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'Project Runway' recap: Poison Ivy strikes again

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And now, boys and girls, a message from the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. They would like to thank the Project Runway judges and contestants for repeating the phrase throw someone under the bus more times than the turnstiles at Times Square-42nd Street can count. Reminding viewers of the great invention that is public transit does wonders for business. Still, the MTA must also point out the importance of public transit safety. Fun as it may be to joke about on reality television, you really should never throw anyone under the bus. Ever. It has catastrophic consequences. For instance, a thoroughly unlikable designer of dubious talent gets saved at the expense of someone who started off totally annoying but blossomed into an appealing personality. Boo. Hiss.

I don’t know about you folks, but I had a reaction similar to Mondo’s about this week’s challenge. Resort wear? Meh. Though my vacations tend to be slightly more exciting than waking up late and walking around my apartment in my underwear (Mondo’s funny), I’m just not that crazy about the threads that Michael Kors and his mother wear while working on their matching perma tans in Saint Tropez. I suspect the episode would have been deadly if Tim and his velvet bag of mischief hadn’t added that twisty twist: Designers worked in pairs and each person had to hand his or her concept to their partner to execute. Instant drama!

Predictably, no one wanted to work with poor Michael C., who continues to be branded The Unworthy Loser Who Can’t Sew. Andy went so far as to claim that Michael’s the weakest designer left — ridiculous! (Hi, Ivy!) Mondo ended up being paired with him and he was not mondo happy about it. Aware of his black sheep status, Michael C. took the bull by the horns (pardon the mixed barnyard metaphors), and admitted he isn’t the “fastest” or “best” sewer and doesn’t do patterns. Mondo replied by telling Michael C. straight up that his construction is “awful.” But Michael C.’s task wasn’t exactly a cakewalk: Mondo, you see, doesn’t sketch. He just makes notes. Yikes. Ominous start for these two. Yet by the halfway mark, Mondo came around. He realized Michael C. was, in fact, a “good guy” who was willing to learn and that he (Mondo) had been a “dick” to his partner. “Michael Costello has caught me off guard,” the petite chap explained. “I was such a jerk at the beginning.” I hope these two become buds. They certainly played it classy during judging. And how cute, them sitting snugly together backstage.

Gretchen and Casanova had their share of tension, what with her trying to make up for her partner’s spotty English with multiple blown-up sketches of her design. “Oh my god, she believe that I’m a retard!” Casanova said, comically staring at his raised hands. There was even more strain over yonder in Ivy and Michael D.’s corner. Now, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Mr. Bandana’s aesthetic, but I felt for the guy last night. Getting stuck with Poison Ivy? Ouch. (Or rather: Itch.) She questioned her teammate’s construction skills. (Déjà vu! What does this woman have against people named Michael and their ability to put together a garment? Watch your back, Sir Quips A Lot.) Her bossiness went into supersonic overdrive. She hovered over Michael D. at the sewing machine and dictated instructions. “I could feel her crazy,” Michael D. said. At least Ivy acknowledged her grating behavior — sort of. “I feel like I’m turning into my mother,” she said. “And you don’t want to see a Korean get angry.” (Note to self: I do not ever want to meet Mrs. Higa.) When Tim told the designers they had 10 minutes to take back their own designs and make final tweaks before hitting the catwalk, Michael D. let out a sigh that could inflate the Goodyear Blimp: “I was really happy to get out of that chair.” No kidding.

Though she worked well with Andy (he of the newly shorn Mohawk), Valerie was all sorts of stressed out by runway time. It was her week to place the teary phone call home. She told her mom she was tired, the show’s hard, there’s so much sewing, et cetera, et cetera. Then, to cameras, she turned into a melodramatic teenager and said that if she didn’t make it to Fashion Week, “everything’s gonna die.” (?) It was a lot of fuss from someone who’s been pretty levelheaded thus far. She was feeling the sting of having been passed over for the win so many times. And she was probably still smarting from the lashing she took for last week’s hideous outfit. Still, Valerie improved tenfold last night, even if she didn’t wow me. The beige top (changed from traffic-stopping blue on the sage advice of Michael Kors) was kinda dull. And while the chevron shorts were cute, they weren’t very resort-y. Andy also dropped the ball in constructing the panels in the back. Oops. But Val was safe. Whew.

So was Michael C., obviously. He had immunity. But I suspect that Michael Kors dug his “glammy-puss” halter-top palazzo jumpsuit enough to hand the guy a qualifying score anyway. Christopher’s blousy top and too-tight white shorts were snoozy, but I’d take that outfit any day over Gretchen’s shapeless, beige-and-burgundy palazzo jumpsuit. It was just so drab. But hey, I suppose I should be thankful that it was free of both hideous side cleavage and a vulgar-looking burn stain. Which is more than we can say about what she sicced on us last week.

As each outfit went by, I kept wondering where the fun was. It’s resort wear! Beach! Sand! Sea! Where are the patterns? The color? For the love of German blondes from Miami, where is Uli Herzner?! She and her flowy, multi-patterned creations would have wiped the floor with the top three.

