We open on Columbus Circle's Flatotel, where Austin is doing Kenley's hair, and all the contestants are reeling from Rami's dismissal. Then off they dash to Times Square (ish--Circle in the Square Theatre on 50th) to get their challenge. I think I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee here. Angela is waiting for them, and introduces their guest judge, the composer of Godspell (among many others), Stephen Schwartz. Now, that is definitely high-powered in the theatrical realm, but for fashion? I remain skeptical. But the contestants seem delighted, especially when they learn that the winner will have their look featured in the show, and they'll get a bio in the program. I wish to stop here and point out that Kenley's hair is apparently still up in rollers, because her head looks enormous and she's wrapped it in a giant scarf. Not the done thing, Kenley!
Ah, and here is the "glitz"--the actress they're designing for is playing a wealthy, ostentatious woman who has stolen her riches from others. (I'm scrambling to think of which song this goes with...maybe "All For the Best"?) Then I get confused because the director starts explaining that the whole cast should look as though they've assembled their own costumes from their own closets, or thrifting, or whatever. So...she's supposed to look like she's made her own costume of Rich Woman? Incidentally, the stills from the show indicate that a copious amount of confetti is involved in the production. Ah--the challenge is also that Rich Woman will have her costume assembled onstage by the other actors...so the designers must do separates, and they have $200 and one day.
Austin gets a little Kurt Hummel, swooning about the aura of the theater as the designers sit in the audience and sketch on their product-placed HP pads. Then they all traipse off to Mood. Where is Swatch? Does Swatch only come out for Tim? I don't blame him. Kara is doing something with fake fur, Mondo's mixing patterns, and no one seems to have money problems. (Guess no one uses the patented Anya BraWallet.)
Back at the workshop, Kenley tells us she's doing a fitted brocade jacket in a white and scarlet, which will tie all of her separates together. Jerell is doing a silver lame coat with a peplum, which sounds like it might be similar to Kenley's shape? Will we have JacketGate II? Kara hopes that the judges will appreciate her clean lines and simple, chic aesthetic. While I agree those are excellent things in real-world fashion, when they just told you that this challenge requires a look that is at once ostentatious and thrifted, I think someone wasn't paying attention.
Kenley and Kara are getting giddy and silly (Kenley's hair is now out of the rollers and super-bouffant, by the way), and Mila is rolling her eyes at their lovefest. Can't say that I blame her. And this week, the smart designers are snagging their Neiman-Marcus accessories pronto. Time for Joanna! She arrives and professes excitement (though none of her face moves to indicate that). Starting with Austin, she listens to his Marie Antoinette-inspired rococo vision and says, "I love it because it's something that could be hideous or could be fabulous." Austin is pleased that she gets it...until she continues: "Right now it's hideous, but you're going to turn it into something fabulous. Aren't you, Austin?" Gulp!
Kara shows Joanna her cute, simple v-neck blouse with "pussycat bow" and red high-waisted maxi skirt. Joanna is unimpressed and tells her she's not being ambitious enough for an All-Star. Kara gets that, "Oh, crap" look on her face and then cut to...a weeping Kara in confessional. But that's enough for Joanna, and on she goes to Mila.
Mila has a sheer, gold-striped fabric, and then shows Joanna some white fur and says she's doing "a little chubby." I don't have a clue what that is. A stole? A capelet? It sounds offensive. There's also a loud green-and-yellow fabric for the skirt--Joanna suggests that Mila scrap her plan for a dirndl-type skirt and do the traditional Mila pencil skirt to suggest the character's power. I thought at first that Mila was going to point out that a dirndl might be easier for the actress to put on onstage, but neither of them seem to care about that. Also, I have just learned that a dirndl is not a wrap skirt, as I had long thought, but a full skirt with a gathered waistband. Educational!
And then, shock of all shocks, Joanna confesses a secret to Mondo: she was once in Godspell herself! Not, she hastens to add, a professional production. She obviously can sense that Mondo is a "safe space" for such shameful revelations. Mondo has chosen an interesting pattern in a sort of copper/blue/black iridescent fabric, and Joanna loves it up close, but worries that from a distance it won't look as good. Here's another place where I wish they'd think more about the theatricality of the stage--will that fabric look amazing under stage lights, or completely washed out? I've no idea. Mondo has another gold fabric that he'll use for collar and sleeves, so he should be OK.
Jerell's silver lame fabric is also quilted--or ruched, or puckered, or something--it has a texture, basically. He's trimmed it in black lace and some sort of black pointy-looking stuff, and he shows Joanna that the fabric has stretch in it so the actress can move. Jerell seems to be hinging his whole look on the jacket, which seems a little risky to me, but Joanna seems unfazed.
