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Anyone else tired yet? This has been one long, scandal-ridden ride. We’re not done yet, so strap in for a bit more of the bumpy ride. We’ve got rogue turtles, zany kids, touchy-feely back stories, and accusations galore.

Escape from New York

The show opens with our final four sitting alongside the runway, after the last challenge. Heidi Klum arrives with a velvet bag in her hand and announces the final challenge. The designers will have $8,000 and two months to create twelve looks for the Bryant Park fashion show. The designers will have their models from the last challenge for the Fashion Week show. Heidi again announces all the prizes—the cash, the car, the mentorship, the representation—we all know it by heart now so there’s really no reason for her to shout it again at us. Heidi then introduces a special guest: **gasp** It’s Tim Gunn on the runway! He comes out to tell the designers that they need to do what he knows they can do, and Heidi tells them to not play it safe. The level of information divulged should have just been sent out in a text message, and we never did find out what was in that bag.

The designers head back to their apartments at Atlas to pack up and head home to get crackin’ on those 12 outfits. Laura comments that it isn’t that daunting of a task; she’s produced a line of kids, so why not dresses; she then decides to walk home. The others catch cabs to the airport. Uli’s spirits are boosted by winning the last challenge, and Michael really wants to win. Jeffrey says he’s taking the Fashion Week opportunity to make the collection he’s always dreamt of making.

Tim visits with Brace Face

As is traditional with the time-waster/drama-builder first half of Project Runway finales, Tim goes off to visit the finalists in their home towns. It kind of reminds me of the hometown visits on the Bachelor, but no one gets roses and the dinners look less awkward.

One month after the designers left NYC, Tim arrives in Atlanta, hometown of Michael. He’s got a charming cottage, and Tim loves it. Michael has changed a bit in the last month; he’s gotten braces and, maybe I missed it before, but it looks like he’s got a tat on his neck. (Note to self: rewatch old episodes and look for Michael’s neck tattoo.)

Tim asks to see Michael’s collection, which consists of twelve sketches taped to the wall with fabric samples and one completed dress. Michael says his theme is “Street Safari” and the outfits have a 70’s vibe. The one dress that is done is a long white dress with pockets on it, like a safari jacket, and the neckline is deep with lace-up detail. Tim cautions Michael that the looks must be cohesive, and he’s not seeing the cohesion yet, but he does like the details Michael has sketched out. With that, Tim and Michael head over to Michael’s cousin’s house for dinner with the family.

Over at the cousin’s house, Michael prepares food for Tim, his mom and dad, and other family members. Tim warmly greats Michael’s mom, whom he met at the Mom Challenge and talks to Michael’s dad. Michael’s parents have been nothing but supporting since he started sketching at nine years old. We also learn that Michael was an Army brat and has lived all around the country.

The summertime home of Mr. Hankey.

After Tim’s grand ole time in Atlanta with the Knight family, he heads back to NYC and visits Laura’s abode, which appears to be an entire floor of a co-op building. It’s a huge and open space, which is a good thing because her four boys have enough energy to power the eastern seaboard if there’s ever another blackout. Laura gives a bit more of her background; she was born and raised in New Orleans, where her mother taught sewing. (Second note to self: find out if Laura’s mom still teaches in New Orleans, sign up for classes.) Her family was pretty arty, as her grandmother was a painter. She’s got a gaggle of kids and a loose turtle named Frank. Laura’s littlest kid offers Tim a big stick of turtle poop, which he declines. Laura’s husband shows up and he’s got round glasses and a big bushy moustache, but doesn’t say much.

Laura also shows Tim what she’s been working on. Laura decided to go with evening wear because it will make a better show. There seems to be a lot of black, lace, and red. Maybe the theme is Storyville Safari, but she doesn’t say. Tim likes most of the outfits, but warns her to “youth it up” a bit. Tim expresses the most concern over a long chartreuse gown, wondering if it is even pretty. Laura tells Tim she really wants to win, and she is surprised at her own level of competitiveness.

Who knew they had Miami Vice in East Germany?

Tim next heads down to Miami to visit Uli. She’s got a sweet little apartment with a water view, and Tim now gets her beach aesthetic even more. She shows him her tropical safari looks. (What is up with all the ‘safari’ influences? Are safaris really all that popular? ) They are somewhat typical Uli, but have unexpected and nice detailing. Tim cautions that the judges will be looking to see that she is not one-note and she should look for what will surprise.

