Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Law & Order:Special Fruit Division

Previously on Top Chef: Fifteen chefs showed up in Los Angeles to duke it out. Suyai told Chef Tom she was tanking. The chefs chose the top and bottom entries. Otto and Suyai got nominated for booting (along with Carlos and Marcel). Suyai got the boot. (Ilan took the win.)

Elia mourns the eviction of Suyai. The chefs are all, "Oh, hey, people are getting booted. Like, for real." Marcel asks the gathered chefs if the judges were right, and Betty agrees with them. Otto appreciates his narrow escape. Josie warns everyone to be on top of their games.

Night falls. At 4:30 am, Chef Tom goes around and wakes everyone up. (How early did he have to get up?) Time to go buy the fishes. Mia slumps on a sofa; she interviews that she wasn't feeling well. Carlos recaps the morning activity.

At 6 am, Padma welcomes them outside the market. She announces that the QuickFire challenge is to prepare sushi. Mia looks ready to barf. Marcel flirts with the camera as he interviews that sushi is hard. Michael is a sushi novice. The chefs have $100 and 30 minutes cook time in the kitchen. Mia struggles with her stomach. As soon as Padma releases the chefs to shop, Mia heads in the other direction and barfs behind a truck. Despite her discretion, we still get to see it. Because, you know, without real, actual barf, we'd have no idea what was happening. She interviews that she doesn't get time off when she's sick. Just what I want to hear from a person preparing food.

Everyone else charges into the fish market. Josie is happy because she knows sushi flavors. Elia loves the little fishies. Mia doesn't bother to get complicated; she's just trying to stay in the game. Everyone heads out with boxes of seafood.

Back in the product-placed kitchen, the guest judge awaits. Padma introduces Hiroshi Shima, corporate executive chef of Katana and Sushi Roku. He has brought along his partner and interpreter, Tom Cardenes. We go to Marcel for the "ooh, aah" interview. Padma grants them the use of a tableful of ingredients, plus everything in the pantry. And go!

Much rushing around. They have a giant steamer full of rice. Frank interviews about the joys of immunity, in case we haven't figured out how that works yet. We see Cliff doing some mighty fine slicing and he laughs (in disbelief) over the time limit. Otto interviews that he has to impress the judges to recover from his previous stumble. Frank calls out a time check. Workety work. Cliff interviews that "you turn around" and time has just vanished. Mia gives herself a pep talk as she finishes her assembly. Padma counts down the last few seconds.

And now for our abbreviated tasting segment.

And the winner is: Cliff. There are clapping and congratulations. Chef Hiroshi enjoyed how the mangoes blended with the oysters without overwhelming them. Cliff gets immunity and interviews his gratitude.

Elimination challenge: Padma talks about the multiculturalism of the LA food scene. They'll divide into two teams: Korea and Vietnam. Each team has to work together to create a hot and a cold dish for a charity event. There will be 1000 attendees. Otto interviews that he was thrilled because he's very involved with hunger issues; he thinks chef have a responsibility to feed everyone, not just the paying customers. (He's assuming Project By Project is a feed-the-hungry charity.) The judging criteria: their use of their country's flavors and their teamwork. Each team will get $500. Elia interviews that it's "very weird" to work with competitors.

Back at the living quarters, Team Vietnam gathers around a table to plan. Betty explains a catering trick she and Mia know: if you need to make 250 plates, you make spring rolls, because you can make just 125 and then cut them in half. Sam's like, "Ooh, sneaky." Betty interviews that she feels confident. (Oh, no, the kiss of death!) Mia suggests a "braised, spicy pork dish." Josie interviews that they decided to go traditional with a basic stew called (as she pronounces it) "fah." Emily wants to use bok choy. Josie points out all the other ingredients they need to use; it sounds likes she's saying they can't afford yet another ingredient. Betty interviews that Josie has experience with Vietnamese food, so she's in charge. She's happy with the team dynamic.

Team Korea starts out with Cliff, Ilan and Frank mixing up a batch of sangria for the team. Marisa wants to make sure they get the meeting part done before they get hammered. Ilan interviews that he started getting drunk during the planning phase. Yeah, this is going to go well. Carlos and Marcel try to shush each other. Marisa declares that they're doing jasmine panna cotta with lychee pearls. That sounds better suited to a fusion challenge than a national cuisine challenge. She interviews that she's stoked to strut her stuff as a pastry chef. Marisa tries to suggest something but the guys are fooling around. Elia tries to get the planning back on track, with no visible success. She interviews that they spent a lot of time because no one would focus. She tries again to get people to plan, but the guys just ignore her because she's no fun.

In the morning, Betty recaps the challenge. Team Vietnam looks chipper. Over at Team Korea, Ilan swears off sangria for "a while." Good plan. Marcel interviews that the team is nervous, what with all the sangria they guzzled, and now they have to get down to it. He makes a shopping list with Otto's help. Otto interviews that he needs the win.

Shopping. Team Vietnam hits their specialty store. Sam interviews that he wanted watermelon, since it's refreshing in summer. Josie interviews that they were looking for seasonal ingredients to help mix it up. Shopping complete.

Team Korea roves their store. Marcel explains the menu: braised pork with kim chee & sticky rice; jasmine tea panna cotta with tapioca. Otto calls to Elia to check on the lychee fruit. Marisa interviews that the shopping expedition was a bit "chaotic." Cut to chaotic shopping montage. Otto asks a store clerk to put the case of lychee fruit under the cart, since it won't fit inside, and calls out that they've got the lychees. At the checkout, they're over budget and have to return stuff. Shopping accomplished, they load up the product-placed vehicle. The store clerk wheels the cart away as Otto shuts the "trunk" door and observes to Marisa and Elia, "I think we got a case of lychees for free." Marisa recaps the comment and frets about the situation. But the product-placed vehicle heads back to the product-placed kitchens with the possibly purloined lychees in the back.

In the kitchen, the teams have three hours to cook. It looks like Marisa and Elia are handling the panna cotta. Otto asks them where they want to set up. Marisa interviews that she cares about the rules and "Otto put me in a terrible position that I didn't want to be in." Yes, Otto mentioned the lychee fruit just to put you in a bind. She confides to Ilan that she's worried they'll be called on for cheating. Ilan recaps her concern. He doesn't think Otto stole the fruit; it was just a mistake. He figures Marisa is just trying to make sure she isn't blamed. I don't think the real issue here is theft -- it probably was just a simple oversight. If they had a leader, Marisa and/or Otto and/or Elia could have said, "Hey, we have this situation" and someone would decide how to handle it. But Otto didn't bring it up with anyone else, and Marisa and Elia already spent an evening failing to get anyone else to listen to them. Add in the producers trying to wrangle lots of bodies according to schedule, and I can see how the fruit made it back to the kitchen. The real problem is that the fruit would put them over budget, so they're violating the challenge constraints.

Over at Team Vietnam, things are much calmer. Sam outlines the menu: braised pork pho with carrot vermicelli; summer rolls with pickled watermelon; cucumber & aloe refresher drink. Betty checks that Josie is performing her oversight duties. Carlos recaps the selection of Josie as team leader. Emily checks with Josie to make sure they're "on the same page."

Team Korea bustles. Marcel curses when he loses track of a pot. As he chops red cabbage, he explains that it naturally makes sense to put the pastry chef on the dessert course. He has to call several times to get the attention of Otto, who is also chopping red cabbage at the far end of the table. In the background, the case of lychee fruit is sitting under a counter along the back wall, so it seems they have been taken out of play. Marcel interviews about the hugeness of their undertaking to create kim chee in the time allotted, since it usually ferments for weeks.

Chef Tom visits Team Vietnam and inquires about the cucumbers. Betty explains the refresher drink they're making. Chef Tom gets confirmation that it's her project and she agrees that she's the "bar wench." Betty interviews that they're going above and beyond to lure the guests over. Outside, Chef Tom recaps. He makes the usual observation of the leader (Josie) being in danger if they lose.

Chef Tom checks in with the dessert duo at Team Korea. They look at each other like, "Should we? You first?" Elia explains that "one of our team members took something from the store without paying for it." Well, actually, all the team members took it from the store; Otto was just the one who noticed. Marisa recaps the lychee observation inaccurately, which just goes to show how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. Chef Tom immediately summons the rest of the team. Marisa swears softly. Chef Tom wants to know, when did they realize the lychees weren't paid for? Marcel volunteers "Just now" and Chef Tom says "Not you." Marisa explains that Otto observed they got a case of lychees for free. Chef Tom asks Otto if that's true, and Otto agrees that it is. Chef Tom wants to know how come Otto knew that when the rest of the team didn't. Otto babbles that he wasn't thinking too clearly and Chef Tom is frowny. He sends Otto to return the case of fruit. Chef Tom recaps that there are no "hard and true facts" about the situation, but they've lost a person for something like an hour. Otto recaps that he felt bad about the lychees not being paid for, so he took them back. Which is good, but it's still not clear to me how this came to be All Otto's Fault.

Team Vietnam begins to assemble their summer rolls. Betty assures Josie that they'll be wrapped in plastic so they don't touch. Over at Team Korea, we have some non-lychee drama as Marisa discovers the panna cotta is becoming hard. She interviews that she doesn't know how it happened; everything was "chaotic." Isn't that a common kitchen environment? Ilan describes how they're trying to finish things that should have been done earlier. Frank interviews that Otto's diversion to the lychee situation cost them momentum. Otto returns and gets back to work. He interviews that he doesn't think there's tension. It happened; time to move on. The teams pack up and time ticks out.

Is it the next day? They're at the venue unloading trucks in bright daylight. Marcel interviews they had an hour for setup. Emily interviews that she's having a good team experience and she's glad she's not on Team Korea. Speaking of which, Marisa and Elia think Otto's table decoration is problematic. Marisa interviews that she didn't feel a lot of bad vibes working with Otto; the issue was more of a distraction. So presumably she's feeling awkward about the situation, but Otto isn't holding a grudge.

