>> Friday, November 30, 2007
This week I was on the road, visiting schools in Alabama. The first thing I did when I got into my motel room on Sunday was to check the channel card--but horrors! No Bravo! No Project Runway! Wendi had the VCR at the ready at home (yes, we still own a VCR--and occasionally use it) but I wanted to see everything as it happened. I couldn't wait! And I didn't want to have to avoid Blogging Project Runway or Bravotv.com to avoid spoilers.
So Wednesday night I went out to the local Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers and pulled up a seat at the bar and asked them to change one of the TVs from basketball to Project Runway. I got a funny look from the guy behind the bar, but he was agreeable--until we found out the bar doesn't have Bravo on their cable package either! I had waited as late as I could so I wouldn't deprive any patrons of that one extra screen of basketball they might so desperately need, so I only had ten minutes left to find another restaurant in the area willing to turn a television away from sports.
From there it was off to a Chili's, but they had even fewer TVs in their bar, and everyone was actually watching them. Five minutes left. My other options, a Logan's Roadhouse and a Longhorn Steakhouse seemed hopeless, so I climbed back in my car and resigned myself to heading back to my motel room, perhaps calling Wendi who could tell me what was happening over the phone. Sigh. I even thought about stopping at some other hotel that was not my own and trying to tune their big lobby television to Bravo, but I was afraid someone would run me out.
Then - inspiration! What was the one place in town that had more televisions than any bar, and every channel in the Direct TV universe? Best Buy! I swerved into the parking lot with a minute to spare, ran past the Best Buy gestapo at the door, and headed for the TV section. At first I thought I had been foiled--all the TVs were tuned to a looping DVD of movie scenes that showed off all the high-def, plasma screens. Then, over near a couple of closed down registers, I saw two televisions with Direct TV receivers attached, tuned to different live basketball games. Eureka! I snuck over, found the remote, and scrolled down to Bravo just in time to see Heidi telling everyone they were headed to 10 Rock and wouldn't need their models this week!
There were a couple of Best Buy employees floating around, and they could tell I was mooching TV time, but it was completely dead in the store and once I explained my situation to them they were absolutely cool with letting me stand and watch. Which I did. You can't say I won't suffer for Project Runway! After a full day of being on my feet for a school visit, I was ready and willing to stand for an hour and watch Project Runway Week Three!
So, on to the recap. Heidi is coy on the runway. They've been wanting to do this challenge for a long time, it will be the toughest challenge ever, blah blah blah. Then she says they won't need their models for this one, a first for Project Runway. Um, not exactly. In previous seasons we've seen the designers bypass their models to design clothes for each other (Season Two), for their mothers and sisters (Season Three), and for themselves (again, Season Three.) In fact, Season Three saw the designers not use their runway models three times, trading them out in Paris for thinner European doppelgangers with bad teeth. The designers were without their models so often in the second half of Season Three that Wendi and I even commented on it while we were watching it the first time. Okay, yes, besides a couple of challenges where male contestants had to be designed for we've never seen the designers do anything but women's fashion, but that's not what Heidi said . . .
So, as some predicted, this week's challenge was menswear, and tied in with The Today Show. Tiki Barber, former running back for the New York Football Giants and newly minted Today Show correspondent, was this week's client and guest judge. I loved that last week, when Sarah Jessica Parker walked in the door, half the room broke into tears and screams of joy. Last night, when they walked in and met Tiki Barber, you could have heard a pin drop. Gay and sexist stereotypes, anyone? In a behind the scenes interview, Ricky says, "I have no idea who this is, but he's hot." Sigh. Am I the only sports fan who watches Project Runway? (Wait, am I the only straight man who watches Project Runway!?)
So the other men's shoe drops and everyone learns they're going to have to learn how to make tailored men's clothes in a day and a half. Now comes the crying and the screaming, though these aren't tears of joy. The designers are given thirty minutes to sketch a menswear outfit fit for Tiki Barber (the New York Giants' all-time rushing leader with more than 10,000 career rushing yards) and fifteen minutes in . . . nobody's drawing anything. Gee, is this perhaps because they are almost all women's fashion designers, not menswear designers?
Look, I know throwing these guys a challenge is probably no worse than making the designers use recycled materials or grocery store purchases to make dresses, but at least in those challenges they were making dresses. How fair is this? I want to see these people do what they do best, not struggle with something they've never done before. And didn't Tim and Dan give Keith Michael crap for not bringing women's wear with him to his initial Season Three audition? "You do know this show is about creating women's fashion, don't you?" he was told. Hmm. Well, not anymore.
So only three of the contestants, according to their bios, have any kind of menswear training whatsoever. Jack and Kevin certainly, Jillian maybe. And in an interview, Jack tells us that while he's designed the look of menswear before, he's never actually made any. Armani preserve us.
