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Sidekick of Doom

Sidekick of Doom


Joe phones home this week on Project Runway. That's how you know he's going back there before the episode's over.

I just watched the Terrence Howard video for his new single, "Sanctuary," on YouTube. Terrence Howard the actor. Of Crash and "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" fame. The one that's afraid of girl germs. Mr. Baby Wipes. Him. He's got a CD out now. He wrote "Sanctuary" after talking to Seal at a party and getting super envious that Seal pulled that sweet piece of Klum. Well, he says he was just so inspired by Seal and Heidi's endless love that he wrote a song about it. But you know he wants her too and scrapped the song's probable original title, "T's Dream (I Wanna Borrow Your Woman Just for One Sweet Lovemakin' Night)." In the video T wears a white suit and white hat and stops playing and singing long enough to go take the wand away from the conductor of the band and show the man how it's really done. Then he goes and stands next to the background singer ladies and sways with them a little. He does not offer any of them a complimentary container of baby wipes.

This exploration of Terrence Howard has nothing to do with this week's episode of Project Runway. I just felt like talking about it. And it's more fun to think about than, as my friend Mark calls them, the "Weakest Season Ever Gang."

Kenley, first person we hear from this week, has a plan. Ignore advice from everyone and just do what she does best: design vintage-inspired cuteness and get away with being mean to people because she's so cute herself. But her reign of possibly-edited-to-make-her-look-like-more-of-a-bitch-than-she-is terror feels like it's coming to an end. Not this week, because this week is Joe's turn to be auf'd. But definitely maybe next. Or not. She might provide the show's much-needed antagonistic drama all the way through to Bryant Park. I hope so, anyway. I'd still sooner see Suede hit the road than her. At least her petulant ways are good TV.

The designers gather near the runway. Out walks Heidi, looking song-inspiring. Her hair, though odd this week and pulled in strange directions and braided around one side for no apparent reason, still looks right. It's inspired me to collaborate with my friends to write our own song about Heidi Klum. Except I'm alone this week. Everyone in my house except me is out of town, off having life adventures. I stay put to do my job, which is this. So you gotta wait for it.

Heidi brings out a parade of older women, representing various degrees of frump and bad makeup. Jerell quickly deduces that this is not a repeat of the Mom Challenge because all of them are white. Korto is glad that this isn't the Mom Challenge because she would kick your fucking ass if you said one negative thing about her mother. She doesn't use language that strong to get her point across. But you know she would. Heidi tells the designers that they aren't making clothes for the women on the stage. Cut to Leanne, fake-wiping imaginary sweat from her bangs. She's relieved because old people are disgusting and lumpy. Again, doesn't say exactly that, but you can read between the lines.

Then out come the women's daughters. The designers are going to create a just-graduated-from-college-and-look-out-world outfit for the young ladies. Heidi tells the designers which grad they're going to get. Responses:

1. Joe gives that fake half-smile he delivers when he can't think of anything else to do.

2. Kenley immediately assesses her girl as "sweet ... she reminds me of me."

3. Jerell also sees himself in his tall, skinny client and sketches up "a high-waist pencil skirt, kind of blousy on top, and a man's-style cardigan. Kind of covers her up a little bit, but it's still flirty and sexy in its own little awkward way. Just like her. And ME!"

Pause here a moment while I rethink Jerell. Normally I wouldn't be rethinking someone this late in the season, but yesterday I read this interview with my friend Bryan that gave me reason to do so. Bryan is this slackery do-nothing gay I know who goes around inventing TV shows and disappearing for months at a stretch while they get created and cast with other nobodies like Kristen Chenoweth and then shot and then Emmy-nominated. That's right: I have a friend who's going to win an Emmy this Sunday. Actually, I probably just jinxed his chances by doing that. Anyway, in the interview he talks about how much he likes Jerell and how kind he thinks Jerell is, especially in his dealings with Stella. Now, the problem with this opinion, for me, is that I think Bryan might be right. Jerell never goes after anyone to their face, he does it only on interview cam, where technically it's allowed because you know the producers are goading you to talk shit about everyone else "in private."

So I had to sit and consider the pros and cons of Jerell. Because I think Bryan is pretty smart, and when he tells me something he thinks, I listen. In the minus column, for me, are Jerell's own awful clothes, both the ones that he wears and the ones he designs. And how he said mean things about Terri. I won't forgive that. And then ...

Shit, I can't think of anything else. I guess I just hate happiness. But I don't think I'm alone on that one. It's annoying when people are that festive all the time. But I will take my Emmy-nominated friend's opinion into consideration as I watch this episode.

