The final four have serious trouble using flowers as inspiration, and the judges take the easy way out at decision time
Credit: Barbara Nitke

Where’s Andrae? There was so much crying on the runway last night that I half expected our season 2 crybaby to dance his way onto the set for old time’s sake. But instead, it was only our lovely final four who, while defending their aesthetics and calling out those of other designers, nearly flooded Manhattan Day After Tomorrow-style. (And for those of you who are wondering, “Where’s Missy?” she’s out gallivanting around the world, leaving little ol’ me to guide you all through the rest of the series. I may not be as fashion-forwarded as our usualProject Runway recapper, but I know pretty and I know ugly, and now, thanks to Tyra, I know that when pretty pretty is ugly ugly, too. So you’re in good hands.)

But for an episode that was so ripe with excitement, its conclusion was, well, pretty darn boringlicious. True, all four flower-inspired gowns were lacking in their own ways — one in the top two even featured the ever-dreaded poop train — but Heidi & Co.’s choice to defer the decision until the designers began making their Bryant Park collection was weak and not all that surprising, considering they did the same thing last season. Plus, we all know when our angular German host told the designers that this was the “closest runway show we’ve ever had to judge,” it was really code for “Kenley provides way too much good drama to be sent home.” Because, in the end, the girl certainly deserved to get sent packing.

We’ll get to the fashion later. First, let’s address what I like to call Kenley Smackdown Part Deux. Not only did Heidi scold Kenley for her snide response to the host’s criticism that her gown didn’t look elegant — “I wasn’t going for elegance, Heidi” — but Jerell, Korto, and Leanne all threw the designer under the bus when Heidi asked which contestant they thought deserved to go home. With the way the smackdown was progressing, I nearly expected Tim to come running in to bash a chair over Kenley’s head. And though Jerell, Korto, and Leanne all seem to despise the designer equally, I’m pretty sure that no one hates Kenley more than Runway‘s producers. Case in point, this quote from Kenley about her upbringing, where she spent a lot of time at sea as the daughter of a tugboat captain: “I can be as loud and obnoxious as I want. I think it probably had an impact on who I am today.” Now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that those two sentences were spliced together. And while every other contestant got happy, “I’m looking for a pretty flower!” music at the Botanical Gardens — the setting for the start of this week’s challenge — the producers supplied Kenley’s search with some sort of ominous tune, as if she were preparing to pick every last flower from the earth and scream, “You need to die and go in my hair along with a silly little hat!” Despite how grating her voice is and how annoying her attitude is, you have to feel a bit sorry for Kenley for the bum producer treatment. After all, she’s just a girl who’s still high off of the self-esteem pills her parents fed her.

NEXT: Wilting flowers

Not that I’m defending Kenley. As Korto said, “When you have an ugly attitude, it just makes you ugly. And then it makes everything you make ugly.” And that includes Kenley’s gown this week: Though she tried to re-create the textured flowers she photographed at the Botanical Gardens, the whole garment ended up looking a little too Ariel-does-the-paso-doble. Of course, Kenley, being Kenley, refused to acknowledge its flaws, instead fawning over how it looked like a fish, reptile, or basically anything but a flower. Seriously, you could tell her that any dress she’s ever made looked like a dead rat — from the ’50s — wrapped in fecal matter, and she’d say, “I know, right? I love it!” But she did have her fair share of troubles while constructing the garment. Seems Kenley forgot her tulle at Mood, and even bribery wouldn’t persuade the other designers to lend a bit of their extra tulle (now that’ssabotage, Kenley). But Tim, ever the mensch, allowed her to go back to Mood to pick it up. Poor Kenley. Even her tulle didn’t like her enough to stick by her side.

Korto, surprisingly, also had trouble during the challenge with her dress, which she modeled after a flamenco flower. For a designer that was able to create something beautiful and runway-worthy out of seatbelts, of all things, it was strange to see Korto suffer so much from poor fabric choice. Though her gown did have a gorgeous silhouette, her choice of beaded material and off-putting shiny orange fabric just did not add up to elegance. Rather, it looked like something out of a Jessica McClintock catalog for juniors. Or as Tim said, like something “Catherine the Great” would wear. (If only a horse were on the judging panel…) Heidi & Co. deemed the dress too pageant-y, but thankfully chose to keep the designer around so she could show what she could do at fashion week.

Jerell managed to come out on top last night with his bejeweled strapless frock, which won him cheers from the judges for his creativity, and a few jeers for poor construction. But that didn’t keep this season’s dark horse from winning, proving he’s a force that could break up the anticipated all-female final three. And since Jerell is now the sole man left in the competition — which might be why he created a gown modeled after a vagina, scratch that, a rose — the poor guy’s so lonely, he’s taken to talking to some ousted “contestants” made out of an apple, an orange, a bobblehead, and a container of maple syrup. (Yet, somehow I’d bet they still provide better company than Kenley.)

I am a little surprised, however, that Leanne didn’t take home the victory with her gown inspired by lavender. Her dress’ pleating was near impeccable, and original at the same time. Of course, Kenley wasn’t impressed, saying that all of Leanne’s designs have been “done before.” (Um, Kenley, meet the 1950s.) Regardless of its successes, though, Leanne’s gown did have its fair share of problems. Had Leanne’s inspiration been a mullet, she would have definitely nabbed the win — that dress was all business in the front, and way too much party in the back. But the fact that she survived an auf’ing, poop train and all, shows how intricate and gorgeous the rest of the garment was.

Though Jerell and Leanne were able to design garments that were somewhat promising, this second-to-last runway challenge was really a testament to how disappointing this season has been in terms of creativity and ability. Yes, it’s difficult to design a gown in the course of two days, but need we remind them that during season 2, the contestants built garments out of friggin’ plants? Now that’s a challenge.

BONUS CLIP from today’s PopWatch Blog: Nina was so blown away by Kenley’s apology, she had to write it down. Press play, below.

[Sorry, video no longer available]

Until next week, dear TV Watchers. What did you think of last night’s episode? Who bloomed, and who wilted beyond recognition? Do you think Kenley should have gone home, or does every season need a Wendy Pepper? And who do you hope makes the final three?

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Project Runway

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

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