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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Project Runway: “Finally On My Own”

Illustration for article titled Project Runway: “Finally On My Own”
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I don’t really know what happened in this week’s Project Runway.

“Finally On My Own” is a great deal more lackluster than I expected it to be—perhaps because I had trouble getting behind anyone’s outfits or personalities this week. The challenge, outlined in great detail by Nina, is to create an editorial look for Jordana Brewster to wear in the pages of Marie Claire. The remaining designers get to work on their own—but there’s a catch, obviously, and that is that they will be assisted by eliminated designers. Kate, Tu, Samantha, Amanda, and Richard all return to make their own individual scenes.

Honestly, the return of the ghosts of designing past doesn’t add much to the episode. I expected the show to add to the drama by throwing a bone to the eliminated designers—if you’re on the winning team, you get to come back next week, for example—but instead they are just cheerful elves or indentured servants, depending on who they’re working for. Stanley, who has been my inconstant favorite, turns into a terrible taskmaster when he pushes Tu to the razor’s edge of perfection. He wins the challenge handily with his culottes and leather jacket, but he’s not making any friends along the way.

I don’t always find the judging the most compelling part of the episode, but I was impatient to get through most of “Finally On My Own,” largely because I felt I’d already seen what the designers are capable of. Despite the relatively specific details of the challenge—outlined by a terrifying and resplendent Nina—pretty much every designer follows a pattern they would have fallen into anyway, with maybe a few patches of leather here or there to add “editorial vision.” The pieces are largely good—again, I did like Stanley’s—but the designers are certainly not pushing themselves to do anything outside of their comfort zones. And with good reason—because that’s how you get eliminated.

Plus, the bulk of design and construction focuses on how badly Richard and Patricia are working together—and considering that is a contrivance purely invented for the sake of this season of Project Runway, the drama feels more than usually flat, a kind of unleavened, matzoh version of drama for the week. Richard isn’t his usual dramatic self, but Patricia has a meltdown (it was about time for hers, to be honest), blathering on to the camera about her vision and how it’s being cramped and then breaking into tears a few separate times. I don’t love Richard, but I don’t love Patricia’s style either, so it was hard for me to agree that Richard is significantly bringing her down.

The judging is where I found myself rather shocked, though. For once, it feels like Nina isn’t snoozing through the runway show—she’s alert and responsive the entire time. The judging could really be broken down to just her reaction shots, because it’s possible to tell in an instant whether or not she’s pleased with an outfit. Largely I agree with the judges—Daniel’s outfit is a version of the only outfit he feels comfortable making, the stupid jacket, and the color is awful; Layana’s is interesting, but if she uses the words “hard and soft” to describe her work again I will vote her off the runway; Stanley’s is the most obviously editorial and certainly the best designed for Jordana Brewster.


Where the judging goes strangely awry is around Patricia and Michelle’s outfits—and what they decide to do is in my mind going to become a legendary waffle on the judges part, where they seem entirely unwilling to make a difficult choice and so just put off making one entirely. I have never quite gotten what they all see in Patricia, but I’m fine with the idea of giving her some leniency for being paired with someone so clearly bad at sewing. But the mere idea of her badly made fringey tent dress winning over Michelle’s masterful pegged pants and little top has me reeling, even if MIchelle’s is too casual. Michelle’s might not be haute couture, but Patricia’s outfit isn’t photographable. It’s not even really finished.

So the judges do something I don’t remember seeing before (but correct me if I’m wrong)—they keep Patricia in (!) and offer Michelle a “do or die”—which is apparently the Project Runway version of lip-syncing for your life. But what is the do or die? We have no idea. And on that entirely unsatisfying and mysterious note, the episode leaves us with an especially bland final four about to be robbed of one of its most interesting personalities. I am really not sure why, but it’s kind of disappointing.


Stray observations:

  • That being said, for the brief 15 seconds when I thought MIchelle was getting auf’d, shit got real over here.
  • Zac is back! Yay.
  • Not enough Samantha.