They all go to Mood, where Kenley says, seemingly to the fabric bolts, "I'm gonna make the prettiest dress in the world." Prettier than anything that dumb old Christian Dior or Yves Saint Laurent or Valentino or Coco Chanel ever even considered making. That's how pretty this fucking dress is going to be. So pretty it's going to obliterate eyeballs and blind the entire viewing audience and cause the ratings to crash and burn into October because nobody will be able to watch anymore. So pretty Terrence Howard will write a song about it. That pretty. Get ready. The camera cuts to a dog that happens to be in Mood. No reason. Just cutting to a dog.

Day 1 of the challenge:

The designers talk about their first jobs. Joe used to work for Gucci in the stockroom. It's there he learned to love clothes, he says. Jerell used to work at McDonald's, where he got free Big 'n Tasties, whatever those are, and "bad skin from standing over a fryer." This is another moment of weird affinity I have with Jerell. I too used to work at a McDonald's. I read somewhere once that 10% of the American population have worked there at some point in their lives. That number may be totally inaccurate, but I still believe it could be true. I worked at one in Lubbock, Texas, right off the Texas Tech University campus. I was there for three days in 1984. I spent three six-hour shifts flipping Quarter Pounders and doing nothing else. My boss was this insane Vietnamese guy who used to run around screaming "Faster! Faster!" I smelled so awful after each shift I had to go home and shower with actual lemons that I'd rub on myself to cut through the grease and grossness. I cannot blame McDonald's for my bad skin, however. I had that before I worked there.

Tim Gunn comes in with the moms and daughters for fittings. Already there's trouble in Joe-Town. His young lady doesn't like the pinstripes he's chosen to make her awful interview suit. Joe, though, thinks it will look "sharp." So does the client's mother. She says "sharp" too. Seriously, they both say "sharp." If Nina Garcia somehow became Jackie Gleason, that's the kind of word she'd use. Joe also wants to give his client pocket squares to make a tiny, boob-area explosion of "crazy color." As a response to this idea, Jerell asks Joe, "Do most girls have an assortment of pocket squares?" while Kenley, on interview cam, makes a "smells a fart" face. At midnight, as everyone leaves the workroom, Jerell cracks, "Come on Joe. You can work on Nancy Reagan tomorrow."

Day 2:

Tim Gunn inspection time: Suede's jacket is all lopsided and gross. Olive drab with purple stripe details. Pockets that don't line up. Sleeves that don't line up. And big floppy cuffs. What better look to give a client who's a photographer than clothes that are going to get in the way of doing her job?

Tim tells Joe that the pinstripes don't look like something a young female graphic designer would wear. Joe says he didn't really relate to the field so much, he just wanted it to look [generically] "professional." So yeah, that's a smart move.

Kenley is all pouty face and shrugs when talking to Tim. On interview cam: "Tim doesn't really understand me as a designer ... I never really change anything for Tim." You'd think that by now there'd be a secret-access website set up by some former PR contestant where new designers could go read the "famous last words" of people who didn't win. It could have cute little montage clips of people all saying the same dumb thing over and over like they were first people ever to utter those words, you know like that awesome "Republican National Convention in One Minute" video that's been going around where you see McCain use the word "fight" a hundred times in a row.

Next? Joe is shown talking on the Sidekick of Doom. At least I think it's a Sidekick. I guess there are other phones like that now. And I can't be bothered to go look and see what it really is. But it's definitely Of Doom. Possibly even the same phone from One Missed Call. Extremely bad idea to take a call from home on that thing. Stella was the last person we saw do that, and look what happened to her. Then he seals his fate by telling his daughters he misses them. The next stop on that train is you cleaning up your workroom table under a lonely little spotlight. It's the next best thing to hearing "THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE." I mean it, stay away from that phone.

End of the day and the designers are back at Atlas. Kenley asks Korto and Leanne, "So who's going home tomorrow?"

"Suede," deadpans Korto with food in her mouth. Dang, I love Korto. Leanne remains silent at first but then mocks Suede's jacket as something to be worn while "auditioning for the role of Selena." Kenley adds that she thinks Suede is a "poser." True enough, really. I mean, yes, it's mean of her to say. But she's right.

Elimination Day:

HOLY SHIT, LOOK AT JERELL'S HAT. The man has hot-glued a live owl to his head. Damn it, now I HAVE to like Jerell. This changes everything. What kind of monster would I be if I rejected a queen willing to go out in public with something like that touching any part of his body? A bad monster, is what. Because a hat like that doesn't even say "gay." It says, "I am out of my mind." STOP MAKING ME LIKE YOU, JERELL.

