Project Runway: You say potato sack, I say pornography

Guess who's back? Back again? Kevin's back, tell a friend!

Hello, Project Runway peeps. Good to see you all again. As always, I'm Kevin Van Valkenburg, Montanan by birth, Marylander by marriage, sports writer by trade, Project Runway blogger/recapper by default.

A brief editor's note before we dive into this week's episode, "Down on the Farm" which I'm excited to discuss, having minored in Agri-Fashion at the University of Montana. (Actually, that's a lie. I minored in football.) In last week's season debut, I made a cheap joke about Good Charlotte, the pop punk princes of America, by way of Waldorf, Maryland. Turns out this kind of bummed out Benji Madden, Good Charlotte's guitarist and co-founder, who still reads the Sun regularly (big Ravens fan!) and wrote us a short email to express his disappointment at being slapped around by his hometown paper. At first I was like, man, lifestyles of the rich and famous. They're always complaining.

But then I thought back to 10 years ago, when I first set out on a cross-country trip to Baltimore from Montana. I had like four CDs in the car -- this was the pre-iPod era, so kids ask your parents or Wikipedia to explain it -- and somewhere around Bismarck, N.D., I decided I simply couldn't handle listening to The Chronic, The Marshall Mathers LP, or Take Off Your Pants and Jacket again, at least until I was in, say, Ohio. So during a quick detour to Walmart, I picked up Good Charlotte's self-titled debut CD, and rocked that pop punk vigorously all the way to Chicago.


I may not be that 22-year-old kid anymore, and Good Charlotte may not be the same band (at least to me), but I'd like to think we'll always have the North Dakota plains. Even Nicole Ritchie's pseudo-celebrity shouldn't be able to take that away from us. So let's dedicate the rest of this recap to the boys from Good Charlotte, whom I suspect are still bummed about the Ravens loss.

Photo: Lifetime


We begin this week's episode with everyone waking up in a mini-stupor. Do you ever wonder how much binge drinking the contestants do in between challenges? I don't know why they don't show that on Models of the Runway. I would totally watch a show about drunk models being rebuffed when they try to make out with drunken gay designers.

"Did the rollers fall out of my hair?" Anthony asks as he rolls out of bed. Is it too soon to admit I love him already? I don't want to scare him off.

Heidi informs the crew they're going to be going some place "a little out there" for this week's challenge. One of the designers, Jeneane Marie, wonders if they're going to "the moon, or a broadway show." Because these are the only two options, apparently. 

Instantly, we're teleported to what looks to me like the Schrute Family beat farm. (If cousin Mose appears as a guest judge, this will rival Santino's imaginary date between Andre and Tim at Red Lobster as the greatest PR moment in history. Alas, it does not materialize.) Tim is standing in a field with his harem of models, and once again, I'm forced to ask the question that so often plagued me during the Los Angeles season: How does everyone get around on Project Runway? Does Tim Gunn load everyone onto a yellow school bus, throw Julie Andrews on the iPod, and hand out snacks? Can he apparate like Dumbledore? Does Tiger Woods show up with a fleet of Buick SUVs and offer to give everyone a lift? (Models only, please.) Please post your guesses below.

It turns out the designers have to make an "party-worthy look" out of a potato sack, one of those challenges I love because it forces everyone to get creative. I bet the contestants on Project Runway: Afghanistan would scoff at the designers trepidation at working with burlap. I also can't help but feel there is a certain irony here to models wearing potato sacks, since I'd wager 90 percent of them haven't eaten carbs in years. Lastly, we get a Barry Zito-sized curve ball thrown at the designers as Tim reveals that the models get to pick whom they want to work with, and dictate what kind of outfit they want.

There isn't much drama in the selections, although Jay does do a cartwheel in the fertilizer and manure when he gets picked by his model. Tim shoots Jay a look as though he's just licked a urinal in Grand Central Station. I bet when you're as elegant and fabulous as Tim Gunn, the slope between cartwheeling in manure and licking toilets is pretty slippery. Some things just aren't done.

The model Alexis (I suspect on Heidi's orders) also creates a plot line for Models of the Runway when she switches designers, going from Mila to Anthony. Mila gets picked last, and she and a model named Lorainea form Team Sourpuss.

Back at Parsons. Mila is brazenly questioning why her former model would want to work with Anthony. (Um, how about because he radiates a mixture of comedy and sunshine?)

"I left my feelings in Atlanta, Georgia," Anthony says. "Mila can kiss me and my entire family's a---es!"

(Speaking of a--es, they are featured prominently in this episode. But more on that in a moment.)

