Designing for recent grads could have been a cakewalk, if only the contestants didn't have to deal with both their own preconceived notions and those of their clients' moms

Okay, so first of all, thanks to a DVR mishap, last night’s first-run episode of Project Runwaydid not record. Luckily, Bravo reruns everything about nine zillion times a day, so I was able to catch the 20 minutes I’d missed at the 11 p.m. rebroadcast. But that meant having to stay up writing even later than usual, burning twice as many candles at twice as many ends. So bear with me, oh dearest Runway friends, if this TV Watch suddenly turns into complete gibberish.

Anyhoo, on to this week’s episode, which was, in case you somehow missed it, brought to you by TRESemmé! At the top of the hour, Heidi stood on the runway, accompanied by six middle-aged women. Jerell immediately recognized them as moms, which was kinda hilarious. Viva the Universal Mom Uniform! Yet since none of them were black women, he knew they couldn’t be the designers’ moms. Turns out they were there to accompany their recently college-degreed daughters for head-to-toe makeovers. This came as a big ol’ whopping relief to Leanne, who said, “None of us want to design an old lady outfit.” Now just hold on a minute there, Leannimal. Since when is fortysomething considered “old lady”? I sense some snobby ageism there, sister.

Much like last week’s astrological hoo-ha, the presence of the mothers puzzled me. They didn’t seem to have much purpose, other than to inspire Joe’s take on the mother-daughter dynamic: If the mother likes something, the daughter won’t, and vice versa. (Obviously, Joe, you’ve never met my mother. When we shop for her clothes, she does exactly as I say.) It seemed the real reason they were there was to add an element of buttinski-ness. Poor Leanne got stuck with the — ahem — mother of bossy matriarchs when she was paired with little Holly. Momzilla felt the need to weigh in on just about everything — from futzing over the initial design to complaining that Leanne’s dress made her daughter look flat-chested. (Maybe Holly’s mom was retaliating for the “old lady” comment?)

Her design dissed, Leanne had no choice but to overhaul it. The revamped frock fit Holly well, and she seemed to like it. But when she strutted down that runway, she looked like she’d half-morphed into a linebacker, thanks to that gray jacket that might have looked cute if only Leanne had put the shoulders in the right place. Nina let out a big sigh of relief when the jacket came off. But that still left the problem of outfitting a young elementary-school teacher in a dress that Heidi called “frumpy.” It was also far too tailored. What is Ms. Schoolteacher Holly going to do when the day’s math lesson ends up a chalky mess on that swishy skirt?

NEXT: Pinstripes and pocket squares

Fit and tailoring weren’t problems for Korto, who expressed the most enthusiasm for the challenge. “I’m a hip mom, so I can relate,” she said. The consistently strong contestant also busted out the funny when talking about incorporating a certain material into her client’s jacket: “Now that Stella’s gone, I’m the queen of leathah.” Her client, Megan, looked terrific in that summery green dress — Korto really does work wonders with prints — and the judges seemed to think so, too. Borrowing a page from the Heidi Klum book of fashion evaluation, guest judge Cynthia Rowley noted how vedy, vedyexpensive the jacket looked.

Kenley may have yipped with glee that Heidi’s bag o’ buttons paired her with her very own Mini-Me — more on that in a sec — but the episode’s cutest team turned out to be Jerell and Caitlin. The dude with a penchant for nutty headgear — feathers again last night! — immediately bonded with his client, commenting on how they shared a certain awkwardness and lankiness. I found Jerell’s behavior quite sweet last night, especially when he told Caitlin, “You are pretty, girl,” during judging. He really listened to his client and got who she was. This paid off handsomely. The feminine, flowy top, pencil skirt, and menswear-inspired sweater were not only flattering but also imparted a youthful sophistication perfect for an artist’s assistant. Sure, the ensemble lacked color (is Mood giving away that brown charmeuse? ‘Cause I feel like I’ve seen it a dozen times this season), but it was, as Kors might say, the right look on the right girl for the right job. The judges crowned it the winner, and Jerell earned his second victory in a row. (How cute was that picture of Li’l J. as an adolescent?)

