This week, Project Runway became inexplicably weird in all sorts of ways. Never before has a single episode been so full of disjointed elements. Fortunately, it was a theme that was mirrors in nearly all the fashions created, so at least there’s that!

This week, the designers are asked to welcome some "special guests" to the runway. In the plural, this almost always seems to be bad news. This time, it’s the return of all the eliminated designers, something which always makes the current designers uncomfortable. In the past, Project Runway has used such competitions to allow an eliminate designer to return however, this time the eliminated designers will be paired with a current designer to help them create an avant-garde look that represents one of their astrological signs.

They are paired together through a combination of random chance and birth order. They are then given 30 minutes to "caucus" before going to Mood to blow their $250 budget. It’s not hard to tell which designers are all right and which are already veering off the right by a wide margin. It’s never clearer then when we see a clip of Leanne and Emily talking about possibly doing Libra but wanting to stay away from the idea of scales, and then go right to a lip of Blayne miming how his model could walk and pose as if she were holding giant scales.

Speaking of going too literal, Terri wants to design for Leo by creating a dress with a giant fur collar. Keith tries to tell her that it might be too much, but she ignores him completely. He then offers to handle all the sewing for her, but she refuses to let him do that either. She camera talks that his skill level is not on par with hers and if he wants something to do he can count the pins she drops on the floor.

They seem to be the only team in open conflict, but they are not the only conflict. For some reason, Kenley is over the moon about her design, which mixes plaids and florals and fake leather and (my most hated thing in the world) a bubble skirt with massive poof sleeves. In fact, she is so in love with her work that she cannot help declaring so, loudly and often. Which leads Emily and Leanne to some vigorous eye rolling and then Kenley calling them out on their eye rolling, commenting that she is having fun and "some girls just don’t like that".  Kenley, sweetheart, you are being obnoxious, and no one likes that.

On day two they get a note from Heidi informing them that they will be showing their designs that night at a party at the American Museum of Natural History’s planetarium exhibit, where they will be joined by more "special guests". When they arrive, they find out that those special guests are more Project Runway alumni. There’s people from Season 1 forward, some eliminated designers and a couple past winners (Jay and Christian). there is the typical drinking and milling about as the alumni talk to the current designers, until they each cast a ballot for who they think should win the challenge. the best moment is when Kenley tries to school Heidi "The Body" Klum on where a woman’s breasts should fall.

The Runway this week has a couple of interesting factors. For one, there will be no more immunity from this challenge forward. Additionally, two designers will be eliminated tonight. Lastly, Nina Garcia has returned and is joined by Francisco Costa, as well as our beloved Michael Kors and Heidi.

Blayne (& Stella) – He tries to pass it off as a grand conceptual piece about balance and being bound to what’s true and needs materializing out of fairness. In fact, it’s just piles of his favorite colors balled up on one half of the model’s body, with some of Stella’s "leatha" straps on the other side. As Michael Kors says; the model looks like she’s pooping fabric. It doesn’t have a cohesive concept, it’s not attractive, and it doesn’t even spark any interest.

Kenley (& Wesley) – The fabric choices, the silhouette, the styling, everything about it is just bizarre. And it’s not avant-garde. Michael Kors points out that he’s seen all the elements recently in other shows, only to have Kenley snark back that she doesn’t look at other designer shows. Aside from the fact that a fashion designer should know what’s going on in the fashion world, it does possibly explain her fascination with the Bettie Page look.

Terri (& Keith) – She decided to take the fur collar out before the runway show based on Christian’s recommendation the night before. Sadly, if she had listened to Keith 2 days ago, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Still an issue however, is that she used cheap looking fabric and it’s poorly constructed. Additionally, she replaced the fur collar with some weird over-sized shoulder shrug/wrap thing in a dreadful color combination of shiny orange and pink.

Korto (& Kelly) – It’s ok, and a clear interpretation of Aquarius. However, looking at it I cannot help thinking it’s how they might dress a character on HBO’s Rome if she were pregnant. And dressed dressed by a blind nephew in line to inherit the throne. I don’t see a whole lot of avant-garde here either, frankly. I do see a lot of Leanne though, in the purple draping strips of fabric. It’s a matter I am actually surprised none of the judges mention.

Joe (& Daniel) – Oh my goodness, it is gorgeous. Seriously, wonderfully, over the top gorgeous. It is layer after layer of something between a drop pleat and a gather, falling beneath a fitted bodice of contrasting texture in harmonized color, all topped by a sheer shrug with gathered sleeves and a pleated ruffle collar, and I adore everything about it, from the fit, the construction, the color and the styling, it is pitch perfect. I am just bewildered about where it came from, because we’ve seen nothing like it from either designer in the past.

Jerell (& Jennifer) – This one is clearly Jerell, who is in his element. Despite Tim’s reservations about his fabric choices, it works. In fact, it works hard and does so because of how it is matched. For example, the jacket with the gown looks almost peacock inspired, but take it away and not only is the gown lessened but the jacket suddenly looks dowdy and strange. But all together it is truly sublime, interesting and strangely energetic.

Leanne (& Emily) – It takes the word ‘interesting’ and runs with it. Far. The idea was an exoskeleton, like a scorpion. Certainly the structural element of the garment does echo that in concept, without going too literal. It is absolutely avant-garde and perhaps the garment that comes closest to meeting the requirements for the competition. But, in the end, it can;t compete with Joe’s gown or Jerell’s combination of elements as far as being the pinnacle of a collection. It merely strikes one note.

Suede (& Jerry) – I read the other day that harem pants were poised for a come back and here they are. I refuse to believe this though, because it is a thing that should not be. Their design is toned back for suede, who must have let Jerry’s influence make him….well….boring. There is very little about this garment that makes it even take a step toward the avant. As the judges point out, take away the structured pieces falling at the back, and it would be found in any department store.

Heidi calls out Korto, Joe, Jerell and Leanne, letting them know that one of them has won. This leaves Suede, Kenley, Terri and and Blayne as the lowest scoring designers. Jerell ends up taking home the top honors. While I personally liked Joe’s gown more, I can see where Jerell’s had more of a sense of the avant-garde to it. I am more pleased by who is sent home. Blayne, who claims that it is like a slap in the face and that he is baffled to be leaving. I am baffled he stayed this long. Also out is Terri, which may not be fair because she has designed two really stellar pieces, but at the same time she had a totally crap attitude from day one. Tonight, the fight she picked on the runway, berating the clearly still devastated Keith was beyond the pale.

Posted by:Jessica Paff