Project Runway Recap: The Final Four

I seriously want to kick some people in the shins right now, namely: Mondo and Michael's parents.

With $9000 to spend, 6 weeks to work and 10 pieces to build, the final four of Michael, Mondo, Andy and Gretchen get to work. and Tim sets off to visit them each in their home town.

So, yes, we kick off with Tim getting to go to Hawaii to visit Andy.

Andy's family emigrated from Laos, and lives on a farm where they raise, among other things, catfish. Tim is inordinately freaked out by the catfish. I'm just wishing Andy would put them back in the water, you know, where they belong.

Andy is working from an inspiration of home, meaning Laos.

He's using Laotian textiles, the last package of which only arrived the day before...a mere two weeks before they have to head back to NYC. He also sourced metals from Laos.

The bottom line is that he doesn't have much for Tim to look at...which is worrisome to them both.

Next, Tim heads to overheated Palm Springs to visit Michael.

I may be mistaken, but the show has been somewhat coy on the point of Michael's sexuality throughout the initial episodes. He was the guy with a kid, and they didn't really mention how that happened, or with whom. But now we learn that Michael has a nice partner, Richard, who is clearly a bit bitter about Michael's parents. Apparently they've been telling him he's no good and should give up this design thing, but worse than that: They think he should go back and try being married to a woman again. I'm sure America's women thank you, Michael's parents, for pushing him back out on the market, despite knowing he's actually gay. I'm not liking Michael's parents very much at this point.

Michael is working form the inspiration of sky....and feathers.

He has a dozen completed looks on the maybe pile, and another half-dozen on the reject pile. Tim tells him he has "design diarrhea," and that he better focus.

Next, Tim heads to Denver to visit Mondo.

Mondo lives in a Mexican neighborhood of Denver. So he's inspired first by vintage shots of circuses in Mexico City. And he wanted to evoke both "gritty" and "creepy." Which then reminded him of the Day of the Dead. So he's got a circus/Day of the Dead marriage going on. That does indeed sound creepy.

Except for one hot pink piece, for which Tim pulls out a good SAT word: Jejune!

So, Mondo has a boyfriend, which is nice. And no one brings up[ the whole "do his parents now know his HIV status" thing. But Tim does make oblique reference to Mondo not being "your traditional child". And Mondo's parents go to town on that one:

Mom: I tried everything to make him be one. Yes, to be a macho guy.

Dad: I wanted him to play ball.

Mondo: The rules were he had to play ball to play piano.

And here's the thing: It's not like they're saying this ruefully -- or if they said, "but NOW, I'm so proud of the child I have," we are not shown that at all.

So, I'm not liking Mondo's parents very much at this point either.

Finally, Tim goes to Portland to visit Gretchen.

And I really am starting to feel empathy for Gretchen, despite not liking her demeanor or her designs. I mean, how can you not feel for someone who comes back from NYC and the stress of competing to find a "failed relationship, empty bank account and empty house."?? She's "embarrassed to have Tim come under these circumstances."

But Tim, all-around BFF that he is, tells Gretchen about his intense relationship that failed -- and that if it hadn't, "I never would have moved to New York."

Aw, Tim, I loves you.

Gretchen is inspired by her Western roots, mixed with dabbling with other rural cultures. Which sounds cool.

But Tim pulls out the dreaded "costume-y" to describe the results. So, she has work to do.

When they head back to NYC, we discover they are staying at the New York Hilton. That's the BlogHer '10 Hilton to you beyotches!

Tim's back with the velvet bag, and they're all concerned. As Mondo says: "It's always going to be evil, no matter what's in it."

But no. Hilton is giving each of them a trip, either to Barbados, Costa Rica or Hawaii. A trip for two. "Finally, something good came out of the button bag," says Michael.

Yes, but I'm wondering why I never got anything like that from the Hilton? Hmm.

But of course there is a twist. There has to be. And it's that each of them is going to present 3 looks, but only 2 will be from the collection they brought. One will have to be designed and created over the next two days. The additional look should "enhance" the current collection.

They have 30 minutes to sketch and $300 to spend at Mood.

Gretchen wants to go "sophisticated".

Andy wants to add something "special", something "wow".

Mondo can't think of what else he wants to show.

Michael wants to create another effortless piece.

They're off to Mood, and just as quickly it's "Thank you, Swatch-less Mood."

Tim visits, and we learn:

  • That Tim and Michael are worried about Michael
  • That Gretchen is rocking a youthful, playful look
  • That Mondo is apparently hitting it out of the park as far as Tim is concerned
  • That Andy can pleat and pleat and pleat

After praising the other three, Tim pointedly tells Michael: "Michael Costello: Don't choke!"

No pressure, you know.

And we're off to the runway, where for the first time, I believe, Heidi is joined only by MK and guest judge at all.

As always, click on the outfit name to see it.

