Friday, August 26, 2011

"Off the Track" - Project Runway Recap

Holy Klum of Doom!  Tonight's episode of Project Runway was kind of a hot mess.  It felt a little bit like watching Olivier's trip and fall in slow motion - over and over again.  It was transfixing, horrifying, confusing, and worrying.  And, much like Tim Gunn ("Did Olivier just pass out?  This looks bad!") I didn't really understand what the hell was going on.

There were a few harbingers at the beginning of the episode that seemed to foretell the pending conflicts.  Anthony Ryan and Bert argued about four objects that were in plain sight in front of both of their eyes, Cecilia didn't want to get out of bed, and Becky tried to haplessly take control of the situation without pushing too hard.

Well played, Project Runway editors.  Well played.

This week's challenge was to design three separate looks to go with the Heidi-designed New Balance sneakers.  They were to be "basic, but with a twist."  Materials had to include denim or suede.  "Okay...?" said everyone dubiously.  Seriously, what the hell were they looking for here?  It's supposed to be athletic wear, but clearly it was not meant as workout wear.  Because no one could work out in that maxi dress.  Or in that leather jacket, unless your gym's thermostat is set to an icy temperature.  I mean, even the materials seemed ill-conceived: denim and suede?  They don't breathe!

Clearly, I didn't understand the challenge.  Because when I work out, I'm usually wearing some variety of net shorts and a tank top, which, lo!  Was what most people put down the runway.  And then I got bored.  There was clearly no winning here.

To complicate this challenge even more, the designers were put into groups of three.  Captaincy was decided by a literal foot race, wherein poor Olivier "fell like a bitch" (his words, not mine), and Heidi managed to run faster than Bert, even in her Louboutins.  Josh, Bryce, Anthony Ryan, and Viktor were the speediest, and got to pick their teams.  Ladies!  Where was your athleticism?  Kimberly, you got long legs!  Anya, that mohawk has to be pretty aerodynamic!  Laura, you're scrappy!  I don't understand how a lady couldn't manage to eke out a top spot.  Alas.

Of course, Cecilia opted not to run altogether, in a Project Runway rarity: she walked off the show.  It happened quietly, with the simple admission that she was angry and hated it there.  Well.  That'll do it.  Tim, bless him, was far more tactful than Heidi in the situation, telling Cecilia, "We can't want you to succeed more than you do... if your heart and soul isn't in it, then it's not going to work for you."  Meanwhile, Heidi was all, "You can go, then."  And didn't even give Cecilia the two-cheek kiss or apologetic "auf wiedersehn!"  Ouch.

So, without Cecilia, Viktor and Olivier were short a teammate.  They opted to bring back Josh Christensen for the competition, which is darling because he was so cute about it.  "I'm the happiest boy alive!" he squealed upon his return.  Aww.  Of course, now I have to go back to differentiating between the two Joshes, but it was so nice to see Josh C.'s smiling face again that I can't be mad.

Two teams immediately had problems: Josh, Anya, and Becky; and Anthony Ryan, Laura, and Bert.  The clear issue was that neither Josh and Anya nor Anthony Ryan and Laura trusted Becky or Bert to design anything.  Bert and Becky offered idea after idea, only to have them shut down by their two teammates.  Josh specifically stated that he didn't really want Becky to think, only sew, and Becky was fairly aware of that sentiment.

It's interesting how differently each person involved handled the conflict.  Bert, feeling unheard, simply dug his heels in and kept his own designs - and sour attitude.  Becky, feeling disenfranchised, tried to be a team player but still have some ownership over the looks.  Josh McKinley just wasn't having it, and reamed Becky until he made her cry - then apologized.  The ordeal blew over by panel, and Becky and Josh were able to air their grievances quickly and tactfully.  Meanwhile, six feet down, Laura and Anthony Ryan and Bert had held it together all episode, and as soon as they got on the runway, exploded at each other with pent-up frustration, judges peering curiously at them.  It wasn't pretty.

What I don't understand is how the judges praised Josh McKinley for his leadership and condemned Anthony Ryan's.  While there's certainly no defending Anthony Ryan's bad outfit, it didn't seem like he fought with Bert all episode, as the judges suggested.  At least, it wasn't edited that way.  It looked like Anthony Ryan and Laura let Bert do his own thing because they knew they couldn't fight him.  And they tried to include Bert in the decision-making, however awkward it was.  Josh McKinley, however, spent the whole episode yelling at Becky, and excluding her from design choices.  Dowdy or not, Becky really didn't deserve such awful treatment.  At the end of the day, I'd rather work for Anthony Ryan than Josh McKinley.  

Then again, I'm not Bert.

And speaking of, how much of an ass was Bert this episode?  I know it must suck to have the other designers make you the butt of their jokes, but come on!  Bert obnoxiously laughed at the judge's critique of Anthony Ryan's design, and even chimed in on part of it!  He forgot Anthony Ryan's name at one point and claimed it was because some people's names are hard to remember when they're "not that significant."  And, the cherry on top of the sour sundae was when he told Josh McKinley to drop dead.  I've come to the conclusion that Bert has the maturity level of a child.  And not in a good way.

Somehow, though, the judges found his outfit passable, and he's with us for another obnoxious week.  As for Anthony Ryan, who hasn't been this pissed since he had cancer (aw!), he found himself in danger of elimination - and if it hadn't been for Nina Garcia and Michael Kors going to the mat for him, he'd have been a goner.  This raises an interesting question: can a designer be excused for one bad week, if the quality of their previous work means they still have potential?  The Klum of Doom thought not.  "One day you're in, and the next, you're out!"  As the tagline for the whole show, that is an awfully convincing argument.  Michael and Nina, however, thought it absurd to get rid of Anthony Ryan in favor of Danielle, who's made weird silk/chiffon blouses for three weeks in a row.  (At first I thought it outrageous that Danielle wanted to make athletic gear with silk, until I remembered that the required materials were denim and suede.  Free pass, Danielle!  Everyone's confused about this one.)

The judges' favorite (and mine too) was Viktor's collection, which was aptly described as "road warrior" chic.  Who wouldn't like working out (or doing... athletic things? I guess?) in that holster tee or motorcycle jacket?  I'd feel like a total badass.  I was glad to see Viktor's romper-and-jacket combo take the top prize.  Sure, Olivier's skirt was a little "farmy," but the top was great, and I like that Olivier tried to prove Heidi wrong and make the skirt work.

Everything else on the runway was just uninteresting interpretations of shorts and tank tops, which frankly I can't frown on, because what else were they supposed to think of?  I just don't fundamentally understand this challenge.  But on the flip side of this, Bryce made a rather chic-looking dress and accessorized it!  I don't get it!  Was it just a matter of, "Oh, what looks good with the sneakers?"  Maybe someone can explain to me the marketing strategy for this athletic gear because I just don't understand.  And clearly it's me, because I'm not Heidi Klum with a nice fat contract with New Balance.  She's obviously the one on the right track here.

