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'Project Runway' recap: The Bryant Park showdown, plus a reunion of bitchery

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Project-Runway-finaleImage Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime TelevisionWe have a winner, folks. And it’s not L’Oréal Paris, Garnier Fructis, or the Westin New York Times Square, even though all those shameless bits of product-placement enjoyed enough movie star close-ups last night to qualify for a SAG card.

Nope, the winner of Project Runway season 7 was…

Seth Aaron Henderson, he who kinda sorta flashed the beginning of a butt crack. He who made snow angels on the runway. And he and whose kids look comically demure when standing next to their faux-hawked pops. (How do you enact your teenage rebellion when your dad looks like he stepped out of a Tim Burton wardrobe department?) Mila might have called SA’s collection “glamorous Hot Topic,” but the fact is, the double-named dude rocked it last night. And I couldn’t be happier for him. I can’t wait for him to take all that cashola back to Washington and spend it on an even bigger trampoline. How soon can he get Tim Gunn back on it?

Aside from some model no-shows and the sight of Ping with shocking white hair (lookie, there she is in the audience at Bryant Park!), the finale played out without so much as a popped button of pre-runway show drama. Once the music started and the amazons started strutting, the camera at long last lingered on each and every look in each and every designer’s collection for delightfully ample stretches. Finally, no need to grab the remote and hit the pause button.

I admit I don’t fully get the 1940s German and Russian military that Seth Aaron claimed to be his inspiration, but who cares? Between the signature red dress worn by Kristina, to the head-to-toe houndstooth suit, to the polka dot, stripes, and herringbone orgy of conflicting patterns, SA’s collection managed to mix his cartoon whimsy with a level of polish that I hadn’t expected from the self-described spaz. Despite this piece of unfortunata and this one too, I’d argue it was he, not Emilio, who churned out the most sophisticated collection. (Whatever, Señora Garcia.) Nina called him the most fearless of the bunch, which would probably be true even if he were tied up and sedated to the point of drooling. Damned if the guy didn’t put on one helluva show for all those fashionista up-tighties.

Through melodramatic sighs and furrowed brows, the judges would have us believe that the decision was really, like, hard, man, but I don’t buy that for a second. Really? We’re supposed to believe that Emilio’s disjointed “Color Me Bad” (is that one d or two?) collection was a serious threat to Seth Aaron’s vigorous journey down the rabbit hole of unfettered creativity? The Holy Trinity (plus Faith Hill) filled airtime with comments about how he was really thinking about the business of fashion, and they claimed they just luuurved the second narcissistic monogram pattern he’s made. Me? My thoughts were: No way this unflattering symphony of mismatched olive, gold, red, and blue is gonna beat Seth Aaron’s bold ode to… uh… Hitler and Stalin? (No, no, I don’t really think that’s what he meant.) Sure, each of Emilio’s pieces displayed his usual impeccable tailoring, but all together, the collection — or line, if you’re a beyotchy Michael Kors — amounted to just simple clothes, not rock-‘em-sock-‘em killer fashion statements. I sensed he was toast when Faith Hill said not once, but twice, that she was “knocked out” by him. I mean, what is Faith Hill doing anywhere near a fashion competition? She’s probably a nice lady and all, but she has rather abysmal style and has been on so many Worst Dressed lists it’s pointless to count them. Need I say more? Also, Emilio’s strongest piece, the gold evening gown, reminded me a lot of that mini dress Jillian Lewis made in season 4. Huh. I wonder if it’s because he used the same fabric?

I still love Mila’s oversized striped jacket and think she has a terrifically singular point of view. Plus, this piece of playful plum stripery was a delightful change from her usual jailbird theme. The judges praised her for her for knocking the insistent ’60s out of her collection with edgier styling for the models, and she even (TMI alert!) turned on Agent Orange with her use of shiny, shiny… shiny panels of pleather. Which is funny, right? ‘Cause usually we think of Heidi as the one who’s drawn to shiny things. Aaaanyway. All that being said, I’ll be the first to admit that Mila’s collection lacked a little oomph, especially when placed next to something from Seth Aaron that is sorta similar to her own vibe, like that mixed media conflicting patterns bonanza. Of all the judges, Heidi probably remained her biggest fan — and that, apparently, just wasn’t enough for Madam Mad for Mod to beat Emilio for second place. A shame, really.

And so the decision came down to the two dudes. For the first time all season, Emilio’s usual smugness gave way to undeniable jitters as he stood up there on the runway, awaiting his fate. The guy was cowed. Maybe he too realized that if Faith Hill likes your stuff more than anyone else, it’s time to wave that white flag and haul ass into the welcoming arms of your loving family. Which he did, through what looked like heartbroken tears. Emilio hasn’t been my favorite this season (duh), but even I felt a twinge of sadness watching him weep. Project Runway, you make a grown man cry.

Make that two grown men. I got equally chocked up witnessing a teary Seth Aaron invite his wife and kids on stage and then explain to the cameras how much it means to him that his children are proud of their dad. Gah! Then he lifted Tim up into a giant, spazzy SA bear hug and my emotional breakdown was complete. Congrats to you, Seth Aaron!

I’m not gonna spend a lot of time analyzing the 30-minute reunion show that was part of tonight’s finale extravaganza because frankly, I found it to be a giant bore. I used to love tuning in to these end-of-season wrap-ups when it was just the designers reassembled for a post-stitching bit of bitchery. Remember in season one when they discussed the mystery meanie who drew a mustache on Wendy Pepper’s daughter’s photo? Genius! And watching the fan favorite wrap their arms around that giant, Ed McMahon-sized check? Delightful. Well, last night, instead of any of that, we got the designers plus the mostly insipid models with whom they were forced to share the spotlight. Gong! I do not want to listen to Alexis speak. Not now, not ever. Thank gawd Anthony was there to offset the horror of seeing that she-beast again. He most certainly would have won fan favorite and oh, how it would have been swell to see him sashay on back to Atlanta with some extra dough.

But whatever nonsense Alexis blathered on about in her extended 15 seconds of fame was trifling compared to the big, fat display of ugliness from Jay. I gasped, my husband groaned “Oh, man,” and I swear even my cats cocked a disgusted eyebrow when we heard the sore loser fourth-placer tell Cerri he’d never hire a model with bad teeth and thick legs. Shocking, petty, and vile. Jay, didn’t Anthony ever explain that a lady never stoops to such levels? Your Runway legacy is forever tainted by your immature schoolyard taunts. Real klassy, beyotch.

And with that, I bid you all goodbye. It’s been another wild season and I thank you for tuning in to my rambling recaps each week. Before I head to bed, allow me to remind you to check back here later today for exit interviews with Seth Aaron, Emilio and Mila.

So tell me, what did you think of the finale? Did the right person win? Should Mila have landed second place? Did you buy Emilio’s explanation of why he traded Holly after she wore his execrable Pepto Bismol bikini? Could you have done with a few less minutes on Ping’s tears? And did Jay’s diss to Cerri shock you as much as it did me?

Originally posted April 23 2010 — 2:46 AM EDT

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