The designers hit Coney Island in pairs (oh no!) for another unconventional materials challenge

By Jacqueline Andriakos
Updated August 02, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT
Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Our remaining 14 designers are not having nightmares of Heidi Klum in their hotel rooms at 5:30 a.m. It’s a cold, dark reality, and she’s equipped with an order for them all to venture to Coney Island. Sleepy-eyed and chilly, the designers meet Tim on the boardwalk for a deliciously bizarre challenge number three.

Product placement, sponsorship dollars, who knows, but Yoplait has managed to finagle its way onto the runway, with a challenge inspired by the company’s new frozen yogurt. Yoplait carts are lined up on the boardwalk, and designers must dish out samples to passersby and ask what sensory words come to mind after taste-testing the flavors. After they complete the awkward makeshift focus group task, each designer must choose three of the yogurt-describing words to use as inspiration for their design.


The fun is not over yet. Tim, how many carts did you say are lined up? Seven? Fourteen divided by seven is two? So two designers per cart? Yes, ladies and gents, it’s our first team challenge. Miranda dreads the possibility of being paired up with her Milwaukee nemesis Timothy, and Kate would rather just continue doin’ Kate.

And the pairs are…

Alexander and Justin: This seems like a functional arrangement. The two have not succumbed themselves to the sewing room drama, and if Alexander ends up wearing those occasional sassy pants to Parsons, Justin’s hearing aid does have an off switch.

Kate and Helen: After an awkward, giggly gal pal hug, the frenemies bounced arm-in-arm down the boardwalk to a yogurt cart. We get to see the flashback to Helen cursing Kate’s name in episode one, as the plane lands to reveal the season’s returning designer. But now Helen insists that being partners with Kate will actually work to her advantage. Well, obviously—Kate just snagged a challenge win and has coasted along at the head of the pack, while Helen merely sobbed her way to safety.

Jeremy and Ken: Seems like a safe partnership.

Sandro and Sue: Busting out in cheers and dance moves, Sandro is pleased to be working with “Can’t Sew” Sue. She is reluctantly delighted to be paired with the Russian hoot as well.

Bradon and Karen: “Hey, hey!”

Dom and Alexandria: Alexandria may often wear a venomous resting b—- face, but she doesn’t seem disappointed in her team assignment.

Miranda and Timothy: It wouldn’t be a partner challenge without the notoriously doomed pairing that shocks the judges by coming out on top. Too optimistic? Timothy is looking on the bright side and hopes that the challenge will help their relationship, while Miranda simply wants to make the best of her not-so-ideal situation. Timothy better hope their look prevails, because Nina Garcia isn’t much of a believer in, “strike three, you’re in!”

NEXT: Creamy, fluffy, luxurious, divine…

That must be some good frozen yogurt. Sue is intrigued by a woman’s use of the term “fluffy,” which frightens me with flash forwards to heaps of organza or tulle. Other words buzzing amongst the crowd range from refreshing, to delightful, to happy, to arousing. Like I said, that must be some good frozen yogurt.

Dom is hung up on the word “playful,” and imagines a fun and energetic garment for her team. Karen hears a man utter the phrase “raspberry town” and quickly writes it down. But it’s probably in her and Bradon’s best interest to keep their garment far away from any aesthetic destination called “raspberry town.”

Just as we finish rolling our eyes and accept the hour of Yoplait-meets-Project Runway, we’re slapped with conventional challenge number two. “There is no trip to Mood,” Tim announces. Instead, $100 on their GoBank debit cards gives them unlimited access to everything inside the Luna Park amusement park for 30 minutes. Here’s the twist: The prizes that designers win by playing carnival games will double as their design materials for this challenge. Coney Island: 1, designers: 0.

Sandro and Sue stock up on blue inflatable alien men, Kate and Helen test their fishing abilities to rack up all of the red sombreros they can score, and Jeremy has his eye on some giant stuffed ice cream cones. Timothy and Miranda share a white flag moment of truce, with Miranda admitting that despite her stress and attitude towards him, Timothy is the only person she wants to work with on this challenge. Their differences have been pushed aside, and it’s all rainbows and unicorns for the duo, literally. Timothy spends the last few Luna Park minutes shrieking and galloping around on their new team mascot, a stuffed unicorn that Miranda won. After the half hour of Whac-A-Mole and various squirt gun games, it’s back to Parsons.

