Project Runway Recap: The Top 11 Can Blame the Children

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It's not a typical team effort, so they all try to play nice.

After a dramatic two-fer exit last week (Cecilia by choice and Danielle by auf) and the return of sweet hapless Josh C., the stage is set for one of their prodigal son challenges. IOW: Did they bring Josh C. back only to have him demonstrate why he was auf'ed in the first place?

Over in the boys' apartment, they're all deciding to put their claws back in after one of the most decidedly unpleasant team challenge episodes ever. Over in the girls' apartment, the claws are still out, since Becky has to move in with the other girls, and we learn that "it's no secret" that Laura's not fond of Becky? I have to break it to Laura that it was a secret to me, probably because the producers haven't found her interesting enough to spend much time with yet this season. Once you get past the she-wears-negligees-and-shopped-at-Nieman's-since-she-was-in-single-digits, well, there's not really much else to say.

< p>Determined to just all get along, the designers head to the runway where Heidi tells them she's going to send them back to school.

[It is at this point that I just have to share: I'm a little confused how they go from a spinoff series about the models to not even bothering to show the model eliminations. And yet the show is now 90 minutes long. What did the models do to fall from favor SO dramatically? Quick, let's start a rumor.]

We learn that last week's double-winners (and some would claim inexplicable double-winners) Viktor and Joshua both have immunity. And this is the episode where Viktor starts to warm up and have a little Mondo transformation...going from being an absolute catty bitch to being nice to people he disdained a mere three episodes ago (yes, Bert). Josh, on the other hand, is a little tyrant and doesn't seem to be backing away from that, given the scenes from next week. But they do try to warm him up too by talking about his dead mother. Yup, it felt a little cheap.

So the "back to school" in question is the Harlem School of the Arts, where they are each paired with a student to create a work of art (paintings in each case) that will serve as the inspiration for an "avant-garde" look.

 Courtesy of Lifetime

The students range in age from 11 to 16 or 17, and range in personality from seeming pretty withdrawn to very voluble.

We learn that Anya's parents run a foundation that works with kids using art for transformations, so she's right at home, and we learn some other choice bits too:

Bert has one of the quiet students, which pleases him: "He's quiet, so we're getting along fine." That made me laugh. Bert is just so over people...he really oughta be somewhere saying "Get off my lawn," and that's not even an age joke...he just doesn't seem to like people.

We also learn that Olivier listens to depressing music while he works. ORLY? You could never have told that by his muted, minimal designs. In all seriousness, Olivier does seem to be actually depressed. He should probably talk to Laura's art-partner, since Laura seems to be taking to the 11-year-old as her personal therapist and coach.

After they all finish their paintings, they have 30 minutes to sketch their outfit, then they'll be off to Mood.

KingJosh is not inspired by organic images, and the painting is a big old tree and its roots. He's struggling. JoshRedux, on the other hand, is really inspired by his painting that claims to be a wolf but is really just the crazy nasty-ass honey badger .

And we're off to Mood, where, as you know, I'm on SWATCH WATCH.

And there he is: SWATCH!!! I do have a question, though: Why do they feel compelled to show Tim chasing Swatch? Does Tim really show up at Mood and chase Swatch around if he sees him? Or do the producers just think it's kinda funny to show a dapper older gay gentleman chasing after a tiny French bulldog. And if they think that's funny, may I ask WHY?

While at Mood, Olivier decides that even though he has never worked with chiffon, he's going to go with it because he thinks it will look avant garde? Really? OK, point #1: Chiffon is part of every tired old as-not-avant-garde-as-possible prom or bridesmaid dress ever made...chiffon is anything but inherently avant garde. Point #2: Didn't he watch chiffon girl Danielle get auf'ed last week? This does not bode well for Olivier.

SWATCH SIGHTING #2!

After which Tim reminds JoshRedux that "We're fur-free!" YAY!!! Yes, under the watchful eye of PETA-spokesman Tim Gunn and resident fur-character Swatch, Project Runway has finally said out loud that they are fur-free.

