Monday, October 09, 2006


Four to Go

Previously on Project Runway: Uli is a stylist trying to make the move into designing; she won the doggie challenge. Michael wants to be a star; he won the icon and trash challenges. Jeffrey hasn't had enough success yet; he won the jetsetter and couture challenges. Laura is an architect and mom also moving into design; she won the black-and-white challenge.

Oh, look, more wakey-wakey shots. How gripping. Can we just all agree that time passes and get on with it? Uli interviews that there are four strong contenders but only three slots at Fashion Week (well, three slots that count if you want to win) and it's "nerve-wracking" to be so close to the finish. Ew! Shirtless Jeffrey alert! He rouses Michael from his coccoon of blankets and reviews the competition: Uli is "peasant blouses," Michael is "run of the mill," Laura is "mothballs and chicken soup," and Jeffrey's the guy for those who want to "live a little dangerously." He gives us the finger, that wild and crazy daredevil. I'm not too impressed with his fashion acumen. Uli does "big and flowy" halter dresses; a peasant blouse would have been a pleasant change. Michael started out showing innovation with his coffee filter dress and kept right on going. Laura's clothes are for a mature woman, but that woman is not sitting around at home making chicken soup for anyone. As for Jeffrey, his clothes might have been on the cutting edge twenty years ago, but their biggest danger these days is a "what was she thinking?" citation.

Laura recaps her journey from the depths of despair to the heights of elation; she's ready to "sprint" to the finish line. Michael thinks this is his destiny; he has wanted to be a fashion designer since he was nine years old. I'm always impressed by people who figure out what they want to do when they're so young and stick to it. Since "words have power," Michael states that he'll be at Fashion Week. Can we just stop pretending that someone won't make it to Fashion Week? Everybody knows it's not true, so it just looks stupid. The only difference between the final three and the final four is that the final three still have a chance to win.

So off to Parsons. Heidi has the velvet bag of impending randomness. Nina will tell them all about their final challenge when they visit her at Elle magazine the next day. Model selection time. Laura stays with Camilla; they're a good team. Uli gets to choose next; she apologizes to Lindsay but steals Nazri from Michael, who good-naturedly threatens to kill her. He interviews that he was just stunned. Uli interviews that you just have to take every advantage that you can get. I think it was a smart, competitive move. There's a certain amount of risk, since she's not familiar with Nazri's figure, but Uli's dresses aren't all that form-fitting. It's tough on Michael, but perfectly legit. Michael gets to pick next; he chooses Clarissa, presumably because he's worked with her before on the Macy's challenge. I can see why he might not want Marilinda -- she didn't really shine until she started working with Jeffrey -- but why on earth wouldn't he pick Amanda? She really sells it on the runway. Clarissa is all right, but she tends to slouch and she has never made as much of an impression as Amanda. Jeffrey sticks with Marilinda, so Javi, Lindsay and Amanda are out -- much to Amanda's surprise, as her jaw drops in astonishment. So, yeah, she did have a sense of entitlement. But since she worked for it, I won't hold it against her. Uli apologizes to Lindsay as she walks off. Lindsay blows a kiss in response, like, "You were never going to win the season anyway."

The next day, the designers are off to see Nina. Laura interviews that she's looking forward to spending a little time with Nina and seeing what's in store. Nina justifies her existence. No, seriously, she lectures them about the importance of the fashion editorial and catching the eye of the editors with something fresh. She shows them a couple of Elle's "First Look" pages. This page is the first fashion page in the magazine and the readers should salivate with desire for the featured look. To get on the page, you need a strong point of view. The challenge is to create anything they want which shows off their point of view and gives an idea of what their collections will look like. Uli interviews that complete creative freedom is a bit daunting after they've spent all these challenges following guidelines. Nina gives everyone a "one-sheet" which they will use to record three words that describe their look and therefore, their point of view.

Back in the workroom, Tim outlines the rules: $250 budget and two days. They don't have to choose their three words now, but some time before the runway show. He leaves them to their sketching time with the admonition to "wow those judges." Jeffrey wants to confound the judges' expectations and show his "romantic" side with a red, white and blue dress. Wouldn't that be his patriotic side? Uli has trouble coming up with a sketch, so she's just going to let her fabric inspire her. Laura decides to go the safe route and just do what she always does, but better than ever. This is one time when "safe" is actually risky. Michael usually has one sketch that pops out at him, but he's not getting it today. Bad time to run out of creative juice.