In the end, it was Viktor's romper and jacket as well as Josh McKinley's Anya-executed maxi dress that wowed the judges the most.  I liked the maxi dress, barring the whole "is this a sensible article of clothing for me to move around in" issue.  I also worry about that racerback style Anya has perfected, because while the judges love it now, I fear there will come a day when all of a sudden they want to see something else.  But Anya appears to have hidden design skills in her mohawk (as well as a solid amount of comforting skills, given how good she was at dealing with Becky's bathroom meltdown and Anthony Ryan's post-traumatic near elimination breakdown) so maybe I shouldn't fret.  If anything, it looks like she's on track to win fan favorite!

In the end, it was poor Danielle who got the boot instead of Anthony Ryan.  I certainly didn't dislike Danielle by any means, but she was just kind of... there.  Even her confessionals dryly stated the obvious.  On Olivier missing out on leadership: "He probably feels pretty sad about it too."  On leaving: "It's really sad to not be a part of that anymore."  Oh, Danielle!  Your witticisms will be missed.

So, gang, if you'd like to purchase Viktor or Joshua's winning looks, you can find them here.  And lo, they edited that vertical pink stripe out of the maxi dress!  Funny how the model isn't wearing the sneakers with the dress, either.  Hmm.

Who do you think was the bigger asshole this week: Josh McKinley, or Bert?  Are you happy to see Chiffon Masters Cecilia and Danielle go?  Did you feel as badly for Becky as I did?  Are you dreading the inevitable confusion of the two Joshes?  Is Bryce really a "sunken ship?"  And do you think I'll understand the challenge better next week?  

Friday, August 19, 2011

"All About Nina" - Project Runway Recap

How do I even begin to describe Nina Garcia?

Nina Garcia is flawless.  She's a goddess, and a god.  She's a queen.  She can slice through steel using simply her glare.  She can also cut through bullshit like a hunter hacking a swath in the jungle.  She wears clothes that are classic, but edgy.  She uses the word "no" more than any other human being.  She will also use three words where Michael Kors uses twelve.  And when you design something she really likes, there's a proud little twinkle in her eye that lets you know you've done well, and that she's not going to destroy you.  (Today, anyways.)

In case you hadn't noticed, Nina Garcia fascinates me.  She's a formidable lady, as evidenced by the contestants' collective "oh shit" reaction when they heard they were going to be designing for her.  But even though Nina's a bit sharp and intimidating, she's also a successful working woman who's living her life according to the best policy (honesty) and sometimes when she smiles I just want to pet her hair and feed her cookies.  (Surely she doesn't eat any old cookie, though.  Fig newtons?  A petit ecolier?  What kind of cookie is traditional, yet stylish?  A mint Milano?  This is my best guess.)

Anyways, the gang had a tall order in designing a look for Nina Garcia to wear that a) fit her style, and b) could easily transition from day to night.  And that's what was interesting in how they were judged - these outfits were really held up against the standard of a modern working woman, which Nina Garcia is, and that's something that I think is easily forgotten in the fashion world - or any world, really.  Especially when we see Nina Garcia, who makes it look easy, and we don't remember that she's working 12 hour days.  Women who work have to pay attention to what they're wearing to an almost absurd degree - more so than any working man.  And therefore, women's clothing designers have to pay extra attention to the balance of professionalism and sophistication in their work.  

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First, the designers had to draw up a sketch and have a one-on-one meeting with Nina to confer on the designs.  I must say, even though it must have been nervewracking, ultimately I think it was good that the designers got so much feedback from Nina at all steps of the process.  Especially because Nina didn't mince words - she made it clear to the designers what her concerns were, and they could adjust accordingly.  And that became the true litmus test of who did well and who didn't.  

Of course, during the initial consultation, Nina said things like "Are you sure you can make this?" and "Do you have a plan B?" and, my personal favorite, "I hate cowl," as soon as Bryce offered up his cowl-neck drawing.  It was delightful.  Nina manages to be succinct in her criticisms without ever coming off bitchy, and sometimes I think I'd squeal with glee if she ever told me something I made was "tasteless."  Other times I think I might crap my pants, which is certainly what many of the contestants felt tonight at various points in the critique.  

It was obvious from the beginning which designers were going to coast through this week, based on the screentime they were getting: Olivier, Bert, Laura, Bryce, and Josh flew mostly under the radar, and, sure enough, turned in adequate designs.

It was equally as obvious from the beginning who was going to have some trouble: Julie rolled out of bed and said she was running out of second chances.  Uh-oh.  Cecilia had a less-than-successful meeting with Nina... and then she bought the wrong type of fabric at Mood.  Eek!  Anya took a risk with her fabric choice, only to have Nina immediately ask for a Plan B... which she didn't have.  Oh dear.  Kimberly was constructing some strange, all-blue navy pants suit with a gold neck that Nina didn't care for, but was offered a hopeful "good luck" as Ms. Garcia walked away.  Oof.  Danielle's blouse immediately came out looking soft, and when she tried to offer solutions to the problem, Nina shot them down with "no." after "no."  Yeesh.

(Other choice Nina reactions: "I'm very worried," "It's looking a little... sad," and, my other personal favorite: "Oh.")

Two of these critiqued ladies recovered, and the other three sputtered and came up short.  I love seeing designers adapt, though, because that was the true purpose of having Nina come and talk to them so much: so that they could redirect!  And Anya and Kimberly redirected.  It was a joy to see their designs get such positive feedback after their misguided beginnings, and for that reason alone, I think the comments are that much more satisfying. 

And how great was Kimberly's design?  I love that she worked it out.  I was nervous, though - we only saw her struggle, and never saw her recover.  And to boot, she talked about family tragedies, usually a telltale sign that someone's landing in the bottom.  But Kimberly's runway look was great!  That top was gorgeous - basic, but interestingly constructed with a unique fabric.  And the pants!  If Kimberly's not careful, the entire female population of the world is going to want at least one pair of Kimberly pants.  Even when she tried to present a skirt to Nina, it was, "No thank you.  Pants, please."  Because Kimberly's pants are magical. 

As for Anya, her silk fabric was just not cutting the mustard (rimshot!) and she opted to make it a more palatable color by dying it.  The resulting jumpsuit was interesting, even though it seems vaguely reminiscent of other things she's designed.  And while Nina's never really worn anything like that before, it was decreed (by Michael Kors) that she would, which I have to imagine is like striking gold in this challenge.  How do you make something for Nina Garcia that is both like and unlike everything she's ever worn before?  Conundrum.

Now, controversy: what do you guys think about the fact that Josh suggested that Anya dye the fabric, and that Laura helped her sew part of it?  Is Anya's extra help an issue?  Bryce and Becky seem to think that her lack of sewing skills will eventually catch up with her, and Viktor just got plain pissy that Laura helped a sister out.  Personally, I love when the designers lend each other a hand.  I like a Hufflepuff sewing room, not a Slytherin one.  It says something about both Laura and Cecelia that they helped out, just as much as it says something about Josh that he offered up an idea, and even as much about Julie and Anya that people would want to help them and not just let them flounder.  I ask you: if Bert were struggling, do you think people would have been as quick to lend a hand?  Probably not.  But is it Anya's combined lack of experience and charming demeanor making her sympathetic?  Or, is it just how Laura described: she'd hate to see someone's vision fall short simply because they couldn't execute it in time?  Or does that statement inherently go against the point of Project Runway as a design competition?  This situation raises some interesting questions.

