It's a chicken fight! The designers go head-to-head in this avian-themed challenge.

By Stephan Lee
Updated October 07, 2011 at 05:30 AM EDT
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Project Runway

S9 E11
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When Heidi cryptically told the designers that they’d have to “spread [their] wings” in the next challenge, they assumed it might have something to do with skydiving. Okay, we might have had a stilts challenge this season, but I don’t think we’re down to the gimmicky lows of America’s Next Top Model just yet. Instead, Tim announces that the challenge involves something much scarier: pairing up in twos. And even scarier: birds. (By the way, did anyone else think fondly of Anthony Ryan’s shiny birdseed dress from the pet store challenge? I’m still mad about that — it totally should have beaten Olivier’s bathroom rug outfit).

What a horrifying challenge. Let me just say it: Birds are freaking creepy. There’s something about their soulless eyes, sharp beaks, cold feathers, and relation to dinosaurs. The pairs are each assigned a bird that’s supposed to inspire their designs and color palettes. Viktor and Kimberly get the cockatoo, which has soft, romantic coloring. (I’ve been weirded out by cockatoos ever since the very freaky and irritating Talkatoo from Zoobilee Zoo). Anya and Laura get the “seductive, stoic” raven, which is really nothing other than a harbinger of death. Lastly, the green Amazonian parrot goes to Joshua and Bert, who totally talks smack about his bird’s outfit. Bert doesn’t see “high fashion” in the parrot’s garish plumage — instead, he sees “dime store” and “carnivale” — and I have to agree. Seriously, who styled this bird? Other than God, evolution, or intelligent design. There, I offended nobody and everybody.

Another twist to the challenge: The pairs will not be working as teams; rather, they’ll be going head-to-head on the runway. One from each duo will be in the top, the other in the bottom. This brings out the claws — or, given the challenge, the hooked, raptor-like talons — in all of these highly competitive designers. Of course, this new development makes Viktor’s bitchiness kick into overdrive. He’s become the self-appointed sassy quip generator, and the results are a mixed, stereotypical bag: “My wings are spread, girl, oh-kerrrrr?” “The effect is going to GLAM-azing!” “This is like saying hello-sexy-dot-com.”

Viktor’s incredible confidence seems to have successfully intimidated Kimberly. She has a bit of a meltdown: She stains her fabric with dye; stabs her thumb with a needle; runs sobbing into the bathroom; burns a hole in her dress; and starts jumping up and down on a table when a roach enters the workroom. When the pre-commercial teaser previewed Kimberly’s roach freakout, I thought this challenge was stressing her out so much she was going all Black Swan and thinking she was a bird. All this is too much for her — until Uncle Tim comes to the rescue. Is there any situation a hug from Tim Gunn can’t fix?

NEXT: With $20,000 and an advertorial in Marie Claire on the line, the desperation comes out in full force. Oh, and Collier Strong is back. Plus, Anya’s roach-killing skills rival Lara Croft’s.Also going head-to-head are besties Anya and Laura and former enemies Joshua and Bert. Joshua feels pretty confident going against Bert; he says, “I consistently bring a high-fashion eye.” Really. All season long, his main problems have been his taste level and failure to edit his over-the-top looks. Plus, he was wearing this vest during the episode:

For the love of books, he needs to edit those right out of existence.

And I only pick on Josh because I like him — he’s entertaining and very talented, and he sounds a bit like Terry from Reno 911!, who I also like — but he got off to a horrible start this challenge. At first, this is what he came up with:

That look is based on Lady Lemon Lime, a Candyland character who was nixed when makers of the game found that she scared children.

But luckily for Joshua and a couple of the other struggling designers, this challenge was chock-full of twists and turns. At first, Tim announced that everyone had to create a second look. Then, he announced that the designers could only walk one of their two looks, which should have made Joshua ecstatic, but he actually seemed a little hesitant about dumping the green and yellow monstrosity.

NEXT: Joshua is quick to hold a grudge after Anya refuses to share fabric. Will he out Anya for making unwearable clothes?Now let the head-to-heads begin! Francisco Costa, award-winning creative director for Calvin Klein and an almost-silver fox, is here to judge as these delicate winged creatures flutter down the runway.

LAURA

I’m not a fan of this outfit at all. It does look inspired by a bird, but not by a raven — more like a turkey vulture. Nina, Laura’s number one h8r from last episode, actually compliments her for “moving out of your comfort zone.” Michael gives Laura a back-handed compliment if there ever was one, saying that it’s edgy “for you.”

