Project Runway 4: Handicapping Episode 2

>> Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The excellent folks over at Blogging Project Runway put out a call for Project Runway Season 4 "handicappers." No, they don't mean "handicapping" a contestant like going after Nancy Kerrigan with a tire iron. They mean trying to predict the outcome of the episode based on the scant visual teaser evidence posted online by Bravo. It's not as crazy an endeavor as it sounds--this week in particular there are lots of tells for seasoned Project Runway aficionados. So this week, I ask the Magic 8 Ball for some answers . . .

Before I begin breaking down the previews though, a disclaimer. I do not have inside information, nor have I read or watched any spoiler interviews. These may or may not exist, and may or may not be full of crap, but I don't go looking for them regardless. Like reading a good mystery novel, I never turn to the end before I start, but that doesn't stop me from guessing whodunit along the way.

All right--the best visual evidence of what's to come is here, in this video:

There's lots of good stuff here. First, it's obvious that this is a team-up episode, a typical early season set-up on Project Runway. Putting the contestants in groups of two or three cuts down on the number of designs to follow in construction and on the runway, and also brings the drama by throwing the contestants together before they really know much about each other. And Project Runway is all about bringing the drama.

So this week it looks like pairs. With fourteen remaining contestants, that's seven teams. (See how good at math I am?) In team-ups in previous seasons, each contestant has been asked to pitch his or her plan to the guest judge, who then selects the team leaders based on her reaction to the designs and the designers. (Heidi Klum selected the team leaders in the Season Two lingerie challenge, for example, and Miss USA chose team leaders in the Season Three Miss Universe evening gown challenge.)

The team leaders then usually choose their teammates, with the order determined by a random draw from the old black velvet bag--except that the previous week's winner gets a chance to choose first. Which might explain why Rami appears to be teamed up with Jillian. Both are early favorites, and Rami may have already seen something he likes. Or may already be trying to cut down on the competition.

Bravo ads this week have been telling us to expect "the Biggest. Guest. Judge. Ever." So, who is this week's over-hyped special mystery guest? The general consensus is that it will be Sarah Jessica Parker, who definitely combines big time star power and fashion sensibility in a way that Parker Posey and Debra Messing didn't quite manage as the special guest judges in the Season One and Season Two finales, respectively.

There's quite a lot going for this theory. Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) has a new Sex and the City movie coming out soon, and also has a fashion-forward, budget-conscious clothing line called Bitten that debuted this fall from Steve & Barry's. SJP's manifesto: "It is every woman's inalienable right to have a pulled together, stylish, confident wardrobe with money left over to live." And that budget-conscious aspect--no item in her line costs more than $19.98, retail!--plays in rather nicely with this week's show title: "Money Changes Everything."

Will our teams of two be required to design a look for SJP's Bitten clothing line on the tightest budget ever handed down on Project Runway? The Magic 8 Ball says, "Signs point to yes." I will even go so far as to say that the designers must spend $19.98 or less on their materials, to highlight the affordability of SJP's line. My other guess, in the same spirit and far more dastardly, is that the teams are challenged to spend as little money as they possibly can, with their totals taken into consideration on the runway. A sort of "how low can you go." We certainly see some cheap-ass scrambling in that clip above. ("How much does this cost, fifty cents?" "Can we find a cheaper fabric?") After a first week challenge where the contestants got to wallow (one literally) in $50,000 worth of Mood Fabrics, a twenty-dollar challenge will prove a nice counterpoint.

And who are the teams? Again, a careful observation of the video tells the tale. There are even clues as to who among them are the team leaders. First clue: look for the designers carrying sketch books. They are the ones whose designs have been selected! We can also guess that they're the ones choosing colors and making the final approval on selections at Mood. And if all else fails, look at who is following whom. Leaders lead and followers, well, you get it.

So here's what I've been able to construct, in no particular order, with the leaders in bold face:

Team One: Rami and Jillian
(All I've got is that Rami is leading Jillian up the stairs)

Team Two: Jack and Ricky
(Jack seems to take charge back in the workroom)

Team Three: Kit and Chris
(Kit has the sketchbook and seems to be calling the shots)

Team Four: Victorya and Kevin
(Kevin appears to defer to Victorya in the selection of fabric)

Team Five: Elisa and Sweet P
(Elisa has the sketchbook; "hands over color" to P)

Team Six: Christian and Carmen
(Nothing to go on here but Christian entering the room first)

Team Seven: Marion and Steve
(Marion is talking about construction like he's in charge)

Who are the favorites here? Rami and Jillian, certainly. Victorya and Kevin also look like a strong pairing. Jack and Christian appear to be paired with weaker partners, but if they are the lead designers it's their contest to win or lose. In episode one, Christian appeared to be looking over Carmen's shoulder in an advisory capacity, so perhaps he saw something in her design sensibility that jibed with his own. (Bad hair twin powers--activate!) Kit and Chris are dark horse candidates here. Kit's first dress has received a lot of online criticism, but Chris' has been almost universally praised as overlooked.

One thing is for sure--in three seasons of team-up episodes, I can't remember a winner or loser who hasn't been one of the lead designers. (EDIT: See the comments for someone with a better memory than me!) Being named a team leader is a great chance to put your work out there and go for the brass ring--but it's also putting your neck on the chopping block. Occasionally a follower will be held back to be scolded for being a bad teammate, (see Angela, Season Three, Episode Two,) but I cannot remember one actually being eliminated. (EDIT: Okay, I can now--Season One's Vanessa, who went for her poor sewing skills in Episode Four under team leader Austin Scarlett.) It's the team leaders who win or lose these episodes, so let's look at the seven contestants with the most to gain and the most to lose: Rami, Jack, Kit, Victorya, Elisa, Christian, Marion.

