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Polymorphic Spree

Polymorphic Spree

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This week's Project Runway is about not harshing on people who roll fabric around on the ground, intentionally smearing it with chlorophyll, for one day they will receive praise from Sarah Jessica Parker.

This recap will post later than the usual Friday after the episode's air date. That's because I'm Thanksgivingly ensconced out in the middle of Nowheresville Mountaintop Georgia with my husband/partner/whatever's family. They have Bravo but no Internet, and even my cell phone barely works unless I go outside and stand next to Sasquatch. Also, they watched it with me, which was kind of awesome.

Now, last season I'd start every week's recap with my own fashion pronouncements. I intend to continue doing that this season. But I'm cutting back. And that's because I've got a guest star to help me. So while I know you're dying to know how much I admire Giles Deacon's gigantically knit mega-scarves -- and if you haven't seen them, imagine monumentally large woolen-wear that came from a skein of yarn the size of Truckasaurus, the threads as big as your forearm, Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman smothered to death as the Jolly Green Giant wraps it around her tiny body -- you're really going to love my model pal Elyse. And she's not just any model. She's a Tyra Banks-scarred veteran of reality television herself, the second runner-up on the first season of America's Next Top Model. And then she actually went out and got modeling work and is a superstar in about 37 Asian countries, revered for her ability to lady-pose and look prettily disinterested. I know, finally I have some real cred. And she would like to tell you some things about fashion, such as:

"Ditch the L'Eggs and buy expensive hosiery.It looks better, it lasts longer, it liberates your summertime pieces during the winter months, and it offers better vadge ventilation."

Thanks, Elyse! This advice is applicable to men too, you know. I bought my husband/partner/whatever some stupid-expensive and puppy-soft cashmere socks for Christmas last year. He wears them with sneakers sometimes. You can buy love, just FYI.

Anyway, she's also e-mailed me some heartwarming modeling anecdotes. They're coming your way too.

OK, the show.

The opening credits are always so dorky on this otherwise very cool show, everyone shouting some variation on "Heck, yeah, I'm gonna win this!" And why did they put the big guy, Chris, into that leopard-print shirt and that lame necktie for the entire season? I mean, yeah, it's his shirt and all, because he wore it in last week's first episode. But why did they let him wear it in the credits so that we have to look at it every week? It hurts to witness things. It hurts more to hear him cheer "Let's go!" Not that I got beef with Gay Voice. It's an honorable and important homo tradition, the proud dialect of many of my people. What I have a problem with, I think, is Gay Enthusiasm. It seems like it takes up a lot of energy.

So what we learn this week is that, as usual, Project Runway is a finely tuned machine of, from week to week, flipping your opinions about its contestants. Unlike at other reality shows that rigidly lock its participants into "type" prison, the folks behind PR slowly unpeel the human onion, allowing the initially sane to give way to plain old dull, the crazy to visionary, the quiet to secretly sophisticated, the mean to simply truthful. And the gays usually just come out looking like what most of them are: out of it and overly given to quick tears.

Rami, as last week's winner, gets to mouth off first in this episode. He misses Simone, who was eliminated in the first challenge, and thinks that she has "a better understanding of how women should look than Elisa." Not that anyone can prove that. We just have to take Rami's opinion as fact. That is, unless he's the person who wrote "Make it work!" on the apartment chalkboard. And especially if he's the one who added flair to the now-meaningless catchphrase by appending "Bitch!" to it. See what I mean about the gays? Why can't my people get it together and lift themselves out of the culture rut they've made for themselves?

Everybody's at the runway. Heidi comes out in a black dress. Time to pick the models to that bleepy musical "time to pick the models" theme. So far my favorite is the girl named Lisa, the one Christian -- the one with the wacky hair -- likes to work with. She reminds me of Shelley Duvall. I like that in a woman.And the one named Wendy is out. Does she care? We don't know. I assume that the models like being on the show. It's regular work and they get paid for their time, I guess, and it's definitely exposure for them. But we never really know what's going on with them unless they make a big show of themselves and somehow manage to also get their own talking-head interview moment like the crazy one Kayne worked with last year. I forget her name. After Wendy's dismissal we cut to Ricky -- the one in the ugly hats -- crying for the first time this episode. Simon Doonan once said, of a weepy girl on ANTM one season, "Her tear ducts are near her bladder." Ricky? Samesies.

