Friday, December 2, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E11 "Bold Innovation"

While Forest Gump's mother was explaining to him about chocolates, my mother was expressing to me  the importance of not fixing something that ain't broke. If one thing's clear after 15 seasons, Project Runway has taken that advice and run with it. Here's a show that's so in love with its own formula that it won't even try and shake things up after a week's hiatus. And rightfully so since its a formula that tends to work more than not, but it doesn't make for exceptionally exciting viewing.

The last time we were together, I was complaining about this very thing: the lack of personality, the lack of story being told. But last time the episode had that surprising ending to rely on. This week we aren't so lucky.

The Challenge

In the episode's defense, this week they were planning on the challenge itself bringing all of the drama needed. It's the typical avant garde challenge for Project Runway, but this year they've added the twist of using unconventional materials.

Remember all of those times towards the front of the season when I complained about them trying to cram way too much into each challenge. Well here they go again with that. First off, it's a problem that our second unconventional materials challenge comes in the 11th episode. Unconventional materials is as integral to the PR fabric as actual fabric is, so why skimp on those challenges this go around? Secondly, isn't the avant garde challenge generally big enough and exciting enough not to need the bump of unconventional materials?

I'll give the producers this much credit: the avant garde challenge shouldn't ever come any earlier or later than the top six. Generally speaking, I don't think the talent level is paired down enough before this point to have a really good runway show. After the top 6, the stakes are just too high, and you risk forming your top four on a fluke gimmick challenge. So kudos on the placement of the episode, but they could have had better execution on the finer points.

The rest of the episode is about what you'd expect. The longer run time mixed with the smaller group number means we spend more than enough time with each designer talking about their concepts. We see them working with the metal in unique ways, but since they have two days for this challenge, nothing really comes together until the second day.

There is an example of solid and consistent storytelling here. Erin wastes her first day on creating these weird applique things. Mah-Jing tells her she's using the wrong glue and it's not going to do what she wants when it dries, but she ignores him. The next day he's proven right, her flower things are unusable, and she looks screwed. It's solid storytelling because we've seen this tendency from her multiple times before. The way she'll spend all of her time on one little thing and the rest of the look will suffer because of it. But if you expected this to translate to something major down the road, we'll circle back around to it at the end.

Since there's nothing particularly exciting in this episode, allow me to take the time to talk about something PR has always done and that I've never really cared for. All of the confessional moments in which the contestants talk about the other designs. I've never cared one bit about what these people think about the competition's work. Very rarely, if ever, are their comments reflected by the judges. Most often their positions are colored by general dislike of one another or the sheer fact that they're in competition with each other. So why do we have to spend so much time listening to them dis on each other's looks? This is one of those moments where the time could better be spent elsewhere. But I digress.

The Runway

Cornelius: I've got to say, I'm impressed with the finished product. I think the tube placement is a little suspect to be sure, but there's something to look at. The color is a great addition, and the fabric he chose is very chic. It conveys his vision well, so I think he pulled this out. 

Mah-Jing: I think I hate it, but at the very least I certainly don't get it. It looks like a simple dress on to which he glued, or sewed a lot of wire crap. The asymmetry of the wire pieces on the back may have been purposeful, but it certainly doesn't look like it. And it's so obvious she can't walk without her hands holding the damn dress up. No good. 

Rik: I love this and it's totally wrong for this challenge. To be fair, I love it more from the front than from the back. The metal piece on the back looks like a weird cape or reverse bib thing. From the front it's chic and cool, and it's like he said: wearable. But how wearable should an avant garde look be? If this were just an unconventional materials challenge, I'd have him down for the win, but as an avant garde challenge, it just doesn't go far enough. 

Erin: Yeah ok. I like it. But I hate her, so it's hard for me to like it. The top is the only thing about it that's unconventional, but the entire top is unconventional, so I think that's a good mix. It's risky and certainly out there in a way that I think says avant garde. And I'll commend her for making pants instead of a dress. All in all I'm more impressed than I wish I was. 

Laurence: I don't think the length is really the problem here, the problem is she created a lovely little black dress, but that's it. She needed to take this way farther. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it well made? Certainly, Is it right for this challenge? Not even remotely. 

Roberi: I think the statement piece of the mask sales this for me. It puts the entire thing over the top, but I wonder if the judges will think it makes it all too costume-y. I hope not because I love this. It's shape and sleekness, it's all way more sexy than sheets of metal should be.  

Judgement

The judges are at least all in agreement that there was something to enjoy about each of the pieces on the runway. Which is exactly why you save this challenge for the top six. Ultimately, it's Roberi, Rik, and Erin in the top, Mah-Jing and Cornelius in the bottom, and Laurence just kind of oddly in the middle. 

Mostly the judges think Laurence should have worked in some color other than black this time around. They like what she does, and that's understandable, but they're ready to see a little more from her. For my money, I thought the same thing on this challenge but not about the color. I thought she could have made her typical shoulders but then just made them bigger and more exaggerated and that would have been a fun way to go. Either way it seems like she hears the criticism and we can expect new things from her in the last challenge before NYFW.

One clear theme of the judging is how well incorporated the materials are. Rik and Roberi are commended because their metals and their fabric blend so well together. Rik in particular isn't hit nearly enough for the look being subtle. Heidi points out that avant garde doesn't have to mean unwearable, so that goes to show you how much I know. 

Mah-Jing and Cornelius on the other hand, not so much. About Mah-Jing's look, Nina says his unconventional materals aren't anything more than decoration. They're more split on Cornelius' look which they certainly find disturbing, which is what he was going for. But again the issue of incorporation is brought up and Nina thinks it's a rather cliche vision of the future. Heidi seems to like it more than the others and claims that fashion should be provocative. 

Erin's look they love. The color pops on a muted runway, they like it that she made pants, Heidi of course loves the amount of skin shown, and they all think her top is interesting. Zac points out that she should have thought about what it would look like from the back a little more, but that's really the only negative comment. So for all of the groundwork laid earlier in the episode about her poor time management, Erin actually ends up the winner of the challenge. I guess there's an arc there to be noticed, but the foundation was one where you expected her to crash and burn. You expected her to waste time for the last time and pay the price, but that wasn't the story at all. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I do know that PR could really take some time to sure up its storylines a little more. But then again, I think I've been saying that for years now. 

Mah-Jing loses and it's honestly the only realistic choice. He hasn't been long for this world for awhile now, but as everyone's quick to point out, it's kind of amazing he even made it this far so cheers. It's been pointed out in the comments that it's hard to really be excited for the talent level this season. Of the five contestants left, the only person who consistently makes you get up out of your seat is Laurence. While, on the one hand, I think that makes her a shoe in for the win this season, it also makes for an interesting situation in which everyone else is pretty evenly matched. Whether that makes you excited for the show at NYFW or just bored with it is a personal choice. For my money, I'm assuming there won't necessarily be a bad collection this year, and that's kind of exciting. 

Loose Threads

--I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving! I celebrated it with friends in Italy (a few days in Rome and then the last bit, including the holiday, in Florence) and it was fantastic! Trying to cobble together Thanksgiving day ingredients from Italian markets when you don't speak the language was a lot of fun, and dinner actually turned out perfect. I wish I had just stayed there, but here I am, ready to keep writing for you guys. 

--Allow me to be clear when I say I don't think there will be a bad collection at NYFW it's because I expect Cornelius to go home next week. I may not love Erin and Roberi's aesthetics, but I do trust them to put out solid and interesting collections. 

--The Mood section of the episode is heavy on the Swatch and that's always the right choice. I like it when he's all rambunctious and adorable. 

--Mah-Jing is a sweetheart, but I couldn't have been the only person thinking they wished he'd just shut the fuck up and go home already. He has more to say on the runway and in the greenroom after being auf'd than anyone in the history of the show.

--I think I saw the first preview of Project Runway JR this week, and I couldn't be more excited. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E10 "A Power Trip"

After a couple years of writing these reviews, I'm going to take this moment to try and get a little personal information out of you guys. Namely, I want to know how many of you smoke pot? More specifically, how many of you smoke pot while watching Project Runway? Does it make the experience better? I do not smoke pot often, I certainly don't smoke it while watching and reviewing this show, but this week's episode made me really rethink that particular life choice.

While I don't think that this season's failings are as horrible as some of the show's lowest low points in the past, I do still think this season is failing overall. Some part of it is the sheer lack of personality. We've been complaining about that all season long, and there's certainly nothing that can be done about it this late in the game. But on an episode like this, the problem isn't actually with the contestants, its with the editors knowing nothing about telling a long form story.

The Challenge

First the particulars: this week sees the Marie Claire challenge. Dexter is quick to point out that he's already won a Marie Claire fashion shoot, so I fail to see what makes this challenge special. It's about designing an editorial look for a powerful woman. To get in the mood, everyone gets a helicopter ride over New York, but let's be honest, that didn't matter in the slightest. 

So where'd this episode ultimately fail? It was pretty much meant to be the story of Nathalia's breakdown. From the start, it's pretty clear Nathalia is getting the main edit. Savvy viewers know that that typically means she's either going to win or go home. That fact isn't really a problem, it's been the way of things since the beginning of time on this show. But so much of Nat's unraveling is viewed through the lens of "Jenni is gone, and now Nathalia doesn't know what to do."

I'll be the first to admit that even with weekly viewings and writeups of this show, I miss things. I watch with such a fine toothed comb looking to tease out major moments and themes that sometimes the smaller things can fall by the wayside. But can someone honestly tell me about one time in the past ten episodes that we saw this particular relationship playing out?

