Here we are, the first part of the Project Runway finale. It seems like just yesterday we were laughing at Stacy's granny panty/see-through curtain ensemble, or wondering why that talented Michael fellow wasn't getting more screen time. They grow up so fast (sniff, sniff)...
The final four contestants gather on the runway and receive their final challenge from Heidi and Tim. Tim advises them to "do what we know we can do," but Heidi warns them, "do not play it safe." Mixed messages, much?
House calls! Tim visits Michael "Call Me 'Brace Face'" Knight's fabulous house in Atlanta. Michael's theme is "Street Safari," with a seventies feel, and he happily appears to be staying away from eveningwear. He doesn't have a lot done, and I'm not sure I love what he does have. But then again, what the hell do I know? That wasn't sarcasm. I know nothing about fashion. Tim, who does know his shit, thinks the idea sounds pretty good, but the existing elements lack cohesion.
Tim has dinner with Michael's friendly, supportive family. Michael, we learn, was an army brat, has lived all over the country, and looked like Urkel for a brief period in his life. Seriously, yikes.
Next, Tim visits Laura in her amazing New York apartment (for reals, it's like ten times the size of my studio). She's very pregnant with her fifth boy in a row, and very happy to see Tim. It's possible that Laura has the classiest maternity wear ever. It looks like she has a lot done on her collection. She's sticking to her signature style, but taking it to a new level--more evening than cocktail. I certainly see more color than usual, including bright red and olive green pieces, but she still has a lot of neutrals. Tim fears that the collection is too old, and not pretty enough. Tim and I, as usual, are in agreement. Laura emphasizes that she's playing to win, and trying not to be too safe. Try harder, Laura.
Tim meets her boys, who appear to be more like a giant pack of wild animals than four young boys. Especially when one of them offers Tim turtle poop. AWESOME. It's actually really great to see Laura seeming right at home with her kids in this crazy environment, searching for the missing turtle and everything, because it seems so counter to who she is on the show. Incidentally, Laura's husband strongly resembles a metrosexual Albert Einstein.
Onward to Miami, where Uli has a crazy awesome ocean view, which makes obvious her inspiration. Oops, her theme is "Tropical Safari." Let's call Laura "Sophisticated Safari" and Jeffrey "Punk Safari" and make it a whole safari party! Tim thinks her outfits, which seem very much in the Uli mold (but with more hand detailing and tailoring), are gorgeous, but not surprising enough to win. I love everything she shows him, and it seems to be the most wearable of the three we've seen so far, but still incredibly stylish. It looks like she's gotten a fair amount done, too.
Uli and Tim go for a romantic stroll on the beach, and Uli shares with Tim that she moved to Miami because she watched Miami Vice when she was growing up in East Germany, and it seemed like a pretty great place to be. That's the Best Ever. And how can the judges give her such a hard time for her colorful, beachy style when she grew up in colorless East Germany?
Regrettably, Tim leaves Uli's delightful presence to visit Jeffrey in Los Angeles, and my blood pressure starts to rise in anticipation of Jeffrey's grating presence. And continues to rise when we actually see Jeffrey, who is NOT rocking a mullet with the sides of his head sort of shaved. His girlfriend has a far less offensive mohawk, and their kid is actually pretty cute. Jeffrey shares his Tale of Woe, in which his angry dad left when Jeffrey was eight, and Jeffrey got into drugs pretty young. His roommate saved him from killing himself five years ago, and he's been clean ever since. I'm sympathetic, but dude, none of those things is a good excuse for being a dick.
Jeffrey has an enormous separate warehouse space where he does his work. His collection is "Rock Safari." Just kidding, his inspiration (color and draping, mostly) comes from Japanese ghost and demon stories. He shows Tim a really cool dress with zippers sticking out of the seams, which Tim loves. His collection has a lot of stripes and polka dots, and seems like really nice, high-fashion versions of clothes you'd find at Forever 21. Or maybe Urban Outfitters if I'm feeling less bitchy. But again, what do I know? He certainly seems confident, and Tim seems into it.
The designers arrive in New York five days before the show. Michael loves his collection, calling it "hot" and, inexplicably, "nasty." Am I such a nerd that I didn't know that "nasty" was a good thing now? Does this mean "sick" is back to being bad? Sigh...it's so hard to keep up with this stuff. Anyway, Laura is also confident, saying that the collection is "what everyone wants to see from [her]." Um, that may not be a good sign...does that mean it's more of the same? She also tells us that she wants to win if for no other reason than that it means Jeffrey won't win. Hmm. Uli hopes to surprise the other designers and win. They all seem exhausted but happy to see each other, although Jeffrey's welcome is less exuberant, and nonexistent from Laura.
