Project Recap: Lady Sings the Blues

Merritt Martin, your usual recapper, has let her personal life interfere with her TV watching schedule, so I have been drafted to fill in for her this week.

With 10 designers remaining, and Heidi's ominous warning in previews that "one OR MORE of you will be out," we were really hoping for a challenge that sparked the designers' creativity, drove them to ridiculous heights or barrel-scraping depths. But ... yawn. A color challenge, based on a department store brand. It may be difficult for this episode to be anything but lackluster.

Over in the women's loft apartment, Gordana compares the task facing the remaining designers to the Olympic Games. Ya know: Everybody's a winner, but somebody's gotta go home. Very democratic of her, but I'm not sure I'd compare making dresses out of newspaper and hot glue to world-class athleticism. 

After Louise Black's close call in the last episode, she promises to go more "over the top" with her next garment to avoid another "snoozefest." (She elaborates in the video below.) As the designers sit runway-side, Heidi announces that the next challenge will be "quite colorful." Richardson's Shirin Askari, by now maybe a little jaded, notes, "We could be making garments of out of big 'colorful' parachutes for all I know." (Hey, producers, are you listening? There's one episode for next season in the bag.)

In the workroom, Tim introduces Martine Reardon, Macy's executive vice president of corporate marketing. The designers' faces show a lack of enthusiasm when they hear that the challenge is "blue" and two outfits consistent with Macy's INC line. Or maybe they're just dazed to be facing another team challenge. (OK, I understand that in the fashion world, designers need to develop good teamwork/people skills. But let's not kid ourselves that this isn't mainly a ploy to stir up more drama.) They are slightly cheered by the revelation that the winning designer will will have a dress sold during the holidays at Macy's (but no immunity).

The designers are given 15 minutes to sketch ideas to present to Reardon, who will choose the team captains. The chosen are Althea, Carol Hannah, Christopher, Louise and Irina. Althea chooses Logan (do I hear the hearts of the other female designers breaking?); Christopher chooses Epperson; Louise chooses Nicolas; and Irina, who either recognizes that she's difficult or can't deign to make such a choice, makes Gordana and Shirin choose who wants to work with her. Gordana volunteers, so Shirin pairs up with Carol Hannah.

The teams only have 20 minutes to wade through a sea of blue fabric at Mood. As usual, everyone has their crosses to bear: Shirin screams for denim, and -- as Tim notes, a first for Project Runway -- Louise loses the envelope of money to pay for the fabric, but quickly finds it under a box at the back of the shop, along with her sketch. Someone should show that girl how to use a pocket.

Back in the workroom, the team-challenge tension begins. Nicolas is not impressed with Louise's sketches of ruffled dresses, since he thinks ruffles are a cop-out for "stumped" designers.

At another worktable, Shirin makes no effort to hide her boredom with Carol Hannah's designs and visibly yawns. And honestly, at least half of the designers seem like they're sleep-walking through this one.

Epperson reminisces about his clash with Qristyl (I had to double-check her name, as my memory had rejected that spelling catastrophe.) in the last team challenge,  but seems to be better-matched with Christopher. In fact, they are the only team that really seems to have a positive outlook on both each other and on this challenge.

Logan and Althea's table is also having a good time, but in a more flirty way. Gordana confesses regarding Logan, "We all think he's hot." She giggles. "The boys like him as well." He does have a kind of skater charm to him, especially with that knit cap he drags out at least once an episode.

Back on Ruffle Row, Louise loosens up, making chirping chicken sounds as she pins onto the dress form, which she says relieves stress. She divulges that she grew up with 25 pets and that's how she learned to do bird sounds. Uh-huh.

The Tim Checkup™ yields lots of "potential," but not a lot of excitement from Mr. Gunn. He begins with Team Carol Hannah -- "also known as Team Awesome!" shouts Shirin, who seems to have two speeds in this episode: yelling and bored. They show him their designs, a draped-neck top and high-waisted denim skirt, and an obi-belted sweater dress with leggings. Tim shows her the hand and says: "Oh, don't get me on leggings." Amen, Tim. Amen.

Tim is hesitant about the contrasting fabrics on one of Louise's ruffled dresses (yes, there are two), calling them "so abruptly different." Again, Louise reveals her fear that the judges will think her too boring if she doesn't do something daring. And my fear is that her fear is blinding her to any kind of good fashion judgment, especially when Tim is flashing his warning lights.

Althea tells Tim that she and Logan are working on "a simple skirt that's neither short nor long," which in my mind translates to "tea length," but on the runway translates to almost micro-mini.

Irina, who's working on a flowy sundress with diagonal stripes, and Gordana appear to have a disagreement on every aspect of their garments from waistbands to closures, and in her camera interview, Irina calls Gordana's look -- a double-layer chiffon top with a high-waisted skirt -- a "disaster." Gordana mentions two or three times how frustrated she is that Irina is not giving her any direction in completing the top. Gee, I wonder if that will come up on the runway.

Tim tells Christopher and Epperson that their two garments have the "potential for serious reinvention," but looks to me as if maybe they should've reinvented that striped shirtdress again. Honestly, between that and the abundance of leggings, I'm pretty sure we've slipped through a wormhole into 1992.

