Project Runway Season 18 Episode 5: Don’t Blame the 80s


All season long I’ve been trying to figure out why the producers are giving Sergio a little bit of a villain edit. Sure, he brusquely dismisses Christian’s critiques, which is a criminal offense in 17 nations around the world. And yes, he is prone to self-aggrandizing. But overconfidence and boastfulness do not a reality villain make. Literally everyone on reality television is an overconfident boaster. All of your TV faves are highly photogenic monsters. Let’s be real here. So, the subtle but consistent assertion that Sergio is the troublemaker on a show that tries very harder than River City, Iowa to avoid trouble has always been a head-scratcher. Or least it always was until this week when Sergio—I can barely type this, my hands are shaking so—was rude to Cyndi Lauper! To her face! To Cyndi Lauper’s face! ::pounds table and throws sewing machine through a window:: Folks, we have a villain!!!

Honestly, after last week’s episode, in which the runway was plunged into chaos by Tyler’s political shade, I thought we had finished with high drama for the season. From here on out, I thought, it would be nothing but persnickety annoyances and tiny controversies involving a ripped stitch. This is, frankly, all I can handle at the moment as I feverishly refresh Canadian Zillow trying to figure out where Meghan and Harry are moving.

Project Runway, however, seems to have other plans as evidenced by the fact that they choose this week to unleash the madness that is a team challenge on to the designers. They’re split into two teams and tasked with coming up with cohesive mini-collections inspired by the iconic 80s style of guest judge Cyndi Lauper.

Geoffrey, Brittany, Delvin, Victoria, Dayoung, and Nancy are on one team which, on the surface, looks too stacked with heavy-hitters (and does end up the winners). If you’d asked me before the episode where I thought Sergio would cause the most ruckus, I would have immediately answered “he’s going to tell his teammates ‘I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel’ and everyone is going to be dramatically angry and maybe they’ll send an incomplete collection down the runway.” And reader, I would have been wrong. As wrong as heretofore I’ve been about what neighborhood I think Meghan and Harry are buying in. While the first team, which the show aptly dubs Team Chaos, is immediately falls apart because, as it turns out, every member is a very Type-A person with intense anxiety, Sergio’s team falls into happy harmony under his control. It’s truly shocking to see, honestly.

In a confessional, he delivers one of his more remarkable Sergio Humblebrags (are they even humble? They’re just brags.) He says, “Because I’ve always been in a leadership role in my company, naturally I’m the leader of my team.” A lot to unpack here. I presume the company he’s talking about is Celestino, the atelier he founded in 2005. But, by that logic, aren’t all the designers present also in leadership roles in their companies? It kind of feels like someone going on Survivor and saying “I should be team captain because I’m outdoorsy.”

It’s kind of amazing how quickly everyone else on Sergio’s team, which includes Melanie, Shavi, Marquise, and Chelsea, fall in line when he starts project managing and handing out assignments. But, then again, that is successful teamwork—buying into a vision and using your skills to advance it. Maybe it just seems weird to me because I’m a natural leader myself, having always been in a leadership role in the living room of my one-bedroom apartment. Anyway, everything seems to be going very well for one team and not very well for the other, and then everything gets topsy-turvy and someone is snippy with a music legend so let’s get into some superlatives and break it down.

Best Song Title

Victoria, in confessional, says that she only knows one Cyndi Lauper song, which she mistakenly calls “Girls Just Wanna Go Cry.” ::pounds table:: Folks, I have a new theme song! Where is Victoria’s Soundcloud link? Also, how did the song get so tangled up in her mind?

Most Just Wanting to Have Fun

When Cyndi shows up at the beginning of the episode to explain the challenge Nancy is on her feet applauding. Geoffrey has a touching connection to Cyndi but Nancy is clearly the most here for it.



Most Putting in the Time (After Time)

Nancy again! As the team squabbles lightly about what exactly constitutes 80s pop-punk aesthetic she shuts down discussion by declaring “I lived in the 80s!” Can’t argue with that. It’s like when people much younger than me talk about how much they love Laura Dern and I have to pull out my disintegrating birth certificate and rasp “I saw Blue Velvet in theaters!” (I was actually a small child when Blue Velvet came out but they don’t know that.)



Most Lydia Deetz

Sergio’s team leans very hard into a collection built on black and white stripes. Cyndi says “True Colors” and they’re like “What about true monochromes though?” They each accent the stripes with hot pink fabric used to varying degrees of success. It has a Beetlejuice vibe but if Beetlejuice was the ringmaster at a circus-themed burlesque.

Best Seat Mate

Cyndi Lauper has the most extraordinary random asides to Elaine as she watches the runway and I want a whole show of the two of them just looking at stuff and Cyndi saying whatever comes to mind. She sees Geoffrey’s kerchief skirt and leans over and tells Elaine “Blondie wore one in ‘Heart of Glass.'” This is essential knowledge for Elaine and for me. Later, in response to Victoria’s black asymmetrical black skirt accented with grommets and a ruffled skirt, Cyndi declares “Around 1986, everyone started to wear black.” PUT IT IN YOUR HISTORY BOOKS. Nina liked Victoria’s look and, when it came down to decide a winner, argues for it by saying “This look would be in ELLE Magazine in a minute.” Cyndi asks “Aren’t you the editor?! Put it in!” Cyndi Lauper, career coach. Finally, when it comes down to Melanie’s look, a hot pink bodycon dress underneath a sheer overlay made of rectangular strips, Cyndi rejects Melanie’s defense that the over-the-top aesthetic of the challenge clashed with her minimalist design style. “Don’t blame it on the 80s!” Cyndi Lauper declares. I don’t know that we need a sassy retort to “OK Boomer” but if we do, “Don’t blame it on the 80s!” certainly works.



Tyler Neasloney Award for Late-in-the-Episode Drama

So, Sergio appoints himself the showstopper closing look of his team’s mini-collection. His design? Well, it’s a sheer top that spreads out in the back to become a sort of duster with ruffled edges and pink piping. And then there’s the Beetlejuice fabric on the high-waist pants with tall slits cut in the front of each leg, held together by safety pins and pink fabric. The judges are not enthused, with Nina saying it “really does not connect in any way, shape, or form.” Cyndi agrees, “it’s a lot of different things going on at once.” Sergio decides to counter their assessment by telling them that he likes the design. Why do contestants do this? Yes, we know you like it. The judges don’t. So what now?

Sergio then leans all the way with another mini-monologue: “I tend to dress women 40 and up, so a little bit older,” he says, educating the panel. “So all my stuff is going to look more sophisticated. That’s who pays my bills… If you like it, if you don’t, that’s not my problem.” He says this to 66-year-old Cyndi Lauper. Like! What is the objective here?! And actually! If they don’t like it, that actually is his problem. It’s one thing for him to shrug off a challenge designing a look for, I don’t know, Jojo Siwa or something. But Cyndi is in his demographic and he’s on a show asking to be chosen. So what’s the issue? I am just vexed. And why, when the chips are down, are you going to be snippy with Cyndi Lauper?!

Personal Favorite Design

Though he was on the losing team, I liked Shavi’s kicky striped dress with a short, flared skirt.

Winning Design

Geoffrey, a Cyndi stan from way back takes the day with his kerchief skirt and expertly constructed structural black top. Blondie in “Heart of Glass” would be proud!

Best Collaboration

Cyndi Lauper and Patti Labelle going to TOWN on “Time After Time.”


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