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. 


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. 

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