Hello, Mood! They should skip all the wakey-wakey footage and spend more time here. Michael doesn't know what he's going to do, but he does know it will be in stretch silk charmeuse. After last seaon, "silk charmeuse" are two words I would be happy not to hear again. Aren't there any other nice fabrics? Uli finds her inspiration -- a print fabric. Yeah, I'm stunned, too. She has her three words: "Printed. Colorful. Flowy." That does sum her up. But there are worse things to be.

Back at Parsons, Uli and Jeffrey start draping fabric, but Michael is sketching again. Uli asks if he has a design yet, but he's still "stumped." Laura suggests that he start draping some muslin, but that's not how he works. So she tells him to sketch and pick his favorite, which is what he's trying to do. He interviews that his brain just isn't working, and he's trying to push himself outside his usual boundaries. Which just goes to show, total freedom is not always so good for creativity.

Workety work. Jeffrey interviews that it's important to show range, and Laura hasn't. Been there, done that, still not buying it from Mr. Deconstructed Shtik. Uli is having trouble with her "kitchen dress" and summons Laura, who is beading. Uli complains that it's "weird" but Laura thinks it looks like all her other dresses. She has to get back to her beading -- "Auf wiedersehn!" Uli asks Jeffrey to wear the dress, but he declines because it will make him "look fat." Okay, that was funny. But he gives in, and chases around the workroom with the dress flowing like a cape behind him. He's more interesting when he's not being a sourpuss.

Michael finally has a breakthrough. He figures the best way to wow the judges is with an evening gown: "Sexy, sensual sophistication." It will have a plunging neckline and interwoven straps. He has done the weaving a couple of times before, so it's definitely his style. The sketch looks really interesting.

More workety work. Tim comes through. He seems pleased that Jeffrey is doing something unexpected. Jeffrey reports that he did a dress before with hand-sewn seams that was so beautiful, it made people want to cry. He's trying to do it again. I didn't see any tears from Tim, so I guess he has some work to do. Laura is thinking she should avoid the "made for herself" trap and Tim points out that she won the last challenge that way. So now she's worrying she might have gone too safe. Michael shows Tim the sketch. Tim warns him that it can't just be a "pretty dress," it has to foreshadow his collection. Uli is not wowed with what she has. Tim warns her about being predictable. "Don't bore Nina!" he scolds. She might need to sleep on it. Uli wonders if Tim will be able to sleep, and so does Tim.

Workety work. Uli starts over. Laura interviews that she's worried because Uli doesn't seem to have a direction. "Coming up -- Uli doesn't finish her dress," Uli interviews. Day one comes to a close.

More wakey wakey filler. Michael recaps the challenge. Uli recaps that she wasted a day. Back to Parsons. "Maybe magical elves finished my dress," Uli hopes. "Maybe magical elves started your dress," Laura snarks. Everybody gets to work. Tim summons the designers and their one-sheets. He announces that the winning look will be photographed by Gilles Bensimon and featured on Elle's "First Look" page. Everyone is thrilled with the news. Now for the bad news: they also get to photograph their looks (that's not the bad part) and the models will be showing up at 5 pm (that's the bad part). So their work time just got chopped by several hours, which seriously sucks, and now there's just 5 hours to finish. The photograph should illustrate the story they're trying to convey with their look.

Tim sends them back to work. Uli knows she needs to stop playing around and get down to business. Jeffrey isn't bothered by the new deadline, since he's sure he'll be ready. Michael is bothered, because he needed the extra time.

Time to polish Jeffrey's image. He gets a Father's Day video from his girlfriend on his product-placed phone. We get to see Jeffrey's cute little boy for a bit. Jeffrey does the loving family man thing. He interviews that he supports his family with his work, so he's competing for his family as well as himself.

