One of my favorite reality TV tropes is the contestant who is disappointed by how hard the show is and how much they miss their family. I feel like this is who I would be, to be honest. I am disappointed by how hard most stuff is, so if you wanted me to live in a fancy dorm with a bunch of people who activate my imposter syndrome, and to prove my skill and creativity in a new way every couple of days, I’m pretty sure I’d take to the fainting couch with a quickness. At the same time, you have to wonder what these contestants were expecting; it’s like, “Hon, the show is called Survivor. This isn’t exactly Club Med.”
We get the first of such stories this week with Nadine, the designer and professor who last week bumped heads with Hester, this season’s resident eccentric. When the show opens, she’s puttering around the kitchen in the designers’ house, fussing at people for not keeping the kitchen clean. This is 100 percent me in college. Feeling homesick and stressed? Try being passive-aggressive to your roommates about a cereal bowl in the sink. It’ll cure what ails you.
Nadine seems to be the only design-testant who is not really feeling this whole thing, since Kovid seems to have bounced back from the doldrums of last week and is now trotting around the house in a trench coat with a truly gargantuan cowl. It’s as if Queen Elizabeth I was a detective. Obsessed.
This week, the designers must use a a single print to make a head-to-toe editorial look for a model. Nadine is immediately a little peeved because she gets a plus-sized model and thinks that prints on a curvy woman will look overwhelming. This is the first of many such signs of trouble here. The premise of her objection is offensive and, call me crazy, but it seems what she’s complaining about is a design problem and she is—stay with me here—a designer. IDK.
Meanwhile, across town, Tessa’s aesthetic is minimalist, so patterns will be a challenge, but she’s aiming to show the judges a new side for her. Hester, who I just realized is giving me slight Tammi Brown vibes, is in heaven. Patterns are totally her jam. Of course, she’s still stressed about this, but like a good stress. It feels like this is just her thing.
Everyone is pretty stressed because designing with patterned fabric is challenging from an aesthetic perspective as well as a technical skills perspective. When constructing an outfit with a patterned fabric, one has to be very intentional about where the different pieces of fabric connect to one another. Every piece has to communicate.
While most people have chosen fairly bold patterns, Rakan selected a houndstooth, and Christian is not feeling it. Christian is really thrown by Rakan’s whole everything, actually. Rakan is making a super long jumpsuit with ruched legs and arms and the concept vexes Christian. There’s also an over-sized jacket on the way, and Christian is shewk by the very idea. Christian doubts Rakan’s commitment to Sparkle Motion. Rakan is not interested in this critique. The segment devolves into basically just two people looking at each other saying “Fine.” “Fine.” “Fine.” “…Fine.”
In other news, Kovid is wearing a teal track jacket that has a navy liner with white polka dots. He zips the jacket halfway up and pulls it down on one shoulder so it looks like a Flashdance-style sweatshirt and again, je suis obsessed.
But the big story is Nadine. She says she loves her outfit but doesn’t like it on her model… which…yikes? Also, her design is sort of a very flowy bodysuit with a hood. Christian encourages her to make it “modern Golden Girls,” which is a fantastic premise but doesn’t seem to have happened here. Also, while we’re dishing, I kind of hate the fabric? It’s white with black and brown splotches and I, at home in my pajamas, am underwhelmed.
Nadine is also underwhelmed but for different reasons. She fusses at her model, telling her she’s not taking long enough strides and moving her shoulders too much. I’m not a fashion expert but I feel like still shoulders don’t transform the construction of a dress. But…okay. It only gets worse from here.
Kovid update: He is wearing a sheer white sports coat with a dramatic flared bottom. He looks like the stylish ghost of Amadeus. What am I? Obsessed.
The judges are joined by Adam Selman, who designed Rihanna’s stunning sheer dress and knows his way around bold editorial with unusual fabrics.
On the runway basically everyone has a “reveal,” removing jackets, shawls, and aprons left and right. These models are going through changes. The most interesting is Jamall’s design, which is a full gown with two thick swaths of fabric attached at the waist like dangling hoops. His model walks the runway with one hoop slung over her shoulder and then releases it, changing an asymmetrical design into a symmetrical. Loves it!
Hester describes her design as “City girl Little Red Riding Hood punk rock picnic basket” which, for all of its word-saladness, is surprisingly accurate. It comprises a bunch of different components—a skirt, a hat, shoes, a backpack, and a cape—all made of picnic tablecloth material. The judges go gaga for it.
They also love Sebastian’s stunning design, a gown with a gracefully ruffled collar and superb, detailed construction, which seems to be his trademark. Nina notes that he had immunity and yet still delivered an extraordinary product. His consistency and craftsmanship are going to be the big story this season.
Kovid, Sebastian, and Hester end up in the top three, with Hester taking home the prize this week. There’s so many wearable separate pieces and it’s all joyous, as Nina says.
This leaves the bottom three: Garo’s attempt at a club kid look with a pink and purple striped fabric ended up a little too “jazzercise,” according to Brandon. No one is compelled by Rakan’s baggy jumpsuit, and they agree that the houndstooth doesn’t read from the runway. Trying to make sense of the ruching, Nina says, “the pants are unexplainable to me.” Things confounding Nina Garcia is quickly becoming my favorite running gag on this show.
And then there’s Nadine. When questioned by the judges, she again throws her model under the bus, saying she wanted to design with volume in mind but once she got a curvy model she couldn’t express herself the way she wanted to. Brandon immediately picks up the disrespect Nadine has shown to her model, to the model’s face no less. This line of defense continues to be so strange and unnecessarily cruel.
Nina questions the taste involved in this design but Nadine is not taking this critique well at all. We quickly reach the breaking point for the contestant, who has already decided they don’t want to be there. This is always a pretty volatile moment. Backstage, Nadine tells Renee, “Them bitches could send me home, I really don’t care.” Welp.
Uh, anyway, they…do. Nina gives a final assessment and wishes her good luck. Nadine turns and leaves, ignoring Karlie as Karlie calls out for her to wait. It’s the last bad choice in an episode full of them.
In retrospect, this episode boils down to differences between Nadine and Hester in both style and approach. Hester seized the opportunity to work in the area that best matched her style, leaning all the way in to make an authentic creation. Meanwhile, Nadine seemed to decide in advance that she wasn’t going to be able to fully see herself in this challenge or this show and preemptively started withdrawing. She’s framing it as a mutual separation; this afternoon, before the episode aired, she made a post on her Instagram that rather directly suggested that the show itself was the problem.
This is as fine a story as any, I guess. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Nadine had let herself dig in, incorporating her discomfort with her situation and her model and the show itself into her design. In an episode where success depended on embracing the power clash of disparate elements, nothing would have been more appropriate.
Who I’m rooting for this week
Sebastian! Hester! Nina’s incredulity!