Planning to use kites as boning and sombreros to create the silhouette, Kate and Helen sketch what looks like a corseted Mexican hat dancer-inspired dress. Alexandria suggests that Dom’s skirt design can be constructed from a stuffed alien resembling Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., and Sandro is afraid that Sue’s ideas are looking too much like a drag queen costume. Yes, you read that correctly.

The on-screen captions that list the team’s materials are equally as entertaining as the camera pans displaying work tables piled with stuffed pencils and blow up dolphins—Miranda and Timothy: Yellow vinyl balls & a vinyl whale. The skeleton twins decide to make a blue dress with a pop of the yellow woven textile pattern that Timothy assures is not as complicated as it looks.

BREAKING: Sue still can’t thread the sewing machine. Tensions begin to run high between Sue and Sandro. His disrespectful remarks and her amateur skills have made both team members realize they jumped for joy too soon at their pairing.

Past the sea of stuffed animal roadkill, Helen and Kate appear to be all smiles at their work station. “I almost feel ashamed for ever having said she was a b—-, because her and I have a lot in common,” Helen says. “And hopefully I can learn from her.”

Justin and Alexander’s colorblocked bra top looks like a potential cute dress in the making. Sandro and Bradon are busy whispering about fluffiness and sex, and Alexandria thinks Timothy and his overly ambitious designs should go back to school. She asks Timothy if they plan to cut up the unicorn. Alexandria, how dare you even ask him such a morbid question.

“Can your model ride the unicorn down the runway?” Alexandria asks. We beg you to stop putting ideas in his head.

Attention Runway fans, Timothy has an announcement that he would like on the record: “Unicorns are not horses with horns. Unicorns are actually cloven-hoofed. They are more closely related to a hippopotamus than a horse. None of this sparkly, glitter, horse with a horn BS. It’s none of that.”

NEXT: There’s no “Miranda” in “team.”

The work room is all fun and games until Miranda discovers an entirely new sketch sitting on the tablet at their work station. In the place of what used to be a blue and yellow dress is a blue and yellow shirt and pants ensemble that Timothy took the liberty of sketching on his own. The new sketch looks simple, maybe even boring, but it could be more salvageable than the monster mash of a dress, inspired by Japanese street culture, that Dom and Alexandria are creating nearby. The top features two eyeballs, while the skirt depicts a cartoon, monster-like mouth. Tim, who has now popped in for consultations, seems to understand the concept, and occasionally outrageous ideas like this strike a soft spot in the judges’ hearts.

Sandro and Sue’s mannequin is dressed in a well-fitted blue bodice, but it is evident that it’s their partnership that is falling apart at the seams. Sandro makes no effort to tuck away his unprofessional digs at Sue’s designs during their consultation with Tim, despite Sue’s attempt to lighten the mood with a joke: “We get along when we’re not working together fantastically!” Her original sketch with the dramatic neck piece is “futuristic Gaga sh–” according to Sandro, but Tim encourages them to continue working on the original plan and to remember that they stand on the runway as a team.

S-squared isn’t the only couple having relationship issues. After a negative critique from Tim describing Miranda and Timothy’s light blue dress as Disney and hospital gown-like, Miranda wipes away tears and starts to take out the four-hours-left stress on her partner. Timothy just wants her to trust him, but after two very unsuccessful challenges for the naive designer, that’s easier said than done for Miranda.

Meanwhile, Helen and Kate’s “galmance” has blossomed, with Kate even describing it as how she would imagine sorority life. Previously cocky Helen has not only gently been put in her place, but she even attempts to knock some sense into mean Miranda, who is running her mouth in the sewing room right in front of Timothy’s fragile little self. Sandro giggles along with Miranda’s cold comments, and Helen politely suggests to the two that no one should be instigating this type of behavior.

Seeing Timothy get teary eyed is frustratingly heartbreaking. He certainly has his incompetences, but aside from ratings, there is no need for Miranda to outwardly act like such a snake. Timothy disappears to take a much needed breather, and Miranda doesn’t seem to care. Off in a dark corner of a stairway is Timothy curled up, sniffling beside his unicorn pal, reading a kind and encouraging letter that his model Sophie wrote him after the previous challenge. He’s right, no designer has ever received a letter from a model before.

Timothy and Sue are two victims of an emotional teeter totter. As one reaches a momentary ceasefire at his or her worktable, the other is knocked back down, taking some sort of psychological beating from Sandro or Miranda. The reassuring note from Sophie gives Timothy the little confidence boost that he needs to suck up the remaining hours until the runway, and he heads back to his work station. Sue, on the other hand, just walked her own plank by telling Sandro that she is going to be his assistant, and he can be the boss.