Tim Gunn arrives and he seems already skeptical of Pamela's outfit, which I think would go nicely in the "denim mom jeans" section of Jessica Simpson's closet. I suspect when the judges came up with the idea of asking for a "part-worthy look" for this challenge, they didn't have the Hazard County Sadie Hawkins dance in mind for the "party."

Tim also warns Ping that, if she sends her model down the elevated runway with a skirt that short, she'd better hope Bob Guccione is the guest judge -- I'm paraphrasing -- because we'll see the models lovely lady parts up close and personal. This is actually refreshing commentary from him, because my one complain with him last season is that he essentially let Althea and Logan send pornography down the runway on multiple occasions and never said a thing.

Jesus gets a mild, but deserved, scolding from Tim when Tim sees he's covered up most of the burlap with sewn together ribbons. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes Nina Garcia's blood boil. As Clubber Lang would say: My prediction for Jesus? Pain.

Overall though, there are a lot of good-looking outfits this week. I know it's early, but I don't detect anyone yet who is going to design crummy clothes, but advance simply by making Bambi eyes at the judges like Logan did last season. Another reason to love the move back to New York. More steak, less sizzle. That an the possibility of Jay-Z as a guest judge.

Models and make-up time. Half the contestants are sewing their models into their dresses. We get a couple glimpses of model thong, as well as a flash of bare bottom, which probably would have earned a healthy FCC fine under the previous administration, but I think we're probably cool even with Scott Brown winning Ted Kennedy's Senate seat this week.

I'm going to let the designer Jonathan more or less sums up the trouble with Ping's outfit.

"I'm looking at Ping's outfit and thinking 'The garment's not functional. It doesn't cover her a--," he says. "I'm worried, but then I look over at Ping and she's smiling, so I'm like maybe I'm not worried. Maybe it's supposed to be an a-- flap."

Time for our 15th commercial break before we get to the runway show. After ads for women's vitamins, women's make-up, a Lifetime movie about pregnancy pact, and a romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell, I'm beginning to suspect I'm not the target demographic for Lifetime's advertisers. (Although I know a punk band that wouldn't mind taking a second look at some of that eye make up from L'Oreal. Zinger!)

Guess who is in the house for judging? Michael and Nina. They've already appeared in as many episodes this year as they did all of last season. Scoreboard, people. The always classy Lauren Hutton is here to help with auf wiedersehens.

Runway show. Lots of excellent dresses. Anthony and Ben have looks that could be worn to the Golden Globes. The gap in the back of Ping's dress is bigger than the famous gap in Hutton's front teeth, and about 100 times less flattering. Mila and Team Sourpuss actually pulled off a nice, edgy look. Pamela's faux denim isn't doing her models rear end any favors. I didn't know it was possible to make a 110 pound model look like she had a big butt, but Pamela has done it. Bad sign. Amy and Jay, in my opinion, have the two strongest looks of the show. Sewing machine to my head, I'd have to go with Amy.

(I wish I could link to pics of some of these, but Lifetime's website seems like it was designed by the Wendy Pepper HTML Designs.)

Time for winners and losers and snarky commentary. Amy, Jay and Mila are clearly the top three, with Pamela, Jesus and Ping trying to stay afloat.

Michael cuts right to the problem with Pamela's Daisy Dukes denim one piece.

"You're talking about a girl who can wear anything. She could wear a potato sack," Michael says. "Well I have a feeling a plain potato sack would be more flattering."

Oh snap-up-jean-jacket, that's good, Kors.

Ping cries when they break down her (a--) flapper dress, but I can't imagine she's going home. Jesus gets called out for essentially skirting the rules (Tim's joke, not mine) for covering up all but a little bit of burlap, and Hutton calls his outfit "an assault on the eyes." (Bless you Lauren Hutton. You've always kept it real.)

In the end, Jay edges Mila and Amy for the victory. I would express outrage, but he was pretty impressive. Guess that cartwheel in the cow poop was symbolic of his fearlessness.


Ping gets a reprieve because creative weirdos always do on Project Runway, especially early in the season. But during the judging, Heidi makes a comment about Ping not "understanding" what is being asked of her, and I can't help but feel like she's alluding to an imaginary language barrier. I'm not sure Heidi should be calling anyone out for garbled syntax, but that's just me.

It's time for scary mood music. Bongo drums and the Fashion Choir of the Righteous help us wave auf wiedersehen to Pamela, as Jesus and his Tucker Carlson bow tie live to sew another day.

Until next week, gang. You too, Benji Madden. May we always have North Dakota. I promise, I was not one of those kids who laughed at you when you made the baseball team.