Padma welcomes the teams to the event and introduces the judge. Instead of Hiroshi Shima, the guest judge is Ming Tsai. Big grins from the chefs. Mia does the "ooh, aah" interview. Padma asks Ming about his judging criteria; he's looking primarily at flavor. The teams go back to work. Marcel interviews that Team Korea started to fall apart a little. More like Team Korea never got it together in the first place. Team Vietnam has a problem when Michael hacks up a summer roll. Josie thinks they need a better knife, but Sam says the problem isn't the knife. It's not clear if he's blaming Michael or the construction of the summer rolls. I'm willing to vote for both. Josie interviews that she was freaking out, although we don't see it. She tries cutting one herself. Michael gets his feelings hurt because Josie treats him like a 10-year-old, which seems about right to me. His attempt was a total mess; he has no high ground to stand on. Josie tries to smooth things over a bit after the crisis is handled.

Betty, Josie and Emily work the front line at Team Vietnam. Betty in particular is a great shmoozer. At Team Korea, Otto is talking to Elia about coping with the press of customers. Elia wonders if he's asking or telling her about their ability to keep up; he's asking. Elia interviews that the personalities didn't gel into a team. Chef Ming samples Team Vietnam's food and corrects Josie's pronunciation of "pho" (it's more "fuh" than "fah"). The other judges zip through, then head to Team Korea's table. Chef Tom likes their pork dish. Elia interviews that the dessert was tough, but they didn't have time (or presumably ingredients) to redo it, so she went the optimism route. Chef Ming also likes the pork. Marisa interviews that you want to impress knowledgeable judges; she thinks they have a chance at winning. Chef Ming sums up: the summer roll was refreshing, the pho was a smidge dry, the braised pork was yummy, the dessert custard was "really heavy." The event winds up and the teams celebrate.

Judges' Table. Padma asks Gail to compare the teams' performance to all the events she attends; Gail thinks they did good. Chef Tom thinks the interesting difference is that Team Vietnam had a leader and Team Korea didn't. Chef Ming loved Team Korea's braised pork but the rice was mushy. If you mess up rice, you should toss it and do it again. Padma still prefers the Korean pork dish; everything about it was superior to the Vietnamese pork. Chef Tom brings up the panna cotta, which everyone agrees was too hard. Gail also thinks the Korean pork dish was superior, but Team Vietnam had better teamwork. Padma brings up the refresher drink, and Chef Tom compliments Betty's customer interaction. Gail agrees that they really did sell the drink to the customers. Padma sums up that it was a hard decision and fetches Team Vietnam. Marcel tells the other Team Korea members that he's "very pleased" with what they did and he expects a win. He bumps fists with the others.

Team Vietnam lines up, looking somewhat defensive. Chef Ming asks who cooked the pork and Michael raises his hand; Chef Tom reveals that it was a little dry. He confirms that Josie was team leader and that Betty had sole responsibility for the refresher. Padma finally reveals that they won and there is much rejoicing. Team Korea hears it and realizes they've lost. Cliff is angry because they couldn't work as a team. I'm thinking next time, maybe they shouldn't use sangria as a team-building exercise. Also, maybe the guy with immunity could step forward to play final arbiter. Chef Tom tells Betty that her refresher carried the day for the team, and Padma pronounces her the winner. That's different -- usually the whole team wins. Chef Ming presents her with a limited edition sushi knife; Betty is thrilled. She interviews that it was really a team effort, so it was embarrassing (if nice) to be singled out. Chef Tom sends them away to celebrate. Maybe they can get Cliff's sangria recipe.

Team Korea lines up for its spanking. Padma wastes no time delivering the bad news. Ilan goes on the offensive -- the other team's dishes were underseasoned and the pho was "a joke" while their pork was great, aside from the rice. Gail grants them the pork advantage, but that's not the only decision point. Padma asks why they think they lost, and Cliff volunteers the teamwork issue. Padma asks about the rice; Frank says it was his work. Prodded by Chef Ming's questions, he says it was good when it left the kitchen but bad when it hit the plates. Chef Tom brings up the lack of creaminess of the panna cotta. Marisa explains the gelatin ratio. She tried it and thought it was hard, but not inedible. Chef Tom asks Elia if she would serve it. Elia explains she doesn't have a taste for gelatin. Marisa challenges that she didn't say that before, as if she had just dissed the dessert. Elia tries to explain herself, but Marisa complains that everyone was confident about winning when they tasted the food, and now "there's a lot of backpedalling." Elia didn't even render an opinion yet, so step off, Marisa. Chef Tom asks Marcel to nominate someone to go and he picks Otto for lack of production and also for introducing the integrity problems with the lychee incident. Still not seeing how it was All Otto's Fault. Elia agrees with Marcel; she's subdued about it, but doesn't waver. Padma asks Otto to dress the lychee incident. Otto explains how they paid and loaded the stuff, he asked if they paid for the lychees and no one said anything. Marisa does a big double take. Chef Tom asks if he was thinking along the lines of "Yay, free lychees" but Otto disclaims. Marisa makes another face, so Gail asks her to comment. Marisa charges Otto with lying. Otto says, "I'm not going to get into a he said, she said situation with you." Good choice, since he probably doesn't remember exactly what he said. I don't know if Marisa is exaggerating his statements for effect or if all her fretting has reshaped her memory of the events, but Otto's description was pretty accurate. Marisa thinks this refusal to engage is "pathetic." Otto reports that the lychees were returned, and that's that. Elia apologizes, but she thinks he was dishonest in keeping the lychees. Well, since she and Marisa knew about it, why aren't they just as dishonest? They're pretending that Otto had more control over the lychees than everyone else, which isn't true. Marcel agrees that Otto jeopardized the team. Frank is pissed that team members are turning on each other. Padma notes that Ilan is being quiet; he doesn't think anyone is at fault.

The judges send them away. Frank scolds the others for not acting like a team, although I think he's more concerned about the finger-pointing than the failure to work together. Marisa starts to apologize, but Frank goes on. He wasn't the only one to approve the rice, but he was the only to take responsibility for it. Everyone else was looking out for themselves. Well, I didn't see Frank speaking up for Marisa or Otto. Maybe it got cut for time. Frank gets quite vehement that everyone needs to back their teammates. I'm sensing possible anger management issues.

The judges deliberate. Padma starts them off with the rice. Chef Ming still thinks it was unacceptable. Chef Tom thinks the panna cotta was worse. Chef Ming calls it "substandard." Chef Tom thinks the dessert was the tipping point. So there's Frank and Marisa, and then Otto. Chef Ming says that whatever happened with the lychees, the issue was a "cancer." Chef Tom reports Otto's statements that he got "caught up" in the competition and that he was "embarrassed" but he didn't take responsibility. Well, neither did anyone else. Chef Tom would boot Otto unless he steps up, in which case he'd boot Marisa.

The team returns. Chef Tom tells Otto that he's "in the middle" of the controversy. When did he decide that they couldn't use the fruit? Otto says when the cooking started and they decided not to use them, he agreed and put them off to the side. Chef Tom asks if he would have used them if someone hadn't said not to. Otto thinks about it. "You know, people do things for a wide variety of reasons. I wanted this more than you could possibly imagine. But the bottom line is, it was dishonest. I should have just came clean from the get-go. This action disrupted the team. It created a situation that was very uneasy for everyone involved. It's highly unfortunate that my actions put me in a decision to bow out of this competition." By the end, Elia is crying. Chef Tom says they'll honor his decision if that's what he wants. Otto performs the Daniel Franco Memorial Ethical Swan Dive and agrees. Padma gives him the boot. Everyone else looks pretty wrecked.

Otto announces to the others that he has withdrawn. Hugs all around. He interviews that the lychee inicident was a mistake. Character comes from accepting responsibility for mistakes and learning from them. Speaking of mistakes, let's talk about that clown mobster stripey suit. He'll continue to pursue his passion to end hunger.

Well, that was probably Otto's best possible exit. He didn't strike me as a potential finalist, so it's better to go out as Man of (Belated) Character than Cook of Mediocre Talent. In terms of both cooking and teamwork, Marisa was a good candidate for the boot. I don't know if she went around to anyone else besides Ilan, but a whispering campaign doesn't strike me as the best way to address the lychee issue. I can see how she might think the team wouldn't listen to her, but at least try to bring it up with the team before going to Chef Tom. And if the team doesn't want to address it, then make sure they all take some of the blame, not just Otto.

The main culprit in the Great Lychee Scandal was the lack of team cohesion. That led to poor planning, which led to chaotic shopping, which created the opportunity for the lychee oversight. Then there was no one to make an executive decision about how to handle the problem, which left the person who noticed the problem getting saddled with the responsibility for it. I do think it's fair to make the spotter responsible for bringing the problem to light, so Otto should have been the one pushing the issue with the team instead of (or in concert with) Marisa. But once Otto airs the problem, the team is responsible for getting it solved.

Last time, I said I wanted the show to get out more into Los Angeles, which they promptly did. So that's good. Unfortunately, a fish market and a charity event can't compare to a sex shop party for local color. They need to make the LA food scene seem a lot more interesting. It is interesting, right?

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Hair

Welcome to the second season of Top Chef! This time we're in Los Angeles, which has a lot of restaurants, but they seem to be valued more for who shows up than for what gets dished up. Also, not much in the way of trolleys. New host Padma Lakshmi reviews the concept and introduces the judges. The finale this year will be in Hawaii. I'm sensing a poi showdown in my future.

Time to meet the latest herd of reality hamsters:

This year, everyone's in a big loft space in a downtown building. Ilan interviews that the first guy he met -- Marcel -- started showing off his knives. Oh, great, it's like Stephen on steroids. Marisa has packed for every wardrobe eventuality. Suyai (soo-jeye) of the lovely accent bonds with Betty over their blonde locks. Michael's wife packed some panties for him. How, uh, sweet. The guys gather in the kitchen and anticipate meeting the contestants of the female persuasion, which immediately happens. There's much scoping out of the competition. Carlos just got his first four-star review; people clap for him. In an interview, he confesses to being self-taught; people with culinary degrees look down on the self-taught. Cut to Marcel's disparaging stare. Although I'm pretty sure he looks down on everyone who isn't lucky enough to be him. Mia has cooked for cowboys -- and apparently was paid in straw hats -- who have a different palate than fine diners.

Off to the kitchens. Padma welcomes them and pitches the sponsors. With her are Chef Tom and first season winner Harold Dieterle (yay!), the guest judge. Chef Tom starts off by explaining his role: he's not a mentor, he's the head judge. When he circulates in the kitchen, he's making observations that he'll take back to other judges. So we shan't expect him to urge the contestants to "carry on" or "make it work." Just as well; I don't think the challenges allow enough time for mentoring. Padma explains the structure of the QuickFire and Elimination challenges.