Ambitious suits are planned. Fabric is purchased at Mood. Designers return to the workroom and already begin to freak out about the time. And then--controversy! In the first of a string of events that will make this episode live on in gay Project Runway fan history, Jack takes off his shorts to disassemble them and create a pattern. He's already asked Tim if he can do this, and he's gotten the go ahead. Not because he wants to see Jack in his skivvies--he can always go replay the YouTube video of episode two for a gratuitous shot of Jack's package--but because there's actually precedent for this. Last season, when forced to make a pair of men's pants for the first time in his life, Vincent took his own off and traced a pattern from them. Pattern books you can't have, but apparently you can trace your own clothes to your heart's content. So, new strategy if I ever make the show: wear layer upon layer of clothes I can take off and trace as needed for each challenge.
Rami and Sweet P watch Jack share the pattern with Victorya and Carmen. No fair! they cry. Um, why didn't they all just pass the pattern around? Did anybody else ask Jack to share the pattern? He seemed happy to lat Carmen and Victorya use it. Or was it a collaboration in that Victorya drew up the plans with Jack contributing the pants? Either way, I don't see that it makes much difference. I'm just surprised that no one else asked to use the pattern. Rami later made a good pair of pants; he also made a point of saying, rather loudly, that he'd been able to do it without a pattern. Oh, snap! You sure showed them, Rami.
Ah, and now it's on to gay male fantasy part two (or three, if you count Tiki's earlier appearance). It's time to bring in the models! In come all the beefcake boys, and this time everyone in the room gets hot flashes, boys and girls included. Ah, everyone but poor straight Kevin, who tells us this is just ho-hum for him. I'm with ya, Kevin. There are some seriously good looking dudes in that room--I won't deny that. And I'm confident enough in my own sexuality to be able to recognize and acknowledge a good looking man when I see one. I'm just not as . . . excited as some people in the room seem to be.
The day comes to an end, and some of the designers don't have anything built yet. Many of them had to completely tear up what they had made after they put their garments on the models and saw how atrocious they looked. Much bleeping and grousing ensues.
Along the way, Steven gets some face time with some good one-liners. Once he compares the workroom to everyone standing on the Titanic as it's sinking, and one can't help but think that he's pegged it. Later, he tells us he now knows what it feels like for straight guys who tell him how awesome it must be to work with "hot chicks" all day long. Aw, thanks, Steven. As a straight man, I've always felt so misunderstood. Steven used to creep me out, but he's growing on me. That probably means he'll be the next to go.
The next day many of the designers are no better off--and now they get to defend their work to Tiki's wife Ginny! She knows what she's talking about, and has the most withering criticism for Carmen: "it looks like a Members Only jacket!" Priceless. And prescient. Tim suggests a redesign, and you can practically see the veins stick out on Carmen's temple. She's about to rip the enormous gold crescent moon from her necklace and plunge it into Tim's neck, screaming, "Make this work, bitch!" It's too late for her to redesign--and she doesn't have the fabric for it anyway. It looks like it's Back to the Future again for Carmen and the Eighties.
Ricky, meanwhile, has traded in his Thomas the Tank Engine conductor's hat for a Civil War Confederate cap, and is putting together an ambition suit--without sewing it. He just doesn't have time, you see, so every hem is going to be done with safety pins.
Oh, Ricky. Nina is going to eat you for breakfast.
Ricky knows he's in trouble, and he's singing little songs about it in the sewing room. Carmen politely tells him to shut the f*@k up. Our first catfight! And what those two don't realize, of course, is that they will have another chance to claw each other's eyes out when they're both standing one the runway facing elimination . . .
The next morning the designers have two hours to finish, dress their models, and send them off to the salon. Jack, who had planned a third piece--a vest--abandons it. He just doesn't have time, and he's happy enough with his pants and shirt, which, together, are a little too stripey-stripey a combination for my tastes. Carmen meanwhile is also giving up on one third of her three-piece outfit . . . the shirt! Yes, she has her misshapen pants and her Members Only jacket ready, but she has left the shirt for last and there's no time!
Note to designers: When constructing an ambitious outfit of more than one piece, it always pays to make the bottom layer of garments first! Instead, Carmen wraps the shirt material around her model's neck like a shirt, to give the "impression" of what the finished shirt will look like.
Oh Carmen, when Nina is finished eating Ricky, she will turn her bloody maw on you too.
Meanwhile, the latest entry in the "how big a disaster can this possibly be?" department is Sweet P's shirt, which features (unintentionally) three-quarter-length sleeves, a collar resembling a folded origami swan, and a tie long enough for Yao Ming. (That's another sports reference, people. He's 7'6" tall.) The shirt is an unmitigated disaster--something what a shirt would look like if I had to make one without a pattern. Sweet P, who earned my respect in last week's challenge working with Elisa, is genuinely distraught.
