work.”
Day two. In the workroom, Jerell notices a “note from Heidi.” (Is this America’s Next Top Model?) The note invites the group to a party and warns them that two designers will be eliminated at the end of this challenge. Kenley gasps aloud. As the group realises they have until 8 PM to make a semblance of a show garment, nervous energy crackles through the workroom. Some rush around, some focus their concentration, and others simply bicker more. Keith and Terri fall into that last category. Keith jokes with Jerell in the Project Runway Lounge that he “did not design for The Lion King.” Keith has left the workroom after trying and failing to get Terri to accede to his ideas. At this point he seems to have given up. Jerell, having had his own criticism of Terri in the past, laughs along with Keith.
At 6:30 PM Tim sends the models in for fittings. At 7:30 the models will go to hair and makeup, then they will all go to the party at the Museum of Natural History. Tim also tells them that from now on there will be no immunity given in the challenges. The group hurries to make last minute adjustments, even if that means pinning the models into the garments. Once everyone’s ready, it’s party time. We see an exterior view of The Rose Center for Earth and Space. This building houses the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History. The building seems to be grey stone, with an entryway lit in shades of blue. The interior is very modern. The ceiling is impossibly high, with shapes and colors suggestive of planets in orbit. The group descends an enormous stairway, and meets the special guests who will also double as judges.
The special guests are designers from past seasons, Project Runway alumnae, as Heidi puts it. In specific, the judges for tonight are: Kara Janx and Daniel Vosovic, season two; Allison Kelly, season three; Carmen Webber, season four; Christian Siriano, season four winner; Robert Plotkin, season one; and Jay McCarroll, season one winner. Heidi announces the party will begin: “Let’s pop some bottles!” she invites. The current design teams and models mill about and make chit-chat with the various judges. This is the past designers’ chance to ask anything they wish to about the designs and to examine the work close up.
Kenley is actively pitching her balloony dress to Heidi. Heidi isn’t impressed. “Why is the boobs down here?” Heidi asks Kenley. Heidi tugs at the bodice, which doesn't move. Kenley sniffs, “They’re where yours are.” Insulting a judge is rarely a good tactic. Meanwhile, Leanne and Emily are showing Allison Kelly their “Scorpio” design. Allison loves it; she dubs it “stunning and mysterious.” Robert Plotkin admires Terri and Keith’s leonine design. He thinks it fits the Leo theme. Christian Siriano, however, makes no secret of his disdain for the huge faux fur collar. It does look as if someone cut apart a teddy bear and clipped it around the model’s shoulders.
Elsewhere, Carmen is critiquing Suede’s design; she doesn’t mind the overlong bell sleeves, which echo the (Libran) scale idea. She just thinks it is repeated too often. Jay is looking at Korto’s design. He thinks she’s done well by Aquarius. Heidi tells Blayne his design reminds her of “old women’s underwear.” The dress looks a bit like a short muslin nightgown. There are a few black straps randomly placed around the model’s torso, and some large, brightly colored wads of fabric inside one leg. Blayne presses Heidi for further comment, urging her to “think out of the box.” Heidi merely grimaces.
Jerell is hearing praise from Daniel Vosovic. Daniel likes that Jerell used six different trims in one jacket and remained subtle. Kara Janx likes the bodice on Joe’s garment. “It’s a pillar of fire and strength” she admires. Jay McCarroll says he can see the “clenching, cinching” aspect of Scorpio in Leanne and Emily’s design. They express concern they have been too literal. Jay assures them they have not. Having made their rounds, the various special guest judges all go to tables and mark their votes.
Next morning at the Parsons New School for Design, some of the designers adjust their work based upon the special guests’ comments. Terri removes the lion’s mane of faux fur and adds a shiny piece of salmon colored fabric instead. Soon, Tim enters the workroom and says he will send in the models for an hour. Then it will be time for hair and makeup, then the runway show. The models come in and are put into the fashions. Kenley takes the chance to gripe about Heidi’s comments the prior evening. She’s put her own spin on the conversation. What Heidi meant as a question of the garment’s line becomes a question of the model’s shape. “My model doesn’t have boobs,” Kenley protests. “I have to stuff her.” Korto and Jerell fuss over their models and garments as well.
As the models receive some big hair and wild makeup, Tim re-enters the room. He’s just in time to hear Stella Barbarella banging away with a hammer. “That pounding concerns me,” he says. He sounds a bit irritated. Blayne asks Stella how much more she has to hammer. She asks him if he would like his head hammered too. Blayne smiles. Jerry and Suede sew amicably in the sewing room, while Suede’s vlog says, “Suede is sad two people are going home tonight.” The models return to the workroom. Kenley’s model looks as if she is wearing a sofa slipcover stuffed with pillows. Keith is still napping on a sofa in the Lounge; Tim taps him on the shoulder and wakes him. The group heads to the runway.
