On Project Runway's Season 9, drama seems to be the big loser. That's drama as in, don't create too many waves in the workroom -- and also the kind of drama you might want to watch on television.
In this episode, the contestants were split into two teams of five. Each team had to create a) patterned fabrics using product-placement computers, b) five cohesive looks for a runway show, and c) the theme and background video for that show. Betsey Johnson, whose crazy-cute punk grandma look would get her thrown off this season faster than two-time loser Josh C, explained it to them -- and then she was gone.
The teams had no leaders, making for harmony in one and disaster in the other. Team Harmony (which called itself Team Chaos): Anthony Ryan, Anya, Viktor, Olivier and Bryce. Team Disaster (which called itself Team Nuts and Bolts): Josh M, Laura, Kim, Becky and Bert.
The drama in the workroom all came from Josh M, who in a previous challenge had picked on Becky, went after Bert after hearing him mumble a bad word. "I feel that people that have dirty mouths, they're not intelligent,"Josh said ungrammatically to the camera. To Bert, his voice rising, he said he won't stand for it, and when Bert approached him, he said haughtily, "Don't get close to me. I need you to back up."
Things got so bad that when Tim Gunn came into the workroom, he forced the group to hold hands and swear to work together. If "cohesive" is an important aspect of a collection, they were in really bad shape.
Meanwhile, Team Harmony -- I mean Team Chaos -- were working together like happy dwarfs in a Disney movie. Anya could be Snow White, Viktor was the always-thinking Doc, Anthony Ryan was Happy, Olivier was Bashful and Bryce has to be Sleepy because he's rarely part of the action. They should have played "Whistle While You Work" under these guys as they efficiently executed their tasks -- which might have livened them up a little, because too much harmony isn't interesting to watch.
All the divisiveness and drama were on the other side. Josh M was barely speaking to Bert, and he was openly critical of Becky's work. Kim tried to keep out of it, and Laura spent most of her time placating Josh, with a very stiff poker face.
This was part of the problem: A very stiff poker face is just as bad TV as two people pointing at a product-placement screen and nodding together. For all of Josh's hard-to-watch unpleasantness, he's the only one this season who emotes. The other contestants are learning that guarded is safer than putting themselves out there, but guarded isn't interesting television.
If Josh M. was this episode's villain, there has to be a victim, someone for us to empathize with. But Becky was snitty, and 57-year-old Bert was mostly exasperated. Who was the victim? Josh M. He's the only one revealing his emotions, so he's playing all the roles at once. We saw him cry when he talks about his mother's death (again) and break down when he called his dad; turns out it was the anniversary of his mother's birthday. So he was all emotional.
But Josh M. can't be both the victim and the villain. Someone else is going to have to start being human. Just like the other designers are playing it safe as reality show-contestants, they're playing it safe on the runway. The designs have very little drama (except for Viktor's evening dress. Viktor, maybe your personality will reemerge next week?)
The winners were, no surprise, Team Harmony -- I mean Team Chaos. The nice but unspectacular cocktail dress made Anya the winner. She was due, but this wasn't her most interesting design. On the losing Team Nuts and Bolts, the final two were Josh and Becky. Josh's design instincts may run too disco -- early in this episode, he was convinced they should do five female versions of the Village People -- but he's creating the only drama on the show, so he was still in. Michael Kors criticized Becky's skill -- "It's not Project Seamstress" -- and she was out.
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-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Josh M with fellow members of Team Nuts and Bolts as Bert's dress goes by on the runway. Credit: Lifetime