To start, I offer you the only Nina Garcia gif you'll ever need.
Moving on: It's down to business right away as Heidi mocks the designers' dark under-eye circles, then tells them they're about to see what's "in store" for them. They head off to meet Tim at Lord & Taylor (which is, in fact, a store, and they're in it!). Lord & Taylor president Bonnie Brooks is waiting for them, surrounded by nine mannequins wearing dresses designed by someone from a past season of the show. The designers are tasked with creating a cocktail or evening dress that fits with the collection, while still — wait for it — being true to their aesthetic; the winning dress will be sold at the flagship store and online, so the designers have to consider the cost of putting their look into production as well. (Sidenote: Nick Verreos has an interesting description of his contribution to the collection here, as well as pictures of the other dresses in the line.)
Dmitry is excited about the scope of the challenge: "You are designing for the United States!" Meanwhile, Gunnar immediately begins talking about how this challenge was made for him, because he really knows what women want, and he really knows Lord & Taylor. I found his excitability more insufferable at the beginning of the season, but now I've realized that he's only 22, and it’s not like he's the first 22-year-old ever to act like a know-it-all before his time. Elena is immediately disappointed that she won't be able to make "something elaborate," while Melissa (rocking back-combed hair; get it, girl), brainstorms ways to create a look that's classic but still her. And Christopher looks at the nine mannequins, notes that there are seven cocktail dresses and two gowns, and, after deciding to make a gown of his own, announces, "I'm going to try to make the best gown ever!" And then: "I sound like a tool."
At this point I probably sound like a Tim Gunn lionizer, but he's even more compassionate than usual this season, right? He makes the perfect sympathy face while listening to Sonjia talk about how scared she is to be on the bottom again, and when Christopher doubts his design, Tim concernedly says, "Tell me about your iffiness!" When Elena bursts into tears over how angry she is that the challenge doesn't allow her to showcase her skills (she's too high-end and couture to create designs that are geared toward mass production), he doesn't roll his eyes the way I most definitely would; instead, he hears her out, and then very kindly encourages her to consider the bridge line so that she can successfully scale her designs down.
And speaking of compassion, Gunnar is surprisingly nice to Elena, too. He takes her to the hall outside the workroom and tells her, "This [crying girl] is not the tough bitch we all want to see." He also wins sweetness points for saying to Fabio, "When I get home, I want to make you a dress." Maybe it's just that he seems harmless after Ven's horrible antics last week, but Gunnar is growing on me.
Once it's time to head for the runway, the workroom's still a total mess. Melissa's still sewing, and Sonjia panics when she can't actually get the dress onto her model, then starts sobbing as she watches Elena try to help the model pull it down. (It's properly tragic, but more than a tiny bit reminiscent of Ross Geller trying to get his leather pants on.) Still, everyone's model makes it down the runway fully clothed and without "any total train wrecks," as Heidi puts it.
Christopher, Fabio, Melissa, and Elena end up in the top four; Elena is so excited that she bursts into tears, which would be more endearing had she not spent the rest of the episode making sure everyone knew exactly how tragically misunderstood she is. Christopher gets the win, but not before the judges hammer home that they'd rather not see another shredded silk chiffon look from him this season. Alicia and Gunnar are the bottom two, but they're both safe; no one goes home this week. It's tempting to chalk this up to the success of the designers or the kindness of the judges; in reality, it's most likely because two designers quit early in the season. Still, it's better to flesh out the season with a no-elimination episode than a clip show, right?
Click through the slideshow to see all of this week's looks, and to start thinking seriously about who the final three might be! I'm still undecided, but I'm hoping Dmitry and Melissa make the cut.