This episode's guest judge is Cynthia Rowley. I had kind of forgotten about her as a designer. I mean, I know she still makes things. But she'd sort of slipped from my brain. It's like what Heidi says: "One day you're in, the next day your Target line is on clearance." In fact, my only connection to CR is Target. She made these little striped plastic bowls for them a few years ago. I bought one because it was $1.99. But now the stripes are fading and the bowl has a permanent food smell to it, no matter what kind of scalding water and detergent I use to clean it. So now, for me, CR equals a bad smell. And because this episode is about not much at all, I asked guest commentator Elyse Sewell, international modeling star, which designer evokes a smell in her mind. Within seconds I had an email response so terse it was like haiku being sword-sliced in half: "Zac Posen reeks like the cup of a Kmart bra." Thanks, Elyse!

The clothes:

1. Joe -- Hideous, lopsided, ill-fitting pinstriped suit. The client's mother cries. Nina glares and scribbles furiously.

2. Leanne -- Dark blue dress hidden under a boxy jacket that might be made of cardboard.

3. Jerell -- Very high-waisted pencil skirt, ruffle-necked top, and elongated skinny man's cardigan. It looks amazing on his client. He's going to win, no question. He even accessorizes it well with this green bag that's a whole other brighter green than the green of everything else he's showing, as if to say, "Lookit! See what I just did here?"

4. Korto -- Really well-tailored jacket over big green print dress. The jacket has this gap in the front to show more dress and pull the two pieces together. It's an odd combination that really works well thanks to all the detailing on the jacket and this big brown belt you see when the it's undone. I think it shows more risk than Jerell's, but I also think that Korto goes out on that ledge all the time and everyone's used to not giving her any props for it.

5. Kenley -- Rosy-flower-print vintage-inspired dress. Like if a little girl were playing grown-up with grandma's sweet, very feminine old clothes. You know, what she does every week.

6. Suede -- The Pucci-esque purple print is fine, and the dress is actually nice. But the jacket is a shellfishy Old Testament abomination. The kind that gets you turned into a pillar of salt. It actually smothers the dress and makes the client look like a sad clown. The only thing that makes it slightly better than Joe's piece of shit is that at least you're not bored by it.

Judges talk to clients and designers and each other:

Kors calls Joe's "a 60-year-old's idea of professional" and then, in judge chat, calls it something you'd wear to a Working Girl-themed party. He's right about that one. The girl should have been wearing big white Reebok high-tops with that thing. Then he mentions the dumb pocket square. Kenley cracks up onstage, as does her client, the one Heidi has just called Kenley's "Mini-Me." Fucking Kenley. Grow up, girl. But please wait until after the show's done shooting because your really shitty, no-decency-or-loyalty-having attitude toward everyone (Daniel knows this) is keeping me going.

Nina asks Leanne what's underneath the jacket. And in the second after she asks that, she does one of her really lovely minimalist head shakes. They're so subtle you might miss them, the Nina Headshakes. They usually get delivered with a Disgusted Withering Blink. Message: I need more money to sit here and look at this. I could be at a spa right now. I'm the boss of Marie Claire. Fuck these people.

After that, she's on fire and tells Suede that his jacket was "the tip of the iceberg" of what's wrong with the look. "I will say no more," she adds. And you know this really stings Suede because instead of his usual response, which would be something along the lines of "THAT MAKE SUEDE HAVE A BOO-BOO INSIDE HIS SOUL. MAYBE NOW SUEDE WILL CRY," all he can muster is a whispered, "Ouch."

Another great thing about Nina this week is her enormous, car-size two-finger ring. A ring like that is what you wear when other people around you are doing all the grunt work and you just get to sit and make pronouncements. It's power gear.

The verdict: Korto is in and betrays none of the simmering annoyance you know she has over just missing winning challenge after challenge. Kenley is in. Leanne is in. Jerell is the winner. Which leaves Joe and Suede on the chopping block.

Joe is out. He fakes a half-smile and leans in. TIME FOR MY KISS FROM HEIDI! lights up the LED scoreboard in his hetero brain. Savor that one, man. Then he goes backstage. No one cries for him. No one even gets up to say goodbye. But that's not the most interesting thing that happens in the last few seconds of this episode. No, that would be the scenes from next week where Kenley is shown being even more awful than usual and even has the cast iron balls to badmouth Tim Gunn. Also? LL Cool J shows up. Can't wait for that.

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Dave White