Project Runway: The nuts and bolts of fashion

Hey kids! Welcome back to the least consistent Project Runway blog on the internet! One week we're here, and the next week, we're auf weidersehen. (What the hell?) I'm Kevin Van Valkenburg, and although my apologies were wearing thin, I was off doing sports writing the last time PR aired, and there were no pinch hitters to be found.

Let's climb right back on the saddle though, shall we? Missing the episode with little kids is killing me, but Heidi gives us a nice reminder that kids don't actually get dropped off by storks when she strolls onto the runway looking more pregnant than ever. I don't know why she decided to steal a table cloth made of snow leopards and have someone turn it into a dress, but when you're preggers, you do weird things. Let's move on.

She says we're off to meet "one of America's favorite designers" for a unique challenge. What do you want to bet it's going to be Michael Kors?

And of course, it is. Let's be real for a second, shall we? I'm convinced that Lifetime decided they could put together PR for half the budget that Bravo did, which is why we're forced to pretend challenges that feature Nina and Michael and Heidi -- or their place of business -- are the same as having a challenge from Christian Dior. (Of course, wikipedia tells me Dior died in 1957, so now I feel like a fool, until I realize that seems like the best challenge ever. "Design and outfit inspired by Dior's skeleton!") Nina and Michael and Heidi are already on the Project Runway payroll. It does not feel special or daring when the challenge focuses on them. It feels like the Weinsteins were told to trim the budget, and thus no more invites to B-list celebrities like Rebecca Rojmin. Rant over.

Turns out we're going to a hardware store, which I can only assume is Michael's and Tim's favorite hardware store, Scheman and Grant. I love the idea of Tim going into Scheman and Grant on a Sunday morning -- dressed in a suit, of course -- and buying the right equipment to refinish his counter tops. We should appoint Tim Gunn to fix health care in this country. He'd make it work. Somehow.

Michael wants the gang to "think outside the box" and "push the envelope" in this challenge, and everyone gets $150 and 35 minutes to find hardware they can turn into clothes. Unlike the out-of-work actors employed by Mood, the burly gentlemen at Scheman and Grant seem interested in helping our intrepid designers, which seems to make the process go much smoother.

Tim decided to just mess with the designers' heads at one point, taunting them as they run around the store like frantic bunnies. "That's right! Scream for help!" Basically in the world of Project Runway, this store is the jungle in Apocalypse Now and Tim is pretending to be Col. Kurtz. I love it.  

Emilio has to leave half his stuff at the store when he goes way over budget. He's crestfallen, but it's a good lesson in this economy. Imagine if the federal government had to work within the guidelines of Project Runway. We'd have a balanced budget, and a lot of politicians would have much better haircuts. (I'm looking in your direction, Harry Reid and John Boehner.)

Jesse, still rocking the Ethan Hawke look, sums up the survive and advance strategy that will be in play for most of the designers this episode.

"You kind of hope someone crashes and burns," Jesse says. "But not in a mean way. Just so you can say, 'OK I'm not screwed.' "

But hey, not in a mean way. Not at all.

Quick montage of designer mayhem. We see repeated shots of Seth Aaron pounding metal with a hammer. Do you think he had to buy the hammer in his $150 budget? Because I could see that being invaluable. In this challenge, it's practically like having Piggy's eyeglasses in Lord of the Flies.

I just figured it out. Jonathan looks like Colin Meloy from the Decemberists. When you throw in the fact that Maya looks like Aubrey Plaza from NBC's Parks and Recreation, and Seth Aaron is doing his best Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and you'd have an easy time convincing me this season should be called Project Runway: Doppelganger. Whatever it is, it's still better than Los Angeles.

Turns out working with metal, trying to bend it into fabric-like material, is hard.

"Right now, my hands look like they were attacked by a feral animal," Ben says. It's a good fashion lesson, though. I imagine this is what it's like to work with Lindsay Lohan.

Jay tells a story about his family and he cries. Jay cries a lot, but he's a fighter. If Project Runway hadn't trimmed its budget in half, they could have cued up Christiana Aguliera singing "Beautiful" at this point. Shame.  

Tim pops into the design room and recoils mock horror.

"Why do I feel like I'm in the arms and armor wing in The Met?" Tim says. It's so awesome that Tim Gunn just casually named-checked a specific wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If he jokes that Mila's outfit is shaped like the Guggenheim, I'm going to stand up and applaud.  

Tim says Jesse's outfit looks like something out of a school play. "And not even high school play! More like a middle school one!"  Ouch. Jesse disappears to write angry poetry and, I assume, call Winona Ryder.

Emilio has been a great designer thus far, but this pink-yarn-and-washer combo has disaster sewn all over it. Tim wants to know if Emilio is making a bikini. Emilio doesn't have an answer. His outfit looks like it could be worn in a movie called "Jenna Jameson Does Bryant Park." He's in trouble.

Tim tells Anthony his fabric looks like it's been tortured. He says it like three times. (I bet Dick Cheney is sitting at home telling his wife how much he likes it.)

Jay has made pants out of garbage bags that Tim is totally wowed by. You have admit, not matter how much Jay cries, he's pretty much the truth as a designer. If he's not in the Final Three when it's all said and done, it's a crime.

