Barbara Nitke/Lifetime Television
Missy Schwartz
October 22, 2010 AT 12:40 PM EDT

After starving us all season, Project Runway finally gave us a satisfying helping of Tim Gunn last night. It was the home-visit episode, and so naturally, Tim was wonderfully all over the hour and a half. First he jetted off to Oahu to make hilariously repulsed faces at Andy’s catfish. “I’ve never seen a Chinese man look that unattractive!” he said, rejecting Andy’s puzzling claim of a resemblance between the two. In Palm Springs with Michael C., Tim, clad in spiffy blue jeans, urged the prolifically productive chap to beware of “design diarrhea.” Meanwhile, over in Denver, he gazed with pride at Mondo, as Mr. Guerra made beautiful music on the piano. (Mondo’s adorable grin was a giddy bonus.) And in Portland, Tim sat with Gretchen and her mother at the table, leaned over to the contestant herself, and said, “You are a control freak.”

How can we not worship this man?

As the season’s penultimate episode always does, last night’s installment attempted to offer us a more well-rounded — dare I say, softer — view of the finalists. Sprung from the Project Runway zoo, the designers were presented like wild animals roaming free in their own natural habitats. We learned that Andy comes from a humble background and has one helluva supportive mama; that Michael C.’s parents sound perfectly awful (they think he should marry a woman and didn’t support his fashion career until he landed on the show); that Gretchen came home to a broken heart and busted bank account; and that Mondo’s parents tried their darndest to get their son to be more macho. He wanted piano lessons as a kid? Sure, as long as he joined the baseball team. “I’m a terrible shortstop,” Mondo said. Sympathetic as always, Tim called them “kindred spirits” in being athletically challenged, the last kids picked for teams in gym class. Can I join their club of sports misfits?

After the six weeks and $9,000 were up, the gang headed back to New York City, where they alighted in a spacious hotel room of some big chain or another. (Not gonna get me to say it, suckahs!) Mondo admired the ginormous bed he would sleep in that night and playfully popped out from behind it for the benefit of a surprised Michael C. Then, when Andy waltzed in with a dramatic new Last of the Mohicans mane, Mondo delivered the line of the night: “Your hair is unbeweavable!” Love him.

In the new workroom sponsored by some website or another (nope, not this one, either!), the designers got to work on an eleventh look, which they had two days and $300 to make. While Gretchen made proclamations about “how sophisticated” her collection was, Mondo struggled with his new design: a jersey dress with brown stripes and color blocking that did look pretty busted. So he scrapped it. And voilà, behold another glorious Mondo creation in the form of a brown houndstooth skirt and turquoise top that fit right into his gonzo collection.

His inspiration came from his Mexican heritage: a vintage circus crossed with the Day of the Dead. Save for that pink top that Tim rightly called “jejune,” the collection looked pretty rad to me. My favorite of the three designs he presented to the Holy Trinity (no guest judge this week) was the first one: the dotty black-and-white top with shorts. A brilliant demonstration of how to use two of my colleague Annie Barrett’s favorite things: conflicting patterns with a splash of bold color! (You can hear us dish on this aesthetic in the podcast embedded at the end of this recap.) Heidi loved the black-and-white polka dot dress, but not Nina. She worried it was too wacky-tacky — circus in the popcorn-stuck-to-the-bottom-of-your-boot way. I dunno. Maybe he could have countered the kookiness by chopping the sleeves down and showing some skin. Or maybe Nina could lighten up.


NEXT: Stop! Hammer time! (Yes, brace yourself for harem pants.)

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