Was I the only one who heard "candy challenge" and fervently hoped it meant Katy Perry would turn up as a judge? (It is probably best for my dignity if we leave that as a rhetorical question.) Instead, we got Dylan Lauren, founder and CEO of Dylan's Candy Bar and wearer of questionable ties.
Heidi tells the designers that they are going to a "pretty sweet location" that would be "a dream come true for any kid." Elena is wearing what looks to be an authentic executioner's mask when this announcement gets made, and Dmitry scowls and says, "Kids and sweets? Eh. That's not for me." But any pessimism they stir up dissipates roughly 90 seconds later, when Tim Gunn picks up a hard candy shaped like a Lego brick and exclaims with delight, "You can build with them!" The designers have 30 minutes to buy up to $500 of candy or other merchandise (clothes, umbrellas, rainboats, pillows, and, weirdly, laptop cases), and there's a predictable divide between designers who stock up on as much fabric as possible and those who focus most on the unconventional materials. Christopher asks for a chocolate boyfriend, Andrea uses a male employee as a dress form, Ven is inexplicably dressed like a Best Buy salesman, and then it's back to the workroom. Bless the hearts and brooms of every single Dylan's Candy Bar employee left standing in the rubble!
Back in the workroom, Buffi bashes apart an umbrella with a hammer to make corset boning and then immediately starts weaving together long ropes of gummy candy, while half of the other designers smash candy into little bead shards. Lantie whines around the workroom, never seeming to get started on anything. After she's finally completed something, she ultimately says that she's "never seen anything like" her very plain dress made of stitched-together umbrella fabric and MAYBE twenty pieces of candy. Tim comes to visit early on, and he and Sonjia have the least combative critique in the history of the show. Tim: "Sonjia, how are you?" Sonjia: "Good." Tim: "I agree!"
Andrea explains her look to Tim as a "Victorian candy-shop-worker's apron," and Tim responds, "I don't have the words to tell you how completely underwhelmed I am." She's upset, and it's clear that she doesn't watch much reality television, since she asks for the cameras to be turned off when she's crying and expects it to work. But Tim's right: She's claiming to be close to done, and it's basically a colorful paper tube. But it's redeemable. As Tim said to Kooan, all she has to do is "get into a nice, calm zone, and work work work work." Words for Runway, words for life.
Once the models have been securely hot glued into their looks (Ven seriously instructs his model not to sit down or turn or slouch), it's off to the runway. Surpisingly, there's less candy carnage left behind than I'd expected, although, according to Nina, that's likely due to editing. Despite Dmitry's very strong look (did the judges dislike the amount of visible fabric?) and the one-shouldered overalls over a candy bikini top that Alicia made, it's Ven, Sonjia, and Gunnar (ugh) in the top and Lantie, Buffi, and Elena (whose look Michael called Rigatoni Mad Max) in the bottom. I know that many of the desginers' work veered into hot-mess territory, but I still say the quality of this body of designs is much higher than the quality of the designs from season nine's unconventional materials challenge.
Despite her attempts to sass her way back in, it's Lantie who goes home, and when Buffi tells the others that Lantie's going instead of her, they break into legitimate cheers. It would seem I'm not the only one who's found Lantie's upspeak and attitude grating. The win comes down to Sonjia's playful, short, blue-and-white near-nautical dress and Ven's longer and more constructed white dress with black-licorice stitching and stained-glass rock candy beading. In the end, Ven comes out on top.
Sonjia's design was a celebration of candy; Ven's design was a transformation of candy. There's something to be said for both, of course, and Ven's response to the judges when he won was incredibly endearing, but Nina said that Sonjia's dress actually made her smile. Isn't that worth the win?
Click through the slideshow to see this week's looks. Who were your favorites? Why did Heidi wear a sweatsuit to judging? And most importantly: Whose design was most edible? (Nathan. Obviously.)