Friday, January 04, 2008

Project Runway Episode 5...

Is everyone still sad about Chris’s elimination? Good news! Eliminations are just for play, play (not for real, real) on Project Runway. Indeed, Episode 5 is a smorgasbord of drama, with the untimely departure of one contestant, the joyous return of a recently Auf’ed contestant, and the dismissal of yet another contestant. The episode aired two weeks ago, and my head is still spinning, although… I did drink a lot of eggnog over the holidays.

All of the contestants are in mourning after the brutal Auf’ing of our dear, sweet Chris, who made up for his lack of taste in fashion with just bucket-loads of laughter and wit. Sweet P is particularly saddened by the loss, mostly because she shared with Chris the same feelings of inadequacy compared to all the professionals in the workroom, or at least that’s what I think. C’mon, Sweet P, what happened to all the jazz about better him/her than me? Meanwhile, over in the boys’ apartment, Jack looks like he just got hit by a truck. Seriously, one side of his face is swollen like a water balloon. He looks miserable, so he explains that he’s dealing with a staph infection, which is why he looks like he’s getting over a recent collagen injection.

Back in the studio, Heidi drops the bomb that we’re about to sit through yet another challenge that doesn’t involve the models, so we won’t be seeing them this week… again. Instead, a lot of very pretty ladies wearing what appear to be remnants of circus tents come walking on to the runway, and Heidi exposits that this challenge will be a makeover challenge. The ladies standing in front of the designers have all lost incredible amounts of weight, and the large, billowing layers of fabric currently weighing them down are actually outfits that they loved and cherished when they were at their heaviest. As they move down the line introducing themselves, I’m almost in tears. These women have accomplished amazing, bewildering, staggering losses of weight, some over a 100 lbs., and they are positively glowing, even though some of them are about to fall over from the weight of their old clothes. Indeed, I think there are outfits up there that weigh more than their owners… now. The challenge will be to construct a fashionable, flattering, and tasteful outfit using the old outfit and $10 dollars worth of extra fabric from the store.

This has got to be on the best challenges this show has ever put forward. It’s challenging, but also inspirational, and dare I say, just a little bit moving. The designers are paired with the models at random and then it’s off to the workroom for a consultation and some sketching, followed by a little shopping. Throughout this whole process, the camera is continuously drawn to Jack, whose face just keeps swelling and swelling. The other designers are starting to get concerned, and Sweet P asks him if he’s in any pain. He responds vaguely – I’m sure he’s just trying to ignore the discomfort at this point. A little later, though, we listen in as Jack calls his doctor, who implores Jack to come in immediately for a very intensive treatment. Jack’s eyes betray the dilemma he’s in; he’s worked so hard to be on this show, and up to this point he’s done very well, but should a man who is HIV+ risk sitting around while a dangerous bacteria rages through his body, even if his immune system is currently in very good shape? The obvious answer is no, so Jack breaks the news to Tim in private, and then to the rest of the designers. God, this is heart-breaking. I can’t recall the last time Fate dealt such a swift kick in the ass to a reality show contestant. But, health trumps all, so even though I was sad to see him go, he totally did the right thing.

Not too long after the remaining designers dry their tears and get back to work, Tim Gunn walks in with a special announcement. Of course, before doing so, he raises his eyes to the doorway, and Show pulls its now infamous OMG-look-the-door-is-opening-who-will-it-be trick. I’m going to go ahead and declare for the record that I thought we were going to be introduced to the guest judge for this challenge, who I had hoped would be none other than… Richard Simmons. Alas, I was brutally rebuffed there, but happily, Tim Gunn is actually bringing back a former contestant to replace Jack, and it is none other than Chris March! The workroom explodes with excitement, and rightly so; Chris March is fabulous. However, I caught myself going through a slightly embarrassing crisis of conscience upon seeing Chris’s face. At first, I was as happy as the other designers, because I like the guy, but then I was all, wait, he was eliminated. Tim Gunn prattles (which is so unlike him) about how the show wanted to keep the level of competition high, but I’m not sure that makes sense. I mean, from a purely game-oriented perspective, how is this keeping the level of competition high? And how is it fair to the remaining designers? I suppose since Jack left voluntarily (as opposed to Season 3’s Keith, who left in disgrace), it makes sense to bring back a recently Auf’ed contestant, but it just doesn’t sit well with me. This is so complicated, I’m so happy to have Chris back, but I’m not happy about it, either. Maybe I need to get a life.

Since Chris came back into the game so late, he will be allowed to work through the night, thus getting the same amount of time as the other designers, but it’s pretty obvious that Chris probably got a phone call at his apartment just as he was returning home from being eliminated, and then he re-packed himself and high-tailed it back, just to get thrown into a new challenge with a model he hasn’t met. Maybe that sort of balances the fact that he’s back after being eliminated. I guess I feel a little bit better.