JoshRedux didn't spend all his money, not even on his faux nastyass honeybadger fur, so this does not bode well for JoshRedux.

"Thank you, Mood."

This is a two-day challenge, for which they're all grateful, and over the two days we learn some nuggets of wisdom:

Like Tim reminding everyone what avant garde means. "This is not a red carpet challenge, it's an avant garde challenge."

And later, Tim has more real wisdom to share, like:

-Reminding Olivier that "avant garde" doesn't mean "new to you!" In other words, using chiffon isn't avant garde just because you've never worked with it before, silly. It means, in Tim's words, "to lead."

-And reminding Josh that that the avant garde fashion needs to stand alone. You can't need to tell the whole narrative and spell out the story of your garment for people to appreciate it. (Which I wish the judges had borne in mind later...but I'm jumping ahead.)

-And OF COURSE: Reminding them all that there is a fine line between avant garde and costume, and they all better walk on the right side of that line which, by the way, also means: Don't be too literal and just recreate your painting on the garment.

Tim was all about the grand meaningful guidance this week. I wish more of them had absorbed it.

So, now that we're down to 11 contestants, we're in the segment of the season where the producers want to make sure we're emotionally invested in them, even if they've spent the first part of the season making them all seem catty and mean. So, we start to get back to their stories. Like:

-Olivier, again, just seems full-on sad and depressed. Everyone talks about how amazing he is (even though we really haven't seen that), but he just talks about his look being more "quiet." In his poor-little-rich-boy-with-the-inexplicable-accent voice.

-While making a (quite literal, I should point out) wood-grain effect on his neoprene skirt, we learn about KingJosh's mom, who died a couple of years back. He cries a bit about it, and then pays tribute to her by painting their initials on the tree that is his literal skirt. And I feel mean for thinking that doing such initials on trees is usually reserved for lovers, not mothers. Of course they destroy the good will they're trying to build for KingJosh by showing him claiming that his deeply douchey behavior toward Becky last week is actually going to help her and inspire her to achieve.

-JoshRedux is all false bravado hitting the wall of his own lack of inspiration. Even early on when he's "feeling pretty good", you know that's not a good sign, what with him making a faux fur headpiece and all.

-Bert shares again his story of his partner of 18 years dying of AIDS and his long slow spiral into alcoholism. Maybe it's the first time the designers have heard it, but they told that story the exact same way when they first introduced Bert to us. They also show Bert talking to his family in the weekly HP commercial.

Tim visits, and he doesn't seem particularly wowed by anyone.

Becky rightly assesses that Laura's outfit looks like a bad prom dress. For me, it actually looks more like a bridesmaids dress I once wore. Even her 11-year-old artist/partner/therapist, Ka, thinks "it will be much better when it's a finished project." Oh. Snap. That's cold.

Of course, turnabout is fair play, and Viktor takes Becky down for making a dress out of denim, with all these little green "boxes" clustered on the shoulder. As he says: "Like Fedex came and dropped off some boxes." Tim's a little more subtle and simply lets her know there is "not enough wow."

Bryce is working a straitjacket look, and I'm pretty sure I remember an epic failed straitjacket raincoat look from, I think, Season 2, that should warn Bryce away from this look ASAP!

Bert is making a Cirque du Soleil outfit that's all outsize weird proportions and volume around the hips. He himself starts calling them "fat pants" "big booty pants". And I'm thinking: Seriously dude...how many times have you heard them say that no woman wants to look bigger in that area? You are asking for trouble. But Viktor, in his new kinder gentler incarnation, thinks it's fun to look at.

JoshRedux is struggling, struggling, struggling. First Tim asks him if it isn't too literal, then the other designers weigh in about it looking vampirish. Or even "Carmen Miranda as a vampire." He tries to claim that it's just about a "dark energy," but he loses all faith in his vision, dumps the faux fur and decides he'll need to walk the streets for money. Or make his model do so.

Just before the runway there's a little bit of drama when Tim discovers that Olivier is busily gluing his outfits bodice to his model's chest, which is apparently against the rules. Or to be more precise, apparently if glue is being used to "mitigate a construction issue", it's against the rules. Olivier swears that's not the case and mini-crisis averted.