Jerell is proving to be something of a dark horse at this stage of the game, which has me wondering if it’s still going to be an all-gal finale. He’s been impressive lately, for sure — and pretty darn funny, too. Last night, he pitied Leanne for getting stuck with “Hedda Lettuce.” Later, he said, “Come on, Joe. You can work on Nancy Reagan tomorrow.”

Oh dear, oh dear. What to say about Joe? From the very beginning, his graphic-designer client told him point-blank that she wasn’t a fan of the jacket he had in mind. But he ignored her, convinced that looking professional required a blazer and a pocket square. (Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe…a pocket square?!) Later, Laura said she wasn’t into pinstripe. But he ignored her again. “I think it’s sharp and sophisticated,” he said. Well, yes, Joe, I suppose it is…if your idea of high fashion is the fall 1985 Talbots catalog. Tim tried to get Joe to see that no graphic designer worth her paycheck would be caught dead in that dreadfully tight-arse number. (Looking at it, I thought not of groovy visuals but of 401ks. Then I started dozing off.) But still, the guy persisted. And let’s not even get into how horribly that plaid wrap shirt fit the poor gal. Offering a quintessential Korsian sound bite, Michael called it “Becky Home-Ec-y.”

NEXT: Dresses for success?

As off-the-mark as Joe’s design was, at least it didn’t look like it was conceived using the yellowing Butterick pattern in your grandmother’s sewing drawer. What was that hideous brown thing with the embellished bat-wing cuffs that Suede made that poor aspiring photographer wear? I mean, his second-rate Pucci-esque dress was okay (I guess), but the jacket? The jacket?! Unfashionable color. Outdated, unflattering cut. Inexplicably placed pockets — that were also trimmed in shiny ribbon! It was a garment that somehow managed to be tacky and matronly at the same time. And it did, as Leanne put it, make the girl look like she was “auditioning for Selena.” Tim hated the thing and so did the judges. For the second time this season, Nina was left speechless. “I have a lot of problems with the jacket,” she said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I will say no more.” Rowley was much more frank, dismissing Suede’s argument that he was trying to give Avital a look that could go from day to night: “I say just change your clothes before you go out.” (Nice one, C. Ro!)

Even more egregious was the fact that Suede more or less copped to his own lack of ability when he said, “Pants are not Suede’s thing.” The fact is, his client wanted a pair of trousers, but he forced a dress on her. “That’s what I do, dresses.” Yeah, doofus, you and everyone else on the show! I wonder, when the judges saw a parade of six skirts marching down the runway, did they regret giving Terri the boot?

I think we can all agree that Suede has waaaaaay overstayed his welcome. Yet apparently, the judges deemed Joe’s the greater fashion crime and sent him packing. When Kors gave the doomed Joe a dressing-down, Kenley broke into a fit of giggles. (Within seconds, her doppelgänger client joined in — and eerily mimicked Kenley’s body language.) It was the final tacky moment for the ’40s-loving broad who had spent the rest of the episode protesting her low scores last week and discarding Tim’s suggestions. After he gently suggested she trim the tulle at the hem of her dress, she scoffed. “I never really change anything for Tim,” she said. But then, it appeared she did follow his advice because the final dress had less of the crinkly pink stuff sticking out. Whether Kenley is willingly letting more of her brat flag fly as the season winds down, or the editors are simply sharpening their claws on her footage, her behavior is becoming increasingly off-putting.

Now, on to you. Did the right person go home or should we finally have been put out of our Suede misery? What do you make of Kenley’s reactions to Tim? Given Jerell’s second wind, do you think he’s emerging as a strong contender? Oh, and did the ads for last night’s Top Design, which featured past Runwaycontestants, make you long for the days of Santino, Jeffrey, and Andrae? Oh, to hear Santino musing about Andrae and Tim going to Red Lobster…

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