I love it when reality competition shows do something totally ridiculous that could never, ever happen in real life. You know, like on Cupcake Wars, when they have to make a cupcake with squid ink in it, or on America's Next Top Model when they do makeovers and Tyra shaves someone's head and justifies it by telling the poor girl that she looks "high-fashion." These ridiculous scenarios push the contestants past their comfort zones, which can have a myriad of fascinating outcomes beyond unlocking untapped creativity. At the very least, contestants tend to show their true colors, and at best, they go bat-shit crazy.
On Project Runway, the ridiculous episode — or the "unconventional challenge" — is never disappointing. One time they had to make clothing out of items they found in a grocery store. Another season, they had to use stuff they found in a party supplies store. A couple of seasons ago, they actually made the designers create clothing for models walking on stilts. Purists may argue that this has nothing to do with real fashion design, but I disagree. You never know when you might find a giant who needs some extra-long pants constructed quickly, or a naked person running through Whole Foods. If either of those things happen, these people are prepared.
This week, the designers come to the workroom and are informed they have to work with items from a flower shop, because the amazing Tim Gunn loved this challenge in the past and everything he says is the truth. Heidi Klum jumps in to interject that her favorite challenge was when designers had to make clothing out of stuff they found in a hardware store. I think you see where this is going. So this time, they have to use items from both a flower store and hardware store, and as a team, make a cohesive line with six looks. Heidi says they are working with the ultimate hard and soft. No jokes, please.
Pan to Amanda Valentine. Face visibly falls. Amanda is not excited and remarks that she does not like flowers and did not even have flowers at her wedding. Ooh, this is going to be good!
Since there is inequality in numbers between the teams — Keeping It Real (Amanda's team) has eight designers, and Dream Team has five because they keep losing — Tim tells Dream Team that they can pick two of Keeping It Real's contestants. They snag Stanley and Layana. Everyone is happy ... well, maybe the folks on Team Keeping It Real, not so much, but they'll deal.
Then ... a twist! Tim tells Keeping It Real, now down two of their strongest designers, that they can take someone from Dream Team, but not Stanley or Layana. They pick Michelle without even needing to discuss it, because Michelle is awesome. Michelle, however, is not thrilled, because now she has to work with Patricia, and she is not down with Patricia.
So, each team gets $2,500 to spend, which will go only so far in the flower shop, but will certainly buy a lot of duct tape. Early on in the show, Amanda says she needs to have more fun with this challenge, and that she doesn't want to end up in the middle again.
Here we have Michelle, who is trying to figure out how to construct a bodice out of window blinds. Can she get a Girl Scout badge for that?
And then there's Patricia, cutting flowers and cutting bitches. Look out.
Kate is making a 21st century version of a chastity belt in the form of a wire cage skirt. I hope her model does not go commando.
Over on Dream Team, Stanley, who somehow appears to be in charge, steers the team toward a 1950s Dior vibe. Classic classy dresses, intricate tailoring ... this could be tricky with flowers and rope, but Stanley & Co. seem pretty confident.
Amanda announces she is doing a high neck, semi-fitted tank dress with metal detail. She remarks that she needs to pick up the slack on the team. Since Amanda is not into flowers, she goes for moss, which she quickly discovers is one giant mess. Moustache/Daniel suggests she toughen the moss up by coating it with watered-down adhesive of some kind. This might work, although I wonder if her model will be stuck in that sucker like a cast. Oh well. This is the unconventional challenge, remember? It doesn't have to be practical.
Speaking of practical, I don't know what Moustache/Daniel is making, but I'm digging it.
Also on Keeping It Real, cutie pie Joe has spent hours making a net "to troll the bottom of the ocean," according to Michelle. It's Joe, though, so you know it's going to be interesting.
Over on Dream Team, Samantha seems a little stressed out and stuck. Her model seems to be in need of a sandwich.
Ben is making a loom. A motherfucking loom. And then he going to make his own fabric. TIME MANAGEMENT ISSUES! Insert music of doom here. Kate is under chicken wire, flower pieces are flying everywhere, people are hammering nails into bouquets of flowers and it's crazy — and I LOVE IT.
Keeping It Real suddenly realizes that their line has no cohesion. They've all started their designs, but they have no story to tie it all together like Stanley and Dream Team's glamorous Dior vibe. As they talk with Tim — who totally picks up on the lack of cohesion, because he's TIM GUNN — Michelle points out that she sees a decades theme" Kate's giant dress has a '50s vibe and the one she's working on is reminiscent of the '80s. Phew. We have a theme, if not fully realized.