1. Andy:

a. Kicks off with a gray silk shorts romper with pleats down the torso and a tiered ruffled neckline. I actually liked this quite a bit, until the model turned around, and I got to be a bit too familiar with the depth of her butt-crack, 'scuse my vulgarity...but it was pretty vulgar how far that romper was going up her butt.

b. A Silver bikini with some sheer silver chiffon tacked on to the bikini to be, I guess, a non-covering cover-up. The top didn't even fit that well, and the chiffon truly looked like it was just pinned on and sent down the runway.

c. His added piece: A green pleated mini-dress. This did have a lot of interesting hand-pleating going on on top, but it was also kind of boxy...not helped by the wide metal belt. And it was very short. Too short. It made the proportions seem wrong.

2. Michael

a. Kicks off with his new piece, a flowy one-shoulder caramel-colored gown. Yes, another effortless dress. Sexy, elegant, beautiful as it moved. The piece of the night, I think.

b. Unfortunately his next piece wasn't quite so flattering, featuring a caramel plunge-neck top, with a beaded belt and a brown feather skirt. yes, it was a little boxy. And a little baggy on top.

c. Finally, coppery brocade-y pants, paired with a brown fringe top with a golden corset underneath. It's nicer than it sounds actually. And man, the pants fit the model's butt like a dream.

3. Gretchen

a. Kicks off with her new piece, an olive summer dress. The olive part was drab. There was some Adrienne Vittadini-style print fabric peeking out on the sides, but she didn't use it enough. And she added this weird flappy thing to the back-end that make the model look like Donald Duck. If Donald was wearing olive drab.

b. But the first look was way better than her second look: A truly hideous Leopard-y top paired with harlequin crop pants, that made it all look like a really really ugly jumpsuit from the 70s. Seriously: This was her butt-ugliest outfit of the season!!! (And that's saying a lot.)

c. Finally, an outfit that I don't even know how to describe. I guess it's a bathing suit? Worn with a leather smoking jacket? And a big hat? Seriously: WHAT WAS THAT???

4. Mondo

a. Kicks off with a pair of black and white printed shorts, a printed elbow-sleeved blouse with a tie, and some wacky accessories, including a Carmen Miranda hat. I particularly liked the shorts, but the overall look was somewhat fussy.

b. His new piece featured a turquoise top, mega-houndstooth mini skirt and little strips of color, like a yellow belt and pink stripes on the sleeves. The skirt was short, but the proportions were better than either Michael or Andy achieved with their mini looks.

c. Finally, a black and white, slinky long dress with black side panels and big white circles down the front and long sleeves. I liked it, personally.

The judging begins: Mondo:

MK loves the new skirt and the short-sleeved blouse, i.e. he loves individual pieces.

Heidi loves the dress, but not the turquoise top.

ninagarcia loves his boldness and theatricality. But she doesn't love the dress.

MK says that dress has a lotta stuff going on. Theatricality is great, but you do want balance.


Heidi/Nina: They both thought the new one must be the bikini.

MK: The green dress sings.

ninagarcia: The collections looks bare. Is there a range?

Heidi: The bikini is a throwaway piece. And she doesn't like the headpieces.


MK likes the effortless gown.

Heidi's fave piece is the fringe top.

ninagarcia is amazed he did everything in the same color.

MK: Color isn't enough to tell a story. The feather skirt doesn't show her body. it all looks a bit "bedazzled".


ninagarcia: My interest was not piqued. It feels crunchy granola. Wearable, but no drama, no polish. The only glimmer of hope is the leather robe. [Ed. note: Really?] The linen dress: "Where are the birkenstocks?"

Heidi: Pieces are great, but something has to be different. Put them in high heels.

MK: Doesn't look expensive. That's your problem. How would I reconfigure to make it look more expensive.

Each designer made the strategic error of saving things back for fashion week, trying to pique the judges' interests instead of wowing them right then. They all edited like crap.

In the end:

Gretchen: Was granola, but wasn't "Granola Deluxe".

Mondo: Has showmanship in spades. But he runs risk of being taken as a joke.

Michael: Needs more confidence and more practice. His best stuff is simple and elegant.

Andy: Tamed the toughness and has ideas. But the pieces he chose to show were "disastrous".

Disastrous though they might have been, in the end it went down like this:

Mondo is in.

Gretchen is in.

Andy is in.

Michael gets the auf.

And he loses it. I don't think I've seen an auf-ee have quite as much of a meltdown. And it wasn't really about feeling bad about himself. No, he was upset wondering how he was going to tell his parents. They were going to tell him "I told you so." and "Come back home, get married, etc."

And Jesus it's painful to watch. As I wrote down: "I hate his parents right about now."

It's nice to see how, in the end, all of the final four really supported each other. Even Gretchen. Even catty Andy, who told Michael: "You never gave up and that's what I really admire."

I admire it too, because no one treated Michael with any respect, until they absolutely had to admit that he had talent, and that the judges really liked his work. The other final four eventually came around -- Mondo first, then Gretchen, and finally, obviously, Andy. But some of those folks, like Ivy and April, never did. So, I'm glad he made it this far, past them.

And I wish he had made it into the Top 3...instead of Gretchen, IMHO.

But what did you think?

Elisa Camahort Page

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