Project Runway 4: Episode 2 - Sex and the Runway

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Week two is in the books. This week's special mystery guest was perhaps the worst kept secret in Project Runway history, as just about everyone knew it was going to be Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP). Everyone but the contestants, of course, many of whom wept openly at her arrival. I had no idea SJP inspired such feelings in gay men! Chris in particular told us that he was originally inspired to move to New York City after watching episodes of SJP's Sex and the City. He was clearly star-struck, and had trouble even speaking to her during the sketch pitch phase of the episode. The designers with more Hollywood experience were far less flustered.

The challenge this week was to design a look for SJP's "Bitten" line of clothes at Steve and Barry's stores. We'd never heard of Steve and Barry's, but we do, admittedly, live in the hinterlands. Using the store locater on their web site though I did find a shop in Asheville, which we plan to visit perhaps as early as Saturday. We're interested in seeing SJP's line on the racks. No item in her line is supposed to cost more than $19.98 retail, which is fabulously inexpensive. Will the fabric and execution feel cheap as well? We want to see for ourselves. And we shudder to think where and how such clothes could be made so cheaply. I'm picturing Chinese workers in sack-cloths toiling away in sweatshops for ten cents a day with inspirational words from SJP on the wall, like "It is every woman's inalienable right to have a pulled together, stylish, confident wardrobe with money left over to live."

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First came the model selection, with Rami inexplicably choosing the same Amazonian girl he had in the first challenge. Then Ricky mixed things up by choosing a new model--and wisely so. But Ricky, please. No more crying! Ricky's slow, cumulative tear total is already rivaling Season Two's Andrae, who got his all out in one marathon cry-fest on the runway. We loved Andrae in the long run, but that's because Andrae got past that and came into his own. Will Ricky do the same?

It comes down to Sweet P to chose between the last two models--and she chooses the sloucher! A poor choice. Last week that model looked like the daughter of Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. But maybe Sweet P likes the slouching look:

Then it's off to the workroom, where the contestants are given some time to make some amusing predictions. Madonna? As if. "Britney?" Christian asks. Horrors! Christian, leave Britney alooooone. (Wait, was that Christian in that YouTube video!?!?!?) Rami suggests Snow White, which is interesting--although I don't think I would call Snow White a "fashion icon" unless there was a rash of high white collars and slashed bell sleeves I missed. Tim tells everyone to "gather 'round," and the guest judge is revealed--OMFG, it's SJP! Much clapping and crying ensue. (Seriously, Ricky - cut it out, man!)

SJP lays out the challenge, as explained above, with the additional stunner from Tim: each two-piece outfit must retail for $40, which means the materials must cost just $15! Does that mean the labor on a piece of clothing is just 1/8th the total price? Visions of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory come to mind. Chris tells us they'll be making outfits out of toilet paper and scotch tape. No Chris, that's the week three challenge!

Each of the contestants was given a scant few minutes of sketching time while SJP and Tim departed to grab a cup of coffee and discuss how fabulous they are. In the confessional, Ricky is crying--again! Then came the very quick looks at the designers pitching their ideas to SJP, who tried to have something positive to say about each one. Jack's up first--my pre-episode pick to win! It's interesting to see everyone's sketches, and I wish Bravo would post these or give us a better look at them. I haven't been to design school, but it's clear that one of the things they teach you about pitching to a line is to work the name in somewhere, as the more experienced designers incorporated "Bitten" somewhere into their pitch.

Chris is so nervous he can't talk. Elisa's project earns a "clever" from SJP. Kevin whiffs on the handshake. Christian wants a hug! Rami and Carmen put on good shows--they're clearly not intimidated. SJP makes her selections and . . . crazy Elisa is the first team leader! Notice has been served--all expectations are out the window. Next up are Kit, Victorya, Marion, Ricky, Christian, and Rami. No Jack! So much for my pre-episode prediction. Worker Bees in team competitions never win, and almost never get bumped. Being the teammate is like getting a free pass.