So, we're off to the runway.

Heidi comes out and continues her trend of looking very Morticia this season. Lots of black, lots of smoky eye.

This week she is joined by MK, but no ninagarcia, instead zannarobertsrossi, who is the senior fashion editor from Marie Claire, and (quite exciting to me): Kenneth Cole.

As always, click on the link under the designer's name to see their creation.

1. Kimberly and her outfit inspired by a Chagall-like phoenix painting"

The painting was vibrant and uplifting. The outfit was dark and one-dimensional. To be more specific, it was a black pleather Blade Runner-y outfit with a black pleather bathing cap. And red feathers across the bodice and the waist. Plus an asymmetrical, tiered skirt. I just didn't think it broke new ground or did a great job of representing the painting.

2. Becky and her outfit inspired by their space-y painting with meteorites and green cubes"

The black denim didn't bother me so much, it gave the dress a texture; but I thought the elements didn't all hang together here. The skirt was mini on one side and Morticia Addams on the other. The top was also asymmetrical, with the one shoulder adorned with green cubes clustered like tribbles on her shoulder and down the front, evoking a beauty pageant sash...which just isn't going to feel avant garde. The back was better with half the model's back exposed, and it was extremely well-fitted. Maybe a lining would have saved her, particularly from how casual and unfinished the inside of denim looks!

3. Olivier and his outfit supposedly inspired by their brightly colored painting Kandinsky-esque painting:

So, after hemming, hawing and much self-doubt, Olivier sent his model down the runway in loosely pleated muslin with one blue bodice side and some pale yellow fabric strips, and a slit literally up past her hip bone, so we can all see her thong strap. Terrible. unfinished. uninspiring. Completely disconnected from the vibrant painting. A true hot mess.

4. KingJosh and his outfit inspired by their tree/roots painting:

I admit it: I didn't get this at all. I thought it was pretty much a monstrosity. That literal brown wood-grain painted A-Line skirt was a dowdy, old-fashioned length (ironic, given his rap on Becky for being dowdy). The wide belt was totally 80s. The pouffy red top looked like a samba bolero worn backwards; paired with the pouffy hair and pouffy tulle in her pouffy hair, it made the proportions of the model look really weird and bulky. In fact if you look at the picture, she sort of looks like a man. And the initials on the tree-skirt? Cutesy. I couldn't believe the judges liked this.

5. Bert and his outfit inspired by their abstract cubist artwork:

Well, what can you say: Love it or hate it, you can spend a lot of time talking about this truly bizarre outfit. We're back to the stilts challenge with the bizarre proportions and highest-waisted pants (silver harem pants, no less) that I've ever seen, making the model's legs look 10 feet long...but not in a good way. Yes it makes her look like TweedleDee. Yes, a Teletubby. Yes, with weird plush toys affixed to her. But yes, they talked about this outfit more than any other...and isn't that kind of the definition of avant garde?

6. Viktor and his outfit inspired by their Chagallian swirl painting:

A mostly white and a little blue chiffon dress very short in front with a strip of white chiffon hanging between her legs like a codpiece. There was a lot going on here...lots of fabric manipulation, one sleeveless side, one long sleeve, which was the only part I liked. It was way too simple and pale to represent the painting. And there was way too much going on fabric-wise. It felt overworked.

7. Laura and her outfit inspired by their primitive colored painting of, apparently, a rose (sort of like zooming in on one corner of a Georgia O'Keefe):

Wow. There must have been so much more to this dress than you can see either on TV or in this pictures. That's all I can think, because what I wrote down was: A yellow pleated cotillion dress. Using some Leanne-style pleat waves form a few seasons back. In yellow and ivory. I was not impressed at all. I thought it would be Bottom 3.

8. Bryce and his outfit inspired by their creepy face painting:

This was a pretty simple and basic orange and blue gown, with the only distinguishing feature being the aforementioned long straitjacket sleeves. Poorly made, really boring and no discernible connection to the painting. Shocked he wasn't bottom 3.

