Isn't it just wonderful when a TV show is inspiring? When it reminds us that no dream is too big? That we must never give up on our aspirations because there's a good chance five cracked-out judges will deem someone else an even bigger f---up than you? That, even if you phone in your design on the equivalent of a tin can with string and present a garment that is literally half-assed, then invent some ridonkulous excuse about how you didn't want to make just another dress, those very same judges will buy all your hooey and send you to safety? Oh friends, isn't it just positively soul-touching to witness such a triumph of the human spirit?
I know it's easy to say, ''Well sheeeeeee-it, I could have strung together some washers with Silly String and made that jank bikini myself.'' And do you know why it's easy to say that? Because it's true, people! Runway season 8, here I come! I'll be there, just as soon as I make a quick pit stop in Darwin, Minnesota, to steal the world's largest ball of twine. I mean, that and a handful of metal from our household toolbox are pretty much all I'll need to make it to the top 9, right?
After a week off (during which I hope you all watched Kim Yu-Na skate her heart out to a golden victory up in Vancouver), Runway returned last night with the much-anticipated unconventional materials episode. Yes, we had the potato-party-county-fair burlap sack challenge (miss you, Ping!) in week two, but that was a breezy walk in Central Park compared to what awaited the top 10 designers this time: a hardware store! From the likes of nails, screws and caulk, they'd have to make not just an outfit, but a rad accessory to go with it. Amy and Maya were psyched by the idea, but Emilio, not so much. ''I don't make crafty things,'' he said. ''I make very sophisticated dresses.'' Except, you know, when he doesn't.
On to Scheman & Grant Hardware the designers went, armed with a hot 150 big ones in their pockets. For Emilio, the trouble began almost as soon as he set foot in the place. He had three filled-to-the-brim buckets, but soon discovered he was way over budget and had to put about half of it back. Whoops. Meanwhile, Jay made me shake my head in disbelief when he announced he'd be turning some trash bags into leather. ''Jay!'' I said to myself, pumping an imaginary fist. ''Did Stella Leathah teach you nothing when she tanked the very first challenge in season 5 with her sad pleathah dress made of garbage sacks?'' Of course, I was totally wrong to doubt him, as we soon found out.
Back at Parsons, there was a whole helluva lot of bang-bang-BANGing going on, especially in Seth Aaron's corner, where last week's winner looked like he was working on Sir Galahad's dagger-proof chest armor. But three other boys bought sheets of metal too, which caused even more noise (as well as bloody, nicked digits) and lead Tim to wonder, ''What is it with you guys and this copper?'' An excellent question for Uncle Freud.
Emilio begins to unravelElsewhere, Maya worked on her magnificent necklace of keys, and Amy and Jonathan joked and joshed like old friends. (I'm liking Jonathan more and more now that he's proven to be such a funny dude.) Though he had a momentary scare — the case of the incredibly shrinking pleathah! — Jay worked those trash bags into some seriously sick trousers. And in a rather random bit of editing, the producers dropped a slice of backstory into the proceedings out of nowhere, showing a teary explanation that he and his family have always had to fight for everything in life. Umm, OK. A bit more context would have helped us digest that morsel. Why are the backstories nearly non-existent now, anyway? Why have the producers gotten so stingy with them? Remember the touching moment when we learned about Elisa Himenez's horrific car accident in season 4? Oh and while we're asking questions, can we please get a two-day challenge up in here for once?
Emilio started off thinking he'd do a Paco Rabanne macramé dress, which I'm guessing he'd hoped would look something like this. Not even close. By the time Tim wandered by for a stop-and-chat, Mr. Frowny Pants realized he was even deeper in the not-enough-materials crapper than he'd thought. ''Your innovation can be the presentation of a bottomless dress,'' Tim joked. Pretty damn near on the nose, Tim. Emilio had not a stitch to put on his model during her fitting, so he went with Desperate Plan B: ''Valley of the Dolls 2009,'' which really was nothing more than a broke-a-- cluster of metal and pink cord looked that looked like a party favor gone wrong. ''Not only is it naked,'' Anthony remarked. ''I don't think that it's done in the best of taste. The one thing that never goes out of style is making a woman look like a lady.'' Right on, Anthony. Your mama taught you well.
Anthony was equally prescient about who else would be in trouble: ''Jesse's garment looks tortured,'' he said, then went on to add Seth Aaron's and Ben's creations to that list of ''tortured'' looks.
