Welcome back to the Runway! I’m filling in for Missy last-minute, so please forgive my lack of any real insight about fashion. Or maybe that doesn’t even matter! After all, this week we had one of those “unconventional challenges” we all know and some of us love. It was a CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION: Create an outfit from materials found in a party store. Obviously, Betsey Johnson was the guest judge and this was perfect because the name of this week’s shopping locale, “Party Glitters,” is pretty much a synonym for “Betsey Johnson dresses.” Not many other designers would have freaked out quite as hard that one of the benefits of Valerie’s chic black-and-white dress was that its cocktail-napkin skirt could be lifted in order for an hors d’oeuvres-hoovering party guest to wipe her own mouth.
We have a new villain! Now that weirdo Jason is gone, Gretchen — who had won both challenges — has boldly stepped up onto the Most Hated pedestal. In addition to CONSTANTLY offering unsolicited “advice” (read: thinly veiled criticism) to most of her competitors, she decided to become the mother hen of the workroom, forcing the other children to keep their stations clean and “prepare everything before you start working” as if they would get extra credit for this nonsense. Seriously, shut up — everyone works differently. If Kristin wants to wait until hours into the challenge to decide between her “animal wooly balls” and her “real balls,” that’s her prerogative! It’ll also be much, much better because Tim Gunn will be given the perfect opportunity to announce that he prefers the wooly balls. I love when Tim delivers a sexual innuendo and is sooo proud of himself. On anyone else, this might seem gauche, like a dress with ruffled legs or a fringed crotch. On Tim it’s just adorable.
My least favorite Gretchen moment was when she complained that Andy’s time management issues were hard for HER. Lady it has nothing to do with you, especially if you’re not helping! (Props to Peach and April for helping Andy finish.) Ugh. Gretchen is like a little-girl bully who happens to be talented. She poses no social threat because most people don’t enjoy her, but she acts like everyone’s know-it-all big sister anyway and assumes they’re better off with her advice. She’s not quite enough of a character to seem like one of those typical reality TV ratings-mongers, but I tired of those creatures easily and sort of appreciate how riled up I apparently am about a normal contestant perhaps heavily edited to seem like a bitch. Sometimes people’s basic personality flaws can be fascinating, even though they’re annoying.
Can the show please hire a translator for Casanova? It could be sponsored like everything else on this show. I’m sick of this piperlime.com b.s. so Bluefly should sneak back in there and then Tim could gently remind Casanova to use his Bluefly.com Translator thoughtfully and everyone would win, especially the viewers at home and that’s really what it’s all about. Casanova just looks confused all the time, and it bothered me that his confusion seemed to intensify right after Heidi announced “One of you will be out.” Come on, amigo, that’s like one of the five things she ever says! I’m not sure if having a translator would change the fact that Casanova is totally the Ping of season 8, but it could at least help him with the next challenge.
He really shouldn’t even be in the next challenge, though. Sarah should have stayed another week — she knew her palm tree dress wasn’t working and should have trusted her instincts, but I never heard the judges question her workmanship, taste level, or basic understanding of the assignment. They were just disappointed in her, and so was I because if someone bothers to take home a freaking PALM TREE from a party store and paint the pieces different colors, you better believe I expect a lot more than a paper cutout over a gray dress. Alas! Casanova is in; Sarah is out. Never put it past the Runway judges to knock out “sad and boring” in favor of a total loon who produces outfits that look “like a transvestite flamenco dancer at a funeral.”
Andy absolutely deserved to win the challenge with his black-ribbon dress, which looked so polished and not-from-a-party-store that Betsey Johnson couldn’t even relate to it in a meaningful way. That’s good, he thinks! Loved his balloon-glove. Valerie deserved the win just as much, I thought, with her black-and-white cocktail napkin frock (and model who was sporting some rather magnificent side-boob during the closeup). Valerie, always the bridesmaid, is also one of my favorite people on the show — she joked that if she was in the top again but didn’t win she’d officially be “the Susan Lucci of Project Runway,” and even though she almost won, she was honest and succinct about her perceived shortcomings: “Excuses, excuses. I just wasn’t innovative enough with it.” Nice.
I also really liked some of the outfits we barely got to see during the workroom scenes: April‘s black-and-silver dress with a lot of funky textures and jagged shapes, Michael Drummond’s fanciful Alice in Wonderland look, and Christopher‘s beige napkin dress which was kind of like the “pork: the other white meat” of the runway show. Nothin’ wrong with pork. Ivy‘s “ballerina slash garden party dress” was pretty but a bit too roomy for her model. I thought Michael Costello really went for it and demonstrated the spirit of this crazy challenge with his bright-red immaculate conception — as he explained, “flamenco dancer meets Carolina Herrera meets Beyoncé meets Michael Costello and they all get together and pop out my dress.”
Peach‘s (white top, patterned skirt) and Mondo‘s (two-toned pink over black tights) looks seemed well-put together but I truly abhor hot pink and it’s getting pretty late so it’s like I can’t even go there. I appreciated Kristin‘s use of color and random found objects, but her frothy dress just looked like the cheap costume of a My Little Pony named Tropical Punch or something and she didn’t really stand out to me as a contestant to watch. A.J.‘s “dress” was terrible, and it’s disappointing that this was supposed to be “his challenge” (as in he lives for the tack and knows his way around a hot glue gun) and all he could come up with was a collage of sparkly crap seemingly pinned while he was blindfolded onto an incomplete base. As mentioned above: fringed crotch. This isn’t Dancing With the Stars, kiddo. I’m supposed to have at least another month off from that s—.
–Someone needs to tell Nina Garrrrrrciaaaa that she’s gonna have trouble making “hot mess” happen five years after it happened.
–A.J. was almost as bad as Gretchen as he over-explained his “method” to his peers when all they wanted to do was get through the buffet. Shut up, A.J.!
–90 minutes allows for ample footage of the buffet now?!
–April’s pretty bitchy but I adore her eye rolls.
–Best/most tragic direction to hair and makeup was from Peach: “She’s, like…going to a martini bar.” Ironically, 50-year-old Peach, token Lifetime demo lady, is the one who seems the most keen on that HP Touchsmart…
–Best/most tragic line delivered by Casanova to demonstrate why he should have been eliminated: “I don’t want to experiment.”
–Tim selling Valerie on sticking to black and white: “Ascot Gavotte would not introduce teal!”
–I didn’t know that “Plush Puppies” were an actual product and initially thought this was just Casanova’s made-up term for stuffed animals.
–Pretty sure Casanova did a cartwheel!
–I’d noticed that in the first two episodes, Heidi edited herself (or was edited) and did not chirp out “Hello!” or some variation of hello such as “Hi-iiii” or “Yoo-hoo!” after prancing onto the runway. This is an important part of the series, and I’m glad it’s back. Playing it cool will get you nowhere, Klum! I almost wonder if the editors had some fun with us on the first “Hello!” because it seemed like she was really making us wait for it.
Lingering post-show thought: At one point during Casanova’s critique, Tim snapped, “Did you not listen to me when we were at the party store?” and I thought man, I love my own parents, but that is exactly the kind of tough love I wish I’d received on a daily basis in an alternate world in which I was Growing Up Gunni.
Discuss episode 3 in the comments. Was party time excellent for you?
Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett