Friday, August 28, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E4: "Fashion Flip"

I think we've all been around long enough to know that some of the worst seasons on PR have been doomed by uneven judging. Someone wins you don't expect or think deserves it, someone goes home that's just really odd, the judges like something they shouldn't or didn't like last week and probably won't like next week, it can all be a bit jarring. And while I don't think that the worst seasons of the show were as bad as they were solely because the judging was sporadic, I do know that that certainly doesn't help any. So my gut reaction here is to ask if we're dealing with that again this year, but before we can rightfully engage with that question, I think we have to take on the episode as a whole.

Remember when I praised last week's episode for its streamlined opening and doing away with the pointless opening segments of the show? No contestants waking up and recapping what happened in the last challenge, no Heidi sending them off with stupid cryptic messages to go meet Tim so he could make the challenge clear. Well guess what's back this week! Honestly, I don't mind the contestants waking up and chatting a bit because I enjoyed hearing what everyone thought after the team challenge. It seems, to quote Merline, that things have just got real in the PR house. Prior to being on teams, everyone for the most part liked each other, but now the gloves are off and everyone's remembering that this is a competition and friend's aren't in the offing. So that's nice. Less nice is Heidi's stupid message before sending them all off. Honestly, I understand you want to get the most out of Heidi as your host, but what real purpose does this moment serve other than to eat up time?

The designers go out to meet Tim on the waterfront, and are told that this is the Mary Kay challenge. Usually, unless I'm mistaken, that means that the designers are to get inspired by some new Mary Kay color scheme and go from there. But this time around it just means that they'll get an earlier makeup consultation and they have to be inspired by the New York skyline. It's a foggy and smoggy New York morning, so they basically have to imagine the skyline and then get inspired by it. And they have to take a classic design form and make it modern. It's all wide open to interpretation which I think is a good thing for this early in the competition as it gives the designers more time to shine while also allowing for bigger failures. Also, the winner of this challenge gets $5000 and their look in an editorial in Marie Clare. So it's a pretty big deal this early in the competition.

Once everyone's done sketching, it's off to the first trip to Mood, and I didn't realize just how much I missed Mood until this moment. I like the idea of Mood being the reward for designers sticking around long enough to earn it. Like the first three people to go home weren't even worthy to walk through the front doors. There's an extended cut of people running around, buying fabric for the first time, and talking about their thought process on which fabrics to buy. There's a lot of talking but very little substance, and not nearly enough Swatch for me, but oh well.

Back in the workroom we discover that Blake doesn't know how to tell time, or that he thinks it's cute and funny to pretend like he doesn't know how to tell time. What I find interesting about Blake's edit so far this season is that when they cut to the other designers for reaction shots to his antics, none of them look amused. They don't have very positive things to say and it's clear that they don't think his idiocy is appealing. So why does he keep it up? Are these the first people to find him annoying instead of endearing? If so, that would explain a lot, and it left me thinking that my main problem with Blake is that he clearly wasn't beaten up enough as a child. I don't like bullying, and I think it's a horrible problem facing kids, and especially gay kids, but someone should have shoved this little asshole in a locker a couple more times and maybe he would have learned his lesson.

Anyway, on to Tim's visit which happens to be the first visit of the season where I think he actually remembered that he's supposed to be helpful and mentor these guys instead of just giving funny soundbites to use later. He responds favorably to a lot of the looks, and offers some solid advice to Amanda and Gabrielle who both really need a pick-me-up. Gabrielle, at some point, decided that she was going to just stop working on her dress and wait around for Tim to show up, which I think is a horrible idea and had a lot to do with the unfinished quality of her final look, but more on that in a minute. Blake also doesn't have anything done and is trying to convince Tim that his bold vision is something that will totally work once he starts working on it. Here's a tip, Blake, if you at least have something, literally anything done by the time Tim gets there, he'll be better able to see where you're heading and what your vision is, and he can advise you accordingly. Presenting him with just the ideas in your head isn't going to get you anywhere.

Also of interest is the fact that Edmond has two dresses in the process of being made. This reminds me of last week when he just whipped up a new swimsuit out of nowhere and in seemingly no time at all. If he's constantly the guy that's working on two things at once before deciding which to concentrate on and send down the runway, that'll come back and bite him in his ass. I can't even begin to imagine how that approach will work when they get to the Couture challenge.

There was a Mary Kay consultation that I missed because it seemed like the perfect time for a bathroom break, and a model fitting where we learned that Laurie got a new and slightly opinionated model, but we don't find out why she needed the model change in the first place. And Blake still hasn't actually sewn anything together. He pins muslin on the model to get an idea of how the dress will sit. He might have learned how to tell time earlier but he certainly didn't learn how to manage it.

Of course he's left scrambling the next morning before the runway. Gabrielle joins him in the race to the finish since she put all her energy and effort into her jacket and seemingly forgot that the dress underneath it was just as important. So it's off to the runway where we're joined by guest judge Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men. She's young and cute and very polite with nice things to say about all the designers and no real bark or bite. I found her boring, but I love Sally Draper, so hey.

The Runway:

Blake: I hate it. The sides around the legs remind me of what I hated about his look last week, the pinned up back is weird and not intriguing and it reminds me of a girl who got her hair trapped in an unopened parachute or something. Nothing about the look is wearable at all, and the construction is horribly sloppy and haphazard. He needs to learn that if he wants to do all that work, he needs more time. 

Kelly: I actually really like this. I think it embodies the challenge well. It’s a nice new take on a standard white t-shirt and I can see the New York skyline influence. I think it was a very smart choice to pair it with those cute and simple black pants too. And I like her model’s styling, good job all around. 

Joseph: The split and the open back makes it look younger than his usual fare, but that's about all the good I can say about it. The top stitching would show better on a different fabric or a different colored fabric. Without being able to see that detail it looks a bit like a breastplate. The seams around the neckline and the arms were showing and looked messy and unfinished, and the whole thing looks a bit boring and simple. 

Linsey: I hate it. I can’t be certain why I hate it other than the fact that I hate the color of the jacket and the textile on the outfit underneath, and I think the proportions are all wrong, and it’s a bit simple, so OK I actually do know why I hate it, and I still hate it. 

Ashley: What if instead of the open back there was a keyhole cut out in the front? Would that be cute, or make it a bit trashy? I can’t be sure, but I do think it’d make me like the dress a little more. I don’t hate it as is, but I do think the colors are oddly muted and uninteresting. The tule overlay on it all is an interesting touch, but I don’t think it gives the dress any element of actual wearability. And I can’t decide who I think would honestly wear it. I don’t think I’d put her in the bottom just yet, but it’s not my favorite.