Heidi introduces the judges’ panel, which of course includes Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. This week’s guest judge is Francisco Costa, creative director of Calvin Klein. The CFDA has twice named him its top designer. I’m unsure how the points from the previous night’s party will figure in. With several special guest judges tallying points, why is there a guest judge at the runway show as well? I assume it all is added up and the sums choose the winner and the two losers this week. And now it’s time for the runway show.
Blayne and Stella’s design is first. It looks as if a leather harness were slipped on over a bunched-up gauze nightgown. Huge puffs of red and blue netting are stuffed along her right side, like a flower craft kit run amok. Blayne’s voiceover praises the work as “conceptual” while Stella’s voiceover describes it as an “unbalanced explosion of emotion” and “bling.” Exploding emotions and bling are not what Libran qualities are typically described as. Balance, fairness, and beauty are more typical traits in any ‘sun sign description’ out there.
Next, another strange silhouette appears behind the scrim. As Joe had said earlier, the huge sleeves look like Minnie Mouse ears. I am reminded of the three-headed knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There are two huge globular sleeves, with the small head of the model in the middle. As the model rounds the corner onto the runway, the colors and fabrication improve nothing. The model’s hair is styled similar to Kenley’s, with a dark curtain of bangs. The rest of her hair is in a slicked-back bun. The garment is still a plaid shirt covered by a leather bustier, and a floral bubble skirt has been added. There are yellow leggings over short black leather boots. As the model walks, Wesley’s voiceover tactfully narrates that Kenley “may have missed the challenge” as he sees nothing Aquarian in her design.
Terri’s Leonine gown is out next. It seems very costumey, with its garish fabrics and shiny, cape-like feature. The faux fur lion’s mane is gone. Terri narrates that she is proud “there is no team; it’s Terri.” Since part of the challenge was working as a team, that may not be seen as a plus. Keith’s voiceover says that the design looks cheap and Terri’s design aesthetic is questionable. Korto’s Aquarian gown is next. The flowing blue fabric is suggestive of water. Her gown has a high waist from which fabric seems to cascade; the fabrics and colors continue to make up sort of a modified cape in back. The top portion of the gown is some sort of burgundy fabric; looks like pleather, almost. It is made of interwoven straps. They vaguely echo the angle of the draped cape.
Joe’s Aries gown is next. He looks thrilled as it parades before him on the runway; for once his smile seems genuine, not forced. His voiceover says “Aries is a fire sign” and “the skirt is erupting in fire and the bodice turned into the peak of the flame.” The gown and colors do indicate ‘fire’. The skirt is fitted to the top of the thigh, then ruffled, like Daniel’s flamenco gown from the Drag challenge. The top of the skirt is a solid color. The stacked ruffles below it could be dull, but are broken up somewhat by the mottled red, yellow and orange fabric. The bodice is orangey-red, sewn into a modified heart shape. The sleeves and collar are not connected to the bodice. They are sheer and orange. The model’s makeup is subtle, with natural lip color and a hint of gold ‘flame’ around the outer edges of her eyes. Her hair is piled high, and frizzy. Joe’s voiceover says he thinks he and Daniel succeeded.
Next is Jerell’s ‘Sagittarius’ ensemble. Jerell narrates the qualities he sought to portray: “Positive, adventurous, outgoing, fun loving.” I’m not sure how those were integrated into what strolls down the runway. There is a long, brown, checked skirt with horizontal pleating straddling the hips, a gold glitter halter top, and a jacket in peacock shades. The jacket is embellished with peacock feathers at the elbows of the golden glittery forearm fabrication. Somewhere along the arms of the jacket are the strips of shiny trim Daniel Vosovic admired at the party the prior evening. There is a lot going on. I like everything from the waist up, but to me, that skirt is ugly. However, it is the most ‘out there’ of the designs, as far as being ‘on the edge’ or making one wonder ‘why did he do that’ in a good way. In other words, it looks as if he chose what he did on purpose, rather than being merely indulgent.
Next, Leanne’s and Emily’s Scorpio dress. Her voiceover says it has “strongness and structure.” Strongness? At any rate, the dress does have an air of mystery; it is red and black, with a sweep of black fabric up toward the neckline which continues into a modified hood. The model’s face is half shrouded by a sheer black veil. The overall effect is sleek and seductive, with an unusual line. From the back the look is less successful, as the hood turns into a big bunch of fabric over one shoulder, and the area below her bare back seems poorly draped.
