Project RunwaySeason 9 • Episode 11
It’s that time in the season for another conceptual challenge, with exotic birds serving as the designers’ inspiration for a high-fashion look — no wait, two; no wait, just one after all. There’s a salmon-pink cockatoo who can caw "make it work" in cockatoo-speak, a playful Amazon parrot called Sweetie, a Game of Thrones-esque raven, and a poor overlooked owl who nobody’s inspired by. (Flamingos and ostriches were also snubbed.) Tim spends a good portion of the episode psyching out the final six contestants with mindless twists that may have sounded good in a late-night brainstorming session among crotchety producers but play out as just plain cruel: The first is that everyone is broken into teams of two rivals, each inspired by one bird and competing to produce the superior runway outfit. So basically, not teams at all.
Though clearly designed to foster late-game rivalries and bouts of bad blood in the workroom, this twist fell pancake flat — turns out, all the remaining designers seem to really like each other. (Indeed, the only blood spilled comes later when Kimberly sews through her finger.) Sure, they all snark on each others' work in confessionals — such commentary is pretty much a requirement on the show — but the group’s camaraderie, now even including the much-redeemed golden oldie Bert, keeps things friendly and supportive.
So poor Tim is tasked with telling the designers they have to produce a second high-fashion look, too. And they also have to make a fitted costume for their bird and fight each other with crimping scissors — okay, not really, but this is where the producers are going. They want TENSION, and not just in the rushed seams. (They even clearly planted a large cockroach in the Parsons workroom to inspire some screaming and mania that they could cut to misleadingly in the promos.) So it’s back to Mood again, where Joshua explains that he often closes his eyes and just feels the fabric to get inspired. This would at least explain some of his many shiny, oft-unbuttoned shirts; there’s also a shot of him licking something, with no explanation as to why.
This week's basket case is Kimberly, who gets so worked up that Tim obliges her with a hug, making the other designers jealous. After picking fabrics she's inexperienced with, she proceeds to stain, bleed on, and eventually burn a hole in her primary look. This last mishap left her only three hours to start a new look over — quite the time crunch indeed, though really everyone's more than struggling to finish both looks. Oh wait, turns out they don't have to: On the last morning of the challenge, an all-too-chipper Tim announces only one of each designer's looks will walk the runway, which is just mean.
Finally allowed to focus their efforts on one garment, the designers all manage to pull together pretty high-quality looks for the runway — though arguably not really high-fashion ones. Heidi, Michael, Nina, and Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa as this week's guest judge all have lots of nice things to say about almost all the designers. Bert's the only one who comes up a bit short, having never really been inspired by Sweetie the parrot (at his own admission), so he's auf'd. A bigger shock is Viktor stumbling down into the bottom three (mainly a technicality, but still), and a bigger controversy still is Anya's win.
Yes, the judges probably are overpraising her a little, but until her competitors are ready to vocalize that she actually has to cut her models out of her clothes after each runway, the judges won't know about it. That's not to say it'd make a difference at this point, because they all love her, but a little fighting spirit's going to be required.