Laurie: I want the black leather-looking fabric on the top gone, and that bow aspect just toned down a little bit and then I’d love it. I like the skirt a lot, and I like the idea of the top a lot more than I like the execution of it. But I think the black fabric is a distraction and not an enhancement and it makes the top look a bit too busy.

Jake: I hate it, but oddly enough what I hate about most is that the number on it is in black and doesn’t pop out enough from the rest of the dress. I get what he was going for, and I’ll actually give him credit for the attempt, but had he done the number in white or in a different color that stood out but still complimented the pink of the dress, I’d like it a lot more. I don’t mind the length as much as I thought I would. 

Amanda: Ok I guess. I neither like it nor hate it, it’s just kind of there. I wish the white half of the top had been done differently somehow, but I can’t tell how. 

Swapnil: Oh Swapnil, I love you, but I so wish the front had looked a bit more purposeful. There’s something about it that I think looks thrown together and haphazard in a way that I don’t find appealing. I like the back, and I like the overall effect of her turning around and seeing that back in such a manner, but I really am not a fan of the front. 

Merline: There’s a lot going on in this design and while I think she maybe could have done one less thing to it, I like it a lot. It feels to me like the kind of high fashion look Blake wanted to create but didn’t have the time to pull together. Comparatively, this look is finished and polished and eye catching in a way that I appreciate. I like it a lot the more I think about it. 

Gabrielle: There’s a weird fit issue with the dress, right? Or is it just me? Again, I don’t hate it or anything, but I don’t like it much either. I don’t know. I’d probably at least say safe, but we’ll see. 

Candice: Yes please and thank you. I don’t like to throw the word fierce around too much, but I can’t think of any other word to describe this look. The fit on this dress is just fucking to die for. Her woman looks strong, sexy, and in control in a way that's just ridiculous. I wish I could have seen it with the jacket on for a little while longer, but the effect of taking that off and just having the dress there was amazing. Loved it!

Edmond: I want it to be like maybe an inch or so longer (that’s what she said) and then I’d love it. The rest of it I like a lot, and I like the architectural aspect of it. I think it’s a really nice look that’s just a little bit too short. 

Now for the judging; Candice, Swapnil, and Blake are in the top. Yes, Blake is in the top. And Amanda, Gabrielle, and Lindsey are in the bottom. I'm a lot less confused by who's in the bottom than I am by who's in the top. Or specifically by Blake's being in the top. If you wanted to make him safe and send him off with a "Blake, we actually really liked your look and you just missed the top three by a hair," I'd think you were crazy but I'd go with it. Putting him in the top seems ridiculous to me. But then the judges started critiquing and I actually understood their thinking even while not really agreeing with it. 

When they said they wanted a new twist on a classic look, they never said it had to be practical or wearable, just that it had to be new. Heidi praises Blake for producing a silhouette they've never seen on the show before, and Nina and Zac praise him for being original and thinking outside of the box while not fully losing the look of his inspiration. No one really mentions the poor construction, but oh well I guess. 

They have nice things to say about Swapnil's dress, but are clearly blown away by Candice's look. They even have an extended moment with her as she talks about how hard it is to be away from her kids, but how happy she is to know her family supports her and has her back. There's no mention of the fact that she has immunity and still turns out a look that fabulous, but I can't help but to think it's implied. The writing for her win is on the wall and the rest just seems like a formality. 

Amanda spent a lot of time in this episode lamenting the fact that she's been in the bottom three for the last two challenges and she doesn't know what the judges want to see from her. So she tried to go out of her way to give them what she thought they wanted and went with something a bit more simple and paired down and then of course was smashed on the runway for how simple and paired down her look was. She admits that she wanted less crazy since she's been criticized for going crazy in the past, but the judges all pretty much tell her more crazy, go full on crazy, dye your fabric in human feces type crazy. I get the impression she'll try and take that advice next week and get sent home. We've seen her type on the show before, and the fact of the matter is that designers who try so hard to give the judges what they want instead of just trusting in their own abilities and unique vision don't do well on this show. Is Amanda capable of creating something like what Candice or Kelly created in this challenge? The truth is that I doubt it because she doesn't seem to have that kind of strong unique vision, but so long as she's fishing for a compliment from the judges and trying to conform to some kind of secret formula for winning the challenges, we'll never know for sure. 

Gabrielle's outfit is just a total mess. From the moment she mentioned adding a pop of pink to the dress and Zac pointed out that they couldn't see any pink at all until she took off the jacket, you knew she was doomed. If it doesn't show up on the runway, keep that kind of shit to yourself, baby girl. I hate to give him credit for anything, but notice how Blake didn't say a damn word about what he did to the neckline of his dress until Zac caught a sneak peak of it and asked him what the necklace was hiding? That's what Gabrielle should have done about that little bit of pink on that dress. 

Either way, Gabrielle goes home and Blake wins the challenge. Yes, that's right, Blake wins. For a second, let's ignore the fact that I hate him and often fantasize about punching him in the mouth in an attempt to shut him up. Let's ignore the fact that I hate the dress he sent down the runway no matter what the judges might have thought about it. Let's focus on one thing and one thing only: The winning look is going to be photographed and laid out in a spread in Marie Clare magazine. If you can convince me that Blake's look will photograph better and be more interesting on the page than either Candice or Swapnil's looks, then I won't complain about this decision anymore. But the truth of the matter is that you can't convince me of that because it isn't fucking true. Maybe with a little more time to actually finish the dress so it isn't being held together with pins and tape, and maybe with a better styled model and something different going on with the razor back, maybe it'll be ready to photograph. But if it needs that much work to be worthy of the magazine, then did it really deserve to win? You can take Candice's look and her model right from the runway to the fashion shoot and that look is ready to go. The same cannot be said for this winning look and I'm honestly a bit floored by that. I don't think this is the worst and most inconsistent judging we've seen from the show, but this is certainly the first time that I can't wrap my head around the winning look at all, and that worries me at least a little bit. 

Loose Threads:

--Interestingly enough the designers all really like Gabrielle and are seriously sad to see her go. It's not that I'm surprised by this as she seems likable enough, but I didn't think we'd gotten much chance to really get to know her one way or the other, so it was interesting to see. Tim's also sad and seemingly a bit surprised to see her go, but not surprised enough to save her. So there's that. 

--Swapnil solidified himself as my favorite with his confusion over the setting of Breakfast at Tiffany's and his silly excitement over finally getting to go to Mood. He's just too adorable for words. 

--Speaking of Swapnil, this is also the third challenge in a row that he's been in the top three. I don't think he really deserved the win this week like he has in the past, but he's putting together a consistently strong showing. I'd honestly say he's looking better right now than Ashley is even with her two wins under her belt. 

--Luckily for Candice, winning last week didn't land her in the bottom or being complained about save for her immunity this week. Ashley may not have been in the top, but there was at least no indication that her being safe was only due to her immunity, so that's a step in the right direction. 

