Project Runway 4: Episode 5 - Goodbye and Hello

>> Thursday, December 13, 2007

We've officially been scolded. A not-so-anonymous reader from Georgia has e-mailed us to tell us we're lagging behind on our recappage, so we'll get with it, saving the pics of the solstice tree we decorated and the house siding we put up this weekend for tomorrow. (Ahem.) So here it is, our recap of Episode 5--now with captions!

Last week we were sad to say goodbye to one of our favorite designers--Chris--especially when we thought Ricky's outfit was worse. This week though, we're even sadder. This week, another of our favorites had to say goodbye, and this time, it wasn't even due to his design skills.

The challenge began with a strange model silhouette on the runway--something like a Disney princess. Hey! Maybe they ran out of ideas and went for Rami's Week Two Snow White suggestion. But no, it's not a fairy princess, it's . . . a thin woman in an oversized wedding dress. Followed by lots of other women in big, baggy clothing. They're all women who've lost tons of weight. In fact, five of them have lost more than 100 pounds! 136, 102, 139, 160, 100 - the numbers are staggering. And so are some of those outfits, which we're told were their favorites before their dramatic weight loss. The challenge? Create a "beautiful new look using their favorite old clothes as the raw materials for the outfit."

Which one of these women has never been fat?

Kevin loves the challenge! Christian is going to die. Yes, Christian, designing for real, actual people might kill you. Fashion forfend you should have to design for someone besides a stick-figure runway model!

The designers are paired with their new models randomly--courtesy of the ye olde velveteen bag. Nobody wants the big white wedding dress, but it's first up. And the winner is . . . Steven! Congratulations, Steven! Is it too much to hope you'll do something creative with it? Probably. "It felt like death on a stick," he tells us. Interesting. Tell us more about how death may be thought to reside on a stick.

Some of the designers react with outright enthusiasm. Others can barely summon a smile. Yes, this is one of those challenges that will prove to be uncomfortable for a select few--namely, those designers with very little connection to the real world. And we can't go without pointing it out: Sweet P was selected last again randomly! This is at least three shows out of five we can think of where this has happened, perhaps every single time the velvet bad has been used this season. Correct us if we're wrong (and we know you will) but wasn't she last in the model selection in Week Two, last in the trend selection in Week Four, and last in this week's model selection? How is this possible? Is it a conspiracy? What are the odds?

Do not ask Sweet P to buy you a lottery ticket.

Seriously, what are the odds of Sweet P being drawn last in three straight draws? We did the math. Well, Wendi did the math. She's good at math and stuff. She thinks, if she remembers her high school statistics correctly (which she claims was exactly twenty years ago), that the odds of Sweet P being drawn last three straight times in a row are 1 in 1,848. Actual math experts are welcome to correct us (and we know you will), but that's pretty insane.

Enough P pity though. We're off to the workroom, where Chris' goodbye letter is read aloud. Odd, since we've seen other designers leave goodbye notes, and they've never gotten the same air time. (Remember that glimpse of Kayne's four-foot long dressform manifesto from Season Three?)

The models come in, and they're almost universally cool. We love the woman who holds up the tent she used to wear and tells Victorya, "You've got a lot to work with." Kevin and Elisa are excited to work with their models, Christian, not so much. Christian's model Kerry is awesome--she lays down the law. She doesn't wear this, this, this, and this. Christian is scared. Meanwhile over at the wedding dress table, Steven is lamenting the awful, cheap material he has to deal with. He's completely stumped--which is always a bad sign at this stage of the game.

"I like everything but the white material . . ."

Next we're off to Mood with 15 minutes to shop and a scant $10 to spend! That's two challenges where they've spent less than $20 at Mood. Maybe the producers shot their wad with that $15,000 worth of Mood fabrics in Week One?

Jillian is buying as much red as she can afford because her shirt had too many darts to cut up effectively. Steven is buying black--lots of black--and compounds his problem by deciding to make something black--with a white collar. No, Steven, no! We've seen Laura go down this route before, and we seem to remember she was one of the two people standing on the stage at the end of the episode, two words away from being auf'd. Don't go there, we cry! But he does.