During the construction process, it’s pretty clear that Steven is having major issues. Well, the model he got stuck with showed up in a wedding gown; a cheap, beaded, and sequined to the boundaries of taste gown, just to clarify. The lady is very sweet and obviously aware of the challenge her fat outfit presents, but Steven doesn’t seem to be committed to “making it work.” Instead of looking for potential, as little as there may be, in the gown, he has decided to use cheap black fabric from the store and use the white elements of the initial look as embellishments. That seems cut-and-dry to me, but somehow he’s very far behind in every aspect of the design process the entire time. Things aren’t looking too good for Steven, that’s for sure, but some of the others designers are cooking up some ugly as well. This should be an interesting runway show.

We’ll start with the winner.

Finally, Christian gets a win. This little munchkin is very sure of himself, and he seems to believe very sincerely that he should have won every challenge so far, so he’s particularly happy to win. The truth is: even though the judges have been off on the winner several times this season already, Christian hasn’t deserved to win any, either. I can’t spite him too much, though; he’s been consistently good, and I actually agree with the judges on this one. His client was particularly challenging. She stipulated a long list of things she just won’t wear, including patterns, colors, and specific styles. She only wears jeans and black tops, which I find a little silly. I mean, black clothes and denim are the staples of a fat person’s wardrobe, so I totally understand her dependence on them, but if I’d lost as much weight as she, I would be running around in a coat of many colors and tights, that is, if I wasn’t taking every opportunity to be naked in public. I guess I’m just surprised that someone would still be stuck in the same old wardrobe habits after altering their lifestyle and appearance so drastically. Anyway, Christian clearly exceeded her expectations with this look. Not only did he stay within her parameters, but he created a stylish, contemporary, and commercial look. Not only that, but he managed to incorporate his own sensibilities as well. After seeing the outfit come down the runway and listen to him talk about it, I said to myself that if the judges don’t give him this win they are the biggest hypocrites in reality TV judging history (a remarkable feat), and I would never take them seriously again. He accomplished everything they are constantly harping about, and luckily (for them), they awarded him for it.

Some people are raving that he barely changed the initial look (which was, surprise, jeans and a black top), but I don’t see what other options he had, what with all of the requirements he had to deal with. And honestly, you have to give him props for reconstructing the fat jeans to those very well-fitted cropped jeans. And the jacket is just gorgeous.

This week’s loser, without a doubt, is Steven. What a disaster. The dress in and of itself isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the fact that he didn’t even try to incorporate the wedding dress was what really killed him. Yes, she looks like she just stepped off the Mayflower, and yes, he glued the white parts to the black parts, and it sort of shows, but what really did him in was his refusal to accept the challenge for what it was. He was snobby about the wedding dress from the start. Granted, his raw material was far more difficult to re-imagine than the others, but I can’t help but feel like he gave up and just did the easiest thing he could think of simply because he was offended by the fabric, lace, and sequins. I understand his choice of black, because he probably figured it would work best with the wedding dress once he figured out what he was going to do, but the resulting look is dreary, drab, and dr-BLAH! La Kors and La Nina threw out funeral and French maid, and… yes and yes, agreed and agreed. I’m totally Ok with this Auf’ing, because I never really liked the guy anyway. AUF!

Also in the Top 3 is Kevin. I love, love, LOVED! this look. It’s very now, very today, very Lindsay Lohan wore it yesterday. And if you had seen what he had to work with originally, this is nothing short of a technical and artistic marvel. I’m sorry to make Kevin sound like he just invented the wheel, but I seriously cannot get over how awesome this outfit is. If was a girl, I would totally wear it. Hell, maybe I’ll wear it anyway. It’s flattering and fashionable, and his model looked like she was about to run outside, flip her hair, and never look back. What a great way to acknowledge a significant weight loss, huh? Even though I strongly second Christian’s win, I wouldn’t have had a problem with this one taking it. Well played, Kevin, well played.

Rounding out the Top 3, and in a very controversial way, is Jillian. She made the dubious choice of foregoing her model’s original fabric in order to create a red dress. In fact, the only shred of fabric from the original clothes is the black piping that accentuates the model’s curves. While I like this dress (I mean, ain’t nothing wrong with it), I can’t help but be fixated on Jillian’s clear infraction of the challenge’s rules. Even more frightening is the judges’ dismissal of said infraction. I mean, COME ON!! They raked Steven over the coals for not using the wedding dress in his design, but they smile and nod at Jillian’s well-constructed, if not sort of boring, red dress like nothing is wrong. I don’t think Jillian deserved to get Auf’ed or anything, but why the HELL is she sitting in the Top 3? One more time, COME ON!! This is such a despicable, heinous, ridiculous double standard. Tim Gunn warned us at the beginning of the season that there would be several judging snafus that would make us rip out our collective hair and grind our collective teeth, but this is beyond frustrating… it’s STUPID. Now I need a cocktail.

