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Project Runway: Junior Heads To L.A., City Of Crushed Dreams, To Crush The Dream Of One Last Child

The penultimate episode pits Tieler against Hawwaa in a walk-off for the final finale spot.

The Beginning Of The End

Just as all good things must eventually come to a slow, drawn-out conclusion, so too must this season. To kick off the beginning of the end, Tim and Hannah round up the kids for one last lecture from the runway. Tim realizes he's underdressed (because his suit is merely a medium brown) and reacts in blushing horror.

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It's then time to hand out the final challenge: the kids each have five weeks at home and $4,000 to create a six-look spring collection (Izzy's math puts that at a mildly disturbing $666 per look). Tieler and Hawwaa will first show a sneak peak to the judges in order to determine which of them gets to move on to the actual finale show, which will be taking place at FIDM in L.A. Tieler feels confident because he once created a 30-piece collection. Meanwhile, Izzy confesses that she's never even designed two cohesive looks. This could all be an adorable disaster, but only time will tell.

Home Work Makes The Dream Work

Safely at home with their mock studios and self-taped confessionals, the kids readjust to life as nerds, talking to only their sewing machines and, occasionally, their parents. For Tieler, it might be a harder transition than for most, due to his mom Tahmi's honesty:

Tieler: "Mom, did you expect me to get this far?"
Tahmi: "I expected you to be further."

But it's cute, because Tahmi's adorable.

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Meanwhile, in their respective homes, Izzy and Chelsea are freaking out because they're somehow still short on time, while Hawwaa must deal with her little brother calling her collection "weird" (he's not wrong). Chris also has time/work issues, but wisely hides his mom from the camera so we can all pretend he's the secret son of Teresa Caputo and Zach Morris for just a little bit longer.

Meeting The Parents

Once the kids and their required chaperones finally arrive in L.A., Tim graciously takes the time to introduce himself and ask probing questions designed to help us get to know the designers a bit better; it's cheesy, yes, but it's also very endearing and wonderful. First up is Izzy's family.

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Izzy's mom, in particular, is shockingly normal considering that she's a professional artist and her daughter has made a name for herself as the kid who wears plants on her head. Also, we find out that Izzy was in a serious skiing accident when she was 13, and that she nearly died; now alive and completely healthy, she confesses to feeling like a giant magic sea turtle is controlling her life (her words, not mine).

Next up is Chris, along with his mom, Diane.

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While it's a bummer to discover that Diane is not in fact the Long Island Medium, the adorable pride she has in talking about how Chris used to help her pick out throw pillows because he wanted to be an interior designer is worth the sad shock. We also learn that Chris plans to minor in textile design in college, which seems like a very Chris thing to do.

Moving on, Chelsea tells Tim she started her collection only one week before arriving in L.A. This is Tim's face when he hears the news:

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And these are the faces of her parents:

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They say she's always been a procrastinator and that they've just learned to live with it. Oh well.

For some reason, Hawwaa's family is having a picnic, forcing Tim to sit on the ground for what I imagine to be the first time in his life.

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Tim then goes on and on about how Hawwaa has a unique maturity to her, as though he doesn't remember all of the pain and suffering she inflicted on poor, adorable A'Kai just a few short episodes ago. Also, Hawwaa's dad has a bright orange-y red beard, which is pretty cool, because it explains quite a few things.

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He reveals that Hawwaa also writes poetry, to which my only reaction is to be thankful that we've never had the "pleasure" of hearing any of it.

And finally -- there's Tieler, and Miss Tahmi, and Miss Kelley, and Tim, in a scene straight out of a brunch from my heart.

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Miss Tahmi tells Tim all about how she saved Tieler's collection from a leak in the roof, while Miss Kelley reveals that she's happy to be Tieler's fit model, even though she doesn't know a lot about fashion. And then Tieler talks about all of the bullying he faced growing up in his small Southern town, and there are tears, and I'm sorry, but there's just no way that I'm not rooting for Tieler to absolutely win this whole shebang at this point.

Werking The (New) Workroom

The first thing the kids do when they're allowed into the workroom is rush to make sure their clothes all survived the journey. The second is to gawk at Tieler and Hawwaa's collections.

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It's awkward, but at least Tieler and Hawwaa are confident in themselves, even if Hawwaa's resting bitch face betrays some insecurity.

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Tim Checks In

In the interest of time, Tim announces that he will only review Tieler and Hawwaa's collections prior to their presentation to the judges. He starts with Hawwaa and immediately makes this face upon learning that Hawwaa was "inspired" by the circus.

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Like, doesn't she know that only Britney is allowed to be inspired by the circus? But I digress.