The QuickFire challenge: create a flambé dish. They can choose any alcohol from yonder table, and any ingredients from the pantry. Otto explains the technique, which basically involves setting alcohol on fire. Suyai didn't learn how to do this in her program. Alcohol, fire -- not sounding too tricky here. They have 20 minutes. Go!

Sam interviews that it was chaos with 15 chefs running around. Michael doesn't want to get too fancy. Emily describes flambé as a "big show" that produces "a lot of flavor, a lot of heat." Marcel decides to experiment with bananas and avocados so he can wow the judges. He needs to get booted right away; I can't handle all the Stephen flashbacks. Cliff talks about adrenaline rushing. Padma calls the 5 minute mark and the flames start going up. Elia can't get hers to light because she used red wine. Marcel explains that red wine has a low alcohol content, so it doesn't flame well. Time's up!

Padma and Chef Harold sample. With all the chefs, they're skimping on some of the food details. What we learn:

Chef Harold (I love saying that) compliments everyone, especially with the use of seasonal ingredients. His bottom three are Carlos (for non-functional garnish), Elia (for poor alcohol choice) and Suyai (for poor execution). His favorites are Sam (great flavor profile), Emily (yummy home cooking) and Betty ("spot on"). The win goes to Sam. Sam interviews that he was pleased. Elia is bummed, but tomorrow is another day. Padma sends them all off to rest for the big challenge.

Party! Much drinking ensues. Ilan interviews that Michael got a little toastier than the others. It looks like his roomies lock him out so he won't keep them up all night.

[Did the prospect of previously unaired footage entice any Project Runway viewers to stick around if they were not previously so inclined? Now that Jeffrey has won Project Runway, they can stop trying to make us feel sorry for him and go back to showing him act like a jerk to everybody. Yay?]

Morning. Michael gets nudged for his overindulgence. He interviews that the other chefs think he's crazy. If you can impress a bunch of chefs with your drinking, you are one heavy-duty drinker. For whatever reason, Michael says his mother hit him only once growing up, and Marcel(?) says maybe he should have gotten hit more. Ilan interviews that Marcel is an instigator. No Miss Congeniality ribbon for him. Marcel interviews that the contest is about food, not relationships, and it doesn't matter if you're his best friend. At least he didn't say he wasn't here to make friends.

Elimination challenge. Gail Simmons joins Chef Tom and Padma. The chefs draw knives to form the black and orange teams. This challenge is the Mystery Box of Ingredients challenge. Each team will cook; the other team will taste and select their top and bottom twos. Otto interviews that other chefs are the toughest critics. The black team gets to sit. The orange team has two hours to make tasting portions for everyone. Mystery ingredients:

It's not a good sign when they have to tell you it's food. Marisa is flummoxed by the peanuts. Suyai is flummoxed by both the peanuts and the "cheese." Cooking happens. Elia is determined not to wind up in the bottom again. Carlos observes that you must refrigerate the "cheese" when using "cheese products." I hope he's not reading from the label. Michael is once again keeping it simple. Ilan interviews that Suyai was "emotional" during the whole cooking period and he felt bad for her. I think Ilan might be the new Harold. That's a flashback I can deal with. Marisa is chopping and chops her fingers. Carlos helps her bandage since he's at a loss with his cooking. Marisa doesn't mind the pain but the time loss is a problem. Also, ew.

Chef Tom does his sweep. Marisa jokes about giving pastry chefs sharp knives; maybe he'll give her a lesson afterwards. Elia confesses that she hates the "cheese." She interviews that it shouldn't even exist, but they're stuck with it. Chef Tom warns Michael that he has to impress the other chefs. Well, if he wants to win. Michael's strategy seems to be "avoid losing." That will only get him so far in this competition. Suyai volunteers that she's completely sucking. Chef Tom wonders if she should be telling him this. She's just at a loss.

Outside, Chef Tom explains that the processed "cheese" is the big test. Carlos is using a lot of cheese in his sauce. He's not sure how Elia is working it in. Ilan's baked escargot is "intriguing." Suyai has no confidence. More cooking and time's up.

Padma sends the orange team away while the black team deliberates. For the bottom two, Betty volunteers Carlos and Suyai; the others agree. Suyai didn't have a good flavor and Carlos was unfocused. As for the top two, Ilan definitely has a spot. For the other spot, the nominees are Frank and Elia. Chef Tom asks which they'd rather spend $16 on at a restaurant, and that helps settles it.

[Poll question on the season's villain. Shouldn't we see who survives the first round before committing?]

Black team's turn to cook. Their mystery ingredients:

Frog legs and chicken livers? The other chefs got potatoes. Betty calls it a "friggin' wacky combination." Marcel interviews that Otto was a "train wreck" who was running around. We jump ahead an hour to Chef Tom's sweep. Betty confesses that she has never worked with frog legs; they joke about how they're supposed to taste like chicken. She doesn't like chicken liver, so she makes it into a paste that she can mold into cakes. Marcel has seen frog legs used, but he hasn't cooked them himself. He describes making frog leg "lollipops" and then he'll "leave a little bit to the unknown." Does that mean he doesn't know, or he's not telling? I'm sure Chef Tom won't blab to the other contestants. Mia knows and loves frog legs; she cuts them up like chicken wings and takes it from there. Cliff is breading the chicken livers with corn flakes, which is not how he normally deals with corn flakes.

Outside, Chef Tom reveals that Mia is the only one with frog leg experience. Emily is breading and frying them, which seems to be a common approach and not very challenging. Otto seems unsure, so he bears watching. Marcel is really confident.

Otto's rice is taking too long. He interviews that he's not sure how he'll do. Marcel puts himself in the top three. Time's up! And they're tasting.

The black team is dismissed. Top choices are Betty and Mia. Betty was original and Mia was flavorful. Otto and Marcel get nominated for the bottom slots. Otto was a mess and Marcel had too much garlic. Elia disagrees about Marcel. Carlos also nominates Cliff. Elia gets outvoted.

Judges' table. Padma tosses it to Chef Harold (hee!); he thought it was a good challenge. Gail likes the diversity of the orange group and agrees with the top choices. Chef Tom thinks Frank could have made it if he had improved his pasta. He liked Betty's cake but wasn't impressed with her salad; Chef Harold found her peanut sauce flavorful. As for Mia, Chef Tom is ready for Sunday dinner at her house. Gail points out that it wasn't the most refined, but it was the most satisfying.

Padma summons Elia, Ilan, Betty and Mia. Elia is nervous because she doesn't know if she's in the top or bottom. But then Padma congratulates them, so they know. Elia again expresses her discomfort with the "cheese." If she had more time, she would have topped the dish with chopped artichokes. Gail thinks that might have been a slight improvement, but it was really good as it was. Mia hunted frogs as a kid, so this was home territory. Chef Tom liked the sense of her personality in the dish. This was Ilan's first time with escargot. Gail congratulates him for pulling it off; Chef Harold thinks he has a talent for it. Betty incorporated a couple of ideas from her restaurant. Chef Tom again disses the salad, but he thinks the dish also represented her personality. Chef Harold gets to announce the winner: Ilan. Mia looks bummed. Chef Tom thinks Ilan improved the ingredients. Ilan celebrates in an interview. Chef Tom observes that their guest judge also won the first elimination challenge, so that's a good sign.

Mia announces Ilan's win; he's widely applauded. Then she sends Otto, Marcel, Suyai and Carlos to get spanked by the judges. Padma asks Otto why he thinks he's in the bottom, and he blames the undercooked rice. He tried to save it with some olive oil. Chef Harold disabuses him of the rice idea; he needed more depth to handle the disparity of the two meat ingredients. Otto says if he had a redo, he'd combine them into an amuse bouche. Chef Tom asks why he should stay, and Otto says even a top chef has a bad day. But the whole question here is, is he a top chef? Suyai admits she panicked and started cooking without thinking. Gail tries to find things to praise and comes up with "a lot of good potato in there." Well, nice try. Suyai promises not to do it again. Marcel doesn't know why he's in the bottom. Chef Harold thought he was more of a middle placer. As a member of the nominating team, Carlos explains the garlic issue. Marcel guesses that it was a strategic choice to remove a tough competitor. Dream on. He got the "jerk" vote. Chef Tom observes that Carlos finished with a good 40-45 minutes to spare. He confesses that he felt rushed and didn't take the time to think things through, as he should. Chef Tom asks if he would serve that dish at his restaurant. Carlos demurs that it wasn't his "crowning achievement" but neither was it "crap on a plate." Not exactly a ringing endorsement there.

The four get sent away so the judges can trash talk, er, deliberate. Chef Tom thinks they could justify sending any one of them home. Gail observes that Carlos obviously didn't think it through. Chef Tom found it poorly seasoned; Chef Harold says there was no complexity. Chef Tom almost couldn't choke it down. Gail doesn't want to discount the judgement of Marcel's peers. Chef Tom figures the others wanted to take him down a peg or two. If he actually thought of the others as his peers, maybe that would work, but as things stand, not happening. The consensus is that he didn't suck; the unspoken verdict is that he didn't shine, either. Chef Harold thinks Suyai succumbed to nerves (as he succumbed on his first QuickFire challenge). Chef Tom thinks her inexperience shows and reports the "I'm so sucking" story. Gail thinks she volunteered herself. Chef Tom thinks Otto did, too, talking about the rice problem. Chef Harold agrees that you should stand behind your food. But at the risk of looking like a doofus? If your rice is clearly undercooked and you blather on about how great your dish was, the judges are going to ask you about the rice, and then what do you say? If the point is to analyze the dish, then I think a truthful answer is better. But then talk about what you did right.

Marcel walks away with the vote for this season's villain. Great, now they're never going to boot him.

The bottom four return. Chef Tom tells Otto that his experience should have warned him to just ditch the unnecessary rice, Suyai that she might not be ready for this competition, Marcel that his dish did have issues (so don't be so surprised about being in the bottom), and Carlos that he made rookie mistakes. See? Marcel didn't 'fess up to the problems and now he looks like a doofus. Okay, that was a given with the hair, so now he looks even more like a doofus. Padma boots Suyai.

