Project Runway All Stars went to the opera last night, and brought their "pumped up prom dresses" with them.
Because there are three of us Project Runway lovers, and because we're assuming you watched the show too, instead of straight recaps for this series we're picking and choosing the parts we want to talk about most each week. First though, the episode stats:
The Challenge: Mark Badgley and James Mischka (Gasp! Be still Austin Scarlett's heart!) host a "Night at the Opera" and the contestants have one day and $350 to make a couture gown.
The Winner: Austin "King of Couture" Scarlett. Who else?
The Loser: Sorry Sweet P, but that skirt really did look like a dirndl.
And now, our highlights/lowlights/predictions. Be sure to chime in the comments with your own observations!
All work and no play...
I would never throw in the towel on a season of Project Runway, but this episode did not draw me in AT ALL. I was struggling all hour to figure out why I was so unenthused and, as much as I miss the judges, I think what's really missing for me is a connection to the contestants. As stated by several designers this episode, everyone was working quietly and no one was talking in the workroom, which was probably the most productive option, but doesn't make for great TV. Maybe I'm in the minority, but frequently my investment in a designer's fate is at least partially based on the human drama built around them. Otherwise, Project Runway could just be a livestream of 13 anonymous designers constructing garments in a workroom somewhere. I wonder if the producers assume since we've watched the previous seasons that there's no need to go any further into the various backgrounds and struggles of the contestants? I know I can't be the only one wondering what's been happening in their lives since they left the show!
Additionally, in order for there to be someone to root for (other than Mondo, who is a given), you need someone to root against. While the individual contestants are dishing out snark, this season is really lacking a clear villain. This could easily change at the announcement of a group challenge, since that seems to consistently bring out the worst in everyone. Still, while his bullying tactics were extreme, I almost miss the entertainment value Joshua McKinley and his flamenco-inspired attire provided each week. Which brings me to my next point...
Michael C. is your frenemy.
I was the first person to groan at the inclusion of Michael Costello on an All-Stars season, but in an episode where Austin Scarlett justifiably but unsurprisingly won the couture challenge, Michael is less predictable than a drawstring bag of buttons (speaking of, does the bag of buttons prop belong to Heidi/Tim, or can we expect an appearance at the first group challenge?). Despite my knee-jerk reaction to him, I actually like the dresses Michael has produced so far (ignoring how completely Kasdashian-ified his model was this week). And while I felt pretty similarly about both of the top two dresses, Michael snatching the win from under Austin's "King of Couture"-appointed feet would have been a satisfying twist. In a show filled with All Stars, the most interesting one for me is the person who does well despite you thinking he shouldn't be there. And how does he seem to whip those dresses out of thin air?
While Austin, Michael, and Anthony all produced well-constructed garments, the three most intriguing dresses of the night for me were Mondo's, Kenley's, and Jerell's (note: interesting does not necessarily equal favorite or desirable). I wish at least one of the more oddball designs had made it to final judging.
Next week's Miss Piggy challenge prediction:
MONDO! He and Miss Piggy share a love of bright colors and a flare for camp, the latter of which is a quality lacking in many of the other designers. I'm really curious to see how this plays out, because there are some designers that seem incredibly unsuited for this challenge (will Mila construct an asymmetrical black and white striped caftan? Stay tuned!). However, given her pink polka dot creation this week, Kenley could be a unforeseen contender.
Like all Project Runway viewers with a beating heart, I love Anthony Williams. His smile has enough wattage to power a small city, and he's the most charming personality on TV since Li'l Sebastian. However, I have to be honest and say that I have never liked anything Anthony has produced, from his outfits for Stacey Dash's character Val on Single Ladies to his makes-more-sense-as-a-swimsuit-cover-up dress from last night's episode. And what was with that rhinestone belt and those black leather gloves? (I can only imagine Nina Garcia's horror had she been there.) When he was called back for judging I thought he'd be in the bottom, but the judges must have seen something I didn't. Either that or, like me, they're rooting for Anthony based solely on his likability and knack for catchphrases. It makes for good TV (don't get me wrong, I want to see his face every week), I just don't think Anthony has the fashion chops to make it as an All Star.
(Stray observation: How cute were Anthony and Rami on the couch in the scenes from Flatotel last night? I hope there's a clandestine Project Runway hookup going on there.)
The (opera) gloves come off:
Last week, the All Stars couldn't say enough nice things about one another. "Everyone is so talented!" "I'm just honored to be here!" and so on. Based on the catty remarks we heard last night though, it only took one challenge for their moods to change. Could it be they're lacking the calming influence of Tim "Papa Bear" Gunn? I like Joanna Coles, but she doesn't strike me as one to dish out the warm fuzzies and convince everyone to get along. She's already asking the contestants who they think their biggest competition is—in ear shot of everyone in the workroom no less! And though it was no surprise that Rami said he thought Austin Scarlett was the designer to beat in the couture challenge, it was fun to see Austin's reaction:
Moi? The best? OK, you're right.