The next day, the finalists are all kind of hilariously eyeing each other's collections as they unpack. Tim welcomes them to their workspace, and checks on their progress. Jeffrey is totally done, and Tim seems to really like his stuff. Tim isn't as enthusiastic about Uli's collection, especially the proportion. She has stepped out of her flowy print box, and is unfortunately being punished for it. Laura has gotten rid of all the color, but Tim really likes everything she has. Michael seems like he's in a bit of trouble, though. He has this very Kayne blouse, with sequin pockets, and everything looks disjointed and not up to Michael's usual level of sophistication. Tim says it's cartoony, and Michael is trying too hard. Ouch, but I know Michael can pull it out. He says he'd rather go way over the top than not do anything at all (hear that, Daniel V.?).
Model casting seems relatively conflict-free. Amanda's there with blonde hair, but I didn't catch who drafted her. Seeing all these real models walk and pose reinforces for me just how comparatively unattractive and untalented the America's Next Top Model girls largely are. At the hair consultation, Michael worries me when he says he wants big, roller-set hair. Jeffrey wants all his girls to look the same, and even brought wigs with him.
We're down to three days until the big show, and the designers are fitting their models. Laura, having seen more of Jeffrey's collection, starts to question how he could have possibly gotten so much work done that he has nothing left to do (not even buttons or hooks). They move on to makeup consultation, where Michael wants his models' makeup to be muted, but animal-like. What? Jeffrey wants his nude and shiny. Do I not understand makeup, or something? Aren't these things opposites? Uli, unsurprisingly, is going bronze, glowy, and shimmery.
DRAMA! While Jeffrey is out of the workroom, Laura tells Uli and Michael that she doesn't think he sewed his collection himself. She says it's impossible to do all those pieces in the time he was given, especially since he says he was also working on his personal line at the same time. The details and craftsmanship are also better than she's ever seen him do. Well there's a backhanded compliment for ya. The three of them look at Jeffrey's clothes, and agree that they've never seen that level from him before, although Uli points out that it's not all perfect. The consensus is that the designs are his, but they doubt Jeffrey sewed them himself. I'm going to point out here that the designers all seem a bit punchy at this point, and it's possible that exhaustion is interfering with their judgment here.
The three agree that they should be honest and up-front with Jeffrey, instead of stabbing him in the back on the runway or something. Laura clarifies that she isn't out to get him, although I'm not really sure I believe her. I mean, if it were Michael who had everything finished, would she be looking at it the same way?
The "honest and up-front" plan goes down the tubes a bit when Laura takes Tim aside and, with the most hilarious transition ever ("Yeah, Jeffrey comes out here a lot. Speaking of Jeffrey...") accuses Jeffrey of not sewing his collection on his own. She says she can't prove it, but that it's a gut feeling she wanted to get on the record. Tim agrees that the charge is difficult, if not impossible, to prove, but takes it seriously and says he will bring it to the producers and investigate. Laura reiterates that she's not trying to be a bitch, but she doesn't see how Jeffrey could have possibly sewed that collection in the past two months. Draaaama! (For the record: 44% of America is most excited to see Jeffrey's collection.)
Uli tells Jeffrey that Laura has an announcement to make, and Laura drops the bomb. Jeffrey totally denies it, but (in my view) doesn't seem as outraged as an innocent person would. Michael steps up and says that he was thinking the same thing as Laura. Uli agrees that the collection looks really perfect, but tries to say that the competition is about design, and they all think that Jeffey designed the pieces. Jeffrey isn't in a listening mood, though, and reiterates that he sewed everything himself before dropping it and walking away. He interviews that it's pitiful Laura automatically assumes that anyone with work better than hers must be cheating.
Laura agrees with me that Jeffrey's uncharacteristically quiet reaction was unexpected. She hopes there won't be horrible tension in the workroom. Um, yeah, you brought that upon yourself, Laura. Jeffrey says that while he can't sew perfectly quickly, he can do it when he has enough time, which does seem reasonable to me. Tim comes in and takes Jeffrey aside to give him the opportunity to confess before the investigation starts, but Jeffrey repeats that he did pretty much everything by hand. Tim says they'll be looking at the receipts carefully, etc., but that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Jeffrey interviews that he made the whole collection himself, and is scared to death that he won't be showing. Wow, this must really suck for him if he's innocent. But I kind of don't get his non-Jeffrey attitude. Maybe he's just exhausted. OR GUILTY. Yeah, I don't see them proving this one either way. TO BE CONTINUED...