There's much hugging. Suyai admits that she sabotaged herself. She has some decisions to make but she'll definitely keep on cooking. At least she learned how to flambé. Aw, she was nice, and I love her voice. Oh, well.

So how's the second season stacking up? Too many people. Emily, Cliff and Frank have barely registered. Even big-seeming personalities like Josie are in the background. I hope this doesn't turn into the Marcel season. Of course, if they boot him early, they avoid that problem. Just a suggestion. But I think shrinking it back down to 12 contestants would be a good idea. The new host is an improvement in that she can actually move as she talks, but otherwise she hasn't made much of an impression. Since she doesn't suck, I'm willing to wait and see. I liked how the first season really jumped into the San Francisco food culture. So far, this season could be set anywhere. That needs to change right away.


Saturday, October 21, 2006


Okay, We're Done

Previously on Project Runway: Laura thought Jeffrey had help with his collection -- he's too done and some of it is too good. She talked to Tim and then to Jeffrey. Tim reviewed the clothes with Jeffrey.

Jeffrey broods. Uli is uncomfortable with the tension and wishes the controversy had never come up. Laura is unimpressed with Jeffrey's claim that his professional status made everything look good. Michael points out to Uli that she noticed the excellent leather pants right along with Laura and himself. Uli doesn't think the competition is about "that" but Laura compares Jeffrey to an athlete taking steroids. She interviews that Jeffrey has a business with people working for him, so he had the opportunity to get help and "I suspect" he did.

Somehow, Jeffrey and Laura wind up conversing in a doorway. Laura thinks sending leatherwork out is legal, as long as he has a receipt. Jeffrey complains that she's questioning his integrity, and she protests that she isn't. But yeah, she is. Not as much as if she claimed they weren't his designs, but breaking the rules is a matter of integrity. Is it punk rawk to be all worried about one's integrity? (Apparently there was another conversation where Laura agreed that she was, in fact, questioning his integrity and that she should have spoken to Jeffrey first -- although I can see needing to grab Tim when he was available. Why couldn't they have aired that conversation? I'm really ticked with the whole bonus footage angle. They manipulate the interactions with editing, but then the stuff in the bonus footage is less cartoon-y and just highlights how much they're manipulating things in the editing. Save everyone time, stop playing games and show the full(er) story on air. Schmucks.)

With 5 hours left to the day (presumably Wednesday, with the runway shows on Friday), Tim calls Jeffrey about a missing receipt from the pleaters. If Laura hadn't raised the issue of cheating, would anyone have known how many receipts to expect for the pleating work? Presumably they audit all the collections, but we haven't see anything beyond a simple totting up of receipts, and that's a pretty cursory level of examination. It would be nice to see something more substantive. If you have rules against cheating, you have to be able to enforce them, or why bother? Tim wants Jeffrey to have the company fax over copies. Jeffrey worries that they might not be able to find it because "it's like Sanford & Son over there" (perhaps they taught Jeffrey record-keeping) and then what? Tim says they'll cross that bridge when they get to it. Jeffrey recaps the situation in an interview, because the stress has obviously wrecked our attention spans and it's critical that we realize there's a receipt missing or we'll be lost for the rest of the show, or at least until they finally get to the runway stuff. He calls the pleaters and frets that he might get booted over a missing receipt. Let that be a lesson to all you future contestants -- keep your papers in order, especially when a Bryant Park fashion show is on the line.

The next morning, Jeffrey broods some more. Aw, let's all feel sorry for the administratively incompetent. Okay, done. The others do some more finish work while Jeffrey leaves a message for Tim. He interviews that he worked really hard, and a disqualification at this point would be "tragic." Finally, he goes inside and starts making a skirt in case he needs to replace the pleated shorts because of the missing receipt. Yay, a constructive response! I have a low mope threshold.

With 8 hours left in the day, Tim arrives and gathers the designers. He reviews the situation and announces that he is clearing Jeffrey after a "thorough investigation." What investigation? Laura raised the issue Tuesday night and it's now Thursday afternoon. That's barely enough time for the various lawyers involved to put together the "here's how we proceed without getting sued" memo. Looking at the receipts won't tell you if he had outside help, not if he has half a brain. Looking at the clothes might tell you something, but we never saw that happen. If they're going to make a big hoo-hah out of Jeffrey being accused, they need to make as big a hoo-hah over everything they did to clear him. I want to believe Tim, but the producers have not exactly established themselves as forthright and trustworthy. (See previous rant about the editing and bonus footage.)

So, anyway, Jeffrey relieves his stress by sobbing into Uli's shoulder while Laura and Michael look on. Tim continues that the pleating was allowable, as long as he had receipts. Since the receipt for the shorts didn't turn up, the shorts are out. That seems fair. Also, Jeffrey is over budget by $227.95, so he'll have to remove more stuff and the judges will be notified. Tim does the integrity speech again. He's confident they've sorted everything out. Laura shakes hands with Jeffrey and says, "Meet you on the runway" while Uli thanks her for "starting this." These problems should have been found by the standard audit, and this way, Jeffrey had enough of a heads up to start making a replacement for the shorts. Also, they should all be thanking Laura -- the controversy meant they weren't subjected to any last-minute stupid pet tricks by the producers in the name of drama. Jeffrey and Michael shake hands and hug. Jeffrey interviews that he's completely satisfied.

Out on the terrace, Uli teases Jeffrey that he's really a softie. She congratulates Laura, "You won. You made him cry." Laura disclaims any desire to make him cry. (Somewhere in the midwest, a voice calls out, "Do it again!") Which I believe. She had her opinion and she was going to speak up, and whether Jeffrey cried or not was irrelevant. I didn't see any indications that she enjoyed his discomfort (unlike Jeffrey, who practically hooted with glee over his treatment of Darlene and Angela). Jeffrey attributes Laura's accusations to her inexperience, and it's all good. Laura tells Uli, "I was whispering 'Don't cry, Jeffrey, don't cry.'" She interviews that she wasn't trying to boot him and she's happy to be competing with him. I don't think she expected to have him booted -- she acknowledged from the outset that it would be difficult to prove her suspicions. And I don't think she was trying to throw him off his game -- he was already done, so what effect would head games have at that point? I think she just likes putting all the cards on the table and letting the chips fall where they may.

[On the cheating front, it turns out that Jeffrey has a lot of equipment for his regular business, including specialized machines for leather, so that affected the level of craftsmanship of some pieces. It's not cheating, although it's clearly not a level playing field. (Tim said the others had the option of renting or buying similar equipment, but that would presumably come out of their collection budgets.) It would have been nice to hear about that on the show, instead of having to read an interview with Tim for the information. Once again, the producers are schmucks.]

With an hour to go, people start wrapping up. Michael (remember him?) feels good about his work. Uli is pleased with her collection. Jeffrey has decided to ditch the wigs to get back under budget. Bummer. I was looking forward to snickering over them. Also, it turns out he has a spare pair of leather pants, so he'll use those instead of the shorts. Dude, maybe you should have taken inventory before you started working on the skirt. I know, stress messes up your thought processes, but honestly.

Tim arrives for their final "gather 'round." He gets verklempt about it and Laura urges him to "make it a good one." Tim does the proud papa thing again. They finish up with a group hug. (Tim brought in the velvet bag of impending randomness, so presumably they figured out the show order. I can live with not seeing that.)

It's the wee hours of the morning and the designers start getting ready. Jeffrey claims a whole two hours of sleep. Laura is "relieved" that Jeffrey will be showing so she can "beat him on the runway, not in the accountant's office." And they're off to Bryant Park. Tents! They wander around the vast, empty whiteness of the show's tent. Everyone does the introspective thing. Okay, time to get busy. Backstage activity -- hair, makeup, fitting, lighting. People start filling in the seats and we catch glimpses of familiar faces. Tim gives Laura the 10 minute warning. We see the various families as the designers voiceover their final rah-rah speeches.

Heidi greets the crowd and introduces the judges. The guest judge is Fern Mallis, who created Fashion Week. There's some serious credibility in the room, y'all. And showtime!

Jeffrey gives a short speech acknowledging his family; he hopes the crowd loves his collection as much as he does. The music is kind of gloomy. How are we supposed to enjoy the show with this downer music?

Uli greets the crowd and talks about having dreams come true. Her music is spritely, kind of a spring-like techno.

Laura jokes about making it "big" in the fashion world. The music is kind of jazzy; it would probably be fun to walk to.

Michael gets the biggest applause from the crowd. He describes his idea as a woman searching for her inner self and finding a sexy tigress inside. The music has drums and sirens; I think it's trying too hard.

Post-show interviews. Everyone is happy. Uli and Laura are pleased with the crowd reactions. Brandy loves Michael but votes for Uli's collection; so does Chloe from Season 2. A VP of L'Oreal Paris votes for Laura. A VP from Wal-Mart votes for Uli's collection but Michael's body of work. Raymundo from Season 2 picks Laura and Malan nods. A senior VP from LVMH picks Jeffrey for his passion. Heidi asks the Wal-Mart VP if any of the designers will appear in his store; he's non-committal. Kayne loved Uli's collection and Katherine nods in agreement.

Back at Parsons, the judges are all happy, too. The designers come out and Heidi handles the usual housekeeping. The models come out and Heidi describes the prize for them.

Laura gets to go first. She reallly wanted to do evening wear -- romantic, escapist, luxurious. Heidi and Michael think she made $8,000 look like $30,000. They get into the beading. She did it all by hand, but over the whole period, not just in the final week. Michael thought everything was beautiful but wanted a surprise. Nina pursues the issue -- Laura knew they saw her as limited, so why not stretch? (In the first half, Laura said she did evening wear because she thought it made for a better show.) Fern thinks it's fine to have a limited focus (hooray for a fresh perspective) and everyone goes for black evening wear. I would have liked to see more infusions of color, though, like with the last dress.

Michael talks about being on a search for his identity as a designer, and that turned into the safari theme. Fern is sad that his collection didn't match the welcome he got from the crowd; overall, she was disappointed. Michael Kors found it all too loud. Michael wanted to really make a point. Nina says there's a fine line and Michael brings up the youth factor. Nina and Heidi like the range of outfits.

