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. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Runway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose Threads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 4, 2016

Project Runway: S15 E8 "Project Pop Up"

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

The Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Runway

Team Red

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

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

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

Team Neutral

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

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

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

Team Blue

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose Threads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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