This week's challenge: Design an outfit for a pop-culture and fashion icon. Everyone's guessing Madonna. Someone off camera shouts "Britney." When people make visible "ick" faces to that suggestion, the off-camera Gay Voice yells, "She needs help! It's bad!" Someone else wishes for it to be Snow White. Too bad Snow White isn't real.

Then Tim Gunn introduces the mystery guest, Sarah Jessica Parker, by saying, "I am thrilled to introduce Sarah Jessica Parker." Almost as thrilled as he was when Heidi spoke his name own name out loud to him last week. Anyway, SJP is super-excited to be there. The contestants freak out hard with cheering, clapping, gasping, and lots of general OMG-isms. Chris -- the big guy -- is weeping. Apparently he moved to New York because he thought it would be like Sex and the City. So it's all like a big sign from God now or something. Seriously. And I would include the two comments that my husband/partner/whatever throws out about Chris and SJP, respectively, but they're both mean-spirited insults about each one's physical attributes. I will never let up on Chris's ugly shirts, but I won't mock a fellow fatty just for being fat and say ugly things like "his tears smell like ham." That's my chunky husband/partner/whatever's job. Nor will I make whinnying noises when SJP is shown on camera. Don't you think that's mean? I think it's mean.

The SJP challenge is this: Design a two-piece look for Bitten, SJP's clothing line. It'll be for the fall/winter collection, and SJP says they're looking for high-end-looking sportswear at affordable prices. The item designed must retail for less than 40 bucks.

RETAIL FOR LESS THAN 40 BUCKS. That's cheaper than most Isaac Mizrahi for Target stuff. That's cheaper than the cashmere socks I bought for my husband/partner/whatever. That's fuckin' CHEAP. Chris says that everyone's going to be using toilet paper and Scotch tape to make their outfits. This, of course, sets Elisa's imagination spinning off into the galaxy where space unicorns prance and frolic while she furiously takes notes with a marker on her own hand. Maybe she's going to use the leftover ink-smears on her hand to imbue her inexpensive fabrics with essence of Sharpie. The contestants are given notebooks full of plain-Jane-looking long-sleeved T-shirts and leggings that seem to comprise the bulk of Bitten's line. You know, stuff SJP wouldn't wear on a bet. They have 30 minutes to sketch something to then pitch it to SJP. The key words here are "mass market.

Christian ignores these words. He and his extravagant hair can't be tied down to boring normal people's needs. He announces that he doesn't "want to copy any of the shapes Bitten has already done." He's going to make something with an odd silhouette with a pleated booty like last week. The masses can suck it. Ricky, on the other hand, is desperate for SJP's approval. He thinks his first challenge design sucked, and to prove it, he cries for the second time this episode. Is there a disease of crying out there? Do people have that? And have to take medicine? Can a doctor reading this recap let me know what's up? Ricky claims he really wants SJP to like his design. (Translation: "I want her to like me.")

Time to pitch the sketches to SJP, who really, it bears repeating, is being mind-bendingly kind to these people. Chris is freaking out and too nervous to speak because he thinks of himself as a Charlotte, and THIS IS ALL TOO BEAUTIFUL TO EVEN COMPREHEND. Kevin of the fussy beard and striking features that place him somewhere in between the guy from 300 and Joey Fatone is nervous too, and when SJP extends her dainty hand to shake it when they're done, he just gets up and walks out, leaving her to pump fists with the whooshing air that follows in his heterosexual wake.

Elisa comes in swinging, announcing that her design will be "polymorphic" even though no one stops to decipher what exactly she means by that. So far, knowing her, she could mean that once you've worn it as a dress then it also converts into a summer home. You just know SJP is thinking, You're nuts! Just like Patricia Field! I love you!

Christian enters to pitch, farting confidence, shows his design, pleased with himself. And why not. He's the kind of man who, given enough backing, would design stuff SJP probably would wear. Elisa too if it were all pretty-pretty enough after being rolled around on the ground long enough.

Anyway, back to Christian. My husband/partner/whatever's youngest nephew -- he's like 10 -- wants to know if Christian is a girl or a guy. Husband/partner/whatever says, "Christian is a very secure man. Like Mango on Saturday Night Live." This is a fact. And it's why I'm digging Christian so far, both him and Elisa.

Carmen is too pushy and forceful with her pitch. She's really selling the brand. "It's Carmen like the opera and Webber like the baller," she barks, too glad to be shaking SJP's hand.