9. JoshRedux and his outfit inspired by their painting of the honey badger (or apparently a wolf with its ribs and heart exposed, whatever):

Poor little JoshRedux. It was pretty clear this was going to get dinged for a million things: Not avant garde in the least, too slutty, terrible predictable styling. Each individual piece might have had some merit: a high-waisted black leather skirt, an interesting high-collared, long-sleeved white blouse with a plunging neckline that made it both prim and sexy at once, and the most interesting part: a black holster (which frankly seemed to copy a similar "backpack strap" look from last week). But together, and paired with predictable black go-go boots? Victorian hooker.

10. Anthony and his outfit inspired by their dual self-portrait painting:

While watching him working on this, I thought Anthony was going way too literal. Talking about putting strips of colored fabric on the nude-colored dress to, in fact, represent the brush strokes was about as literal as you could be. The dress had graphic strokes of blue and black and yellow more densely applied at the top and then tapering off down the skirt. The overall effect was actually quite striking and modern-looking, although I still thought those strips of fabric just looked a bit like those felt boards where you attach things to it and they start peeling off.

11. Anya and her outfit inspired by their wasteland desert painting:

This actually reminded me a lot of the outfit Bert and Viktor made for the stilts challenge, evoking an exaggerated Elizabethan look. On top was a very wide open top, featuring feathers, which my S.O. pointed out did nothing but emphasize that vast empty plain of the completely flat-chested model. Given the painting, maybe that was the point. The skirt was a tiny black mini with a breakaway African print hoop skirt over it that looked more like brocade than African print...hence reminding me of the stilts look.

In the end, the judges liked (some of it much to my shock and dismay):

KingJosh: They liked the painting on the skirt. (MK: A little Tim Burton-y in styling)

Laura: Shockingly, they liked it. They each repeated that they liked the boning underneath, and the mixture of soft and hard. Which was quite hard to see on TV.

Anthony: Heidi loved it. Sexy, modern, simple, powerful. MK liked it, but Kenneth struggles with execution...it looked homemade, unfinished.

I just want to point out that both KingJosh and Laura went into long explanations of how their outfit related to the paintings, and that those explanations made a big difference. Which just doesn't seem right or to align with Tim's wisdom that the outfit and its inspiration should stand on its own.

The judges did not like:

JoshRedux. MK: "It's not avant garde." Zanna: "It's trashy." Heidi: "It's a hooker." Kenneth: "The elements are not bad, it just doesn't come together."

Bert. MK: "Avant garde doesn't have to be traditionally beautiful, but she just looks like a girl with a misshapen body with some stuff glued on." Heidi liked it. "It has a POV." KCole: "It's just too outside the box. I don't get it." Then later, the judges spent a ton of time fighting to top one another when describing the outfit. MK: "Something a Teletubby would wear to a party. Heidi, I know you've been craving a very stiff jumpsuit that would make your ass look this long, and like you're having baby #5 when you wear it." Zanna: "No, you look like you are baby #5 when you wear it." Kenneth: "When you have kids, you attach their mittens to them. This just attached all their toys" Heidi: "Very practical." Anything you can talk that much about shouldn't be auf'ed -- just sayin'.

Olivier. Heidi: "It looks sad. The colors are sad, while the painting is vibrant." Zanna: " Top is well-made" (me: really?), "skirt is cheap and messy." Kenneth: "Anything but boring. Too many details." MK: "Bodice is spectacular. " (Me: Again, really?) "Rest of it looks like Mood exploded on it." MK calls Olivier's work all season "valium clothes," and Heidi laments that when Olivier came in to audition they were all so excited, but now they're bored.

They bring the designers in, and at least KingJosh and Laura don't win. Anthony takes the win.

Bert is lucky Heidi liked the outfit and saved, leaving us with the Bottom Two: JoshRedux and Olivier.

And JoshRedux becomes AufReduxed.

I would have auf'ed Oliver, so he could get some help.

But what did you think?

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