This was the episode we were waiting for! When Tim Gunn previewed this season to my colleague ahead of the premiere, he warned us that he would absolutely lose it. And he did not disappoint. But the reason he was so upset has me a little frustrated. I think the designers had the deck stacked against them for this challenge, but I’ll get to that. First let’s recap…
“Crew’s All In” began with shots of the people behind the cameras and scenes. On the runway, Heidi tells the designers to head up to the workroom, where Tim is holding a walkie-talkie. Why you might ask? Well, so he can make a show of not-at-all-planned requests for crew members to report to the workroom. (I do hope that they call him “TG” in production, though. It takes no less time to say than “Tim Gunn,” but it has a certain ring to it.)
Once there, the poor crew members who were forced into this challenge are paired with the remaining six designers. It’s the Sally Beauty, every-woman challenge. Tim calls this taking it to “another level.” I call it not wanting to have to pay strangers for a day of filming. The good news for the designers is they get two days for the challenge — which probably means the show needed the extra time for their crew to juggle running the show and being in the show. (Has recapping Project Runway too long made me this cynical?)
The designers have 30 minutes to work with their “clients” on what design ideas. And here’s where I think the bias of this challenge starts to show. When past every-woman challenges pulled a stranger off the street, that woman wouldn’t have preconceived opinions about the designer’s work. All of these crew members do.
Case in point, when Katie Harris, a camera assistant, is put with Merline she says “good god” and then promptly requests no coats because she’s seen Merline’s boxy shoulders before. So instead of requesting what she actually wanted in a design, Katie requested what she didn’t want from Merline. That’s not a good place to start a design. And I think many of the other women did that as well.
Desiree Ortiz, a sound mixer, is assigned to Edmond. She wants a raincoat, which actually made me LOL at the TV. But she also rides her bike a lot, so she’d like it to flow out behind her while she’s pedaling…or something like that.
Ashleigh Hocking, a talent manager, walks in in overalls. So naturally she’s assigned to Kelly. She tells the designer that since she’s always working in front of celebrities, she wants something casual but cool — and no animal print.
The real fireworks start with a production coordinator named Jennifer Cohen; she’s assigned to Swapnil. He immediately thinks “bombshell” — that was last week, Swapnil; get your head in the game — but she’s thinking more day-to-night. She also tells him she doesn’t like to show her arms, but he’s barely listening as he barrels past her with his “full-on evening” idea.
Ashley gets Nicole Plascencia, who is a challenge assistant, which is a job I need to know more about. Ashley is so happy to be designing plus size…until she actually has to do it. Then she’s drained of any ideas and worries what Nicole is asking for is something the judges have already seen her do. Nicole has seen it, too, and probably liked it, which is why she asks for it!
And, finally, Monique Stout, a model wrangler — another fantastic job title — is paired with Candice. All the direction we really hear Monique say is that she likes blue, so naturally Candice figures out how to incorporate blue and leather.
NEXT: The Wrath of Gunn[pagebreak]
With sketching and Mood shopping done, the designers set to work. Merline is gung-ho on the coat that Katie specifically asked to not have. Ashley cries; Candice comforts her; and Swapnil takes some smoke breaks. Before you know it, it’s the end of Day 1, and Swapnil hasn’t even made a single piece of clothing.
So Day 2 everyone decides to have a better attitude. The mood in the room is about to change, though. Because Tim comes sweeping in, ready for critiques, along with the crew “clients.” He starts with Kelly and says, “Is this it?” And things only go down from there. He’s underwhelmed by Candice; he compares her work to H&M. (I mean, I shop at H&M, but ouch!)
By the time he gets to Merline, he’s already raising his voice. She made a big coat — and I mean a BIG coat — because she wanted to put her style into what Katie wants. Tim says this challenge “isn’t supposed to be a compromise; it should be a marriage.”
Next up is Ashley, who gets a thumbs down from her client, Nicole. She really wanted sleeves, so Ashley starts over. Tim just can’t possibly understand why the designers are struggling. Uhhh…maybe because you assigned them clients who are your BFFs, so you care more what they are forced to wear down the runway than the average model? This was also about the time I started to think that maybe they made this challenge two-days so they wouldn’t have another zipper debacle on an every-woman challenge?
Tim’s voice gets even louder and more aggressive when he gets to Edmond. Edmond is struggling to put himself into the design; he’s not exactly a raincoat kind of guy, so you really can’t blame him. But Tim does. “Why can’t it be runway and Desiree?” he barks.
And then he gets to Swapnil. Tim had already yelled at him from across the room for not working while his mentor was meeting with the other designers. And by the time Tim and Jen get to his work station, Swapnil doesn’t have anything for her to try on. Plus, Jen hates what little there is to the design. Tim takes this as another sign that Swapnil isn’t taking this show seriously. “What have you been doing for a full day,” Tim asks (loudly). At this point no one else in the room is working because they’re all just staring at this ticking time bomb that is Tim Gunn. When Swapnil tries to defend himself, the bomb goes off: “What a bunch of bullshit!… What is the f—ing point?”