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Overall, Tim says he's impressed by Hawwaa's collection, before going on to call her finale look boudoir-esque. Hawwaa doesn't get it, prompting Tim to use the word "negligee," at which point Hawwaa dissolves into a puddle of giggles. It's cute, but also sad because even Chelsea knows the reference.

But when Tim moves on to check in with Tieler, something weird happens; he doesn't love Tieler's work.

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In fact, he has a hard time understanding Tieler's vision, saying that while he has "great respect" for the collection, he just doesn't see Tieler's so-called Van Gogh inspiration. Tieler sticks up for himself ("Mr. Tim, you know I really respect you, but I disagree") and Tim eventually makes his exit after stressing the importance of choosing the looks for the judges' preview based on how the clothes fit the models.

Models And Makeup

Still boring, still unnecessary.

Run-Up To The Runway

Chelsea's offer to help Tieler is adorably rebuffed because her hand-sewing isn't up to snuff. Backstage in their swanky greenroom, Chelsea, Izzy, and Chris all guess who's going to get the fourth slot. Izzy thinks it's Hawwaa, Chris thinks it's Tieler (based only on past performance; he thinks Hawwaa's collection is superior), and Chelsea's not really sure.

The Runway Runoff

Hannah makes her entrance, wearing a patterned circus tent that looks suspiciously like it was chosen to maybe hide her baby bump (mazel!):

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Tieler elects to show two pieces from the middle of his collection, starting first with a cornflower blue shift dress covered by a royal blue raincoat. The shapes are uninspired, but the embroidery is eye-catching, especially in the form of the little bees flying up the coat:

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His second look is a yellow ankle-length pant set topped with a sheer white overlay cape:

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It's cute? And also cutesy (yikes).

Hawwaa starts off by sending her color-and-pattern-blocked jumpsuit down the runway, which seems semi-normal at first…

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...until you get to the back, which looks like a collection of scraps.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, her second look is a poodle skirt and crop-top combination that looks straight from Hot Topic:

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Judgey Judges Gonna Judge

Prior to starting the formal critiques, Hannah asks Tieler and Hawwaa to explain their inspirations. Hawwaa goes first, talking about the circus, which is something that Hannah immediately notes she jotted down on her card, as though clothing that reminds someone of elephant poop is a good thing.

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Aya praises Hawwaa's use of color and pattern, while Christian notes that, though Hawwaa's construction still has some issues, it's a vast improvement over what she previously showed.

Tieler then starts to discuss the inspiration in found in Van Gogh's flowers, but is immediately cut off by Aya's questioning his outsourcing of the embroidery (he used a local artist in New Orleans). Then it gets even more awkward.

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Kelly suggests that his first look is fighting itself between the structure of the shift dress and the flow of the overcoat, while Christian expresses mild disappointment that Tieler didn't push himself in the direction he (Christian) had assumed he would. Only Hannah really moves to defend him, noting that she appreciates the simplicity of the shapes as a showcase for the embroidery.

After dismissing the models, Hannah asks a final question: why do Tieler and Hawwaa each think they should move on? Tieler says it's because he "is" fashion. Hawwaa says because she wants to show other weird kids that they can successfully do something they believe in even if they're strange.

Winner and Losers

As has been the national trend lately, the completely wrong person comes out on top. In this case, that means that Hawwaa is the "winner," earning the right to show her collection alongside Izzy, Chelsea, and Chris.

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The result is completely Kelly Osbourne's doing, having earlier professed her belief that Hawwaa is "unique and special in a whole new way that the fashion industry is ready for." If that's true, I'll be shopping at the Gap from now on. For what it's worth, Tieler's very first reaction is to give Hawwaa a congratulatory hug.

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He seems at peace with the result, having no regrets about his collection, which is at least a positive note to leave on. Still, the competition was absolutely his to lose, though the ending note is rather reminiscent of Zachary's downfall last season. Both cases are complete bummers, though Tieler vows that this won't be the last time we hear his name. And maybe it's the hormones, or maybe it's because she recognizes the injustice, but Hannah breaks down in tears, and Tieler has to hug her too to make everything semi-better.

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It kind of works, but true justice will only be served once Tieler gets priority billing over Christian at a Payless-sponsored meet-and-greet (and I say that as someone with a deep and abiding love of Christian, who is truly excited about his expansion into eyewear).

Verdict

I won't lie: this week's episode is a weaker one, only pushed into the watch category by virtue of the way its old-school reality competition framework compares to the free-fall of breaking news. There's something about the innocence and structure that makes even the surprise ending feel comfortable and familiar, in a way that's not unlike the familiar ache of Charlie Brown. The wrong person wins, but it feels okay because the stakes are too low to warrant rioting over, and, at this point, isn't that all we can hope for? That, and Tieler hugs.

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