This has been something I've complained about with PR in the past. If you know you've got a full season to edit, and I can't help but to assume that a lot of the editing takes place well after most of the season has been shot, then how can you not start crafting narratives sooner? So often it feels like the editors are grasping at straws on what will or won't pan out in the future. So we get extended segments about Jenni's laugh, but nothing ever comes from it other than people repeating that they find it charming. Instead, they could have focused on her relationship with Nathalia and all of this would have had more weight. Imagine how much more stressful last week's elimination would have been if we'd known about their dynamic. For that fact, imagine if it had been Nat and Cornelius up there in the bottom two. While their friendship hasn't been as front and center as Erin and Dexter's has, the fact that they have a relationship is obvious and has been talked about in the past.

All in all, this was a swing and a miss for PR. They built the episode on a faulty foundation. A foundation that's only faulty because they did nothing at all to stabilize it prior to putting it into effect. And just when I was ready to throw the entire episode out with the bath water, the ending happened. 

The Runway

Dexter: Again, do I hate this or do I just hate him? I honestly can't tell anymore. It's the same damn shoulders we've seen from him before, and they're even less flattering this time. I guess the look says powerful woman in the "Mysterious lady of the evening" way, but I don't think that's ever what the Marie Claire challenge is looking for. All in all, I simply don't see the point of this. 

Nathalia: I don't want to be too hard on this because it's actually not as bad as I expected it to be on the dress form. However, that doesn't mean it isn't bad. I think the biggest problem here is that it seems like it wants to be a costume, but it didn't go far enough to actually be a costume. It reminds me of a super hero who is trying to change out of their business wear and into their costume but got stuck halfway. 

Roberi: Remember what I said last week about hating mixing patterns? Forget it because I was clearly insane. I don't love this or anything, but this strikes me as the way to mix patterns successfully. That whole thing looks like it goes together, and the movement is really spectacular. Roberi continues to be squarely in the middle for me: I neither love nor hate the things he produces, but I totally understand why others would praise him. 

Mah-Jing: When the look stands at the end of the runway and all we get is that long shot of it, I hate it. It looks messy and haphazard, but when the camera zooms in and we can see it in more detail, I actually really like it. I wonder if there are more subtle construction issues with some of those denim cutouts, but if not, then kudos to him. It's two weeks in a row that I've enjoyed Mah-Jing's looks. 

Cornelius: I'll say this for it: I really love the concept. I think the construction is spoton. I like the pop of color patches, but I think they're the wrong colors. And I think the one on the butt cheek looks silly and out of place. I think if he could rethink the color palette of the entire outfit, it would be a lot better. But with that being said, I don't think it's horrible. 

Laurence: Last week I complained that Laurence's look for her daughter didn't show enough skin, and what do we get this week? Open back! And it's perfect. This is also a departure for Laurence. She still uses leather, but there's no jacket, and she uses a print on the skirt, and all of it really works for me. It's all a little too distressed in places to feel like something someone would really wear to work, but it does look editorial. Love it!

Erin: Cute is the word for this. And Cute is a good word, I don't want to knock cute, but cute is not the word that should be used for looks in this challenge. While this is surely a step up from what she had in the workroom, in the end it's just a cute (and really simple and under-designed) dress with a lot of sparkle. 

Rik: Someone, I think it was Dexter, pointed out that the back of Rik's dress shouldn't have just been simple white, and I'm going to agree with him. The dress is really striking and unique when you watch it walk, but then she turns around and it put me in mind of a very cumbersome smock an artist would wear while she's painting. Sadly, that brings the entire look down a few notches. If he'd just done the entire look in a kind of wrap in that fabric, I think it would have been much better. 

Judgement

Here's an odd thing about the blind runway show: I wonder if the judges had known before hand that Laurence's look belonged to her, would they have kept her around to talk to her more? This is one point in which her departure meant that she should have been either complimented or chastised for going away from what she knows and does best, but on the simple merits of the dress alone, they didn't love it or hate it enough to keep it on the runway. That's interesting. 

The top and bottom is a bit of a mixed bag this week. Mah-Jing, Cornelius, and Erin are in the top, but the judges are lukewarm on Erin. Dexter, Nathalia, and Rik are in the bottom, but Rik is about even too. They like the front of his dress but ultimately think the entire thing is unfinished because the back is such a let down. That's everyone except the editor of Marie Claire who loves the entire thing and admits it's her favorite. 

The real surprise, at least for me, is how much they love Cornelius' dress. It's probably the best thing he's done in awhile, but only one of the judges points out that it's not as editorial as some of the other looks. Heidi loves it and wants to wear it. Nina calls it powerful, which I honestly don't see. They all love how well constructed it is, and that at least makes sense to me. I may not love it as much as they do, but I can't fault them either. 

Dexter's look they hate though. The shoulder pads are called gimmicks, and Heidi and Nina are quick to point out that we've seen them before. Nina in particular says that the only manner in which they worked last time, to the extent that they can be said to have worked at all, is due to the element of surprise. But now that he's spent that, it's just a bore. The shoulders also aren't as well constructed as they were before, and Heidi points out that he didn't get a good review the last time he sent them down, so why send them down again? Dexter tries to sell it as "Well some of the other designers have also tried to establish their own aesthetic" but no one's dumb enough to buy that. 

The strong edit for Nathalia is revealed to be a bottom edit. The word costume is thrown around multiple times, and while Heidi likes the fit of the pants, Zac takes issue with the overall poor construction. 

After the closer look, which we'll talk about a little more in a minute, Heidi issues the dreaded pronouncement that "one or more of you will be out." The double elimination isn't really automatic after the Tim Gunn save. I tend to think that they budget for it in overall season length when planning everything out. So unlike other shows where a lack of an elimination means the only choice is to get rid of two contestants to stay on schedule, PR seems to be able to work around it. But the double elimination is always a fun and shocking tool, and I wish they'd use it more often. 

Cornelius racks up his first win of the season and seems to justify Tim saving him. From there, it's a quick offering of safety for Rik, and an out for Nathalia, but Dexter hangs around on the runway. If you're anything like me, then you noticed that before naming a winner, Heidi said one or more of you, but after ushering off the top three looks, she said "one of you." I was very disappointed at this point and assumed the double elimination was off the table. And when Rik was named safe, I thought that that proved my suspicions. So when Dexter is the last person on the runway, I thought the judges were just going to scold him some more. I thought that because of the closer look at the garments, 

You see, it's brought to light while the judges are looking over the clothes that Dexter didn't even design the undies his model is wearing. So in truth, if it hadn't been for her own contribution, he would have sent a naked model down the runway in a boring lace dress and an ugly jacket. I thought he'd get a stern talking to for being so lazy. But instead, Heidi just looks at him and says, "You're out!" and I honestly gasped and did a happy dance. 

While I don't think the simple lace dress he designed was ugly, I do think Dexter deserved to be out here. There's no design element to that lace dress; the fabric does all the heavy lifting. And not giving her something to wear underneath it smacks of laziness. This is not an acceptable point in the competition to be lazy and under-design a look. All of that is my way of saying that I think Dexter was going to make it through this week until the moment Tim told the judges he had nothing to do with the lingerie. The knowledge that he was only a step away from sending a naked woman down the runway sealed his fate. And then there were six. 

Loose Threads

--In my One Way Monkey write up, I admitted how sweet it would be if Laurence won on the challenge when Erin is sent home, but I have to admit that Cornelius getting his first win when Dexter gets Auf is equally awesome. 

--Also, while I don't love Cornelius, kudos to him for being more gracious in victory than Dexter was the week Tim had to save him. I never thought I'd call Cornelius the bigger man, but here we are. 

--While I am happy for Dexter to be going home, I will say it's quite surprising in that Nathalia feels like a legit culling of dead weight, but Dexter feels more like a surprise or dramatic shakeup kind of Auf.

--Other people are claiming that Erin's righted the ship, but I'll personally believe that when I see it. If she's not out on the next episode, I'd be a little surprised.

--At one point during her meltdown, Nathalia remarks "I didn't think that the competition would be this difficult." Bitch, this is Project Runway, what the fuck did you expect? A walk through the fucking park?

--After this week, my top four would be Laurence, Rik, Mah-Jing, and Roberi. But the truth is that I don't know what anyone will do going forward. Tim having saved Cornelius throws things off because I do tend to think that the judges are loath to get rid of someone after Tim's saved them. And Mah-Jing and Roberi can't be seen as anything other than wild cards. Mah-Jing's come on in the last two challenges, and that feels like a "getting hot at the right time" story, but if he regresses to the mean next challenge, I think he could easily be off. And if I'm wrong and Erin really has course corrected, then she'll sail right into the finale. It's not often that I say this and mean it in regards to PR, but I think it really is anyone's ball game. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E9 "Life is Full of Surprises"

I've been watching and writing about this show for a long time. It's not often that an episode leaves me not knowing what to say. I know what I want to say going forward, but I don't know where to start--how to really sum up the major point of the episode or remark on its ultimate place in the grand scheme of the show. That's just a long way of saying that this week's episode isn't as good or interesting as last week's. In the wake of Cornelius' save and Dexter and Erin's evil, you'd think we'd see more fireworks, but aside from the opening moments which check in with all three of those designers, the episode is free of anger. It's not lite on emotion though.

The Challenge

The pathos comes from the reveal that loved ones are playing a part in this challenge. The AARP challenge sees the designers' mothers, friends, and family serving as clients and models. In what has become the norm for this season, this challenge just piles it all on. There's family, designing for a real woman, clients, and $50,000 in prize money. The winning designer and their loved one each get $25,000 from AARP. It's a staggering amount, and it adds an interesting element to the everyday woman challenge. 

PR has gotten this challenge wrong in so many ways for so long. With designers either openly or covertly calling their clients fat, telling regular women that they need makeovers, and just generally being shitty to people. The moment mothers made their way into the workroom, I can't be the only one to have been transported to a cringing moment in Season 3 with eventual winner Jeffery making another contestant's mother cry, right? But if there's one thing I feel somewhat confident in saying about this show it's that they do tend to learn from their mistakes. So this time around designers are paired with their own loved ones to avoid those kinds of hurt feelings, and to top it all off the loved ones have a shot at winning $25,000 just to sooth any potential pain and suffering that could occur. I'll commend the show for this. 

