Please excuse me while I try to stop myself from making some sort of crass Easter resurrection joke about Thursday’s episode of Project Runway, but I don’t know if my self-control is that good (let’s face it, it’s not), so I’ll skip straight to the point: ANTHONY IS BACK! I mentioned in the comments last week that his return would make my whole life, were it to happen, and when it did, I got up and took a victory lap around my living room, cheering and pumping my fists. Lifetime has officially won me over, through no actions of its own. Their association with Anthony’s return is enough.
Not only did we get a second chance to enjoy Anthony, who has turned out to be one of the greatest (and, judging by the reaction to his auf’ing, most beloved) characters in the history of the show, but we actually got a pretty good performance from several designers despite the inarguable lameness of the challenge, and a couple more surprises.
Like many of you that can’t stop yourselves from reading spoilers on the internet (I try so hard, but remember what I said about my self-control earlier?), I’ve known for about a month that Maya doesn’t make it to Bryant Park. Because of the timing of the season’s run relative to New York Fashion Week, the Lifetime Powers That Be had 10 of the final 11 designers all make collections so that we wouldn’t be privy to any future eliminations. The only person that didn’t show was Maya, and most people first expected to see her eliminated on the show following Fashion Week, but that didn’t happen. As a result, a lot of us have been waiting for the other shoe to drop for quite a while, and Baby Bangs finally cracked at the beginning of Thursday’s episode.
But…did she crack? Is that really what you’d call it? I’ve read a lot of different reactions to the non-explanation of her departure over the past few days, and she seemed altogether too calm to me. When people buckle under the pressure of a competition, they’re generally emotional – I expected some tears, or at least that twitchy face that indicates their predetermined arrival once the person is in a more private setting. Instead, we saw her telling Tim and then the workroom that she was leaving with little emotion; in fact, it almost seemed a bit defiant.
She more or less said that she didn’t think that she was developed enough as a designer to continue in competition, and although Emilio is a smug a-hole, I’m inclined to agree with his estimation of her departure – live by your clothes, die by your clothes. If you’re not developed enough to continue, you’ll be eliminated, and and least it will be based on the work that you produced instead of what honestly seemed like rank cowardice (and maybe a little bit of righteous indignation at not having won a challenge).
So with her gone, my mind immediately went to Jack Mackenroth, the HIV-positive designer that sadly had to excuse himself from season four because of an infection. When he left, they brought back the most recently eliminated designer, Chris March, one of my favorite contestants ever. So, did that mean…could it be…Anthony?!?!
And, of course, yes! That’s exactly what it meant! He strutted into the work room, collar jauntily popped, and took his rightful place at the design table next to the remaining contestants and began working on the challenge. They were to design a red carpet look for Heidi, which makes this the second make-a-dress-for-Heidi challenge of the season, and I would have been irritated by the lack of creativity on the part of the producers if I hadn’t been too busy squealing in delight at Anthony’s second chance.
Because there are only six designers left, everyone was either in the top or bottom, and the split made it apparent who understood what “red carpet” meant and who didn’t. What was weird, however, was that there didn’t really seem to be an obvious top three and bottom 3 – it seemed more like Emilio and Anthony, and then everyone else. And based on the dresses that were made, that’s exactly what it should have been.
Anthony made a neo-vintage black-and-white ensemble that was quietly asymmetrical and utterly elegant. It moved beautifully, it looked easy to wear, and I could see it being flattering on body types ranging from Victoria Beckham to Mo’Nique. Anthony’s dress was a home run from every angle and a perfect way to declare himself back in the competition.
Emilio also hit a home run, however. My mom warned me before I watched the episode on DVR (Real Housewives messes with my PR-watching) that one of the dresses would be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on Project Runway, and she was right. His glittering oiled-bronze column was, like Anthony’s dress, deceptively simple. Like a real, live fashion designer, Emilio didn’t just make a dress, but he made the entire support structure that a truly great strapless moment needs and deserves, and it would have been impossible to not award him the win.
It also would have been impossible not to award Anthony with something, however, so they awarded both of them the win. Heidi will wear Emilio’s dress, guest judge Jessica Alba (who SHOULD NOT be blond but was otherwise lovely) will wear Anthony’s, and all is happy in Project Runwayland. Well, unless you’re on of the other four designers.
Seth Aaron made an uncharacteristic miscue with a bunchy, dowdy black gown that would have mostly masked Heidi’s enviable figure, but because he generally turns out stuff that is well-made and interesting, he was safe. Perhaps his safety was the only sure thing about this episode – looking at the dresses short dresses made by Mila, Jay and Jonathan, I wasn’t sure who exactly they’d pick, particularly after hearing their (sometimes needlessly) harsh critiques.
Mila was also safe, even though I’m beginning to tire of the things that she’s making. I don’t doubt that she’s talented at what she does, but as one of the judges mentioned during their final discussion, I’m just not sure that I want to see more. She does sleek, colorblocked clothes, usually with a black-and-white or otherwise neutral color scheme. We get it. Her dress wasn’t terrible, but it would be nearly impossible for someone with a chest as big as Heidi’s to wear it, even with the aid of the world’s most reliable fashion tape. The physics of that possibility just don’t work out. She was safe, however. Someone has to carry on in Maya’s place and represent Serious Fashion Hair, after all.
Next, Jay. It surprised me that I haven’t seen more people compare Jay’s wavy minidress to the stuff that winner Leanne Marshall made a few seasons ago – not only did the wavy skirt remind me of her clothes immediately, but the blue and ivory color palette was also similar to her final collection. His dress didn’t deserve all of the criticism that came his way, I thought – sure, it emphasized the models booty and the drop waist probably dropped a bit TOO far, hitting her at a wide part of her hips, but I think that’s a relatively minor structural quibble. Not every woman is concerned with making her rear end appear as tiny as possible at all times (of course, it doesn’t surprise me that Princess Michael Kors has such narrow, traditionalist ideas of female beauty), and the judges somehow never gave Leanne the same critique for very similar clothes. As a consolation prize, however, Jay did get to look down Heidi’s shirt. Too bad he’s gay.
And finally (and we do mean finally), Jonathan. I think that most people have seen this day coming for a while, and while Jonathan may be delightful in interviews, his clothes have never quite measured up on the runway. His overworked, under-designed mini dress was drab and kind of sad, and it should have been clear to everyone watching that it was his time to leave. And leave he did, with some cute remark about how he kicked butt, just not all the butt, and I’ll kind of miss him. Just not as much as I would have missed Anthony.