Nicolas just can't say enough to the camera about Louise's choice of trim: "I hate ruffles. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I believe ruffles were created to hide flaws. Ruffles make me sick."

Irina gets plenty of face time with the camera this week too, observing that Carol Hannah and Shirin's design looks like a "$10 shirt that was on sale for $5.99."

Day One of the one-day challenge ends as expected--the stressed-out designers stumble back to the loft apartments and the audience still has little idea what the garments will really look like.

On the morning of Day Two, at Tim's 10-minute warning, pieces of Louise's dress ruffle are yet to be attached. Not a surprise; Louise has seemed extra flighty this episode. Meanwhile, Christopher calls himself and Epperson "the dream team" and predicts success.

The designers take their seats on the port side of the runway. Thankfully, Michael Kors is back finally, but the third judge is yet another from the rotating carousel at Marie Claire, Zanna Roberts, senior fashion editor, and the fourth is the Macy's exec, Martine Reardon.

As Tara walks down the runway in Althea/Logan's design, Logan comments on the unfortunate, unpredictable way the suit's skirt creeps up and up. Judge Zanna seems either disgusted or slightly aroused by this turn of events. But Althea and Logan have enough natural confidence to laugh it off.

Kalyn comes out in Louise's rosette-covered -- sorry, Louise -- nightmare, and Michael shakes his head and makes a face as if he just bit into a gritty shrimp. I don't think that bodes well for homegirl Louise.

As her designs walk, Carol Hannah mentions that she thinks one of her strengths is being sellable and marketable. Earlier she mentioned being able to relate to Macy's customers. I can definitely see her having a future in department store-level design.

Gordana and Irina seem pleased with their designs, which, like all of the looks, I am neither highly impressed nor greatly depressed by.

Christopher/Epperson's shirtdress gets a "whaaa?" face from Zanna. Boy, I want to play poker with this woman.

In the designer lineup, Althea/Logan are immediately proclaimed safe and retreat to the green room. Louise/Nicholas and Christopher/Epperson are told they have lowest scores. Christopher visibly gasps. Sweet Jesus, he really did believe all that positivity he was spouting earlier.

Regarding Carol Hannah/Shirin's outfits, the judges laud the beautiful neckline, and say the shirt doesn't look cheap (as if they had somehow heard Irina's $5.99 comment). The judges seem to like the pieces, but don't have a lot to say about them.

Gordana tells the judges that working on the garments for this episode was "a little bit of a challenge." Irina calls Gordana shy and then calls her out for not having enough initiative -- does she ever let up? Bitch, you're winning, just chill the eff out. Heidi gives their dress the stamp of "I would wear that" approval.

Louise says about her prom-y cocktail dress, "I thought I would add something to spice it up a bit." To which Heidi replies, in a disbelieving tone, "And that was ... ruffles?" I don't have a high opinion of Nicolas, but he was really right about the ruffles being all wrong. Michael grimaces as he tells them, "This truly looks like a bridesmaid's dress with a shower loofah ruched up the front of it. No modern girl wants to wear that dress." Surprisingly, Nicolas doesn't completely trash Louise on the runway as he did with Johnny a couple of weeks ago. He gently says that though ruffles weren't his passion, he wanted to help Louise bring her vision to life. Heidi reminds Nicolas how lucky he is that he has immunity this week, and he nods meekly.

Heidi also condemns the Christopher/Epperson team with a lack of modernity, and even in a world that loves vintage, no designer wants to be told his looks are outdated. The jabot on the bubble dress Heidi compares to a lobster bib. (It also looks similar to the back of Christopher's vampire bride shirt from last week.) Michael doesn't care for the "librarian's shirtdress from 1979" and he thinks that the shiny fabric makes it look like a tablecloth. "Teal charmeuse disco pumpkin" is both Michael's description of Christopher's dress/top and the most awesome phrase from this ep. Christopher can't hold back the tears. You kinda feel sorry for the guy because he was the only one that seemed to be enjoying this team challenge. As soon as Christopher starts bawling, Zanna and Martine jump in to heap on their criticism.

After that massacre, the judges choose Irina as the winner, and she seems moderately happy. The other three high scorers are dismissed, along with Epperson and Nicolas, whom Heidi again reminds of his luck. When she says that for the third time, I'm relatively certain that what she's really saying is, "If we could've found a way around that pesky 'immunity' gimmick, we would've been glad to kick you to the curb too."

Heidi gets in a few sucker punches, as always, before she aufs the loser. To Louise, she notes that her designs this week were "bad overworked bridesmaids dresses, not flattering, not well made, not sellable," and to a red-eyed Christopher, she scolds that his "outfits had nothing in common with each other, except how clueless they both were. [Ooh, snap!] Badly made, terribly styled, and a stretch to think that any customer would want to buy them." Even though Christopher's in, he still keeps crying. I would too.

And so we say goodbye to Louise. I mean, I'm sending her some local-girl love, for sure, but I also can't lie and say that her designs this week were up to snuff, and on her second week in the bottom three, it was almost inevitable. But I'm also certain it's not the last we'll hear from her either.

According to the preview, next week promises more tears and tragic designs. Can't wait!