The teammate selection begins with . . . Marion! And who does Marion pick? Steve. Wow. I had Steve pegged as an early out, and Marion not much higher. Marion tells us behind the scenes that he picked Steve because he wanted a "calm journey." I call it a "bland journey." Yawn. Ricky picks Jack--a strong choice in this competition. Victorya plays it smart and picks up a skilled pattern-maker in Kevin, and Rami gets Jillian, a strong designer who somehow dropped into the later rounds, despite the fact that Carmen is wagging her tail furiously, trying not to be the last puppy picked at the pound.

Carmen is devastated to be among the last two, but recovers when Christian picks her over Sweet P. And poor, poor, Sweet P--she suffers the fate ALL the also-rans feared. She must work with crazy Elisa. Crazy Elisa who rubs her expensive fabrics in the grass. Crazy Elisa who uses herself as a dress form and measures models by hand. Crazy Elisa who defends her dresses with mumbo jumbo about haiku. Sweet P has the awful, forced smile of a woman told her mother-in-law is coming to stay with her. For the rest of her life. Elisa, who thinks the grimace is because Sweet P got picked last, says Sweet P is the one she wanted all along!--which further terrifies P.

SJP tells us the winning look "may" be featured in the Bitten line, reserving the right to say "hell no!" should none of them cut the muster. She gives us a "see you on the runway!" and it's off to Mood. There the contestants scramble to out-cheap each other. "How much are these buttons--fifty cents?" "Do you have cheaper material?" Sweet P is already in damage control, taking over the color selection and warning Elisa that she has to finish her dresses and not get locked in the "unfinished box." One wonders, is the "unfinished box" anywhere near the "fear box?" Are they one and the same? Perhaps we'll find out.

Unfinished box or not, Elisa lives up to the crazy label right off the bat, spitting on her fabric to "imvibe it [sic] with her spirits and essences." Cue the Vincent kooky music! Sweet P crosses her chest, and the fun begins. In a behind the scenes interview, Ricky cries--again!

Mentor Tim hits the workroom. He worries about Christian's look. Too retro? Christian, not surprisingly, disagrees. He thinks it's "pretty perfect." Tsk tsk. Have these guys never seen the show before? Do they know nothing? Tim has an uncanny knack of saying things we're going to hear later on the runway. The man has his own TV Guide to Style, for cripe's sake! Christian's arrogance is both his strength and his weakness. He's arrogant enough to push the envelope, but so cocky he can't see when his work misses the mark. Tim has high praise for Victorya, however, which, again, will prove prescient.

Tim comes around to Elisa and Sweet P and together Tim and P make her feel like crap for being a free spirit. Wait--a moment of sympathy for Elisa? Yes, that emotion I'm feeling is definitely sympathy. Here's a woman who has been content to live on her own little happy planet, and now she's confronted with straight-laced frumps who tell her the way she does things is wack and she has to change. But really, why should she? Just because she does things differently doesn't mean they don't work. Now, if she's always in the bottom two, I'd get it--but if she can pull out a win, or even a middle of the road pass, why shouldn't she keep spitting on fabric and measuring people by hand and sewing clothes with only one seam?

In the meantime, Tim and Sweet P break her. In the behind the scenes interview, Elisa admits to giving in and looks like somebody just told her there isn't a Santa Claus. Yes, that's definitely sympathy I'm feeling for Elisa now. Unlike Christian, who arrogantly sticks to his guns in the face of damning criticism, Elisa has listened and swallowed the bitter pill. Sweet P takes over, and Elisa dies a little inside.

Marion and Steve are working on something . . . brown. Very brown. Rami and Jillian appear to be working very well together, and there's no concern that he might be dogging it because he has immunity. (A complaint I hate to hear, because really, does anyone ever deliberately dog it on this show?) Meanwhile, Elisa and Sweet P's concoction is actually looking good. Can they actually pull this off? And will it be worth the part of her soul Elisa just sold to get it? Kit and Chris appear to be working well together--and I love that top! I find new respect for Kit there.

And then back to Marion's dress. It looks like a costume from Caveman! It's bad--very bad--and Steven knows it. To his credit, he's doing his best for the team, but he can tell it's not working. And Christian's dress--no no no no no. It needs a "WIDE LOAD" sign across it, because it makes his model look twice her size. And that design! Like, gag me with a spoon! That look is so totally eighties. On to Ricky and Jack--looking good. And hey, Ricky's not crying! But I guess the episode isn't over yet.