Now onto the two things I want to talk about this time around. It's time to bring up a topic that's been present on Project Runway for many years now but it didn't get it's proper name until Dmitry coined it back in season 10: The One-Way Monkey. For any new readers, the OWM is a fabled creature specific to Project Runway. He's like a one-trick pony, but more fashionable. He's only got one tool in his toolbox, but he uses it to grand and flashy effect. At least he does at first. The OWM is so elusive specifically because of how long it takes to draw him out. It can, and often does, take weeks to expose a designer for being the OWM, but once they are exposed, you'll never be able to unsee it. 

Here's where things might be a little tricky this season: I think we've got two One-Way Monkeys on our hands. However, the two of them make up a kind of fascinating study of contrasts. On the one hand, there's Laurence. We all agree that she's brilliant. She hasn't been in the bottom yet all season (remind me to double check that for accuracy), and she already feels like a shoe in for NYFW. She put her stamp on the season early on. It took no time for Nina to start pointing out that seeing her signature leather coat was an easy tip off as to who's look it was. But for Laurence, that's a good thing. She sends looks down the runway that are always clean, well tailored, interesting and chic. Do 90% of her looks feature a new take on the same old leather jacket? Maybe. But seeing them each week feels like a breath of fresh air. Laurence is a good kind of OWM.

And then there's Erin. She bounded out of the gate with two of the first 3 wins of the season (interestingly enough it was Laurence who took the second win, though Erin was in the top for that challenge too). Her future looked bright and she had all of the makings of one of the contestants to beat in those early weeks. And then she was exposed as a OWM and she fell. After what appeared to be a stumble in episode six, even I expected she'd figure out a way to right the ship and get back to her winning ways. But Erin's found herself in the bottom three every week since that sixth episode. Why is that? Because once the novelty of her embroidery and big jacket aesthetic wore off, it became clear that she doesn't have anything else up her sleeve. 

So what's the difference between Erin and Laurence? If I had to guess, I'd say it's construction and vision. Erin has a trick, and for awhile she employed that trick well and dazzled us and the judges into thinking there was more talent there than there actually is. But what she lacks is a clear vision of who her woman is. Laurence on the other hand knows exactly who she's designing for. At some point I think it would be a good exercise to look back over all of her designs and see if the same woman could be seen wearing each of her looks. My gut tells me she is. And in a season that's already seen cocktail dresses, ready-to-wear, and swimsuits, it's quite a feat to find looks in all of those genres that are just so fit for the same woman. Laurence has the vision to be able to pin down who she's designing for, and she has the tailoring skill to pull it off each time. Erin doesn't. They might both be One-Way Monkeys, but one of them will be going far and the other shouldn't be long for this world. 

The Runway

Roberi: That’s OK. Cute, not great, but OK.

Jenni: Get the fuck away from me! The fit on those pants is horrible, the jacket is just wrong on so many levels, and I’m guessing it’s a blessing you can’t see more of the shirt, because how could it be any better? I really hate the cuffs on that jacket. It feels like a nitpick kind of a thing, but the cuffs are immature and unfashionable and somehow just don’t go with the rest of the jacket. 

Dexter: This is a look that I hate purely because I hate Dexter. It’s not bad, and I’m sure the judges will fawn all over it, but I think it’s every bit as boring as Tim said it was in the workroom, and the little gold studs he added do nothing to make it less boring. I do like the little glove like things on the hands though, that’s cool. 

Rik: I’m in love with this. The black and white of it, and maybe something about the pattern of the jacket, reminds me of his swimsuit look from earlier in the season. Everywhere there’s a pop of red makes this entire outfit sing. It’s adorable and fun but also age appropriate. I love it. 

Erin: I honestly don’t know what to say. The color of the blue dress is pretty. That’s all I got. I hate it and I hate her and I want her gone. 

Cornelius: hm…If you got rid of the rope pattern on the fabric, I think I might like this more. Although the burnt orange stripe thing doesn’t really speak to me nearly as much it should. I don’t really see this look and think of travel or jet-setting, which I think should have been more in line with his inspiration. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. 

Laurence: This look is cute, but it does seem to be a little bit undersized and it feels a little too much like a mother designing for her daughter. The tightness of the outfit not withstanding, I thought it felt like an attempt to keep her more covered than is needed. I thought the look would have been cuter with like a little keyhole cutout at the cleavage area, but what mother is going to design something like that for their daughter? It’s nice and well put together, but it’s not great. Also, why does it look like a safety pin is holding the jacket together?

Mah-Jing: The pop of purple at the boot was really nice. I like this jacket a lot but I thought some part of his design was supposed to be about transformation and unfolding. Should she have taken the jacket off? Or did that element get scrapped because he took too long on the jacket? I guess if I’m just looking at what we saw as she walked, I like the cut of the jacket a lot, but a part of me thinks he took the ninja thing a little too literally. There's something very special about the sleeves of the shirt he designed though. 

Nathalia: The jacket is cute but it isn’t age appropriate and it doesn’t feel like it goes with the outfit underneath it. Ultimately, I find this look to be confusing. Those pants aren’t special, in fact they look like weird ill-fitting bell bottoms. And you only get a quick glimpse of the blouse when she forces the jacket open, but it does look like it’s probably cute. She might have been better off killing the jacket and just going with the blouse and pants. 

Judgement

Mah-Jing, Rik, and Roberi are in the top. Erin, Jenni, and Nathalia are in the bottom. I have to say the more I heard about Roberi's dress the more I liked it. The moment he said it was intended for a cocktail party, I fell in love. It's a far more interesting take on the cocktail dress than his last cocktail dress. And to be clear, I liked that dress but didn't love it. This is fun and cute and fits his client's personality and her body exceptionally well. Nina is quick to praise the silhouette and the fit. The judges like the pattern matching a little bit more than I do, but I do agree with them that he matched them up nicely. I just tend to think mixing patterns is always a little jarring. 

The judges can't stop gushing over Rik's dress. The actual cooing that happens when he reveals that little heart on the inside is too much. But it's all deserved, this look is perfect. It looks expensive and new and fashionable, and it fits his mother like a glove. She looks confident and powerful in it, and it's fairly obvious he's running away with this one. 

Mah-Jing's mother, whose name I will not attempt to butcher here, takes the cake for confident and powerful though. Mah-Jing is not a contestant that I think has what it takes to win or go too much farther in this competition, but this is easily the best thing we've seen from him. The judges mostly compliment how great his mother looks in the outfit, and how perfectly he seems to have created something that's all her. Mah-Jing mastered that tough part of the client challenge where he gave her what she wanted while still producing something interesting and fashionable. Rik's dress might be more realistically wearable (which is important in a real woman challenge), but I honestly think Mah-Jing's would be at home on a runway in Milan.

Conversely, Jenni butchers the task of giving the client what she wants but still being fashionable and practical. She said early on in the challenge "At the end of the day, the challenge is to make something for the client," and while she was right, I think we've all heard those words uttered on this show during this challenge before, and they almost always spell doom. Her mother didn't really know what she wanted, so it was up to Jenni to decide for her and give her something that was great but that she maybe didn't even know she wanted until she had it. Instead she tries too hard to give her everything she wants, and then on top of that she constructs it poorly. The judges say, multiple times, that they simply can't take this woman seriously. For a director of a preschool, there's nothing professional or directorial about her and it's a problem. 

Nathalia's mother is drowning in that huge ass jacket and it's tragic. The saddest part is that when she takes the jacket off, everything underneath it is just as tragic. Heidi points out that there's simply no excuse for her outfit to be so unfinished after two days, but I'll get back to that point later. 

One-Way-Monkey Erin doesn't actually get blasted for making the same damn Jacket once again. She does however get criticized for creating what amounts to two different looks. Zac says that the jacket is deep winter but the dress underneath is summer. And that's not even taking into consideration just how juvenile the dress is. The color of it matched with that stupid lace just screams little girl's church dress. In the end, Heidi points out that it looks like Erin designed something she'd want to wear but not something her mom would want to wear. So she also missed the point of the challenge. 

And yet, Jenni goes home instead of Erin. In fact, Erin isn't even in the bottom two this go around. Let's get practical for a moment: are Jenni and Nathalia's looks worse than Erin's? Yes. So the bottom two does make sense, but the fact still remains that this is Erin's fourth consecutive time in the bottom three. And yet has she even been in the bottom two once? Not that I can remember. So they keep scoring her low, getting to the point where they see that she created this bad look, and then backing off and giving her a pass. Should she have gone home before now? No, but she does need to be held more accountable for her consistent failings. She might have won early on, but that was too long ago and her failings have already outnumbered her successes to such a point that I think the judges need to be sterner with her. But that's just me. 

Rik wins the challenge and all of the money. The question before the court now is who's likely to join him and Laurence at NYFW? I thought I was more sure of who'd be there a couple weeks ago, but now I'm less certain. 

Loose Threads

--As I mentioned briefly, this is the season's first two day challenge. I can't help but to think this is a massive mistake on the show's part. It comes nine episodes in with a top nine group who shouldn't need two days to do anything other than maybe the Haute Couture challenge if that happens. The show was seriously better when they started with two days to weed out the talent and then scaled back to one day challenges. Now you've got an issue where the contestants haven't seen a two day challenge and they don't know what to do when they get one. The amount of scrambling around at the end to get looks finished is simply unacceptable at this stage. Especially when you factor in that no one seemed to need to start all the way over on their design. 