Back in the workroom, Uli asks Laura if she's tired of beading yet. "I'm tired of living, what are you talking about?" responds Laura. I think that's a "yes." Uli interviews that she works well under pressure. Laura interviews that Jeffrey is taking the most risk in straying from what the judges expect, but he seems to think it's consistent. She's concerned that the dress doesn't really express him. Jeffrey interviews that he's always worried about being in the bottom two, but more so for this challenge.

It's 5 pm. The models arrive and the designers have an hour to get ready. Michael claims to be "cool" with the model change because Clarissa is "just as great." He really is having a brain meltdown. The gown is mostly finished, except for the straps (which are kind of the point), so he pins them on. Laura is "practically blind" from all the beading, but she's happy with the dress. Tim sends them out to get their photographs.

Michael goes to the Atlas apartments because he wants a "loungy" setting. He doesn't have a story; it's just about the dress commanding attention. Clarissa vamps for the camera. Jeffrey goes to Central Park for a pretty, natural setting. His story is about "a romantic person" while the fabrication shows irreverence and provocation. Laura is also at Atlas, futzing around with the elevator. Her story is about a woman going to an event. At least she has a plot. The elevator doors refuse to cooperate, so they move out onto the street. Uli is looking for fun and adventure, since that's what she's all about.

Back in the workroom, Tim gives them an hour to pick a photo and three words. Laura goes with "glamour, confidence, elegance." She thinks they sum up her past work and her future goals. Jeffrey's words are "provocative, irreverent, romantic." He thinks his picture of Marilinda is the bestest picture ever. Uli chooses "fun, life, adventure." They represent Uli, her clothes and the woman who would wear her clothes. Michael's "hot ass" picture expresses "sexy, sultry, sensuality." Aren't they all the same thing? Uli interviews that she's worried about Michael; she thinks it looks like one of those "call me" sex ads. Jeffrey thinks Michael's dress is terrible and his words are "stupid." That might have had some sting if Jeffrey's delivery hadn't been so lame. Tim wraps it up and they all leave.

Final wakey-wakey shots. Shirtless Jeffrey alert! That is so not attractive. Laura interviews again about being tired and pregnant, so it's good to be done with all the challenges. More shirtless Jeffrey as he shaves. Michael thinks the prize is great, but just getting to Fashion Week is the real prize. Which he's already won, as one of the final four.

Tim gets verklempt as he welcomes the designers to their last day in the workroom. He's proud of all of them. He warns that the judges are going to scrutinize them like never before, with an eye toward Fashion Week. It's time to send in the models and all that jazz.

Jeffrey interviews that the judges think he's all gloom and doom -- even after his "joyous" couture dress? -- and that's only 80% true. He wants to show them that he's also a romantic. Maybe they'll like that, maybe they won't. Uli interviews that Nina will be looking for something that will photograph well, so it needs to be perfect. She makes a few little adjustments. Laura greets her dreadlocked cosmetician "for the last time." Hair and makeup happen. Michael is nervous. Uli vows to fight for the chance to show at Bryant Park. Which she has already won, so yeah, good luck with that.

Heidi comes out with a boobalicious little black dress and recaps the challenge. The guest judge is Teri Agins, lead fashion writer for The Wall Street Journal. They have a fashion beat? Who knew?


Laura gets to talk to the judges first. Her photograph shows Camilla out on the street hailing a cab to go to an event, demonstrating confidence in how she looks. It also demonstrates confidence that her boobs won't fall out -- there's a lot of upper-body action in the shot. I like the photograph more than the dress. Nina isn't surprised. She understands Laura's perspective, but she wants to see more. Michael approves of the make of the dress, but she needs to broaden her scope to something beyond a "spare, bare neck." Teri thinks the dress is commercial but not original enough to be editorial.

Michael wants his garments to command attention. Ooh, bad call! People who spend money on clothes want to be the ones getting the attention, not their clothes. Michael Kors likes the weaving at the waist, but overall it's just a gown. Heidi doesn't like the fit; the keyhole is unflattering. Teri is also troubled by the keyhole. Nina was expecting much better editing and presentation. I don't much like the vampy picture, either.

Uli's picture shows Nazri playing drums with a street band they found in Times Square. It's a great shot that really illustrates her three words. Heidi likes the dress. It's another pattern, but with a different shape. Teri finds it fresh. Nina really likes it; it's Uli but still a surprise.