ANYA

The judges continue their love affair with Anya, and I think this week, it’s justified. The little black dress is certainly flattering and bird-like — the winged shoulders, the tail in the back — without being too literal. Heidi calls it “cool, edgy, and fashion-forward,” and Nina says it’s her favorite look from Anya so far.

THE WINNER OF THE HEAD-TO-HEAD IS …

Anya! This one wasn’t even close. You could tell by the look on Laura’s face that she knew she wasn’t going to win. Joshua takes issue with the fact that Anya’s model often has to be cut out of her clothes, which raises a complicated question. Should these high-fashion dresses be ready-to-wear? Or do they just need to “pop” on the runway? Either way, Anya’s dress looked good enough for a win.

BUT … doesn’t it look a whole lot like Viktor’s little black number from the Nina challenge? There are some key differences — the detailing on Anya’s is more exaggerated — but considering how quick Viktor is to cry copycat, I’m surprised he said nothing about this. I think Anya may have been just as well off, and maybe a bit more original, with her other sheer, polka-dotted look.

NEXT: Joshua can’t help being Joshua.

BERT

Bert clearly let his disdain for the bird get in the way of his design. Bert, I feel ya on that one. Michael calls the look both “pageanty” and Wonder Woman-ish. Nina is disappointed by the poor use of color, but even more so by the generic silhouette. Heidi and Francisco both like the flash of color under the gray and silver but agree that the look is uninspired.

JOSHUA

Yay for Joshua showing growth! He made a simple yet exciting dress that in Michael’s words “doesn’t look worked,” although I think the cut looks a little Wilma Flintstone. Michael also appreciated that the dress was orange, kinda like his tan. However, the judges all harped on a very Joshua-like detail, the weird shoulder corsage:

As heinous as this weird ruffle-ball is, I actually would have been disappointed had Joshua not included it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been Joshua’s vision, love it or hate it.

Michael did, however, go crazy for this chain detail. It’s a perfect example of how Joshua’s tendency to pile on the extras can work in his favor with a little bit of restraint.

THE WINNER OF THE HEAD-TO-HEAD IS …

Joshua! In this case the win is deserved, although I can see where Bert was going with his design.

NEXT: The Kimberly-Viktor smackdown may be too close to call.KIMBERLY

Despite the various meltdowns, Kimberly finally got a look to work, all in the last three hours. Nina thinks the dress is seductive and “phenomenal,” but Francisco thinks it looks a bit old. Michael says it looks like the model might fall out of the dress — in a good way. I’m a little torn on this one. I think it’s a bit on the hoochie mama side, the exposed sternum isn’t exactly sexy, and it’s cut very sloppily. But at the same time, there’s some easy, fluid design here, and it looks great on the model.

VIKTOR

Certainly cleaner and more polished than Kimberly’s dress, Viktor’s look is making this the hardest decision yet. Michael calls it “romantic, fragile, and elegant” but too literal. Sure, Viktor used Big Bird-ish feathers, but I don’t think he pushed the dress over the top. It’s impeccable and wearable without being safe, which Heidi acknowledges, but she just likes Kimberly’s better.

THE WINNER OF THE HEAD-TO-HEAD IS …

Kimberly! I thought the decision could have gone either way — Francisco clearly liked Viktor’s dress better, but fair or not, I think the judges took into account the fact that Kimberly made the dress in three hours, just as they seemed to take into account the fact that Anya only spent $11.50 on one of her looks last challenge. Even though I think Viktor should have taken this one, he makes it so hard to root for him — calling Kimberly’s look “horrible” was uncalled for, and I’m still waiting for an episode in which he doesn’t accuse someone of copying him. Although he may have been justified this episode with Anya’s little black, wing-shouldered number.

Regardless, Anya is once again the overall winner! No surprise, really, since her judges’ comments were uniformly glowing. Joshua seemed really peeved, even suggesting that Anya has some sneaky strategy up her sleeve, but we can forgive him this time — after all, he has “negative” money in the bank and just missed out on $20,000.

It was a huge shocker to me, though, that Bert got the auf instead of Laura. This week, I thought it was a toss-up as to which of the two had the worse design. But Bert had the ability and vision to win it all, while Laura seems to be struggling to get by each week. As Randy Jackson might say, she’s not in it to win it.

Do you think Anya should be exposed for her hard-to-wear, impossible-to-take-off dresses? Was Kimberly’s dress really better than Viktor’s? Are you shocked by Bert’s elimination? What did you think of the dramatic after-show?

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