Pity the plight of the contestant on a reality show who gets eliminated early and then has to come back weeks later (in reality show time) to help one of the remaining contestants on a challenge. This is a fairly common trope and an interesting one but it always stresses me out. There’s the reveal of all the castoffs, marching confidently back into the arena, heads held high, with literally nothing to lose but also nothing to win. There’s the cheers of recognition and the reunion hugs. And then, of course, there’s a few shots where you look at the screen and go “Wait, who is that?” This is where I start to sweat. To my mind, this isn’t a reality TV issue; this is a social situations issues and nothing stresses me out more than social situations (all of them; no exceptions). How awkward is it to return to a show to help one of your fellow contestants when no one had any time to figure out who you are? This is the problem that befalls Jenn and Asma who, as you’ll recall, joined in the opening reception at the TWA Hotel in the premiere, were paired with each other for the challenge, and were summarily both eliminated. When they return in the latest episode, along with everyone else who has been cut from the show, they are strangers to the other contestants. No one had time to form any bonds with them, so as people are cooing over Alan’s bold return and hugging Chelsea, they’re left to linger on the periphery.
This has the same energy as when you start working for a company and you get invited to someone’s birthday happy hour or goodbye party out of an excess of politeness, but then you show up (no one knows why; not even you!) and everyone is like “Oh! You came!” and then you have to decide whether you want to try to win over a room full of people who have worked together for 20 years, including Scottsdale Bill who flew all the way back for the occasion (not to be confused with Newark Bill, who is a dear but everyone agrees was a bit of a lone wolf). What a mess.
Right at the top of the episode, Christian and Karlie tell the designers that this week they’ll have two days to reinvent the tuxedo, using models of all gender presentations, and they’ll be aided by one of the eliminated designers. But, of course, there’s a twist. The eliminated designers get to pick who they’ll work with and there’s one more eliminated designer than there is contestant so someone is going home AGAIN. Meanwhile, at my home, I’m fully hyperventilating and need to be sedated. The button box comes out and the first name picked is Jenn. She picks Brittany. Brittany is like, “Okay, but who?” Tyler picks Delvin, of course; Shavi and Marquise link up; Melanie and Geoffrey pair off. I start to breathe a little more easily. Veronica (a delight throughout the episode) picks Sergio, which surprises Victoria even though Veronica and Victoria did not work together well in the past. Chelsea picks Nancy and the final person out of the button box, Alan, picks Victoria. This leaves Asma! All alone! On the stage! Neither picking nor picked! My blood pressure? Through the roof! Asma showed up, took a train, put on a tux and a gold lamé hijab, and doesn’t even get to be in the episode? Even though no one knows her? My goodness; the levels. I cannot abide. ‘Twere it me, I’d be like “Okay, y’all are gonna cut me a check for a Lyft XL to take me home right neeeoowww.”
At least it frees Asma to go on about her post-Project Runway life without all the stress. Speaking of post-PR life, shoutout to one of last season’s standouts Venny Etienne, who will be showing a collection next week at New York Fashion Week!
It turns out, Asma’s plight does end up being a little better than Jenn’s. Though she and Brittany get along well, Brittany is thrown by the challenge. She opts to design for a male model, despite that style being out of her wheelhouse and it goes sideways. On the runway, she presents a purple patterned jacket with skinny lapels and satin aubergine shorts and the judges are all-the-way done. Brandon says it’s a mess. Thom Browne, the guest judge, says theres a proportion problem and advises shorter shorts. As a lover of Daisy Dukes, I concur. Brittany is ashamed of the design and understands when the judges eliminate her. See what happens when you bring back old contestants? Chaos. Chaos on the runway.
We’ll circle back to this in a second, but first some superlatives!
The last time Geoffrey wore a tux, it was to his sisters wedding a couple decades back. We’re treated to a photo form the event and a glimpse of an absolutely baby faced Geoffrey with an angularly sculpted mohawk. Reader, I swooned. He looks like if Max Headroom and Boy George had a little goth club kind and it’s perfect. I know this isn’t how anything works, but I need a spinoff series with Young Geoffrey immediately.