After a good night’s sleep and a fresh start in the morning, Miranda realizes her sewing room charade was exactly the kind of behavior that gets you labeled as the most hated Project Runway contestant. At least we already expected that from Sandro. Claiming she regrets her outburst and ultimately loves the look they created, she wipes away a few more tears, apologizes to Timothy, and finishes the last hour in silence.

NEXT: “Did they make that dress out of sombrero hats? F&%king brilliant!”

Harajuku pigtails, hot pink eye liner, and shimmery blue shadow—hair and make up is only a glimpse at the juicy, playful, arousing, energetic, fluffy runway we are about to see. Miranda and Timothy watch Sophie walk and high five, both pleased with how the ensemble came together. Sue stands back and lets Sandro make last minute adjustments, while Kate and Helen squeal in delight at their red cocktail dress.

Heidi takes the runway to reiterate the challenge and introduce the judges. Kelly Osbourne, still rocking the lavender bun, is on the panel as the guest judge. Beside her sits Tim, who does not judge the looks, but still has his one-time Tim Gunn rescue option if he disagrees with the elimination. Is anyone else pleased with Heidi’s style this season? Wearing a printed black blouse with black pants, heels, a gold necklace, and simple, straightened hair, Ms. Klum is looking effortlessly laid back and lovely.

In all honesty, few looks blew me away on tonight’s runway. Karen and Bradon, Ken and Jeremy, and Sandro and Sue have safe scores and can exit the runway. Sandro claims that Sue’s surrender was the best decision for their team. Sandro’s most regrettable quote of the night: “When woman listen to man, it’s so cool.”


Alexandria and Dom

Their monster sweatshirt and stuffed animal frog mini skirt won the judges’ hearts. I understand the appreciation for their one-of-a-kind concept and aesthetic eye for humor and adolescence, but only Kelly and Heidi’s obsessions with the garment seemed genuine. Nina frequently critiques looks based on wearability and practicality, and it is arguable that this look borders on costume. The silly sweatshirt is anything but similar to Zac’s design taste. With a challenge like this, however, designers can either turn garbage into couture or embrace the fun and kitsch side of unconventional challenges. Dom and Alexandria succeeded in the latter. Congrats to the duo, and hopefully Alexandria will continue wearing that elusive smile.

Kate and Helen

This cocktail dress instantly demonstrates their construction skills and ability to find sophistication in silly unconventional materials. The sombrero-based dress is perfectly fitted, and could be an enviable red carpet look for any celebrity, according to Kelly. This Zenon-meets-Noureddine Amir dress was a showstopper, and an unsurprising challenge winner. Helen takes home this runway victory.


Alexander and Justin

The sherbet-colored plastic is unflattering and overworked, with what looks like a stretched piece of bubblegum holding the bustier together. Zac questions the seaweed-resembling pieces littered across the hem of the skirt, and the distracting peplum bodice at the torso. Heidi makes a constructive suggestion: When you think you’ve over-designed, take a step back, squint, and see where it looks like you’ve done too much. This rave mermaid frock has definitely gone overboard. But with a simple removal of the bizarre vest, the look is instantly more pleasing to the eye. Edits, people, edits!

Miranda and Timothy

The woven yellow vest is simply a wrong match for the blue dress, a Tim Gunn metaphor for the way Miranda and Timothy clashed with each other. Heidi calls it boring, Nina says it looks like a biohazard sign, and Kelly thinks it would look much better in black and white. Here is where it gets awkward: Miranda admits to her sewing room outburst, but hints at the fact that Timothy was their downfall. Timothy’s rebuttal has something to do with the Titanic not having lifeboats, and his need to give their outfit lifeboats, and his lack of a strong designer partner, and her inability to trust him, and abandonment issues in their partnership, and a quick, “Thank you for my time being here.” (Don’t worry, the judges couldn’t really follow his monologue either).

And it’s strike three for Timothy. He receives heartfelt goodbyes from Heidi and Tim, and even a round of applause from his fellow designers. After a cordial hug from Miranda, Timothy heads to clean up his space and collect his stuffed animal buddy. His biggest regret? He wished he danced more on the show.

“I totally still believe in unicorns. Oh my gosh, I won’t stop believing in unicorns, ever.”

Was it bittersweet seeing Timothy go? Is anyone else team Bradon? What about the stuffed animals massacred in the making of this episode?