Suede’s design for his Libra concept seems a rather basic pant suit with a sheer overlay. He’s chosen blue fabrics. The model’s chunky hairstyle is completely unflattering, and detracts from the airy effect Suede’s voiceover narration claims he aimed for in his design. When the model turns, she appears to have two sheer, hanging garment bags trailing from her back. The garment is strange, but luckily for Suede, was not the ugliest one up there this episode. Maybe the judges will find her toting her own garment bag to be practical.
Heidi requests that Korto’s, Jerell’s, Leanne’s and Joe’s teams step forward. She then announces that one has won the challenge but they will have to wait a bit longer to find out who won. Blayne’s team, Kenley’s team, Terri’s team, and Suede’s team must remain on the runway. Two of the viable designers from those teams will be out. The models return and stand beside them. Heidi asks Blayne to explain his concept first. Blayne explains he focused on the ‘scale’ concept and basically divided the garment in half vertically. One side was the ‘lighter’ side, the other side was ‘heavier’. His description calls to mind one of those old Halloween costumes, with a man’s suit on one side and a woman in a satin gown in the other vertical half. Except that costume’s intent would be clearer than what Blayne and his partner Stella Barbarella produced for this runway show.
Nina (she’s back — yay!) replies that it looks haphazard and that it doesn’t look as if they spent much time on it. Blayne says everything was hand sewn. Nina calls it a one legged monster. Judge Costa says it is costumey. Heidi says it is just not pretty. She asks the model to turn around. As the model turns, the costume turns from confusion into an illustration from a hemorrhoid ad. There is a huge wad of bunchy pink fabric stuck just under her rear end. It looks painful. “She is pooping fabric!” Michael Kors asserts with alarm. Kenley shoots a strange scowl in Blayne’s direction.
Heidi asks Terri to explain her gown. Terri says it signifies Leo “the fire sign” and says she wanted to show “heat coming from it.” She said she made changes based upon the feedback the night before. She removed the fur collar, she says, to make it look less like (the lion costume in) The Wiz. There is a bit of back and forth as Michael inquires who is the Leo and then, hearing their sun signs, surmises they got along well together. Keith and Terri make it clear this was not the case. Michael reprimands them that they will “never have a serious career unless you can have other people collaborate with you and help you.” He then tells Terri “this looks like a costume; she’s kind of like Voodoo Princess in Hell.” Terri’s model chuckles and sounds shocked; Terri looks shocked, too. Francisco Costa concludes the drubbing with: “There is no strength to it, and for a Leo it should have been powerful.” (Or, as Leanne might say, it had no “strongness”?)
Next, Heidi asks Kenley to justify her work. Kenley says she is an Aquarius and her design was inspired by this zodiac sign. Nina says she is puzzled because she thinks the garment has nothing to do with Aquarius. Kenley shouts at Nina immediately; she says it was too inspired by Aquarius, which is “rebellion, strength, strong, and purple.” Like the Grape Ape? Wesley listens passively; their model giggles. Nina tells Kenley it seems she did what she wanted, ignoring the challenge. Michael Kors says they have seen this before: Dolce & Gabbana on the bottom, Viktor & Rolf on the top. As such, Kors says he does not find the garment shocking (which of course, avant garde should be). Kenley whines that it is, too, avant garde. “Listen Kenley,” Kors says as if to a pouting child, “avant garde means something we haven’t seen before.” Kenley frowns and shakes her head.
Heidi asks Suede about his “look.” He says the design was inspired by the Libran scale. Nina frowns. Heidi says avant garde should mean pushing the envelope. “Suede didn’t wanna take it too crazy, so refined is where I keep coming back to” he replies. Third person on the runway? Bottoms up twice, maybe. I think it’s double points when he third-persons in front of the judges. (Grape juice, of course.) Anyhow, back to the show. Nina says Suede’s garment “borders on the expected.” Francisco Costa says he would’ve played with proportion more and brought it “to the next level.” In other words, it’s boring. Michael Kors says this was not a department store challenge. (Ouch!) Jerry, Suede’s teammate for this challenge, grins wryly. Not sure if that means Jerry feels it was his fault or Suede’s, but there’s a subtext in that grin. Having heard from all those who scored the lowest this episode, Heidi sends everyone backstage so the judges’ panel can confer.
