Baubles and bling help inspire the designers in a couture challenge.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

The sun is out; bees are pollinating flowers; designers are discussing their feelings; and Tim Gunn is waking up somewhere in Manhattan with a guilty conscience.

He holds it together as he introduces this week’s guest judge, Caroline Scheufele, creative director for Chopard. The luxury jewelry brand is this week’s sponsor/inspiration—quite the step up from Red Robin with burgers and bottomless fries. Tim continues to keep it together as he explains the challenge: Each designer must design an extravagant eveningwear look based on the jewel that they choose.

(Tangent: Yes, this is likely a money-saving production issue, but how are designers supposed to “pull out all the stops” when they have only 24 hours to complete a look? There’s a reason people say Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s because something that is thoughtful, beautiful, and extravagant takes time. Anyway, moving on.)

All the designers pick their gems of choice, and Tim keeps his cool, but the crack in the mentor’s otherwise steely demeanor starts to show as the designer’s leave the runway. Although this is “reality” television, Tim Gunn isn’t one to play up for the cameras—that forlorn look seemed real.

As the designers begin their sketches in the workroom, a now full-on distraught Tim sneaks in and enacts The Tim Gunn Save™ to the delight of the room. With a catch in his voice, he says: “When I presented the challenge to the designers, I realized that there was a big void among them—and that void is you.” Runway fans, if the sight of Tim getting choked up didn’t choke YOU up, we need to talk. But after everyone had dried their eyes and cheered, the truth set in. For the designers it was the “Wait, my one chance of redemption is gone” moment. For the audience it was the, “Wait, what exactly did Tim see in Char that warranted saving?” moment. She’s a great lady, but her designs were never in the top… or memorable. I guess you just can’t keep Detroit down.

But dry up those tears Char—it’s time to select your incredibly expensive jewelry. The pressure is on for her to prove that she’s worthy of the save.

NEXT: The first couturier, which is a word, inspires the designers

The designers are given yet another surprise: They will finish their designs at the “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” exhibit at the MET. This is yet another example of poor timing—the exhibit is amazing (and full of dresses that imaginably took way longer than 24 hours to make), but it closed on Aug. 10, so don’t get any ideas about visiting it.

The bumps in the design road start early as Samantha and Sean pick the same fabric at Mood. This is a rookie mistake for Samantha. Sean has immunity, so if the judges don’t like that the fabrics are too similar, she will be the one going home.

And here is the part where we take a minute to praise whomever’s job it is to add subtitles. Because they added subtitles for Swatch. That’s right—Swatch helped Tim signal the five-minute warning at Mood. It’s so ridiculous that it’s great.

Back in the workroom, a few things stand out: Alexander is doing a gown in crinkle taffeta, which just sounds like a disaster. Amanda is revisiting the sheer fabric, which didn’t work out well for her the first time. Samantha announces that this is her first gown ever. And Kini has problems with his bust cups.

As Tim walks around for his critique, he doesn’t hold any punches. He even admits he wants it to be a “good truth-telling session.” He warns Samantha that her look is “just a pretty dress,” especially next to Sean’s stunner. He also gives very specific notes, telling Korina her seams are off by an inch and that Amanda’s lines are wrong; I’m sure he often gives detailed critiques, but it’s nice to see on camera. This man is a former Parsons chair of design, not just a reality star who runs around saying “Make it work.” It’s good to have a reminder of that.

Some take his critiques to heart more than others, but miraculously they all make it to the runway on time. Once there, a security team assembles the jewels on the models and apparently tells them to look as if they have broken fingers and wrists to display them.

Heidi must have had a change of heart because she compliments all of the designers on such great work. Fade, Emily, Char, and Sandhya are all safe. Great news for Char that she’s still safe, but it would have been a much better redemption story if she had come out on top.

It’s a little unclear whether Kini is in the top or the bottom because the judges like the look, but don’t love it. Heidi wants the skirt shorter (of course) and they all—including Kini—agree those bust cups are messy. Kini is such a strong sewer that it seems like too dumb of a mistake for him to buy neoprene for a structured fit, but he made it to the top anyway.

“Amanda, do you think you are in the top or in the bottom?” says Heidi. “I think I’m in the top,” says Amanda. Everyone in America laughs at how delusional she is during the world’s longest pause… “I think she looks great.” Wait, WHAT? The judges have to be punking us at this point. Nina agrees, saying that this look would be an Instagram and editorial “sensation.” But finally, finally Zac is the voice of reason; he says it would be on the worst-dressed list. At least someone in that judges’ panel has some sense. But his opinion doesn’t count for too much because she’s still on top.

NEXT: It’s lonely at the bottom

Say what you will about Korina’s attitude, but this coat is flawless. She had a vision and executed it perfectly. The judges place her in the top and can’t stop raving about it—and rightly so.

Now this is a designer who is delusional. His look is mind-bogglingly bad, and worst of all, it doesn’t even showcase the gem. When your look walks down the runway with pins in it, you shouldn’t be proud. It’s a bottom look if ever there were one.

Just as the judges said, there’s not much to say here. It’s a pretty dress, but that’s all it is. Granted, for a first dress, it isn’t bad, but she can’t be surprised when she comes to Project Runway and is expected to have these skills. She joins Alexander in the bottom.

The best part about this episode is when Sean says “I had this inkling to experiment with womenswear.” Lest you forget, Sean is a MENSWEAR designer, but he’s been knocking it out of the park with his dresses. It remains to be seen whether he will win this thing, but at least the show has helped him find his true range. Obviously, he’s in the top.

The winners and losers of this challenge were decided based on risks. Sean, who did a “basic” gown, vs. Korina, who risked a coat. And Samantha, who played it safe, vs. Alexander, who went for it but overdesigned the hell out of it. And if history has taught us nothing, it’s that these judges love a risk taker.

Winner: Korina (who also gets the last immunity)

Out: Samantha

Best line: “What’s the possibility of the judges asking if this came out of a lava flow?”—Tim

Follow me on Twitter: @realdalener

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