Also in the top was Viktor, who did not appreciate the assistance given to Anya.  He designed a very sharp and well-constructed Little Black Dress, which was flattering and well-suited to the modern working woman.  But... it was a Little Black Dress.  I'm of the opinion that no one should win with a Little Black Dress, no matter how classic and appealing it is.  Plus, his model's walk was kind of awful.  She aped her way down the runway with a vacant frown, and I thought, "Madam, are you trying to mimic Nina's pokerface?"  If so, it was not working.  I did not want to feed that model mint Milanos and pet her hair.

Josh, Laura, Olivier, Bert, Becky, Bryce, and Anthony Ryan skated through to next week, as we all kind of anticipated.  I actually really loved Josh's design, and thought a bigger deal should have been made of the fact that he used hot pink in a Nina Garcia challenge.  But he was smart - making it a classic boatneck dress, and using color blocking to make pink an accent color instead of the overwhelming main course.  And the back was interesting!  I'd wear Josh's design in a heartbeat.  Look ma, no bedazzles!

Bert made a lifeless black dress, Olivier made some sort of Judy-Jetson-goes-to-the-office ensemble, Bryce had hem problems but a decent design, and Laura got her Christmas fabric together to make an interesting little dress out of it.  And how about Becky and Anthony Ryan's shared fabric?  Who used it better?  I'm an Anthony Ryan fan, but I think Becky took top spot for the speckled fabric.  The use of diagonal vectors and the yellow piping were smart and chic design details, whereas Anthony Ryan's simple construction was a bit underwhelming.  Plus, I preferred the fabric's spotted intrigue on the bottom half, and not up by the face where Anthony Ryan placed his.  

Now, the bottom.  Julie, Cecelia, and Danielle found themselves in danger of Nina Garcia's disapproval - and Michael Kors' biting quips.  He was on a roll last night, declaring that Julie's dress looked like it should have Kleenex in the pockets for a housewife to use while she dusts, and claiming that Danielle's blouse belonged at a "Joan Crawford St. Paddy's Day part."  You win this one, Kors!  Kerry Washington was far more subdued, kindly making it clear that she didn't hate Danielle's designing, and copped to simply not understanding Julie's.  As for Joanna Coles... mostly she just talked about imaginary scenarios where Nina would wear the designs to work and something about a 12-hour plane ride and a housewife making pureed acorn squash for her children.  (I didn't get it, either.)

I also don't get why Danielle chose to work with chiffon again.  Isn't chiffon a rather loosey goosey fabric?  And doesn't Nina like structure?  Lo, Nina deemed it "too soft" as soon as she saw it, and Danielle couldn't recover.  But, that's not enough to get her tossed out of the competition, especially when she worked so well with chiffon last week. 

Cecilia... oh, poor Cecilia.  She just hit roadblock after roadblock and instead of trying to bust through them, resigned herself to whatever she could throw together - and then decided to help Julie assemble her look when she finished early.  She had the strangest mix of good and bad attitude, taking her losses in stride, but not seeming to care enough to fight against them.  Honestly, I think she would have gone home if she hadn't had a good track record compared to Julie's patchy design history.  She also would have gone home if she'd expressed even an iota of her "I don't really care if I'm here or not" attitude, which of course should raise the hackles of any diehard reality show contestant - or viewer, honestly.  (Especially if you watch Top Model.  If a girl on ANTM even whispers something about not wanting to be there, Tyra will lead you right to the door without a single hesitation.)  But no, Cecilia kept her mouth shut, and Julie got the boot.

I feel like Kerry Washington's assessment of Julie's garment is actually a good assessment of Julie herself: I just don't understand her.  Like her design, she seemed to start off with such promise (having a fan in Michael Kors!) and then somewhere along the line losing the vision, and winding up with something decidedly underwhelming on the runway.  Julie herself confessed to being confused, and Tim Gunn replied, "You always say that!"  Well, I'm confused about Julie.  She decided to go to fashion school because she "sooooo over bartending and waiting tables" (I guffawed) and turned out to be rather good at it.  And Nina loved that orange!  But then she got in this competition and on that runway and everything fell apart.  Oh, Julie.  I just don't get you.  

I was kind of sad to see her go, though, simply because she took critique so well, and gracefully accepted her status as someone who everyone knew was bottoming out.  Julie had a good attitude, and I'm gonna miss her crazy imp face and bickering with Josh.  

As for Nina, she looked slammin' in Kimberly's outfit, and I loved that we got to see Kimberly's reaction to witnessing her look on the taxi advertisement.  But mostly, I love that we got to spend so much time with Ms. Garcia herself this week, as a judge and fashion editor, but also as a client and working woman.  I've got mad respect for the lady, but she's always been something of a mystery.  Thanks to Project Runway, she's something of a fashion urban legend, complete with a catchphrase about her.  "Don't bore Nina" is ingrained in every designer's head, and helps them reassess their creative choices for the runway.  Because everyone wants to please Nina Garcia.  And I can't blame them!  She gets that little twinkle in her eye when she really, genuinely likes something, and that's almost as good as the whole editorial in Marie Claire magazine.  Here's to you, Nina!  Would you like a mint Milano?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Retro RBI Report: "Acafellas"

I came to the realization today, as I watched "Acafellas," that this episode does not hold up well over time.  There are many things to like about it, including some good character development for Will, Kurt, and Mercedes, another instance of the Glee Club coming together, and some damn hilarious pieces of dialogue.  But there's also continuity issues from the previous episode, clunky execution of theme, and awkwardly on-the-nose pieces of dialogue.   

"Acafellas," written by Ryan Murphy, directed by John Scott.

Some of the issues with "Acafellas" couldn't be helped at the time - like how Dakota Stanley is coaching a lead-less Vocal Adrenaline, when later in the season it's helmed by Shelby Corcoran and fronted by Jesse St. James.  Or the fact that Will claims he can't dance when he literally busts a move breakdancing five episodes later.  Even just the fact that both Will and Finn threaten to quit Glee Club is tiring when you know that they, and a handful of others, are going to do it again and again.  At the end of "Acafellas," Will claims that being a teacher is enough for him, and it's hard not to question that knowing that he's faced with a similar Dreams vs. Teaching scenario at the end of Season 2.

But it'd be wrong to fault "Acafellas" for these hiccups, because they weren't hiccups when it aired.  Even so, there are some shortcomings in the episode as it stands - mainly to do with the writing.

The main writing issue is that "Acafellas" didn't seem to pay enough attention to itself and the episode it followed: "Showmance."  Sure, Finn and Rachel reference their auditorium kiss and the fallout from it is apparent.  Yes, Terri's still fake-pregnant, and Will's still making headway with the Glee kids, much to Sue's dismay.  But the Acafellas also perform "I Wanna Sex You Up" at a school PTA meeting when just last episode, the Glee Club was told they were only allowed to sing songs from a strict school-appropriate list.  What happened to that list?  I wanna hear 99 Luftballons, dammit!  But perhaps this is just a minor quibble.  Still - knowing what's to come, this sort of continuity oversight is a rather ominous knell.  

