In search of inspiration, the designers take a tourist bus around New York, then they base their looks on neon, tree planters, and old magazines

Well, finally! After three weeks of buildup, at long last we got to witness season 5’s best moment yet: Tim Gunn being schooled in the vernacular of today’s young ‘uns. ”Holler at your boy?” he asked incredulously after Blayne first threw the phrase at him. Tim then repeated it, placing, as they say, the em-pha-sis on the wrong syll-a-ble. Finally, after Terri chimed in and parsed it all out for him, our guy triumphed, hilariously exclaiming, ”Holla!” in the middle of the workroom, then exiting with a perfect ”Holla atcha boy!” I ask you, TV Watchers: What would we do without our Gunn power?

The other cause for celebration on last night’sProject Runway was that the episode was 100 percent -licious free. (Update: Make that 99 percent. As many of you readers were kind enough to point out to me on the message boards, Sir Tanorexic greeted Gunn with a ”Tim-licious” last night. Chalk up my error to wishful thinking. To borrow a phrase from Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls: Stop trying to make –licious happen!) Of course, Blayne still made sure he got at least of few minutes of ”I’m whacky!” screen time, courtesy of his gratuitous bug-eyed stares at Kenley, followed by his growling, ”I’m going to eat you.” And I swear the show’s editors simply reused footage from last week in which Mr. Blue Mohawk announced, ”Suede is gonna rock it!” while making those bang! bang! hand gestures, which rank right up there with playing air drums in the annals of lame-itude. And so, Suede, a word, if she may: Missy did not think this shtick was funny or endearing the first time, and she suggests Suede quit it before he really ticks her off.

This week’s challenge kicked off with a soggy evening trip through New York on a blue double-decker tourist bus. The mega-vehicle dropped off groups of designers at various points around the city, where they were to snap photos for inspiration. Like a magpie in the presence of the Tooth Fairy’s coin stash, Blayne predictably went nuts for the neon lights of Times Square, while Stella was befuddled by photographic technology. ”How do you zoom?” she croaked to no one in particular. Fellow Times Square scavenger Keith kept busy by throwing around some cutthroat competitive ‘tude and stealing a page from the Richard Hatch book of reality-show bravado: ”I’m not here to become their friend,” he said, in reference to Kenley and Stella. (Original!) Meanwhile, the New York Public Library got kinda dissed. While the groups in Times Square, Columbus Circle, and Greenwich Village all got plenty of screen time, the work of the three designers sent to NYC’s bastion of books — Korto, Kelli, and Joe — got close to zilch. I smell discrimination against bibliophiles!

The next day, the designers headed off to Mood and did the usual scramble. While everyone else scattered into different corners of the store, Stella had barely set foot into the place before she proved that the intricacies of digital cameras aren’t her only weakness. ”Who’s helping me?” she cried. Stella, I don’t know if the editors just have it in for you or you really are that clueless, but don’t stop what you’re doing. It’s hilarious. And while I have no idea what the hell ”a gay little grommet is,” the way you hammered it onto your beloved leath-ah is comedy enough for me. (Your outfit, on the other hand — ouf! Enjoy the proliferation of weaker acts while you can, lady. ‘Cause the tacky Whiskey a Go-Go garb is gonna start smelling like a stale case of Coors Light mighty fast.)

Back in the workroom, things started to get catty. Joe, who’s been getting short shrift until now, opened the can of behind-your-back bitchiness when he guessed that Kenley’s design would yield a ”Fort Lauderdale-lawn-cushiony kind of thing.” In other corners of the Runway boxing ring, Daniel called Jennifer’s silky clock-frock thingamabob ”matronly,” Stella ventured that no one would ever want to wear Keith’s blousy shredded-paper shift, and Kenley dissed Emily’s ruffle-stiltskin concoction as ”cliché.”

NEXT: Nina is speechless

She wasn’t alone. Making his way around the room, Tim stopped at Emily’s station wearing a classic look of thinly veiled horror. From the moment Emily proudly revealed that she was designing a tight black dress with lots and lots o’ ruffles, it was clear she was sinking fast. Tim’s assessment that it was just a black dress with ”a great big corsage” was a kind one. While not necessarily poorly constructed, the thing screamed drunk reveler who had stayed too long at the party and wrapped herself up in the streamers. But that, too, seems a gentle evaluation compared with guest judge Sandra ”New York Nightlife Aficionado” Bernhard’s pained sigh and Nina’s deadly ”I have no comment.” When do you know you’re getting the boot? When Nina does not even have the words to tear you down. Bye-bye, Emily. (Read our interview with her.)

My only question, though, is how Blayne survived a grilling with his own garment, which was the loud, hyperactive cousin to Emily’s trashy cha-cha number. Did he actually sew those swaths of Rainbow Bright fabric on the dress, or did he just ball ’em up and bust out the glue gun?

Meanwhile, poor, sweet Jennifer survived the auf’ing by the skin of her teeth. Her navy blue dress was neither chic nor particularly well made, and it certainly wasn’t surrealist. How one can claim to be a surrealist and then openly admit to going for a literal interpretation of a Columbus Circle clock is beyond me. I’m beginning to suspect that her description of her style as ”Holly Golightly at a Salvadore Dalí exhibit” has more to do with how cool those words sounded to her as she sat on her bed one night than with an actual creative vision that calls to mind Breakfast at Tiffany’s and melting timepieces. Still, I felt for Jennifer, since she knew as soon as her model walked down the runway that her design was not as ”fun and young” as she’d hoped.

For all his confidence early on, Keith also found himself in the bottom three with his so-called abstract-art-inspired creation, which did indeed look, as Kors so succinctly put it, ”like toilet paper caught in a windstorm.” Sure, the Salt Lake City guy drew a bad card when his model hit the road and he had to make do with a new strutter, but he was already stitching up the ugly long before he had to contend with a different set of measurements.

And now to the ensembles that did not test our gag reflexes. Terri finally got some screen time thanks to her graffiti-like number, which Bernhard praised for being the equivalent of sartorial Mace when you find yourself walking down a dark alley at night. Self-defense as a criterion for judging fashion? Who knew?

After feeling the flames of elimination licking her toes last week, Leanne — a.k.a. the one who looks like she undergoes a makeover every time she steps into the confessional — came back in top form last night with a chic blouse and skirt, the latter made of op-arty pieces of circular fabric. It was the definition of innovative, especially considering that she got the idea from a planter grate wrapped around the base of a tree.

Yet it was Kenley who walked off with the big win. Tim had fretted that the gal with a penchant for ”modern-day calendar girls” was teetering into the deadly zone of costume-y, but in the end, her vibrant pouf of a minidress turned out to be the judges’ favorite. (Well, maybe not Bernhard’s. She did not look convinced, I must say.) To Kors, it evoked 1980s ”Joan Collins power bitch.” And apparently, that’s a good thing.

What did you think? Did you enjoy watching Jerell beautify himself with a before-bedtime mask? Do you think that Daniel’s comment that he and Wesley were ”connecting well” is a hint that they’re this season’s lovebirds? And do you agree with the Bravo poll that ”Holla atcha boy” should never replace ”Make it work”?

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

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

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