Photo: David Russell / Lifetime

All-Stars Gets Girl-Drink Drunk

A cocktail-based cocktail-dress challenge gives the show a shot of energy.

The Challenge: Booze You Can Use

Finally, a relatively straightforward challenge: go to Jay-Z's 40/40 club, pick a cocktail from the list, and design a cocktail dress using the drink and the club as inspiration. Last week's winner, Mychael, gets to pick first, then pick who goes next, and so on down the line.

The "cocktail architect" makes the drinks while my spouse grumbles, "He's a bartender, Jesus fucking Christ," and Viktor is wearing a splendid shorts suit with sock garters and a…tam-o'shanter? I can't even punctuate it; just know it's amazing. Korto invites Sebelia to watch her "taste the rim" of her gingery drink, Sebelia looks frightened, and I had all the emotions about a Kortelia showmance, because it's terrifying and also rather brilliant, because in a race to try to hear Sebelia's bullshit, Korto would finish second…and everyone else in the world would tie for first.

Irina is picked last, and chooses to feel flattered that the others think she's a threat. Elena thinks Sardinia is a province.

Workroom

After Elena chases Swatch around Mood, everyone heads back to the workroom, and Elena talks about her friendship with Viktor while they clown around at their tables. Sebelia jokingly announces that this time he's making a one-legged hooded garment before more seriously noting that his drink reminded him of a traditional Vietnamese garment. Fleis worries that she's wound up on the bottom twice, and Palu is building something out of a curtain fabric that…looks like a tablecloth, and is way too revealing besides. He doesn't want to show girl parts on the runway, and he and Fleis have the following exchange: "There's no hoo-ha anywhere, man." "Yeah, bro." Hee.

Elsewhere, Seth Aaron channels Ru when telling Viktor not to fuck it up with his chapel-printed fabric.

Zanna From Heaven

She's more insightful this week, and the mood overall is way looser for whatever reason, as Zanna teases Viktor about his drunk sketching, then changes tacks to warn Sebelia that he needs to think more about the woman he's dressing. Irina is politer than I'd be when observing that Sebelia's red burnout velvet reads old "and kind of outdated." That's totally the kind of mid-nineties fug that Sebelia can invert for a win, though, is the thing.

Zanna's happy to see Korto's bright-green print, and Korto says that "this is the one time that black is wack." Sebelia, eavesdropping, doesn't see "cocktail" in the print, but does see Isaac Mizrahi's resort line from a few years back, and advises us smugly to look it up. Heh.

Mostly, Zanna's visit is fun because of all the zingers from the designers: Mychael "sees nips and tips, if you catch my drift" in Palu's very sheer dress; Palu in turn has seen Fleis's silhouette "a shit-ton of times"; Fleis is like, it's easy for people just to tell you to get motivated from failure, but not so easy to convert that for the first down; and Elena is apparently in a better mood but seems like she might do that Lucy Ricardo giggling-to-sobbing thing she does at any moment.

And everyone's like, hey, Palu, maybe do more than sew a couple seams together for a flapper costume?

Then Zanna tells them oh bee tee dubs you have to make an accessory as the "garnish" for your "cocktail," byeeeee. Korto might just put a straw in her model's mouth and tell her to work it, and if anyone's going to get away with that, it's her.

Pre-Runway Trash Talk

Everyone rushes to make their accessories, but they don't come into play all that much in the end, so you can skip it, although there's a handful of good one-liners in here, like Viktor cringing at Fleis's dress, "Ooh. You're going to an Eskimo party."

Also, Seth Aaron and Sebelia appear to be having a contest: Who can sound the least enthusiastic when mentioning the hair and makeup sponsors? Sebelia wins this week's face-off with a narcoleptic "It's time to go. To the Alterna…hair-care. Salon."

Runway

Milano is in another dowdy vintage-look thing that isn't flattering in color or cut to introduce judges Georgina Chapman, Le Miz, Rebecca Minkoff, and Nate Berkus. Then it's runway time, and the editing has calmed way down since last week, fortunately.