Jeffrey describes the Japanese ghosts and demons thing. Fern admires the zipper details. Michael likes the range; Jeffrey talks about trying to show range in 12 outfits without being "schizophrenic." I really didn't see a big range; everything seemed pretty casual. Fern thinks his sporty looks were stronger; the blue Uli dress and the blue party dress felt disjointed. Heidi brings up the budget issue. By tossing the wigs, he wound up around $400 under budget. So, about $600 for 12(?) wigs, or $50 a wig. (Sorry, reflexive math response.) I'm not loving the shapeless and deconstructed aesthetic. To me, it just reads as messy.

Uli wanted to show she can do more than just prints. Nina thinks her clothes are terrific and will sell. The tone implies a "but" but we never hear it. She compliments the solid separates. Heidi would wear all the outfits; she liked the variety. Michael thought the color story was disjointed. I agree; I would have liked a bridge between the solids and the prints. The earthtone zebra stripes might have done the job if she had arranged the order differently. Uli thought about taking out all the prints, but that's where she gets her inspiration. Maybe she'll move to New York. Fern dissuades her; the resort market is huge, and Uli has a good source of inspiration.

Heidi sends them all away for deliberations. Women just like Uli's clothes and Nina likes the details, but Michael found the show uneven. For Jeffrey's show, everyone liked the variety within a coherent vision; everyone hated the long blue dress. Laura is meticulous; Heidi thinks they're investment pieces. Nina doubts her innovation. Michael had taste issues. Fern liked the safari story. She thinks all four have real futures. Nina already has people pestering her for Uli's number.

Thus endeth the deliberations. That took about the same amount of time as the challenge discussions. I'd rather have more discussion and analysis. But I also like seeing all four collections. Either they need to start the runway shows at the start of the second hour, or they need to do a two-hour finale.

The designers return. Heidi gives everyone kudos, but now it's time to winnow the field. Michael's not ripe yet; he's out. He believes in himself, so he'll be out there getting it done. Laura is too limited; she's out. She's happy with what she achieved. Uli and Jeffrey hug. Jeffrey was innovative and cohesive; Uli stretched to make a beautiful collection. Jeffrey wins. Uli thinks second place is the best spot for her; she knows she can survive the fashion world. Marilinda wins the fashion spread. I like her, so that's nice. Jeffrey's family comes out for a celebration. Jeffrey describes the whole experience as "intense." He gets another hug from Tim.

So halfway through the festivities, I realize that I'm bored. I'm not surprised by Jeffrey's win, not after the redemption edit and poor-Jeffrey edit and all the fuss over the allegations and the receipts. I'm not annoyed by the win; I didn't like his collection, but I can understand the philosophical appeal of it. I'm just tired, and glad it's over. Let's hope the next season has more fun and more fashion, and less fury.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Oh, Look, More Drama

Heidi comes out onto the runway carrying the velvet bag of impending randomness. Her top looks like it might have come from Uli's collection, if Uli had created a collection. Maybe from a previous season. She tries to ramp up some excitement from the final four. They try to oblige, but let's face it, they're tired even if they are triumphant. Heidi orders them to create a collection of 12 looks with a budget of $8000 and two months to work. She reviews the prizes again, like we haven't heard them a million times.

Now it's time for a special guest. But it's just Tim. Sure, he's special, but he's not a guest. Tim and Heidi command them to be ambitious, and then stroll off to enjoy their copious free time. Hey, wait, no randomness? What was the velvet bag for?

The designers pack up. Laura demonstrates she's just as efficient at packing as sewing. She's looking forward to advancing her career. The challenge doesn't really scare her: "I've produced a whole line of kids, why can't I produce a whole line of dresses?" Preferably without incubating them for nine months each. Michael gives his compliments to the four walls and everyone heads out. Laura walks home. Uli suspects people are thinking she's just along for the ride, but she might sneak up and surprise them. Michael is hungry to win the whole thing. Jeffrey attempts to convince a cabbie to pick up his neck tattoo. He has achieved his goal of showing at Bryant Park; it's his dream to make the collection that he wants to see on the runway. I'm curious how a guy manages to have his own label and yet not be able to make his own collection. Some kind of partnership agreement?

A month later, a plane lands in Atlanta. Tim drives up to Michael's house in a shiny red product-placed vehicle. Michael interviews that he's thrilled to see Tim again and yes, he's wearing braces. Michael, that is. Not Tim. Michael has his own house. I'm not sure if he's owning or renting. Real estate is certainly cheaper around Atlanta than in New England, but owning a house in your mid-twenties is quite an accomplishment, so perhaps he just rents. Regardless, he shows Tim around his work areas. No industrial sewing machines here. He has sketches and swatches hanging in the living room. Michael confesses that he's still in the early stages. His theme is "Street Safari." He started with one dress and then everything fell out from there. He's going for a neutral palette with splashes of color, and some of the designs took on a 70s vibe as he worked on them. He shows Tim the first dress, a long white gown with lacing up the deep-V neckline and a big winged collar. Tim likes the pocket details. I like the dress -- it has a nice, clean look with definite safari elements, but nothing too silly. The next piece is a long dress made out of 70s-looking fabrics with black and brown abstracts on white. It's, um, different. And kind of scary. Tim's not seeing the cohesion. Also, there's a problem with the zipper in the back. Michael reports that he only has three outfits done with a month still to go. So now that Michael has gotten his feedback, it's time to take Tim to a family dinner.

Suburban Atlanta house. Tim meets Michael Senior and hugs Pam. We see pictures of Junior growing up, including what must be one of his modeling shots, as he relates his army brat upbringing. His family has always supported him. Michael's dad tells Tim that they always thought Michael would be a beautician, but then he zigged into the fashion business. They've never told him not to do it. Tim loves them for that. Michael wants to win to make his family proud. Tim is part of a pre-dinner prayer circle. I'm guessing they don't do that much in Manhattan. Michael thinks positive -- he's going to "win this show."

Back in New York City, Tim drops in on Laura and her magnificent apartment. Laura tells him that she has been too busy to "whine about being pregnant." She interviews that she's having her fifth boy in a row, and the odds of that are about as long as "making it on Project Runway." If the odds of having a boy are 50/50, then the odds of having five boys in a row are .5 x .5 x .5 x .5 x .5 or .03125, or about 3 in 100. So if they saw about 500 designers to select the final group, she's right. Of course, I haven't factored in the possibility of having five children to begin with -- those odds would have to be considerably longer.

Enough with the math. Tim marvels at the big open apartment. Laura has pictures, including one with her artsy grandmother. Her mother (Lorraine) was a sewing teacher, which is how Laura got her start. She shows Tim what she has so far. Her approach was to try to get everything started, so she would have a lot of pieces for him to review. She shows him a red gown with all the embellishment inside. Her idea was that evening wear would make for a more impressive show. Tim is concerned about keeping things youthful. Also, her last look is rather busy. Laura explains that she was trying to push herself outside her comfort zone. It's a long chartreuse coat over a printed dress. I like the shape more than the color. Laura interviews that she surprised herself with how competitive she's feeling. Tim isn't sure that the final look is "even pretty." I tend to agree, although it has some nice elements and I'm glad she's doing something different. Tim thinks she has accomplished a huge amount, but now she really has to think about things. Most of the remaining work is the "tedious" handwork. Tim asks, "How adept are the boys?"

Speaking of the boys, there's an invasion of rugrats. The eldest shakes hands with Tim. The youngest politely offers him his latest find. It's turtle poop. "Ewww!" squirms Tim. "I don't think I want any turtle poop!" It's the single most adorable moment I've seen on this show. Even better than Tim in a hard hat and reflective vest. Laura describes the encounter: "Here, welcome to our clan. Have some poop." She cleans it up and everyone hunts for the turtle. It doesn't show up, but her husband Peter does. He and Tim greet each other like pals. Tim reports that he's already exhausted after half an hour with the kids. Laura explains how they think it's too quiet if the boys aren't all running around. Somebody finds Frank the turtle and Tim admires the handsome fellow. Laura interviews that with five kids, she's never had the money to start a business and "take it to the next level." So maybe winning Project Runway will give her that chance. Okay, it's perhaps hard to believe that Laura couldn't scrape up the money to start a business. But even the $100,000 prize isn't enough to start your own fashion house, and however wealthy she is, I doubt Laura has a spare million lying about. The needs of her family have a higher priority, and that's just fine. Laura interviews again about being ready to compete. We finish with a shot of Frank the turtle eating Cheerios.

Whew! Fun place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. I already put in my time as one of five (only three were boys) so I don't really need to do it again.

Tim tools his product-placed car around Miami; it's still four weeks until Fashion Week, so Tim has had a busy week. He marvels over the view from Uli's balcony. Uli tells us how a lot of her inspiration comes from Miami, in case we hadn't noticed over the past few months. Her collection is "Tropical Safari." Will safari stuff be the big trend next year? I hope they don't make everyone wear those jungle hard hats. She has a long dress in a wavy printed fabric. Tim likes it, but he's worried that she isn't showing diversity. She has to surprise the judges. He's complimentary about a short dress. Uli has worked out her twelve pieces, so now she just needs to put them together.

They head out to the beach to talk. Tim has his sleeves rolled up and his shoes off. He needs to do that either a lot more or not at all. Uli is all toasty brown in contrast. Tim marvels at the distance (physical and psychological) between Germany and Miami. Uli remembers watching Miami Vice on TV and wanting to experience the beach and the palm trees. And now she can. She grew up in East Germany, so material goods were a little sparse. Also, life wasn't very colorful. Tim is surprised; he knew about Germany, but didn't realize it was East Germany. Uli recounts how it could be dangerous, with people getting shot. But then everything changed, and she came to America and she's living the dream. It is pretty inspirational. Not quite as dramatic as Chloe's immigrant story, but still heartwarming.

Only two weeks to Fashion Week now. Did Tim drive across the country? Because now he's with his spiffy little product-placed car in LA to visit Jeffrey. Jeffrey reports that he was nervous about meeting with Tim, because he was never sure he had won Tim over to his point of view during the challenges. At the house, Tim meets Melanie (who has a modest Mohawk) and cute little Harrison. Jeffrey relates how he and Melanie met through mutual friends, immediately fell in love, and then found out Harrison was on the way five months later. So it looks like they've been together for maybe three years. Tim admires Harrison, and Melanie reports she always says he's Jeffrey's best design. Jeffrey describes how marvelous it is, being a father. Tim thinks Jeffrey is lucky to have a workspace separate from his living space. When he first started out, Jeffrey worked in his living room. He describes how his father was an angry man who left when he was eight; Jeffrey blamed himself for the departure and got into drugs as a teen. After some four years of intensive drug use, he tried to commit suicide, but his roommate got fired and came home in time to save him. The next day, he got help and he's been sober for almost five years. He thinks about how hard it is for him when Harrison falls down and cries, so he can't imagine how awful it is to have your child on the street doing drugs.