I was happy that Michael D. emerged from IvyGate unscathed, but I didn’t get Michael Kors’ claim that his classy black gown/cover-up with a loosey-goosey bust was “legitimately what you’d want to wear in the tropics.” Black in the humid, sweaty tropics? Maybe if you’re Robert Smith. Michael D. ended up coming in third, behind the two A’s: April and Andy. And wouldn’t you know it, he sweetly said he was relieved he didn’t win since his partner was about to get her own personal audience with Michael Kors’ Metamucil face and Nina’s death stare. He might not have designed that thing, but he sure had a hand in turning it into the wonder turd it became.

When Andy’s lavender bathing suit and slinky wrap hit the runway, it got an enthusiastic nod of approval from MK, then swam in an ocean of judges’ superlatives: “commercial,” “sophisticated,” “expensive,” “beautifully done.” No question the outfit was well made and a slam-dunk for the challenge. (Though I couldn’t get over how much it looked like one of Kara Janx’s signature wrap dresses. Anyone else?) But the win inexplicably went to April for her black (more black!) sheer cover-up and well-tailored boy shorts. My word did those hot pants mark a gargantuan improvement on her last foray into undergarment territory. Kristen Bell (a.k.a. the “stylish American actress” who sat in as guest judge) kept calling April’s ensemble a “dress” and said she’d wear it on the red carpet. Woah. Really, Veronica Mars? Let’s not get carried away now. That outfit was one feathered Blanche Devereaux shoe away from boudoir wear. April even acknowledged this: “She looks so sexual.”

For the first time this season, Mondo landed in the bottom, thanks to his unfortunate striped boy short and green-print windbreaker. MK said it looked like something you’d pick up at Forever 21, while Nina (doing the one-upping for once) so loathed it she said she imagined it at Kmart. Oh, snap! But obviously they weren’t going to send home a designer as strong as Mondo for one stinkin’ misfire. So while he hotfooted it to safety backstage, Casanova and Ivy danced in the ring of fire. Both deserved to be there. But how do you choose between Casanova’s latest addition to the Boca Raton Retirement Collection and Ivy’s Amish Toga Party get-up?

I would have loved to see Casanova get the pass. His dowdy, inspired-by-his-grandmama ensemble may have been fitting for “a 70 year-old woman to go sit in a mall and get back to the house early so she can watch television,” but at least it gave that imaginary old lady some semblance of a shape. And is it really so unconscionable to present a design not meant for Gen Y? Let’s not forget that Casanova has won a challenge. Poison Ivy, on the other hand, has spent the entire competition slumming it either in rock-bottom or middling middle, all while her monstrous ego tells her she’s the shizz. Her “design” this week offered an unequivocal answer to Nina’s question about whether she’s a designer with a compelling vision or a seamstress with strong technical skills. Her outfit was a pitiful, washed-out sack of nothing that, frankly, my husband could have made. (No offense, honey.). Even Michael D., who made the damn thing, likened it to the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your shapeless fashion victims yearning to look chic. The wretched refuse of your teeming bore…

When confronted with her design’s innumerable shortcomings, Ivy resorted to her usual tactics. She went after Michael D.’s technical skills, which, she said, forced her to edit down her original design. MK (who, with Tim Gunn, had shaken his head in dismay at the sight of Ivy’s design in the workroom) wasn’t buying any of it. Nor was Michael C., whom Heidi caught rolling his eyes. All the while, Ivy’s stank attitude filled up the room like a nasty smoke bomb. She had absolutely no defense other than to point the finger at Michael D. The judges called her on it and tossed around the phrase throw him under the bus so many times we all looked over our shoulders for tire marks.

And yet Poison Ivy will live another day to give us all rashes. Obviously, it would be pretty weird for the judges to oust her when she sewed Michael D.’s top three-scoring design. And of course, there’s the drama factor. Casanova might be a reina of the stuff, but he’s no match for the devious, deluded Ivy. Pobrecito. Still, he made his exit with good humor, first pretending to hang himself from the door backstage, then, in a throwback to his promise from the season premiere, telling the cameras: “I have to say, I grabbed one ball of New York and New York grabbed one of mine.” We also got a Great Moments in Casanova montage that captured his spirit exaaaaactly. Adios, hermano. I wish you buena suerte on your quest to outfit all the prostitutas and abuelitas of the world. (I kid!)

Before I wrap this up, I’ll leave you with Sir Quips A Lot’s best line of the night, delivered, natch, in reference to our Latin brother’s aesthetic: “She’s a hooker, or a grandma going up a wheelchair ramp.”

What do you think? Did April deserve the win? Should Ivy have gone home instead of Casanova? I thought Kristen Bell was a strong guest judge — did you? Did you appreciate Michael D.’s maturity and restraint when dealing with Ivy? How many times are contestants going to have near-death encounters with public transit this season? Should we invent our own expression? How about push someone in front of the subway? Or: drop someone into rush-hour traffic? What do you think of next week’s challenge? It’s so true, right? Jackie Kennedy would totally never have camel toe!

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