--Has anyone else noticed that Zac seems nicer and gentler with the gay guys than he does with the ladies? I first noticed this back in the first episode when he seemed to go a bit out of his way to say something nice about Duncan and Blake's looks even though they were in the bottom though he didn't extend that same kindness to Han. And now this week there seemed to be even more gentleness towards Blake as he talked about the neckline of the dress and didn't bash him for how unfinished it all was. Unfair double standard, man!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E3: "Shut Up and Sew"

There's something wonderfully organic about the drama of a team challenge on Project Runway. It's not really forced except when it feels like the producers have put certain people together for the sake of creating drama. A collection of artists with their own ideas and aesthetics are of course going to clash when asked to create something together. The truth is that compromise isn't in our nature. Everyone thinks their ideas are right. It's actually the same way I tend to think about religious people; when talking about the strife between different religions, something very basic has always been so clear to me: Of course the believers of this or that religion believe their religion to be the "right" one, if they didn't, they'd change and go with the one that was "right." That's what's at the heart of team challenges on this show; each designer, by their very nature, thinks their designs are best. The nature of a true collaboration isn't about getting them to see that their designs aren't the best, but that the two of you are more capable of coming up with something better if you work together. But until you setup the teams for any given episode, it's impossible to tell who'll be capable of doing that and who won't be.

This week, the designers are taken onto a luxurious cruise ship and told that they'll be put in pairs at which point they'll choose a suitcase. The suitcase has a destination written on it and fabric inside that will serve as the fabric they'll use. The challenge? Create a look that can easily transition from the excursion at your chosen destination back onto the ship and the typical night life found therein. For the second time this season I have to take some time and praise the show for maximizing the appeal of its runtime. This episode hit the ground running in a way that we haven't seen in years. There was no segment of the designers waking up and meeting Heidi to be told where to go meet Tim. Instead, the episode starts and the designers are already heading to the boat. Also, all of the impressed gushing over the lavish nature of the cruise ship feels earned. I don't buy for a minute that people are excited to be in a Hallmark store, but on a ship that big? Sure even I'd be awestruck. I know it's hard to sell some of the support of their sponsors, but this worked in a way very few things of this nature do. Bravo, PR, you seem to have finally learned a lesson.

I complained earlier that there didn't seem to be any big personalities on this season, and I stand by that observation, but it seems like the recipe for bringing that out of these contestants is to pair them up in some fashion. From the word "team," some of the gloves came off in confessionals. Candice (I think?) is quick to point out that she doesn't want to work with Edmond because he has immunity this week and she doesn't want to carry the brunt of the burden. Joseph says he doesn't want to work with Merline because she drives him crazy. And I was fully expecting both of them to be screwed on those points, but I was only half right. Tim pulls out the button bag and pairs people at random and Joseph and Merline end up being the last two left. To her credit, Merline seems honestly excited to be working with Joseph. Her smile during the car ride back to the workroom is unflappable as Joseph tells her point blank that her singing and dancing annoys him and she won't be allowed to do any of that when they work together.

Something else I said about the first episode of this season was that Merline was someone I found to be wonderfully authentic and the edits around her would be interesting. As we spend more time with her this week, I find myself being impressed with her authenticity as she shows how she's capable of being vulnerable. Or maybe vulnerable isn't the best word, but there's something about the way she gets upset and worries about her inability to make her and Joseph's look carry any part of her signature style, and the way she admits to being maybe too concerned with letting people down and trying hard to fit in with other people like she's still in high school. It feels honest and watching it transpire was oddly affecting. Either way, in this pair Merline comes off as the far more sympathetic party.

Once everyone gets back to the workroom, there's some small amount of manufactured drama about Blake grabbing the white fabric that Gabrielle and Amanda wanted to use, but it's short lived. There's a brief glance at all the designers working and getting along well with each other, and then the bulk of the episode is spent focusing on the three teams with the most toxic relationships. Merline and Joseph have problems whereby he seems to think his job is to teach Merline how to make the outfit he wants to make. Some portion of the problem here is that Merline isn't forceful enough to stand up for herself and speak her case. She's so concerned with hoping she doesn't let him down or that he likes her that she just allows him to make whatever he wants and then sits there demurely while he condescendingly tells her how to make it. Meanwhile, Joseph sees all the time that he "has" to spend telling her how to make his dress as a distraction from the work he could be doing if he were alone. But unless I missed something in the editing or through just not paying close enough attention, there wasn't a "need" to hold Merline's hand through it all; he chose to do that on his own accord and then got made at her for it. Joseph seems to thrive best when he's teaching someone else how to do something, and that's the dynamic he gets with Merline because he doesn't respect her and she's too passive to stand up and demand respect.

Meanwhile, Jake and Lindsey have their own set of problems. She doesn't like it when he calls her things like "sweetie" and "honey" and he doesn't like how forceful and direct she is with some of her opinions. There are, I think, two ways to read this situation. 1) Jake is a misogynistic ass who purposefully condescends to women with pet names in a manner that's meant to be placatory, and he has a problem with the fact that Lindsey has thoughts and opinions of her own. 2) There's a cultural misunderstanding between them and a fundamental difference in the way they communicate. What I mean by that is that I think, though I can't be sure, that I hear a hint of a southern accent when Jake speaks. If that's the case, then calling a woman, especially a woman younger than himself, things like sweetie is just so deeply engrained in him that he couldn't turn it off even if he tried. That's not to say that such a thing isn't accidentally condescending in and of itself, but I didn't get the impression that that was his intention, so maybe if they had just talked that out before getting to the runway, things could have been better? Either way, they don't like each other, and Jake's brilliant plan on how to get around that is to sit around doing nothing while Lindsey does all the work so he can throw her under the bus when they inevitably find themselves in the bottom.

Communication problems also extend to Han and Edmond. The interesting thing about this pairing was in how splendidly wrong they both were. Edmond wants them to communicate and wants Han to tell him all of her thoughts while she's having them right there right now. On the one hand, this is because they only really have eight hours in which to work and finish their look. On the other hand, he isn't taking into consideration the possibility that Han thinks in a different language than he does and therefore would have to formulate her thoughts and then translate them to English all in her head before she can even begin to get the words out. And even if that's not the case, different people think and process information differently; Edmond's insistence on her just blurting out what she's thinking isn't taking these things into consideration. But with all that being said, Han also has to do a better job of expressing her thoughts and concerns in a timely manner. When she complains that the dress she sketched was more in Edmond's aesthetic than in her own and she doesn't like it, he's right to point out that that's something they needed to address long before the time in which she brought it up. She's also inflexible to an extent that I found odd, and both of them are passive aggressive and a bit petty. So there's that.

