Challenged to create a look out of car parts, most of the designers get up to speed, but Keith has an emotional breakdown

Doubting the age-old wisdom about the importance of remaining true to your self? Look no further than last night’s episode of Project Runway — specifically, what happened to Keith. From the top of the hour, Keith seemed ill at ease and defensive. He kept going on about (a) how he was shocked/ticked off that he’d landed in the bottom two last week; (b) that he was going to show the judges he could whip up a tailored, tasteful outfit as well as anyone; and eventually (c) that he felt he deserved to win more than his competitors. Ooooohhhh. With that much Keith drama packed into the first half of the episode alone, I had a hunch his story arc was gonna end badly. And badly it did end. The boy from Salt Lake City got the boot and then tearfully confessed how terrible it felt to get kicked off for a design that didn’t come from his heart.

So this week, Heidi dispatched the team to the rooftop of 142 West 31st St. Blayne, displaying his usual stunted imagination, guessed that perhaps they were designing for a superstar so huge they had to meet him or her in a secret location. Um…yeah, if that had been the case, Blayne, I doubt the rendezvous point would have been in a parking garage in the industrial ‘hood just south of Macy’s.

To be fair, though, even Korto wondered if they were going to meet ”Mariah” (as in Carey). But the gang’s high hopes for glitz and glamour plummeted when they arrived at the roof of the parking garage to see not Cher, Madonna, or, jeez, even Debbie frickin’ Gibson, but a row of stinkin’ Saturns. (Hi, product placement! We wondered when you’d be joining us this season!) Tim was there, accompanied by the car manufacturer’s ”lead color designer,” which is, I must say, a job I never imagined I’d ever imagine ever hearing of. Huh? Oh, I don’t know. It’s late. Humor me. And while you’re at it, tell me this: Was it me, or did said ”lead color designer” kind of look like Stanford from Sex and the City?

Anyway, I kind of dug this challenge. I like the counter-intuitive ones that rely on unconventional materials, even if they do come from — eh-hem! — a corporate sponsor. (Don’t forget to borrow ”very thoughtfully” from the accessories wall, friends!) The designers had four minutes to tear through the recyclable car parts inside each vehicle, piling their loot in granny carts. Even at this early stage, it was clear that seat belts were a hot commodity. If, as Tim Gunn told the designers, the car challenge was similar to the grocery-store one in terms of innovation, then seat belts were the new tablecloths/shower curtains. Six out of 10 designers used ’em.

NEXT: Leather and suede

The designers had barely started smashing and ripping up their supplies in the workroom when Tim told Kenley that her model had to drop out of the competition. She had a mini-breakdown as a result, fretting that a different set of measurements was bound to doom her garment. Of course, it all ended up perfectly fine. Kenley’s frock, made partly from Sharpie-doodled air filters, was deemed worthy of advancing to the next round, despite her new model’s affected zombie walk. Some of you, no doubt, were disappointed that Kenley’s meltdown didn’t lead to her demise. I have to say I don’t fully understand all the hatin’ on Kenley. So please enlighten me. (I do admit that her calling Daniel her ”best friend” seemed a little off after she made fun of his constantly crowing about his ”high-end taste.”)

While Suede told a story about his dead father (interestingly, earlier in the season, he spoke of his dead grandfather) and nattered on about wackadoodle this and wackadoodle that (snore), Stella proceeded at a snail’s pace. First she refused to haul ass on the rooftop to collect supplies. ”I’m not movin’,” she said. Great strategy! Then, back at Parsons, she seemed at a loss for inspiration, sure only that she wanted to do something different. ”Everybody expected me to do these leathah pants out of a trash material,” she noted. Well, jeez, Stella. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever think that! While certainly a step away from the hard-ass biker-babe gear she’s done every chance she’s had so far, her ensemble ended up being thisclose from the firing squad. A laced-up vest thingie fit for a Hell’s Angel, paired with a (shoddily constructed) high-waisted pencil skirt worthy of Carrie Bradshaw? That’s some effed up bipolar fashion, right there. (By the way, Lady Leathah: It’s muslin, not muslim.)