They then head down to the beach, Tim in his crisp trousers and impeccable button down shirt, and Uli in her usual wear. We learn that she is not only from Germany, but grew up in East Germany, before reunification. She got interested in America, especially Miami, by watching Miami Vice. She also learned to make things at a young age, because she couldn’t go out and buy cool clothes. Her love of color and pattern come from things being so drab back in East Germany. After the Berlin Wall fell and East Germany opened up, she came to Miami and she now feels she’s even closer to attaining her dream.

LA Story

Finally, Tim arrives in LA to visit with Jeffrey, who is excited and nervous to see Tim. Tim first goes to Jeffrey’s house, and meets his girlfriend and his little boy, inspiration of the infamous neck tattoo. (Hmmm, let’s flash forward, shall we: Project Runway 25: Laura’s latest baby squares off with Jeffrey’s kid in the runway finale!) Jeffrey’s girlfriend is punk-rock-y, and sports a mohawk; she, unlike the Laura & husband, totally fits with Jeffrey visually.

We get some more background on Jeff: his dad left him and his mom when he was young, and when he was around, his dad was full of rage. Jeffrey turned to drugs, nearly killed himself, and now has been sober for five years. We’d heard a good deal of this before in the Mom Challenge, but since the apparent theme of the first half-hour is “Dr. Phil Touchy-Feely” Bravo shares again. Frankly, at this point, I don’t care if the designer is an East German ex-druggie with braces and a bag full of turtle poop. Let’s get to the runway!

But not so fast…Tim goes with Jeffrey downtown to his office, where he’s been putting together his line. He’s got a bunch of stuff done, most notably a green and white stripped dress with seam detailing made of brass zippers. It’s very intricate, and Tim is impressed. Jeff’s inspiration for the collection are Japanese ghost and demon drawings, which is a great break from the safari mania going on in Atlanta and Miami. Tim sums up his feelings by saying the collection so far is unexpected and beautiful.

Return to New York

It’s five days before the runway show, and our intrepid four return to NYC and stay in a big hotel suite. It’s like a freakin’ Neil Simon play with all four staying in the same mega suite. Michael is exhausted from trying to finish his collection, which he deems both “hot” and “nasty.” That’s “hot” like Paris, and “nasty” like Ms. Jackson. He gets to the hotel first and takes a nap. Laura feels good about her garments and really REALLY wants to win, if for nothing else than to prevent Jeffrey from winning. She arrives in the hotel and rushes in to see a sleeping Michael, telling him she can’t believe he didn’t greet her at the door.

Uli is excited to be back, because she really wants to see everyone else’s collection. She gets a warm welcome from Michael and Laura at the hotel. Laura didn’t, as she said, jump off the couch to greet Jeffrey, who arrives last, but Uli and Michael greet him. In a voice over, he says that he got everything done in LA because he’s expecting some kind of surprise last project. Uli asks him how he’s been, if anyone has thrown eggs at him. Jeffrey says that he’s gotten nothing but positive reactions.

Tim’s Final Take?

With four days before the runway show, the designers take possession of their workspace in a big room provided by Macy’s. The room has windows, which is a nice change from Parsons. Everyone is trying to eye everyone else’s collection, and Laura comments Jeffrey has a lot of pieces, to which Jeffrey says bulk is added by the plastic bags he’s got his garments in.

Tim comes in to check on the designers’ progress since the last time he saw them. Jeffrey says he is in good shape, and everything is done, due to lots of work in LA. Tim says the garments are stunning and beautiful and is impressed.

After reviewing Uli’s collection, Tim says he is anxious to see the dresses on models because he has questions about the proportion. He also misses Uli’s prints, which she has apparently toned down, though we don’t get to see all of her items.

Tim finds Laura’s collection gorgeous and has great dresses, and looks like a 12 piece collection. Laura has also dumped the chartreuse dress that Tim had issues with. Tim indicates that he thinks Laura will do just fine.

