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'Project Runway' recap: Almost time for Fashion Week

Janelle reports on this week's Project Runway:

Previously, New York City was inspiring. April’s clothes were sad. Now, who will go to fashion week?

Heidi tells the final four that they’ll each design a collection, but only three will show at fashion week. They have $9,000 and six weeks to make a 10-piece collection. She then summons an unnamed person onto the runway, as if to surprise the designers. Tim comes out, all “you knew it would be me.” He tells the designers that he will come to their houses and check on them. By the way, this is Tim’s episode. If you didn’t want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George before this, well, now it’s time.

Everyone packs up and leaves the Atlas, and we get some interviews of inspiration and determination and motivation and perspiration (…and the band played on) (anyone else hearing that song? Ball of Confusion? Anyone? [Bueller?]). Ahem.

Let’s visit Andy! He’s in Waianae, Hawaii, two weeks before fashion week. His mom lives on a big farm, Andy gets Tim some mud boots and they go tromping through the fields. They visit some tanks where the family raises catfish, and Andy says they kind of look like Chinese men. Tim squeals (really!) and says, “I’ve never seen a Chinese man that looks that unattractive.” They eat lunch outside with Andy’s mom and his friend Jill. Tim asks how a kid in rural Hawaii can turn out to be a fashion designer. His mom is totally supportive of him.

Andy expertly beheads a coconut. As for the clothes, Andy is using fabric hand woven in Laos, where his parents are from. Unfortunately the fabric just got there yesterday, so he hasn’t made any actual looks yet. He says he’s inspired by Buddha Park in Laos, and a picture of his grandpa, an elephant herder. Wow, I love Andy now, too. Tim looks at sketches and tells Andy not to make a hot mess.

Twelve days to go, and Tim visits Michael C in Palm Springs. Michael’s partner, Richard, is helping him pack shoes. We see the clothes first, they look swanky. Michael was inspired by colors of the sky and by feathers. He’s got a dress with a feathered skirt, and a top made mostly of fringe. He has 12 completed looks plus six more on the reject rack. Tim says he’s got design diarrhea, and he needs to stop and edit.

Then they eat with friends Frank and Art, plus Michael’s son Giovanni. Richard points out that Michael’s parents haven’t ever supported him until he got on the show, and they shouldn’t go to fashion week. Michael says they’ve always wanted the best for him, but within their rules -- they wanted him to be married (“To a woman,” guesses Tim). Michael says that on February 28, 2007, Richard outed him to his parents, and his parents gave up on him for a while. Great job, Michael’s parents!

Next stop is Denver, with 10 days to go. Mondo’s house is painted pink and yellow inside. He’s from a Mexican Catholic family, and talks about vintage circuses in Mexico City, plus the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. All good things. He’s painted some leather shorts, and has a long dress with big polka dots. Tim says one pink shirt screams “teen’s pajamas,” and doesn’t want him to try too hard.

They go to lunch at Mondo’s parents’ house. His boyfriend, Ben, is there, along with his sister. Tim points out that Mondo wasn’t a traditional child. Mom: “I tried everything to get him to be more macho, but he hated it.” Dad couldn’t get him to play ball. They’re joking around, though; they totally love Mondo. Tim says they’re kindred spirits. Mondo said he had to play baseball to get piano lessons, and he was a poor shortstop but great at piano.

Last stop is Portland, seven days to go. Gretchen’s mom is helping her pack. Gretchen interviews that she came home to a “failed relationship, empty bank account, and empty house.” I guess we could say that mystery ex is quite a chicken, then. Although we could also say that he didn’t want to stick around for her pending TV fame, so, um, he’s still a chicken. Anyway, she’s broke and busted, but made a chalkboard sign welcoming Tim, which is very sweet. Tim tells her that he was in an intense relationship that failed abruptly, but that’s what made him move to New York, so there’s a bright side. Another awesome point for Tim.

Clothing-wise, Gretchen was inspired by rural cultures around the world, something like sophisticated safari tribal. That sounds like a Barbie doll, right? Hi, I’m Sophisticated Safari Barbie! Note: Gretchen’s clothes are not for dolls. She’s got leather, knitwear, a “silk bloomer” to be dyed green (Tim: “you know I’m calling it a diaper”). Tim says it looks costumey, but it’s a matter of taste.

They eat lunch with Gretchen’s mom, who does not surprise Tim by saying Gretchen was a control freak at a very young age.

Now it’s time to go back to New York. One by one, they arrive at a suite in the Hilton. Mondo gets there first and hides behind a bed to jump out at Michael C. Mondo: “Did I scare you?” Michael: “Your pants scare me.” Andy got extra long hair added to his Mohawk. Gretchen is thrilled to be back.

It’s nice, now that they’re all down to this together, they’re best friends, because they’re surrounded by the only people who can understand the craziness.

Tim comes in with the velvet bag to freak them out, but surprise! It’s something fabulous! The Hilton gives them all resort vacations. In the morning they bring the clothes into the new workroom. Tim says they are going to present three looks to the judges: two from the collection, and one more that they’ll create in the next two days. They have $300.

Gretchen is thinking casual, Andy is thinking he needs wow, Mondo can’t decide, and Michael wants effortless. Work, work, work. Andy is hand-pleating some green fabric. Mondo makes a dress and hates it. Gretchen asks if it’s “fall apart hour yet.” As they leave for the night, Mondo says, “last one there is a lousy designer!”

