Friday, October 23, 2015

Project Runway: S14E12 "Roll Out the Red Carpet"

Not gonna lie, Runaways, I had a lot of thoughts ranging all over the place during this episode last night and I'm hoping that over the course of my tedious day I didn't lose all of them, but it's highly possible. In the interim, I'm left thinking that the fact that this episode had me kind of buzzing and inquisitive while it was on has to be a good thing right? I think this season has been a roller coaster ride for us fans, but not because of the fireworks on screen. Instead, we, or more particularly I, have felt pushed and pulled in all different directions by the inconsistent quality of this season. Remember back around the first episode when I triumphantly, and prematurely, declared that PR was back and probably better than ever? How quick did that devolve into questions about direction, editorial choices, and the overall talent and personality level of the contestants? But then those questions could just as easily be blasted away with another strong outing. This season of Project Runway has felt more like a scripted TV show than any season before it in the way that it's been able to vary in quality from episode to episode. Not only in quality, but also in certain "artistic" flourishes. For example, remember the unconventional materials challenge that had the designers rummaging through outdated electronics trash to get materials to make their looks? I made mention of the batman-like flashes of words on the screen denoting what each contestant was looking at in the dump. Guess what's back this week! Seriously, were these two episodes directed by the same person? And if so, how problematic is that? Should we ever be able to see the hand of any particular director on any particular episode of a reality show? My gut says no, but I'm not an authority on such matters.

Either way, the 12th episode of this season has us gearing up for the finale with one more challenge to whittle it down from four to three finalists. To make that call, the producers bring in the time tested "Red Carpet" challenge. The contestants are heading out to LA in order to be inspired by...well LA basically, and create a Red Carpet ready look. They've got, dare I even say it, $400 and two days to get it done. But since all of their work and construction is being done in LA, they don't have the benefit of a model fitting before the runway. So I guess there's that. I'm torn about something here: I'm pretty sure that in PR history, the challenges tended to go from more time and more money in the beginning to less time and money as the season went on. In other words, the challenges got harder instead of easier. Going from one day to two day challenges feels like the opposite of that and it bugs me. But on the other hand, the early one day challenges do a good job of culling dead weight and exposing some of the less capable designers quickly. So maybe that's a good thing? Furthermore, the fact of the matter is to make a solid Avant Garde or Red Carpet ready look, you need at least two days in PR time. But still, it feels backwards to me.

Everyone arrives in LA to be told that the winner of this challenge will also be rewarded with 100 free nights at any Best Western in the entire world. If you've ever stayed in a Best Western, then chances are, like me, you were wondering if this was a reward or a punishment. But everyone at least seems to be rather excited for it, so good for them, I guess.

There's a trip to LA's Mood where the camera was very fond of cutting to shots of their own dog who clearly was not Swatch and therefor not at all worthy of screen time. At Mood, Edmond comes across a very....let's say busy fabric that he likes but isn't sure he should take a chance on. Tim tells him to go for it because now isn't the time to play it safe. Last episode, I mentioned that I thought Ashley was getting a little extra help and attention from Tim. This week, I'm following that thought up by saying that I actively think Tim is trying to sabotage other contestants. This is more of a conspiracy theory than an actual belief, but hear me out.

So the designers get to their LA workrooms, and get to work. Kelly's got this brilliant and elaborate idea to create her own textile by cutting her fabric into triangles and then layer some other fabric on top of it, and just doing all this work that is clearly ambitious and stands to be a knockout if successful. Ashley's also got a shiny shimmering fabric and plans to push herself with this cool asymmetrical dress. Candice is doing this standard black dress (surprise surprise) that stands to be gorgeous anyway. And Edmond is doing nothing. Literally, he spends the entire first day staring at the crazy fabric Tim told him to buy and does nothing with it because he feels like it doesn't speak to him as a designer. With the day pretty much fully gone, he uses some of the supplemental fabric he's bought to start making a different dress.

Edmond works on said dress for pretty much all of the second day until Tim comes in for visits with around seven hours left before their work time is up. He offers very solid guidance to Candice. Actually, he does little more than stand there and allow her to say what they're both thinking and make the decisions she should have been making all along. It's a pretty wonderful moment if I'm being honest. But it's followed up by him meeting with Ashley and giving her so much advice that it almost feels like he's designing her dress for her. He also says, and I quote, “I don’t want you to be the one to not make it." He's referring to the fact that a slip up at this point in the competition after putting in so much hard work will be enough to keep her out of the finale. But my question is, if you don't want Ashley to not make the cut, then who is it that you honestly wouldn't mind being left behind at this point? As Mentor, shouldn't Tim be at the point where he's rooting for them all? Was that a bit of a slip up on his part admitting that Ashley's his favorite?