As Joanna approaches Kenley, she says, "I'm shocked! Is this the first week we have not had polka dots?" Indeed it is. Kenley's red and white fabric seems to meet with Joanna's measured approval, and then we see some white feather trim, that look like she skinned a Westie and is wearing it as a scarf. Underneath is an aqua floral print that has some red in it to connect with the coat--I don't understand how it works together, but I think that must just be above my fashion pay grade. Kenley does explain that she really wanted it to feel over the top, as though someone had chosen "signature thrift store pieces," and it does give off that vibe.
So the only person we didn't see was Michael? I don't think we showed him, but everyone else got a full interview. Weird. Kara is losing her shit, and Michael comes over to shove her and say "Why are you crying?" before giving her a hug. I miss Zulema, who in her own season didn't hesitate to tell Kara, "You can cry, but just cut and cry."
Model time! We get a look at Michael's design, a backless halter with a pouffy green, almost tutu-like skirt. Definitely looks like New Money (which is pretty much Michael's aesthetic on a good day), but I'm wondering about the backless thing--this poor actress won't exactly be going braless (or topless) onstage, will she? How will she put that on and dance in it? Mondo dresses his model and hates his look--I think the jacket is cool (but a little Fu Manchu), but the print of the long skirt with it doesn't make sense to me, and Mondo himself thinks the look is "heavy and overthought." He's slipping into a funk after last week's rejection of his Mama tribute look, and Kara tries to cheer him.
The next day, Mondo seems restored--apparently he hit bottom and is climbing his way back up. Mila is trimming her fake fur "chubby" and muttering, "Mila's Grooming Services...". It's the first time she's worked with faux fur (I know! Can you believe it? Mila's aesthetic usually screams faux fur), and she doesn't really like it. There's so much shedded hair that I think I'm having an allergy attack here on the couch. Kara, in a talking head, says that she doesn't think Mila's look is her best work, and says, "She's using fur, which she thinks is so fabulous, but it's not even real." Um...is YOUR fur real? I assumed that real fur doesn't come on a roll--and also that Lifetime wouldn't show real fur on TV, for fear of PETA recrimination. Austin pitches a fit about the sewing machines, and everyone else is just like, "Slow your roll, dude." It comes to nothing.
Hair and makeup! Running! Shoes! Sewing! Everyone is dressed, everyone is happy, everyone thinks all their competitors' work is crap. You know, the usual. To the runway! The previews show us that after the commercial, we'll see the promised Isaac Mizrahi bitchiness to Austin: "Oh, did I say starlet?" Ugh. Fake fake fakity fake.
This week, Isaac is introduced as an expert in designing for Broadway. Is he? What show did he do? We also meet our guest judge, who is not the director or actor from Godspell (of course not, what could they possibly have to contribute to the proceedings?), but Tony winner Sutton Foster. My pal Shannon just went to see her in Anything Goes, but alas, on the night, the understudy was playing instead...perhaps it was because Sutton was here judging PR? We may never know.
The show begins with Michael's outfit. The kind of strange green he's chosen for the skirt is the same shade as Rami's Frankenshirt last week, but according to Joanna, that's very "on trend." I guess it's cute, sort of, but she's wearing a hat that aspires to be Philip Treacy but is landing closer to Carmen Miranda.
Kenley's coat looks good, and it does have a rich/thrift feel about it--Isaac gives it the stinkeye, but that could be for the aqua dress underneath? Didn't really get that part. Austin's look is next, and it's wacko. The hair is very Marie Antoinette, she has fuzzy arm warmers on her elbows (oh, turns out it's a fur shawl with sleeve-ish bits), and the silver brocade skirt is bunchy and has suspenders, over a thin black deep V blouse. And there are black leggings. Also a big hat. Sutton Foster's expression is priceless--her jaw hangs open and she is clearly baffled by this look. It is...not good. I'm starting to feel sympathy for Isaac Mizrahi.
Jerell's look is next, and it's shockingly tasteful coming from him. Has a definite older-lady-who-lunches vibe; although the jacket's not boucle, it looks like that jewel-necked collarless jacket that everyone was wearing a few years ago (Chanel, maybe?). There's a spray of black lace like an ascot, and a gray pleated skirt with an uneven hem, but I can't tell if the unevenness is deliberate. This might actually look TOO put together for the purposes of this challenge.
Kara's turn--her red maxi-skirt's been shortened to knee length, and Kara added a giant silver lame bow to belt the fur stole...but other than that, it's about the same. Sutton is scribbling madly and seems to like it. Either that, or she thinks it's hilarious. Mondo's model is next, and she has Dilbert hair--or more specifically, Pointy-Haired Boss hair. It's pretty hilarious. Mondo has ditched the weird underdress in the dark pattern and replaced it with a gauzy gold maxidress over a stiffer gold lame, so it evokes a salwar kameez a bit. The awesome jacket remains, and there are extra bronze-colored feathers at cuffs and shoulders for more zazz. Sutton seems charmed, but Isaac looks skeptical. I don't think we've had a single cut to Georgina through any of this. She must have a hell of a poker face.