What "Acafellas" manages reasonably well is the storylines that directly relate to the theme of confidence.  By the way - this the first episode of Glee's Collection of Episodes That Overtly State the Theme in Dialogue Enough Times to be Noticeable and/or Annoying!  The "confidence" count: 8.  "Guts" comes in second with 5, and "balls" only managed 1 shout-out... although, "grow a pair" was used and we all know what's inferred, so I think it's safe to say "balls" comes in at 2!  Naturally.

Will's attempt to be in a boy band and show some guts worked well within the narrative, especially in that it tied to his relationship with fatherhood, and his own father in particular.  Will's dad is one of the better-used guest characters through the episodes, and "Acafellas" frames itself nicely with the elder Mr. Schuester's character development.  By episode's end, Will has inspired his dad to go back to law school and live his dream.  And as for Will, he decided that teaching was enough for him, after helping Puck and Finn tackle choreography in terms they could understand.

The Glee Club as well deals with issues of confidence as a group.  Sue attempts to impair the club by taking out their "shepherd" - she uses Quinn and Santana to plant the idea in Rachel's head that Mr. Schue can't choreograph well, and that they need to hire Dakota Stanley, show choir choreographer extraordinaire.  This storyline is also done well, with Mr. Schue respectfully bowing out, Finn threatening to quit, and Rachel too focused on winning to realize what the Glee Club's strengths are.  After raising enough money with a car wash (which... this is also a bit of a sticky plot point - if you can raise at least $8000 for Dakota Stanley, why does the Glee Club have such financial issues?) the kids find out that Dakota Stanley wants to kick half the members out of the club because they don't look a certain way.  (And apparently, Artie's not trying hard enough at walking.)  When everyone - except for the cheerleaders and Rachel, interestingly enough - walks out anyways, Rachel steps forward and fires Dakota Stanley.  Because they're going to win on account of their differences.  

This is a lovely concept to have introduced at this stage, because it lays out exactly what the Glee Club's strengths are.  Before this, the plot always pointed out what the club's failings are, naturally, because they are the underdogs.  But "Acafellas" presents the Glee Club's greatest asset in a single line of dialogue, and it's one of the few things that never gets old: seeing how these misfit kids embrace their differences and how they're rewarded for it.

It's interesting, though, that Rachel is the one to fire Dakota Stanley.  It's a nice step on her arc, where she realizes that she's not willing to sacrifice her identity simply for a trophy.  But what's interesting is that she is a character that needs to have that delineated.  I mentioned earlier that she initially stands with the Cheerios, the school's villains, when it comes to standing by a changed Glee Club.  Rachel, by design, is not so different from Sue and her minions, and the narrative (and her character) can only be bettered by putting Rachel in situations that force her to make a choice - especially when she chooses the traits that align with the show's message: teamwork and loyalty, authenticity and fairplay.  

"Acafellas" finally started to dig into some other characters as well, which is a plus.  Puck got his own mini-narration, and Kurt and Mercedes got some screentime - complete with a storyline for Mercedes!  To be honest, I like the Mercedes storyline in and of itself.  It's executed well enough, and makes Mercedes sympathetic and likeable and allows us to get to know her past "sassy black girl," which was previously our only marker.  But Mercedes' storyline doesn't really fit into this episode, thematically.

You know it's an issue when Mercedes' involvement doesn't kick off until 12 minutes in.  But even so, her arc is not about confidence at all.  She wants a boyfriend because she's lonely.  Which is all well and good, for the aforementioned reasons, but at the end of the episode, who's the one who finds the confidence to do something?  Kurt.  So while I appreciate the screentime (and solo!) for Mercedes, it's actually Kurt's story, thematically speaking.  I wish there were a way to keep Kurt's coming out at the end of the episode (because it is very sweet and honest, and I love that Mercedes is the first person Kurt's told) but also have Mercedes' participation speak to confidence.  You could argue that Mercedes had her sights set on Kurt because she wasn't confident enough to believe she could get a guy on the football team, but that point wasn't really communicated to full effect.  Mercedes just seemed to have bad gaydar.

Really, the only way Mercedes' storyline connected into the bigger picture was that Santana and Quinn encouraged her to go after Kurt, in a mirror of their encouraging Rachel to pursue Dakota Stanley.  The explanation was that Sue wanted her minions to go after the "sheep" of the club, after they took out Mr. Schue.  But Santana and Quinn only went after Mercedes, and it wasn't clear what their intention was.  Was it just the impending heartbreak of trying to date a gay guy?  Or were they trying to wreck Kurt and Mercedes' friendship and get one of them to quit Glee?  Both are plausible, but neither were really outlined in a way that made sense.  The characters just did things for a basic reason because there was a desired effect that needed to occur.  

The dialogue in this episode is both divine and atrocious.  In the most basic summary, almost every line of comedy is gold (from "Who's Josh Groban?!  Kill yourself!"  to  "They found out we've been serving their children prison food!") and a lot of the plot-related or dramatic lines are weak.  This is, of course, evident by the repeated use of the words "confidence" and "guts," but Mercedes' dialogue was at times emotionally on-the-nose.  Where the comedy flew sharp, fast, and easily, everything else just felt slightly clunky.  

And beyond that, it bugged me how much of Finn's dialogue in particular (although Puck had some too) was gender specific.  He calls Rachel "chick batty," asks about "one of those chick things," and claims that wounding someone's confidence is really tough, especially to a guy.  When combined with the fact that the only woman's storyline in this episode wasn't actually about finding confidence - and that the gutsy resolution went to another dude... well, it makes me a little cranky.  "Acafellas" does not hold up well when looked at under a feminist lens.  (Although, I've had gender issues and Glee on my mind lately.  You'll find out why soon enough.)  

"Acafellas" ends with everything back to the status quo - Will returns to the Glee Club, they embrace their differences, and Sue's plan failed.  Santana and Quinn get their tanning privileges revoked (Naya Rivera's reaction to that never fails to crack me up) and apparently, Quinn learns an important lesson - that if you truly believe in yourself, you don't have to bring other people down.  I'm not really sure why they gave Quinn this line, other than for the purpose of the episode's theme, because Quinn didn't have any character development at all in "Acafellas," which at this point should surprise no one.  But even so, it seems a bit early for Quinn to be learning this lesson, and it's a waste of progress if we don't actually see her learn it through storyline.  

In all, "Acafellas" is therefore kind of a mess.  Only the storylines that directly relate to the episode's theme are strongly executed, and everything else is just half-heartedly assembled without the proper storytelling cues in place.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A+
Dance Numbers: A+
Dialogue: the funny half is an A+, everything else? C.
Plot: B
Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Mercedes Jones.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Go Big or Go Home" - Project Runway Recap

Last night, Project Runway aired.  Today, I am posting the recap.  Wonder of wonder!  Miracle of miracles!  Okay, enough celebration.  Let's get to business.

