As I envision it, the heads of the 5 Reality TV families—Heidi Klum, Tom Colicchio, Tyra Banks, Donald Trump, and Ryan Seacrest—all got together in a room and had the following conversation:
Donald: At some point, when we tell them they’re getting the night off, we need to actually give them the night off.
Heidi: Why? They are here to suffer, not eat bonbons and read popular magazines.
Tom: This is Top Chef, not Top Relaxation Time.
Tyra: Smize, everyone! Smize!
Donald (ignoring her): Because, although we have fooled our contestants 347 times, one day they are going to catch onto the fact that they never actually get the night off!
Tom (chuckling): Usually, they’re not attending the dinner—they’re cooking the dinner!
Heidi (snorting): They’re not sleeping in the fancy hotel room—they’re raiding it for fabric!
Tyra (chortling): They’re not watching the fashion show—they’re IN the fashion show.
Ryan: What am I doing here again?
Donald: You’re fired!
And. . .scene.
So apparently, Heidi drew the short straw and, as such, Project Runway became the first show in the history of reality television to promise a night off —an evening in the Mandarin Hotel’s Presidential Suite—and actually deliver it.
Of course, this being the final elimination before Lincoln Center (which, in case you hadn’t heard, is infested with bed bugs!), nerves are raw, emotions are running high, and tears flow at the drop of the hat. It’s the perfect time to have the designers reflect on the season , which I’m sure is a totally spontaneous thing and not the result of some producer saying: Now I want you to all sit around and reflect on the season.
April cries because she is only 21 and really proud of herself. Also, this episode? Everybody cries.
Gretchen, who is rocking some sort of unfortunate Princess Leia braid, talks about how awesome Gretchen is.
Andy kind of counters with: Uh, we’re all awesome. So there.
Michael C says something as benign and platitudinous as everybody else, and yet they all stare at him like he has leprosy.
Mondo says that the show has been a journey to set him free and gives such a cute little Mondo smile, I forgive him for his use of the word “journey.”
Next day, it’s the real challenge and Mayor Bloomberg is on the roof to make it all official. (Heidi is still wondering why he didn’t proclaim it Heidi Klum Day and give her the key to the city, but she thinks maybe it’s a surprise for the finale.)
Michael C considers showing the Mayor his “I Love New York” tattoo but wisely thinks better of it.
“Make it work!” says Mayor Bloomberg, thus proving that there is not a single person on this planet who does not do a Tim Gunn impression.
The challenge is, of course, to design a look that is inspired by a New York landmark.
Michael C chooses the staggeringly obvious Statue of Liberty, because he’s just that creative.
April chooses the Brooklyn Bridge.
Mondo, uh, also chooses the Brooklyn Bridge. (Hey, it’s a big city, guys. Lots of options.)
Andy chooses Central Park, which is kind of hilarious, because Central Park is enormous. I mean if you’re not going to get any more specific than Central Park, you may as well say that your inspiration is “being outside.”
Gretchen chooses the Lower East Side, which is not a landmark. Her explanation for her choice? “I just want to make something that’s me.” So Gretchen’s New York landmark? Gretchen.
At Mood, Tim Gunn tells Michael C that he doesn’t have to be so literal-minded in his approach to his drapey dress inspired by Lady Liberty. This falls upon deaf ears.
Swatch the Mood dog is wearing a fun little black felt hat. Vying for the Mondolicious Look of the Week, are we? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, pooch.
Back at the studio, April says that she wants to “go out with a bang.” (Not sure if she understands the implication of that idiom.. . .or does she?) (Cue ominous music.)
Andy has apparently given birth to a Chinese prostitute.
Michael C, as always, has two designs going—one good, one unspeakably bad. He will eventually scrap the bad one.
Mondo takes a Rip-Van-Winkle-style nap and no one bothers to wake him up because they’re all sure he meant to lose two and a half hours of design time. (In fairness, Michael C was going to wake him up, but was talked out of it.)
So Tim Gunn comes by and doles out his criticism.
Gretchen tells him that it’s been an honor to get to know him and then is so moved by her own words, she begins to cry.
Tim has no choice but to give her a little half-hearted hug.
The models come and Michael C is really loving his dress.
I mean really loving it. “She looks stunning,” he says. “I’d take her out, I’d be a cheap date, she’d get some.”
Sorry folks. Some things, once heard, can not be unheard.