I think it’s a bad sign when a contestant is allowed to come back to a Reality TV competition after being eliminated, and then continues to make the same mistakes that got him eliminated in the first place. Well, that’s Chris March for you. One of the things about any creative pursuit is the idea that one must be open to criticism and make changes. Being creative isn’t always about listening to one’s inner muse, especially in a field that involves working with clients or pleasing a customer. Fashion, my friends, is one of those fields. Chris was told in the last challenge that his designs were too customey, that they lacked a certain taste-level, that they made Nina’s eyes bleed. I’m wondering if he heard those criticisms and simply chose to ignore them, so convinced of his own genius that he won’t change, or if he’s just a kind of idiot.

Looking at this outfit, it isn’t all that awful. I like the play of color between the two shades of blue, and the top is quite pretty and flattering. But what’s… with… the giant red bow? And you can sort of see it in the picture, but he also included a fish tail on the back of the dress in the same shade of red. I think Chris probably thought the bow and the tail added a punch of color and interest to the dress, but all it really did was make it… you guessed it… customey. In fact, it brought very specific images to the minds of La Kors, and even though I can’t remember those, suffice it to say that the judges found the look to be clichéd, which, dammit Chris, don’t you listen?

Elisa continues to flirt with her own expiration, ya’ll. I can’t decide if she’s crazy or just out of her league, but this outfit is, in a word, Fug. The sad thing is that the jacket is actually quite nice looking, and it might have worked had it been paired with a pencil skirt or a pant, but the mini-skirt and long shirt just make her look short and stumpy. La Kors brought up a good point about how the layers seem to block out her body horizontally, which is never flattering on a shorter, wider body. Basically, Elisa made some serious mistakes when it comes to form and shape, and the look… not to mention the model… suffers.

The next two looks are some of the looks that are lucky not to have landed in the Bottom 3, in my opinion. On the left is Victorya’s translation of her model’s giant green moo-moo. Since Victorya’s model had one of the more dramatic weight-losses, Victorya had ample fabric to work with, so she should have been able to come up with something really creative and different. Instead, it’s just a wrap dress with some slight tweaking of color. I won’t be too hard on Victorya, though, mostly because I’m having trouble imagining that color and fabric being turned into anything interesting, but I will say that I’m not impressed. Also, Victorya needs to work on her people skills. She’s so robotic and cold, she’s like one of the Borg, I’m telling you.

On the right is Sweet P’s concoction, and my complaint is that it’s too simple. Now that we’re in Season 4, I’ve gotten quite good at identifying when the designers are being too safe. This dress is too obvious based on the original outfit, and later on, the judges will call Sweet P out for her uninspired patterns. Also, the fit seems a little off in the skirt.

Finally, these three looks were declared as passing.

First up is Ricky’s look, which I can’t say I like. The top is cute, but you could totally find it at the mall, if not TJ Maxx. To me, it’s a little dated. And I’m sorry, the cropped jeans are just not flattering. I can see her ass fat from here, and I don’t think that was the point of this challenge. True, she’s standing in such a way as to accentuate her booty, but the jeans are clearly too tight. I wish I could remember what the original clothes looked like, but since I can’t, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but this outfit is just not creative enough for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop being mean to Ricky until he manages to get through one episode without crying. Seriously, he needs medication.

In the middle is Rami’s outfit, which I think is a complete success. The top is pretty and interesting, especially the twisting over the shoulders, and the skirt is working her figure big time. Rami definitely understands the shape of woman’s body, and when I first saw this look, I thought it would be a contender for the Top 3. It most certainly should have been up there instead of Jillian’s. And based on the way his model came down the runway, I think she agrees with everything I just said.

Finally, Kit. The only thing I don’t like about this dress is the dominant color, and since Kit couldn’t really help that, I have to let it slide. However, I do love the contrast of pattern and texture. The small accents of the black and white floral pattern against the solid pink is stunning, especially the peek of it at the bottom of the skirt. I would prefer if the pink was slightly darker, or a different color altogether, but like I said, Kit didn’t have a choice in the matter. We can’t all refuse to use the fabric we’re given and expect not to be penalized, JILLIAN!

Well, that’s that. For some crazy reason, Project Runway is on hiatus until January something or other, so in the meantime, I’ll have to find something else to occupy my recapping time. I thought about covering the Survivor finale since I did the premiere, but then I thought… Hell to the No. Well, I’ll think of something.

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