"Go Big or Go Home" gave us one of Project Runway's most troublemaking traditions: the team challenge.  And not only were the designers paired up and given the task of designing together, but they had to design for a model on stilts.  And not only that, but they were finally going to have a public runway show!  Outside!  With real people watching!  So they're really trying to shake things up a bit, aren't they?  I fear the day Heidi Klum says, "Okay, guys, just make a classic outfit for your regular models, using any inspiration you want, and we'll give you two full days and $500.  To Mood!"  I'm pretty sure Bert would keel over out of sweet relief.  And everyone else would just be lost.  "You want us to just... make... clothes?  Out of fabric?  With the proper resources and time?"

Anyways, there were the usual obstacles designing in pairs, as some had never spoken to one another before, and others just bickered like the worst of feuding teenagers.  Let's go team-by-team.

Okay, I already want these two to go to fashion week.  Can they just skip the rest of the competition and go straight to the Final 3?  Please?  Firstly, they're both good designers.  They turned out what was easily the best piece of the show last night - and they did so without any drama.  That's what makes me love them even more - they're not completely boring personalities (everyone remember assy!) but they don't rely on being a dick to be entertaining!  They worked efficiently together, and did what they needed to do.  And when it came down to taking credit for the piece, Anthony Ryan offered it up to Laura, even though he had earlier voiced that he wanted to finally win a challenge instead of taking second for the third week in a row.  I like you, Anthony Ryan!

As for their design, perhaps the only drawback, as Nina pointed out, was that it was slightly referential.  Which I get.  And if I can see where it's slightly referential, you know it's not referencing an obscure corner of the fashion world.  But it was still very clearly the showstopper of the runway show, with a clear point of view and solid execution.  I loved the choice to do a pant as well as a billowy skirt - it seems a waste to have a stiltwalker and not make some killer pants, but having that movement was fantastic as well.  The best of both worlds!

So, this team could also be called the "Why the Hell Don't I Remember These Two?" Duo.  I felt bad; but as soon as Heidi called out Cecilia and Danielle's names I immediately said, "Who?"  But this has been rectified, because now I know that they both work well with chiffon, and have a difficult time articulating fashion-forward hair arrangements to their stylists!  

In all honesty, I didn't really love this ensemble as much as the judges did, and I can't really figure out why.  So I'm not gonna put a whole lot of time into my defense.  I will say, though, that those pants moved amazingly and I'll take the judges' word for it when they say that the ladies succeeded marvelously with the chiffon.  Of course, when I think "chiffon" my brain mostly goes to lemon chiffon frosting, and also maybe that girl group that sang "One Fine Day."  But apparently it's also a difficult fabric to work with, and Danielle and Cecilia pulled it off!  Even if their hair choices almost ruined it.  (Seriously, I used my finger to try and cover up the model's head so I could judge the ensemble fairly.  And I still had a hard time.)

Apparently, Kimberly and Becky had barely spoken to one another before this challenge.  Uh-oh.  This could either be a non-issue, or a kiss of death.  And luckily, since they both seem to be mature adults capable of tackling basic surmountable problems, they merged together splendidly.  I loved how they simply realized that Kimberly makes great pants and Becky makes great jackets - lo, an outfit!  And indeed, it was a great pair of pants and a pretty great jacket.  Although I think I personally would have liked it more if it had two sleeves on it instead of one.  Kimberly claimed the jacket seemed a little "Star Track-looking," which only endeared me to her more.  But the judges seemed to be okay with the sleeve asymmetry, and only Nina pointed out she didn't care for the asymmetry of the collar.

It's really hard not to root for Olivier and Anya - and this is coming from someone who didn't think Olivier deserved the win last week!  I still think he's an interesting designer, and I was looking forward to see his collaboration with Anya, who has a unique point of view.  Well, they didn't really pan out into genius, as Anya admitted that neither of them thought it was their best work.  But it was enough to skate them through the middle ground and avoid having Kim Kardashian try and articulate what she didn't like about their skirt.  (It was mostly that it looked like a Monet painting, which is a bit kitschy.)  The top was interesting in its construction, though, and I think that bit of design fancy helped move them through.  

If I were being honest, though, I think I preferred Anya's actual day-of-runway outfit more.  That big-sleeved tapestry-looking structured shirt was insane!  I was feeling it.  As for Olivier, I can't understand him without subtitles, which I can't comprehend because last week he said he was born in the States and grew up in London.  Was English not his first language, though?  So now I just have a guilt complex for not being able to understand a word he says.  I'm sorry, Olivier!  Also, why is there an extra i in your name that does not apparently give it the French pronunciation?  I'm so confused.

Oh, man.  Josh and Julie.  Where do I even begin?  I supposed a good place to start would be with Michael Kors' astute description: it's like "Rocky Mountain Woman" and "Bedazzle and Glamorous" came together.  But even despite these opposites, Josh and Julie had a pretty harmonious relationship - matched even by their own clothes!  Josh wore green, Julie wore the complementary color red, but they both were wearing stripes.  I wonder if they planned that.

In any case, Josh and Julie came together to create a matador look that came off a bit more circus-y than they'd intended, which is kind of a shame.  The matador concept is really interesting, but between the cartoonish embellishment on the jacket, the cartoonish pants, and the way the model was swinging her arm around like a drunken sailor, I couldn't really see the sophistication in it.  Imagine if they'd taken "matador" and done a really dark and dramatic interpretation - it would have been amazing!  But alas, Josh wanted to bedazzle, and Julie let him.  In the end, though, it was her idea, and she gracefully accepted responsibility.

Speaking of gracefully accepting responsibility... no, wait, there's no transition here.  Because both Bert and Viktor tried to distance themselves from the garment that they both created, claiming it would have looked better if they'd done the whole thing.  I don't get it.  The top was clearly Bert and the bottom was clearly Viktor, and they both looked clearly ugly.  Who wants an iridescent green-magenta shimmer skirt?  Not I!  And Bert's design choices really do seem to be rewinding to a strange conglomeration of the 1980s and the 1890s.  I don't quite know how he does it.

And it wouldn't have been so bad if they were adults about their differences.  They bickered the whole time, about whether or not Mae West wore pants, or about who wasn't listening to whom, and who was the more confused teammate.  Ugh!  If anyone wants a coherent play-by-play breakdown about Bert and Viktor's conflict, you will not find it here.  I couldn't bring myself to engage in their insanity, and it didn't help that the Glee ladies' Marie Claire cover was framed on the wall behind their workstation.  My eyes kept going to that anyways (so pretty!) and then listening to Bert and Viktor's squabbling became even easier to ignore.

But honestly, how much douchier could these guys have gotten?  Bert claimed that he would have made a "knockout" if he hadn't been "encumbered by Viktor."  Okay, buddy.  You may not have had iridescent pants, but you still would've had tapestry fabric from the dollhouse re-creation of a French chateau.  And Viktor!  Viktor openly acknowledged that his "heart dropped" as soon as he got Bert - in front of Bert! - and then badmouthed him the whole hour, only to try and squirm out from underneath their design when it became a real possibility he was going home.  Ugh!  As far as I see it, both halves of that outfit were seriously assy, and Viktor and Bert showed their asses to boot.  Moving on!