--I was really hoping Laurence would be in the top in this challenge so as to better justify my One-Way Monkey narrative. The best payoff would have been a Laurence win and an Erin loss, but the fates weren't so kind. If Laurence does win on the episode when Erin finally loses, I'm going to be so happy and so full of myself. 

--How silent do you think the green room was with only Cornelius, Laurence, and Dexter in it? 

--I honestly don't think Tim likes Erin or Dexter very much. His critiques with both of them compared to his conversation with Cornelius was interesting. And likewise to the general split in the workroom. Every time you see either Erin or Dexter consulting another designer, they're only ever talking to each other. 

--Bonus points to Mah-Jing at the beginning of the episode as he listens to Dexter complain about Cornelius and just kind of rolls his eyes like "Yeah OK, bitch!"

--With two top three appearances in a row, I'm starting to think Roberi might find himself in the finale. I named him as a wild card a couple weeks back, and now it's starting to look like he's getting hot at just the right moment. I may not love his particular aesthetic, but I am curious to see how his collection might possibly play off of Laurence's and Rik's. 

--A little housekeeping notice, next week Friday I'll be leaving to spend a week in Italy! I'm super excited as I need a serious boost after the month I've been having. I lost my job last month, looking for a replacement has been really quite taxing, and then the election happened and I just kind of want to die, so getting far away for a week with my friends is much much needed. With that being said, I intend to watch next Thursday's episode and I'm going to try and get the review up before my flight, but no promises. Preparing for a flight out of the country can be time consuming. Furthermore, I won't be back home until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm guessing the show will take a week off during the holiday, but if I'm wrong and there is an episode on Thanksgiving day, I won't be in a position to even watch it until I get back. So if someone else wants to tackle reviewing that episode, that's doable, or if you guys don't mind waiting a while, that'll be cool too. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E8 "Project Pop Up"

I said it during the last team challenge on this show: Project Runway's take on the group challenge is often crass, manipulative, dirty, and it totally freaking works. I mentioned last week that I thought there might be a lack of personality on this season. So much of these episodes have been boring and lackluster, and this episode was no different. While Tim was in the workroom, my notes read thus: I'm going to need someone to blow up or have some kind of meltdown because I'm just sick of these people. Someone heard me because by the end of the episode, we got exactly that. And it was the shot in the arm that this season has needed.

The Challenge

This week sees the designers divided into three teams of three to create three-look fall collections inspired by color pallets from Sally Beauty. The colors are Red, Blue, and Neutral. Neutral seems to be at an early disadvantage because who's ever been inspired by neutral? But whatever, the groups are split up and Dexter and Erin are immediately paired together with Cornelius tacked on...so that's a thing. Jenni and Nathalia are grouped with Mah-Jing who once again complains about being the odd man out. And Laurence, Rik, and Roberi all join forces without any complaint. 

Each collection will be displayed at a Project Runway Sally Beauty Store Pop Up in SoHo where regular people will vote on their favorite collection. The collection that wins the vote will get a 20% bump in the final judging. 

During the work, there are two main sources of drama. First there's Mah-Jing who is complaining in confessional moments again about being grouped in with a couple friends who will surely throw him under the bus at their first chance. Remember this song and dance from the last team challenge? Remember how it ended with him complimenting his team on making him feel welcomed? 

OK, I'm just going to say it, I think Mah-Jing is either insane or somehow predisposed to feeling like the odd man out. Let me explain: far be it for me to play the race card, but there are certain times when it just seems to fit. Mah-Jing came clean a few weeks back on his heritage and upbringing. His father is of Asian-American descent; his mother is black. Ultimately, he looks more black than mixed, which leads to him automatically being seen as a black man with an oddly Chinese name. This could easily be the kind of thing that would put him on his heels throughout life. Where might he have fit in? Other black kids would think his name was strange and would possibly disrespect his Asiatic background, and Asian-American people might just view him as black. 

Being a minority is hard in this country. And speaking as someone who grew up black and gay, being a double minority is a lot harder. The idea that you don't fit in with mainstream culture nor do you fit in with either of the minority groups to which you belong can have an odd effect on someone. So enter Mah-Jing who, every time he's asked to work within a group setting, automatically starts complaining that he won't fit in, they won't accept him, and at any given moment he'll be thrown under the bus. After two team challenges, his fears have proven to be completely fabricated, but that's not to say that there isn't a seed for them in his history and upbringing. All of this is conjecture on my part, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to find out this is the real reasoning for his paranoia. 

The other source of drama of course comes from Team Red. Over here, Cornelius actually is the odd man out. All of his complaints and criticisms fall on deaf ears, Erin and Dexter are seen constantly paling around and not working while Cornelius works to get all of their looks cleaned up and finished, and no matter how many times he says there's too much red in their looks, no one seems to hear him. 

But Team Red's problems don't stop at construction and conceptual issues. At one point, Cornelius sees that he has a $9.99 sticker on his butt, and when he complains about it, Dexter and Erin laugh and make fun of him for not seeing it sooner. What we're supposed to take away from this moment is that Dexter or Erin played a prank of some sort on Cornelius and put that sticker on him as if to say he's only worth $9.99. And when he finds it, as opposed to being at all shamed or even just playing it cool, Dexter makes a snide and mean-spirited comment about Cornelius' worth. And then on the second day, as everyone files into the workroom, Dexter seems to purposefully let the door close in Cornelius' faces and then offers a snickering half-hearted apology. It's a very mean, nasty, and childish display that I simply can't understand. 

There's never been any love loss between Cornelius and Dexter. Early in the season, Cornelius made some comments after Dexter found himself in the top, and Dexter has hated him since then. It was surely childish and shadey AF for Cornelius to do that, but it seems like Dexter's reaction to it now is to become even more childish in his actions towards Cornelius. And even that might be something that you could forgive or overlook if these two weren't on the same team. But instead, they seem uninterested in working together at all. Or to be more specific, Dexter and Erin seem totally uninterested in working with Cornelius. Anyone who's watched this show before knows this is all going to come to a head on the runway. 

The Runway

Team Red

Look 1: Poor construction on the top not matching up. The skirt is...off. Is it asymmetrical? If so, it doesn’t really work for me. If not, then there’s something else odd about it. 

Look 2: There’s a way to read this as being like a robe, and the woman in the voting is right that there’s no realistic wearability to it, but I still think it’s really sexy and cute. I like the sleeves, and the open front, and the shortness of the skirt which I find to be tasteful and titillating. 

Look 3: Those pockets can go get fucked. But it seems like a weird kind of Erin thing that the judges will like more than I do. Maybe if they were just a different color I’d like them more. I do actually like the way Cornelius’ skirt goes with the jacket, but I do not like it paired with the top as much. I don’t hate this outfit as a whole but I don’t love it either. 

Team Neutral

Look 1: I like this a lot more than I expected. The fit and tailoring are quite impeccable, those pants are great and I love the little cut out at the knees. The jacket is really quite cute and the turtle neck isn’t bad. I don’t love the fabric around the neck, it looks itchy, but that’s ok. I’m guessing the high level of realistic wearability of this collection is why it played so well with the crowd. 

Look 2: Oh those are pants? Hm…. I want to like this more than I actually do. The popcorn shit is distracting and I hate it. I don’t hate that she tried to do something to make the sweater a little more impressive, but I don’t think this was the right choice. I do, however, like the lighter colored cuff on the sleeves, and the pants are certainly interesting. There are elements here that I want to love a lot but I’m left just kind of liking them.

Look 3: I honestly love the jacket. I think it’s cut well, those slits in it are great, and there’s something chic and special about it. The rest of the look falls apart for me though. I think it’s a good thing she doesn’t take the jacket off while walking because I don’t think anything underneath it would really withstand scrutiny. 

Team Blue

Look 1: Yeah I don’t know about this. I think the skirt is cute and fun and smart. It combines Roberi’s aesthetic with Laurence’s leather in a way that I think is smart. But I was never a fan of what he was doing with the top and I don’t think the weird patches are in any way a step up from the weird shapes he was rocking earlier. 

Look 2: This is also just a little off. There appears to be some issues with the construction, and I don’t understand the point of the cape like thing in the back. The slip dress is simple on purpose, and I get that, but I don’t know that it’s a good thing. He wanted the jacket to be the major selling point here, and I certainly think it's special and a lot of fun to look at, but I'd love it so much more if it was better constructed. All of those little flyaway strings are distracting the hell out of me. 

Look 3: I love love love the jacket tail in the back of this one. It’s special and unique. It’s clearly a Laurence look with those shoulders again. I like the pants too, though those aren’t as good as the jacket. It’s good, but not her most standout piece of the season. 

Judgement

First things first, Team Neutral won the the 20% bump from the pop up voting earlier in the episode. It's easy to see why when you factor in how rack-ready all of their pieces are. There's more here to appeal to a real woman than there is in the other two collections which feel more fashion forward. But while that factor will appeal to the people on the street, it doesn't really fly with the judges. In spite of their 20% lead, Team Neutral is safe, leaving Blue in the top and Red in the bottom. 

And this is when the gloves come off. For starters, the judges are quick to point out that there isn't really a bad collection out there. Red is just the lesser of the three. They're mostly complimentary of the looks, but they clearly don't like Cornelius' pleated skirt. Kelly Osbourne, who you know is my all time favorite guest judge, is quick to point out that Dexter's claims of punk rock as their inspiration is complete bullshit. Nina points out that there's way too much red and they needed something to break it up a bit. Cornelius says he wanted less red, but he should have spoken up louder. They don't have anything clearly negative to say about Dexter's samurai robe look, and they love Erin's jacket, but Cornelius' admission that it's his skirt on her model gives them some pause.