Finally, Tim reviews Michael’s work, and is not pleased. He calls a cream blouse with tons of gold sequins on the pockets “cartoon-y” and advises that Michael either tone it down or go all the way over the top. Three guesses which way Michael chooses. The guy’s got more sequins than I imagine Kayne has in his entire prom/pageant shop back in Norman, OK. Tim also cautions that the garments need to look like they’d all fit in the closet of the same woman.

Before departing, Tim asks for everyone’s receipts so that the producers can review them to see that the $8,000 budget was not exceeded. Tim has to wait on Jeffrey as he sorts through sketches to find all of his receipts.

Models, Hair and Makeup…Decisions, decisions, decisions.

As Uli says, picking the right model for the right outfit is important. The designers hold a model casting where they see a bunch of girls walk in a silly fashion. Why designers want to see girls stomping along like seriously demented people is beyond me. The clothes don’t look any better and it’s distracting. Of course, I am again reminded of why I don’t watch ANTM. After a bunch of strutting, the designers pick out some girls and hope that the models don’t flake out too much.

Next up, the designers consult with the hair guy to pick out hairstyles. The only remarkable thing here is that Jeffrey brought with him a dozen blond shag wigs for his models to wear so they all look alike. They then talk to makeup dude about makeup. I’m pretty sure this is more about pimping the sponsors (whom we all know) than any dramatic or informative point.

J'accuse!

Laura’s got issues with Jeffrey’s designs. She first points out that he doesn’t have a whole lot of altering to do, because he made dresses that are full on the bottom and are easier to fit. She doesn’t think it is possible that he got all of his outfits done before coming back to New York, especially done so well with the seams being perfect and some are even covered. She shares her thoughts with Uli and Michael, and says something doesn’t add up, since his stuff was never that perfect when he was on the show. Uli doesn’t think his designs are perfect, but Laura and Michael are hung up over some perfectly executed white leather jeans. Laura says she is going to confront Jeffrey about it.

Then Tim comes in to check on the designers. He likes what he sees at Uli’s station and then he asks Laura if she has something she wants to talk with him in private about. They go out on the balcony and Laura says that Jeffrey’s been spending a lot of time on the balcony. Using that as an entry point, she launches in to airing her suspicions that Jeffrey didn’t sew all of his garments. She’s certain that they are his designs and his fabric, but she doesn’t think that he could have sewn all the garments so perfectly without help, as he’s never demonstrated that level of craftsmanship before. Tim says that there is an inherent problem of proof in this allegation but he will take it to the producers and investigate. With that, Tim leaves and shall return the next day. Laura knows she’ll take heat for the accusation, but she is certain something is amiss.

Jeffrey should demand an ombudsman.

After Tim leaves, Uli announces that Laura has an announcement. Uli’s quite the pot-stirrer, isn’t she? Laura tells Jeffrey that she told Tim of her suspicion. Jeffrey says it is absolutely untrue and he made all of the garments. Michael backs up Laura, saying he had some of the same suspicions. Jeffrey says he knows what he did and how hard he worked.

Laura tells the single camera interviewer that she is not going to apologize to Jeffrey and she felt she had to report her gut feeling. She also tells Uli that Jeffrey’s reaction was not what she expected—it was much more muted than she would have predicted.

Jeffrey similarly says in an interview that Laura is crazy and that because he produced work better than hers, to her mind, it must be cheating. He cites his experience of making hundreds of one-of-a-kind looks for celebrities and having to make the perfectly. He admits his sewing wasn’t the best with the time crunch on the show, but given the right amount of time and freedom, he can make garments that are more than perfect. (Whatever that means.)

The next day, Tim comes to Jeffrey and first says that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. He says questions were raised about the sewing, and he asks Jeffrey to give his side of the story. Jeffrey said that, aside from two pieces he sent out for pleating, he made all of the garments in the collection. He says that if he had one item made, that item alone would cost him $600 to have sewn. Tim says they will be looking at the receipts closely. In an interview, Jeffrey reiterates he made all of the clothes but confesses he is scared he won’t get to Fashion Week.

With that, the episode ends in a cliff-hanger. Will Jeffrey show? Will he be eligible to win even if he does show? The previews hint at a negative outcome, but the previews are always misleading. Or do they know we know they are misleading so it isn’t misleading? Gahh!!!! Come back next week for the final finale of Project Runway 3.

If anyone knows if Michael had that neck tattoo earlier in the season, please drop me a PM.