Oh dear.  Poor Fallene.  I was so happy to see that she had stopped crying from the previous challenge, but it really doesn't bode well when one of your contestants bemoans not feeling like a designer and actually says, "I wish I had my soul right now."  There was no saving her - although she did make a really cute hairpiece.  It's hard to see where Bryce and Fallene's design fell apart, although I think it may have been around the time that Fallene didn't cut the fabric on the grain.  In all, though, Nina Garcia proclaimed that it was simply the beginning of a good idea, and Kim Kardashian said they hadn't really done anything in the execution. 

And who was going to take credit for the undercooked designs anyway?  Fallene did nothing but the hairpiece, but she also screwed up to the point where she felt she let Bryce down.  Oh, Fallene!  She is clearly not built for reality TV because she's just too self-effacing.  Although the crying helps her case.  Regardless, I'm relieved to see Fallene go because I think another challenge in this competition would have broken her completely and that would have been too much for me to handle.  Farewell, Fallene!

So, another designer exits, and we see a few designers' true colors.  On the whole, I didn't really loooove any of the outfits, but maybe that's a result of the partnerships.  And did anyone else find the models' stumbling stilt-walks to be really distracting?  I saw such wild terror in their eyes!  Regardless, I am, squarely on Team Laura!  Team Anthony Ryan!  Team Anya!  And maybe Team Olivier and Team Kimberly - I want to see more.  Especially when next week's challenge has them designing for Nina Garcia.  Oh my god.  I cannot wait.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ANTM All-Stars: Who's Excited?

You guys.  I don't think anything could stop me from blogging about America's Next Top Model this cycle.  Nothing - not even if Andre Leon Talley strangled me with a sequined warlock cloak.  I'd find some way to blog from the beyond, hoping that the CW broadcasts in the netherworld.

You see, it's the All-Star Cycle.  Meaning, Tyra's bringing back former contestants to compete one more time for the honor of being America's. Next. Top. Model.  I won't lie; at first I thought, "Yes!  This is great way to bring back my genuine favorites, like Joanie, and Mercedes, and April, and Nik!"  But then Tyra released the contestant list.

And it's so much better.

The models returning to ANTM are, predictably, girls who didn't win and are game for having a second go of it for one reason or another - either the prizes, or a chance to be on reality TV again, or maybe they just really missed hanging out with Mr. Jay.  Regardless - these broads are all a little bit kooky and I cannot wait to see what insanity they bring over the course of the cycle.  Let's peruse their pictures, shall we?


Oh, Alexandria.  Back so soon?  Somehow Alexandria got the Bitch Edit of her cycle, which honestly I felt was a bit unfair.  To me, she didn't seem to have an aura of malevolence so much as a slight dearth in self-awareness, which frankly makes her the perfect reality show contestant!  She takes good pictures, gives daffy sound bites, and raps in confessional - all in complete seriousness.  In short, Alexandria is perfect for ANTM.  Look at that crazy tiger pose, no pants and everything!  I can't wait for more.


I get the feeling, personally, that Allison is one of the less zany contestants this year... and Allison is obsessed with nosebleeds and kept her weave in a candy jar.  So, this is telling information!  Actually, I think Allison will do well (again) this time around, and I'm looking forward to what kind of portfolio she'll crank out.  And I wonder if she'll get a new makeover?  It'd be interesting if she had a different hair color.


Where do I even begin with Angelea?  I mean, you can tell from the photo that this lady has sass.  You can also tell from the photo that maybe that's not the best way to place your fur jacket.  But hey, I noticed the clothes, so maybe Angelea's got it right when it comes to modeling.  In any case, I can't decide if Angelea will make me laugh or make me cringe.  Hopefully it'll be a little of both.


I hope, so very much, that Bianca tells someone this cycle to "check [her] thighs in the mirra" because I'm pretty sure my life would be made.  I will also accept her "and I'm DONE" at every exit from the room.  In all honesty, I find Bianca's "bitchiness" delightful and I think she's a really good model - she keeps popping up in the Project Runway finales!  Of course, she did have that smackdown with Nikki Blonsky in a Caribbean airport, but... we just won't talk about that.
BRE (C5)

Bre!  I loved Bre.  Her attitude manifested in the most hilarious of ways, until it actually got kind of serious when she flipped her shit over some granola bars.  But I don't hold that against her.  I love her look, and honestly I was surprised to see her come back to ANTM because I see her on shampoo commercials almost every time I have the TV on.  But maybe she just wanted to hang out with fellow "woman of class" (hee!) Lisa D'Amato again.


Through the history of Top Model, there have been many Brittanys.  This is the Brittany I will remember most, with her crazy Janice Dickinson looks and almost-as-crazy-as-Janice-Dickinson personality.  Remember that time she screamed at the other girls to shut up in the car?  Fantastic!  Actually, Brittany was one of the show's few masters of that weird sexy-but-innocent look, and she had a pretty solid portfolio.  I'm looking forward to seeing what she brings to the table this time around.


Camille?!  Is that really you?!  I am ecstatic Camille is coming back.  The original bitch?  The girl who coined the phrase "signature walk," because she really was that self-assured in her kickass-but-criticized runway skills?  Oh, honey.  Welcome home.  Although, I do wonder - Camille's 33.  Does she really stand a chance of winning this thing?  I'm not sure I care.  I just want her back to coin more phrases - she'd do much better than "smize" and "modeling H-to-T."  And clearly she's already suited for Tyra's space-aged, pantsless wardrobe!  Gasp!  Maybe she's planning a hostile takeover.


Dominiiiiiiique.  Poor Dominique was saddled with the Bitch Edit as well, which was kind of unfortunate because she seemed like a sweetheart in her post-show interviews.  I think she's just a little daffy, which makes me like her all the more.  Anyone who triumphantly shouts "Brasilia!" and sometimes looks like a drag queen is A+ in my book.  I mean, look how well she's rocking the masculine-meets-feminine look in that tie-meets-feathered skirt combo!  There is not an ounce of sarcasm in my voice when I say she is werkin' it.
ISIS (C11)

For those not in the know, Isis was Top Model's first (and only, thus far) transgendered contestant.  At the time of her original participation, she was pre-op, but taking hormone injections - and despite her nerves, took a damn good bikini photo.  She was eliminated fairly early on, though.  Since then, Tyra's actually helped foot the bill for her gender reassignment surgery and Isis is now living in the body she felt she should have been born with.  I'm curious to see where she fits in with all the intense personalities around her, because she was so go-with-the-flow in her own season, but I hope she does well!

 KAYLA (C15)

Ooh, Kayla!  Kayla is one of the few out lesbian women the show has had - and a damn good model to boot.  I swear up and down that if her cycle weren't the "high fashion cycle," she would have straight-up (er, pardon the phrasing) won that thing.  Kayla has a huge advantage in this competition in that a) she's still young, b) she's a really good model, and c) she's not crazy.  My money is on her for the win.

Okay, here's what you need to know about Laura.  She's from Kentucky, she used to castrate bulls on a regular basis, and her grandma Wanda Sue used to make her clothes.  OH AND SHE'S 5'6.  She's from the short cycle!  Don't get me wrong; I love Laura dearly (such spunk!  so endearing!) but I just can't see how she can be judged in the same way as all the tall girls.  But maybe she'll steamroller them - who knows?