Well he moves on to Kelly who's doing that great stuff with creating her own textile and trying to work it into the dress part of her Red Carpet dress, but Tim asks her if she wouldn't rather be doing pants... Listen, there's no "dress" or "gown" type of requirement for a Red Carpet look. Indeed, a quick Google search returns a load of results of actual celebrities wearing pants on the Red Carpet. And if Kelly pulls it off, it has the ability to be a stunning and bold choice that will wow people, right? But when this happened in the moment, I was left thinking that this is not sound advice from the group's mentor. I can't say that I felt totally confident that Nina and Heidi, purists that they tend to be a lot of the time, would really go for a jumper on the Red Carpet.

Then it's back to Edmond who has the makings of a fine, albeit boring, dress in his simple supplemental fabric and a full untouched few yards of the more extreme fabric that Tim liked. And of course Tim tells him he's going to be so much better off using the crazy fabric than the other. A crazy fabric that he might have liked a little in Mood but that seriously is not inspiring him as a designer at all. And Tim's big advice is "Fuck it, use that fabric anyway, your intuition and inspiration be damned!" Again, I couldn't help but to wonder if this was good advice. Or at the very least, is it advice on par with what he's given Ashley?

This is all just speculation, so it's fine if no one agrees with it. To his credit, Tim does tell Edmond that his best bet with that fabric is to create something simple and form fitting and let the fabric itself be the wow factor the look needs. So in theory, all Edmond has to do is follow that advice and he'd be pretty good. But of course after a full day of no ideas, he finds himself a bit panicked and perhaps with too many ideas on the second day and he can't help but to continue hacking away at the perfectly suitable dress he made at first. He makes it shorter and shorter until it resembles nothing of its former shelf and also nothing anyone would ever want to wear. Or at least that was my thought in the workroom. I held out hope for the possibility that the dress would be better on the model and on the runway.

Everyone flies back to New York where they have limited time to have a quick fitting, get their models all done up and pretty and accessorized, and then rushed off to the runway. Seeing his look on his model, Edmond decides that it needs to be even shorter, which is the opposite of true, and Kelly has moment where she doesn't think she'll be able to zip her model up into the pants, but she does and it's no big deal. Off to the runway where Christian Siriano is our guest judge, and how great was it to see him again? He and Kelly Osbourne are easily the best guest judges we've had this season.

The Runway:

Ashley: I like it. I wish she could have got the fit right without needing the strap, but I like the concept a lot and I think it’s pretty well executed honestly. I think the asymmetry and the split between the corset and the other side of the top is sexy and smart. I like the split in the skirt too. I think she's show the right amount of skin to be sexy without being trashy at all. I don’t know that it would make any best dressed lists, but I like it.

Kelly: The first moment that it turns the corner and she just stands there for a second, I love it! I think it looks chic, well made, it fits wonderfully, and she looks powerful. Kelly thought about this and that thought and planning shines through in something that I think is a bit of a wow moment. I do not, however, see Red Carpet anywhere on this look at all, and I can’t help but to think that a jumpsuit was the wrong way to go. She took a chance, and I respect that, but even though they look well made, I’m not feeling the pants. There's also a weird thing the top is doing when she walks where it peels away from her body in a stiff and flat movement that makes me think it's made of plastic or something. 

Candice: This is beautiful, and lovely, and elegant, and chic, and yet still feels horribly safe to me. It’s not edgy, or horribly innovative. It’s black, which I’m sick of seeing from Candice at this point, and it feels like a silhouette we’ve seen on the runway a million times before. But nothing detracts from how beautiful and well made and generally breathtaking I think it is. I think this could be on the Red Carpet right now and it would turn heads and make lists in all the best ways, but I don’t think we’d be talking about it so much as a day later. And all I keep thinking is how much better it would be if it were a shiny silver color instead of black. That train is fabulous though!

Edmond: I fucking hate this. I hate it so fucking much. Kill it with fire! It wouldn’t surprise me if Heidi likes it, sadly, but I fucking hate it. The sleeves are hideous, it’s way too short, and the darts in the front are so fucking distracting and sloppy looking. What Tim wanted him to do with this fabric was make a simple gown and let the fabric do all of the heavy lifting and make the statement. And he just couldn’t do that. I think what he had on the dress form at first just needed an open back and it would have been perfect. But this thing is the worst thing I think I’ve ever seen.

The judges like Kelly's look more than I expected, but more important than that, she does something on the runway that totally changes everything: When she's talking about her look she says "Katy Perry" and "The VMA's," and as if those are the magic words, my entire interaction with this look changed. It's another moment where you can see how much she thought about this look and made a plan and then executed it perfectly. It also makes a point that I had been thinking for most of the episode: Red Carpet is not some catchall term that is universally applicable. The Grammy's, Emmy's, and Oscar's all are different award shows with different requirements and expectations on what is acceptable to wear. How many times have you seen something make a worst dressed list for the Oscar's that would have been best dressed on the Grammy's? In specifying which carpet she was designing for, as well as which celebrity she had in him, Kelly made her entire look make a level of sense that I didn't think it had before. If I liked her look before she talked about it, I loved it afterwards!

