‘Project Runway’ recap: ‘Blame it on Rio,’ or blame it on those damn team challenges? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Project Runway” is down to its final nine contestants … hey, nine is divisible by three, so why not have another team challenge? In “Blame it on Rio,” the designers split up into three teams to design mini-collections for celebrity client Morena Baccarin‘s Rio de Janeiro vacation. So who had a fantastic voyage, and who booked a flight back home? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

The last team challenge was back in episode two, “The Future is Here,” when there were still 15 designers in the competition. The results were, shall we say, mixed. Tessa Clark, Sebastian Grey and Afa Ah Loo wowed the judges with their futuristic designs highlighting sci-fi body modifications, but Hester Sunshine drove her team crazy with her fabric madness, and the trio of Renee Hill, Frankie Lewis and Kovid Kapoor couldn’t communicate and ended up at the bottom, with Frankie getting the axe.

Renee is the only designer left from that unlucky group since Kovid was eliminated a couple of weeks later. That was the only challenge that landed Renee in the bottom three thus far, so she probably wasn’t thrilled to be stuck on another team, but she has been rock-solid ever since that unlucky round and even won the “Survive in Style” unconventional materials challenge. What’s more, the “Runway” fans we polled this week think she has become a top contender to win the whole season.

So who dressed Morena Baccarin for success? Follow along below starting at 9:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

9:02pm — Barely a minute into the episode, and already there’s drama. Bishme doesn’t think Sonia should have been sent home for such a great dress (I agree), and he asks Tessa what about her look was so elegant. Renee didn’t think the unfinished hem on Tessa’s pants was very elegant either. I agree with them that Sonia had a better look on the runway than Tessa did, but I also think it’s unfair to tell Tessa she should have been on the bottom instead. It’s not her fault Sonia was eliminated. Tessa doesn’t fight with them (for now), which I think is the right call.

9:05pm — Time for the challenge, and also time for the return of stylist Marni Senofonte! Marni name-drops Kendall Jenner, whom she dressed for Cannes in order to introduce the challenge: the designers will be split up into teams to create mini-collections for a celebrity client’s vacation: Morena Baccarin is going on vacation to Rio, and she needs something chic for the beach, a daytime look for hitting the streets, and a “killer evening look” — something with bright color, but nothing too revealing. Since this is a team challenge I’m suddenly worried Tessa will be working with Bishme and/or Renee, which would carry more drama through the episode.

9:06pm — Tessa’s name is selected, so she actually gets to choose her own teammates and probably won’t aim for conflict. Whew. She picks Sebastian (unsurprising, since they killed their last team challenge together) and Lela.

9:07pm — Hester gets to pick her teammates and goes with Garo Sparo and Bishme. Hester and Garo Sparo had that disaster in their last team challenge together, but she promises not to be such a “poopy-pants” this time.

9:07pm — That leaves Jamall, Venny and Renee as the last team.

9:09pm — Oy, this will be another one-day challenge, so they have to deal with teamwork AND a time crunch. Tessa’s team is going with Sebastian on swimsuit duty, while Lela takes evening and Tessa does daytime. On Hester’s team, the captain is taking swimwear (hopefully no pasties this time), while Bishme is going day and Gary Sparo takes the night. And the default team is going with Jamall for swimwear, Renee for daytime and Venny for evening. I hope this goes well for Renee with a new team. Her last team challenge was a fiasco, but both of her teammates from that debacle (Frankie and Kovid) are gone now. Fingers crossed.

9:10pm — Marni advises the designers to come up with a story for their mini-collection so their looks are cohesive. She also thinks the designers should embrace the wild fun of Rio. Hester’s translation of that is for Morena Baccarin to be a disco queen from Studio 54. Interesting, but knowing Hester that could be crazy good or just plain crazy.

9:13pm — At Mood, Renee is inspired to get materials for pants since they’re functional for chasing children. Sebastian is getting flashbacks of the last team challenge when Tessa bossed everyone around (and they won that challenge, so don’t knock it, Sebastian), but this time Tessa isn’t as sure of herself or her design plan. “This is the worst Mood visit of my life,” she says. Off to a rough start, but not as bad as Hester’s tulle-gate … at least, not yet.

