My how quickly the competition flies. Just last week Carol Hannah won her first challenge and little Shirin was finally rendered speechless when she was auf'd. Now the show is getting the "final stretch treatment" and all the remaining designers spend the introductory moments of the show discussing how this is, you know, the final stretch. What does the final stretch mean exactly? It means the challenged will explain: How there are only a few designers left, how it is a great honor to have gotten this far, how amazing they are as designers to have beaten out the rest of the pack, and how quiet it is now that Shirin is gone. Nicolas begins the proceedings by explaining that he has ironed his hair because he is into a beatnik revival minus the bongos and also if you iron your hair no one can mock your white man's afro. Okay, I don't know if Nicolas actually has a white man's afro, but I really enjoy thinking that he does. Really just freeze frame and squint your eyes and imagine the possibilities of eternally whining Nicolas rockin' a pick-worthy 'fro. Admit it: it's awesome. Anyway, Nicolas and his boring stringy straight hair are attempting to justify his overwhelming narcissism as all part of the competition. It's me me me, because he is here to win. Also, he once read a coffee mug that said nice guys lose, he believes it, and that settles it. Christopher reminds us that through some mystifying algorithm, "he is one of the top 7 designers in this competition." Despite his lack of fashion training or experience (or taste!) he is still here while nine other designers have gone home. Now a moment of silence for those nine designers who are no doubt watching this soliloquy and scratching their heads in confusion and starting to question their own skills and taste level. Nine designers who because of you, Christopher, by your continued presence on this show, are starting to doubt their own self worth. You, Christopher, your continued existence is causing their self esteem to falter, which will undoubtedly require years of therapy to undo. So, Christopher, don't at all be surprised if, say, Louise (just to choose a depressive's name out of a 50s style hat) shows up on your door in ten years time and begs you to make amends despite the fact that you cost her thousands of dollars of therapy and created potentially a lifelong dependence on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds simply by remaining on the show with your garbage bag and tinfoil creations that look like they belonged in the Glad Family of Products, while she was sent home despite intricate beading and detailed needlework. But don't feel too bad, Christopher, because these nine designers also look at you and the fact that you are still on the show despite your "disco shower curtain" and "cinched up Hefty bag" creations, these designers look at you as a ray of hope. Why? Because looking at you and your work, they know it was not them. It was the competition! A competition that is obviously rigged. Obviously! I mean how else to explain the Christopher? Yes, you, Christopher, you are the evidence to prove the auf'd designers' conspiracy theory of a shadow agenda for the show. It is not that they are lousy designers, because if being a shite designer were actually the reason that people went home, you, Christopher would have been sent home decades ago despite your endearing personality and homespun charm and creepy eyes that follow you everywhere. Nay, this is not a design competition, but a means of forwarding crappy design into homes across the nation and making sure the judges applaud that design no matter how heinous just to reinforce to Americans that no matter how ugly or off-putting or unwearable an item is, if it has a name brand of a major player, a Helmut, a Calvin, a Zac, or Behnaz or Ralph sewn into its tinseled Hefty bag label, it is fashion. And it is great. Phew, that was exhausting! Conspiracy theories are really tiring, especially when they are true.
The last seven designers lumber like dinosaurs before an Ice Age back to the fashion institute to hear the next challenge. Heidi trots on stage in sky-high heels, a Mad Men-modest black dress and chandelier earrings. She looks very chic. She reminds the designers that there are only seven of them left and they are getting closer and closer to Bryant Park. She then tells them that for this week's challenge, Tim is carting them off to Rodeo Drive where they will work with a real life designer whose work is known around the world! They all try to guess who it is. Christopher guesses it is "Hot Topic", but the other challengers just roll their eyes and Althea kindly points out that "Hot Topic" is not actually a designer, but a mall store that sells Twilight inspired jewelry collections and is the place to go if you ever need a decal of Calvin peeing on something. Christopher reminds her that she doesn't know, it could be Hot Topic. Althea gives up as they pull up to the shop. And in a sign of just how small the production budget has gotten on this, who is the world-renowned designer they are working with for this challenge? It's just stupid old Michael Kors. Like the producers couldn't spring for a real designer to give the kids a whirl. Nope. It's not Yves St. Laurent or Tom Ford or Balenciaga. No, no, it's the khaki West Coast flagship of Michael Kors. Le sigh. Nicolas and his limp hair try to pretend that this is a very exciting opportunity to work closely with one of the judges and that designing in the camel-colored shade of Michael Kors is not going to be all kinds of annoying. Even Tim seems unimpressed. Michael Kors explains that he wants to see how the designers are inspired by some locations. He has vacation photos of his so-fabulous life and wants them to be inspired by his success, good fortune, white teeth, and world travels. It's okay to hate him a little bit. Seriously, Michael, didn't your mother ever teach you not to brag? And if you want to go on and on about how frickin' fabulous you are, just rent a skywriter like everybody else. Duh. As I ignore him gloating about his globe-trotting and jet set lifestyle, I have time to notice that he is wearing far too much bronzer in his attempt to re-create his St. Tropez tan. Speaking of St. Tropez, that is just one of the fabulous locations where he spends his awesome life. Kors then strings together a bunch of words, which I recognize, but do not seem to resemble any kind of challenge to the designers. All he wants is "inspiration" "wow" "fun" "fabulous" and "design". I mean why did they drag the designers all the way over to the Michael Kors flagship store? Was it just to show it off on national television in a feeble attempt at convincing viewers that Michael Kors is a relevant designer and not just a dresser of rich grandmas and Kim Cattrall? I know, same same, but different. But seriously, Mr. Kors, your efforts failed and you just look like a publicity hound. Rather, a bigger publicity hound. Now all I think of Michael Kors is that he really thinks he is fabulous. But I think I could have guessed that before. Kors then sends the designers back to their dungeons at FDIM with no idea as to what they are supposed to be doing and nary a goodie bag in sight. Dick.
Back at the fashion institute, Tim actually explains the so-called Michael Kors challenge. The core of the challenge is "inspiration" and the designers will each choose one of Michael's favorite vacation spots and base their design on what they think people wear there. Carol Hannah is nervous about today's challenge. You can tell because she has quadrupled her normally-considerable mascara and now she is so black around the eyes that when she bends over the photos of the locales to choose her inspiration, she looks like she might tip forward. She grabs Palm Beach, struggles to right herself, and then explains that although she has never been to Palm Beach, she is looking forward to the challenge. Nicolas is next and despite the obvious hometown advantage, he passes on New York City, because it is too easy and instead opts to use Greece as his