And then comes the point we all knew had to happen. Heidi asks who should go home from this team and almost without missing a beat Dexter and Erin say Cornelius. Erin's reasoning is something I have a serious problem with. She simply says that she and Dexter work well together, and it feels like a total cop out. Neither of them can really point to a particular design element that leads to Cornelius being the person to go. Their outlooks both break down to "We're friends, and we like each other, so get rid of him."

What can't be ignored is the fact that Cornelius' pleated skirt is the worst look of the collection. When asked who concepted the skirt, Cornelius points to Erin. It was her idea, but his execution, so who's fault is it? And it's only necessary because he offered to give up his skirt to serve her look to begin with. All things being equal, Erin should have been responsible for contributing the skirt to Cornelius' look, right? Without him, her model would have been walking out bareassed. But to what extent does that matter in the long run? Cornelius created the skirt, the skirt was ugly; in a design competition, that's all that matters, right?

The judges ultimately seem to think so no matter how much Kelly argues against the kind of bullying towards Cornelius that they saw. In the end, it's between him and Dexter for the loss, and he gets the short straw. The moment I heard the judges talking about who to send home between the two of them, I knew they'd pick Cornelius and that Tim would use his save on him. We've pointed out before that Heidi's speech about Tim Gunn's save has been spotty at best this season, but it gets a spotlight this episode. That was the first hint that it would be used here. But more than that is the fact that Tim Gunn is quick to point out that Erin and Dexter were just mean girls to Cornelius for this entire challenge. He doesn't have much to say during the closer look inspection of the outfits this episode, but he's quick to say that as he comes to Cornelius' defense. 

So of course when Tim says Cornelius isn't going anywhere, I wasn't surprised in the slightest. Even so, I think it was an acceptable call. In this case, it's not a statement about Cornelius' abilities so much as it's an indictment of Erin and Dexter's behavior in this challenge. If I have one complaint it's that I don't think Tim went far enough to shame them to their faces for their actions. The problem is Tim Gunn is everyone's mentor equally, so complaining about Dexter and Erin's less than kind and totally unprofessional actions isn't really his place. But I say to hell with that. Either way, the show of emotion and the open hostility of this episode was exactly what this season needed. The Dexter/Cornelius rivalry could add a spark to a powder keg of tension and make the next few episodes quite interesting. 

Loose Threads

--Roberi gets his first win of the season here. I probably should have made time to mention that before now, but Team Blue simply wasn't as interesting.

--Speaking of Team Blue, it's interesting and telling that most of their complements have to do with their use of black and white to break up a lot of the blue in their collection. In a lot of ways, they're the inverse of Team Red.

--Another aspect of the feud between Dexter and Cornelius is their friendships with Erin and Nathalia respectively. Nathalia pointing out that she knew Dexter and Erin would throw Cornelius under the bus because of their friendship with each other was yet another snide moment of shade from her directed at Erin. 

--Speaking of which, Erin's bullshit hug to Cornelius at the end and her happy "I didn't want you to go home" simply didn't sell to me. I'll give Dexter this much, at least he didn't pretend to be happy that Tim used his save. 

--This doesn't happen often, but I'm starting to rethink my ranking from the last couple weeks. It's not that I think Cornelius being saved means he'll stick around much longer, but I'm starting to wonder just how fed up with Erin and Dexter the judges are getting. They haven't been as strong lately, and yet their confidence continues to be through the roof, and it doesn't seem like they're doing much to take in the criticism. If they don't settle down and stop walking into each challenge like it's already in the bag, both of them will be out of here sooner rather than later. And after what I saw this week, I honestly would like for that to happen. 

--I don't think Tim would have saved Dexter had the judges decided to get rid of him. And there's an interesting point here when Kelly points out that Dexter is trying to present himself as being all punk rock and yet he isn't that at all. Dexter has been claiming to be weird, strange, out there, and punk rock all season, but he doesn't actually design that way. I think it might be time for someone to point out that some portion of his problem might be that he doesn't actually know himself as well as he thinks he does. 

--As for the people voting aspect of this challenge, I actually kind of liked it in execution. It mattered without being strong enough to sway the entire outcome, and it was fun seeing what regular people are likely to think about the designs. Often I think a part of the problem with reviewing the runway on this show is that I'm not a high fashion guy, and so all I can talk about is whether I like the clothing from a practical standpoint or not. Seeing a bunch of people voting based on those lines as well was a lot of fun. 

--We're eight episodes in and we've only had one unconventional materials challenge: the first one. I'm just going to leave that fact there and let you do with it what you will. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E7 "Welcome to the Urban Jungle"

Project Runway isn't always great. In fact, most times it doesn't come near the greatness of its earlier seasons, but it's often fun and sometimes new. Like tonight's episode starting with an in media res opening. What's that about? We begin with the contestants getting ready to ride a roller coaster and everyone talking about how they generally feel about them. Not just any roller coaster but the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coasted at Universal Orlando. 

Fun fact: I live in Orlando. To be more specific, I live like five minutes away from Universal. I have an annual pass to Universal and Islands of Adventure. I've ridden this coaster a number of times, and have gone to the park more than enough times this summer for the ridiculously expensive pass to have already paid for itself and then some. My point is simple: Why wasn't I invited to go to Universal with them? This makes two weeks in a fucking row that I could have been included in the Project Runway fun and they snubbed me! This is getting old. And why is PR kicking around in my backyard?


The Challenge

They're here mostly for the opening of the new Kong ride at Islands of Adventure. A ride I haven't even been on yet. So major spoiler alerts for that one, thanks a lot, guys! Reason being because Tim makes a lame attempt to relate the jungle motif of the ride to the Urban Jungle in order to inspire the designers to make a streetwear look fit for the Urban Jungle. We've seen PR reach and twist itself into weird shapes to justify a sponsor before, but this is just ridiculous. 

In any event, that's the challenge. There's a mention of Universal's new water park which I have been driving by a lot lately, so that was weird. People sketch by the pool, and then it's back to New York and a trip to Mood. Seriously, I don't even know if they spent a whole night in Orlando or not. Something about this mini-vacation seems like it'd be more tiring than having just stayed at home. 

Other than the change of scenery opening, there's nothing stand out about this episode. The group being down to ten means there's more time to spend with the designers in their down time, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. There's a lot of sitting around the break room chatting about how far they've come in their designs and how much farther they still have to go. More talk about Cornelius and Nathalia's friendship, but nothing really illuminating. 

Even Tim's visit is lackluster. Though I did really love his conversation with Nathalia. She's creating this oversized jacket inspired by the bats on the ride and she wants to put faux gorilla hair onto the lapel. The fur is obviously a bad idea and it was a bad idea even when she bought it at Mood, but it takes Tim pointing that out before she gets it. He looks at her outfit, and with the most side eye imaginable he says “And streetwear is what you do?” They agree that the jacket should be shorter to show off more of the pant, and all seems right with the world. 

Tim's visit to Erin is an odd one. She's spending all day making new embroidery embellishments, and Tim is worried about her time, but he doesn't say anything about how ugly the embroidery itself is. There's no telling what the fuck those things she's making are supposed to be, and that's a problem. In fact that's the problem I've had with most of her embroidered elements all season. The judges have loved it, but none of it looks purposeful to me. Or at least none of it says "I had this idea to embroider these specific shapes onto this dress." Instead it's just the act of embroidery itself as if that's enough to wow anyone. Anyone other than the judges that is. They have been wowed thus far, so maybe they will be this time. 

The Runway

Brik: What if I said I didn’t hate it? Here’s the smart thing about it: the pattern on the front of the top doesn’t wrap all the way around to the back too. That would be too busy and too much. It's kind of too busy as is, but the front kind of works for me. Maybe it’s the fit of it all, which is banging, or something else, but I’m not going to complain about this. The design might be a bit simple, and you can see on the seam of the pants where the pattern doesn't match up, but it is street wear after all. 

Rik: The loops at the side that look like suspenders are really eye catching. I think in a good way. I’m really liking this. It’s interesting, it’s unique, which I think I’ve said about his looks a lot lately, and it’s really quite fun. I could honestly see someone wearing it. 

Nathalia: Isn’t there supposed to be like a kind of flying squirrel aspect to the jacket? If so, why doesn’t she spread her arms? If I’m wrong and it’s just a big baggy jacket, then I’m bored. But I can appreciate the shorter length and the exposed midriff. The pockets on the pants are certainly cool. Maybe I'd like the look without the jacket at all which just doesn't do it for me.  

Laurence: The jacket is stunning, of course. But the fit of the pants is tragic, and the material is boring. But I guess that’s a given with khaki. The pants and the jacket are the look, but I’m still disappointed that the top underneath the jacket isn’t more interesting. Or maybe if she took the jacket off it would be, but just seeing that jersey (?) top peeking out is a little boring. I like the look, don't get me wrong, but she's so good that these small elements can't help but to be noticeable flaws.

Roberi: There’s something special about this. I can see the inspiration, but I can also see someone wearing this in real life. I think the tank top is a bit boring in that it doesn’t have anything going for it other than the asymmetrical hem. But I do love the jacket and the shorts. 

Mah-Jing: So when he heard streetwear, I assume he thought they meant a woman who works the street? I do not like this. The sheen of that fabric makes it look cheap, and dressing it down with that denim jacket (which I actually do like) completes the effect. 

Erin: My first impression is to just say no and move on not giving this look the time of day at all, but the more I look at it, the angrier I get. What the ever loving fuck was she thinking? There’s no rhyme or reason behind that embroidery at all. What shape is that supposed to be? And why place them where she does on the shorts? No reason, because she’d didn’t fucking think about this. She just said “Lalala I do embroidery and the judges like it, so let’s do more!” There’s something lazy and careless about that and for some reason it makes me honestly angry. I had her pegged for the final, but now I seriously want her gone. 

