Now's no time to choke. Unfortunately, multiple designers dropped the ball previewing their final collections.

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October 21, 2011 at 05:30 AM EDT

The penultimate episode of a Project Runway season, in which Tim Gunn visits the designers at work in their natural habitats, always reminds me of The Bachelor/Bachelorette hometown visits: You see the human side of the contestants, and it makes it that much more awkward to reject them later. Tonight, the visits left me colder than they usually do — they were oddly brief and impersonal — and the designs that came out of them were markedly disappointing…but more on that later.

First, Tim treks to White Plains, Md., to visit Kimberly. I love the rapport these two have had all season. Kimberly teases her design aesthetic for Tim: Her theme is the “transformed urban girl,” reflecting post-gentrification Brooklyn while maintaining a raw, gritty edge. Her color palette is extremely bright and saturated, with some shiny metallic textiles thrown in, and she plans on accessorizing with humongous bracelets and earrings. Tim says, “This is so you.”

Next, Tim flies all the way to Trinidad to meet Anya. Anya lives in an idyllic tropical setting complete with hammocks and open-air bungalows. She describes to Tim how the ocean keeps the rhythm of her life, but all is not well in paradise. Anya shows Tim the photographs on her inspiration wall — they really just look like color printouts of desktop photos that come preloaded onto any computer, or pictures from a Sandals Resort brochure. It seems the slow-paced island lifestyle really got to Anya. She’s accomplished basically nothing but shopping for fabrics so far. Anya’s always been a come-from-behind type of competitor, but she hasn’t even DRAWN a shape yet. Seriously, what’s she been doing? I imagine her sitting down to sketch, but instead of drawing designs, she starts scribbling random words like “Clothes. They are things people wear. They prevent us from being naked. I like clothes. Anya.” Anya’s island has a Smoke Monster living on it, and its name is Procrastination. Draw the damn shapes, Anya!

Lastly, Tim makes two stops in his own hometown New York City to meet Viktor and Joshua. Viktor has “urban coast” in mind as the theme for his collection, and he uses as inspiration a snapshot he took of the beach in Guadalajara while back in Mexico for his brother’s “death anniversary.” (Each designer seems to have a really sad death in the family story.) Tim is pleased by what he sees of Viktor’s collection, particularly a gorgeous white motorcycle jacket with pearls cascading down the sleeves. My first thought when seeing the jacket: “Josh will want that!” (Not to put on a model, but to wear himself.) My favorite moment of the episode: Tim telling Viktor to knock the judges’ “EFFING” socks off. Then Viktor introduces Tim to his boyfriend, David. You know when you meet someone’s boyfriend, and he isn’t at all what you pictured? That’s what happened to me when we met David.

Given Viktor’s snooty personality, I pictured his boyfriend as the type of guy who sports an asymmetrical haircut and wears skinny jeans and scarves year-round. Instead, David turned out to be a sweet, down-to-earth ginger who dresses like a country-club valet. Aww, I think I like Viktor more now!

Meanwhile, across town, Tim met Josh for a Real Housewives-style lunch in a completely empty restaurant (Elmo, which is just one block from me!), where we meet Josh’s pretty, stylish sister. We also see photos from Josh’s track and field days — he looked much better (and younger) when he didn’t shellack his hair with product. Then we venture out to Josh’s very twentysomething apartment in Queens, where he shows Tim his progress. Josh wipes away flop sweat as Tim scrutinizes the fabrics. He calls one particular print the homeliest textile he’s ever seen — I mean, not even Josh’s frumptacular nemesis Becky would wear it — and says it makes him want to weep. Ouch! But Tim’s totally right. The print literally has the word “joker” on it, in addition to some Olde English quill calligraphy. The other fabrics are no better. Tim labels some of them “sherberty,” and yes, it does feel like we’ve walked into a box of Flintstones Push Ups. There are no words, however, for Josh’s idea to incorporate lenticular material into his designs. Lenticular prints make that fun zip-zip sound when you run your fingernails over them, but they have no place in fashion, unless you’re costuming an Austin Powers movie.

NEXT: Each of the designers will preview three looks from their final collections in order to move on to Fashion Week. Heidi says only three designers will make it through…

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