Okay, whaaaat? Tim Gunn in flip flops? Yes. The designers are brought to the beach and told they will design "California Surfwear." To totally complicate things, they'll be designing in teams of two for actual surfer girls. Oh, and they're given 15 minutes to shop. Everybody is already flipping their lids when the judges throw in a wrench and ask them to design a second look, as well. Somehow, they're to design an "avant garde" piece that corresponds to the surf wear. You know, as one often finds on the beachâ€¦?
This whole partner thing is not working out in a few cases. For example, we finally get to hear a little from the classy Epperson, but unfortunately he is paired with Qristyl, who is fun and all, but has about as much taste as a block of tofu. They are not getting along in the least. Ra'Mon and Mitchell are also clashing, as Mitchell seemingly would prefer to run around bitching at everyone rather than, um, learn to sew. Tim comes down hard on their two looks and it sends them into a further tizzy. Meanwhile, several of the teams seem to be working quite well together, particularly Nicolas and Gordana. It is down to the wire for every team as they prepare for the runway. Ra'Mon even makes a last-minute change to his second look that has him dying neoprene with 30 minutes to spare.
Guest judges Max Azria and Rachel Bilson join Nina Garcia. They must all be drunk, because they name Mitchell and Ra'Mon, along with Johnny and Irina, as teams with the highest scores. Despite the top spot, Heidi brings the full force of her German heritage down on Mitchell for not doing enough of the work, himself. Epperson and Qristyl totally and embarrassingly melt down in front of the judges. Weirdly, Gordana and Nicolas are in the bottom of the two pairs, though the judges feel pretty strongly that the slutty avant garde look is not really representative of their obvious talent. Ultimately, Ra'Mon is named the challenge winner, and in a surprise twist, MITCHELL is eliminated.
At the runway, Heidi reminds everyone that Shirin won the last challenge and thus, has immunity. Heidi, by the way, looks gorgeous in a black minidress and wavy hair. She tells the designers that today, they'll be visiting a destination without which no visit to California is complete. "A little hint," she adds, "don't forget your sunscreen." Everyone gasps and applauds, and they head to THE BEACH! Christopher, for one, is quite excited, having never been to the beach in his life. Aw.
Let me explain to you why, when they pull up and see the Santa Monica pier, I cackled with both amusement and pain. I believe I have already mentioned my recent trip to L.A. to visit Pamie. Now, truly, Pam's just about the most fun person to visit in the world. And she always wants to make sure you have a real Cali vacation, even if you are only there for a few days. She believes, as Heidi does, that no trip can be classified as authentic without putting your feet in the ocean. I agree, though what we failed to think of this time as we spontaneously stopped at the very same beach after having lunch in Malibu, was that the approximately quarter-mile of sand we'd have to walk across to the water would contain the heat of a thousand raging supernova suns. Forced to remove our entirely-wrong-for-sand-walking heels, Pam got blisters between her toes and I howled curses well within hearing distance of several children and old people. We were a lurching, screaming cartoon of agony as we attempted to run to the water in order to put our sizzling feet out of their misery. Then, having dried our tears, we had to do it again on the race back to the car. If you could have seen the stoned dudes staring as us as we ran towards them, our tinny screams slowly becoming louder in the style of an oncoming train... I suppose you had to be there, but rest assured that my post traumatic stress is still fresh. Obviously wanting to avoid the same fate, Tim Gunn has opted to wear appropriate footwear on this occasion, though, the rest of his ensemble... "So, we're walking down the beach," Christopher says, as we see all the designers hop across the sand. "And we see Tim Gunn in sunglasses and sandals. But still in a blazer." Awesome. "Tim Gunn in flip flops?" Shirin laughs in an interview. "It's uh... it's a stretch." Tim: "Only at the beach."
