Well, I'll be damned. Last night, for the second week in a row now, “Project Runway” did what once seemed unthinkable: eject the weirdo early in the season, well before they have time to really wreak their bonkers havoc all over our television screens. Last week, Ari, she of the hooded-Martian-diaper-disco-romper, got her walking papers. Now Malvin Vien and his whispery, pseudo-philosophical musings on unwearable indelibility have taken a hike. With the two lead oddballs gone, who's gonna entertain us for the next 15 weeks?
Then again, compared to the pantheon of nutterbutters who've shocked/amused/ delighted/horrified us on past seasons of “Runway,” Malvin might very well have ended up being a bore. Are his designs 100 percent out there? Without question. But what we saw of his personality in the first two episodes weren't exactly the telltale signs of a born-to-be-on-the-teevee showman. I know, I know. The show is about raw talent, not telegenic star quality. But come on! His scenes didn't even warrant the sort of kooky ethereal rain-goddess soundtrack that accompanied Elisa Jimenez every time she appeared on screen two seasons ago. In eliminating him so early, it's as if the judges were saying: ''Sorry Malvin, but even as a weirdo, you’re a failure.''
As always, Heidi kicked things off last night by giving the designers their assignment: create a figure-flattering ''pregnancy chic'' design for Rebecca Romijn who, at the time this season was shot many months ago, was expecting twins. (Sidenote: I like to think there was a little wink-wink in Ms. Klum's ''You will create a look for an actual celebrity!'' In other words, for someone of a...uh...different caliber than last week's guest judge.)
In the workroom, the contestants dove into their task, sketching and goofing around with their prosthetic bellies. (Epperson even tried his on: ''Booya!'') Post-shopping, Ra'mon fretted about playing it too safe, while Mitchell was still so traumatized by last week's see-through Victorian nightgown snafu that he offered what I believe is “Runway's” first declaration of underachievement: ''I'm not looking to go out on a limb and win this challenge. I want to stick with being safe.'' Hey, Mitch, mission accomplished. Not only was your T-shirt-and-shorts ensemble thoroughly underwhelming, but no one would ever venture out onto an actual limb in it. If she did, those hideously constructed droopy-drawers would get caught on a branch, and the poor wearer would end up dangling from said branch in a sap-soaked mega-wedgie. (I realize this makes two recaps in a row that I’ve referenced wedgies. Apparently, I am secretly a 12-year-old boy. Further proof: Gordana said ''boob area'' and I laughed.)
Logan distinguished himself early on as the designer least comfortable with the natal theme. He admitted that babies ''kind of scare'' him, then referred to the imaginary one the models would be wearing as ''the alien.'' He wasn't the only person who was confounded by the challenge — Nicolas also seemed thrown — but the episode pretty much focused on Ra'mon, Mitchell, and, of course, Malvin, who seemed to have been possessed by Mother Goose, so preoccupied was he with eggs, feathers, and bird nests. (Really, the dude couldn't stop! ''I think there's some designers in that room that have something to say,'' he said. ''I just think they haven't found it yet. They haven't cracked the egg, so to speak.'' Um...ha?) I had a bad feeling about where the singularly coiffed guy was going with this week's task when he told a rightfully perplexed Tim Gunn that he wanted his jodhpurs to evoke chicken thighs. Yes, chicken thighs. Then, the day of the runway show, he admitted to worrying that his ''little egg nest'' design needed to be ''more literal.'' Uh, come again? How Malvin could possibly make a bulging sac covered with feathers more obviously evocative of fertile barnyard creatures is beyond me. What was missing? A gooey yellow yolk and a side of toast?
After his successful design last week, Johnny seemed like he was on the express track to the firing squad with a creation that he himself described as a ''drab'' dress and a flowered jacket that was ''a little bit Easter Sunday.'' (LOL points to Qristyl, who surmised that Rebecca Romijn wouldn't even dust with that thing, let alone wear it.) But come show time, he smartly ditched the jacket. That decision likely spared him from the judges' scorn, though who knows if they would have noticed a little granny wear when they were busy contending with eyesores from Malvin, Mitchell, and Ra'mon?
Considering what a gorgeous gown Ra'mon sent down the catwalk last week, I was surprised that he struck out so badly last night, offering up an impractical, supremely unflattering-for-a-pregnant-woman garment that Mitchell and Rebecca Romijn both compared to a bowling bag. (Gutter ball!) To Nina, the unfortunately placed color blocks screamed ''HERE IS THE BABY!'' while Monique Lhuillier (who filled in for an absent Michael Kors) deemed the whole thing poorly constructed and ''too busy.'' Mitchell's design, meanwhile, elicited that inimitable Nina Garcia scorn: the T-shirt was too tight, the shorts were too short, the whole thing was ''a mess.'' ''A pregnant mess!'' Heidi chimed in, before later saying: ''It actually looked like I sewed them myself. [Dramatic pause] And I can't sew.'' Let's not forget that Mitchell was the only contestant who supposedly had previous professional experience designing for pregnant women. Two consecutive weeks of sucking, Mitchell? Step it up or...gong!
In the end, though, it was Malvin who got the boot — none too surprising, considering how Tim had described the outfit earlier. (What a delightful moment that was, no? Tim to Ra'mon: ''Cuckoo's already happened.'' Cut to: an oblivious Malvin, sizing up his ova-bump. Oh, the wonders of sneaky editing.) Moreover, Ms. Romijn was clearly drawing on every last trick she ever learned in acting class to mask her dislike with polite befuddlement. And honestly, can any of you imagine the statuesque “X-Men” actress stepping out with the hubs (Jerry O'Connell) in Malvin's slingshot of fertility? If you can, please explain to me how, why, and under what circumstances. (Björk, on the other hand, now she's someone whom Malvin might want to court as a customer. I can totally picture Iceland's eccentric queen of electro-pop running around in that getup. And I adore Björk, by the way, so I say this with utmost affection. I remain, to this day, an unrepentant supporter of the swan dress.)
As for the top three looks, how fitting was it that they were all designed by women? I was impressed by Louise's attention to detail: the hand-dyed lace, the skirt layers, and especially her allowance for a pregnant woman's increasing bust with those delicate pleats. Althea also showed great promise, combining gorgeous ribbon work with her simple jersey gown. But it was Shirin's time to shine last night. Her cranberry dress hung on her model in just the right way, draping perfectly here, gathering elegantly there. It looked comfortable and versatile — the coat was also a nice touch — and it was clear from Rebecca's face that she loved it. And so Shirin took the victory, winning immunity for next week.
Before I sign off, I have to tip my hat to Heidi who, between her ''actual celebrity'' remark, her self-deprecating assessment of her tailoring talents, and the sexytime whistle she offered after Rebecca said she'd wear Louise's dress on a date with her man, was charming and funny in a way I don't usually associate with her. I also must give a thumbs-up to Gordana, who continues to enthrall me. Her stone-cold impassive tone and bordering-on-Borat accent just crack me up. Her best line from last night: ''Rebecca, I have dress for you. You wear it. You like it.'' Cue Pfc. Romijn, nodding nervously and offering a military salute.