Now back to Jack's situation. His nose and lip have been swelling since the beginning of the day, and it's getting worse. He puts a phone call in to his doctor, who tells him they're going to need a more aggressive treatment. Like a week in the hospital on an IV drip kind of aggressive. Now Jack has to decide--is there any possible way to continue being on the show, or does he have to withdraw?

Consider for a moment how difficult it is to even make this show. We joke around a lot about how this designer is awful or that one is mediocre, but the fifteen people who began the season were selected as the best candidates from thousands of applicants. Just to make the show is an accomplishment. To then see a designer have to voluntarily withdraw is heartbreaking. Jack has never been in the bottom three, and he's won one of the four previous challenges. Not to mention we think his Week One dress was pretty kickass, and really reflected his talent. Now he has to go, not because he sent something awful down the runway, not because he was a slacker, not because he didn't play well with others--but because he got sick. Totally not fair.

"Now see, what we don't want to do is make you look like a sailor. Or a hooker."

Tim arrives, and the decision is made. Jack will leave. There is a shocked, stunned silence in the workroom. Jack tells them he's had the best time of his life, and we believe him. Off he walks down the yellow workroom corridor and . . . he's gone. Wait, he's gone? Already? That's it? Certainly there was much more to it than that, but here it is not fifteen minutes into the show, and Jack's already gone. After a week of teasers--no, check that, a full season of teasers telling us the most shocking. thing. ever. is going to happen on Project Runway, and that's all the screen time it gets?

Here at last was real drama. Not the artificial kind generated by throwing ego-tripping designers into teams, not the kind cultivated by making designers work with recycled materials or produce. This was a real, honest-to-goodness real life drama, and you blink and you miss it? Doesn't Jack deserve more than this? Heck, even the weekly challenge losers get more face time than Jack did here. Yes, it looks like they brought him back after he was well again for one more interview, but this all just seems too brusque. Besides, we also liked what he was doing on that dress form this episode and wanted to see what it was going to look like!

"I'm baaaaaack . . ."

All this is made more awkward by the next big surprise, which we get after the commercial break. Chris is back! Yay! One of favorites is brought back to replace Jack. Wait. Replace him? Yep, that's exactly what they've done. So long Jack, nice knowing you, hello Chris! Yes, getting Chris back did help to raise our spirits and the spirits of the contestants, but it feels like a pretty swift dismissal of Jack--who is also, it happens, clearly a superior designer. Tim said Chris' return was to "keep the level of competition high." This is the company line, of course. The real reason has to be that they've sold a certain number of episodes they've got to fulfill with a certain number of aufings--and that means we need a fresh body.

We're going to get all sci-fi geek on you now. This feels vaguely reminiscent of when Terry Farrell left Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and her character, Jadzia Dax, was replaced immediately with Ezri Dax. Not only was she replaced, she was almost edited out of existence. Terry Farrell wanted to do movies and other shows, and the producers were so unhappy with her departure they practically excised her from the continuity. The character never appeared in a single flashback or montage after she left, despite the fact that she had been a significant part of Worf's life--and ours!--for six seasons. Six of seven seasons, and in the two-part finale Jadzia doesn't appear in a single one of the many flashbacks. Pathetic.

Now back to fashion geekery. We are glad to have Chris back, we suppose; we're just not happy to have Jack disappear so quickly. If it weren't for the numbers, we think it would have been better to just see the rest of the contestants finish Jack's outfit for him. But we digress.

Back in the workroom after the break, the designers confess to having trouble with their emotions. Steven throws down his chalk marker. He's so pissed about Jack leaving! Or maybe his awful dress. No, let's say it was about Jack leaving.

Ricky parades around in front of a mirror wearing his model's jeans inside out with heels. Wha-huh? "I just wanted to see how they looked." Right, Ricky. Whatever.