Tim's visit is predictable. The teams that are getting along well need very little help, and the teams that aren't need miracles. My artists thinking that they're right theory holds true in a brief moment between Swapnil and Laurie when he points out that he wants to use one kind of fabric and she wants a different one, and Tim agrees with Laurie's choice and Swapnil looks a bit dejected. But to his credit, he listens and the outfit is made all the better for it. Tim's advice to Han and Edmond is that Han basically just needs to do what Edmond is saying and I'm left wondering what the fuck kind of advice is that? Sorry, but Tim's stock as a mentor is just plummeting with me this season.

There's one more moment of drama before the runway when Edmond decides to stop working on the skirt that's going to serve as the wrap for their bathing suit and start making a new bathing suit from scratch as he assumes the one Han made won't fit properly. Meanwhile, Han sees this, grabs her suit and their model and locks them both in a bathroom while she sews the model into the two piece without Edmond's knowledge. It's petty, deceitful, and underhanded, and hilarious. It's especially funny that Edmond complains about Han's move being those things without acknowledging that his own choice to make a second bathing suit on his own was also all of those things. It's a pot and kettle kind of moment, but I still couldn't help but to laugh.

On the runway, the lovely, funny, and talented Tracee Ellis Ross is a guest judge, and in that moment the reason why Laurie was talking about how much she loved Girlfriends and Tracee Ellis Ross earlier in the episode is made clear. For what it's worth, Ross is a thoughtful, capable, and rightfully harsh judge and I'd love for her to come back anytime!

The Runway:

I like it way more than I expected to. I thought it would all be a bit much together, and there is a slight feeling of a lack of cohesion in the textiles, but not the looks themselves. It's something I can see someone buying specifically for vacation and I think it does serve to transition well between spaces. I think it's really pretty and well made. Welcome back to form, Ashley.

Is there a weird fit to the pants? It looks oddly bunched up in the back. Maybe it’s just the fabric. Other than that, I like this look a lot. I like the fabric choice for the Sari drape as it’s really nicely understated. The top is really pretty. The pants are probably the weakest part of the look for me, but they work as part of the outfit. Maybe a little more time on getting the tailoring just right would make the difference. 

I actually think it’s cute, but I don’t think the fabric photos well at all. It hurts my eyes on the runway. The cut of it is simple, but still cute, so I honestly have no complaints. If I didn’t want to see them on the runway complaining about each other, I’d say they deserved to be safe based on the look. 

I like Joseph’s taste level, I really do, but good lord could that dress look any older, sadder, or more simple? The complaint that there’s no Merline is accurate. There’s no fun, and no youth, and I can’t imagine anyone who'd want to wear that on a cruise vacation. 

The first thing I notice about this look is the way the model turns around and holds the skirt up over her ass to cover up just how exposed she is. It’s a bottom that wasn’t meant to be a thong but turned into a thong and that’s a problem. Other than that misstep, do I hate it? Maybe a bit, but not fully. It looks thrown together around all those straps in the middle, and the top looks poorly constructed, but there’s an idea there and there’s someone that I could imagine wearing it if it were actually finished. It needs a lot of work, but it's not the single worst piece of shit I've ever seen. It is, however, the worst thing on the runway thus far. 

The puckering in the back of the top is an eyesore. The pants are well made and cute, but ultimately I just found it boring. And I don’t see much of a transition to it. So I think it’s boring and it doesn’t really embody the challenge all that well. 

hm….. I want to like this, I really really do. And I find the cut of the top to be sexy without being tasteless. The only thing I don’t like is the cut of the bottom. The flowy sides look like fish fins to me, or something, and I can’t take my eyes off of them. On the one hand, it adds movement, so that’s nice, but on the other hand I find it distracting and not very flattering. Heidi smiling like that doesn’t surprise me though, this looks screams her. 

Blake & Kelly are the only safe look. Joseph & Merline and Edmond & Han are of course in the bottom. The surprise comes from Jake & Lindsey being in the top. They're joined by Swapnil & Laurie and Ashley & Candice. Gabrielle & Amanda round out the bottom. Which all just goes to show that how a team does or doesn't work together might not have much baring on where they end up. 

It's positive things all around for Ashley & Candice. Ross calls their willingness to mix textiles bold, and when they're asked who should win neither of them can pick. Heidi points out the poor fit on the pants in Swapnil & Laurie's look, but other than that the judges respond favorably to it. Ross, after being flattered by Laurie before the runway show started, admits that she doesn't mind the pants at all. So take that, Heidi! Laurie says, without hesitation, that Swapnil should win and he seems happy with that assessment. Jake & Lindsey's critique is the shit show we all could have assumed it would be. The manner in which they can't seem to leave well enough alone is just ridiculous. You made it to the top looks, take the compliment and try to sneak off with some amount of dignity. It doesn't even seem like the judges grill them much before Jake is just spilling the beans on everything that was wrong with their partnership. When it's time for the judges to talk about the outfit, they all seem a bit flustered and taken aback by just how much the designers didn't get along. They have nice things to say about the look, but it's clear they won't get giving the win to this team after all that dysfunction. 

As for the bottom looks, there's no real surprises in what the judges say. What annoys me the most is how even faced with the critique, with the judges asking who should go home, and with Joseph throwing her so firmly under the bus, Merline never really mounts a solid defense for herself. The dress is so clearly of Joseph's design and construction that there can be no doubt that it's all on him. He opens the defense by saying the person he designs for is older and everyone rips the dress for being too old. This is 100% his look, this is 100% his screw up, and yet he firmly believes that Merline should go home? He cites that having to take time away from what he needed to do caused the dress to be a s bad as it is, but at no point does Merline say that she never asked for or needed his constant tutelage and overbearing nature. Never once does she say she deserves to stay simply because she didn't really have a hand in anything that went down the runway. If they want to eliminate her for not working to help her partner, that'd be one thing, but it's information that the judges would have to have and make the call themselves. Instead she mostly just says that she shouldn't go home because she wants to stay and we're all left rolling our eyes. You've got to do better than that, baby girl. 

In the end, Ashley and Candice both get the win because the judges can't decide who to give it to. And Han goes home mostly, it seems, because Edmond has immunity. This is already the second win for Ashley who seems to have rebounded after the disaster last week, but in truth I would have given this one to Swapnil and Laurie. This makes the second week in a row that Swapnil was only barely edged out when he could have and should have won and it's starting to remind me of the times Sean stole wins from Kini last year. This also makes the second time that a contest went from a top look to a look that would have sent them home if they didn't already have immunity. So I guess we've gotta keep our eye on Candice and Ashley next week and see if the pattern holds. 

Loose Threads: 

--Joseph lost a lot of points with me in this episode. I don't know how much of it is the editing and how much of it is just him being a dick, but I was not a fan of his this week. 