As you can see from the picture, Lisa is a delightful kook.  She also maybe loves red wine a little too much, but I'm pretty sure she went on Celebrity Rehab for that.  (I'm not positive.  I don't keep up with the VH1 reality shows very well.)  But Lisa taught me to always take a break and eat a cookie (and did so wearing crazy clown makeup, sunglasses, false teeth, and a curly wig) so I really can't be mad at her.  She did pee in an adult diaper while at a photoshoot too, though... so professionalism might be a problem.


Okay, I confess: Shannon might be the All-Star I'm most excited to see again.  It's been so long!  She's from the original cycle, where Tyra and Janice Dickinson bumped elbows at judging simply because the tables were so small!  Shannon was a great model, and some days I think she should have won.  She's gorgeous, with a thousand-watt smile, and her personality is adorable.  But that was then... how have the last eight years (?!) treated Shannon?  I'm dying to find out.


When Sheena Sakai made it on the show, she hollered, "You ain't ready for this yellow fever.  One time for the Asiaaaaans!"  And then I loved her forever.  No, in all seriousness, Sheena's pretty great.  There have been a dearth of Asian contestants (this is me shaking my head at you, Ty-Ty) and no winners, so maybe Sheena can deliver.  She had a problem coming off a little "hoochie" in photos, but hopefully she worked that out and will kill this thing!

As you can see, almost everyone is crazy.  And I'm loving it.  I'm also loving the fact that I already know SO. MUCH. about these girls and we're only in for some more insanity.

As for predictions?  Right now my money is on Kayla for the win, with Allison, Sheena, Bre, and Bianca rounding out the Top 5.  But we'll see!  The season starts September 14th.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Retro RBI Report: "Showmance"

Look, another RBI Report!  Unlike me and my reviewing skills, Glee moves fast.  "Showmance" doesn't waste any time furthering the plot and complicating the storylines.  Shall we?

"Showmance," written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan; directed by Ryan Murphy

So, after the Pilot merged a little band of misfits together with a scrappy rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'," "Showmance" gets everybody properly kicked off on their journeys.  And quickly!  The stakes and obstacles roll over pretty rapidly, and looking back it's not difficult to see how easily these were worn out.  Just in this episode, the Glee Club experienced a lack of participation, opposition from Sue, lack of financial backing, misguided direction from Mr. Schuester, and problems with innappropriate content.  All of these issues have randomly been revisited at least once.  Of course, though, "Showmance" came first and so it's all still fresh and shiny.  

And honestly, the main appeal of "Showmance" is not in the details surrounding the Glee Club's struggle to perform at the assembly and gain membership - but rather in the character moments and relationship storylines.  Things happened fast here, too, though.

Rachel and Finn grow closer, after Emma convinces Rachel to pursue common interests (without relating at all to her circumstances, no sir).  And not only do Rachel and Finn practice singing together, but Rachel goes so far as to offer a little kissing practice too.  Whoa!  This is huge for a second episode!  The barely-established love interests are kissing already?  

Sometimes I wonder if Ryan Murphy & Co. put the cart before the horse by introducing a Finn/Rachel kiss before these two really know each other at all.  Technically, they're breaking a lot of storytelling rules - which is not necessarily bad.  It's bold.  And honestly, as a standalone episode, I think it works.  It's not unreasonable that Finn and Rachel's connection would manifest into some tonsil hockey (slash-Mailman-inducing-incident) at this stage of the game, and honestly, it is a bold move for the progression of their relationship.  A lot of it hinges, of course, on what comes after, which is naturally up for argument, but here?  Here it works.

Because it actually is charming at this point for Finn to say he checked for Rachel under his bed, because he also says she's cool and her involvement in his life directly correlates to the blossoming of his arc: he wants to be good at singing, like her.  It's very simple fulfillment for a much simpler time.  It means something for Finn, a popular boy, to say Rachel is cool, in a very simplistic way.  And it means something for Finn to feel drawn to Rachel in a way he can't explain because he barely knows Rachel and she represents Glee Club and the part of his life he is embarking on.  Even though it happens so soon in their narrative, the Finn/Rachel picnic makes sense, and works for both their current emotional place, and the place in the show's timeline.

Onto other couples moving quickly!  Will and Emma spend the episode hanging out, and it becomes clear that while Terri is dominating his home life, Will has a sympathetic ear in Emma.  After their late night cleaning-turned-therapy session - complete with sexual tension - Emma basically came right out with it, asking Will: "What are we doing?"  It's rare (and welcome) when a fictional couple who's clearly falling in love openly understands that they are falling in love.  In the early episodes, Emma is very aware of this, and Will seems to grasp the concept (mostly) as well.  But again - this is so soon!  Usually couples namby pamby about for a few episodes, in complete delusion about their flirtations until an outside party points it out and then they freak.  But Will and Emma basically acknowledge that they are foolishly embarking on an emotional affair, and backtrack.  (Of course, this doesn't stick, but it does come back around again at least once.)  

This episode is interesting in that there is very little holding it together, thematically.  It's mostly just a linear progression from the previous episode, and with the exception of the parallels between Will and Finn's love lives, it's all rather disconnected.  Which is why, I suppose, the episode is simply titled "Showmance" - it's really only glued together by the central romances.  

Of course, there is also "Push It."  Maybe "Push It" is not romantic, but there's also a large bulk of "Showmance" devoted to teens and sex, which is in turns ridiculous, embarrassing, hilarious, and awkward.  ("Push It" somehow manages to embody all of these things.)  Rachel disrupts a Celibacy Club meeting, where balloons popping makes angels cry, and declares that girls want sex just as much as boys.  Finn has "early arrival problems" which can only be assuaged by thinking of that time he hit the mailman with his car.  (Which, by the way, is one of the most hilarious things Glee's ever done, in my opinion.  I will never get over Finn's innocuously doofy "Driving is fun!" followed by Carole's horrified screams.  I laugh hysterically every time.)

At episode's end, the Glee Club lives to see another day, and Quinn and Terri throw wrenches in the romances: Quinn joins Glee to get Finn back, thereby breaking Rachel's heart, and Terri announces to Will that she's pregnant with a baby boy, and not a chicken bone.  A few things here, shall we?

Firstly, Terri.  What's wonderful about the moment where Terri tells Will she's pregnant is that it almost isn't.  It's written so that Terri has a decision.  She pauses, when Will asks her her news, and for the briefest of moments you think she's going to tell the truth.  She almost does.  She could've made that whole dinner out of guilt for not being pregnant, and she was going to tell the truth.  But she freaks out, and in this tiny split-second, she makes a choice.  She's delusional, and a coward, so she lies.  I prefer to look at this scene not as things being complicated for Will, but rather a gauge for the state of their relationship and who Terri is as a character.  Terri is not a villain.  Terri is afraid, and foolish.  And what's unfortunate is that this interpretation is only occasionally manifested in subsequent episodes.  But "Showmance" got it right, because in "Showmance," we got to see Terri make a choice.