Now contestants, be troubled no longer! Chris is back to a round of applause. Clearly he was a contestant favorite. Is there anybody this group doesn't like? Maybe Ricky. Or Christian. But there's no Wendy here, no Angela, no Santino. (Wendy disputes the vilification of Santino; Alan thinks the other designers of Season Two were laughing, but ready to run him through with shears.) Still, this seems like a group of life boat survivors, all pitching in to make it as long as they can together. The question is, when will they start eating each other?

To get him caught up, Chris is allowed to work through the night. He's happy to be back, but nervous. He likes the challenge, as he himself has been on "every weight loss program known to man," and claims to have lost 1,500 pounds. Jeez, Chris, just how big WERE you? Oh, you mean you gained and lost all that over and over. We get it.

The models are brought in, and they're clearly excited about this. Why shouldn't they be? This has to be the biggest feel-good challenge since what, the mothers and sisters episode in Season Three? No, the dog episode from Season Three. The mothers/sisters episode mojo was ruined by the Jeffrey/Angela nonsense.

Christian's at work on something fierce for his model, who likes what she sees. Christian wants to put padding in her pants to give her some ass, even though he admits: "I'm not a miracle worker, lady. I can't make you have an ass!" You know Christian, you may think she wants an ass, but to someone who's just lost all that weight, hearing she doesn't have a fat ass is a compliment. You can put the padding back in your pants.

Meanwhile, Steven's model is wondering what happened to her wedding dress. "Black is what I do," Steven tells her. Bad luck for her then, because her white wedding dress is sitting unused in the corner. Chris says he would have loved to have the wedding dress--and we would have loved to see what he could do with it. Unfortunately it fell to the unimaginative Steven. Kit tries on the wedding dress for fun, and says she feels like the Corpse Bride. Love the Burton reference, Kit! And yeah, you kinda do look like the Corpse Bride.

Enter Tim to review the troops. To Christian, he asks, "How fierce is it?" Ha! Is that a blush we see on Christian's face? Could he be embarrassed? He recovers quickly though, quoting himself right back: "Yeah, it's kind of a big deal." Points to Christian for a little self-deprecation. But if you thought Christian was just a shallow waif, don't worry--he'll revert to form soon enough when Chris and Sweet P go at him.

In the meantime, Tim is worried about Elisa's dress. It's too much her, and not enough her client. Hmm. Will we hear this again on the runway? You know we will. Tim warns her to clean it up, but she listens about as well as she did Week One when she sent that train wreck down the runway.

Over at Steven's table, Sherlock Tim goes in search of the missing white wedding dress. Where is it in the design? "I just don't do white polyester satin," Steven says. Um, yes, but you have to. That's the challenge. "If Nina starts giving me trouble," Steven says, I swear . . ." You swear what, Steven? You'll bitch-slap her? You'll curse out? You were doing a Santino impersonation before, can you do one on the runway and tell Nina off to her face? We don't think so. She will crush you. If Nina starts giving you trouble, we swear you'll be out.

The Nina is not amused.

Next up: Chris's sailor-inspired hooker outfit, er, everyday woman dress. Tim warns him to avoid the costume trap. "No, yeah, I get it," Chris says, tooting his ship's horn and sailing right on in. Tim's advice: Make as many decisions as you can now, not later tonight. Then follows perhaps the best Tim on camera moment since he asked Santino about the rumors he and Andrae were going to Red Lobster together:

Tim: "I've made more bad decisions at 3 o'clock in the morning than I can list."

[Chris snickers. Kevin laughs. The room breaks up.]

Steven: "We want names!"

Tim: [embarrassed] "I really am an old fart, my brain didn't even go there."

Chris: "Are you coming back at four?"

Tim: "I just may, after I've made my bad three o'clock decision."

Ah yes, even the unflappable Tim Gunn has made the bad late night/early morning decision, and we don't think he's talking about signing up for trucker school or ordering one of those damn Marie Osmond dolls off QVC. (A guy Wendi went to graduate school with actually did drop out of his PhD work to become a truck driver--and earned more than he would have as a German professor.) Dare we say "too much information, Tim?" No, no, it's priceless.