Maya has made a necklace out of keys. Emilio admits he's now designing a bathing suit, as long as you consider a bunch of pink yarn and washers randomly stitched together a bathing suit. Jay is worried about his model fitting into his garbage bag jeans, but his model tells him she'll use Crisco on her legs if she has to. You have to respect a model who would volunteer to do that, because I bet about half of them would worry they'd absorb the calories right into the skin.

"We're going to have a Project Runway first," Emilio says. "Everyone is going to be in the bottom ten!"

Yes, but only one person is going to have nothing but washers and yarn covering his model's lady parts, Emilio. I wonder who that will be.

Jay is worried that once he puts his pants on his model, she won't be able to pee. Um, they're made out of a garbage bags right? I don't see the problem.

Time for the models and make up. Mila says the look she's going for Peggy Moffitt meets Pink. I don't know a lot about fashion, but I'm going to bet that meeting might end with Pink sucker-punching Moffitt after her third whiskey and coke, but that's just a guess.

Emilio has decided that if you're going to make your model look like a whore, you'd better do it with no regrets. This is gunning for the worst Project Runway outfit I've ever seen. "At least if I was going to jump of a cliff, I went full throttle," he says.  

Runway show. Michael, Nina keep up their perfect attendance this year, and are joined by Isabel Toledo, who designed Michelle Obama's yellow Inauguration Day dress and matching coat. Some jewelry maven named Stephen Webster is also sitting in, meaning it's the rare challenge where five judges get to weigh in. I'm ok with five judges as long as it's people who actually know about fashion. If someone is going to cut into Nina Garcia's snark time, it had better not be Rachel Bilson or Nicole Ritchie.

Quick summary of the outfits: I don't like Mila as a person, but her dress made out of paint trays definitely works. Jesse's outfit looks like Alice in Wonderland on Oxycotin. Anthony's purple prom dress is boring, but fine. Jonathan and Amy made great use of copper and sandpaper, and Seth Aaron (who has immunity) hammered together another solid look. Ben's dress couldn't be much stiffer, but we've seen about two seconds of him this entire episode, so there's no chance he's going home. (He remains the most anonymous designer this season, btw. I feel like I know nothing about him.) Maya's necklace made of keys looks like a show stealer until Jay's garbage bag pants stroll down the runway and render the rest of the competition moot. Seriously, it's all over but the auf weidersehens, people. Jay's look is that good.

And so we come to Emilio. His model, to her credit, is really doing her best to sell this look. She has legs like Rockette. I think they actually stop at her armpits.

"I don't think anyone would have thought that would have come out of a hardware store," Emilio says, and I agree. A dumpster maybe, but not a hardware store. Even if Howard Stern was a guest judge, I think he would admit this outfit didn't work.

Ben, Johnathan, Amy, and Seth Aaron are safe and on to the next round. The six designers who remain prepare for their tongue bathings or tongue lashings.

Nina isn't messing around. She goes right at Emilio. "What happened?"

Emilio manages to mutter something about how he intended to make a bikini because everyone else was going to make a dress. Michael sees this lie for what it is.

"Thank God you made it into a one piece, or we would have had the first bottomless Project Runway model!"

Isabel Toledo actually likes Emilio's explanation. Since she's basically an honorary member of the Obama Administration, this worries me, as a liberal, that there is a larger metaphor in play.

"I like the thoughts you had," Toledo says. "The execution was lacking, but you gave it a lot of thought to it which I appreciate."

Maya's dog collar and necklace of keys get rave reviews, whereas Jesse's gray tutu do not.

"It looks to me like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz," Nina says.

Michael calls it a Hershey's Kiss. Heidi says it's a a dirty vacuum bag, which I don't believe for a second she's speaking from experience. I promise you, Mr. Seal changes the vacuum bags in that household, not Mrs. Klum.

The designers are sent back to the anti-room while the judges sharpen their knives. Jay is the winning this challenge by about three touchdowns.

"In a million years, I did not think this was trash bags," Michael says.  

"Jay made a luxury product," says Webster. "That reeked of luxury!" (And, perhaps, pee!)

Webster, though, clearly wants to give Emilio the boot.

"I think it was a bloody disaster," he says.

"There was no taste!" squeals Heidi.

"I don't think it was so bad," Nina mumbles.  Oh. My. God. Did Nina just throw Emilio a life preserver?

As expected, Jay is the winner. As expected, Jay cries. He also does a move where he jumps in the air and clicks his heels, then says something about how he went to community college. I'm not really listening because I'm waiting to see Heidi spill Emilio's guts all over the Runway. It's a real shame because he's a great designer.

It's between Jesse and Emilio, but I can't imagine Nina has enough clout to save Emilio from that disaster. As she's preparing to say her goodbye, Heidi refers to Emilo's outfit as a Vegas showgirl look, and I think that's being generous. He's toast. But as always, we must wait for the SCARY MUSIC AND AFRICAN DRUMS! before Heidi gives us the official word.

"Jesse, you're out."

Um, what? I know Emilio is a good designer and all, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Jesse doesn't agree with it either. And he doesn't mind using a little profanity to get his point across.

"I don't think I should be going. I put a risk out there, and I (bleeping) built it well," he says.

Even Tim seems stunned. His comments feel like a not-so-subtle slap in the face to Emilio, who is sitting five feet away.

"Jesse, you know I had some concerns about your outfit, but I never anticipated this outcome," Tim says.

Stunned silence on my part.

Sometimes, when you look like Ethan Hawke, reality bites, I guess.  

Until next week (hopefully!), people!