So then it's time for SJP to pick team leaders -- yeah, they're working in pairs this week so that the good fighting can begin. She picks Elisa -- cut to a stunned Carmen -- and Kit and Victorya, Marion, Christian, and Rami. Oh, yeah, and Ricky for some reason. Fail.

Carmen is visibly pouty over this. Chris is bummed too. He's probably going to eBay his Sex and the City big pink boxed set, the one that came with the Cosmo glasses. What's more? Square Pegs is coming OUT of TiVo. Fuck SJP, man!

We learn that the winning design may be sold in some chain that they say so fast I can't understand it. Whatever store it is, it's ain't high-end. If it's going to retail for less than 40, then we know it's not Barneys or Jeffrey or Ikram. Christian says, in the gayest and clippiest and quickest of all Gay Voices, "Omigodifigetpickedit'sgonnabesofierce!" I have to get TiVo to rewind several times to finally catch all the words. Rami is excited too. He's applauding and he's wearing a pincushion as a bracelet. Last week it was dick-measuring-contest tape. This week the round thing you stick your needles into. HE'S 4 REAL, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? HE DONS THE TOOLS OF HIS ART. HE MUST NEVER BE SEPARATED FROM THEM. HE ONCE PINKING-SHEARED A MAN IN RENO JUST TO WATCH HIM DIE.

Commercials happen. Then a Bravo promo, where I'm confronted with the possibility that my cell phone is all wrong now. "Is your cell phone in or out?" asks the scroll. I look at my phone. It's kind of sad. A lame old beaten-up Verizon one. Not that it matters. I can barely operate it anyway. I'm supposed to do something with it, though, according to the commercial, call them for fashion tips or something. I guess there might be someone left out there who needs to hear, "Invest wisely in a few durable, classic pieces." But it ain't me.

Back on the show, Tim tells everyone to pick their teammates. Did you hope that all of adult life wasn't always going to be like dodge ball? Because you were wrong if that's what you were looking forward to. You will be 43 years old and occasionally still be forced to suffer the humiliation of being last picked. This week that honor falls to Sweet P and Carmen. Marion chooses Steve because Steve seems to be even quieter than Marion and therefore easily controlled. Rick picks Jack. No reason given. Probably the arms. Victorya picks Kevin. Kit picks Chris, Rami picks Jillian. The camera cuts to Carmen, grinning like a mental case, PICK ME! OH, GOD, PLEASE PICK ME! DO NOT MAKE ME WORK WITH ELISA! So when Christian takes her she's visibly -- and really, rudely, if you ask me -- relieved. Sweet P is quietly mortified to realize that she's (a) last chosen and (b) chosen by Elisa, which is a total setup, by the way. The show's already telling you that Elisa is a kook, so the humiliation of being subject to her vision would be, of course, worse than having to wear a pair of Angela's flower-covered balloon shorts during your weeklong stay at Jubilee Jumbles. But check it out, Elisa knows something the show doesn't, and that's how to subvert the camera with kindness. "I wanted Sweet P from the very beginning," she says, happily. Way to deflate that one, Elisa.

No, the true humiliation of this challenge looks to be the budget. Fifteen bucks. If Heidi were around right now instead of working on getting pregnant again -- according to the recent Oprah interview, they want lots of kids -- I know we'd hear the sweet musical sound of "Ha-HA!" And do they send them to shitty Hancock or Joann for their cloth? No, they go to Mood, where you can't buy shit for that amount of money. Victorya says something like (I didn't write it down exactly), "What do we buy? Two buttons?" And at the store itself, Sweet P is already staging an intervention, planting the "finish your garments" mantra in Elisa's consciousness. My husband/partner/whatever's sister-in-law is on the couch next to us. She sews things all the time. Knits sweaters, designs the curtains for her own house. She's no dummy with the making of clothes. And she's already sussed out that Marion has a problem. It's post-Mood and the designers are working. Sister-in-law says, "Marion seems confused and unfocused. His garment is complicated and his fabric is strange. Kit seems like the smartest one at the moment. She knew exactly what would work and that her choices would be simple to deal with."

"Yeah, and Chris talks like Joe Flynn from The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes," says the husband/partner/whatever. Because when you have no fashion expertise to toss out, you make retro, live-action Disney film references. Not that he's any less right. Chris does sort of talk like Joe Flynn. It's just that now a lot of you are going to go, "Who?" and have to interrupt yourselves from reading to go find this guy on IMDB.com. Flynn was pretty much always the bespectacled suit in the room who'd say stuff like, "Now, see here, Reilly..." But it's funnier if you already knew that. And if you do, you're old.

