Although it would have been more interesting to feature a New York establishment (see yesterday's Project Runway Withdrawal post), the designers trekked in the pre-dawn light to engage in land-grab for work materials at the Hershey's store in Times Square - the ultimate product-placement episode.
And it drove home one of the most important rules of challenges: Don't make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.
This week's recipient of the Martyr Award goes to Jillian, since the Twizzlers she decided to entwine around a corset decided not to cooperate because, well, they're food. And as Chris alluded to, food is a bitch to work with.
World-weary and finally the wisest man in the room, having created clothing and costumes out of all manner of foodstuffs over the years, you could tell that Chris was steering far away from sugary snacks as materials - and for good reason.
And finally! The models are back! Which means the designers don't have to cope with some kind of distractingly weird body shape.
Although the red color was spectacular and the intricate detail work was eye-catching, the judges must have just been talking about the skirt Jillian designed when they said the outfit moved with the model, because that's not what I saw! As the model - who gamely volunteered to help sew stray licorice to the skirt, seeing her own career potentially flash before her eyes in a haze of red dye #6 - sashayed down the runway, the corset stayed stiffly in place like body armor while the model moved this way and that. The swingy fringed skirt was cute. But that's all it was - cute.
Rami as usual whipped up a spectacular design with intricate seaming, patterned materials and an unexpected silhouette. The intricacy and the detail work were just exquisite. Given the colors and textures he selected (pinks, reds, white, some in shiny fabrics or plastic) the overall effect was kind of loud.
And that's why I loved Chris's design. By ganging up the Hershey and Twizzler logo fabrics vertically to obscure the words for the top, he created an eye-catching geometric pattern that was perfectly anchored by a chocolate brown mini. Like Nina Garcia said, it was the design you could see on the pages of Elle or any other fashion magazine today.
So Rami beat Chris with his superior technical and fit work, but I have to give Chris credit for not falling into the trap of the costume. The man listened to what the judges said and changed course this challenge. This could be either a fluke or a turning point for Chris; only time will tell. I hope he makes it; pleasant people have to win sometime.
Christian's design looked good but not great - interesting use of the peanut butter cup liners as a frillery. But the overall effect was brown and quasi-reptilian.
And the rest?
Kevin's outfit looked good if safe, even if the jacket/shrug seemed a little precious.
Kit's punk-rock diva? Eh. Victorya's ruffle disaster? Amateur hour. Ricky's Hershey-kiss pouf? Pu-lease. This trio was under-the-radar safe and should thank their lucky stars Sweet P got behind the 8 ball again and Elisa went avant garde Gretel, and chose not to unleash the corn syrup and cacao goddess from within.
Sweet P, I worried that this was your downfall episode. Maybe this one scared you into kicking things up a notch next time. Don't betray your initial ideas - as Tim Gunn says, "Make it work!" And I don't know why he didn't invoke his catchphrase in offering his critique. The final skirt idea looked like it was pieced together from Handi-Wipes. Sweet P's original patterned-skirt idea would have been light-years better than the bland, blah dishrag she sent down the runway.
When I saw both Sweet P and Elisa in the bottom two, I was a little sad over the idea of the show losing its quirkitude by offing one of these women. Although the show is about design, while we whittle down all those designers, we still want some entertainment, dammit!
(But now we know the real design can start happening, unencumbered.)
Although Elisa seemed to lack the skills the others had, so I knew it was only a matter of time. That and the fact that we hear - from out of left field - about her horrible accident involving a Porsche and a 4-inch head wound, although the producers tried distracting us with Jillian's Twizzler tragedy. Elisa's asymmetric velour dress with d-ringed straps and silver swimmies just didn't make the cut.
But was it me? Or did Elisa look positively joyful when she got auf'd, probably realizing that she got a lot more attention for her artwork than she ever could have before, and the rain-goddess spiritual side of her is looking forward to the rest of her life journey.
In any case, it's just ultra-ironic that Elisa, Queen of Whimsy, flaked out on a challenge where weird materials that nobody had ever worked with before didn't inspire something more joyful out of her. Go figure.
Project Runway Final Three Picks: Rami, Kevin and wildcard Chris