Among the weakest are Elisa and Marion, and Marion has the added drag of being paired with Steven, the contestant I thought would be first to go. Steven's got to show me something more than his week one dress to raise my estimation of him, and Marion's first episode dress was inexplicably given a pass. Elisa at least has Sweet P to even her out, for what it's worth. And despite the "pooing fabric" of Elisa's first dress, there's no denying the front of that dress was exciting and well-made. Project Runway is all about bringing the drama, and crazy=drama, so Elisa will survive. My bold prediction: Marion will be aufed this week.

Among the favorites, Jack seems to have the best advantage with his everyday-woman design sensibilities. There's also the "Jack Mackenroth Zapruder Video" on YouTube, filmed by fan catching SJP and company doing a location shoot for Sex and the City on a New York street. Like they say on TV, you don't want to miss the last two minutes--that's when it starts to maybe mean something for this week's Project Runway challenge. Fast forward if you can; most of this is screaming at SJP or Kim Cattrall to get them to wave hello:

Who's that hunk the girls drool over until he walks into the arms of another man? Why, it's Project Runway Season Four's very own Jack Mackenroth!

Is there something on the line this week in addition to, or besides, immunity? Did Jack perhaps earn a cameo role in the Sex and the City movie by winning the SJP challenge this week? The Magic 8 Ball says, "Outlook good." There's always a chance this is a consolation for the speculation that the popular Jack will leave the show earlier than he should have (which we'll get to in a later week), but methinks this is a straight up reward for designing the best Bitten look on a budget. A movie cameo and placement in SJP's line should certainly be enough reward for the winner not to gain immunity as well, so look for this win to have only real world, not show world, benefit. My bold prediction: Jack will win this week's challenge.

And will his winning outfit magically appear on SJP's Bitten web site the moment the show is over?

The Magic 8 Ball says, "You may rely on it."


Anonymous,  November 21, 2007 at 1:09 PM  

Fabulous speculation, and I'm with you 100%...but there was ONE occasion when a Team Leader made the cut and a Worker Bee was sent packing instead. In a Season One episode, Austin was the team leader, Wendy and Vanessa were his team members and Vanessa was auffed (I can't even remember what the challenge was, but I remember Vanessa saying she didn't sew well, and that leading to her exit).

Gratz Industries November 21, 2007 at 1:13 PM  

That's right! I had completely forgotten that. She WAS axed--and was pretty bitter about it on the reunion show, if I recall. Something about that "diarrhea coming out of my mouth." Or do I have the wrong aufed contestant? Sometimes they do run together . . . :-)

Still, it's the project leaders who are them most at risk--but as you point out, not COMPLETELY.

Thanks for the comment!

Laura K November 21, 2007 at 1:28 PM  

I just received a promotional e-mail from Bravo about tonight's episode and it features a huge photo of Jack. Do you think they would have done that if he is tonight's winner? Or are they just trying to mess with our heads.....?

Anonymous,  November 21, 2007 at 1:39 PM  

There's one clue you didn't comment on that I think might mean something. You see Sweet P commenting to Elisa that she better make sure she has finished edges or she will get "stuck in a box where they don't think you finish your garments." It seems like often in past show previews, when a contestant makes those types of comments to another, it's often the person who made the comment that gets cut. It's just something I've noticed in the past. So I predict Sweet P will get the axe.

Gratz Industries November 21, 2007 at 1:46 PM  

Interesting! We'll see if that plays out. I've had no luck in trying to guess outcomes from the show's editing. I keep looking - and Tbone over on BPR made a great in-show guess that Simone would be aufed in Episode One based on the early editing - so I think there's something to this. I just haven't been able to see any patterns yet. They used to say that in the old Perry Mason lawyer dramas you could always peg who the killer was because that character was cut to at the same moment each episode. Probably apocryphal, but I often wonder if the producers of PR don't do something similar as an inside joke. My feeling has always been that we see a lot of a contestant in the first half if they're going to be aufed in the second half, but I'm not sure that really plays out. Thinking about last week's episode, I don't think that theory plays out. Simone got a bit of screen time, but no more or less than others, it seemed . . .

Gratz Industries November 21, 2007 at 1:49 PM  

@Laura K:

Jack's mug in a promotional e-mail for tonight's episode? Tell or tease?

Magic 8 Ball says, "Reply hazy. Try again."


Laura K November 21, 2007 at 2:05 PM  

Any suggestions for "best hair?"

Gratz Industries November 21, 2007 at 2:56 PM  

@Laura K:

Ouch. "Best hair" is kind of a crap shoot. Although I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that since this is a team competition, the "Worker Bee" will be the one sent off to the TreSemme hair salon with the model to allow the primary more time to finish the outfit. (Unless there are some micro-managing team leaders out there--and didn't we hear something about micro-managers in one of the season previews?) Anyhow, with the "Worker Bees" as my best guesses, I arbitrarily chose Kevin, figuring he was as likely as anyone!

Laura K November 21, 2007 at 4:18 PM  

Kevin won last week. His model, Katie, has gorgeous hair. But Kevin picks a new model for this challenge, Amanda. If Victorya is the leader for this challenge then perhaps they will use her model, Jess. Sweet P gets Katie.

Hmmmmm.... I wonder if a designer could be auf'd and still win for best hair.

I wonder who gets credit for the hair, the "leader" or the "worker bee." We'll have to watch what happens.

Tbone November 21, 2007 at 5:01 PM  

Excellent work here from Gratz Industries.

The one person we know won't be auf this week is Rami. He has immunity...

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