Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

A team paintball challenge has some designers ready to declare war.

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September 04, 2015 at 10:58 AM EDT

Project Runway isn’t a show about finding the next great designer. It’s a show about finding ways to torture designers until only one remains … or at least that’s how it seems sometimes.

This week, not only do the contestants have to work in a group; they have to get pelted with paintballs in a spin on capture the flag. And if that weren’t torture enough, they have to pick their teams, schoolyard style.

Last week’s winner, Blake, gets first pick. He goes for Swapnil, who picks Joseph, who picks Jake, who picks Edmond, who picks Merline because there were no men left. So we have the Boys + Merline Team, as the chyron keeps telling us.

On the other side we have Candice, who was pulled from the button bag to choose the other team first. Of course she’s going to pick Ashley. They were partners. They worked well together. There’s no question. Except Candice picks Amanda.

WHAT? Candice says in confessional that she wants to “help” Amanda. Candice, there’s a big difference between being helpful and being stupid, and this is the latter. You should want to set your team up with the best designers — not the designers who need your help.

Anyway, moving on. Amanda chooses Kelly, who chooses Lindsey, who chooses Laurie, who picks the last designer standing: Ashley. I, like Heidi, am baffled. Ashley has won two out of four challenges, and yet she’s the last person picked? It makes no sense.

During the season 14 premiere, I applauded the casting directors for this crop of designers. But watching tonight’s unnecessary game of paintball, I’m prepared to bash whichever producer came up with this crazy idea. Making designers get pelted with paint-bullets and paint-grenades in an effort to claim fabric is just mean. However, when the game ends and Tim tells them they actually had just created their textiles (the white canvas jumpsuits they were wearing),  fully on board. The fact that Blake hid behind everyone and refused to get paint on him — and therefore had a plain white canvas — made it even better.

Using the paint-splattered jumpsuits along with the gathered supplemental textiles, each team must create a six-look mini-collection in two days. Back at the workroom, the designers also have access to more paintballs and grenades. (That there was not one mention of Community during this episode is a travesty.) Even with the difficult personalities of Jake, Joseph, and Blake combined, the Boys + Merline Team have a very clear idea: structured Jackson Pollack textiles with a ’50s aesthetic.

Now let’s pause for Blake’s “I’m Not Smart” Moment of the Week — in which he doesn’t believe that Marilyn Monroe was around in the ’50s. Moving on.

The ladies’ team is struggling. They can’t decide on a concept, a cohesive look, or just a plan in general. While the guys are painting shoes, creating fabric, and generally helping one another, the Red Team is just generally being an embarrassment to women. Did Nicki and Taylor teach you nothing!? It’s better when you work together.

But in the midst of Ashley shutting down and being shut out and Candice trying to teach everyone to sew, they end up destroying all of their fabric with too much paint. By the time Tim comes to the workroom, he says it looks like “an Easter egg festival” and that they should be scared.

The guys received an excellent critique from their mentor, so they keep moving on their merry way. The ladies, on the other hand, have a Come to Jesus talk in the break room, where they resolve absolutely nothing. Literally as they’re walking out from their idea session, Lindsey says they still don’t have a “concrete idea” and everyone agrees. Maybe that’s the time when you go right back into your idea session and NAIL DOWN A CONCRETE IDEA???

That idea seemingly never occurs to them, so they just continue working on their Easter dresses with no vision, but throw in some bright purple for good measure. It’s clear many of the women are physically repulsed by their own designs, but they just keep on keeping on.

The day of the runway show, Ashley confides in Laurie that she doesn’t want to go home. Laurie immediately whispers, “I’m not a gossiper, but…” as she goes on to gossip that the other women want to throw Ashley and her design under the bus when they inevitably end up on the bottom.

NEXT: Secondary colors and looks

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