--Idk how many people saw this, but there was a little moment during one of the commercial breaks where we got to spend time with Laurie while she called her daughter and gave a little more backstory on herself. It was the single cutest thing in the world. I'm always so much more invested in teary calls home with they involve children than I am when it's to partners. If you can't be without your boyfriend or girlfriend for a couple week without crying about it, then that speaks of codependency and it ain't cute. But this worked and it was a nice way to make the commercial break tolerable and to get to know a little more about one of the contestants without taking up the more important show time. Project Runway's good show management shows up again, and I'm loving it. 

--Why is everything always "about to get real" with Merline? Is she from some place where everything is just constantly fake?

--There was a significant lack of Blake in this episode and that was 100% the way to go. The less I see of him the better. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E2: "It's All in the Cards"

I'll start this recap off with a question: If you were a producer on Project Runway's 14th season, would you try to edit the show on an episode to episode basis or try to craft some kind of season long edit that worked week in and week out? New York Fashion week isn't until the beginning of September, so they don't know who's won this season yet, but they surely know who's in the finale by now. That's not to say that you'd want to craft the season in such a manner that leads people to guess who makes it to the end as early as the beginning, but maybe you could look at the footage ahead of time and decide on an edit for the first episode that might have some bearing on the second? This is brought to the forefront of my mind in this episode for two reasons: 1) the episode is pretty boring and predictable and left me with a lot of room to think about stuff other than what happens on the screen. 2) Merline doesn't seem to be nearly as loud and annoying this week as she was last week. Is it just an off day for her, so she's more reserved, or was what we saw of her last week more about first day jitters than actual personality traits? If the latter, then was the edit of the episode wrong, or was my interpretation of the visual information just wrong? I guess only time will tell, and if Merline is back to being her chatty and annoying self by next week, then this whole paragraph is for nothing. But still; after 14 seasons, it's pretty clear that Project Runway edits on a week to week basis, and I'm not sure if that's a strength or a weakness.

This week offers us the first unconventional materials challenge with the contestants going to Hallmark and making outfits out of greeting cards. At this point, I feel like paper is the standard unconventional material for PR challenges, so the fact that these are hard card stock with stupid, I mean sentimental, images and sayings on them didn't do enough to make this challenge feel interesting or exciting. Swapnill, however is every excited to be in a Hallmark store which either means that his New York tourist experience has very different stops on it than mine would, or that Hallmark is much bigger over in India than I ever imagined.

After they leave the store a mess for the underpaid, unappreciated workers to clean up and set right again, it's back to the workroom to start coming up with ideas. A lot of trading of cards and offering of certain kinds of help happens here and it becomes clear that they all really like each other. Or well, mostly at least. Edmond makes a big deal about pretending to not have any ideas because he's worried his ideas will inspire someone else. It's stupid, but it's certainly one way to go. Here's the thing, I love Project Runway, but let's not pretend like this game is on the level of something like Survivor. Strategy doesn't really play a part in what goes on on this show, and pretending like it does gives it a level of complexity that it doesn't really deserve. But that's neither here nor there.

The biggest thing to happen during the workroom segment is that Blake shows himself to be even more of a stereotypical young gay boy by being racist towards Swapnil and playing it off like his annoying qualities are actually cute. The problem with Blake is that he's not smart or interesting enough for a full on Villain edit, but he's just young, stupid, and self-centered enough with just the right amount of privilege to make him an asshole. So he's honestly a bad person, but he's not the kind of bad person that will make for interesting TV (think previous contestants like Jeffrey Sebelia or Irina). So we're just stuck with him until the judges get bored enough with his cliche aesthetic and send him home.

To Swapnil's credit, he handles the situation well, and the rest of the designers seem to be appropriately annoyed and disgusted by Blake's remark, but that's pretty much the last we hear about it. Blake could have earned a lot of capital with me if he'd had the slightest bit of self-awareness and apologized for what he said, but if that happened at all, we didn't see it, and I'm back to thinking he can go fuck himself.

The most obvious edit for the episode is David's swan song. In my notes, I wrote that he was pretty much either going home this week or he was going to win, but I was leaning towards going home. He got a teary conversation with his husband, a reaming by Tim Gunn during his visit, and then totally scrapped and remade his look all in the course of a few minutes. Couple that with his confidence in what he made in spite of how obviously it didn't fit the challenge and you've got How To Be A PR Loser 101. After 14 seasons, it's sad to me that PR hasn't quiet figured out how to make these things a bit more seamless and mysterious, but I guess there's something to be said for consistency.

Before we move past the lackluster middle portion of the episode and jump to the runway, I do want to take a moment and talk about Tim Gunn. His visit is about as stock as you'd expect and doesn't add much to the episode as a whole, but it left me wondering a bit about how his role as mentor is at odds with the show’s need for him to manufacture drama. There are two moments in his meeting with the designers where the things he says, or at least the things we see him saying, are more about adding drama and cringing drums of doom to everything than they're about actually trying to help or offer some kind of construction to the proceedings. When he talks to David, he insults his look in every way imaginable, but did he ever once give him a single suggestion on how to fix it or what direction to go in? He calls back to him as if in an afterthought that he shouldn't forget who he is as a designer, but what does that even mean?

Likewise in his meeting with Amanda he offers increasingly panicked and grave pronouncements about the fact that she doesn't have a skirt for her look yet, but no real help beyond telling her she doesn't have much time left as if she doesn't know how to tell time. I love Tim Gunn forever, of course, but if his sole purpose is to come up with ever more colorful adjectives to explain how bad the bad designs are, then maybe "mentor" isn't actually the best title for him anymore. On to the runway.

The Runway:

Swapnil: Cute. I think there’s a skill and sophistication to it that I like. And I appreciated how fun and playful the bottom was matched with how sophisticated the top is. It's possible the judges will think there's too much going on, but I think it blends together well. 

Ashley: What the everloving fuck? No! I just want to shake a roll of pennies at it. No!

Joseph: That’s hideous and very crafty. The construction of the skirt is all wrong, and the top is boring. I can’t believe he stands by this on the runway. 

David: It’s cute though I think it’s a little pancho-y. Which is bothersome. But of course the other problem is that it doesn’t embody the challenge at all. It’s cute, but he could go home for that. 

Jake: I respect that he stuck with his materials and what not after Tim’s visit. The sparkle of it stops it from looking too much like roof shingles, and ultimately I think it’s cute, if a bit simple. 

Candice: She set out to do something specific and she did it. I can respect that very much. It’s a nice look. It doesn’t appeal to me on a personal level, but I certainly can see and appreciate her vision. 

Han: If it moved more, I’d like it more. It looks like she stuck her model in a paper sack. And she keeps using the word young to describe her looks and I’m honestly starting to question if she actually knows what that word means. 

