Photo: David Russell / Lifetime

Secrets And Brides

One Project Runway All-Stars designer unburdens himself; another misunderstands red carpet. What to watch and what to skip.

The Challenge

Alyssa Milano meets the designers on a helipad. Above the waist, she looks cute, and I like her faux-hawky hairstyle, but those dated mule-y shoes won't do. The designers are choppered to QVC headquarters in West Chester, PA in a segment that eats far too much time, then gawk at the international QVC broadcasts playing in the lobby.

QVC honcho Lisa Robertson comes out to explain that she needs a red-carpet look for a "star-studded" (uhhhhh huh) QVC gala; the gown needs to look good in photos, onscreen, and live, and she has to sit and stand and move around in it, and she has a pretty deep front porch so good luck with a strapless look. (She doesn't say that last part.) QVC will also offer the winning gown for sale afterwards.

Next, the designers head to the studio and pretend to sell one another's outfits, before going to Isaac Mizrahi's set to sketch. Isaac drops by to advise them to go for it. Good one! …Lord, get on with it.

Mood

Irina is doing a mermaid-like look, and yes, that sketch DID look like Donna Martin's prom get-up. Or was that Palu's sketch? Meanwhile, Elena is talking about distressing a basic black and teasing color through it to look "like scales." Does Robertson look more like a fish than I thought? Not sure where the marine theme is coming from. Korto is banking on bright orange earning her points for unforgettability (and if I recall correctly, the dread Wendy Pepper won the S1 version of this challenge with a very similar sherbet shade) (and also black magic, obviously).

Workroom

Irina's design is super-complicated, but she's not freaking out, just grimly determined. Palu wants to get away from his trademarked feathering technique, but says that the challenge seems to call for it.

And Elena is battling tears because the fabric isn't doing what she wants it to and why didn't she just get the neoprene uh boo hoo hoooooo. Viktor makes the mistake of asking what's wrong while Korto interviews that she's over it with Elena's defeatist attitude, then teases Seth Aaron about whether he's going to make three dresses or what. Hee.

And Viktor has a secret he can't hold inside any longer. Minor Casio chords accompany Viktor as he asks Elena if he can talk to her privately, then confesses to her and Seth Aaron that he's been HIV+ for seven years. Of course they respond sweetly and supportively as Viktor admits that only his partner has known all this time; he hasn't even told his family. Aw.

…However. While I'm happy for Viktor and his nifty skull pendant that he's gotten that off his chest, I'm also suspicious of the show's role in the timing of this revelation, and a bit annoyed that, yet again, Project Runway will use any excuse not to show boring trivia like designing and sewing. I don't think Viktor's in on it, but there are sticky producer fingerprints all over it, and a nice moment ends up feeling cynical and fake.

Zanna

"If I see one jewel-tone strapless gown in here? There's gonna be trouble." Heh. Zanna heads right over to Palu, who is designing eeeexactly that, so he BSes that he's going to add leather around the shoulders. Viktor is doing a green satin mermaid something or other; Zanna cringes that you never see green on magazine covers because it doesn't sell. Viktor's face: "…Oh."

She then teases Seth Aaron about whether he's going to put a fish tail on his gown -- ha! seriously! -- and urges him to look to the tea-length trend on recent red carpets. Elena is less cheery, unsurprisingly, and Zanna's a bit impatient with the umpteenth Elena meltdown, telling her the scales effect is stunning and she just needs to suck it up.

Irina has basically made a wedding dress, which Zanna isn't afraid to point out; she's also not afraid to tell Korto her detailing looks cheap in that orange. Zanna leaves on a down note: their work isn't all-star quality and "there's nothing unique," so they've got to pull it together.

Model Fitting

Viktor shills for QVC. Palu's model's butt is hanging out. Irina tears her dress somehow.

A photographer comes to shoot their looks so the designers can see how it reads on film. How you doin', Viktor? "Oh, mother pucker." Well: satin, son. That's how that goes. Korto is freaking out that her orange is too neon, so she's going to Seth Aaron a new dress from scratch. Seth Aaron thinks she's making the right call listening to Zanna, and is probably glad someone else is doing the Last-Minute Lindy Hop besides him.

Runway Day

Palu isn't his usual jokey self, Seth Aaron dashes about, and Korto tries to stay calm and finish the unflattering top on Dress #2. Palu calls Elena's look Star-Trek cocktail-waitress.

"You have to control the tail," Viktor tells his model as Elena sniffs that the construction isn't up to his usual standards.