9:15pm — It seems like all the teams ended up with variations of the same color palette, so they all need to be careful not to make variations of a tropical cliche. Lela and Tessa clash a bit since they both have take-charge personalities. Meanwhile, Renee wants redemption after her last team challenge, so she’s making her opinions known instead of keeping quiet like last time. Smart for her to trust her instincts since the judges have always been fond of her individual looks.

9:17pm — Jamall wants to go a little “avant garde” with swimsuit, which is another idea that sounds like it could be great or a complete mess. Meanwhile, Garo Sparo is letting Hester take charge while positioning himself as “backup leader” in case her leadership goes awry. And right away Hester needs “crotch advice” — oh, haven’t we all?

9:20pm — Jamall curses after he made the mistake of ironing his lycra, so he has to redo a whole section of it. Venny isn’t too happy because he knows if Jamall fumbles it’ll be Venny or Renee who pays the price since Jamall has immunity. That makes me feel bad for Jamall. Immunity is a good time to take bold risks (i.e. Hester’s pasties last week), but in a team challenge he’s also responsible for two teammates who don’t have immunity, so it’s like not having immunity at all.

9:26pm — Time for Christian consultations. He tells Renee, Jamall and Venny not to push too hard in the party direction: Morena likes “classic.” Meanwhile, Lela, Tessa and Sebastian’s design story is a little under-cooked. Sebastian is keeping his mouth shut and going with the flow even though his look doesn’t so much mesh with his teammates. I’m officially nervous for these three.

9:32pm — Hester is hating her swimsuit so far. “For me, if I’m freaking out, but I’m not crying, then that’s good,” says Hester. I don’t know if I agree that that’s a good sign.

9:37pm — It’s a one-day challenge, so of course that means it’s time for the designers to throw snowballs at each other outside. I mean, everybody deserves a break on a long day, but let’s get cracking, guys!

9:38pm — Tessa is still smarting over Bishme’s confrontation from the morning. Lela tells her not to sweat it, that he was just projecting because of how stressful it is to be at the bottom.

9:40pm — During the model fittings, Jamall is feeling good, but Christian is concerned that it looks like a dress and not a swimsuit. Also, it’s too revealing. Hester is still having butt and crotch problems — Garo Sparo wants to just get this team challenge over with, and I know he he feels. Venny’s color choices are coming back to haunt him — very teenybopper. Renee is regretting her decision to change her design process for her pants. These damn team challenges throw everyone off, and I don’t think anyone really likes them, especially for a one-day challenge.

9:45pm — A little more drama between Tessa and Bishme as Tessa teases him about finishing her hem so she can be on the top while he’s not. Bishme thinks that’s a little messed up, but honestly so is telling her she didn’t deserve to be safe last week. Seems like a minor dust-up, though. Let’s keep the drama to a minimum. I hate drama.

9:47pm — The morning of the runway show: Renee still has pants problems to resolve, the butt’s still “a little funny” on Hester’s look and it’s a big color risk.

9:48pm — Some bad news from Karlie: she’s going to a wedding and Nina is running a fever, so they’re out for the runway show. But Marni and Morena will be guest judges, so it’ll even out. Renee is worried that her team doesn’t have cohesive designs, only cohesive colors. That’s very not good because this week’s workroom has been drowning in the same pinks, yellows, and blues, so they need more cohesion than just the color story.

9:50pm — Renee says she had to postpone her wedding to come on this show, which kind of reminds me of action movies when someone says they’re about to retire — that’s exactly when you get killed off.

9:55pm — It’s time for the runway, and I’m unusually pessimistic about these looks. I hope I’m wrong.

RUNWAY SHOW

9:57pm — Elaine Welteroth is filling in for Karlie as host, which means she gets to have her own badass silhouette entrance. She’s loving that. I would too.

9:58pm — Team Disco Queen: I really like Hester’s bathing suit, except for how it’s totally riding up her butt. Bishme’s day look is cute. And I really like Garo Sparo’s evening look, but he thinks there’s too much fabric, and maybe he’s right about that. It may be a bit heavy for the tropics.

9:59pm — Team Carnival: Jamall thinks his swimsuit look is the best on the runway. I don’t agree. It looks a little confused, and the way her butt is hanging out through sheer fabric in the back doesn’t look intentional. It looks like half her dress ripped off. Renee’s look is a little blah and not very flattering. I think Venny’s look is the best of these three. He doesn’t like the color, but I think it works, though it looks a bit casual for what’s supposed to be an evening look. The judges don’t seem to be fans of the collection as a whole either.