Un-fortunately, it's in the service of mostly mediocrities, starting with Irina, whose fabric is great; I like the choppy straw-like edging, but the peplum sits too low, and the back is way too busy with the exposed zippers and whatnot.

Palu's is gorgeous; the (lack of) color is tough and you can kind of see panties, but it's super-elegant.

Mychael has gone back to the saturated pinks we remember from him; it's a nice cut, but sort of safe, and the textured leaves at her waist bulk the model up a bit.

Sebelia's is very Urban-Outfitters jolie-laide; the velvet reads even cheaper under the lights.

Elena's seaming is wonderful but she went over the top with the cutouts.

Seth Aaron's has potential, and the belt is great, but without the belt, it's a dollar-store Bond-girl rig, and the hem is a hot mess.

I love Fleis's silhouette, even though Palu is right that we've seen that funnel-neck/asymmetrical hem combo from her a jillion times; the raspberry suede that she uses is a bit young, though, and the short side is maybe too short.

Korto's is terrible. I hate the patent belt, I hate how short the flare is on the skirt, I hate the cheap-looking bondage-y side straps. She's so much better than this.

Viktor has lined up the print really nicely, though the cut isn't my thing and the front flap is too revealing -- but at least it's something new.

Judging/Fluffing Of Obvious Favorites

Milano announces that she will wear the winning dress to a cocktail party, and Mychael, Seth Aaron, and Irina are safe.

Other than that, the comments are more or less what you'd expect, though it's notable that Korto's isn't clocked for looking cheap or thrown together -- in her defense, she had to do a last-minute extension-type thing with her bodice, because her model is not the same size as her mannequin; also in her defense, she doesn't mention it, unlike some people -- but Milano does win me back over by sighing that "the straps in the back, I instantly go to back fat." Totally.

Berkus loves Palu's and how expensive it looks, but Le Miz thinks the bling strap in the back is "gratuitous," and while I don't mind it, I can't disagree.

Everyone piles on Fleis for stuff that doesn't seem like that big of a deal -- a distracting wrist cuff (Minkoff), one too many colors in the back (Berkus). Mizrahi at least has an insight about the dress being "stuck in this moment that we're in" instead of looking ahead, but there's a script here and everyone's sticking to it.

After Elena sniffs that, in the past, the judges haven't "gotten" her more avant-garde design elements and Palu and Fleis exchange an "okay, princess" look, Sebelia starts flinging excuses like a monkey in a compost heap: he had the wrong size mannequin, they only had a hundred bucks, wah wah wah. Korto had the same problem and didn't whine about it; Palu had the same budget and his looked vintage. When the designers leave the runway, Le Miz wonders if Sebelia isn't "almost begging to be sent home" with all the rationalizing, and Chapman repeats that the taste level was the problem, not the fit.

But Korto's is excused with talk about "lots of great ideas," which is true, but…

Win/Auf

My notes: "should send Seb will send F." But first, Viktor gets the win, and Milano reiterates that she'll wear the dress (and it's exactly the kind of cut that she really shouldn't wear because it's not great for her shape, so of course she picks that one). "I'm here to stay and I'm here to rule," he says. Hee. Milano also wants to wear Palu's, which is a better pick for her and a nice moment for him.

Korto is safe; Fleis is out; Sebelia is told that he "only just made it through." He's not told that, if he doesn't create more aggro in the workroom, he'll be deemed not worth it on the basis of his crap work so far, but that's probably the situation. I can't really argue that Fleis doesn't do the same shape every time, because I love the shape, and she definitely has an identity, but in the sense that the show claims to reward design/innovation, this is an acceptable call.

Verdict

A huge improvement from last week across the board: more of the design process, smarter comments from Zanna, an easier-to-digest runway, and more obvious shenanigans. (Hey, if you're going to put thumbs on the scale, light 'em properly, that's all.)

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