Basically, the judges hate Blayne and Stella’s bruise explosion: “a fashion joke,” “a disaster.” A second “joke” comment elicits an “ooh that’s bad” from Heidi. The judges think Kenley didn’t care about the challenge. Nina adds that Kenley is very defensive about criticism. Michael disapproves of Kenley’s professed ignorance of other designers’ work: “To be a designer you have to know what’s happening in the world” he says. He also says she must be more Taurus (the bull) than anything because she is so stubborn. Backstage, Kenley grouses, “It’s bullshit.” Nice editing, Bravo.
Regarding Terri’s gown, Nina says she really hated it and it looked cheap. Michael thinks Terri should have asked Keith for his opinion but instead they had “war.” Costa thinks Terri took no responsibility. “None,” Kors agrees. “You have assistants that walk on you, and you still have to put a show together,” Costa points out. Next the judges discuss Suede’s work. “Boring,” Nina says. Michael thinks it looked like something off a department store rack. Costa thinks it was not avant garde at all, but “tacky.” Kors pokes fun at Suede’s use of the third person in front of them. “He’s talking about himself like a grand couturier. ‘And Suede would want…’ I mean, excuse me. You’re certainly not ready for this third person kind of lingo,” Kors snorts. As the others laugh, Kors says he thinks “there’s a lot of self delusion happening today.” A lot of empty bottles, too, if anyone’s been playing the home game.
Having chosen the winning and losing designs, the judges call all of the teams to the runway. The winner is announced. Jerell’s design has been deemed the most avant garde. Heidi tells him the Project Runway alumnae liked his work the best “and we did too.” Jerell is elated; “thank you, thank you” he says as he goes backstage. His teammate Jennifer gives him a big hug. Jerell predicts in his vlog that he can “keep winning all the way to Bryant Park, until I get my novelty-size check.” Back on the runway, Heidi excuses Leanne, Korto, and Joe. They are safe. Kenley is also still in the competition and is excused from the runway. Kenley replies with a curt “thank you.” Terri and Blayne shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. Blayne looks sad. Suede looks like a bunny caught in a crossbeam.
“Terri – your look was poorly made. And it lacked taste” Heidi says. Terri shakes her head ‘no’. “Blayne – we asked for the avant garde. What you gave us seemed more like a joke.” Blayne seems to be blinking back the urge to cry. Heidi continues: “Suede – your look was safe and boring.” Heidi announces that Blayne is out. “You can leave the runway. Auf Wiedersehn, Blayne” she says. But wait – does Blayne have a cold? Heidi remains seated, and blows Blayne a kiss from her judge’s chair. As Blayne swiftly strolls off the runway, he pretends to catch this airborne kiss in one hand. I can’t remember anyone else in the history of the show who didn’t receive that double air-kiss and a hug. Weird!
Heidi announces Suede is still in. That means Terri is out. Terri’s eyes are sad, but she has a wry smile. She nods and approaches the edge of the runway, where Heidi shakes her hand and gives her a double air kiss. “Ciao,” Terri says softly, then waves goodbye to the other judges while walking off the runway. In her vlog comments, Terri explains, “This was never in my sightline. I have always seen Bryant Park as the end result.” Yes, but pride, fall, and all that. Backstage the others hug Terri goodbye, but Keith stands with his arms folded. Korto hugs Terri gently and seems to be in tears.
Tim appears with a grave expression on his face. “No one is more sorry to see you go than I am” Tim tells Blayne as he offers a hug. Jerell has a tear-streaked face. “So guys, I’m gonna have to send you upstairs to clean up your space” Tim tells Terri and Blayne. Leanne is also wiping a tear away. Are the remaining designers crying from sympathy, or just relieved they are not going home too? We see clips of Terri and Blayne packing up their belongings from their work stations. Terri brags in her video blog clip, listing Tim’s praises of her. She vows that people will hear of her. Blayne philosophises in his own vlog that “you can’t second-guess yourself as a designer and an artist. You really just have to be 100% confident in who you are and just go for it.” He adds, “I’m about to rule the world, so you better keep your eye out.” Somehow, since he resembles an elf, the statement comes across as cute rather than arrogant. My impression of Blayne is that he doesn’t yet know who he is, more so than he is full of himself. His affability may even have cost him this challenge, since he seemed so breezy in the workroom. A stronger statement and better editing would’ve served him better, but that’s just my viewpoint.
Next episode, Heidi introduces some “special ladies.” Wait — I thought Joe and Varla Jean already won that challenge? Oh, this is a new group of clients? The clips do not give many clues. Words like “cheap” and “unexpected” are thrown around. There is a lot of grousing. Nina critiques. Kors sighs. In other words, a typical Project Runway episode. See you there.