Finally, it's Mila's turn, and her model looks like she got dressed in the dark. I don't understand any of it. The green skirt has a totally uneven hem (that is obviously deliberate, but looks accidental), the white fur bolero-ish jacket is too bright-white for the rest of the yellows--why didn't she choose a cream fur?--and the shoes are terribly clunky. Jerell had described this, bitchily, as "girl who can't get into da club," and I kind of have to agree. This is more "bridge & tunnel" than "mail-order bride."
Time for judging--Jerell is called out as safe, and that's it, because with only 7 designers left, almost everyone is either a top or a bottom. (Make your own lewd jokes here.) Jerell seems pleased to be safe, and not overly broken up that he's not in the top.
The judges begin with Michael's look. Georgina says that it's lovely, but perhaps not eccentric enough to be a character look--she felt that the headpiece was forced, and she would have preferred that energy in the body of the look. Sutton and Angela love the party girl vibe and the hint of bitchiness, and Isaac praises Michael's ability to handle the tricky green.
Kenley's next, and tells the judges her look was inspired by her time living in the East Village and the way people would throw crazy colors or prints or pieces together to make others look. Isaac gets the inspiration, but thinks she missed the mark a little with some of the styling. Georgina agrees that there's a little editing to be done, and it obscures the beauty of the coat's cut. Sutton doesn't get the patterns and thinks they're dulling the effect, not popping.
Georgina loves Austin's look! My bad, Austin. She sees the nod toward Antoinette, and thinks he's kept the look modern. Sutton loves the color and Angela loves the silhouette. Isaac also thinks it's "incredibly wonderful," so clearly I don't know what I'm talking about! But he thinks it reads a little too young, because the woman who can afford to buy this outfit wouldn't wear it. And of course, the Scarlett/Starlet thing comes to naught--it was all a joke.
Mila's up, and I get the feeling that she's definitely bottom 3, if not the loser, this week. Isaac likes Mila's separates...but not together. Sutton thinks it's crossing the line from wealthy into streetwalker--Mila went too much toward the "ostentation" side of the spectrum.
Mondo is telling us this whole made-up backstory for his model--the jacket was her dad's old smoking jacket, the other pieces are from her world travels, yada yada. Isaac loves the craziness and asks Mondo to remove the jacket so they can see the dress underneath--it's a total Anya dress (or Uli dress, for you long-term PRers) and very pretty. The judges ooh and aah. Georgina says something about length being Mondo's problem area, and I don't really get what she means, but it seems to be a minor fault.
Kara tells the judges that she was going to do this maxiskirt, but then reimagined her actress as "nasty" and switched to the pencil skirt. Angela loves the red, but hates the silver bow, which she says is bulky and takes away from the richness of the look. Isaac says that he thinks it's the best Kara has done, although it still needs development. Georgina loves the ideas, but thinks there are still little tweaks--an uneven skirt slit, a messy hem--that need finishing. Ooh, I think Mila's going home. She definitely got the worst critique.
So the top three are Michael, Mondo and Austin, and their critiques are as you'd expect. When the judges discuss the bottom three, they start with Mila's look, and Isaac can't contain himself: "This girl looks like she uses drugs." Heh. Yeah, she does. About Kara, Isaac says, "I thought it was her best challenge to date, but I didn't like it." Hmm, didn't hear him tell Kara that. They feel that Kenley heard the "vintage" part of the challenge but not the "rich," and so the whole thing didn't work. Time to call back the designers...
The first designer called safe is...Michael. Off he goes. The winner of the challenge is...Mondo! He is thrilled, Austin looks hella pissed. Guess Austin didn't see the editing like we did. The "back from a meltdown" edit always means winning! Austin is safe. Kenley is safe. So we're down to Kara and Mila...honestly, either of these two could stay or go, and I wouldn't care. I think they're the next two leaving, regardless. Mila's name is called first, and her expression says, "Shit, I'm going home." But no! She is safe, and Kara is going home. Well, that's as it should be...Kara hasn't really been remarkable this season, and I was fearing for her blood pressure this season. Backstage, Kenley is weeping like they're taking Kara to the gas chamber, rather than back home to her kid. I snark, but it's clear that all these designers care for each other and have really bonded, which is nice.
Next week, the challenge is delivered at the U.N., and Austin wears a French Legionnaire's hat to celebrate! Of course he does. See you on the runway, everybody!