The designers get musically challenged as they dress each other and come closer to Bryant Park, while Kenley's attitude pushes even Tim's buttons

Now, that was a good hour of Project Runway. It’s been so long since any episode this season delivered the way the show used to that I’d forgotten how much fun it can be when: The challenge was inspired, someone effed up royally, and they all busted out the catty. It’sRunway lightning in a bottle — and last night caught itself a few bolts.

The fun started when Leanne stole Suede’s model. Korto leaned over and whispered, “You’re a heartbreaker, Leanne.” Then, we cut to the confessional, where Suede compared Leanne to a jealous little kid in the candy store. The team kicked up a whole lotta drama in the first five minutes, only to learn that they wouldn’t even be using the models this week. Oh, the irony! The designers would be playing runway divas. And they’d each be designing for each other, creating a look inspired by a genre of music. No one looked less enthused than Korto, who fretted over both modeling and having to design punk menswear for Suede. The kicker? She’d be gettin’ a little bit country for the runway. “It just gets better and better,” she sighed.

For all her initial apathy, Korto soon showed the spunkier side that Terri has said was so much fun in the workroom. “I’m Shania Jank…I gotta get my twang together,” she joked. And once she stepped into those black cowboy boots…oooooeeee! Girl cut loose, warbling some tune about said footwear and line-dancing around the room. I’m not sure I saw her actually smile in all the commotion, but I am now the founding member of the “country-fried Korto” fan club.

Almost as awesome as Korto’s bust-a-move routine was her swift, decisive dismissal of Kenley. As Leanne and Korto finished up their prep talk, in barged Kenley to show Leanne the stilettos she’d picked out for her. The transformation of Kenley from cool Bettie Page gal to full-fledged enfant terrible is just astounding — as startling a metamorphosis as what happened to poor Gregor Samsa. And last night, her brattiness hit an apex.

NEXT: Hip-hop hurray?

Truly, Kenley had not one redeeming moment last night. I lost count how many times she displayed a blatant disdain for Tim — at Mood, in the workroom, in the confessional — hell, she probably worked one in on the runway, too. In five seasons of this show, I have never seen Tim Gunn get the slightest bit ruffled. But last night he understandably started to lose his patience after repeatedly — and politely! — trying to get Kenley to see how misguided her choices were. How sweet was he to say, “Correct me, I’m an old fart. Isn’t part of the whole hip-hop fashionoversized?” Now, we could all sit here and argue that hip-hop doesn’t necessarily mean oversized, but I think we can all agree on his overall point: that Kenley’s design was about as hip-hop as Anne of Green Gables. The sound bite we’d been hearing in the previews all week — “It would help if you removed the sarcasm and facetiousness” — was 100 percent warranted. God bless Tim Gunn and his uncanny sangfroid. Had I been confronted with Kenley’s staggering immaturity, she would have received something much harsher than a stern look from above my glasses and a chilly “Thank you.”

The worst part is that Kenley clearly knows diddly-squat about hip-hop. (Alicia Keys? Wha???) Leanne’s knowledge was hardly any better. And whether she intended it as a joke or not, her pathetic attempt at rapping was painful to behold. Ugh. Way to typecast yourself as the clueless white girl, Leanne. That said, Kenley has no one to blame but herself. She was so high on her own BS that by the time she was festooning poor Leanne with gaudy jewelry, she looked positively deranged. The look on Jerell’s face as he watched her reminded me of the expression my cats make after they’ve cleaned themselves — Ahem — down there.

