It's been a very long road (like, to put it in perspective, when this season premiered, the GOP didn't even have a vice-presidential nominee), but here we are! Heidi gathers the designers together one last time to tell them they're not guaranteed a fashion week spot; instead, the final four will become a final three, after they've gone off and designed their collections. This happens every season — though it's sometimes replaced with telling two specific designers that they'll battle it out for the third spot, which I prefer — so it's not so much a twist as something they neglected to mention in last week. Heidi also tells them that they'll have five weeks and a $9,000 budget to create their line, and Tim pipes up to tell them he'll be visiting them at home for critiques.
Tim's first stop is Christopher's house, which, adorably, seems like it's actually his parents' house. He's made a lot of progress already, and his work is pretty strong, although the collection is weirdly reliant on a textile with a print of his mother's back x-ray on it. (Tim's response: "My goodness! It's literal.") Tim pulls a skirt from Christopher's rack and says that he loves it; sheepishly, Christopher says that he thought it was ruined, since it was mainly an experiment to see what happens when you put bleach on leather. Later, the two join Christopher's family upstairs for dessert; his mother says everyone who meets Christopher has a story, which is sweet.
Next, Tim visits Fabio, who's using the apartment of a friend as a workspace. Tim immediately gasps, "Good heavens! Is this your home?" Fabio says, "Of course not, Tim. Look at me." Tim's feedback is decidedly mixed. "It is seldom that I've ever seen a collection that had as much potential for a 'wow' factor as what you're doing, but it's ... undercut by a lot of these other things that are happening." It feels like he's saying that if Fabio can get it together, the competition is his to lose, but that's probably just me giving their conversation undue gravity.
Dmitry is Tim's next stop, and they meet up at the house in Jersey City where Dmitry is housesitting (it makes me uneasy that 75 percent of this season's finalists apparently can't afford homes and/or workspaces). His collection is in great shape, and Tim's only real concern is that it may be too much of the Dmitry that the judges have already seen, which Dmitry acknowledges. The best part comes when they sit on the deck — just the two of them — and drink tea out of matching cups while they have a chat. This may be the last special Dmitry/Tim moment of the season, but they'll always be having a tea party in my heart.
Finally, Tim visits Melissa at her home in San Francisco; delightfully, she calls his presence "a reward in itself." She's much more confident about her work than she ever was during the course of the competition, which is great to see. Tim ultimately tells her, "This [collection] couldn't be more you. So it's going to be a matter of taste, which you have absolutely no control over. And you wouldn't want to." Then they go on a boat ride with Melissa's whole family, and everyone talks about her childhood in their outdoor voices.
Back to New York! I become irrationally concerned about whether special provisions were made for Melissa, as she'd be the only designer potentially grappling with jetlag. The designers meet up in a properly sick suite at Yotel (complete with a round bed and an electric fireplace) and pop a bottle of champagne; Dmitry raises his glass and says that he hopes they'll all get to show at Fashion Week. I know this season has been comparatively low on drama and it's been criticized elsewhere for that, but there's something really refreshing about the care and respect these four show each other.
Tim tells them they'll be showcasing three looks to the judges the next day to determine who will make the final three. There's a day's worth of Tim critiques and fittings and selection and panic and makeup consultations (I really like how we've seen more hair and makeup this season than usual), and then it's off to the runway where the judges love some things and are "confused" by others — more about that in the slideshow. Ultimately, it's decided that everyone will move on. I love that all four designers will get to show at fashion week, but I don't love it so much that I'm going to neglect to mention that this same twist happened last season.