Is it just me or did we hear some off-the-rails made-up slang last night? Kara Janx, what pray tell, is a "pa-poom moment"? And did I hear her say "off the cahoonies," too? (Pretty sure I did.) Also, I love Jerell more all the time, but I don't think "mo fo money" is a thing. Or if it is, why would you want your dress to look like it?
Also, as much as I too was kinda bored by last night's episode (with no help from anti-host Angela Lindvall—seriously she is a complete snoozefest, to the point where she's even rewriting regular judging phrases in the passive voice so as to be ever less interesting, "It has been said that in fashion...") I loved seeing how touched Austin Scarlett was that Badgley and Mischka liked his gown. He may be the self-crowned "King of Couture," but he is a devoted Badgley Mischka fanboy and you could tell their praise meant a lot. *sniff*
One more thing: How do I get invited to an opera, and how do I get Mondo to remake that dress in my size so that I can wear it there and knock everyone's socks off?
Next week's Miss Piggy challenge prediction:
If Kenley can make a pig-sized dress, she's got this one in the bag. As much as I HATED her polka-dot mess from last night's runway show, she's the girliest of the designers—and you know Miss Piggy likes a pink dress.
Design by Editing
I'm with Annalee—I wanted to like this episode much more than I actually liked it. As much as I love the Project Runway franchise, the editing has become so formulaic that, seven minutes in, you know who's destined for the top, the bottom, and the middle. (Is one of the designers calling his boyfriend? Yeah, see you later.) So when we saw Michael C. pitching a fit in Mood about April also choosing red fabric, and doing an abrupt 180 to matte black jersey, you knew he was having a Make It Work™ moment. And when I saw Kenley's dress and went full Regina George—because, seriously, that was the ugliest effing dress I've ever seen—I knew it didn't matter, because Kenley and her finger waves got maybe 15 seconds of air time total this episode, which meant she was safe. (Related: No one got to see how Mondo came to design his amazing Betty Draper-esque outfit, which even though he's going to win this whole thing, every day, all the time, is kind of a bummer—that thing was gorgeous!).
I guess my complaint here is that I miss being able to watch and really believe that it's anyone's game (besides Mondo's, I mean).
So long, Sweet P
It's true, Sweet P was perhaps not the most obvious All-Star—though, let's be real, neither are Mila, April, or poor whiny punching bag Michael C. And yet I got weirdly emotional when her truly awful look walked the runway and it was like one hundred sad trombones all making the sad-trombone noise at once. I spent about three minutes trying to rationalize a reason why a 1940s swimsuit top attached to a 1970s hostess apron might *not* be the worst possible look for a night at the opera, and then realized I needed to just let it go. Sigh. Sweet P, girl, I loved you inexplicably, but you were out of your depth. Maybe you got intimidated. Maybe you've never been to the opera. Or maybe your heart just wasn't in this game. (Seeing as how Sweet P actually quit designing clothes more than a year ago, this last one seems likely—she's now doing makeup professionally.)
Austin Scarlett, legend in his own mind, says that his nickname on PR's first season was "The King of Couture." I mean, I'm not calling him a liar, but that didn't happen. Also, as delineated in the third season of Project Runway, and as noted last night by Anthony, "couture" is not a word we get to just casually toss around: "We're insulting the world of couture by even using that word to describe this challenge." In France, you have to take some kind of bar exam to earn the right to use it to describe what you do. But whatever Austin, sure, you're the king.
April, ombré is not a thing you just rush into. Lesson learned. Oh, and Michael, have you learned *nothing* from Heidi? ALWAYS THINK ABOUT WHERE THE BOOBS GO. ALWAYS.
Kara Janx, there is a thing called Xanax, get you some. All that fretting about whether she'd give the judges a "pa-poom!" moment (which sounds like a moment you'd actually want to keep away from your silks and taffetas) suggests that the self-doubt that plagued her all through season two is still in full effect. When Kenley Collins is telling you to pull it together, woman, you need to pull it together. That said, I love that the judges loved her dress, because I did too.
Finally: What happened to Swatch, the Mood house dog? This bothered me on the last season of PR, and it's bothering me now. Was he summering in the Hamptons? Did he get banned for peeing on a bolt of rare embroidered tulle? This is important. It's bad enough to have Mood with no Tim Gunn, but no Tim Gunn AND no Swatch?
Next week's Miss Piggy challenge prediction:
First off all, really, this is happening? We're all just going along like there's not some dude in the judging chair with his hand stuffed up a plush pig ass? Okay, fine. If Mondo doesn't call bullshit on the whole charade, he'll win. Dude is a few pieces of felt short of being a Muppet himself.
Previously: Mondo, Mondo, Mondo!