After the first workday, Alan declares “grab your good heels cuz we’re are going out!” He dubs it “living my New York moment,” but it turns out that means the designers are sent to a closed rooftop where there is wine, charcuterie, and corn hole. It’s not exactly Soho House.
Least Team Spirit
“Victoria is definitely a solo designer,” Alan quips. “She doesn’t work well with other people. She barely works well with herself.” Truer words were never spoken. “What do you want me to do?” Alan asks her. She replies, “You relax. Don’t worry.” You have to admire how little interest Victoria has in the specifics of most challenges. Victoria eventually assigns Alan “the most important part of the dress.” Which is… the garter belt. And then proceeds to cut the fabric herself, and then take it back from him and cut it again. We love an uncollaborative queen.
Most Sugar Shock
Marquise has a 1000% hunk of a model with body-oddy-oddy. Marquise describes him as one of the eye candy models. And candy he is indeed. Like the jumbo candy you get at the movie theater. Like an Easter basket full of candy. Like the best Halloween haul you’ve ever seen. Delicious!
At the beginning of the ep, Sergio declares “I’m actually turning the tuxedo backwards,” and then proclaims with his trademark obliviousness, “I’ve never seen it done before.” Honey, in that case, Celine Dion wearing John Galliano to the 1999 Oscars cordially invites you to check the prescription on your spectacles. (Brittany and Nina mention the reference later in the episode but I just want the record to show that I knew the reference before. When it comes to Ms. Celine, je am une completist!)
As Sergio is designing, he tries to figure out what political cause the design should represent. I find it very odd that he chooses the theme after doing the design work. Frankly, it makes it feel disingenuous. That’s particularly true this time, as he decides that the backwards gown represents the way our country has reversed politically since the last election. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. A lot to unpack here.
This comes back to bite him at the runway when he declares, “in my opinion, when America was great was the 1950s.” Elaine is on this MAGA talking point from the avowedly liberal designer in a flash, reminding him of the minor fact that the 1950s weren’t super great for, oh, women, black people, folks like that. Sergio looks shocked by this news. Sergio, you see, is not a big history buff, as we’re going to see shortly Sergio is about the future! Or, at least, a statement about the future! “Your messaging was actually offensive. Stick to the fashion,” Elaine says.
Most New Here
AND THEN, Nina brings up the Galliano reference. “I’m sure you know the look I’m talking about.” Sergio is like “Sorry to this man.” Sheesh. Honestly, this is impeachable. Sergio has had such a successful heel turn, I think he may have won the Iowa primary. We’ll see.
Most Over It
Prior to the Sergio debacle, when Elaine sees Brittany’s design come down the runway she releases a huge, bone-deep sigh and it’s hilarious to me for some reason.
Most Pot Kettle Black
Victoria complains that Nancy keeps doing the same silhouettes and designs. Girl. Asymmetrical physician heal thyself.
Delvin, Victoria, and Brittany trash talk Nancy’s design but they’re unknowingly within Nancy’s earshot. Delvin describes her pants as a glamorous garbage bag. Question: you’re sharing a penthouse with all these other people, why are you talking smack in a public area. PUT IT IN THE GROUP CHAT. In the end, Delvin’s oddly retrograde green double-wool crepe tux and Nancy’s self-plagiarized purple and pink brocade tux with the same pants from the Ashley Longshore challenge both end up in the bottom two with Brittany.
Nancy accidentally breaks the buttonhole machine, raising Delvin’s ire. Christian, wizened soul, tells them that they didn’t have a buttonhole machine in his day and they did fine. Also the runway was uphill, both ways!
Marquise drapes his gorgeous model in a layered jacket, black pants, and a long half-skirt. Nina loves the drama and regality. “I love seeing male cleavage” Thom Browne says about the look which has the model buttoned up to his chin. The judges are confused. Browne clarifies he means ankle cleavage. Everybody loves cleavage, apparently, as Marquise is this week’s winner! No hyperbole, all I want is for Marquise to dress me for every event in 2021. Let’s make this happen, people. Collaborate!
We have a Siriano save! Christian plucks Brittany from elimination and it’s a beautiful thing! This event is accompanied by an adorable desaturated flashback to five minutes earlier when Christian conspired with the judges to rescue Brittany. It’s a sweetly awkward end to an episode that began with me pacing the floor with social anxiety. Phew.