On to the runway!

Kit/Chris (black French sweater with beret to boot), Ricky/Jack (a nice red dress with a bit too much belt), and Rami/Jillian (a black shirt dress with tights and a headband)--you're in. You can leave the runway. That leaves Victorya and Kevin, Marion and Steve, Christian and Carmen, and Elisa and Sweet P. The top and the bottom--and it's pretty clear which two are the tops, and which two are the bottom. One group--Marion and Steve--know they're in the bottom. The other--Christian and Carmen--are shocked--shocked I tell you!--to learn they are among the bottom two.

First, the good:

On the runway it's revealed that Elisa spits on her garments to mark them as her own. Heidi, Michael, Nina and SJP are fairly horrified. Too much information! Regardless, it's a great outfit. The marriage of Elisa and Sweet P has been successful! When Heidi asks her what planet she's from, Elisa tells us she has come to our planet bearing gifts. I love a person who can laugh at herself! Points for Elisa. Victorya and Kevin get high marks as well, although this week's Victorya design looks strikingly like last week's Victorya design. It remains to be seen if she's one note, but for now it doesn't bear comment from the judges. They sure liked Uli's look last season . . . until they saw it again and again and again.

Now, the bad and the ugly!

Kors and Garcia pronounce the Christian/Carmen collaboration too 80s. Put button earrings on her and she's ready to move into the dorm on Facts of Life, Michael says! Even though this is exactly what he heard from Tim Gunn (though far less catty, of course) Christian is indignant. He wants to hear what SJP thinks, putting her on the spot. Isn't this exactly what he pitched to her? Well, it's perhaps "too severe" in person, SJP demurs. Translation: this ain't what I had in mind. Nina asks her if she would include this in her line, putting her on the spot again. SJP doesn't say no--but she doesn't say yes, either. Heidi asks Carmen who should go from their team, and the reality sets in for Carmen. She breaks down in tears, unwilling to skewer Christian and unwilling to get sent packing. To her credit, she only says Christian should go after (to his credit) he takes full responsibility. What, no backbiting? No selling each other down the river? What show is this? Ah, but it's early yet.

But Carmen shouldn't have worried. Nina and Michael and company have been saving their best barbs for Marion and Steve, who have put a "Pocahontas dress" on the runway:

The material is panned, the cut of the dress is panned, the belt is panned. The one thing they didn't comment on was the model's make-up and hair, which IMHO made her look even more severe and cro-magnon. When Steve won't sell Marion down the river, Heidi asks, "Should both of you go?" and the screw hath been turned. Marion, like Christian, takes full responsibility for his outfit--and thus those two are the last on the runway facing elimination.

But first, the winner! SJP loves Victorya's look, and says it will be sold as part of the line. It's not on the Bitten web site yet, but I'm sure it soon will be. (EDIT: It isn't, that I can find, but it is already on sale in their brick and mortar stores.) Elisa and Sweet P--kudos, but you win second place this week. Still, it's better than where Elisa ended up last week: standing on the stage facing elimination like Christian and Marion.

In what is perhaps even less of a surprise than this week's guest judge, Marion is aufed. Reading Blogging Project Runway the next day, I'm surprised by the outpouring of support for him. He's a fan favorite after just two shows. How so? He seems like a nice enough guy, but I thought he was pretty colorless on the show. Then again, he was only around for two challenges.

I was right about Marion being gone, but wrong about Jack winning. Victorya has looked strong now twice in a row, placing second in the first challenge and first in the second. She looks like a clear contender for the prize, although, again, I look forward to seeing a different silhouette from her. As for next week? Well, the only clue we've got so far is lots and lots of scenes of designers ripping clothes apart at the seams. We've already seen the designers have to use the clothes off their backs as material (Season Two), so what are they ripping up? Their previous designs? That would be deliciously destructive. Or are they sent not to Mood but to Goodwill, and told to gather materials for the purpose of repurposing them? I can't wait to find out . . .


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