‘Runway’ recap: The first cut is the deepest

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imageThe wait is over this week as “Project Runway” Season 9 premieres with our weekly dose of fashion and drama. It’s been nine months since not-Mondo won, but we settle in quickly with our old friends and new additions.

As the cozily familiar opening shots of New York City and the “Runway” theme music waft over us, our old pals Heidi and Tim talk directly to camera – to us! – about how they’re shaking things up for the premiere. Not only did they invite 20 designers instead of 16, but an early round of judging snark from Michael and Nina is also nice: They’re going to cut four of these bitches before we come to love or hate them. We’re more than fine with that.

As contrived and gimmicky as it may be, we like seeing the series regulars early. They don’t drag out the process too long, and it’s peppered with trademark cray-cray and bitchery to keep things rolling along. During the critiques, Tim is all business trying to wrangle the others; Heidi has managed not to get pregnant and may or may not be drunk, but she looks amazing; Michael is engaged and characteristically unimpressed; and Nina pulls out her standby contrarianism. Welcome home, gang!

imageThe cuts are made, then so-and-so, whats-her-name, nobody and also-ran are sent packing. Bye! This array of contenders is always too big in the early episodes anyway.

We’re not going to drive you or ourselves crazy by digging too deeply into the crowded field of contestants just yet. Laura looks like a likely villain, and something tells us to keep an eye on Julie and Kimberly. As our season preview tipped you off, Atlanta gay Rafael sticks around among the hipsters, crazy-hairs and randoms, and as predicted, we also hang onto sex-scandalized former beauty queen Anya. Before the new kids on the block even unpack in their digs at the Atlas, contestant Anthony Ryan becomes this year’s first crier.

imageSpeaking of Team Gay, eight guys and eight gals make the final 16, and there isn’t a straight man in sight, including Bald Joshua – aka crier No. 2 – and Bronzer Joshua. And as the surprise 5 a.m. wakeup call for the first challenge commences, we also get to see what every last one of them wears to bed. They’re shuffled off to the workroom to create a look from the night clothes on their backs and the top-sheets off their beds. Of course, the best line of the night comes from Tim, who always cracks us up when he cracks his gallant veneer: He cautions one of the gays to rethink placement of some trimmings, because you know, “pubic patch” is not a good look.

On the runway, color us and the judges impressed (photos) – mostly. From jammies, drawstring shorts, boxers and t-shirts comes couture. Who knew? Of course, the majority of the designers are sent away without giving us a closer look, but that’s the way the couture crumbles early in every “Project Runway” season.

imageThe series’ oldest contestant yet, Bert, took a gray T and orange gingham boxers to a ready-to-wear night on the town for his model (top photo). He was the clear winner to us, and in a trend of sane decisions that we hope continues, the judges and guest Christina Ricci agree. Anya’s workroom fluster and pre-challenge doubts prove a reality-show ruse. She pulled out a passable look, transforming a silk nightie and her sheet into a two-piece look that many a young skinny Minnie would wear (second photo).

And to answer our preview headline “Will ATL’s Rafael Cox make the cut?” No. The shirt he made had some cute details but didn’t fit. The pants were a weird shape even if they had fit, which they didn’t, and a last-minute necklace made from his head scarf was a tragedy of Homeric proportions.

Auf wiedersehen, Rafael. Can an Atlanta queen ever win? The world may never know. Can the drama increase as the playing field shrinks? Oh yes, and scenes from next week say “big time.”

Click all of the photos for a larger view, and check out the all of the looks on the show’s “Rate the Runway” page.


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