Tim leaves, work continues, Christian finishes! And we're treated to the second great conversation of the episode:

Sweet P: "Still wondering if it's legal to kill a twelve year old."

Christian thinks, "Ha-ha! The old lady is funny! This is good-natured fun!"

Chris: "You're gonna have to wait until he turns twelve."

Christian thinks, "Wait, are they making fun of me?"

Christian: "Don't these bitches know I'm way better than they are?"

And thus all the humor is summarily sucked from the workroom.

The evening ends, and Chris is left alone to make whatever bad decisions he's going to make at 3 a.m.--but at least he'll be making them alone. Chris tells us he doesn't want to get eliminated twice in a row, but dang, Chris, it ain't looking good honey.

Day of Elimination:

Check out the quick glimpse of Jillian in those rocking white sunglasses! Somebody call Robert Best--Jillian can help him update that Jackie O. look he's still working on!

The slumbering giant is roused from the couch after just two hours of sleep. "Did I even make anything?" Chris asks. "Did this even happen? Was it all a dream? Sue Ellen was there, and J.R. was shot, and everyone was wearing these totally awesome shoulder pads . . ." No, Chris. It wasn't a dream. You made a prostitute sailor outfit last night. Oh, and the shoulder pads really did happen.

Roxanne, you don't have to put on a red light--that sash will do just as well.

Christian and Kit show some form of mental telepathy by communicating with "mmmhmms."

Steven hasn't finished his dress? What was so complicated? Perhaps it was all that time he spent bitching and moaning. And what's that he's running around looking for? White thread! Because, you know, he hasn't sewn anything white on that dress yet.

Ricky to his model: "You're not used to wearing pants this tight are you?" No. Ricky: "I am." All right. Tim's admission was fun, but this really is too much information.

There's Jillian's red outfit. And it has . . . um, well, it has black piping from the original pants. But she's neglected to use anything else. The other contestants look on warily.

"Your old fat girl clothes were so bad I had to burn them."

Christian thinks his outfit is one of the best - what a surprise!

Chris' outfit looks . . . ouch.

Christian identifies the bottom three, in his humble opinion: Elisa, Chris, Steven. Did he say catty about all the other contestants, and the editors just picked those three comments? Or has he really just predicted what will prove to be the losers' bracket in one quick scan of the room?

In the TreSemme hair salon, Steven asks for "Something 'French.'" Here's something French for you, Steven: faux pas.

And Ricky cries! He's back! He cries with his model and in the interview! Oh Ricky, we thought you'd straightened up. Nope, still gay.

"Nina is rubber and my outfit is glue . . . no, wait, that's not right--"

Cool moment of the episode: Kevin comes over to help Steven. We like that, when people help others in need. It gives us a warm fuzzy. Steven's running around like a fool. He's GLUING! His model looks VERY nervous. Steven: "I'm pretty sick to my stomach." So are we, Steven, from looking at that dress. Tim makes his laast call for Steve. Even cold-hearted Victorya is helping--her heart grew three sizes that day! She's sewing on Steven's French maid collar for him as the model walks out the door.

The runway:

Michael Kors thinks about switch-hitting.

Is Heidi wearing an Uli design? Looks like it, and it looks good. Don't like the straight hair though.

On to our runway reactions:

Sweet P's outfit is cute.

Wendi likes Jillian's, but thinks she should be in the bottom for not using the shirt. Can she not have used the shirt for the bodice? Alan doesn't like the whole dress. He thinks it makes her look fat, which kind of defeats the purpose.

We hate to say it, but Ricky's is good. It looked a little Jersey Shore, but his model clearly liked it, so he got that right.

Chris: Remember what Tim said about staying away from the costume trap? You fell in, hard. The sash, the godet . . . the choker! Oh Chris, that choker just screamed hooker when combined with that horrible sash.

Christian's: Awesome. He toned down his usual puffy sleeves, and the black on black pleating was great. A bit of a shine separated it from the matte black of the shirt. For a client who only wanted black, he did a great job. It looked like his work and fit her needs. And here he had bitched about this challenge! He gets his points back after the catty remark to Chris and Sweet P.

