Skin abounds on the runway as the designers create resortwear with coordinating swimwear.
Credit: Lifetime
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Project Runway All Stars was only gone for two weeks, but it felt like much longer. And not the “Oh, I can’t wait for my show to come back” way. It’s more the “Oh, I forgot this was on” way. And that’s not because the show wasn’t interesting—it was a solid episode. The holiday break just killed any momentum the show had going.

But maybe I’m just cranky because they’re playing in a pool and making resortwear while it’s 14 degrees outside. If this episode was scheduled in the hopes of transporting us all away from the doldrums of winter, it did not work.

You know what else didn’t work? The concept that the designers could make a coordinating swim look with a resortwear look. It shouldn’t be a hard concept, yet nearly all of the designers struggled with one or the other. It was so confusing to see a gorgeous look come down the runway, only to see a hideous suit revealed underneath, or vice versa. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, we have to talk about how Alyssa Milano made the cover of USA Today. The designers are celebrating Michelle’s 36th birthday with coffee at Gotham West Market (what everyone dreams of—a corporate-sponsored coffee birthday) when they see the actress’ face beaming up at them from the newsstand. The news story is directing them to a rooftop pool.

I have some questions about this. Did USA Today actually mock up this cover and print it especially for the show? Or was some poor Runway intern required to cut out Alyssa’s picture and tack it onto the real USA Today of that day. Also, was this ruse really necessary to get the designers to the rooftop?

Necessary or not, the plan works and the designers end up poolside with Alyssa, who introduces John Peters, president of USA Today Travel. They both present the challenge: The designers will create elegant resortwear suitable for a glamorous getaway and suitable for wearing over a swimsuit, which they must also create.

Then a very bizarre thing happens where Alyssa tells the designers that the Lycra for the swimwear is in the pool. The designers act like getting into a pool is the worst thing in the world, so she brings out four pool boy “friends.” I think this was meant to be fun for us to watch, but I was just confused. (Again, probably cranky because the wind chill is 5 degrees.)

After a pretty uneventful trip to Mood, the designers get cracking on their designs. For a brief moment, it seemed like there might be a big deal with no one having “fold-over elastic,” a thing Michelle was insisting was important. Spoiler alert! It turned out to not be a deal at all.

Again, it’s a pretty uneventful workroom. No fabric drama, breakdowns, fights, etc.—not that that’s a problem, but these here recaps thrive on the storylines. The best I can give you: Justin realized his Lycra print was terrible, so he used the backside, which was black. Smart!

When Zanna comes for her critique, she brings Alison Maxwell, style and fashion editor for USA Today. They quiz the room on where their women will be vacationing. The best answer is from Jay, who says Ibiza, even though he’s never been. After the two well-traveled women explain the Ibiza woman, he decides to “change her flight to somewhere else.” Other destinations include the South of France, Mykonos, Maldives, and Miami—places I’d all love to be right now.

Zanna gets the quote of the night when she tells Justin not to worry about his swimsuit being too revealing: “As long as we’ve got no nipples hanging out, then we’re all good.”

That’s good news to the models, who come for their fittings. And here’s the one real catch of the episode: The designers were getting too comfortable, so they had to switch models. That’s fine, but what’s not fine is it seems that the designers were not given the models’ measurements. So after nearly an entire day of work, most of the designs had to be reworked for fit issues.

Dmitry decides that his look doesn’t work at all for his new model’s body, so he makes a completely new one. Justin runs out of fabric, so he cuts some from his skirt to finish the top. And Sam sews the top and bottom of her jumper on wrong. And that’s all of the “oh no!” moments in the workroom.

NEXT: The models gets cheeky

There is a lot of frantic running around the morning of the runway show, but everyone gets it together to show before the judges and guest judge Nigel Barker, who is no stranger to reality judging.

Fabio and Helen‘s looks are firmly in the middle, so they’re given the “safe” ruling and sent off the runway.

Dmitry‘s look was made for a woman visiting Greece. He wanted it to be effortless and versatile, so the woman can go to the beach or a party depending on her footwear. Isaac doesn’t love the silk charmeuse (I agree with him), but he likes the color. Underneath, Dmitry created a camo asymmetrical one-piece. Nigel thinks it would be perfect for a cover shoot. The judges seem to agree that they like it, but no one really raves about it.

Jay‘s maxi dress receives mixed reviews. Georgina loves it, but thinks the bottom is better than the top, where it has a harness-like neckline and straps. I’m personally a fan of the maxi, but I cannot get on board with that hideous two-piece swimsuit. As Nigel says, the bottoms are way too high, and the fabric is terrible (Alyssa says it’s something she’d see on her toddler son). This is where it gets hard to figure out who the judges are going to send home because nearly everyone has one piece that isn’t well received and one that they love.

And that trend continues with Sam. Her jumpsuit is to die for—the color, the fit, the trendiness of it; it’s all great. The Baywatch-inspired one-piece underneath? A disaster? Ignoring the fact that it was riding so high in the back that it looked like a thong and the fabric was so bright I had to block my eyes through my TV screen, the look gave Alyssa Who’s the Boss flashbacks. That is not what you want in a critique from your look.

But the trend did break briefly with Justin. His South of France flowing dress and black swimsuit were effortless and amazing. Georgina said it’s cohesive (the only time we’ll hear that in the night) and she wants to be the woman he’s designing for. It gets rave reviews from the other judges as well.

But we’re back to the one-on, one-off trend with Michelle. Her Miami girl dress is bunched (“pleated”) in odd places and looks more like a bad cover-up than an elegant resortwear look. But then the swimsuit is perfection! It’s apparent in this look that she has experience in swimwear—I guess that fold-over elastic was helpful after all!

Sonjia created lace pants and a lace and denim top over a two-piece bathing suit with a bandeau top. Again, they love parts (the pants and the killer bikini) and don’t like others (the boxy top with denim blocking).

Winner: Justin, which isn’t a shock, but is very well deserved.

Out: Sam. It’s disappointing that she had to go home when she made such a great jumpsuit, but she made a swimsuit that gave her model “moose knuckle” (thanks for that Isaac!), and that can’t go ignored.

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Were you surprised by the results? Angry they were flaunting warm weather in our faces? Tell me here in the comments or over on Twitter: @realdalener. Until next week!

Episode Recaps

Project Runway All Stars
Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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  • Lifetime