Time for Elisa to talk about her "polymorphic" dress. There's really nothing mysterious about that word. It just means that you can change the dress's shape or function in a variety of ways. It's not like it's not part of the English language. So far it's all so not weird, Elisa and Sweet P look like they're going to get along well. Then Elisa holds the fabric up to Sweet P, drops to her knees and licks Sweet P in what my husband/partner/whatever's sister-in-law refers to as a "rather personal area." Elisa calls it making a "spit mark" that will give the material some "energy and essence." Sweet P crosses herself, saying that "Elisa's on some happy planet. I'm not sure the name."

Next week on Project Runway: Elisa pees on wool jersey. Also on Tim Gunn.

Cut to Ricky, so excited about Sarah Jessica Parker loving his design. "That's so cool," he says, right before crying (third time this episode). Maybe he's allergic to himself? Cut to Tim Gunn asking Marion and Steve how their dress is doing. "Why, super-ugly-ly, Tim!" they announce happily, in unison. Well, in my head that's what they say. Steve responds, meekly, "Oh, we're coming along." Like a slow boat heading into the Bermuda Triangle.

Now, here's why I think Christian is my favorite so far. He's cocky and talented and so faggy that he could insert a sibilant "s" into the word "terrarium." And he can pretty much back it all up. Tim Gunn wants him to alter the garment to make it look less '80s-inspired. Christian's response: "I think it looks perfect." Now, in life, that's the sort of confidence you want. But on this show, it can trip you up. I want to yell, "Hey, Christian! Ever watch this show? Always listen to Tim Gunn!" But he won't. No one with hair like that is open to suggestion.

Tim has other ideas for Elisa and Sweet P. Well, not so much ideas as shocked epithets like, "Geez, Louise" and "That's cuckoo," when confronted with Elisa's all-hand-sewn-all-the-time methods. Then they talk about ruching. Ruching is that thing you do where you bunch up the fabric and sew it all together. It's pretty groovy if you do it right. And it's a term my husband/partner/whatever learned from this show. He perks up and says, excitedly, "Ruching! Malan taught me that word!"

We all miss Malan. You know, the evil man of international mystery from last year.

Sometimes, in a quiet moment, my friend Aaron--and last season's recap readers will recall that he owned a pretty excellent wallet made by assume vivid astro focus for LeSportsac and I kind of made a big deal out of it. THAT'S HOW AMAZING THAT WALLET WAS. Yeah, I said was. It was a good wallet while it lasted. Then it got grimy, like Elisa had rubbed it on the ground a lot, which, for all I know, Aaron did too. He's since switched to a nice embossed Comme des Garcons one. Anyway my friend Aaron will stop and stare off into space and say, "I wonder what Malan's doing right now?" And then we'll all talk about how awesome Malan is for a bit. This is what we do for fun in my house.

And no sooner does the Brother Sewing-brand clock on the wall say they have 25 minutes left in the challenge then they are finished. Time for commercials. When they get back, we hear Kit saying that Elisa doesn't know how to use a sewing machine. Is this a fact? Is this something we've been told already and I just forgot it or missed it? Because I was under the impression that she just liked holding everything in her hands instead of letting a machine drain energy from Mother Gaia just for a piece of clothing. Sweet P seems to be holding up well under the unusual circumstances, but she keeps repeating "make it work" over and over. And Tim Gunn? He's said it zero times. But what he does say is that it's time to knock Sarah Jessica Parker's socks off. Or her stockings, he corrects himself. Or the takeout package of popcorn shrimp made from aluminum foil and shaped like a tortoise that she's decided to wear as a buttocks accessory today. Some days it's hard to shake Patricia Field's influence.

Oh, dang, I'm going to be late for my flight back home to Los Angeles if I don't wrap this up soon. So here are the highlights of the rest of the show. I'll just make you a little list.