Sponsored make-up. Inter-designer trash talk. Korto narrates Irina's dress ripping from the dress's POV, which is hilarious.

Runway

…ALYSSA. We've talked about this! I saw those pants on a stilt-walker at the Excalibur in Vegas! And the top is…I don't know. It looks like two grapefruits fighting inside a satin blindfold. Adorable 'do, though.

Georgina Chapman is absent again, replaced by PRAS's first winner, Mondo Guerra. He joins Le Miz, Robertson, and Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, who's super-cute in a blonde pixie.

I love the grape-y navy of Palu's and I love his feathering thing, but the belt reads a bit daytime to me, and the leather harness around the shoulders is clearly an afterthought. I also haaaaaate that bustline; it's even worse than a sweetheart, which I also don't care for. It's those Amazon cartoon cups, ugh.

Viktor's is interesting in terms of the detailing on the front, but it's not tight enough (which he realizes) and the collared bust or whatever you call that is suuuuper-nineties (which he may realize; I'm not in favor).

Seth Aaron used great fabric and it's definitely unique, but her ass is positively Kardashian, and the overall effect with the styling is a little SoHo restaurant hostess for me.

God bless Korto for putting pockets in a red-carpet look, but it doesn't look formal enough, and the top drags the model's bust down.

Elena's fit is good, down to the hips, at which point there's a weird flare, and she's accessorized too matchily with the fabric -- but nobody else would have that fabric or that iridescent scaly vibe. It's a good idea that's not quite there.

And as befits runway tradition, the bridal gown is last -- and trust, it is a bridal gown, complete with garish flower appliqué and rigid boning.

Judging

Irina whisper-screams that the dress is torn as Seth Aaron announces that he's "back." Mondo isn't in love with the wings, though, and Le Miz is like, "Look at the size of her butt!" Robertson hilariously calls the short front hemline too "close to home." Girl, come sit next to me.

Le Miz empathizes with Irina about her unfriendly fabric, and Irina snots, "She tore it!" like the model pulled a Morgaaaaannnza and went out clubbing in it. Shut up, Irina. Robertson thinks it's too tight, but stunning, and Mondo praises the faux-leather appliqués -- blech -- but Moss and Milano can't see past how bridal it reads, especially in the photo.

Elena's dress goes over big with Le Miz on a fabric level, but the cut is dowdy. Mondo doesn't "get" the folds in the back, and when we get a closer look at it, it does have a kind of Pilgrim-ish cut that I didn't notice when it was walking.

Will Korto's story about comfort sell? Yes! Milano isn't crazy about the taupe, but Moss loves it, and Robertson knows she could sell it.

Moss nicely says that the photo doesn't do Palu's dress justice; Le Miz looooves it and raves, "You had me at navy tulle," as the camera pans past that awful bustline again. Seriously, it is the Shannen Doherty's eyes of bustlines. (I know, I know. But: you know what I'm saying.)

Viktor's looks terrible in the photos, cheap and college-semiformally; Robertson says as much but thinks it's very flattering in person. Moss doesn't like the color or the wings, but Le Miz likes them, though he thinks they're too much with all the other furbelows on the front.

More Judging

Palu's is overpraised some more (except by Mondo, who has my back by pointing out the skirt is tortured). Seth Aaron's is not great, but will get press, good or bad. Korto's would look good on anyone, Milano says, but Robertson thinks it might lack glamour although she loves it.

Moss shrugs that you can't wear Irina's on the red carpet; it looks like a wedding dress. Milano finds Elena's silhouette "disturbing," and her sincerity is endearing.

Win/Auf

Heeeeey, Korto wins! Pockets 2016! A somewhat surprising victory, but I like Korto, I like orange, and it met the most criteria. (And I think that belt they all dug came off the QVC wall. Go fig.)

After Elena gets a lecture about her confidence, Irina is auf'd. Fair enough on the merits, and the show probably couldn't let her get much further.

Verdict

A few bad habits return to the editing room, but still quite watchable, with a compelling-for-once sponsor challenge.

For Game Show Week we propose:

A "design for a game-show host" Project Runway challenge.

Ideally, Wheel of Fortune is the client -- then you can do it as a pairs challenge and design for Pat Sajak and Vanna White -- but I'm into it regardless. I'd love to hear the practical considerations of the hosts, and certainly it's no more random than designing for models on stilts or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

The building of a man on The Chase, the entire panel of The Voice -- make it happen, Magical Elves.

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