If Stella laid off the toughie duds, Terri happily picked up the slack. After she failed to get top marks last week, I was hoping she’d come back with an unstoppable design that blew all the others away. Uh-uh. Though I wasn’t a fan of Terri’s Mad Max-ish pants-and halter-top number, I give her points for expert construction, being the only one to opt for pants, and capturing the dirt ‘n’ diesel spirit of this automotive madness challenge. Ditto (that last part) Joe, whose motocross-mama garb likely would have ushered him into the next round, even without immunity.

Jerell improved leaps and bounds over last week, sending down the runway a (dare I say it) fierce (I’m sorry — but sometimes the word is justified!) skirt and bustier top that left (icky) guest judge Rachel Zoe slack-jawed. Still, the fit of the bustier was slightly off, creating that smooshed-chest effect that happens to often on this show.

NEXT: Some really scary duds

Earlier in the episode, Terri had laughed herself into a rolling heap on the floor at the thought of Korto’s mod-ish seatbelt coat, and said, ”Right now, it’s looking like Jeepers Creepers. And everybody better run for cover when this thing comes attacking you.” That, in turn, prompted Jerell to remark that Terri had ”two faces and four patterns. Don’t trust the bitch.” Fightin’ words, Jerell! I’d watch your back if I were you.

However rigid the coat looked on the dress form, Korto once again nailed it for the runway show, dressing her model in what looked like pop-art couture straight out of swinging London. It was a mighty opponent for Leanne’s black minidress. But ultimately that risqué little number took the lead, with Zoe proclaiming, ”I. Am. Blown away.” (Oh, if only!) I had my doubts that stuffing muslin around the model’s hips would end well, but I guess when youhave no hips to speak of, a little extra padding can’t hurt. I can’t think of an occasion in this lifetime or the next that would persuade me to don that (let’s admit it, slightly slutty) dress. But that’s nothing new, I suppose. So I’ll give it to Leanne; she pulled it off.

As for those who pulled off nothing but dumping more crap into the world, let’s start with Blayne, who had every right to find himself in the loser’s circle again. Like Keith, he had something to prove to the judges, namely that he didn’t totally suck in every possible way. From top to bottom, his design was hein. The ill-fitting bust made the model look like she had an extra set of jiggly side boobs. And that skirt! ”I was never a carwash-skirt fan,” said Kors. Agreed, Mr. Perma Tan, agreed. Send that thing back to Jiffy Lube. (By the way, I never knew a broken mirror brought on back luck as specific as ”seven years of no sex,” as Heidi warned. Perhaps it’s a German thing?)

Yet much as I would have rejoiced in seeing the little squirt get what’s coming to him, the judges made the right choice in sending Keith home. In addition to displaying what did seem like a case of nasty ‘tude, he also chewed out his model for accidentally tearing his skirt after she (gasp!) sat down when the makeup artists told her to. ”I’ve given a small task to a model,” he said, ”and I would hope that she could follow direction.” Sorry, Keith, but what’s so difficult about creating a skirt that’s actually wearable and doesn’t rip apart under the laughable force of a size 0? Season 3’s queen bee, Laura Bennett (filling in for Nina), argued that the design had ”no concept,” which got Keith muttering about his supposedly high-concept creations from last week. And it didn’t end there. Soon he was blaming his model again and complaining about the judges’ comments about his drag-queen getup. To me, it all added up to the unprofessional objections of a whiny baby. ”There’s criticism and there’s insult,” he said. Yes, Keith. There’s also humility and understanding that fashion is a very public, often vicious, industry that will flay you regularly, no matter who you are. So, to paraphrase Terri, man the hell up! (I’m not totally heartless. I was sad for him when he cried.)

Okay, time for me to quit ranting and turn it over to you. So tell me, Runway fans, what did you make of this car-part craziness? Were you hoping for wittier zingers from the judges, especially from Laura Bennett? Is Blayne facing seven years of no nookie? Was I the only one who thought she saw Stella’s bare ass in that picture of her and her boyfriend, ”Ratbones”? And are you looking forward to the gang meeting the divine Diane Von Furstenberg next week?

Read our exit Q&A with auf-ed Project Runway designer Keith Bryce

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