  1. Models are sent in. Christian hugs his and they bounce up and down, shouting, "Sarah Jessica Parker!"
  2. Everyone gets themselves into the Tresemme hair salon and the L'Oreal Paris makeup room.
  3. Someone says that "Ricky has the sickest model." The husband/partner/whatever's sister-in-law says, "Sickest?" We explain that that's a good thing.
  4. Marion is upset. He claims that his dress is off an inch and a half to two inches. Or nine. Steve says that it's all "getting kind of ugly." Ha. Kind of.
  5. Christian flips his own hair in front of the mirror in the makeup room, reminding himself that he looks the supergayest of them all.
  6. Elisa does this really great thing. First of all we see the dress and it's looking pretty cool. When discussing ownership of the piece she uses Sweet P's name first, calls their collaboration a "marriage" and then goes up to Sweet P and says, "High five, beautiful." And there's your moment. There's where it turns. There's where you have to like Elisa even if you think she's too wacky to win this. She fucking loves things and people and frogs and bunnies and hand-stitching and life. You should all love stuff that much.
  7. Christian describes his dress as "so chic" that he wouldn't be surprised if he was in the top two again but didn't win because they'd go with someone boring. See, now it's hard to choose between liking him more or liking Elisa more.
  8. Commercial time: Did you know that having a Chase credit card will give you freedom? Not the kind of freedom expensive hosiery allows, mind you, but real freedom. It's true. Credit card debt is a lifestyle adventure into modern slavery that requires your participation. Do it!
  9. Oh, sweet, a regional commercial for Georgia Natural Gas. There's a guy in a big blue flame outfit, like the old Fruit of the Loom guys who were all grapes and an apple and stuff like that. He's counseling a family about teen romance, giving wise advice to the weeping high-school girl and her upset family. I think the message is that natural gas will solve your complex emotional problems. Like it did for Sylvia Plath.
  10. The runway show: Kit and Chris show leggings and an oversize top. Black beret. Elisa and Sweet P send down a tenty teal short dress and big cape. The model is somewhat hunchy. This is a thing now, the hunchy walk. I know because Elyse the Model (from earlier, not to be confused with Elisa the designer) told me. Here's that walk, explained:

"Since I've been a model, there's been a sea change in the de rigueur runway walk.When I started out five years ago, we were still doing the lean-back, high-kick Gisele thing.When I was in Paris last summer, my agency instructed me to slouch down the catwalk: They told me to suck my stomach in hard to make my spine curve forward instead of back."

And now you know the "what," if not the "why." And that's because sometimes the "why" never comes and you have to embrace the unknowable. That's a life lesson.

So Rami and Jillian send down a big dark top over leggings with a belt.

Marion and Steve have created an outfit for Daryl Hannah to get into a time machine and wear in Clan of the Cave Bear while she invents math. It's going to make them lose in a major way.

And guess what? They do! But not before everyone showers love and praise on Elisa and Sweet P and Elisa holds forth on the meaning of "polymorphic" one more time -- because it can be worn as a hat or a bustle or a corset or in the fourth dimension or as a bridal gown or a tracksuit -- and not before SJP criticizes the way you can see the bra on Marion and Steve's ugly, heavy, fringey whatever-it-is, which is perhaps one of the more egregious examples I've ever heard of "do as I say and not as I've done 1 million times before." But it's really Heidi who shines in this final bit of judging and eliminating. She says Marion and Steve's dress looks like "it's out of the basement. It looks dirty." This is Teutonic ESL cruelty at its best. And then, a little later, she forces the two bottom teams of Marion and Steve and Christian and Carmen (I know! Stun. Their crime is that their thing is too severe for the "everyday woman," and Christian gets slammed for the same thing they praised him for last week. Ha-HA!) to decide which one of the pair would have to go if the team lost. Heidi seems to enjoy the whole Sophie's Choice aspect here. A lot. Carmen cries, which just makes Heidi more determined. "Are you saying that Christian should go?" she says, not relenting one bit in the face of designer tears. It's like if she could she'd really cut loose and be like, "YOU VILL CHOOSE! OR OUT VILL GO YOU BOTH! YOU MUST PAY FOR YOUR DEGENERATE ART! IT VAS DIRTY AND FROM THE BASEMENT! ALSO WE VILL NOW DECIDE WHICH OF YOUR PETS TO DROWN! THE KITTY OR THE PUPPY! NO? OK! WE DO BOTH!"

Finally, it's Marion and Steve who lose. Marion goes home to make more flowerpot cozies. And quietly determined Victorya and Kevin are the winners. Very little fanfare on that one. They just made a nice tenty black dress that was really simple and sophisticated. Not even boring. That Victorya is on to something. And she's quiet too, so I bet that unnerves everyone.

And yeah, I had to spare some details of the final bit. So forgive that. But my plane (and by extension, a healthy dose of Xanax and Ambien) calls...

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