The fate of one designer is up in the air as she's accused of cheating

By Dalene Rovenstine
October 12, 2017 at 10:32 PM EDT

After weeks of waiting to see the much-teased Project Runway season 16 scandal, it all came down to a simple measuring tape.

Episode 9 started right where last week left off, with Michael backstage speaking to the crew. His initial reaction is to bolt, but when a producer asks him if he will talk to anybody, they call in the big Gunn. Michael explains to Tim that he feels this win lacks fairness.

On stage, Yolanda is asking Claire if she got into a fight with Michael, and she’s clueless, stuck in a shocked emoji face. Then Margarita decides that she needs to leave the stage, too. Backstage, she backs up what Michael is saying — that this isn’t about them not liking her look, or even the fact that she’s copying other people’s designs.

Batani finally reveals to the confused judges that there was a “situation” with Claire’s top, to which Claire exclaims, “Did she think I knocked off her top from the last challenge?” while still very confused. Kenya is mouthing, “You did!” at the sky, and I’m just giddy watching this all play out.

After discussing things with Tim, Margarita is starting to realize it wasn’t the time or the place for her reaction or Michael’s, so she heads back out to the runway. Michael explains to Tim that he’s seen Claire has a retractable ruler in the apartment and she’ll write notes on paper or her hands outside of the workroom. Tim says he’ll investigate but Michael needs to get back out there.

With everyone back on the runway, they start to hash out what’s going on: Michael says that he ran off because “I couldn’t stand here and listen to a win that I did not feel was well deserved.” Guest judge extraordinaire Yolanda Hadid says, “Are you a judge in this show or are you a participant?”

Heidi tries to shut it down, though, by saying that it’s not against the rules to borrow from one another; they just aren’t allowed to use the internet. “There is no need for internet when you brought the pieces you’re ripping off,” Michael spouts off. Yolanda tells all the designers they should focus on bettering themselves and forget about other people. Seriously, let’s give this lady a permanent seat among the judges!

Anyway, Heidi reiterates that Claire won because of her print and how she used it. But Claire says she doesn’t care about the win because she’s so frustrated that people think she’s been ripping off her own clothes. She’s so caught off guard and feels like she was hit by a truck. (She and Shawn do seem to live in their own world, so it’s really not surprising to me that this all comes as a shock to her.)

Claire is sent backstage, and Kenya, Kentaro, and Margarita follow her shortly after. Margarita is upset by how the situation exploded and clearly starting to feel regret. In the waiting room, she tells Claire, “At the end of the day, it was a print challenge, and you had a beautiful print,” and then stares at the floor.

On the runway, Heidi tells Michael he’s safe, and he heads back to the waiting room. Batani is sent home, but when she gets back to the room, no one even acknowledges her. Michael is apologizing to Claire for how he handled it. She wishes he would have talked to her about it and feels personally attacked. Michael tries to explain that he’s just overly passionate about design and wants everyone to play fair. And then Claire outs herself.

Claire admits that she measured a tank top for the Good and Evil challenge, and Teacher Amy points out that that means she has a tape measure at home, which is against the rules. Margarita reminds Claire that they’re not allowed to have tape measures, pens, or paper outside the workroom.

Everyone is still ignoring Batani’s loss when Tim walks in and has this exchange with Claire:

“First things first: Claire, is it true that you’ve had a measuring tape in your room?”
“I have a measuring tape.”
“Is it true that you’ve been measuring garments in your room?”
“I have measured a tank top and I have measured the crotch of a pair of pants.”
“All right, Claire, we must rescind your win and send you home.”
(Recap continued on page 2)

And just like that, the second twin is gone. Michael says it wasn’t his intention to get her booted from the show (which I find questionable because any Project Runway fan remembers the Keith Michael debacle of season 3).

In her final confessional, Claire says she’s “regretful that I even considered the idea of holding on to something I shouldn’t have had.” The twins always did say things in a weird manner, so I guess it’s no surprise that’s her version of saying “I’m sorry.”

Once Claire leaves the waiting room, Tim tells the rest of the designers that there will be no winner for this challenge; however, Dixie would still like to put a print into production, and they chose Brandon’s. (Was this a giant conspiracy by Dixie to get whatever print they really wanted?? THINK ABOUT IT.) Tim also tells Batani that she will be staying, and they all get to leave for the day.

And that’s the episode — oh, wait. We still have to recap an entire episode. And omg, you guys, it’s a SHOPKINS-sponsored challenge. Maybe the cheating scandal was actually orchestrated by Project Runway to draw attention away from the fact they have a SHOPKINS-sponsored challenge?? SERIOUSLY, THINK ABOUT IT.