Jeffrey tries to sell himself as a romantic who creates pieces with an "heirloom" feel. His picture has Marilinda sitting in a carriage; you can't really see the shape of the skirt. He thinks that it captures his three words. Teri thinks the dress looks a little dowdy in the picture. Michael doesn't see the provocation; it's "a little too pretty." Nina is confused. Jeffrey explains that he wanted to show something different. Heidi misses his edginess. This looks like a milk maid dress.

The designers go away. Heidi complains some of the designers didn't "get it." Nina thinks Michael doesn't understand his strengths. He's good at sportswear, not evening gowns. She and Michael Kors both wanted to see sportswear. Heidi and Michael comment on his words all being synonyms. Nina didn't get a good surprise from Jeffrey. Teri calls the dress "amateur." Michael thinks he usually has something to say about fashion, but not this time. Heidi thinks Laura's words capture her point of view, and she'd wear anything Laura has made. (I suspect she's not including the mom challenge outfit.) But she and Michael worry that they're going to see twelve versions of the same dress at Fashion Week. Nina hopes Laura will be able to evolve. Everybody loves Uli's dress and picture. Michael is curious about her collection now, as long as it's not all print dresses. They're having trouble deciding because everyone is so strong.

The designers return. Heidi says that most of them had trouble. What is it about the final challenge? I know they're tired, but they were tired for the previous challenge, too, and that wasn't half so bad. However, Uli broke the final challenge curse and takes the win. She did exactly what they wanted -- she showed a dress that was completely her, but unlike what they had seen before. Michael congratulates her has she boogies past. Laura is spanked for being a one-note, Jeffrey for disappointing them and Michael for confusing them with evening wear. Laura is in. Heidi sternly warns her not to produce twelve "plunging necklines." Back stage, Laura teases Uli that she might not have made it before 'fessing up and accepting Uli's congratulations. Michael and Jeffrey are both in. Heidi says the judges believe in both of them, so they both get to show. Of course, they were both going to show anyway, but now they're all eligible to win. There's much rejoicing. Jeffrey interviews that he started out in the bottom two and he finished up in the bottom two. Michael describes how showing at Fashion Week will introduce him to the fashion world.

Tim is thrilled that he doesn't have to send someone upstairs to pack up and leave. He congratulates them all. Laura interviews that she thinks it's great; they're all so different, it will be interesting to see the shows. She's wondering a little about pulling it all off when she'll be "hugely pregnant," but she's tough. Uli has a big confidence boost from taking the final win. There is more hugging. Tim is practically giddy with the results and ushers the finalists out to get some air.

Two things are really bugging me: the pretense that only the final three show at Fashion Week and the way the judges wimped out. Everybody knows that four people are showing at Fashion Week, and it's just stupid to make everyone pretend otherwise. But I'm not happy that there are four finalists. Yeah, it will be nice to see all the collections on TV, but that's about it. In the meantime, what the hell happened to the basic premise of the show? It's a competition. Somebody wins, somebody is supposed to go home. If the judges can't decide on who goes home, what are they doing there? If the judges aren't supposed to send somebody home, say so. Pretending that the judges can't come to a decision just makes the judges look stupid, and that's one thing they can't afford to do. If the judges are stupid, there's no point in watching them judge, and there's no point to the show.

The producers are essentially telling a story using real events. Here's the thing about stories: there have to be rules. If anything can happen, then nothing matters. Changing the rules is just another way of saying that anything can happen. I'm really not one to worship at the altar of the almighty twist. Throwing in a twist because you're expected to have twists is contradictory and stupid. Competition is inherently interesting. Creativity is inherently interesting. Change should be illuminating or refreshing. Having the models choose the designers they want to work with? Illuminating and refreshing. Giving challenge winners a second chance? Not illuminating -- we didn't get a new perspective on their work or talents -- or refreshing -- Angela and Vincent both overstayed their welcomes in the first place, as far as I'm concerned. If the producers are really serious about wanting the best designers in the final mix (their justification for bringing previous winners back), they need to set up the entire competition with that goal, rather than tossing in a second chance at the end of the season. If they're not really serious about wanting the best designers in the final mix, they need to stop screwing around with the competition just because they can.

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