Gabrielle: Oh no! I thought she was going to go for a kind of ombre effect from the shoulder down across the diagonal of the dress. But instead she put that hideous looking thing in the center, and I think Ashley’s claim of vagina is right. I hate it. It feels like a solid idea gone horribly wrong. 

Laurie: I like it. Don’t really love it, but I like it. 

Blake: The truth is I don’t hate it. I don’t like it, but I also don’t hate it. For a dress that he just glued a lot of glitter onto, it’s fine. Very sparkly, but not as busy and distracting as his last look. He still needs to know when to edit and tone it down, and it also doesn’t feel like much of the point of the challenge is in here, but I don’t think it’s the worst thing we’ve seen so far. 

Lindsey: hm…… OK I guess. There are things about it that catch my eye and I like, and then things that just bore me. I find the front boring, and the weird scarf thing to be out of place and off putting, but the back is cute. 

Kelly: I’m digging it even though the cutout on the front reminds me a bit much of like the Power Rangers or something. In fact, all of it feels a bit Power Ranger-y to me. But I like it. I think the hood on the back of the top really makes it into something special. The skirt I could take or leave. 

Amanda: The really striking and pretty top is totally undone by that horribly skirt. Everything about it from the construction to the patterns in the cards she chose just don’t work. I wish she could have had more than just the one good idea. 

Merline: No!

Edmond: I like it a lot. There are some kind of leaves or petals on the skirt that look like tape to me and they are distracting, but other than that it's a really strong look made all the more strong by the fact that it’s just paper. 

Heidi says that they have four top looks and two bottom looks this time. Swapnil, Edmond, Blake, and Kelly all get top honors while David and Amanda are in the bottom. Though, given the reactions to Kelly's look, I think it's safer to say she's in the middle and could have been replaced with another bottom look such as Joseph or Gabrielle's. Ashley is called out for there being too much muslin on her dress, but I can't help but to think that if that's Heidi's only complaint about that paper-potato-sack of a dress, then she needs to try harder. 

The judge's Q&A is simple and lackluster just like the rest of the episode. It's pretty obvious from everything they're saying that the winner is between Swapnil and Edmond, and maybe instead of four top looks they could have gone with two tops and two bottoms and called it a day. They have nice things to say about Blake and Kelly, but it's so obvious neither of them are going to win that I don't see the point in them being there. They are, however, oddly complimentary towards David's look, Zac goes so far as to suggest it'd be a top look if he'd only used the cards for the body of it instead of fabric, while only having nice things to say about Amanda's top while then ripping her dress to shreds. It's an interesting dilemma having to choose between the girl with the ugly and poorly constructed look and the guy whose look is nice but doesn't embody the challenge at all. It's a question I never really have a consistent answer for. I generally am more interested in the show finding someone capable of thinking up great designs than I am someone who can follow instructions properly, but that's not to say that following instructions isn't important either. 

In the end, Edmond wins and David goes home and there's no real complaint to be made about either choice. It's all a simple and straight forward episode of the show. A bit boring and predictable, but at least not as bad as we've seen it be in the past. The struggle PR has currently and for the foreseeable future is in crafting drama without casting contestants who do nothing but yell, fight, and throw shade at the judges every time they get a negative critique. The truth is after only two episodes, I'm not sure how to suggest they go about doing that. We don't care enough about anyone one way or another to really care about who goes home week to week, so they're really at the mercy of their contestants. And while I'll take a season with less aimless fighting and yelling than the one we had two years ago, I also think a bit more personality than we've got this year is in order too.

Loose Threads:

--Links to photos of each dress will be coming when Lifetime finally puts them up on their website. but as it's already past midnight and I have to be at work in the morning, I'm not willing to wait around for it. 

--In honor of Blake's racist bullshit, I would like to say that if I ever hear the phrase "I just don't have a filter," or "I just say what other people are thinking," again, I'm going to lose it. I know he doesn't say the second one, but I think they go in the same ball park and I hate them both. Why should not thinking before you speak be commended? Esp when the things you say after not thinking are racist and stupid. If someone and responded to his "I don't speak Indian" comment with "Oh that's ok, I don't speak Fag, so I can't understand you most of the time either," would he have found that as cute as what he said? What a fucking asshole!

--I meant to mention this last week with some of Han's scenes, but shows offering subtitles when a contestant is speaking English really fucking annoys me. They might have thick accents, but at no time have I found it so hard to understand what David, Swapnil, or Han are saying that I need subtitles. And guess what, if you do need subtitles, it's 2015 and all TVs had a closed caption option. I find the subtitles to be just as demeaning as what Blake said. 

--Lindsey’s hope that the unconventional materials challenge would come later in the season makes me think she’s never watched the show before. Has there ever been a season where there wasn't an unconventional materials challenge in the first few episodes?

--Did anyone else notice that it looked like one of Kelly's tattoos was being blurred out? It's on her forearm, and I think it was during her meeting with Tim that something looked smudged in that area. I could have just been seeing things, but that's at least what it looked like to me. I wonder if it's just a personal thing or if it's something offensive, or too adult to get by the censors.

--The edit of Amanda’s Glitter rant followed by the close up of her pro-glitter shirt was great. 

--Anyone catching the Lifetime commercials? If so, who was really waiting for the Full House introspective that they've been pimping so hard? I mean really, is this a story that needs to be told? 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E1: "Mad Dash Mayhem"

Happy birthday to me! In honor of my 30th (good God it sounds horrible saying that), Project Runway has decided to start their 14th season a bit later than usual it seems. But oh well, here we are at season 14, and here we are at another year spent with the best Runaways on the planet! I hope everyone's having a great 2015, and I hope no one's too burnt out on PR and all it's (pointless) spinoffs to come and join us for another season of the program that started it all! Because if this first episode is any indication, we could be in for one of the better seasons we've seen in quiet some time! So buckle up, Runaways, and away we go.

The first thing I noticed about this season of PR is just how racially diverse the contestants seem to be. It's not that PR has had a huge problem with racial diversity in the past. Indeed, with a healthy helping of women and LGBT peoples, it's long been one of the more richly diverse shows on Reality TV. But it feels like even a bigger effort has been made this season to vary out the racial makeup of the show. Or maybe the stars just aligned and the talent that went out for this season just so happened to be more racially diverse than usual? Either way, a big thumbs up from me!

