Pathetic Passive-Aggression

It’s week five of season 12 and the designers find themselves with another team challenge, and it’s going to be an unconventional materials challenge to boot. What? Again? Really? I have to admit I am a little disappointed. I realize there is the constant complaint that “Runway” has just become a “make a pretty dress” contest. But to repeat a team challenge so soon (we’re only five episodes in, folks), and a third visit to unconventional materials as well? I just question the logic. I don’t think it gives designers an opportunity to show their talent, and I think it delays the departure of a lot of people that need to go home but will be saved by their team’s work. Cough—Helen—cough.

Enough of the rant. The teams: Kate, Karen and Jeremy, the winning team! Oh, wait, it hasn’t even started yet. Justin, Dom, and Helen make the second grouping. Alexander, Bradon, and Miranda are thrown together. And this week’s dysfunctional team is Ken, Alexandria, and Sue. These teams were not picked at random. Anyone who has picked a bracket for the sweet 16 knows that you don’t have the top teams play each other during the first rounds. The same logic is applied here. Kate, Karen, and Jeremy are two favorites (Kate, Jeremy), and a middling designer (Karen); there is no major weak link. This group has to be seen as a shoe-in. Justin, Dom, and Helen are bound to be safe, but Helen could wander into dress disaster. Alexander, Bradon, and Miranda — now, Miranda is a weak link, no doubt, but the other two are calm heads. Ken, Alexandria, and Sue? This team has trouble written all over it. Ken and Alexandria have been taking pot shots at nearly every other designer, and Sue is the weakest link. Again I ask: What. Is. She. Doing. Here?

The designers are given their instructions: Visit two of three choices, a vintage wallpaper store, a specialty food store, or a combination home goods/party store. Come up with individual designs that look like they are part of one collection. One day challenge.

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Kate, Karen, and Jeremy settle into a good rhythm. Justin, Dom, and Helen seem calm, and similarly are moving forward. Miranda is getting good guidance from her superiors. And Ken, Alexandria, and Sue are hitting the wall at the first store. Having experienced the dreaded team challenge in both my regular season and on “All Stars,” my belief has always been there has to be a leader. I enjoy taking that role not because I long for power but because the team becomes a disaster if someone doesn’t organize everyone’s thoughts. Someone though has to channel everyone’s energy, and focus on moving forward. I have been called bossy but have never been part of a team disaster. It is annoying to see all these teams fight when it is as simple as everyone expressing their ideas and focusing on a common thread.

A chastised Sandro makes a quiet and brief return to the workroom. Say what you will about him, but you have to respect that he was able to come forward and apologize.

Tim time! It’s Ken, Alexandria, and Sue who get the full wrath of a rather irritated Tim Gunn. Quickly they turn on one another and cat fight during their critique. What a surprise, Sue is singled out for picking a conventional material, in a unconventional materials challenge. I have no sympathy for her, and I don’t know if she has no more confidence in her ability, is just hoping to glide by, or is maybe hopelessly clueless. But I do know no one on her team tried to stop her. Each seems to be working by his or herself, with just enough interaction to get into fights. It’s pathetic. Ken seems to move into some kind of diva “Don’t look at me” craziness. Alexandria can’t finish a sentence, let alone a thought. And Sue is just a belligerent fool. She can’t make a pattern, she can’t use a sewing machine, she is literally a liability to her teammates. (Kinda makes you reassess Sandro’s reaction to her.) Tim asks her point blank if she’s ever seen the show. What I want to know is how she got on the show. WHO DID THAT? WHY??

Runway show! Again, I just can’t get excited. There are endless variations of a simple A-frame dress, some with wings, or belts, but all of them look similar. One day challenges will do that for you.

Alexander, Bradon and Miranda: A nice collection carried by one piece. Alexander created a look that was again too much, and again thought that he had “striking” look. Bradon seemed a good leader and helped a floundering Miranda get a decent result, a simple but well-constructed dress and beautiful pattern selections. Bradon was clearly the strongest of the group with a beautiful gown (although I would have eliminated the cross strap—it looked so dinky next to the skirt). He would have been the winner if his group had been a little stronger.

Justin, Dom, and Helen survive with their too-frugal collection. In a more talented group this would have been the bottom. Justin’s look is polished but a little plain. Dom does a simple dress with sculpture at the shoulder, a little reminiscent of last week’s look. Helen’s dress looks like a design school project gone wrong. Again, in a stronger group she would be going home.

Sue, Ken and Alexandria and their complete disaster are next. Sue’s look is horrible, but at least the cut out in the back is interesting. Ken’s has some interesting pleating but overall falls short. I find Alexandria’s top interesting. I know it was mentioned that the skirt looks good but I wasn’t able to see the detail because it looked like a plain black skirt to me.

The team of Jeremy, Kate, and Karen showed some variety and had a gown. Besides, the team had Kate, one of the chosen ones this season. Jeremy has a nice dress, although I can’t say I haven’t seen it before. Karen’s had a unique design that had good use of materials, and Kate had a strong look, although she played it safe with an all-black ensemble.

Surprise! Kate’s group is the winner! Ken and the battling bickersons back-stabbed themselves into the bottom. And the knives come back out: Ken complains about Alexandria and Sue, and Alexandria complains about Ken and Sue. And Sue, so clueless, tells the judges she hand sews to perfection—this after it is revealed that her model left the workroom not dressed and helped sew Sue’s disaster together in the bathroom. Oh, come on. You’re not Coco Chanel. You’re on what is essentially a game show. You’ve constantly been in the bottom, and you’ve been a passive-aggressive burden to your teammates in every team challenge.

Honestly, it just wasn’t a fun episode. No one grabbed their unicorn, pulled up their socks, and declared they were ready to fight again. Ken wasn’t cartoonish crazy, he was just a domineering jerk. Alexandria seems to have run out of steam. Once again I thought her top was clean and modern, but she just looked exhausted, and run down. And Sue just needed to go. She and her team just seemed so passive-aggressive and pathetic. It just seemed like an hour of rehashed drama, poor behavior, and very few “pretty dresses.”

Althea Harper


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