Project Runway: Return of the Mack


One day, you’re in. The next day, you’re out. Then maybe you’re back in — unless you decided to throw yourself out. Then you can’t get back in, but someone who was out is now in. Somewhere, there’s a blonde barking in German. Tears, so many tears. No day but today, and so forth.

Runway rubberneckers, this is the episode you’ve been waiting for.

So much happens this week, and while it doesn’t unfold with quite the blatant hysteria that the previews suggest, it’s still epic. We begin on a somber note, with the remaining six contestants mourning the departure of effervescent Anthony, whose pink slip for the textile challenge last week seemed pretty hollerin’ unfair. In a bit of forced foreshadowing (keep in mind, most Runway episodes cover one-day challenges, so any example of prophetic statements come, like, five minutes prior to the actual explosion), Maya talks about how she feels overwhelmed and very young, at the ripe age of 21.

Heidi Klum announces the challenge: to create a look for a “difficult” celebrity. This turns out to be…Heidi. Never mind that the designers already designed garments for Heidi; Anthony won, and his sky-blue cocktail dress currently drapes Klum’s shoulders on the cover of Marie Claire.

During the 30-minute sketching process, Maya is noticeably absent; she returns with Tim and announces that she has decided to leave the competition because she doesn’t feel ready for it. This cuts to clips of Nina Garcia calling her “very referential” and, minutes prior, Tim beseeching Maya to stay for just one more challenge. But she refuses, packs her scissors, and cuts herself out of the running.

We’re inclined to side with Emilio on this one. “That’s a cop-out,” he says. “Say, ‘I’m gonna design my ultimate dress, and let them kick me out.'” Seth Aaron then tells everyone at home to “fuck off” because if we don’t understand the pressure, well, it’s harder in the Runway room than we’ll ever know. Which is, in itself, a cop-out, because most of us watching never busted our tails to be there in the first place. We suspected as much about Maya’s resolve, though; of the endless ringers at the Bryant Park finale show, Maya was the only one of the top 10 contestants not to show.

So Maya’s gone. Hope she finds her voice and her confidence. In her place glides back…Anthony! A more than acceptable trade-off, given the delight of the other contestants (and us). He has an even tighter time crunch than the rest, though, but is stunningly serene: “This time around, the one person I need to impress is myself,” he explains.

The workroom segment shows, indeed, that Heidi is a difficult cat to please. There’s scrambling in the background (Seth Aaron’s model has also defected the show, so he must refit his garment for a new woman), but the real agony comes to whomever Heidi is evaluating; she joins Tim for his usual appraisal, and is more than blunt. She shoves her chest in Jay’s face to prove some sort of point (unknown resolution, though hetero men around the world bemoan such a wasted moment), wrinkles her nose at Mila’s tight cocktail-waitress nylon number, and likens Jonathan’s prized cutwork to “curtains” — the latter to the extent that Tim suggests he scrap it and rework for the draping of the top portion. In response, Jonathan privately mocks Heidi’s high-pitched chatter, which is hilarious and has a weird, less racist similarity to Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

By the exhibition show, Jonathan is pulling together his third look, and the awkward nude and coral twisted drapes deeply reflect the time crunch. Emilio has constructed incredibly elaborate shaping under his smooth, sequined, strapless gown. Seth Aaron is hammering things, as is his wont. Anthony has gotten an hour’s sleep. Wild eyes abound.

On the runway, Anthony and Emilio fare beautifully; they show a black-and-white contrasting, flowing gown and a perfectly constructed bronze sparkler, respectively. The other four fall dramatically below them; Jay’s ruffles give his model quite the posterior (“I guess I like big butts,” he giggles) and Kors lampoons it, saying, “There isn’t a woman on the planet who would say, ‘Oh I want people to think I have a fat butt and big hips.’ ” Mila’s short, questionable, metallic colorblocking is not well constructed, and Nina compares it to a “Real Housewives” frock. Seth Aaron’s slip dress is a bit Hot Topic, all seams and studs.

Poor Jonathan’s ensemble looks like a wrinkled gym bag; the judges hate it for myriad reasons (including guest judge Jessica Alba, who blithely agrees with everyone else at all times), but the length is the final nail in the coffin; it is not at all red-carpet appropriate. It’s in Ping territory, actually. But it was a risky and unwise move, sacrificing his design standpoint (cutwork) for Heidi’s far-unrelated whims, and he can only blame himself.

Again, Heidi anoints two winners: Emilio and Anthony. It’s an overwhelming moment for Anthony, the truest of Runway comeback kids — and if we can believe the editing, it seems sartorial proof that great things do happen to good people. The bottom two come down to Jay and Jonathan. No surprises here, as Jonathan is sent home.