Tim asks how things have been since the show has been airing. It has been "crazy" -- he has been working on his Cosa Nostra line and doing his collection and trying to see his family. Jeffrey does his "I'm really competitive" spiel; he wants to win to make a better life for Harrison. He and Tim go down to his workspace to check on his progress. He has a huge room filled with fabric and tables and machines. Tim marvels at the space, much like he marveled at Laura's apartment. It looks like Jeffrey has about 8 outfits on hangers. He takes out a striped dress to display on the mannequin. His inspiration was a book of Japanese ghosts and demons; he loves the color palette and the detailing. Tim is wowed by his use of zippers as trim on the striped dress. Jeffrey's glad to hear it, because he's been so wrapped up in his work, he was actually getting sick of it. Tim finds that only natural. (That's a comment on the pressure-cooker atmosphere, not on Jeffrey's aesthetic.) Jeffrey holds out a simple halter dress made with striped fabric, red on one side and black on the other. Tim feels inspired to hug him. Jeffrey is pleased that Tim likes the collection, but he's not making any assumptions about how the judges will respond. He feels he is living on borrowed time and that everything is a gift; he's "eternally grateful" for everything he has. I'd be more convinced if he had been pleased about winning instead of grumping about being robbed all those times before, or if he had been grateful for placing well instead of griping that the winner's look was bland. You know?

So now it's just 5 days until the runway show, and the finalists return to New York. Michael confides that he's in love with his "nasty" collection. Oh, dear. I'm not entirely sure I like the sound of that. He's exhausted from trying to get everything finished in the last two days. Laura is feeling good about her work. She'd like to win, if only so that Jeffrey doesn't. I think she's feeling a little miffed about all Jeffrey's comments during the episodes. Granted, Laura has talked some smack of her own (they all did), but she always talked about a specific outfit or a specific habit, and she didn't seem at all happy that people were doing poorly. Jeffrey made fun of people's whole body of work and was often quite dismissive of the others. Laura was critical, but Jeffrey was downright mean. Laura tiptoes in to rouse a napping Michael for hugs. It's dark when Uli arrives. She's curious to see what the others have done. There are more hugs. Jeffrey interviews that he got everything done, because he wants to be ready for any final twists. He's sure he's going to win all the goodies. Uli greets him with a hug and wonders if people have been throwing eggs at him since the show started airing. Jeffrey assures her that nothing like that has happened. Michael also gets up to greet him. Laura interviews that she didn't jump up like she did with Uli. I'm assuming that she did greet him, though, even if we don't see it. They all talk about how tired they are, and Jeffrey drags himself off to bed. He voiceovers that they're all ready to get into it.

Morning. 4 days to the show. Laura anticipates getting back into the workroom environment, even with "the tension that Jeff likes to cause." She's not liking him much at all these days, is she? There's a new product-placed workspace. Everyone unpacks their collections. Michael interviews that everyone was pretending not to check out everyone else's stuff, but they all did. Laura marvels at the number of pieces in Jeffrey's area, but he thinks the plastic bags over the clothes are creating an illusion of volume.

Tim drops by to welcome them all officially and check up. Jeffrey first. Tim seems pleased with everything. Jeffrey doesn't have anything left to do, and Tim is impressed. Jeffrey gets a hug. Uli is next. Tim has a concerned face; he wants to see things on models to get some sense of proportions. He almost misses her prints. Laura's turn. Tim loves the detailing of her first piece, and he's thrilled that she dumped "the chartreuse popsicle." She pretty much eliminated all the color (no!) but Tim thinks it looks more cohesive now. She has to finish some detail work, but doesn't anticipate any problems. Another hug for Laura. Michael gets an "oy." Tim thinks a shirt with sequined pockets(!) looks "cartoony" with all the bling. Michael should either go over the top or tone it down. He needs to work on his cohesion.

Tim collects everyone's receipts. Jeffrey has to sort through and remove some sketches. I'm not surprised that organization is not his strong suit. Tim leaves them to work. Michael interviews that he has some work to do. He'd rather go over the top and put on a big show. Uli interviews the importance of getting the right girls for the clothes.

Model casting! Everyone is psyched. Laura is thrilled to see some hips. Michael interviews that he wants strong walkers. I think Katie (Laura's first model, who wound up doing Cher for Bradley) shows up. Laura interviews that she was trying to think of what each dress required. Amanda comes in, looking blonder than before. Jeffrey talks about all the criteria he's thinking about -- coloring, skin tone, walk. Michael recognizes Danyelle from season 2 and snaps her up. Uli jokes that they're all going to fight over someone. I catch sight of the supposedly plus-sized Alexandra in the snapshot montage.

With 6 hours left to the day, it's time to consult with the product-placed hair guy. Jeffrey has wigs so his models will be blank slates. The hair guy is perhaps not thrilled, but he manages to work with it.

3 days to the show. We get the first wakey-wakey shots of the show. They're as boring as ever. Back in the workroom, Alexandra shows up for her fitting with Michael; he gives her a big hug and asks if she does swimsuits. Oh, no, not a plus-sized model in a swimsuit! Laura tells a model that a dress needs boobs. Wait, models have boobs? More models, more fittings. Laura interviews that Jeffrey hasn't had much in the way of alterations. His dresses are full at the bottom, so they don't need a lot of adjusting. That doesn't bother her; what bugs her is that every little thing is done, so he doesn't have anything to do but fit. Considering how everyone else across all the seasons has showed up at Fashion Week with finishing to do, it does seem odd. Especially since the timeframe for this show is much shorter -- two months instead of almost seven months.

With 10 hours left to the day, it's time to consult with the product-placed makeup guy. Since there are four finalists, he can't just cycle through the same three looks he used for the previous seasons. "Smokey eyes" is becoming my new "wire hangers."

Back in the workroom, everyone bustles except for Jeffrey, who just sits. Laura interviews that, after two days of consideration, she has concluded that Jeffrey must have had help with construction. Jeffrey wanders off (to get dinner, it seems). Laura brings up her concerns to the other designers, who agree that it's odd that he has nothing at all to do. Laura interviews that she's sure he designed it all, but the craftsmanship is just too good. She points out to the others that garments are very well-finished, with ribbon-covered seam allowances. Uli wants to see for herself, so she goes over to check out Jeffrey's rack of clothes. On the one hand, that's kind of brassy; on the other, it's best to get the facts straight. Uli protests that the finishing on the striped dress is "not that perfect." Michael interviews that they all noticed the leather jeans, which had much better workmanship than they had seen from Jeffrey before. The designers go back to work while they hash it over. They all agree that Jeffrey designed it all, that they're suspicious and that they can't prove anything. Uli wants to confront Jeffrey when he returns; I think she's anxious for him to clear things up. Michael says he's not the sort of person to just ignore the elephant in the room, and Laura says she's the same way. She'll talk to Jeffrey when he returns.

But first, Tim arrives. I wonder how far into the discussion the producers called him up and ordered him over to the workroom. He checks in with Uli, who still needs to fit four models. She has tried things out on some backup models. Jeffrey returns as Uli shows her final look. Laura has fitted eleven models. She asks to talk to Tim, and he suggests privacy. Laura hesitates, and then agrees. They step out onto a terrace, and Laura reports that "I believe" Jeffrey had some help with the collection. Too much work happened. The insides of the garments are too well-finished and the leather jeans are too well-done. She's sure that Jeffrey designed everything, but with all his talk of how busy he was with his other line, she's not convinced he did all the work himself. She just wants to go on record with her opinion before the judging happens. She makes it clear that she has no proof; this is just her sense of things. Tim points out that it's hard to prove this sort of thing, but he will take the matter to the producers and they will investigate. That last bit makes me think the producers already know about the whole imbroglio.

Tim leaves them all to work. Laura interviews that she's sure people will think she's "a bitch" for raising the issue, but she just doesn't see how Jeffrey could have done it all. It would be kind of funny if Jeffrey had been blowing hot air about how hard he was working on his Cosa Nostra line when he really just ignored it and put all his time into his personal collection. It does sound like the ribbon finish on the seams is an "above and beyond" level of finishing. It would be like a couple on Trading Spaces who not only painted the new armoire in the regulation poop brown, but sanded down the drips and patched the paint, and added a glaze for some depth and interest. It could conceivably happen (especially if Vern were involved), but when it does happen, you feel the need to see the video. To be done with all the construction and to have added further details to the finishing is, well, unprecedented. The producers could have helped by showing how much work Jeffrey had done when Tim visited. We saw how Tim liked the collection, but we didn't see him marvel over how much Jeffrey had done or fret over how much Jeffrey had left to do. One of the reasons Tim visits the designers at home is to help them focus their efforts for the remainder of the work period; we didn't see him do that with Jeffrey.

Back in the workroom, Uli tells Jeffrey that Laura has an announcement to make. Laura says it's not an announcement. She told Tim that Jeffrey's clothes were so well-made and so well-finished -- and here Jeffrey's looking surprised but pleased by the compliment -- that she can only think he had help. Then she awaits an explosion. Jeffrey protests that he did not get any help and he worked hard. Michael volunteers that he agreed with Laura when she pointed it out. Uli agrees that there's a lot of quality. Jeffrey's like, "Well, yeah, this is Bryant Park we're talking about." Laura sums it up: she had a feeling, she brought it up, and now Jeffrey knows what's going on. She tells herself that she's not going to apologize for speaking up. Out on the terrace, Jeffrey feels sorry for himself. He interviews that Laura is just crazy jealous and "who cares what you think?" Well, apparently Jeffrey. And Tim. And possibly the producers.

Only 2 days until the runway shows. More wakey wakey shots. There's a bottle on Jeffrey's nightstand, but it could be an IBC root beer. From bed, Laura observes that Jeffrey didn't react as expected. She thought he'd be all bully boy about it. She hopes there won't be "horrible tension" in the workroom. I'm sure we can expect tension; it's just a question of how much. Most of the designers get to work. Jeffrey interviews that he started in the business making almost-perfect one-of-a-kind garments, and he can produce "more than perfect" clothes when given time. First, nobody can do better than perfect; second, he wasn't given a whole lot of time. He still had to crank out a piece of clothing every few days in order to finish; it's not like he had a couple of weeks per piece. But yes, he did have more time than the challenges allowed.

