It's team-challenge time again -- and the designers aren't quite as nice this go-around
Credit: Barbara Nitke

After one of the best group challenges we’ve ever seen on Project Runway, the season’s second attempt brought us crashing back to Earth. These are fashion designers, after all: They can be an opinionated, catty bunch, and that was on full display in tonight’s “Project Pop Up.” And it all started with a button bag…

Tim Gunn comes onto the runway with the Sally Beauty guy and the dreaded button bag. He explains to the designers they’ll be doing a Project Runway/Sally Beauty pop-up color shop, where the public will be voting on their designs. The winning looks will contribute to 20 percent of the judges’ scores. Pulling names from the bag, Tim divides the designers into three groups of three assigned to Sally Beauty color palettes:

Red Violet: Erin, Dexter, and Cornelius

Nude-Neutral: Jenny, Nathalia, and Mah-Jing

Hues of Blue: Roberi, Rik, and Laurence

Each group has 30 minutes to sketch designs for a three-piece collection. Dexter wants to do punk on Team Red; his BFF Erin is all over this and they just take off with ideas, leaving Cornelius staring at them like the outsider he is. Roberi takes charge of Team Blue, but Laurence and Rik are in agreement with his emotional, textured, geometric aesthetic. And poor Mah-Jing once again feels like the odd one out; Team Neutral is all about jackets in nude colors with burnt-orange accents.

Cornelius tells Erin and Dexter he thinks their ideas might be too much, but there’s no time for that: Tim is there to take them to Mood. Each group is given $600 to buy their fabrics. Mood shopping goes smooth-ish, but things start falling apart in the workroom. Mah-Jing notices Jenni and Nathalia are having “secret” meetings and excluding him from decisions. It’s a regular high school in there.

Tim comes in to do his critiques, which quells the disputes a little bit. When he stops by Team Blue, Roberi explains their girl is a “strange” person. Tim tells them they should stick with the word “different” — which he could get on board with, but he thinks their current pieces are a little underwhelming. He wants more design, so they step it up and adjust their looks, even though Roberi doesn’t want to go “sexy.”


Next, Tim walks over to Team Nude, who he says look like they’re preparing for a death sentence. And that’s kind of what he delivers: He thinks their looks are too basic. “It’s not chic and cool — it’s just blah.” It’s not exactly what a designer wants to hear.

Although all three groups have substantial work to do, you couldn’t tell by Team Red’s actions. Erin designs a pleated skirt everyone agrees will go with Cornelius’ look, but then Erin and Dexter go eat Oreos and play while Cornelius works. (To be fair: I think Erin and Dexter just have very different work styles than Cornelius, rather than just doing nothing, but bravo to the editors for making it look like all they did was snack while Cornelius sewed his heart out.)

NEXT: Window display

The three teams head to the pop-up shop in Soho, where people can view the models in windows and vote for their favorite team. It looks as if Team Blue is the favorite among voters, but that must have been an editing trick — when Heidi greets the designers on the runway later, she says Team Nude won. In addition to contributing to 20 percent of the judging for this challenge, Jenny, Nathalia, and Mah-Jing each win $500 at Sally Beauty.

After Heidi introduces the guest judge — Project Runway Junior judge Kelly Osbourne — and the collections walk the runway, she announces Team Blue is the winner, Team Nude is safe, and Team Red is the loser.

Credit: Lifetime

Although Team Nude didn’t get a critique, I wanted to show the collection here. It’s fine. But the fact they earned the public’s vote and still didn’t win means the judges really didn’t like it… Right?

Anyway, onto the real critiques:

Credit: Lifetime

Heidi points out that she thinks Team Red did a great job, but they were being compared against the other two teams, which had really strong collections (and one had the public’s vote). Her biggest issue is the red from head to toe… Funny, that was Cornelius’ problem, too. Kelly’s biggest problem is it’s not actually punk. She says the styling should have been edgier; Nina agrees — with the red socks, purses, lips, and scrunchies, she says it’s overload. Erin admits she and Dexter pushed for this and Cornelius wanted them to tone it down, but that’s where her kindness toward Cornelius begins and ends.

When Heidi asks who should go home, Dexter says Cornelius because his aesthetic wasn’t the same as theirs. Cornelius says this feels like a stab in the back and that Dexter should go home, since the styling was his choice. Erin also throws out Cornelius’ name, because she and Dexter work well together. Heidi asks if she’s picking Dexter just because he’s her friend, but Erin says it’s because of the pleated skirt. And then Cornelius says he won’t let himself get thrown under the bus like that; he tells the judges it was Erin who designed the skirt. He put it together because he did everything while “everyone else had a good time.” This earns a head whip from Dexter, who is not having it.

Credit: Lifetime

When explaining Team Blue’s collection, Roberi avoids the word “strange,” thank goodness. Heidi says there’s nothing here she doesn’t love; she oohs and aahs over every piece. Nina likes how they used black and white to contrast with their color (unlike a certain team). Kelly says she’s “obsessed” with Laurence’s tuxedo jacket and a bit mind-blown by the whole collection. Zac simply says, “Brava for Blue.”

When Tim brings out the models for the judges to have a closer look, he calls out Team Red for what they were: two mean girls and Cornelius. And backstage, things are getting even worse. Nathalia asks what happened, but Cornelius doesn’t want to talk about it…but then, of course, they do and things get tense. Mah-Jing gets up to sit in the middle of Dexter and Cornelius, which seemed a bit dramatic, but I appreciate him trying to mediate the situation.

Winner: Roberi.

Out: Cornelius. Heidi says it was a tough decision, but Cornelius handles himself well and makes a graceful exit from the stage.

Recap readers, I have to be honest here: I wasn’t always the biggest fan of Cornelius. He was a gossip who had some misses with designs. But him leaving this week didn’t sit right with me. Not that Dexter’s look was something that should send him home either — but to me, it felt like the bullies were winning.

Tim Gunn must have agreed with me, because he goes backstage and tells Cornelius he’s not going anywhere. Dexter looks PISSED. Erin looks like she wants to vomit and then gives Cornelius an awkward side hug. Things are going to be iiiiiinteresting next week.

Until then, let’s talk about tonight’s episode below or you can find me on Twitter @realdalener.

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

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

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