This season of Project Runway feels kind of like the show used to feel before it left Bravo, doesn’t it? It’s a nice feeling – warm, familiar, safe, fabulous. We’ve had three consecutive episodes with both Princess Michael Kors AND Nina Garcia in simultaneous attendance, our designers actually have sewing skills and personalities, and Tim Gunn doesn’t look utterly terrified anymore because the producers have returned him to his natural habitat of New York City.
Another thing that felt oh-so-right about Thursday night’s show was the challenge. Not only was it the customary partner fiasco that we always get in the first few episodes, but it also satisfied the expensive dress/look for less trope that gained favor in the show’s last few season on that OTHER network. Of course, as is customary when creative people are required to work with each other, tempers flared and people got thrown under the proverbial bus. I would accept nothing less.
Our designers were promised the opportunity to “meet” some of the greatest designers of all time, but really what they meant by that was that they were going to go to The Met and look at some historic couture from the museum’s collection. Which is cool, but not exactly “meeting” anyone, and if had been one of the designers, I would have felt slightly bamboozled.
The couture was, of course, fabulous – Balenciaga, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, the usual suspects. The Cryer said that being so close to it made her want to cry, and no one was surprised. Our group was paired off and charged with making an iconic look that would be deserving of a spot in a museum, which is kind of a lofty goal for a reality show, but, you know, let your little light shine, designers.
Tim picked the team leaders from the magical Bag-o-Choosing, and team leaders then picked their helper/partner from the remaining designers. Jesse, one of only two designers left when it was Ping’s turn to pick, had a very rational concern – that he would be stuck with Ping. Which he was! Ping seems like a nice lady, but holy crap, I’d hate to have to perform goal-oriented tasks with her. I’d probably end up making exactly the same face-punch motion that he made in Mood, if only to stop myself from actually having a rage blackout.
The internet seems to have roundly chided Jesse for his frustration with Ping, but I couldn’t help but be kind of sympathetic. He didn’t choose her, and she should be responsible for articulating her vision, collaborating effectively and doing at least a decent portion of the construction work. She doesn’t get a free pass just because she’s Ping. The real world doesn’t reward you for being a unique and beautiful snowflake, it rewards you for getting things done.
Most of the other pairings fared much, much better. The only other hint of drama was from Mila and whatever nondescript, hipstery- looking guy she was working with. Jonathan? Eh? Yeah, that was it. He seemed irritated about the amount of construction work that he did, but all of the contestants should know by now that during a partner challenge, sometimes you’re going to charge it to the game and get things done. At least Mila had a definitive direction in which they were going to go and was able to articulate it to him, even if he did more sewing. At least he didn’t have to, you know, teach her how to show (Ping, I’m looking at you).
You know what else all of the contestants should know? That when Tim Gunn gives you two days, two designers, and $500 to make an outfit, any outfit, that – GATHER ROUND, DESIGNERS! – a twist is coming. Every pair had to pick one of the other teams’ looks and make it into a “look for less” with only $50 to spend at Mood. The designers basically crapped their pants when this development was announced, but I feel like anyone that has watched this show regularly over the past few seasons saw it coming a MILE away. Don’t the designers Netflix the past seasons before they start filming?
People started panicking a bit, but most everyone kept their cool. Well, most everyone that still had it – Ping and Jesse continued to bicker and Jonathan continued to seethe that Mila wasn’t doing enough grunt work. Anthony and Seth Aaron were having disagreements as well, but their interactions with each other were so positive and friendly that you might not even have noticed it. It was the most civil, cordial partner discord in the history of Project Runway, and Anthony telling Seth Aaron to “not fight in front of company” even cracked up Tim Gunn, who I think wants to shrink Anthony and put him in his pocket for periodic amusement.
Ultimately, the looks were…mostly not terrible. I wasn’t as impressed with this challenge as I had been with the past two, but working with a partner while everyone is trying to fight for camera time is known to create some odd results (unless the team is Christian Siriano and Chris March, then it just creates 100% pure fierceness).
We had a top four instead of top three because of the partnering, and people with Serious Fashion Hair were representin’ for all of us out here with the dyed-black bobs. Maya and Jay made a sculptural, asymmetrical evening dress that didn’t win me over until Nina pointed out that the side without the neckpiece had a deep plunge – brilliant. Also, their “look for less,” as Princess Michael Kors so accurately pointed out, blew the $500 original out of the water.
Mila and Jonathan made up the other half of the top four with their proportion-and-volume skewering separates that ultimately won them the challenge (despite their blah babydoll “look for less.”) I’ve read a lot of criticism of their winning outfit, but I think that it fit the challenge really well – they weren’t charged with making a pretty dress (which is exactly what everyone else did, or tried to do), they were supposed to make something iconic, and that’s what they did. The ideas in the design were big and esoteric, and when we look back, the best fashion was almost never easy. Indeed, they may have been the only team that 100% satisfied the requirements.
Now, to the bottom, occupied this week by Seth Aaron, Anthony, Ping and Jesse. Seth Aaron and Anthony tried to do Dior better than Dior, which obviously blew up in their faces, because duh, you can’t do that. I didn’t think that the result was ugly, per se, but it was just really not much of anything. Their “look for less” was equally middling. They backed up each other and stood behind their work on the runway, though, in what might have been the most mature and loyal moment you’ll ever find on reality TV.
In rather stark contrast, we had Ping and Jesse. Don’t shoot me, but I kind of liked the weird, drape-y thing which sprang forth from Ping’s over-active imagination. At the very least, the muted, dark colors were unreasonably beautiful. If she (or Jesse) could have turned the arm-carried draping into something with a bit more structure and purpose, I don’t think they would have been in the bottom. The idea was there, but Ping doesn’t know how to edit her vision into something that works as a sellable item of clothing.
Ping and Anthony were the final two, and Heidi made sure to get in a little imitation of Anthony’s accent before the loser was announced. Between that and how needlessly rude she was to Gordana all of last season, I’m beginning to wonder if Heidi has some really ugly social class issues lurking behind that pretty face of hers. Making fun of someone’s accent is completely uncalled for, particularly when the person doing it doesn’t exactly speak without an accent of her own, although I guess hers is suitably upper class. Since she’s the one that is requiring the show to be shot in LA every other season, can’t we oust her in favor of some other model?
Anyway, enough Heidi hate. Ping got ousted, because the quirky one never lasts more than a couple of episodes. Also, she got ousted because not only her partner, but also her MODEL threw her under the bus as quickly as humanly possible. Jesse complained that he had to give her sewing lessons and that she didn’t collaborate well (it seemed like neither of them were particularly skilled in that arena), and the model (whose name I don’t know because I don’t watch that stupid model show that Lifetime came up with in order to try to suck out another half an hour of my viewership) complained that Ping never even fitted her in their “look for less.” Which may have been the case, but look, model, no one asked you.
So our beautiful butterfly Ping flitted off into the distance, free to forget her shoes without the judgmental eyes of people that just don’t get her. This show was merely not ready for. Or, maybe, she wasn’t ready for it – either/or.