The season’s theme of opening field trips with little consequence continues this week — Angela meets the designers at the United Nations to shout out their new challenge rather loudly (thanks, FDR traffic). They’re designing gowns — as usual — inspired by six different U.N. member counties’ flags and cultures. The global lineup: Chile, Greece, India, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, and the Seychelles. Each designer picks a flag, sketches a bit, runs around Mood, and gets down to work. Perhaps the final six are just too schooled in good Runway behavior, but these early episode segments are feeling a little formulaic.
It quickly becomes clear that the designers are bending the challenge’s constraints to fit their nicely pigeonholed aesthetics, and not the other way around — again, as usual. This is a shame. Michael’s draping, Mila’s cutting clean lines, Kenley’s turning the Chilean flag’s pattern into something appropriate for a fifties diner date , and Jerell’s embellishing like it’s his last chance ever (spoiler: it’s not, though perhaps unjustifiably). On her visit to the workroom, Joanna Coles tries to shake the designers out of their boxes, but it just isn’t happening. Instead, she’s left lamenting gowns’ impracticalities — they can’t be worn with bras, or as becomes apparent in one case, panties either.
There’s the usual montage of designers complaining they’re running out of time before a quick runway presentation. As usual (again!), while the looks are walking, the designers’ voice-overs give too much away. Austin is afraid the judges will critique his hurried draping (they do); whereas Mila isn’t worried because she never shows emotion. She does, however, robotically relate a belief the judges are confused by her design (they are). Catherine Malandrino and her wonderfully thick French accent join the panel. It’s not her first time on the show, and this time she’s showing a gentler side. Serious Runway fans will remember her cameo on season three, when the designers flew briefly to France only for Catherine to gleefully eliminate poor Angela “Jubilee Jumbles” Keslar, and send her straight back home in her rosette-covered calf-length travel pants.
Mondo wins (probably not for the last time this season) for an understated black jersey dress, with Kenley and Michael — whose stubble-and-messy-bedhead combo looked good on the runway — rounding out the top three. Austin (having never recovered from learning the tongue twister refers to someone selling shells on the sea shore, not at/on the Seychelles) gets another pass despite his messy draping. This leaves Jerell and Mila in the bottom two. Both have been there before. This time Mila’s repeat poor performance proves her undoing. Her two-tone, two-length dress leaves the judges too confused to even get snarky. And that’s just unforgivable.