Jerell continued to win points with me last night, for his talent, his attitude, and his sense of humor. He was rightly proud of the pop-star outfit he designed for Her Brattiness, and said: “Kenley Spears would be rockin’ this at Madison Square Garden, then probably kicking her panties off and falling asleep in the back of a limousine.” Though he got stuck with the pill of the group, he still delivered, capturing the fun, racy side of pop music. Guest judge LL Cool J — who was kind enough to drop by Parsons while readying his new album and clothing line; what a guy! — was hesitant at first, but the removal of the furry vest satisfied his need for nude. Heidi — once a Victoria’s Secret girl, always a Victoria’s Secret girl — questioned the support of the spangly bra, but she seemed to come around too. The judges loved it, and rewarded Jerell with what seemed like a very close second place. (Ooooh, that history-making third consecutive win was so close, Jerell!) It was Korto’s punk-rock makeover of Suede that edged out Jerell. As far as groundbreaking fashion goes, neither look blew me away. And frankly, all five outfits had at least a touch of costume about them. The truth is, there have been few transcendent moments this season, so in this case, I would have been happy to see either Korto or Jerell win.

NEXT: Suede rocks out…right out of the competition

As for Leanne, she fell victim to her own caution. She was so determined to avoid making something “costumey,” that she dressed Korto in a sleeveless blouse with country accents and a skirt that hugged her ample behind like your mama’s loving embrace. (Was it me or did Heidi sound like a countrified Borat when she called the skirt “very niiiice”?) It was passable, sure, but hardly worthy of, say, Dolly Parton as she strutted across the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. The lack of glamour showed how inconsistent Leanne is. Leannimal? Fashion assassin? Ha! More like milquetoast muffler.

Jerell admitted last night that the thought had crossed his mind to “sabotage Suede,” but as we all know, Blue Fauxhawk needs no help achieving failure. His rock-n-roll outfit for Jerell was not his biggest flop yet — I’d argue it was far superior to the wretched pile of hideous he sicked on the world last week — but it still fell short. The drainpipe trousers, tie-dyed tank, and leather vest made a predictable combo. As Kors observed, the look was tamer than Jerell’s day-to-day garb. It was a big fat bore. And after surviving the ax by the skin of his teeth three times in a row, the fourth proved to be the un-charm for Suede. Dude finally got the boot. See ya, Suede! Hope ya find your long-lost first person on your way home!

Now, I’ve been waiting for Suede’s lifeboat to ferry him off our TV screens since episode 1. Still…I have to admit that Kenley is the one who deserved to go last night. In addition to her indefensible behavior, which included rolling her eyes on the runway and picking a fight with Nina, her design, to get all technical on you, sucked the wonder turd. Thank God LL Cool J was there to convince her that she’d completely missed the hip-hop target, otherwise we’d probably still be listening to her whine about how it’s exactly the kind of thing Missy Elliot would wear to the VMA’s. Worse still, the whole thing was horribly made. Those high-waisted mom jeans were, in Heidi’s estimation, the “most unflattering pants I’ve ever seen in my life.” How Kenley could be arrogant enough to assume that the problematic crotch would somehow escape the judges’ eye defies comprehension. Were you absent, Kenley, the day Kors dropped a smackdown built around those four indelible words? I speak, of course, of That crotch is insane!

Suede and Kenley may have deserved a dressing-down, but what a surreal, humiliating experience to have your arse handed to you while you’re up there under the harsh lights, dressed like you’re on your way to a Halloween party. The pair of them reminded me of teenagers getting chewed out in front of the class on school dress-up day.

Judging from the previews for next week’s show, Kenley’s bumpy ride is likely to continue. But even if she makes it to the Bryant Park showdown, my moolah’s on Korto. In any case, I’ll have to read about it from Vietnam, where I’ll be vacationing when the finale airs on October 15th. My colleague Kate Ward has kindly agreed to fill in for me. Treat her right, TV Watchers.

Now to you. Should Kenley have gone instead of Suede? Should Jerell have won? Did you think it odd that Suede, a man who wears a blue stripe in his hair, made such a point of being the antithesis of punk? Are you as sick as I am of seeing that same Elle issue with one of the Olsen twins on the cover? And what about the overuse of the words fashion icon on this show — that’s gotta end too, no?

More Project Runway and EW links of the day:

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

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