Tim comes in to brief Jeffrey. He starts by saying that Jeffrey is innocent until proven guilty. Since Jeffrey can't prove that he didn't cheat, that's only fair. Tim gives Jeffrey the opportunity to come clean with him if there's anything amiss. Jeffrey says there's nothing. He points out the pieces he sent out for pleating, and everything else was all Jeffrey. The rules aren't spelled out -- and why not? -- but I believe the standard is that any "specialty" work that might require special equipment or skills can be outsourced at market rates paid from from the $8000 budget. This explains how Jeffrey can pay for pleating, but can't pay someone to finish his seams. Tim explains that they'll be reviewing his receipts carefully. Tim's body language is rather forbidding, but the way he speaks to Jeffrey might have an edge of sympathy to it. Jeffrey voiceovers that he made everything, but now he's scared that he won't be allowed to show.

So, it's possible Jeffrey cheated, but did he? I don't think we can say that Jeffrey would never cheat; I suspect he might if the situation were extreme enough. But it would have to be a pretty extreme situation. I really don't see him planning to break the rules. Keith is the kind of guy who enjoys finding shortcuts, but Jeffrey is more the kind of guy who just pushes himself to get it done. So, it would be astonishing, but it's within the realm of possibility that he completed all his garments before arriving in New York. It's harder to make sense of the quality finishing on some of the garments. Would that kind of detail really take precedence over other adjustments to other garments? And how could he be completely finished far enough before the deadline that he had extra time for extra finishing? Another thing: Uli pointed out that not all the garments are well-finished. Since Jeffrey has nothing else to do, why wouldn't he upgrade the finishing on the remaining garments? He could work piece by piece, so he wouldn't find himself bogged down if the producers threw in another surprise challenge. So certain things don't seem to add up -- but I would still be surprised to learn that Jeffrey broke the rules.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


The Gang's All Here

Previously on Project Runway: Heidi recaps the season so far and previews the show to come.

The auf'd designers are already seated on couches and chairs (with a front couch left empty for the finalists). So no drinking this year? Heidi and Tim sit across from them on tall directors chairs. Heidi welcomes the designers back to Parsons, their "home away from home." She announces that she's happy to see them all looking so good, and also good-looking is Tim Gunn. Tim lays out the structure of the show, including the forthcoming announcement of the fan favorite and the awarding of the $10,000 prize.

Heidi wants to hear about how fans have been reacting to the former competitors. She throws it to Bradley first, who demurs that no one recognizes him. The fact that he's shaved all the facial hair and gotten a very short haircut might have something to do with it. It looks nice, but not so spacy. Put some muscle on him and he's your basic jock. I prefer the original Bradley because he was more distinctive. Bonnie relates how a fan confirmed that she had been on the show, and then insulted her and ran away, much to Bonnie's consternation. Vincent uses his "turned on" voice to talk about how "beautiful" it is to know why your fans like you. Heidi asks if it turns him on, since so much does, and he protests that he can't help it. Try. Malan has gotten a great response. Tim points out that he had a show at Fashion Week and everyone claps for him. Angela claims that she gets mobbed on the streets of Los Angeles, especially after the Moms episode, and she loves "every second" of getting sympathy. Of course she does. The weird thing is, I'm not sure she realizes how much of an attention whore she is.

Heidi wonders who among the auf'd designers they expected to see in the finals. Katherine nominates Alison, who has a distinct but very wearable point of view. (I also thought she was a contender.) Alison looks like she's trying not to say, "I was totally robbed!" Vincent nominates Kayne for his presentation and quality. Stacey (who?) nominates Robert, who dryly agrees with her. Oh, how I've missed him.

The finalists come out. Michael gets the biggest applause, of course. Laura is last, and she's fabulously preggers in a tomato red dress. She and Heidi compliment each other on their magnificent girths. (Since Heidi has been sitting, it's hard to see her bump, but it's probably pretty substantial at this point.) Someone in Irvine wants to know if Laura owns a pair of jeans. She does not. She wears riding pants when she needs to be comfortable and busy. Heidi doesn't recall seeing Tim wear jeans (I do and he looked smashing, as usual) because he's always so James Bond-ish.

Tim reports that they have a final four instead of a final three, and introduces the clip of Heidi not aufing anyone. We've seen it, but it's new to the auf'd designers. Michael reports that he's sweating from seeing it again. He was expecting something other than a final four (perhaps a final two?). Tim is still "thrilled" about keeping them all. Uli thinks it's great because they're all so different. Heidi asks the other designers what they think of it. Bonnie is relieved that those nasty judges were finally nice for once. Kayne thinks it's "perfect" that they're the final four, because they all need to show their work. It's a hard spot for him, being fifth and just out of the showing, so I appreciate that he's being gracious about it. Jeffrey takes a turn at being gracious by saying any four of the group would have made an interesting final. That would have been more believable if he had retracted his complaint that everyone else was doing "remedial" work in the first challenge. But it's nice that he's trying.

Heidi refers to someone else they thought would make the finals. She's talking about Keith, of course. Robert and Jeffrey look like they're steeling themselves. Keith comes out to polite applause. I don't think I would have bothered clapping. Heidi asks if he has actually been a laughingstock, but he says he didn't give his friends enough credit. Alison pats him on the shoulder. Give it up, girl, he's just not into you. Tim introduces the clip of Keith getting booted. Look, I don't tune into a reunion to see stuff I've already seen. Not unless it's repackaged for humor. Alison looks sad as she watches. After the clip ends, Alison has her body angled toward Keith but everyone else tries to create physical distance. Kayne is practically sitting in Stacey's (who?) lap, he's that far down the couch, and Angela's chair is going to tip over if she leans any farther back. Heidi asks if all the others if they think Keith was treated fairly. Robert votes yes, because it was about the rules and nothing personal. Heidi calls on Alison, who was sad because Keith was someone she got along with. Kayne didn't come on the show intending to boot anyone (I suspect he's feeling a little sore about people calling him a tattletale) but everyone signed the same contract. Tim asks Keith if he thought it was fair. Obviously, he doesn't. Just look at his face, with that dead-eyed stare. He claims the contract didn't exclude books. The designers disagree. Keith doesn't remember reading that. So Keith signs contracts he doesn't read? Good to know. All the designers are sure that books are banned. Heidi is sure, too; they were just supposed to have their brains and their fingers and their talents. (And a good pair of shears.) Stacey (who?) gets her moment in the sun, describing how just reading about a technique inspires creative ideas.

Keith switches gears, saying that the books were taken away -- which would be an excellent indication that they weren't permitted -- and then returned a week later, just in time to get him dismissed from the show. "Uncomfortable, isn't it?" he prods. Well, yes, but not in the way he means. Heidi disbelieves. Tim stands up for the integrity of the producers. He overstates the case, but I'm quite sure they didn't connive at the booting of Keith. Why would they want him off the show? Keith disclaims saying he was set up. Technically true -- he just described being set up, rather than claiming it happened. He's not saying there was a conspiracy, but he doesn't know how the books wound up back in his room. I'm not too clear on how the books got in the room, either; there was some searching of luggage when the designers arrived, although it's not clear what, if anything, was taken at that time. But if your story is that the books just showed up in your room one day, your opening shot shouldn't be, "Hey, the books weren't actually illegal." You lead with your strongest, most convincing point. Tim asks Jeffrey if he thinks Keith's dismissal was fair, and Jeffrey agrees that it was, and Keith should have handled the situation better.

Tim brings up the other issue, which was Keith running away for several hours. Heidi asks where he went all that time. Keith reports how people were upset about the books. Heidi asks if it wouldn't have been smarter to stick around, especially if he was innocent; she compares it to fleeing the scene of an accident. Keith says he talked to a production assistant and told her that he was leaving since things were getting so heated, and she pointed to the door. Laura shakes her head, like "What a maroon." Heidi disbelieves again. Uli protests that they couldn't even go to the bathroom without someone tagging along. Heidi agrees. Kayne looks like he wants this all to be over. Keith says that they asked for the story, and he told them. He's not going to just "roll over like a puppy," he says pointedly; Tim apparently said that about him. Tim describes his comments: he was expecting Keith to put up a fight and there was nothing. And now it's time to move on, because they could go over this for hours. Heidi decides it's getting "too hot." Keith says, "I thought so," like he's made a point.

Okay, so you're a contestant on a reality show, and the producers have set you up with disappearing/reappearing books (that aren't actually illegal, even if they were confiscated), and now there's all this drama from people being upset and you need to get away from it all. Do you honestly expect anyone connected with the show to say, "Hey, sure, go off for a little while and collect yourself"? Why on earth do you even try telling anyone that you want to go off for a while? Especially if you're the center of all the drama happening. And do you honestly think that a production assistant can actually give anyone permission to do anything, let alone anything as major as leaving? This is really disappointing. I prefer my villains to be competent.

Sadly, they do not make Keith leave again now that they're done with him. Mean, yes, but appropriate. Fortunately, we move on to some fun stuff. Heidi introduces a clip show of Tim using big words. Michael starts off in an interview describing Tim as a "dictionary" who uses "the best words." I agree. But then I was once called "Big Word Mama" back in fifth grade, so I'm all for taking one's vocabulary out for some exercise. Tim gets a question from Portland: does he design clothes? No, he's an educator. His creative output is in the fine arts field -- sculpture and oil painting.

Tim turns it around with a segment on the designers' "idiosyncratic lexicons" -- Laura with "serious ugly," Robert with "boring," Vincent with "turns me on," Bradley with assorted sound effects. Cute, but it in no way compares with "Daniel Franco, where did you go?"

Heidi asks how they liked working with Tim. Uli thinks he's like a father figure and they'll remember him for always. Heidi calls out Vincent for his comments about Tim on EW.com, and how he didn't "bow down" to Tim as expected. Vincent says he'll stand by that, because he's been told that Tim has been mean to him on the "blog spots." Except Vincent's interview talked about how he interacted with Tim during the filming, so what do the "blog spots" have to do with that? Tim invites Vincent to read his blog (always a good step before making accusations) because his comments there are about Vincent's designs and not his character. Which is pretty much true, I think; he really unleashed his distaste for Vincent in his podcasts. But there are certainly indications in the blogs that he doesn't think too highly of Vincent, so Vincent has a little bit of a point, if only third hand, and it still doesn't excuse his whole "bow down" nonsense.