I'd have to agree with Anthony about Seth Aaron's Judy Jetson/Minnie Mouse-stuck-in-Tomorrow-Land-circa-1960 get-up. Yowza. Good thing he had immunity, otherwise I'm not so sure he would have sailed on through. Not saying he would have been auf'd, mind you. Just … yikes. Ben was also safe, which makes sense, 'cause I thought his copper-kettle number had great texture, even if it did sort of look like a busted up roasting pan. Joining them was Amy, who more than redeemed herself from last episode's Bozo the Trousers incident with a highly creative (albeit scratchy!) symphony of sandpaper. I was kinda shocked that Jonathan didn't get more love for his multi-textured and -toned dress that had beautiful shine. What happened there?
That left Mila, Jonathan, Anthony, Emilio, Jay and Maya to fill out the best and worst. It wasn't hard to guess who placed where. As usual, the judges — Holy Trinity plus Isabel ''I designed Michelle Obama's inauguration day dress'' Toledo and Stephen ''world renowned jewelry designer'' Webster — fawned over Mila's latest mod madness. She called it ''Peggy Moffitt meets Pink,'' and I dug the glossy, groovy thing. I loved that it was made entirely of paint trays and that despite being made of rigid plastic, managed to move and sway on the runway. That bracelet was pretty great, too.
Maya and the key to it allI also wholeheartedly agreed with the judges' appreciation for Maya's bold design. From the simple gray dress to the black, naturally air-conditioned jacket made from Venetian blind cord (!) to that extraordinary key necklace, she totally rocked it last night. I was thrilled for her.
But it was not the ladies' night to win, not with Jay's I Can't Believe It's Not Leathah! trompe l'oeil pants, blue-and-black strapless top, and braided belt that knocked the judges sideways. There have been some wretched attempts at trash bag couture on Runway over the years, but last night, Jay righted those wrongs. So Jay won — and danced his way backstage a very happy Hawaiian community college dropout indeed.
Our dear Anthony wound up heading the pack of drain-circlers. His ''software'' ensemble was overly safe and the belt was pretty much the definition of a lazy copout, but the overall look was rather pretty — a feat itself on a show that has no shortage of eyeball torment. And I'll always love the guy for loving color.
With Anthony dispatched to safety (yay!), that left Jesse and Emilio fighting for their lives in the bottom two. They both earned pretty brutal drubbings from the judges. When Nina asked Emilio, ''Why did you choose not to do any clothing?'' did you not laugh out loud and marvel at her cut-to-the-chase forthrightness? And did you not cheer Sir Quips A Lot for calling foul on Emilio's hogwash excuse about not wanting to design another dress? Michael, you should patent a b.s. detector.
As for Jesse, I'm guessing he was mightily regretting his decision to spray-paint the copper bustier of his outfit tin-foil silver, if only to spare himself the comparison to the Tin Man, Hershey Kisses, and a dirty vacuum bag. (''These are fabulous fashion references!'' Michael groaned. Loved him last night!) And yes, she-beast Alexis looked positively ridiculous in that thing. But there is no way Jesse should have gone home over Emilio. I don't care how many times Jesse was in the bottom over Emilio's none. It simply ain't right. Are we really to believe that his unfortunate Jiffy Pop explosion was worse than Emilio's Barbie-meets-Barbarella-after-she's-waded-through-a-jungle-of-stringy-bubble-gum monstrosity? At least Jesse made, you know, clothes. Cause this is a clothing-design competition, is it not? Emilio's failed string theory of a garment wasn't remotely functional as a swimsuit. What's more, I do believe Emilio's all-important accessory was a flimsy bracelet that looked like it took approximately six seconds to assemble. L-A-M-E, lame.
Jesse was clearly every bit as shocked as I was by the judges' decision, as evidenced by his bleeped-out farewell in the confessional. Even Tim, who had warned Jesse his design looked like an elementary school craft project, was astonished, telling the guy he never anticipated it would end this way. Jesse, you might not have been my favorite, but dude, you got the shaft.
To get the full scoop on just how ticked off Jesse was, be sure to log onto PopWatch later today, where I'll be posting a chat with him. It's the first of a series of exit interviews I'll be doing with this season's top 10. In the meantime, here are a few questions to ponder:
Did Jesse deserve to go home over Emilio? After showing a marked lack of inspiration the past two episodes, is Emilio a goner? Did the judges get the top three right or did Jonathan get short-shrift? What do you think of Seth Aaron scrawling his initials on his model's leg, à la tanorexic Blayne, first challenge, season 5? And who else thinks they've island-jumped to "Lost" every time they hear Runway's here's-a-dramatic-moment! slide trombone? Jacob, is that you?