Dexter: Except for the fit issue in the front, those shorts are great. So I guess they’re only great in the back. Other than that, no! Streetwear? Really? What street are you on where someone’s wearing that? Is it fashionable? Yes. Would it surprise me if the judges like it? No. But if anyone tries to claim it fits the challenge, I’m throwing my shoe at the TV.

Cornelius: I like this in spite of myself. I don’t like the fit of the top, or the construction for that matter; there's way too much exposed side boob, but other than that one issue, I really like this look. It’s cute, fun, and kind of flirty, but mostly it’s real and ready to wear. Maybe it’s not fashionable enough (kind of the opposite of what Dexter did), but I like it all the same. 

Jenni: Is the pattern on those items created by the stitching? Did she do all of that stitching to create said pattern? Did I miss this fact in the workroom somehow? If this is the case, then I like this a lot more than I would if it were just a textile she chose. I don’t think there’s as much design in the cut of the outfit, but the work in the stitching is really quite special. 

Judgement

Maybe I'm just totally off my game lately, but two of the looks I liked end up in the bottom. Brik and Cornelius are down there, but so are Erin and Dexter (kind of). Nathalia and Laurence are in the top. It's a strange judging because Nina starts off by complimenting Dexter, and I thought I was just totally wrong this go around. Luckily, everyone is quick to point out that the outfit he made just doesn't work. It's not well constructed enough to be haute couture like he seems to want it to be, and he's trying too hard for haute couture for it to be streetwear. Nina thinks it's bold and interesting, but I'm with the others in not being impressed. I will say it does look better without that stupid jacket though. 

Erin gets criticized, but ultimately I thought they were a bit too gentle with her. Again there are calls of surprise that this look came from her. During the closer inspection, Heidi asks the important question about whether she's the designer we've seen for the last couple challenges or is she the designer who was in the top so often earlier. Given how grueling this competition is, I think it's more likely that she's just hit a slump from which she can rebound, but as the saying goes, One day you're in, the next you're out! After these two weeks, if they were to send her home I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. 

As much as I liked Brik's look, I wouldn't lose sleep over him going home either. He went from back-to-back stints in the bottom, to a string of being safe, to now being back in the bottom. The writing's on the wall that he's simply not cut out for this competition, and it's a bit of a shocker that he's lasted this long. Yet again the judges complain about his poor taste in mixing patterns and his lack of a vision about who his girl is. He admits to not having had a plan and Heidi jumps out of her skin trying to get him to not admit to such things. No one has anything good to say about his design, but I must say I'm still with him when he says the patterns don't go together, but they kind of go together. There's no excuse for the sloppy construction of the top, but I simply don't hate this as much as the judges do. 

One look I will backtrack on a bit is Cornelius'. While I did notice the poor construction of the top as the look walked down, I didn't notice how odd the construction was on the pants until they were standing still and being ripped apart. I didn't even realize they were drop crotch pants until Heidi pointed it, and I immediately lost a lot of the love I had for them. One of the guest judges hit the nail on the head when she said the look was good from the knees down but horrible above that. 

In the end, Laurence gets her second win (finally!) and Brik gets sent home (Finally!). As we mentioned last week, we're in the long slog now as we get rid of the five contestants that are no more than dead weight from this point forward. Mah-Jing, Cornelius, Nathalia, and Roberi certainly make the shortlist. But to be fair, if Erin and Dexter don't pull themselves out of the slump they're in, I might have to rethink who'll be moving on. If I had to guess, I'd say Roberi and Jenni are the solid wild cards who could usurp Erin and Dexter's positions in the finale if they aren't careful. With that being said, Laurence is a lock for NYFW barring a implosion, and Rik seems to have gotten fairly hot at the right time. He was safe today, but I think they could have replaced Dexter's spot on the runway with Rik in the top and we would have had a smoother judgement. Either way, next week is another team challenge, so if Dexter and Erin are going to right the ship...well I don't know how easy that'll be in the midst of a team. 

Loose Threads

--There's no more immunity from this point out. And Laurence is the only contestant who's proven capable of bringing it each challenge so far. 

--The thought I had upon seeing Brik shopping in Mood oddly had nothing to do with his poor fabric choice. It was solely "What a flat white boy ass.”

--We've talked a lot about the abundance of one day challenges in these last few seasons, but do you think that might have anything to do with the abundance of spinoffs? Like are production schedules maybe overlapping to such an extent that they have to keep everything down to a one day challenge or they'd just run out of time? If that is the case, I'm all for getting rid of those useless spinoffs and getting back to a more classic PR format.

--I have to admit something, I don't know when it started but I currently find myself in the midst of a huge crush on Rik. The tattoos, the emergence of his talent and clear point of view, and just something about his general bearing have got me all a tither lately. 

--Is there less personality on this season? Or is the middle section of these episodes boring for a different reason? For the last two episodes I've really struggled to find much to say during the workroom / Tim critique sections of these episodes. Tim has another moment this week where he gives some good advice (telling Cornelius to keep Heidi in mind during his design) but other than that there's just nothing to latch onto. Or is it just me?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E6 "There IS Crying in Fashion"

Alright, here we go, I got a major bone to pick with you, Project Runway! Here we are, a full three years into running the Project Runaways blog. We've been pretty steady, fairly consistent, if not timely with our reviews. Admittedly, the amount of comments and engagement with each week's posts has dropped off, which hurts a bit but hey, what can you do? And yet did we get an invite to that swanky party that starts off the episode? NO! So many people I've never heard of are paraded around that over-designed (yeah, I said it!) bar space, all of them are introduced as "blogger" and here I am just like, well what the fuck am I? Chopped Liver?! Message received, PR! I don't like you either! Excuse me for a minute, I think I've got something in my eye.

The Challenge

Let's just move on to this week's challenge, shall we? All of the designers are at this swanky party / press event, and it looks like they're just getting a night to relax and unwind. No such luck since the space they're all partying in, the Absolut Elyx house, is meant to serve as their inspiration as they make a cocktail dress. No big deal, right? 

The Absolut Elyx house is a bit garish for my tastes, but there's a lot there to be "inspired" by. The designers have one day and $300 to make this look. So really we're talking about a very high-end, fashionable cocktail dress here. I, for one, was rather excited to see what everyone would turn out. 

But then, people start sketching. Cornelius, ever the helpful beaver, takes his time to explain to the dumb-as-shit viewers just what a cocktail dress is. Which is really lovely of him; I'm sure we all would have been lost without his guidance. His mastery of the concept of a cocktail dress should mean that he's got this challenge in the bag. 

Tasha, on the other hand, seems a little less certain. Or maybe she's just certain in a different direction. Her original idea is to leverage her street aesthetic to make a unique kind of dress that isn't really a cocktail dress so much as a dress her woman might wear to go get cocktails. And by cocktails, I think she means Bud Light Lime. It's the lime that makes it classy. I love Tasha, I've made no secret of that fact, but this made me nervous. I understand that making a little black dress might not speak to who she is as a designer, but this challenge called for some kind of variation on the little black dress, so why not just do that? Either way, I'm worried for Tasha's future. 

Speaking of the Little Black Dress, the trip to Mood shows us just how few people are at all interested in creating one. I don't know about you, but when I think cocktail dress, I think solid color, probably black, but also maybe a deep red or blue, cut in a way that will turn heads. You expect high skirts, low cut tops, open backs, and a lack of straps. What I don't tend to think when I head cocktail dress is patterns and prints. And yet that's exactly what so many contests are heading for. Via con dios, I guess. 

Tim isn't really impressed with the abundance of patterns either. Cornelius, who of course was last seen explaining cocktail dresses to us, is using a fabric he's used before, and it's honestly hideous. He's going to have to start all over and try again. So much for his encyclopedic knowledge of what a cocktail dress is.  Roberi is also in textile hell. Tim points out that his dress looks like a Navajo Blanket, and he didn't mean it as a compliment. 

Meanwhile, there's the continued saga of Tasha. Her fabric doesn't say adult or luxury at all. The cut of the dress isn't suitable for a cocktail party, and her focus on her street aesthetic has been to the detriment of the outfit as a whole. But Tim's visit with her features one of those quintessential Tim moments that make me love him and love this show. He says to her "Don’t push street into the cocktail, push cocktail into the street, and what happens to it?” And in one moment, he shows what his role as mentor always should be, and what Tasha's perspective always should have been. Had she started with that point in mind, she probably would have been on a much better trajectory at this point. As it is, Tim points out that the black denim fabric she's got would make for a much better dress than the one she's working on. If she has enough fabric to create an entire look out of it, she might be onto something. 

The Runway

Laurence: I don’t know that there are enough good things to say about this dress. Is it a little black dress? Yes, but does is stand out and say so much more than a typical little black dress would? Yes! I can’t see a single flaw in it, so just a million times yes to this.

Rik: What if the strap around the back was totally unnoticeable and the zipper was invisible? Would that be better or worse? For me, I’d say better because while I understand that the dress doesn’t stay up or have any kind of flattering fit without that strap, it was distracting. I understand the drive to go with the external zipper, but something about it seems off and out of place with the rest of the dress. Other than that I think this look is cute. It’s unique and certainly would turn heads for the right reasons. It’s an interesting take on the cocktail dress!
Jenni: I don’t think this is horrible, but the more I look at it the more I hate it. It feels like it’s in the weird place between being slinky and being formfitting and I just want it to chose one. Plus the appliqué is ugly. I think I’ve changed my mind: I do think it’s horrible.

Erin: You can just make out the shiny brocade fabric framing the feathers and I hate that. I wish the feathers had extended all the way up the neckline. But other than that small detail I love this. To me, a cocktail dress should be formfitting like this. And the feathers just give it an extra something to put it a little over the edge. I’m a fan.

Tasha: If she’d had more fabric and could have worked out some of the fit issues, I think this would have been a success. The denim makes it impressive and unique, the belt (sash?) sadly looks cheap and tacked on, but it also breaks up the dress a bit. And the hem on the skirt is actually cute. But the whole thing is so ill-fitting that it looks rushed and a little cheap and that’s sad.