The judges make mention of how safe Candice's dress is, so we're on the same page on that one. Heidi and Christian like Ashley's dress a bit more than Nina and Zac do. And one thing I thought about Ashley dress was what if she had purposely moved the fabric on the sleeveless side of the top so that it had that cool silver effect that the fabric was capable of having while trying to keep the rest of the dress in that gold color? I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but in my head, she had a way to make it at least seem like those two portions of the top were made of two different fabrics, which is what she wanted to begin with, without actually having to make it out of two different fabrics. I don't know if it would have held up in the long run, but it was an idea that I kept coming to. 

They hate Edmond's look though they're at least polite enough not to suggest taking it out back and burning it like I would have. Everyone acknowledges how much of a disappointment it is from him since they all know he's better than that, but it's clear that they really hate the look. 

After that rundown, the moment we all knew was coming arrives and the designers are asked why they should go to NYFW and who'd they take with them. In truth, I cringed when this came around because I was so ready for everyone to throw Ashley under the bus and have her be left as the only person no one thought should move forward. Luckily, Edmond saves us all from the latest version of Ashley and the Mean Girls by acknowledging he'd take her with him. So Kelly and Candice leave Ashley out of their own personal top three, and Edmond and Ashley leave Candice out, making Kelly and Edmond the only universally chosen designers. 

But of course, Edmond loses the challenge and is sent home. I mean, it's almost like the judges weren't even listening to the designers on this one. Kelly wins which makes this her third win in a row. if there's any such thing as momentum in Project Runway, Kelly has all of it and she's the designer Ashley and Candice have to beat. Or is she the designer Ashley, Candice, and Edmond have to beat? The show makes a big deal of Heidi talking to Edmond and explaining how disappointed they all are in him before she kisses him off. And then he goes back to the greenroom to say his goodbyes and the episode cuts out. The preview for next week is just about the three girls and Tim's standard home visits and such, there's no sign of Edmond in them, but the lack of Edmond feels too forced and purposeful. Tim doesn't send Edmond to clean out his space as is customary for the end of the episode, and we know he hasn't used his save yet, which I think can only mean that Edmond gets saved at the beginning of next week's episode and no amount of attempted misdirection can convince me otherwise. 

There's no rule that says Tim has to use his save if he doesn't want to. But the obvious break in tradition from a show that's as clearly steeped in their catch phrases and sayings as this one is too much of a red flag to be ignored. At this point, I'm hoping Tim doesn't save him and it's all just one big Gotcha! from the producers. It would be refreshing to be wrong in this case. But PR has had four final contestants for a long time now and I can't imagine they'd go back to three now. And I can't be upset by the probability of Tim using his save here either. The fact is all four of these designers are equally matched. All four of them would create unique and interesting collections for NYFW, and thusly all four of them honestly deserve to be there. Or at least, they deserve to be there in as much as contestants on the show deserve to be there. We've already covered how I don't think calling them all equally talented is necessarily a compliment. But if Tim does indeed use his save here, I think it's the right call all around. The judges are right to send Edmond home for what he put down the runway this week, and Tim would be right to save him given what we've seen him do over the course of the season. Also, given how Tim clearly sabotaged his efforts at every turn this week, saving him is the least the old man can do. 

Loose Threads:

--What annoys me about the probability that Tim will save Edmond is that I think the judges are counting on it to a certain extent. He's the only person they talk about during their deliberation, and they know Tim still has his save, and all of their talk is really about how disappointed they all are. I think if Tim had used his save earlier, they would have gone with a cop out "We aren't sending anyone home this week, but you're on the bubble and if we don't like what we see from a selection of your collection when you get back, then we will send you home!" 

--Speaking of Tim's save, would it make sense if they forced him to use it at a certain point in time? Like if there was a stipulation that he had up until the top six to use it or it's taken off the table, would that be better? It's just something I was thinking about. 

--When asked about the difficulty of Edmond's look, Christian points out that he could make that dress in 10 minutes. Can you imagine how much Christian would have wiped the floor with these contestants if he'd been on this season? I've droned on and on about the talent level this year, but just seeing Christian again made me realize just how great he was in comparison to these jokers. I didn't even love Christian that much during his season, but he's a giant by comparison. 

--I mentioned that Christian and Kelly were the best guest judges this season, and going based on the previews, it seems the two of them will also be judges on Project Runway Juniors. You all know I don't watch the PR spinoffs as a general rule, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about tuning in to this this. It also looks like Tim will be there at least for an episode if not all season.

--In LA, Ashley and Edmond get their own rooms instead of bunking up. Can someone explain to me what PR has against co-ed rooming situations? In a show where 98% of the male contestants are all gay, would it really matter if they shared a room with the girls? Granted, I don't think Edmond is gay (though I could be wrong), but even so, would it really be a huge deal for him and Ashley to share a room for a night or so in LA?

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