Avant-garde looks from the designers walk down a special water-filled runway.

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Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

If you watch Project Runway, you have to be okay with in-your-face sponsorships. From the original Banana Republic accessory wall (“use it very thoughtfully”) to the Red Robin prize this year, sponsors are mostly an annoyance for the audience that we try to not think about too often. That being said: Samsung, we will never be able to thank you enough. You gave us the rainway.

It needs no explanation, but let’s have Char explain anyway: “A rainway is a runway with rain… duh.” Apparently, there is some connection to a curved TV, but no one cares about that. We do care about rain. on. a. runway. To add to the rainway experience, the designers are given $300 and two days—yes, you read that right—to create an avant-garde look.

The avant-garde challenges always allow the designers to throw wearability out the window and let their creative flags fly. And season 13 did not disappoint. During sketches we get the basic ideas: Amanda thinks of Cleopatra in a flood, Sandhya is inspired by a television test pattern, Kini wants to construct an upside-down umbrella skirt, and Fäde is just lost. Maybe a trip to Mood will help bring one of his “experiments” to life.

At the fabric store, the designers fight over the small vinyl section, and Sandhya starts to pick up a yellow—do you think she could hear the audience yelling at her through their TV screens? You have to admire her audacity, though; she knows what she likes and she won’t let the judges’ criticism sway her from her point of view.

Meanwhile, Fäde has completely lost his point of view. He tries tacking various designs to his form, but eventually spirals out. It’s hard to see. We can watch week to week and criticize the contestants, but the truth is they design day in and day out, and even the most creative designer will eventually suffer from exhaustion and/or have an off day. This is clearly Fäde’s off day. The only bright spot in his dark moment is the recurring showmance of Amanda and Fäde. (Lifetime, there’s a spin-off idea there.) I’ve never bought the “phony” idea of Amanda, and her tears for a hurting friend dispel that notion even more.

NEXT: Rainway magic

As exciting as it is to finally see a two-day challenge, day two can be summed up thusly: Lots of sewing, more upset Fäde, and model fittings. Then the third day the whole Project Runway crew treks to Brooklyn for the special rainway experience. The guest judge should definitely have been either Jay Z (because Brooklyn) or Rihanna (because “Umbrella”), but we’ll settle for Caitlin Fitzgerald from Masters of Sex. Onto the show:

Safe: Char designed a pantsuit with a reptilian overlay—it was fun and held up well through the rain. The headpiece was smart, though, because it kept the rain out of the model’s eyes and kept that beautiful Mary Kay makeup in place. There wasn’t anything notable about Alexander’s look, except that it looked more like large purple colored pencil shavings than the florals he was going for. Not sure where the “Cleopatra” is, but this is exactly what you imagine “Amanda avant-garde” would be. She’s lucky the judges don’t mind drooping and lost eyeballs.

Kini’s upside-down umbrella skirt was clever inspiration for the rainway. The top half felt, very American Horror Story season 1, but he pulled it off with his expert execution—not true of his sad hat. But the dominatrix look works for the judges, and they put him in the top.

Korina clearly was banking on her immunity; her look was lazy and cheap. Caitlin’s comment about it being made with metal and rivets was a little unmanageable (they only have $300 and two days), but it’s true: A higher quality material might have saved this design and kept her out of the bottom.

NEXT: Rainway, rainway, never go away

What can you even say about this look? That it looks “circus-y,” “childlike,” or “not sophisticated enough.” You could, but it wouldn’t matter because the judges said that and still put Sandhya in the top.

It’s no surprise that Fäde is in the bottom, but that doesn’t make it less sad. You know how in American Idol it’s always uncomfortable to watch the rock singer on country night? This is the country night to Fäde’s rocker. This is clearly his design taste, but he either can’t or won’t transform his wearable designs into art.

It is episode 8, and I’m still not clear what Emily’s aesthetic is. So far it has been black and hoods. This bottom look confused the judges with too many pieces.

And then there was Sean. His idea to fill the dress with dye—genius. It was a BIG gamble, but it paid off for him, which landed him right on top. Of course, the dress wasn’t anything spectacular on its own, but he created a runway experience within the rainway experience. How could that not go over well with the judges?

And now for a brief Public Service Announcement: Sandhya wants you to know she does not reference other designers in her work. Back to your scheduled programming.

Winner: Sean (The judges’ faces as that dress turned colors basically signaled his win immediately.)

But there’s more… says Heidi.

Also a winner: Kini. He finally gets a win, and he has to share it. (Can anyone remember this happening before? My memory is failing me.)

Out: Fäde

It’s hard to see such a nice guy go, but avant-garde just wasn’t his strong suit—he didn’t take any risks and the judges will always, always reward risk over a safe look. But as Tim said, this was the best runway experience in the history of the show (debatable), so at least Fäde knows he went out against tough competition.

Best line of the season to date: “This is nothing if not the season of the vagina.”—Tim Gunn

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Project Runway

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

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