Cornelius: Why does that fabric move like that? As she walks, it bunches up a bit and makes her look like she’s got a pot belly. I hate this. I hate the fabric, I hate the cut, I hate the fit, I hate it all.

Nathalia: This might be the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. That beaded fabric just sewn onto the front looks like she took some fabric and just sewed it onto the front of her dress. I wonder why! And the way it hangs around the waist and chest area is not flattering at all. Kill it with fire!

Brik: I gotta say, Brik made me gasp, and this time not in horror. I’m quite impressed. If I hadn’t been watching him work on it and no one told me whose dress that was I never would have guessed him. The back is simply to die for. I think the cut of the dress is still a little simple, so I don’t believe he has much innovative and interesting design in him, but I’m very impressed with this all the same.

Mah-Jing: That fabric is beautiful! Can you imagine how remarkable a cocktail dress made out of that fabric could have been? Sadly, this one just isn’t. The fit and the finishing kill this look. The frayed looking edges around the shoulders are tragic, and all of the bunching and wrinkling is an eyesore. It’s too bad because I love the fabric.

Roberi: I was very worried about this look and that fabric initially, but I have to say I like the finished product. I think thinner shoulder straps and a deeper opening in the back would have made me like it more, but all in all I think this is pretty OK.

Dexter: I don’t think this looks as good as he does, but I don’t hate it. Fringe is always going to be hit or miss, but I tend to like the movement, so I’m partial. I do love the color though, so there’s that.

Judgement

So Laurence, Rik and Jenni...yes Jenni, are in the top. Tasha, Nathalia, and Erin...yes Erin, are in the bottom. I'm not actually surprised that Erin is in the bottom. While I didn't hate her look, I can easily see how others would and the judges certainly do. But Jenni being in the top floors me. Heidi's the first to point out that she's stolen Erin's typical embellishment, but they all think that's a good thing. In fact, they originally assumed that Jenni's look was Erin's and were prepared to heap even more praise on the woman with two wins in the bag already. Instead Erin gets taken to task for how costume-y her look is and how poorly styled her girl is. I'll admit that I hadn't noticed the styling on the runway, but that's just because there was so much to look at with the dress. Which is also called busy so there's that. 

For my money, the win should be between Rik and Laurence. Zac doesn't like Rik's exposed zipper, but everyone like his vision. Heidi points out that it would make a great cocktail dress because no woman would have anything like it in her closet already. So it'd turn heads and probably sell really well to women wanting something unique. The lavish praise on Laurence's dress, but in the closer look they're quick to point out that they want to make sure she's not a one way monkey. They knew that dress was hers as soon as it stepped out, and while her having a signature is good, they want to know that she can do more than those amazing shoulders. 

Nathalia is more of a head scratcher. Heidi and Nina properly hate it. They point out how sloppy and ill-fitting, and just all around cheap it looks. Which is weird since she blew most of her $300 on that crappy beaded fabric which cost $250 a yard. But Zac and the guest judge actually don't hate it. Zac is ready to applaud her ideas and commend her for creating something new. He's still clear that the execution isn't there, but he likes the ideas behind it. I think Zac is the judge I disagree with least often, but when I do disagree with him, it's on something like this. I have no idea what he's talking about here. 

And then there's Tasha. I didn't realize at first that the top and bottom of her dress were actually two different fabrics. This combined with the sash makes the entire thing look cheap. On top of that, there's the poor fit issue and the fact that there's no real speciality of design beyond the typical trappings of little black dress. And Nina's quick to point out that Tasha's look standing up there right next to Laurence's amazing little black dress does it no favors at all. So the choice of who to send home is between Nathalia who had ideas, but they were bad ideas, and Tasha who seemed to have no ideas. 

In the end, Jenni wins; a fact that still has my jaw on the floor. Her look was nowhere near as good as the other two in the top and this is just ridiculous. Tasha goes home and my heart breaks a bit. I think an entire little black dress made out of a very dark blue denim would have been wonderful. It could have captured her aesthetic and still wowed the judges. But in her decision to try and buck the system entirely and force her girl where she'd never really be, she trapped herself into a corner. I stand by my love of Tasha. She seemed like an honestly good person, but I'm not sure just how cut out for PR she was. 

Loose Threads

--I know I briefly mentioned Nathalia's $250 a yard fabric, but come on! As soon as that price is quoted at you, I don't care what kind of vision you have in your head, you say no thank you and move on to find something else. I know she only got 1/2 a yard of it, but that's still $125 out of a $300 budget spent on one piece of ugly fabric. It might be my love of Tasha talking, but I really was hoping she'd go home. If not for her poor design, then certainly for that horrible money management situation. 

--The time in the greenroom was catty AF! Apparently there's something a split happening amongst the designers with Dexter and Erin on one side and just about everyone else on the other. Nathalia's shady ass "Erin isn’t the only person to ever embellish anything" comment was amazing. 

--Speaking of Dexter, for all of his and Erin's confidence that they're going to be the top two and win it all, this challenge included, he's sent off the runway with a few words of warning from Zac and Heidi. Apparently he's lucky to have had immunity this challenge or else he might have gone home. Both of them are so cocky all challenge, and to see them both more or less in up in the bottom was pretty funny.

--I don't think we even need to mention Mah-Jing's tears over Tasha's exit. But I will say that Tim's "Mah-Jing's crying over everything" comment was pretty awesome. 

--I think this might have been one of the first challenges were we're seriously seeing the talent levels start to diverge. Dexter and Erin may not have had good looks, but there was an ease and a confidence to the way they tackled the challenge. Match that with Rik and Laurence's easy straight forward approach, and I think we might be looking at strong contenders for the top 4. Everyone else struggled, had to start over, or just couldn't find their way without Tim's help. Jenni and Roberi seem to be somewhere in the middle, so I'll mark them as wild cards. But my guess is that contestants like Cornelius, Nathalia, Brik, and Mah-Jing won't be around for much longer. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E5 "There's No I in Team"

15 seasons, and yet Project Runway still manages to get the team episodes right. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of typical season 15 ridiculousness in this episode. But I'm not going to lie, guys, I think this might have been the best 90 minutes of the season thus far. And I also have to admit that I don't really understand why. I don't fully understand why I love PR's team challenges so much. They tend to be crass and manipulative and loaded with manufactured (as opposed to organic) drama. Once you get to the judging, they always feel like the judges (looking at you Heidi) are trying too hard to force tears on the runway and cause someone to throw a teammate under the bus. On paper, I should hate all of these things, and in a lot of ways I do. When all of the mean girls ganged up on Ashley last season, I hated it and did not think that it made for great television. But that's not to say that it wasn't effective. But this episode, this was a kind of poetry in motion, and I loved just about every second of it. Even when I was rolling my eyes at it. And why might I have been rolling my eyes? Well....

The Challenge

Here we go again with the judges and the producers just cramming in way too much into one challenge. First off, this is the Mary Kay challenge, which in and of itself doesn't mean much. But it's also the first team challenge, and the designers are working in two teams of six to create a four look mini collection. How much money do they have to do so? Well that depends on how much money three "mystery investors" decide to invest into each team. You see, the teams also have to pitch their vision for their collection to these "mystery investors," each of whom have $1000 to divide between the two teams however they see fit based on their pitches. Also, each person on the winning team gets $5000 just for shits and giggles. Seriously, the longer Tim was up there with the guy from Mary Kay, the more I just wanted him to shut up and pick the teams already. 

The episode opened up with the guys from room 310 (Rik, Roberi, Alex, and Cornelius) waxing poetic about how much they all loved each other, how much they were certain one of them was going to win it all, and just generally sucking each other off is the least orgasmic way possible. So when Rik, by virtue of his win last challenge, gets to pick his first teammate, of course he picks fellow 310er Alex. The button bag, in all it's totally unstaged, completely random, wisdom picks Brik to be the first member of the other team. I mean come on, does anyone really believe that there was another name in that bag other than Brik's? How this fucktard is still on my screen is beyond me, but I refuse to believe him being picked first was anything other than purposeful from the producers. 

Whatever, what follows is what we all expected. Room 310 is quick to stick together, and then they end up with Nathalia and Mah-Jing to round out the numbers. Everyone else is on Brik's team, may God have mercy on their souls. 

Room 310 gets right to work and quickly seems to be sympatico with one another's visions. Mah-Jing is the only person who thinks their color pallette is a bit too drab, and maybe they should freshen it all up a bit, but who really cares what he thinks, he's not a 310er! Meanwhile Brik's team can't even decide on a color pallette, and Dexter's the only person interested in talking about how they're even going to win the money needed for the challenge. From the start, they seem to be doomed, but no one seems to be asking Brik what he thinks, which makes me think there's hope for this team yet. 

Alex has experience making pitches and working in the industry, so he throws his name in the ring to be the person making the pitch. Dexter's insistence on talking about how they go about selling their idea means his team picks him to make the pitch. Automatically there's a clear difference to how these two teams are going to be doing things, but it's neither bad nor good in general. 

The 310ers have decided to be Team Unity, and we shan't say anything more about that. They go to make their pitches to our mysterious investors. Who could it possibly...it's Heidi, Zac and Nina obviously. As soon as Tim said there were three of them, we all knew who it would be, so the show should just fucking stop it already. Anyways, for Team Unity, Alex does all the talking, and he's good at it too. He answers all of the investors' questions, he presents a clear image of who their girl is, and based on their sketches, he shows something that looks like a polished and cohesive collection. 