Secondly, Rachel.  "Showmance" was actually the first episode of Glee I ever saw (I randomly tuned in on 09/09/09) and the "Take a Bow" sequence was what made me fall in love with the show.  It's classic Glee, and an excellent use of the show as a musical: Rachel sings her heartbreak into an empty auditorium, cross-cut with her singing into her hairbrush and singing directly at a happy-in-love Finn and Quinn, who are completely oblivious to her turmoil.  It's some pretty great angst - not to mention an informed song choice and well-executed interpretation of a pop hit to have meaning in the narrative.  "Take a Bow" was where Glee had me won over.  

Beyond that, Rachel herself is an interesting fixture in "Showmance," and it really only furthers her construction as the show's main character, no matter how many relationship troubles Finn and Will experience.  Yes, she is jealous of Quinn and wants to be Finn's girlfriend, but she also steps forward as a leader of the club, and makes creative decisions against Will's direction - decisions which turn out to be the right ones.  And more than that, her projected character arc is also solidified in this episode, independent of her boy trouble.  Will takes her solo away, and upon Rachel's protests, he promises that while she may not always be the star, he'll make sure she always has fun.  Which is darling and sweet, and when married with the concept that Rachel's purpose in the narrative is to be accepted and gain some friends, creates a future arc for Rachel that held a lot of potential.  It also strikes a unique relationship with Will and Rachel, where Will delivers tough love but always promises to have Rachel's back - which unfortunately has faded away in subsequent episodes.

In all, "Showmance" is a solid episode, with major advancements in relationship drama as well as a quick rotation of the stakes and obstacles.  Even if quickly, though, the character interactions are genuine, well-communicated, and entertaining.  

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: A+
Plot: B
Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Emma Pillsbury, for her marvelous pamphlets, excellent counseling, much appreciated self-awareness, and a stunning (if rainy) rendition of "All By Myself"

"My Pet Project" - Project Runway Recap

(Yes, this is late.  No, this next week's will not be.  I suppose I could have just skipped this but I wanted to stick to my word!)

So, I learned something new from this week's Project Runway.  I could easily go the rest of my life without hearing the phrase "wee-wee pad" ever again.  I'm not joking in the slightest when I say that if I were on the show, I would have avoided using them specifically so I wouldn't have to call them that.  Which, of course, would make me not very different from ol' curmudgeonly Bert, and I probably would have gone home.  Unless, of course, I could have fashioned some sort of frock out of hamster bedding and birdseed.

In case you hadn't guessed it, this week's challenge was devoted to using materials from a discount pet store!  I love how Heidi and Tim called it an "unconventional" challenge," as if last week the contestants totally weren't crawling out of bed and trying to make runway designs out of their jim-jams.  It begs the question: will these guys ever see the inside of Mood?  Or will they simply be relegated to a lifetime (network plug!) of trying to see what sorts of refuse they can stitch together and call fashion.  (Or "trashin," as Viktor lovingly [?] called it.)

Apparently everyone was brimming with verbal witticisms this week - Laura rather succinctly broke down her design as walking the line between "classy" and "assy."  And may I take this moment to appreciate the fact that not only was she correct in her assessment, but she also used wordplay to make the word "assy."  I hope that she doesn't give it up for the sake of the one-time rhyme and the fact that it was literally describing her model's bare ass.  I want Laura to keep using the word "assy" to describe the other designs in the workroom!  As in, "That looks like ass."  We can only hope she'd have such a snappy catchphrase!  She's like a wild-eyed Jessica Capshaw channeling the spirit of Elle Woods and Blanche Devereaux and I, for one, am transfixed.

It was interesting to see how each of the designers handled the "unconventional" nature of this challenge, and whether or not they emerged "classy" or "assy."  (I forgot to tell you: if Laura's not going to keep using "assy," I think I will.)  Bert completely shut down and willfully ignored the whole challenge's purpose, which made me want to snatch his hair off his head.  Why, Bert?  Why you gotta be so snobby about trying to dress a woman in dog bedding?  This is Project Runway!  Chances are, you're going to have to throw some crap on your model and hope it sticks.  But no, Bert simply refused, and to boot, created a rather boxy and unflattering black dress with pink leash trim.  All I can say: I loved you last week, Bert!  Lose the attitude!  Don't let me down!

Anthony Ryan, on the other hand, fully embraced the kooky challenge, and did exactly what I would have done: raced clear in the other direction and found the materials the other designers weren't using.  (I wouldn't have done something so elegant and inspired with it though; my dress probably would have looked like Bert's.  Just... covered in birdseed.)  I don't know about you guys, but I think Anthony Ryan deserved the win.  For one, he was ballsy about the materials, which deserves major kudos.  But he also made something sophisticated that a woman could actually wear, as long as she wasn't in a particularly bird-heavy environment.  It reminded me a lot of Jillian Lewis' Twizzler dress for the Hershey challenge in Season 4.  Jillian was the only one to design with actual food, and made something chic to boot.  And yet, Rami took away the win!  What gives, judges?

This time, it was Olivier who snagged immunity instead of Anthony Ryan, thanks to some perplexing insistence from Nina Garcia.  I, personally, don't get it.  It's not that Olivier's design wasn't well-executed or interestingly conceived, it's just that I saw a double standard in the judging.  His top was very clearly a dog bed, and while they praised that, they gave Fallene, Josh, and Bert hell for using similar materials that were a bit expected in that they were already like fabric.  I don't follow.  Frankly, I would have had two other designs in the Top 3 with Anthony's birdseed dress: Viktor's lavender-dyed wee-wee pad (shudder) dress and Anya's rainbow leash dress.  I didn't mind Olivier's or Josh McKinley's, but I preferred Anya's and Viktor's.  (Although, Anya's upper silhouette looked a lot like last week's... I hope she has some variety up her sleeves!)

As for the bottom 3, well... with the exception of Fallene, I think they deserved to be there.  They gave Fallene so much crap, and I can't exactly figure out why.  I didn't see such a huge blaspheme with the color palette.  But then again, I like autumn.  I have an annual Pumpkin Festival tradition.  So I guess those colors are inherently less offensive to my eyes than Nina Garcia's, who made it sound like her eye sockets were going to devour her own eyes in an effort to save them the pain of looking at that atrocity.
Bryce and Josh Christensen's design's were pretty terrible, though.  Both were just rife with bad choices that did nothing to help out their already fashion-backward materials.  Michael Kors deemed Bryce's design "ugly napkin clothes," and Heidi, in a moment of hilarity, declared she wanted to pee on it.  

You know it's bad when Heidi Klum says she wants to pee on your creation.  That's worse than when Nina Garcia looks you up and down with a slightly disdained expression and utters, succinctly, "That design is tasteless."

But Bryce's urine-worthy outfit was apparently not enough to get him the boot, and poor Josh Christensen was given the farewell.  I'm kind of sad to see him go, but after two weeks of lackluster design decisions, it'd be a crime to keep someone else in his favor.  

As for next week, hopefully Bert will lose the 'tude, Laura will bust out "assy" again, Fallene will stop crying, and I won't need subtitles to understand Olivier.  And maybe we can see the inside of Mood!  I bet Anthony Ryan's model will be happy to not lie down on the ground and have birdseed hot-glued to her body.  Until then... we'll always have wee-wee pads.
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