The show sends the mentor on the road to check on the designers' Fashion Week collections, then Rami and Chris put their best looks forward to see who gets to actually compete

All Chris wanted to do was bring a little laughter to the people. And to that I say: Chris, mission accomplished.

The big guy with the big heart and the even bigger laugh might not have beaten Rami to the Fashion Week finish line, but he sure has brought us Project Runway fans plenty of joy these past few months. He’s been witty, he’s been warm, and he’s been gracious. Even tonight, when Heidi told him he was out, he seemed so sincere in his gratitude for the opportunity. And then, backstage — you know, the place where Christian asked, ”What’s up, trannies?” — Chris still managed to find the funny, joking to Tim Gunn that ”this has happened before.” (Getting kicked off, that is.) Later, in his on-screen exit interview, he said he never could have imagined ”the amount of love the universe sent my way” thanks to the show. Love well deserved, friend.

The sneaky folks in the Bravo editing booths surely thought they were adding suspense to last night’s proceedings by splicing in equal amounts of fawning praise for both potential finalists. The judges applauded the craftsmanship of Chris’ work, giving mad props to the safety-pin skirt and the ”intriguing” aspect of it all. They (especially Nina) were pleased that Rami had listened to their requests to prove he can do more than droopy-drippy-drapey. But I knew from the second I saw Tim Gunn fighting his gag reflex over Chris’ human-hair-trimmed collection that Rami was the judges’ golden boy. They may profess to love avant-garde, against-the-grain couture craziness, but the fact is they’re there to anoint someone with the potential to appeal to the masses — or at least a circle wider than the wardrobe department of The Craft. Between Chris’ ”creative” and Rami’s ”refined,” there was just no contest. They were going for the refined.

But let’s back up a bit, shall we? At the top of the hour we saw Heidi instructing the foursome that they’d have $8,000 to complete a 12-piece collection. Next thing we knew, Tim was cruising along in his Saturn — gee, I wonder how he chose that brand? — to drop by Christian’s minuscule New York City apartment and design studio. There was the requisite montage of photos of Christian when he was a tot. Or so we are to believe. Honestly, the pictures of that towheaded little cherub from Maryland looked so unlike the feisty imp we’ve come to know on the show that I had to rewind the DVR (twice) to look for a resemblance.

Fully expecting to elicit oohs and aahs from Tim, Christian led the dapper mentor into his workspace, which was seriously cramped but football fields more spacious than the place the guy uses as his bedroom: a tiny stretch of hallway where he plops down a mattress. Welcome to New York City living. Maybe Christian can use the 10 grand he won last week as season 4 fan favorite to get a bigger place. Anyway, after explaining that his theme was ”romantic Gothic,” Christian pulled out — shocker! — a black tailored jacket, which he planned to pair with an extravagant ruffled neckpiece. (When a model wears that, it must look like an accordion has taken a seat on her neck.) Christian was waiting for Tim to flatter him, and was still waiting when he busted out what he seemed to think was his pièce de résistance: feather trousers. Alas, Tim deemed the pants costume-y and encouraged the wunderkind to edit. ”It’s a lot of look,” he said. The big surprise was that Christian actually listened and nodded in understanding while the great Mr. Gunn was imparting his wisdom. Not sure we’ve seen Ferocia Coutura display that kind of humility before. (”Fierce” count: 21.)

Tim then zoomed on over to Jillian’s New York City pad. Wearing a variation of her customary uniform (this time it was a Christmas-y sweater with tights and short shorts), she explained that her inspiration was 15th-century armor, then showed Tim a stunningly tailored coat. We didn’t see much else from her collection, but we did get to follow the pair to Long Island, where we met the entire Lewis family. Pop wore a trucker’s hat and rocked an awesome ‘stache, and Mama, we learned, has flirted with the occult. A clairvoyant told her that one of her children would grow up to be famous. Mrs. Lewis somehow decided it would be little Jill, and ever since then, she’s been pushing her frizzy-haired daughter with the sparkling blue eyes to go for the gold. (Which she certainly did in the last challenge. Ha!) Now, I like Jillian and have gotten used to her preternaturally subdued disposition, but there was something a bit unsettling in the way she told us that she will succeed. She will be a top American designer. ”I won’t have it any other way,” she said without flinching, barely above a whisper. It was part Stepford Wife, part Miranda Priestly. Speak softly and carry a big measuring tape, I guess.

Next stop was L.A., where we learned that Rami has his very own romper-room storefront. He too was inspired by 15th-century armor — a shrink would have a field day interpreting that coincidence at this stage of the race — yet he specifically singled out Joan of Arc. Shockingly, Rami revealed not a single Grecian goddess gown, which got a nod of approval from Tim. Nina might have balked at the voluminous proportions of Rami’s teal coat, but I loved it. (Though not as much as I loved that gorgeous black and white dotted strapless dress. I’d buy that baby tonight if, you know, my job required me to wear anything other than jeans and a sweater 7 months of the year.) The best part of Tim’s visit to Rami-land, though, was the guy’s story about how he came to be a designer. The way he described his brother walking in on him one day, and how he panicked as his sibling ran downstairs to tell the folks what he’d just witnessed… Well, let’s just say I imagined the brother had discovered Rami doing more than sketching.

NEXT: A little hairy

Last but not least, Tim circled back to New York to visit Chris. Mr. March described his collection as ”beauty with a quirk,” 95 percent fashion, 5 percent costume. Assuming the aforementioned human hair was part of the latter percentage, holy crap is my math bad. What with the heavy jewelry, the dark velvet, and the human hair (!!!), I would have put the costume quotient up in the 60th percentile at least. Guess that’s why I sucked on the math GRE. Of course, the wild wiggy weaves did make for some funny moments, like when Christian considered brushing the garments. (Maybe he could have even used his trusty flatiron!) And the rest of the collection inspired some terrific lines, too. First, there was Tim’s genius observation that Chris had ”been living in the monkey house” too long. (Does that mean his designs are poop?) Then, at the post-bake-off judging session, Michael Kors called Chris’ black gown a ”velvet condom.” That comment ranks right up there with ”That crotch is insane” as my all-time favorite Korsism.

However much Nina, Heidi, and Michael gave the competing dudes the overall thumbs up, I never got the impression that either of the sample collections blew the panel away. The judges seemed disappointed, in fact, and remarked more than once that everything was overdesigned, too complicated, and very dark. It felt sort of anticlimactic to me. Also, if they’ve already acquired a somewhat negative opinion of two of Rami’s looks, doesn’t that put him at a disadvantage for the finale? I’m guessing he does not get to tweak his designs now, in reaction to the judges’ comments. That would give him a seriously unfair leg up.

Finally, one last thought about Chris. By now, I’m spoiling nothing by noting that despite being officially eliminated, he did indeed show his collection at Bryant Park earlier this month. (What a waste of $8,000 and three months of work if he hadn’t.) Obviously, he did so as a decoy, but the whole setup brings me back to a question I posed last time. No, he’s no longer in the running for the grand prize, but the drama built into the show about who gets to show at Fashion Week and who doesn’t — when all five contestants showed! — just rings false to me. After four seasons, we all know there’s gonna be a decoy, so why bother with the theatrics?

What about you? What did you think about the ”three-piece walk-off”? Did Rami deserve to win? Were you into Chris’ ”glamour Goth” collection? And did you love the photo of him in drag as a super-size Cruella De Vil, complete with stuffed Dalmatians inside the cape? And did you, like me, giggle out loud at the story of the cop flashing his badge and telling Chris, ”You’re under arrest for being the best designer on Project Runway”?

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Project Runway

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.

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