The next morning Tim is on the runway while little girls are all around him playing with their Shopkins, and I have to wonder if he’s questioning how his life ended up here. For the uninformed, Shopkins are little (think Polly Pocket-size) plastic trinkets that turn kids into hoarders. Shopkins created “Shoppies,” which are dolls that also collect Shopkins. Hoarder dolls for hoarder kids!

The girls in the room are Shoppie superfans, and each one of them and their Shoppie doll will be paired with a designer. The designer then must work with the superfan to dream up an avant-garde challenge. It wasn’t until the designers were shopping in Mood that I realized they were designing for their models, not the kids. I think a kids’ avant-garde challenge would be kind of hilarious. (You can use that idea for free, producers.)

Tim comes for critiques and learns what everyone is doing: Kentaro is trying to create something very structural; Margarita is making something sparkly; and Kenya is doing a strapless dress with “tendrils.”

By the time he makes the rounds to Ayana, she is freaking out. She has a lot of details: huge bows, giant ruffles, polka dots, and a yellow fabric. Tim tells her to “start editing right now,” but he ultimately thinks she has a winning look.

Michael is doing a melting disco ball in a sculpted sparkling jumpsuit. Tim tells him to watch every detail. Amy is working on a coat dress, which Tim likes from the hips up, but from the hips down, he says is “not as pleasing.”

Brandon is really struggling with this challenge. He says he wants to rise to the occasion, but it’s making him stress all the more. Tim gives him some ideas for creating a stackable dress. When Tim leaves, Kentaro helps him as well. He tells his brother Brandon that he should make an apron skirt.

Michael, meanwhile, says in his confessional that Brandon is using Kentaro a lot and he thinks his fellow designer is “running out of ideas.” Michael, boy, did you not just learn your lesson with Claire? Stay out of other people’s business! (Also, we do not speak ill of the brother!)
(Recap continued on page 3)

The morning of the runway, Heidi says she’s happy to see Batani back before introducing the judges: new cookbook author Zac Posen, not a cookbook author Nina Garcia, and model Kate Upton.

After the looks walk down the runway, Heidi announces that Kenya and Kentaro are safe. Then she tells the remaining designers that “one or more of you will be out.” Dun dun dunnn.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Ayana says she got a lot of inspiration from her Shopkin superfan, and they focused on “fun.” Kate says the look is a showstopper and can see how much time she put into it. Heidi says she loves the imagination and loves that it’s so big. Zac says it’s like a surrealist Bo Peep, and Nina says it’s sophisticated but childlike at the same time.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

When Michael explains how his Shopkin superfan was obsessed with disco, he came up with this idea. Nina says it’s “fantastic” and looks well made. Kate says it makes her want to go dancing. Heidi appreciates how it looks good from every angle (while she makes the model, Meisha, spin nonstop). And Zac loved the imagination that Michael used.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Brandon explains how his superfan’s Shoppie was “Cocolette,” so she wanted to drip chocolate on everything. Instead, he did this mint color design. I honestly wasn’t sure if this was going to be a top or bottom look, but Zac says it’s sophisticated and great that Brandon’s aesthetic is shining through, even on an avant-garde challenge. And Nina adds that she loves that she can tell Brandon’s “language” through the clothes.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Batani says she wanted to play on volume and color with this look; Heidi says it feels unfinished and doesn’t like how there’s a black skirt showing through underneath. Nina says it looks like she ran out of time, but Batani insists she wanted it like that. Zac put “laundry day” in his notes, and says the cutout in the back isn’t flattering. Kate says there’s an art to deconstruction construction, and this misses the mark.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Amy liked how her superfan’s Shoppie could snap her clothes on and off, so she made a coat that had that effect. Heidi isn’t a fan of the look, but she says it’s because she’s comparing it to the other looks on the runway. Zac says it doesn’t feel risky and doesn’t even feel like Amy’s streamlined aesthetic. Nina says she could use her aesthetic while still being avant garde. Kate says she really liked the collar, but the rest of the silhouette was a bit lackluster.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Margarita says her Shopkin superfan was envisioning an Oscar dress in sparkles, and she ran with it. Heidi loves it and says it’s “beyond stunning.” She adds: “It was like a cloud that came down the runway.” Kate loves how flattering it is, Zac appreciates how she let the fabric speak, and Nina says it’s like a 360 explosion.

Winner: Michael

Out: Batani, who says “bye again” on her way off the runway

Also out: Amy, who is quite surprised to be going

Well, that was quite the episode. What did you think of the scandal? What did you think of this week’s winner and losers? And what are your feelings on Shopkins? Let’s chat about all of the above in the comments below. As Kenya said, “They did a double whammy on us” this week, and it’s a lot to process. Don’t do it alone.

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