He welcomes them to "the heart of California: the beach." He says they will be designing beach and surfwear, an identity that was developed in California, but evolved beyond the Golden State to become a worldwide phenomenon. I love that the challenges, thus far, have been relevant. I mean, I know haute couture designers are not exactly looking to surfers for inspiration, but these are things people wear and it's interesting to see the designers have to create actual garments, rather than things made of candy wrappers or whatever. Tim tells them their challenge will be to create "a fun and fashionable surfwear look." Oh, I am excited. Though I am as pale as the very driven snow, and though I have never been on a surfboard or even close and can barely stand in the sun for more than 10 seconds without catching on fire, I absolutely love surfing, especially the photography, videography and surf culture. In fact, I subscribe to Surfing magazine, much to the confusion of all who know me. I just like it, okay! I don't have to have a reason! (The reason is Laird Hamilton.) Tim adds that it will be critical that each look be infused with their own points of view, and that each garment be well-constructed. He is joined on the sand by several surfer chicks who embody surf culture and style, and a very hot stylist from show sponsor, Garnier, who talks about how important hair is, or something -- I don't know. I am not listening, because I am watching everyone fidget on the sand. The big kicker here is that the designers will be paired up into teams of two for the challenge. There are half-heartedly concealed groans all around. "The bottom of my stomach [sank]," Ra'Mon interviews about hearing this news. "Because [teamwork] really is the format for Anything Can Happen."
Having won immunity last week, Shirin is named a team leader and given first pick of someone to work with. Other team leaders are: Logan, Mitchell, Nicolas, Althea and Qristyl. Shirin picks Carol Hannah, clearly hoping for a Double the Cuteness, Double the Fun vibe. Logan chooses Christopher, which is interesting. I think Irina would have been a cool partner for him. Christopher seems so happy to have been picked early. Nicolas chooses Gordana, a perfect match for him. Mitchell selects Ra'Mon, and has no qualms about admitting that what he wanted was to work for someone that could carry him on the challenge. Dude. That does not bode well. Althea, who I like more every week, chooses Louise, because of her top three status from last week. Qristyl, clearly having a hard time, picks Epperson, which weirdly leaves Irina last to be picked. She, thus, goes to Johnny. Oh, Qristyl, think through your alliances a little better next time, girl. Epperson is probably talented, but Irina is awesome.
The teams having been assigned, the designers are given twenty minutes to "caucus," and are told to use the assembled California girls to gather information on what they might actually enjoy wearing. Manic confabbing goes on. We see Althea and Louise coming up with ideas in consultation with one of the girls. "It helps to have actual surfer girls to talk to," Louise says. "They like functionality over actual fashion." Logan and Christopher talk to another girl about surf-fashion colors often coming from things you see on the beach -- sunsets, water, coral reefs, etc. Ra'Mon says in an interview that he feels like being paired with Mitchell has painted a big bulls-eye on him, especially since Mitchell has been on the chopping block twice already. Things are not going so well, either, for Qristyl and Epperson. They have been working together for about five minutes and are already disagreeing. Perhaps because Qristyl's opening salvo to the surfer girls is "give me an idea of some things that you like," which frankly, indicates to me that her creativity is somewhat lacking. Epperson thinks they should be asking about out-of-the-water fashion, since this is not strictly a bathing suit challenge. Qristyl is annoyed that he dares to try to control the direction. Nicolas and Gordana seem to be concentrating hard on their cutie surfer, but Nicolas is not feeling the culture. "Hoodies and little sweatshirts and stuff," he interviews, cringing, "are not for the runway."
Finally, it is time to go to Mood, where each team is given a $50 budget and 15 minutes to shop. This is silly and obviously designed to create tension, and it worked. Even the teams containing two reasonable people are stressed. Teams like Epperson and Qristyl really flip out -- mostly because Qristyl has no taste and no plan. I'm sorry, but she doesn't. She's funny and has a great personality, but at least the way this is edited, she is not taking charge in any real way. In a similar fashion, Mitchell and Ra'Mon are having troubs. "We have different design aesthetics," Mitchell says. "He has picked out some pretty ugly things, and I think we're going to be in trouble." Yes, you are, and maybe not for the reasons you think. Shirin charges at a run toward the cutting table with a bolt of fabric larger than her own body, and somehow they must all get their stuff cut in time, because they do their thank yoooooou si