This could go any way.
Tim is worried about the bald spots on Amanda's dress, which she's working to conceal. She's struggling a bit, but she knows it's too late to start over. Patricia makes some pointless I-told-you-so comment that is not helpful at all. Amanda is worried that her dress is starting to look like astroturf, and her water/glue mixture — which was supposed to fix everything — is causing the moss to fall off in chunks.
Side Note: Girl, I understand. One time I made a cake for a co-worker and tried to hastily defrost some strawberries by putting them in the microwave. The hot strawberries had some weird chemical reaction with the cream cheese frosting, coagulating into the weirdest fleshy, lumpy state between solid and liquid matter. It looked like some sort of nasty skin rash. Oh, and it did not help that the cake was in the shape of a penis. I will say that the cake tasted fine, by the way.
Amanda is worried that her astroturf minidress might self-destruct onstage. She's worried part of it might fly off and land in Nina's lap. As much as I want Amanda to win, I kind of want to see this happen.
Amanda decides the back of her dress looks better than the front, and ponders sending her model down the runway backwards. As much as I want Amanda to win, I kind of want to see this happen, too.
I suddenly realize that Amanda is getting a lot of screen time. Oh no. Is this a reality show foreshadowing alert??? Say it ain't so! :(
It's Runway time! Guest judges this week are Man Repeller and Bette Midler. Everyone is excited about Bette but seems sort of ambivalent about Man Repeller ... WTF?
Team Keeping It Real starts the show.
Joe's dress, or sweater coat thing? Not really sure. He did say earlier he didn't want to make something sexy, making the perfectly logical point that women don't always want to wear something sexy. Well, I'd say he succeeded ...
Richard and Michelle's dress is so bizarre and insane — it's like the secret garden in jail. I want it.
Amanda's cute '60s dress actually looks like a real dress you could wear, even with the astroturf feel and the combo of nails and flower petals. Zac Posen leans in closely to see the back, which probably made everyone swoon because Zac was a few inches closer to them. Also, nothing has flown off and hit Nina in the face. We're good.
Kate's dress is gigantic and fabulous. Kate comments that she looks like a cupcake.
It's time for the Dream Team — whoa, Stanley! Hello, Alice In Wonderland couture. Your fantasy prom dress just came to life.
Ben's dress ... eh. I'm impressed with the whole "I made a loom!" part of it, but otherwise it's kind of average.
Samantha's dress is incredible — she's gone with a similar flowers-in-the-metal concept like Richard/Samantha, but she's taken it a step further. This dress is hot. And weird. But mostly hot.
Layana's dress looks like a cross between something you'd actually see on the runway and a wedding cake, but in the best possible way. Seriously cool.
I'm calling Dream Team on this one.
Heidi says it's been one of her favorite runway shows so far. She, along with the rest of the judges, looooves the Dream Team's collection. However, she also likes team Keeping It Real's effort, noting that they took risks and played with different shapes.
Dream Team is announced as the winning team, and Zac says they won because of their cohesion. Nina remarks that Keeping It Real's decade theme wasn't evident during the runway show.
Heidi asks Keeping It Real who should go home. Richard says Amanda, a few others agree, including Moustache/Daniel and Patricia. Amanda stands up for herself, saying that she conquered the moss and that she doesn't feel like she was such a burden on her team. Joe points out that she's been working in the real world and working with clients and that maybe that's caused her to neglect her more creative side. Amanda says she wants someone to be able to wear the moss dress. Zac posits on art meets commerce. Nina remarks that the struggles were not apparent.
In their discussion after the contestants leave the stage, the judges say that they feel bad for Amanda — Nina says her design was not bad, and Heidi likes her idea. Bette says the finger pointing is contagious. Nina is bothered by Amanda's attitude, saying that she seemed defeated. I disagree — Amanda stood up for herself on the runway, yet took her teammate's criticism with grace. Fortunately, Nina has a bigger problem with Joe's design and his overall aesthetic.
The teams are called back out. Samantha is named the winner, and deservedly so.
So ... who is going home?
It's Joe. Phew, a collective sigh heard around Nashville. Keeping It Real, you better be keeping an eye on Ms. Valentine, because you may have just ignited a fire under that lady.