The next day, Tim consults. Michael can’t decide what other two looks to present, and Tim is worried that it’s such a challenge. Gretchen has a youthful dress, and Tim says she has achieved continuity. Mondo “wouldn’t be Mondo without being surrounded by flotsam and jetsam.” Tim hates the old dress, too, but the new look with a turquoise top is better. Andy’s new look is all crisp ruffles on top. Tim loves the pleats, Andy says he’s a fast worker (as evidenced by all the looks he made in two weeks). As he leaves, Tim advises Mondo, Gretchen and Andy to carry on. To Michael, he says, “Don’t choke.”

Day of show. Model fittings. Andy is falling back in love with his collection. Gretchen is once again picturing herself wearing the clothes. Mondo has more crazy headpieces. Final interviews of crazy desperation, and then it’s runway time! Heidi’s hair has gotten longer and sleeker, thank goodness. There is no guest judge today.

Andy is first, he has a fancy silver romper with pleats, plus a silver bikini with a sheer cape, plus the green pleated dress that is shiny. Two models are wearing shooting star headpieces.

Next is Michael C, beginning with the new one-shoulder long draped dress. He also has the feathered skirt dress, and pants with sequins with the fringe top.

Gretchen gives him some bam chicka bam bam music in support. She’s crazy, but sometimes she does have a sense of humor. Speaking of, Gretchen’s minidress is quite casual. She also has a pantsuit with cropped pants in a giraffe print. Then a green blazer with no shirt underneath, plus the tiny bloomers that have been dyed dark and no longer look like a diaper.

Mondo mainly worked with black and white patterns with colored accessories. He has shorts with a pink belt, the turquoise shirt with yellow belt, and the very long and very tight polka dot dress.

Judging time! Mondo points out his mixed prints, screen printing, colored accessories. Judge Michael loves the new outfit. Heidi doesn’t like the top. They love the dress. Nina likes the boldness and theatricality, but disagrees on the dress, she says it’s almost too wacky. She’s worried that people won’t take him seriously. Judge Michael says the dress has a lot going on, it needs balance.

Andy discusses Buddha park and how he played with structure and woven textiles. Heidi and Nina thought the bikini was the new piece because it was so simple. The green dress is sophisticated, they admire the pleating. Judge Michael says it’s sharp and romantic. Nina questions the range, with two evening looks and a bathing suit. Andy claims the romper is a classy day look, and Nina rolls her eyes. Andy says he didn’t want to give them all his best looks, he wanted to keep some as a surprise. The judges don’t like that reasoning. Heidi isn’t sure about the headpieces.

Michael C smiles nervously. Judge Michael likes the gown because it’s effortless and looks good at every angle. Heidi likes the fringe top and says she hasn’t seen anything like it before. Nina hates that it’s all the same color, and the judges go off that a collection doesn’t mean all one color. Heidi says the feathered dress is boxy and bedazzled, and Nina says the wow effect doesn’t mean beads and feathers.

Gretchen points out that she designed the jewelry and had the hat made. Nina’s interest was not peaked, she says it’s crunchy granola style. The leather jacket has polish, but with the linen sack dress she’s left looking for the Birkenstocks. Heidi says it’s great, but she should put the models in high heels to make them sassier. Judge Michael says it doesn’t look expensive. He points out it’s the opposite of Michael C’s collection: “His girl doesn’t get out of bed until after midnight, and her girl locks herself in the house at sunset.”

Backstage, the designers are all freaked out. Michael says they need to take a deep breath and prepare for what’s coming, because they know someone will leave. Gretchen says they’re all pretty even, they all had heavy critique. The judges chat. They are concerned. Heidi likes Gretchen’s outfits, Judge Michael says she needs to kick it up to granola deluxe (“Hi, I’m Granola Deluxe Barbie!”). Nina loves Mondo’s showmanship, but he needs some of Gretchen’s earthiness. Judge Michael says the assemblage was overwrought, like the models left a crazy Polynesian party and stuffed things into their hair. With Michael C, he worries that they’re stage costumes. They really hate the same color. Nina says he needs more confidence. Then they talk about Andy with a groan. Nina complains that he didn’t show day clothes, Heidi says he’s iffy. Now it’s decision time.

Finally, Heidi congratulates everyone. She says it was a difficult decision. She tells Mondo they loved his showmanship, warns him not to go too far into costume. He’s in. Gretchen needs to polish and elevate her styling, she’s in. Andy’s swimsuit was underwhelming, but Michael C’s monotone worried them. Andy is in, Michael C is out.

Oh, you guys, he just crumbles. He’s devastated. He makes it backstage and sobs against the wall. He chokes out that he doesn’t know how to go back home and tell his family that he didn’t make it. He’s worried that they’ll tell him to give up and marry a woman again. I feel so bad for him, he’s such a sweetheart. He’s even got Gretchen worried.

Tim comes in and hugs and encourages him. Finally Michael has calmed down and tells Tim he’s ready to go clean up his workstation. In parting, Michael says, “Don’t cry for me, give them [bleeping] hell!” Then Tim echoes, “Yeah, give them [bleeping] hell!”

Oh man, that was rough. I needed a moment after that. I need someone to call me up and tell me that he’s just fine, OK? Next week, everyone comes back for the finale (although I don’t think it’s a post-taping reunion), and Jessica Simpson is the guest judge.

Predictions? Mondo could easily win. But for some reason Andy has crept up on me and stolen my love. No, not for some reason, he made a jacket that was cool, then Heidi added it to her boring sweatsuit collection and styled it poorly and priced it so high that I couldn’t buy it to demonstrate my love. So, I wouldn’t hate it if Andy won. Or Mondo. I wouldn’t even hate Gretchen, she’s not that bad anymore!

Oh what a mushy recapper I’ve turned out to be.

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