Gretchen, discussing the mystery that is Michael C with April, says: “I’m not sure if he’s an idiot savant or just an idiot.”
It’s Runway Day, and Mondo does, indeed, deliver his Mondo’s Awesomely Mondolicious Look of the Day ™: a checkerboard bike cap, black bow tie, suspenders, white vinyl belt, white tux shirt, skinny jeans, and striped socks. (Later he will add a black hoodie, with a black and white plaid fashion draw string to the mix.)
Today’s Mondoriffic rating: 4. (You show Swatch how it’s done, son!)
Today’s special guest judge: The original reality TV fierce pocket gay (sorry Mondo): Christian Soriano! Love that wee man!
The looks come down the runway.
And here’s how the judges feel:
Michael Kors and Nina love his black dress with houndstooth and patent leather accents, but Heidi is a little over the whole houndstooth thing. (Is it sacrilegious to say that I agree?).
Christian thinks the dress is really chic, but the styling is a bit too much.
Michael Kors calls Andy out for designing a dress that in no conceivable way evokes Central Park—true!—but likes his craftsmanship and his beautiful fit all the same.
Christian loves it and calls the styling “stunning.”
Everyone is confused by her unfortunate plum-colored skirt, which looks very off the rack at TJ Maxx, and her uncool leather jacket.
“I don’t think it looks downtown, I don’t think it looks uptown,” says Michael Kors. “I think it looks. . .midtown.”
“What happened?” asks Nina Garcia.
Gretchen basically admits that she’s over the whole competition and the stupid little challenges and the incredibly annoying judging, which I’m not sure is the best strategy at this point, but the damage is done.
Christian, at least, appreciates that her look is “wearable.”
The judges feel that she’s become a one-trick pony: And not a cute little miniature pony, either. An angry, goth teenage pony who only wears black
“The sameness is numbing,” says Michael Kors.
And finally Michael C:
He explains that he was trying to create a showstopper with his dress.
“You wanted a showstopper,” says Michael Kors, pausing dramatically—and I have to admit that, at this point, I have no idea what the man is going to say. I mean, the dress is okay, but it’s kinda simple and literal minded, right?
(Plus, again with the drapey dress?)
“You wanted a show stopper and you . . . got a showstopper,” Kors finishes.
Well, I’ll be damned.
“It’s beautifully cut and beautifully draped.”
Christian calls the dress “effortless old Hollywood glamour” and Heidi says that she would “love to wear it.”
Then Kors asks Michael C what fabric he used— “is it jersey or chiffon?” —and Michael C gives an answer that I’m sure will haunt his fellow competitors to their dying day: “I don’t know.”
Gretchen, the answer to your question? Idiot savant.
Next up, the highlight of every season: The “which 2 designers would you take with you?” portion of our runway critique.
Michael picks Andy and Mondo.
Gretchen picks Gretchen and Gretchen, but then is told she can’t pick herself. So she picks Mondo and April.
Andy picks Mondo and is torn between April and Gretchen, but picks April.
Mondo picks Michael C (!) and April.
April picks Mondo and Gretchen.
Backstage, everybody cries (again).
After the judges have their little chat, where Michael Kors defends Michael C’s fabric ignorance (“he may not know what it is, but he knows how to use it”), the designers are summoned back on stage.
They come shuffling on stage together in a little group hug. It’s all very, very presh.
So Michael C is . . . in.
He immediately commences a rather unseemly weeping jag.
Mondo is . . .out. (Just checking to see if you were paying attention. Of COURSE, he’s in.)
Andy is . . . in, but needs to stop with the warrior woman schtick, pronto.
And it comes down to April vs. Gretchen.
Here’s the weird thing: I found myself rooting for Gretchen. I actually like April better, both as a human being and as a designer. But there is something so desperate in Gretchen’s need to show at Lincoln Center—her neediness is positively feral.
April is, after all, 21 and judging by her mom’s appearance and her guileless love of miniature ponies, comes from money. Her time will come. Gretchen’s time is now.
And Gretchen is . . .IN. (Whew.)
Backstage, Gretchen says that she’s “relieved they gave me the second chance that each of you guys got.”
Yes, she actually said that. Not, “I’m so relieved they gave ME a second chance” or “I’m so glad they believed in me” but, essentially, “Everyone’s had a bad week and mine just happened to come the week of final elimination, but don’t think that you’re better than me just because you sailed by and I barely squeaked in.”
Is it too late for a recount?