While everyone looks right on the outside, this first episode left me wondering about whether or not we have a really diverse group of characters in the mix? Early on, Lindsey seems to want to paint herself as a kind of a villain. She did the typical "Not here to make friends" thing we've all heard a million times, but her cute-blonde-hipster styling didn't make it very believable, and the outfit she ended up sending down the runway makes me think she won't be around long enough for any of it to come to fruition. Blake is likewise a bit full of himself in a stereotypical young (white) gay boy fashion, but it's also obvious that he thinks he's better than he actually is, so I don't know how much weight to give that either. Both of these contestants could end up being an example of people on a reality show trying to write their own narrative and define how the world sees them only to fail in the face of the strong editing that comes along. Merline is one of the more interesting contests to be spotlit in this episode, and she seems to be the one most poised to fall into the Reality TV trope of someone who, just by being her most authentic self, ends up looking a bit like a caricature of someone else. There's still some question about how much of her constant talking, singing, and speaking in Twitter-ese is real and not just a show for the cameras, but if we take it at face value, the shows can pretty much edit themselves around her being her and everyone being annoyed by it. Far more interesting than her loud, constantly-open mouth, is the work she sends down the runway, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The episode opens with the contestants walking around New York and heading towards Madison Square Garden. There's no "last minute plea" to be on the show like last year. The team is assembled already, there's no manufactured drama to it, just a small amount of time to get a quick primer on most on them before the challenge starts. Before I go too far, allow me to say that in a pre-birthday excitement, I totally forgot to watch the episode on Lifetime last night, and the version I found on Lifetime's site was only an hour long. So if I got a different version than the rest of you, sorry about that, and please let me know in the comments what I missed. But if this was the version that they aired last night allow me to say THANK GOD! It's almost as if they're learning and have finally figured out that 90 minutes is too long. Or at the very least they've remembered how to make a great one hour long episode, and I couldn't be more grateful!

On the way to the arena, Blake makes a statement about thinking some kind of sport takes place in The Garden, like baseball or something. And I decided definitively to hate him. Look, Sports don't have to be your thing, if you don't like watching hot and sweaty men run around playing with balls and patting each other on the ass, then fine. But as a gay man who loves sports, I tend to take umbrage with gay men who disrespect sports just because that's what they're supposed to do as gay people. In the same manner that I would hate any straight guy who didn't like fashion because it was too gay, I can't help but to hate a gay man who hates sports because it's too straight. But there, I hate him, he sucks, I hope he's gone soon, rant over.

When they arrive, they meet Heidi and Tim and are told that the seats in the arena are all draped with fabric (provided by Mood of course) and everyone has three minutes to run around, grab four textiles, and then take them back to design a dress that tells the judges who you are. It's a simple and straight forward challenge to kick things off; complete with a situation for the possibility of drama as people fight over the best fabrics. To their credit, none of the fabric offered was horribly hideous to the point where the only thing that could work would be to burn it and salt the earth. So it's basically a one day challenge where you make whatever kind of dress you want just without the millions of options Mood generally has to offer. I respect it.

Surprisingly, there isn't nearly as much fighting over fabric as I imagined there would be. People, for the most part, seem to be cordial and if someone else gets their hands on a piece they wanted first, they just let them have it and move on to the next spot. It's the first piece of evidence that this season won't be filled with big and aggressive personalities like we've seen in the past, and I for one found it a welcome breath of fresh air.

Everyone goes back to the workroom, introduces themselves to one another, is told by Tim that they have until nine that night, and gets to work. Merline's chatterboxiness annoys everyone, but other than that everyone seems to get along great. it's during these moments that we get our first tears of the season though, and I don't know if I'm getting soft in my advanced age, or if the stories just worked for me, but I didn't find the crying nearly as annoying as I usually do. Candice relays the story of having her daughter and is moved by a very fitting amount of motherly emotion over how her kid saved her life. It's not an original story, but it's something I can support 100%. They're happy tears instead of sad, and I think that goes a long way towards gaining my sympathy. Either way, she's now an early favorite of mine...damnit, I'm totally turning into a big softy. Our other cryer is Ashley, who I have to admit is also an early favorite of mine. Ashley starts out the show by pointing out her weight and drawing attention to why fashion is both important to her and why it's been hard for her. While working, she has a moment where she's a bit overwhelmed by the pressure of the moment as well as lingering feelings of not deserving to be there born of (I assume) a life time of being told or at least feeling as though she's worthless or not deserving because of her weight. I don't know if it was just the outsider in me (grew up gay and black, so that's always hard) that connected with her, or what, but I felt what she was feeling in that moment and I just wanted to wrap her up in a big hug and tell her it would all be ok, she's beautiful (because she is just totally fucking adorable!), and she's going to rock it. And rock it she does, but more on that in a minute. Her fellow contestants make those points well and inform her that she's one of 16 people here out of the world of people they could have chosen; she's more than worthy!

But all of that is just a run up to my personal favorite of the episode, Duncan. From the moment the camera cut to him while they were heading to The Garden, I was in love. And then he opened his mouth and showed off that accent, and I was even more in love. Duncan was put on this show just for me. He's ginger (my own personal favorite), bear-ish, with a killer beard and an Aussie (he's from New Zealand) accent. When I go to the Build-A-Bear, he's exactly what I'd want to walk out with. And then he starts designing what (and Tim Gunn, I might add) think is a beautiful dress, and I found myself imagining our long future together. You know, at least for the rest of the season where I'd write reviews each week gushing over how beautiful and perfect he and his designs are in the same way I did with Sean last year. In fact, given that they're both from the same region, I think Project Runway is trying to tell me I need to move to New Zealand.... But still, it was a wonderful fantasy, and I can't see how anything could possibly get in the way of it. So onwards!

Tim visits and it's about what you'd expect at this point. he has positive things to say for some of the designers, gives a great piece of advice to Ashley about her dress, and has less than positive things to say about others. His correcting Merline on how to pronounce "muslin" was a nice moment of "Jesus woman, if you butcher this word one more fucking time, I'll kill you!" but in Tim Gunn's sweet and measured and always polite way. He leaves saying he's really disappointed, but that surprised me; I didn't expect anything better or worse than what we got for the first episode. It's probably just his way of trying to push them to go a bit harder.

Edmond and Kelly are two contestants with very unflattering critiques from Tim and both of them scramble to come up with new designs in the last four hours or so until the day ends. To his credit, Edmond at least just tries to edit his existing look. Kelly goes for the "Scrap it and start all over" technique we've seen work a million times before. Or, wait, no, not work, I meant to say fail miserably. I always get those two confused. More power to her since we all know how horribly embarrassing it is to go home first, right? I mean whoever goes home first must just be the biggest loser of all losers. I'd never want to be in that position...... So yeah, Runway, it's a long runway, so I'll try to be brief where possible!

The Runway:

Blake: One the runway, before the camera pulls in for a close up, I don't hate it. The color pops, the dress moves well, it looks vibrant and exciting. Then the camera pulls in and I hate it as much as I did in the workroom. It's overwrought, over designed, and contains just everything it possibly can. Less is more, kid. Though it maybe plunges a little too deep, I honestly don't mind the plunging neckline.