Heidi then brings up Vincent's interview comment of everyone else being amateurs. Michael says that he and Vincent both got on the show at the same time, so they must both be amateurs. Vincent clarifies that he meant "amateur" as in "not being up to that level" (what level would that be?), so he wasn't calling the others amateurs. Laura's opinion is, "Vincent's delusional." Vincent recalls hearing that before. She thinks it's fine that he "respects his own work" but she doesn't buy the amateur stuff. Vincent clarifies some more that he thinks "there's a certain prerequisite" that a designer "owns." What prerequisite would that be? Uli asks why he's on the show if he's not an amateur. Vincent does that lame "I'm entitled to my opinion" thing that people pull when their opinions are indefensible. It's not a question of whether he can have an opinion, it's a question of whether he can back it up. If you want to hold onto an opinion that you can't justify, that's certainly your right. Robert thinks "dogging other people's work" is what's "amateurish." Vincent once again attempts to clarify that he didn't call them amateurs and they're just not understanding him. That's probably because he's not making much sense. "It takes a certain level to be at a certain level of design, and I still stand by that," he explains. So, did he say his fellow designers had achieved that "certain level" or not? Nobody knows.

Moving on, it's time to tease Kayne about his motormouth. We see his spiel to Miss USA, and then a "word count" graphic pops up in the corner. Marilyn Monroe dress, Kayne belt discussion on plane, Miss USA (over 600 in the Kayne column already), recycled dress, INC presentation. The Miss USA tally winds up at 932 to 7. Kayne wins! That was cute. Kayne looks a little embarrassed and thinks he should "shut up" along with his model (the loquacious Amanda). Heidi asks him to send them to commercial and he plays along.

Tim remarks that people ask him a lot about Malan, and asks what the reaction has been like for him. Malan claims to have received two million emails, and I'm thinking maybe math is not his strong suit. He thinks that without all the fan support, he wouldn't have had his show at Fashion Week. Heidi asks why he didn't get any support from his family. Malan surmises they were afraid that he was gay, and that parents worry about children growing up to be something "not socially acceptable." Cut to fellow gay designers Robert and Kayne listening attentively. Malan thinks parents have an opportunity to nurture their children, and who cares about gay or straight? Tim brings up a question from Ben: where did Malan's delectable accent come from? Malan (who has probably been asked this two million times) replies that he grew up in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and the States. Tim defines it as "Malanese" and Malan laughs his signature, sinister chortle. Robert compliments his laugh as the best part. Heidi imitates him and introduces a clip show of Malan laughing. Robert nails it with his description of "Cary Grant meets Eddie Munster." Malan is a little embarrassed by all the attention, but it's cute. Uli appreciates hearing his laugh again.

Tim asks about their favorite challenge. Alison votes for the doggie challenge and Bonnie agrees. Me, too. I could watch that episode all day. Except for the end, with Katherine going and Angela staying. Otherwise, classic. Everyone agrees the Mom challenge was the hardest. Heidi asks why, and Robert remarks that they just have no experience with plus-sized clothes. Heidi brings up that the moms talked back more than the models. Robert agrees, and observes that most people (pointing at Jeffrey) didn't want to make someone's mom cry. Jeffrey chuckles like he knows what's coming. Angela looks kind of dismayed to be covering this ground again. But I thought she loved getting all the sympathy about it?

Tim brings up the "dramatic" interaction between Jeffrey and Darlene. We get to see it again. Couldn't we see more of Tim's big words or something fun? Heidi asks Angela and Jeffrey if they have a different perspective on the events. Jeffrey says no, because it still happened like it happened. Angela can't think of anything to say; it's an emotional subject. Jeffrey claims he didn't intend to make Darlene cry, which is mostly true. He behaved himself initially. But once he let loose, I think he was quite happy to upset her. "The thing that irked me the most is that Darlene was never planning to tell me that she didn't like the color or the dress. And if no one asked her, we would have gotten up on the runway, and she would have said, I hate this." Angela tells him not to paint it like her mom was going to sabotage him, because that's a reflection of what Jeffrey would do. Jeffrey claims that he asked Darlene why she didn't say anything, and she said she didn't want to hurt his feelings. Jeffrey was annoyed because they had four hours left and he couldn't do anything to change her opinion. Well, then, if there was nothing he could do with her opinion, why was it so critical to hear it? Why did he need to hear her opinion in the workroom and not on the runway? And if it was so critical to get her opinion, why didn't he ask for it? And if he was worried about her beating him up on the runway, why did he upset her instead of trying to win her over?

Robert thinks Jeffrey knows that he shouldn't have treated Darlene that way, because it's inappropriate to treat any client that way. Jeffrey doesn't look like he disagrees. Laura contributes that most of the other mothers were all "do whatever you want" and Darlene took the whole process more personally. Which means that Jeffrey should have had more information than the other designers, and he should have had a better idea of what she wanted -- except I don't think he's the best listener. Tim asks what Jeffrey would have done if it had been his mother being treated that way. Jeffrey would have intervened. Tim asks if he ever apologized. He never really had the chance. Angela calls him a liar; she asked him to apologize to her mom on the morning of the runway show, and Jeffrey wasn't feeling apologetic. He blames stress. Angela regrets that her mom had to get dragged into it. She ventures that, in different circumstances, she and Jeffrey might have been able to be friends or something. Jeffrey's like, yeah, whatever. Heidi jokes that if it weren't for this challenge, they would have run off "like love birds" and Robert agrees that "they would be dating." So that segment finishes up on a good laugh.

Tim wants to "segue to another dramatic moment." This has never been aired before. Tim explains that production does the laundry. Vincent recognizes where this is going and comments, "This is good." Vincent starts ranting about his laundry. Kayne and Michael sneak out the back to the balcony. Vincent rants some more. Kayne comments, "He crazy" and Michael concurs. A producer shows up and Vincent cranks up the expletives to complain that his $125 shirt was "rooned" by getting put in the laundry, even though he put a note in the bag telling "them" not to fluff-and-fold the shirts. I'm thinking maybe putting the note on the bag might have been more effective. He gripes some more about the lack of respect and starts whining "Why?" I'm getting Nancy Kerrigan flashbacks, and it ain't pretty. Michael and Kayne imitate Vincent cussing up a storm. Vincent storms out of the apartment, demanding a plane ticket. Out on the balcony, Michael and Kayne hear swearing down on the sidewalk and lean over to confirm that it's Vincent. Okay, who the hell runs out into the middle of the sidewalk to have a tantrum? Vincent is hugely entertained by his own infantile behavior. Heidi observes that they've never had to bleep so much before. I had had far too much of Vincent about five episodes before he got booted, so this is not my idea of fun. Can we have some fun?

Heidi is going to bring out "two special guests" just as soon as she announces the fan favorite: Michael Knight. The guests have his check. Laura laughs that "it's one of those big, obnoxious poster checks." Carried out by Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, like there's any surprise to that. Nathaniel Hawkins and Collier Strong (the hair and makeup honchos) -- those would have been some surprise guests. Heidi prompts Michael to marvel about his fan support.

Tim has the judges to talk about the scoring and judging. Heidi explains that they all score from 1 to 5 (5 being good), and then add all the scores together. Sometimes they adjust the scores after the question-and-answer session. Nina says she judges the outfits based on how they respond to the challenge, and whether they're credible and inventive. Michael Kors tries to judge challenge-by-challenge, rather than by body of work, and looks for the best the designers can do within their own styles. Tim offers the contestants a chance to ask the judges about their opinions. Angela asks, would it have made a difference if she had come up with a different story for the Jubilee Jumbles outfit? Well, we wouldn't have the Jubilee Jumbles award. But no, all the judges are like, that outfit sucked too bad for any story to rescue. Kayne asks about his couture dress. He wanted to do it in a solid color, but he couldn't find fabrics. Was it just the blend of fabrics that the judges didn't like? What if he had done it in red? Michael Kors says it would have been a different dress. He thinks glamour and over-the-top is fine; Kayne needed to be Kayne, but the best possible Kayne. Tim asks Alison about the recycling challenge. Alison says she has moved on. She had a specific idea in mind as she was working on the mannequin, but it didn't work on the model. Michael Kors says she needed to step back and make changes based on the model she had. Laura asks if they ever reconsidered a decision. Michael Kors records his gut decision first, and then reviews his scores based on what he's thinking, so he doesn't change his mind after the episode.

Heidi is surprised they were able to reach a decision sometimes, with all the distractions. Clip show of goofs. Fire alarm goes off during the black-and-white judging. Marilinda needs to sit down during the final four judging. Michael laughs about the "fainting models." Marilinda is a first-timer, so he forgives her, but Amanda is a repeat offender. Kayne reports that she would have a big fainting spell whenever they wound up in the bottom. "You have that a lot, no?" Heidi wonders. Then, in a stage whisper, "Why do you have that a lot?" Jeffrey farts before the designers come back out on the runway. When in doubt, break out the gastric humor.

The final four have been shooed away. Heidi asks everyone to pick a winner. Bonnie tends toward Uli (teammate loyalty!) but anticipates good shows from everyone. Robert chooses Laura as the "dark horse." Katherine picks Michael as the front runner. Alison likes Jeffrey and Michael. Kayne goes for Michael and Laura -- Laura for her fit and patternmaking, Michael for his fresh designs. Keith likes Jeffrey's innovation, but Uli is also good. Angela thinks it could go any which way. Vincent can't pick a winner, but he expects good shows. Heidi introduces clips of previous contestants offering their picks. Jay votes for Michael, because he just naturally follows the gay white guy and the Asian immigrant. Chloe picks Michael because he's just like her, only male and black. Kara Janx likes Uli, and Daniel Vosovic agrees. Daniel Franco votes for Laura; she'd make a great CEO after running her huge family. Robert Plotkin's thoughts: he should have won Season 1, Daniel Franco should have won season 2 and Daniel Franco will win season 3.

Heidi thanks everyone for playing and we're done.

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