Victorya: eh.

Elisa is excited about her model's wild side, talks about layers, but we don't like it. Neither will the judges.

Kit's is too girly. She's an adult, not a girl.

Kevin's: Terrific. The woman is CLEARLY excited about it. He calls her a "Charlie's Angel," and she's certainly walking like she's Farrah Fawcett. We can't believe he made that great top from a blazer. Kevin's stock is back up. But will it beat Christian's outfit? Wendi thinks a skirt, not leggings, might have put him over the top.

Steven is not confident. "Slapped together with glue and a prayer," he says. "Ick," we say.

Rami: Okay. Nothing special. His model's working it though, which always helps.

Now for the judging! Kept on the runway are Steve, Christian, Chris, Kevin, Jillian, Elisa. Everyone else is safe.

The judges love Kevin's with minor quibbles. They don't like the leggings. "Yeah, I was thinking that!" Kevin says. Kevin is always "I was thinking that" when criticized - remember the pin in the Tiki vest? Still, good show.

Elisa is a deer caught in the headlights. Kors thinks it's choppy, Nina thinks it's too much Elisa and not enough her client.

On to Jillian. Heidi points out this dress wasn't made from the original red shirt, using only the black pants as piping. Why don't they nail her for this? Nina brings it up--but lets her off the hook. We're shocked. Maybe it was edited out, but she's still among the top three, not the bottom three. This dress doesn't seem to play by the rules, but they let it go because they like it so much. Kors: Good looking without being all "hoochy momma."

Steven, where's the wedding dress? Um, in the pearls, neckline and cuffs. None of judges are impressed. Kors says he's speechless. Nina says we've gone from a wedding to a funeral. Why black? Looks like a French maid, she says, stealing Kors' line from that awful Laura Bennett dress in the Season Three couture challenge. Kors regains his catty faculties and his power of speech is restored: "It looks like a French maid at a funeral!" he says, one-upping Nina for stealing his joke. (He works hard on these, people. Those note cards he's holding aren't really his scores for the dresses--they're the lines he thought up in the shower that morning. "Oh! How about, "A little too Shirley MacLaine / hooker with a heart of gold! I'll be able to use that one sometime.")

For Christian they have high praise. Finally his overweening attitude is vindicated! Oh gosh, let's hope he doesn't get a big head over this. Kors give him the ultimate compliment he can: "It's super commercial." We laugh and wonder, does Christian take that as a compliment or a slam? We're inclined to think the latter.

"You are so fiercing that fierceness it's fiercing fierce."

On to Chris. You were up all night, right? Heidi asks. You can almost hear the rest of that unspoken question: "You were up all night, and this is what you bring us? This Schei├če?" (You'll have to look that one up.) The sash. They want to know about that sassy sash. Chris says that's the fabric he bought--oh, they sent him to Mood too? Interesting. Kors studies the outfit and snaps his fingers. Where was that line he wrote down this morning . . . ? There it is! "A little too Shirley MacLaine, hooker with a heart of gold," he tells Chris. Kapow. Score one for the Korsican. Unfortunately for Chris, he's right.

We go to break. Who will be in, and who will be auf'd? We don't care right now--there's another one of those cute Juno commercials on! We want to see that. Hey, these movies do so well, somebody ought to write witty, socially-conscious books about teenagers. Like, books for and about . . . young adults. They could fill a whole section with them! Why isn't anybody doing this? We'll have to pass that idea along to a couple of writers we know.

But we digress.