Brik's team has decided to be Team Button Bag, and we shan't say anything more about that. Dexter starts talking but he is often helped by Jenni in particular and the other members of his team. They present a clearer picture of unity and democracy than the other team does, but I didn't feel like they presented a very cohesive look at who their girl is. Based on those sketches, I don't think anyone is assuming the same person is wearing each of their outfits. And then they totally flub on Zac's price point question. It appeared, to me at least, that Team Unity won the pitch portion of the challenge.

There's $3,000 in budget to be awarded between the teams as the judges see fit. This is tricky. In a perfect world, each judge would have split their $1,000 evenly between the two teams and we'd have an even playing field. But I doubt they would have been allowed to do that even if they'd wanted to, so inevitably the team that won the pitch was always going to end up with way more money than the team that lost. And that does not a fair challenge make. The question was always going to be about whether or not the team with more money had a distinct advantage over the team with less. We'll circle back around to this idea later. 

To my surprise, Team Button Bag won the pitch by a landslide. Zac allocates his money in a $800/$200 split; Heidi allocates her money in a $600/$400 split, and Nina joins Zac in the $800/$200 club. The larger amounts all go to Team Button Bag who ends up with a budget of $2,200 compared to Unity's $800. That's $800 to make a total of four looks. On top of that, considering Team Unity's upwardly mobile girl working in an office and their moderate price point, they have to make four looks that are classy and expensive looking, but would be sold at a moderate price. In short, they're screwed. 

I wasn't in the bag for either team up until this point. This is partially because I'm not in love with any of the designers yet. But I do love rooting for an underdog. So the moment the scales tipped so drastically in Team Button Bag's favor was the moment I decided I wanted Team Unity to win. I certainly thought the story of how the unity of the 310ers would boost their team up to heights that would surpass their paltry budget, while all the money in the world couldn't save Button Bag from Brik's poor taste and their lack of a cohesive vision would be the better story to tell. I hoped and hoped for it with all my might, but would I get it in the end?

Based solely on Tim's visit, I certainly thought so. He liked Unity's cohesion, and thought they'd youthed it up a bit. Nathalia's coat is the only thing that doesn't really belong, and to her credit, she immediately starts to change it. Conversely, he points out the lack of unity in Button Bag's collection and how simple Erin's coat is. Erin's response is to sew some kind of embellishment onto the pockets and call it a day. Brik and Jenni decide to use that interesting, but ultimately unflattering mohair fabric to create an entire new look. Brik and Jenni working together on a dress...this bodes well. 

The Runway

Team Unity
Look 1: Hm…. The color in the print certainly brings in a youthfullness that I appreciate. I agree with Cornelius when he says it looks polished, but I don’t know that I think it looks expensive. If there wasn’t that strange glittery sheen to the dress, I might be more excited about this, but I can’t see a woman at a tech company wearing this to work.

Look 2: I love this but I hate the fit of the pants. What material was used? It almost looks like a neoprene, but that can’t be right, can it? It doesn’t look like it hangs the way a jersey would, but I don’t know. The pants throw me off, but I think the top and the belt are spot on.

Look 3: I thought that if I looked at this long enough I would love it and see something good in it. I was wrong. That print worked a lot better as a jacket or a top than it ever could as a pant. And that jacket…I don’t know. Is it ugly? Or is it just boring and odd? I don’t know which, but I know I hate it. And the cut of the hem of the blouse underneath it is just not good. It’s purposeful, but I can’t see anyone, certainly not the woman they described, wearing it.

Look 4: All that ass! Sorry, I went to a place. I certainly think this looks young, and I say that as a good thing, but not a great thing. I think for an evening look this works, though it is ill-fitting. I think I could even argue that the same woman wearing the first two looks is likely to wear this on her night out. So I think all of that is good, but there’s something, and I can’t figure out what, that’s stopping me from being totally in love with it. OK, but not great.

Team Button Bag

Look 1: I don’t do this often, but as soon as this look turned the corner, I literally exclaimed “DAMN!” out loud and with some force. Let me get this out of the way first: I hate the detail on the sleeve. It looks stupid and childish, and like a forced way to bring cohesion to the collection. But everything else about this is great. It looks polished, well tailored, expensive and yet affordable (because it’s denim). A woman walks down the street in that and you think she looks like a million bucks without having to have spent a million bucks. I love it. Except those damn sleeves.

Look 2: That bib is disgusting and wrong. When she was walking out, I thought they had done something unique to the cut towards the bottom of the skirt, and I was impressed. But then she passed the light and I saw that it was just that the skirt was riding up and wrinkling, and I was bored. I’d like it a lot more without that stupid bib piece, but even then it’d just be a boring simple dress. That bag isn’t doing anyone any favors either.

Look 3: I am an out and proud gay man, so I want you to understand the magnitude of my next statement: I would let the woman wearing that outfit do whatever in the world she wanted to me. Powerful, stylish, sexy, unique, well made, and well thought out. I can’t say enough good things about this. I almost want to critique her styling as I’d like to see it on someone with their hair slicked back in a tight bun, but that’s just me. I’m in love!

Look 4: I love Erin, but I think this is a swing and a miss. Or at least, I think it’s very much not for me. I can’t say that anything about it is objectively bad, but I can say that I stared at it for awhile and just never felt any affinity for it. I thought the yellow and the mohair would go together better than it ended up doing, and there’s nothing remarkable about the look outside of the jacket. And I don’t think the jacket is remarkable for the right reasons. So no on this for me, but if someone disagrees, I won’t be surprised.

The Judgement

For my money, the outcome of that runway is that both of those teams are pretty much in the middle with one of them just being slightly higher than the other. However, much to my chagrin, the team that's higher is Button Bag. The fact of the matter is that they had two looks that literally took my breath away (one of which even made me question long standing aspects of my sexuality), while Unity had one look that impressed, and even then just the top of it. 

So I'm robbed of my perfect storybook ending to this challenge, but I think it's important to note that Unity wasn't done in by its small budget. I don't think more money would have saved them because they didn't seem to have as clear a vision of who their girl was as they claimed in the pitch. But more on that in a minute.

The judges agree and Team Button Bag wins while Unity loses. But they liked way more of Button Bag's looks than I did. Heidi waxes poetic about how great the little embellishments on the cuffs of Dexter's jacket and pants are. They all seem to love Erin's jacket, though I'm not totally sure why aside from the fact that it's yellow. And no one can say enough good things about Laurence's jacket. Nina points out that the moment she saw it she knew it belonged to Laurence, and you have to agree with that. Luckily, they all admit to hating Brik and Jenni's ugly ass dress. So they haven't gone completely crazy. When the team's asked who should win, it seems pretty well split between Dexter and Laurence with Erin getting a couple votes for some reason. 

Over on Team Unity, all of the comments are about the lack of this girl matching up with the girl they pitched. Nina points out that if any girl walked into her office dressed like that she'd ask her where they were going. Zac says that if they'd pitched evening wear at an entry level price point, they might have been in the top. Nina shoots that idea down by pointing out Alex's dress and the mess that is Roberi and Nathalia's look. And then something amazing happens, or at least I think it's amazing, when the team is asked who should go home, everyone to a person names his or herself as the weakest link. Admittedly, Rik doesn't say himself, but he doesn't name anyone else either. Mah-jing clearly has the best look out of everyone, so it'd be ridiculous of him to say himself (although he does point out that he's been in the bottom before). Instead he very tactfully and gracefully says Alex with a list of very reasonable reasons. I think this moment more so than anything that came before is what made me so impressed with this episode. I can't remember this kind of honest selflessness in a team challenge on this show ever before. 

Dexter wins, and Alex loses. There's something fitting about that as both of the people who kind of took the reins and led there team are rewarded and punished respectively. But here's where I think I'm going to get a bit controversial: If I were Tim, I think I would have saved Alex here. Listen, I know the save isn't something we've ever really agreed on here. Either we feel as though it's used in pity (as with Justin a few years back) or we feel like it's ridiculous and just proprietary (as with Edmond). For the record, I loved Justin being saved, but I was in the minority, but that's neither here nor there. My reasoning this time around is simple: Tim didn't seem to hate what Alex was doing when he saw it in the workroom, so he can take some portion of the blame here for not steering him in the right direction. But also, Alex was just in the top three one episode ago, so clearly there's something to him that deserves to stick around. I for one would like to see more from him. I don't think the judges got rid of someone who could have won the whole competition here, but there's a part of me that thinks maybe he just deserves to stick around for a little bit longer. Based on how emotional Tim was when he came into the Greenroom, I thought for sure that he was going to do it. Alas, no such luck. Goodbye Alex, your slow and sleepy tones will be missed. 

Loose Threads

--Speaking of Alex's visit to the top three last week, how about the fact that Roberi was in the top three as well and both of them end up in the bottom two this week?

--Mah-Jing was our source of manufactured drama this week; which shouldn't be surprising as he plays the role so well. He's a very sensitive man, but all his complaints about being left out fell on deaf ears to me. This fact was made all the more apparent by the end of the judging when he's pointing out how welcomed in the group he felt. 

--Conversely, Mah-Jing's story about his Chinese/Black background was really nice and illuminating. I can see how his years of bullying would have made him into the crybaby (I mean gentle soul) he is today.

--In my notes, I started out by questioning if Mah-Jing or Alex was getting the stronger loser edit in this episode, but by the mid-point I was firmly on Mah-Jing. Alex's story about dropping out of high school was touching, and clearly the kind of last hurrah spotlight we're used to, but the way that Mah-Jing dominated the middle of the episode made me think for sure that it was his time. 

--I'd love to hear what you guys think about the pitch and the allocation of money aspect of this episode. I was firmly against it as I thought it was unfair, but then seeing how the losing team was done in by their lack of vision and not their money, I'm not so sure any more. It seems like a realistic aspect of the fashion world (much like when the contestants work with clients) that I'm starting to think could enhance the show. I don't think every episode should feature it, but maybe an episode or two a season could? That'd be interesting.