Amanda: Cute. Good, but not great by any means.

Laurie: I honestly loved this. The color was simple, but the dress was still elegant in a lot of ways, but damn was the split high. I don't think it's a big detractor from the rest of the dress, but anyone feeling a bit put off by it wouldn't surprise me.

Hanmiao: No! Just No! A million times No!

Swapnil: I love this look! I think there's a simplicity to the design, or maybe just the construction, of the skirt that either pairs perfectly with or totally detracts from the well crafted and beautifully designed top. I personally liked the two, but I think both ways of looking at it could work.

Duncan: YES! I love him! I mean I love his dress. I'm a sucker for beautiful draping. I love how elegant but effortless it looks. I don't like the color on his model, but I don't think he chose to have a ginger model (though it's fitting, gingers of the world unite and make more gingers, damnit!). That color on a black woman's skin would be perfect though. I do think maybe a bit more skin in the back would be a way to go, but I love this dress!

Edmond: I like this a lot. Though I'm not sure if I like it on its own merits, or because I know he had to scramble to get it to do what he wanted. So maybe I like the work he put into it more than I like the dress itself, but I like it nonetheless.

Merline: This is one where I know I like it because of how much work and how quickly she got it together. To think that by Tim's visit she didn't have a skirt at all, and then she put this down the runway? I love that! The outfit itself is nice, not great or perfect, but certainly strong and unique in a way I like and want to see more of.

Lindsey: No!

David: NO!

Joseph: Cute. Safe. But not great by any means.

Kelly: Remember she scraped her first look and went with a whole new dress in the time after Tim left? Well this is the dress, and holy shit is it great!!! I love a designer who maybe just needs a little push or a fire lit under her ass to get it in gear and then can turn out something of this caliber. I love it a lot!

Jake: Ok, I guess? Mostly boring.

Gabrielle: I think the design is good, but construction and execution are lacking. She's harder on it than I am, mostly because I love the back! But I think if she'd taken her time and cleaned up some of the lines and seams it would have been a lot better.

Candice: YES!

Ashley: WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?!?! This girl thought she didn't deserve to be here? Are you fucking kidding me! This is breathtaking! The top is bold and young and sexy, the skirt is just to die for. I can see who she is and I can see a lot of people who would love to wear that outfit. Yes, more of this please, and thank you!

So ours tops for the evening are Edmond, Merline, and Ashley (of course), and our bottoms are Blake, Han, and Duncan....wait, what? Yup, my ginger love bear is an endangered species. And I'm shocked. The judges remark on looks. They seem to be fairly split on Edmond's look with some of them liking it and some liking it just a bit less. Guest judge Hanna Who-Ever-The-Fuck doesn't like the pop of neon green from the train, which happens to be my favorite part of the dress and the only element that probably puts him in the top instead of the bottom for creating a boring black dress. They ask Han who she thinks would wear her outfit and whe she says someone young and in her 20s, they all look like she just declared World War Three. And rightfully so, I don't know a single person in their 20s who's want to wear that. When they do finally get to Duncan, they commend his draping, but also deride the dress for being simple, directionless, and seriously unsexy. I think Heidi makes the point that an open back would have meant the difference between being safe and being in the bottom, and I can't disagree with that, but still. I think Zac complained about the color, but fuck him what does he know? All around they mention that they can't get a clear idea of who he is as a designer from this dress, and he admits that being fresh out of design school, he's not even sure himself. Immediately, my fantasy about the two of us features us going on a journey as I allow him to get in touch with who he really is deep down inside. It's a journey of love and self discovery, the voice over guy from every movie trailer would say; the feel good movie of the year, obviously. But I digress.

As soon as the designers make it to the greenroom, everyone is shocked to find out that Duncan is in the bottom and rush to assure him that he's not really going home. Their surprise I share, their assurances that his time isn't over yet I'm more dubious on. Because here's the thing, I love Duncan's dress, I really do, but even I have to admit that you get a clearer picture of who Han and Blake are from their shitty looks than you do about who Duncan is from his beautiful look. On the one hand, this show is about finding the best new designer, but on the other hand this challenge specifically is about making your mark and telling the judges who you are. Did Duncan do that? In a way, he did; he told them he's not sure, but he's capable of producing strong work while he finds out. In the end, Nina points out that too many ideas (as is the case with Blake) are better than no ideas (as she thinks is the case with Duncan), and Zac and Heidi point out that Duncan's work still feels like school work and Project Runway isn't school time. So Duncan's out and Ashely racks up her first win. I don't agree with the decision in the scheme of the entire season, but I don't disagree with it in the scheme of just this one episode. My heart breaks that we won't get to see his handsome bearded face and hear that sexy voice for the rest of the season, but it also soars over a strong victory for Ashley. I love her, I loved her look this week, and I can't wait to see what's left to come. All in all, my broken heart aside, this was a really strong episode of a new season of a show I think we all were kind of counting out for awhile there. Maybe we should start out season 14 with a big bold statement that Project Runway is back, baby!

Loose Threads:

--Welcome back to Project Runaways, again. I haven't heard anything from Julius (if you read this, fearless leader, chime in a let me know how you want to tackle this season), so until further notice, I think I might cap each episode? I feel like I've taken over the blog, and that's not fair because Julius is great and this was all his brilliant idea. But we also do need a space to talk about this show each season. Along those lines, someone should probably pimp us out to AV Club in case anyone looking to watch this season wants a place to chat it up....

--Over on my own personal blog, this summer I'm also reviewing So You Think You Can Dance each week. So feel free to check that out if you like. But more importantly, on that show I've talked a lot about what makes a good reality show good, and long lasting. This is because I think SYTYCD is on it's way out in the midst of its 10th, and weakest, season. Meanwhile, PR is in its 14th season and seem to be resurging. How long do we think we've got with this show? Is it the sort of thing that could just be on the air until Tim and Heidi get bored with doing it?

--Anyone else think Merline's statements to Swapnil were kind of racist? Or am I being overly sensative? Either way, shut it down, Merline, shut it down.

--Duncan being ousted also means we lose someone with a background in Menswear. Which is always bothersome to me because I always think the show could use more Menswear challenges and I like to see how designers with the background tend to work in women's clothes. But that's just one more thing that I'll have to miss with him gone.

--Personally, I'm hoping that Ashley sticks around long enough to be here for a "Regular women" challenge and I hope she calls this show and it's past contestants out for their inabilities to work on normal (read plus) sized women. Carry the torch, girl!

--Who are you guy's early favorites? Also I never quiet got around to making nicknames for everyone, so I figured I'd let you guys do that. I was going to go with Ginger Bear for Duncan if he'd stuck around, and I think I'm sticking with Han for Hanmiao, but that's all I got.