In the Bravo fan voting (which costs 99 cents! which is why we don't vote!) Daniel Vosovic is the person more voters want to see return for an episode of Project Runway. Santino Rice comes in a distant second, followed even more distantly by Laura Bennett and Jay McCarroll. Wait, Daniel won? We liked him all right, but we'd much rather see Nick Verreos back, and he wasn't in the list! We were guessing everyone would say Santino just because he makes good TV. But the real stunner here is that anybody would want Laura Bennett back. She was so petty and mean! You know, you can have all the style in the world and still be an ugly person. And no, we're not talking about how you could see all of her 24 ribs in those scoop-neck dresses, but that didn't help. And poor Jay, long-lost and forgotten Jay from Season One. We haven't forgotten you, Jay! We still think your runway collection was the best from any season, and we totally would have voted for you if we weren't horribly cheap and jaded. But we think you'd appreciate those qualities.

But we digress. Again.

Jillian is in, which means she wins third place. Now for the winner: Christian! He was finally RIGHT about his outfit. Kevin is clearly--perhaps rightfully--bummed. Christian will have immunity next week, which means we're in for at least two more episodes of fierce design. And things are getting tighter around the runway, so having immunity at this stage in the game is a good thing. "Winning is great," Christian tells us. "You know, it's like way better than losing!" (Oh wait, he didn't say that. We're channeling Eighties movies again.) Instead he tells us, "Maybe I could be a commercial designer!" Hmm. Is Kors getting to him, or is he using sarcasm here? Is Christian even capable of sarcasm?

Kevin, you're in, with a rare "good job" from Heidi, meaning this was a really close decision. Still, horseshoes and hand grenades, Kevin. You win top loser.

Now for the real losers! Chris, you're in. You're third worst. Did you get a little bit of a pass because you came in so late? Well, if it had been closer we'd think so, but what's left isn't looking much better. As Chris is dismissed, we want to add, "And no more costumes!" though we're not sure it would get through anyway.

We're down to Steven and Elisa. Heidi to Elisa: "Your look was more about you than your client. Too many layers. Too much." Heidi to Steve: "You turned a joyful wedding dress into something we think a French maid would wear. Boring and cliche." (Ouch--boring and cliche, two words you do not want to hear on the runway. But least it didn't "leave us sad," the way Marion's Week Two aufage did.)

And, drumroll please . . . Steven, you're out. Wow. No surprise there. Elisa, that means you're in. Elisa looks around like she's not sure what just happened. It means you get to talk trippy and hand-sew more stretch fabrics tomorrow, dear. Now run along. Seriously, I think Elisa spends part of her time on another plane of existence, and just phases back into our own dimension every few minutes. "Wait, where am I? On some kind of runway? I was just in a Rigelian tea house discussing space haiku with a higher-level being from the Crab Nebula. What do you mean I'm 'in.' In what?"

Back in the holding cell with the Pier One partition screens, Steven is gracious, giving "please don't touch me too much" hugs to the other designers. "Just because the judges don't like it doesn't mean it's awful," he tells us in his exit interview. No, you're right, Steven. That doesn't mean it's awful. But it is.

"Forget sexy--I'm bringing pastel polo shirts back."

In another clip from his exit interview, Steven chokes back the tears. "I don't know if I'm going to go become some kind of crazy Great Garbo-esque recluse." We bet he won't but it's hard in these moments to be too catty. Like we said before with Jack, imagine the odds Steven had to overcome just to get here, only to see the highlight of his life so far come to a screeching halt. Crying is permissible in the exit interview.

And speaking of talented designers beating the odds and making the show only to have the rug yanked out from under them, we note that Jack doesn't rate the same kind of face time as Steven at the end of this episode. Does aufing yourself mean you don't get an exit interview? Is this like a Catholic church/no Christian burial for suicides thing? It's not like he wanted to leave. It's like when they put Riker and Troi in the series finale of Enterprise and they got more face time than the regular cast and crew from the show . . .

But we're geeking out again.

No episode next week--or the week afterward! Bravo, what are you doing to us!? In the meantime, we'll be posting a not-quite-half-way-there look back at our pre-season Project Runway rankings to see how we did and re-evaluate the front runners. (Yes, we'll be rethinking Elisa at Bryant Park and Carmen in fourth place.) Look for that before our preview of Episode Six: Eye Candy. For that we'll have to wait until 2008!

[And check this out--Jack Mackenroth knows who we are! All the best, Jack!]

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