10:00pm — Team Rio Holiday: Sebastian’s beachwear look is gorgeous, sexy, flowing, wearable. Tessa’s day look is nice too. And Lela’s evening garment is lovely too.

10:01pm — No huge wow moments on this runway. I think Rio Holiday is my favorite team. Carnival is probably on the bottom.

CRITIQUES

10:09pm — Elaine mentions that the three collections all looked pretty similar with their identical color palettes, so she’s a little confused. Me too. It’s weird how they all heard Rio and all seemed to think that meant blues, corals, yellows, and almost nothing else. Overall this was probably the weakest runway show of the season so far.

10:05pm — Interestingly, Rio Holiday is the safe team. So Tessa, Sebastian, and Lela are going through to the next round. Lela is happy to be safe, but disappointed not to have been the winning team. That means Disco Queen and Carnival are getting critiques.

10:05pm — Team Disco Queen is the winning team, no surprise compared to Team Carnival.

Hester — Elaine thinks it’s a marketable look, and it’s Morena’s favorite look on the runway, though the colors are too bright for her. Marni likes the color for Hester’s dark-skinned model.

Garo Sparo — Brandon thinks it smartly shows how Garo’s signature corset can be applied to different types of garments. Morena likes the slit and the movement.

Bishme — Marni thinks the top is amazing, but it could use an open-toe shoe. Morena thinks a white pant is perfect for Rio. Elaine thought the pants were a “needed palate cleanser,” and that Bishme came back with a vengeance.

10:08pm — Elaine doesn’t think the Team Carnival looks would be worn by the same woman.

Jamall — Brandon was confused by the construction. It’s too complicated. Elaine thinks it looks like a bad ice skater uniform. Morena doesn’t know what she would do with it because she couldn’t swim in it. Marni actually likes it, but she wouldn’t have made it for Morena.

Renee — Brandon says team challenges are not where she thrives, and she clearly agrees. He hates the pants, but the top looks good. Morena doesn’t know a single woman who would look good in the pants. Marni doesn’t love the print, and the whole look isn’t really Renee.

Venny — Morena would dress her daughter in it, not herself. She wouldn’t feel confident, and she actually thought it was the daytime look. Elaine doesn’t understand the client he designed that dress for.

10:11pm — Brandon needs to laugh to keep from crying because he knows Venny or Renee has to go home, when it was Jamall who was really the worst. Jamall feels terrible, predictably and understandably, but Renee is gracious, saying that the team failed, not just Jamall.

10:15pm — On closer inspection, Morena likes Garo’s evening look the best, but overall the judges think the win comes down to Hester vs. Bishme. Hester’s look is beautifully constructed and “understands the female shape.” Bishme’s look is “modern and cool.”

10:17pm — Jamall’s look is “all kinds of bad,” but Marni actually have it a high score. Renee’s blouse is bad, but it’s the “banana yellow drop-crotch genie pants” that are the real downfall of the look. But the judges acknowledge that Renee has only ever been at the bottom during team challenges. Venny’s look is wrong for evening, wrong for the theme, wrong for the client. I’d send home Venny, because of how Renee has been consistently good outside of team challenges.

RESULTS

10:24pm — Garo is in, but not the winner. It’s Hester who wins the challenge, which makes three victories for her. I don’t agree with this one after seeing how that bathing suit was riding up her model. For the second week in a row I thought Sebastian had the best look but wasn’t even in the top three. Bishme is the official runner-up.

10:25pm — When they find out the result backstage, Tessa says she didn’t like Hester’s look. Oh come on, Tessa. I was on your side before, but that was petty AF. Knock it off.

10:26pmThe eliminated designer is … Renee! Holy cow, I didn’t see that coming. I agree Renee had a worse look than Venny, but I thought Renee’s strong track record would have kept her alive, as well as the fact that Renee only ever tripped up on group challenges. Eliminate team challenges, not Renee!

10:27pm — Renee doesn’t think she should have been eliminated, but she understands that on this show you don’t get to have a bad day. She’s absolutely right on both counts, and she’s absolutely a class act. Two weeks in a row when the designer with the worst look on the runway had immunity.

10:29pm — Next week’s challenge is to create a larger-than-life Elton John performance piece — yay, menswear! — and the designers are going to get help from eliminated contestants, including Sonia and Rakan. I hope Kovid is back too. I think he’d love the hell out of a challenge like this.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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