On to the runway, where Sweet P, Carmen, Ricky, Kevin, Jack, and Kit are left behind and told they are among the top three or the bottom three. Everyone else is safe, and there is an audible exhale--and perhaps even a few final tears of joy--from those spared the executioner's wrath on this one. How sucky would it be, after all, to go out on a menswear challenge when you've trained your whole career to make women's clothes? I know Wendi disagrees with me here--she thinks they at least ought to have enough skills to swing both ways--but I'd be bitter if one of my early favorites (like Chris or Victorya) got booted on this one.
But I won't have to worry about that. It's pretty obvious which outfits are the disasters. Sweet P at least doesn't try to fake it like the other two. She says up front: this is the worst thing I've ever made. It's like a kindergartener made it. Everyone has a laugh about the crazy-ass collar. Michael Kors tells us that when he first saw it come down the runway he was intrigued, thinkig she made it "intentionally ugly." Um, no, it's just ugly. They love the three-quarter sleeves on the beefcake too. I mean love like you love it when you see butt crack and can make fun of it with your friends. Sweet P is gracious, though anguished, under attack.
Carmen and Ricky try the defense route. No, children, never try to fight back when the wolves attack! Always run away! Carmen's duplicity is exposed when they have her model take off the jacket--and see there's no shirt! Kors also thinks the crotch on the pants is "insane." And not in a good way. And even if the jacket wasn't available only to members, Tiki says he wouldn't wear it because it would make his butt look big. News bulletin, Tiki: you were an NFL running back. Your butt is big. So is your neck, your arms, and all the other parts of you I can see.
And Ricky, oh, poor teary-eyed Ricky. You've shed so many tears in two episodes, that I'm surprised you don't break down and cry right away. Instead he gamely defends his piece--and then Nina uses her hawk eyes to spot the shiny pins holding everything together. Poor, deluded soul, did you really think you could get away with it? Oh, and just to add insult to injury, even if you had sewn it well, the tell him, it's boring. The dreaded B word! I fear Ricky may be the Robert Best of this season, without, you know, being so likable.
And who among them not only survived, but drew some semblance of appreciation from the panelists? Perhaps by default, it's Kit, Kevin, and Jack. Jack only has two pieces, but they love the stripe combo and the tailoring, and, most importantly, Tiki says he would wear that. Kit's piece looks a little plain, until we learn that the jacket is actually fleece. A clever touch that the judges like. And then there's Kevin, my pick to win this week, with a good-looking purple shirt, black pants, and black vest. The vest even has zippered pockets! But he used a safety pin to close it (oh Kevin, no!) and they call him out for that. Still, the look is too good to punish him too much for that. Strangely, Heidi hates this one, saying she would never let hubby Seal wear it. Kevin disagrees--Seal would kick ass in this! Go Kevin! You tell her!
It's decision time. Picking a winner is hard, but picking the loser is even harder. It's like the bottom three were actually trying to make the worst outfit possible! Do you can Sweet P for that misfolded-map of a collar? Carmen for no shirt, a bad jacket, and an insane crotch? Ricky for being weepy and boring?
The victims are brought back, and Kevin is in--meaning his was only third best! A crime. Next the winner--and it's Jack. Tiki says he'll wear this on the Today Show, and Jack has won his first competition. The guest judge is always the wild card, and we've seen some really questionable calls in the past come down to an arbitrary or crazy guest. This one's not off the wall though--the pants and shirt both look great, though maybe not together, and it really could have used a third piece. Kit is told she's in too, which means she took second place this week. A good showing from her; she'd felt fairly anonymous so far.
Now to the gallows. Sweet P--you're in! Holy hemlines, Batman, that abomination wasn't even in the bottom two!? What a week. That leaves Carmen and Ricky, and it seems pretty obvious who has to go. Boring is bad, but you can skate by with boring for a few weeks before it catches up to you. What you can't do is send half-naked models down the runway. Carmen is auf'd, and teary Ricky survives to cry another day.
In her exit video, Carmen tells us she can leave with head held high. She was eliminated, after all, on a menswear challenge, and she knows nothing about menswear. I gotta say, as much as I've questioned her looks, she has a point here. She packs her things, and in the teaser for next week we see . . . drama! Rami and Jillian agreeing to disagree, Ricky consoling an inconsolable (and angry) Victorya. Does this mean another team competition? No, please, not yet! Ugh.
In the meantime, how well did I do with my predictions? Well, I knew The Today Show was filmed at 10 Rock, but I refused to believe the producers would do another "design for a celebrity" challenge the week after SJP was on the show--so I was wrong there. The menswear guess was right, but I hardly get credit for that, since it was fairly obvious from the promos.
As for winner, I came darn close. Kevin was in the top three, arguably top two, and I also picked Jack to finish high, and he won. I also put both Ricky and Sweet P in the bottom three, where they ended up. What I didn't see coming was Kit's strong showing to end up with the second best outfit of the week, or Carmen's spectacular demise. In fact, I embarrassingly picked her name (though admittedly somewhat at random) to fill out the top three outfits! Oof. Not only did she finish in the bottom three, hers was the worst of the lot.
It looks like I'll have to shake the Magic 8 Ball a little harder next time.