Like a made-for-television movie — perhaps even one of those Meredith Baxter-Birney howlers on Lifetime — the Project Runway finale played out just the way we anticipated it would. There were tears. There were nerves. There were hugs. The producers pulled out every trick in the book to throw us off the scent — Uh-oh, Tim’s freakin’ out backstage! — but by the time it all came to a close, there was only one possible winner. And that winner, ladies and gentleman, is… us! The audience! Shouldn’t we all get our own Paris vacation courtesy of Evian? $100,000 for our time? Who could possibly be more deserving than we loyal viewers, who bravely trudged through this bunk-arse season without going AWOL somewhere around the time Neek-oh-lass beat Epperson in the movie genre challenge?
In all seriousness, there was little that came as a surprise last night. Carol Hannah had a tummy-trouble relapse, but she got over it without subjecting us to another round of those nauseating vomit sounds from last week. (We did NOT need to hear that!) Althea came dangerously close to another ”you’re a cheater” accusation from Irina, this time on the matter of a smoky eye. (Tyra Banks’ favorite!) The first 20 minutes in particular were so uneventful that, for the first time since I started covering this show three seasons ago, I watched without once rewinding the DVR. If it hadn’t been for the bag of chocolate crème Newman O’s at my side, I might have fallen asleep by the first commercial break.
The morning of the big show, the gals woke up at the unholy hour of 3:14. Is there some rule against sleeping until the exact quarter-hour on Bryant Park Day? Is this one of those mystical numerological puzzles for Robert Langdon? Together, the trio walked over to the tents, Irina’s queenly cape-coat sashaying in the moonlight. There was the usual backstage frenzy, amped up with a sudden blast of Tim Gunn losing his characteristic cool. ”Designers, I am about to lose it!” he said. Everyone ignored him. The cause of the (exaggerated) drama was never really explained, but it had to do with no one being ready for the curtain call. ”Get your models here! Get them into their looks. This is crazy!” he fumed. If you say so, dear Mr. Gunn. I hope you all witnessed this exchange, ’cause it was the closest we got to a jolt of adrenaline all night.
Then it was showtime. As has been widely reported (including by yours truly), at the taping of the finale in February, the three finalists all stayed backstage while their collections walked down the runway anonymously. But you’d never have guessed that thanks to the crafty editing in last night’s episode, which showed each designer presenting her collection in front of what appeared to be a full house. (These segments were taped before they opened up the house to the public. So who were those extras? Every single human being who draws a paycheck from Lifetime?) You’d also never know that when opening the show, Heidi acknowledged the drawn-out lawsuit that had kept season 6 in limbo for almost a year and was the reason behind the need for anonymity. (If you heard a high-pitched squeal while watching in the comfort of your own home, that was likely my mother, who couldn’t contain her delight when my husband and I popped up on screen. We were sitting in the front row on the right side, towards the end of the runway. You know, in case you care.)
NEXT: A look at all three lines