Then Tim asks the question he’s (allegedly) never asked any other Runway designer: “Why are you here?” Swapnil says he wants to understand who he is as a designer — a pretty solid answer if you ask me — and Tim decides he’s had enough. He leaves and drags Jen with him. Meanwhile the entire room is just like…
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NEXT: And he didn’t even say “Make it work!”[pagebreak]
When our great leader has had time to cool down, he comes back and says he knows it was a rough session (that’s putting it lightly), but he did that only because he believes in them. Plus, he says he has a “proprietary interest” in the clients — which, again, I think is what makes him more heated than he would be for a typical challenge. Then he offers them a second fitting for later in the day, and designers practically burst into tears with happiness.
The designers take everything he said and start changing their looks: Merline shifts her giant coat idea into a wearable vest, Candice tries to make her H&M dress more “her,” and Kelly adds a vest to the overalls. By the time the crew clients come back most are happy-ish…except Jen. She again hates it; Swapnil again has a hard time understanding what to make for her. So with two hours left in the day, he creates a third garment.
The day of the runway, the crew women get makeovers courtesy of Sally Beauty and Mary Kay. And these aren’t your typical “fix your hair” makeovers — they’re getting cuts and colors. Katie goes the most extreme and shaves the side of her head. After makeovers, they come to get their designs on for the show, and Jen is really upset about the sleeves on Swapnil’s final look. She starts to cry, and I’m a little baffled. It’s not like this is her wedding dress — Swapnil should be the one who’s upset.
But she makes it to the runway regardless. Once there, the designers are greeted by UnREAL‘s Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer. (Here I have to pause and make a plug for UnREAL. Yes, I recapped it, so I’m probably a little biased, but it was one of the best shows of the summer. And if you haven’t watched it yet, do it now.) Moving on… Let’s start the runway!
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Kelly‘s look earns a “hallelujah!” from Nina — which is a huge turnaround from last week. She appreciates how Kelly held back and edited. The rest of the judges agree; they’re all impressed with Ashleigh’s transformation, and it helps that Ashleigh loves it as well. Zac even says Kelly’s transformation on the show has been “remarkable.” The one critique she receives is that it doesn’t need the vest. I’m sure Kelly was screaming “TIM GUNN MADE ME DO IT!” on the inside.
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When Heidi asks Monique if she likes what Candice created, she says “I like it so far,” which is code for “I’m waiting to hear what you think of it.” And they don’t think it’s great. They all like the hair and makeup, but that’s where it ends. It’s cheap and too much — which is what Tim warned Candice about with the first look; somehow she just made it worse. They go so far as to say it’s something a working girl in the alley of Comic Con would wear. Oof!
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Desiree is incredibly happy with the raincoat that Edmond made for her, and the judges don’t hate it, but they don’t like the pairing with the dress. Although the pieces look polished, there is a lot going on. Edmond tried to accommodate her desires too much and got lost in something that isn’t him.
NEXT: “One or more of you will be going home”[pagebreak]
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Merline says that Katie has a rock & roll soul, and she tried to give her that in the look. Katie says she thinks Merline nailed it, and so do the judges. Heidi says, “I think the boys will like that, too!” (Did she just call out Katie for being single on national TV? Not cool, boss.) Shiri even says that the vest was the best thing that walked down the runway. I found that interesting because it was also the piece that was the biggest “marriage,” to quote TG, between what Merline wanted to do and what Katie actually wanted.
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Swapnil, when you start your look description with “This is what I made in the last two hours last night,” you’re not putting yourself in the best light. But it got worse: “I think what went wrong is I didn’t hear her right.” The judges pounce: They say he’s all surface and created this for himself and yada yada yada. During up-close inspections, Jen happily piles on by calling him out for how he just cut open the sleeves when SHE WAS THE ONE WHO ASKED HIM TO LET OUT THE SLEEVES. Have we ever seen the models disparage their designers’ works to the judges? No. And I don’t think it’s fair that Jen did it here, regardless if Swapnil’s work deserved it.
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It never fails that the challenge that seems tailor-made to a designer is the one he or she flubs the worst. And that’s happened with Ashley. Her dress was made with the complete wrong prints and wasn’t proportioned well to her model — which is what she is supposed to be good at. Nicole was happy that she got her sleeves and pockets as asked for, but that doesn’t impress the judges at all. They rip the look apart and then tell Ashley to stop crying. But turns out she didn’t need to cry because…
Even though Heidi hinted that she would also send Ashley or Candice home, the remaining five are safe. I’m incredibly happy for Kelly winning. She’s learning and growing on this show in a way that’s fun to watch. However, I’m really conflicted about Swapnil leaving. It felt like the judges and Tim had a personal vendetta against him that was never fully backed up by what we saw in the episodes.
But maybe I’m crazy and cranky — what did you guys think of “Crew’s All In”?