And sew it goes.
The Challenge: The finalists are given six weeks and $9,000 to make 10-piece fashion collections and are banished from New York City to complete the task.
The Frequent Flier Workroom Visits: Tim Gunn makes his much-anticipated visits to four far-flung hometowns. He must be pinching himself that Andy South hails from Hawaii and Michael Costello cribs in Palm Springs, Calif.
South grew up on a rural farm where he helped his first-generation Laotian immigrant parents raise Chinese catfish. This explains the scaly quality of his garments. Gunn is freaked out when South asks him to pet the creatures. It's campy good fun, but not as hilarious as Gunn's awkward antics on the family trampoline during his season 7 visit to Seth Aaron Henderson's house.
Gunn wants Costello to "edit, edit, edit" his 18 frocks, but we're much more interested in his personal drama. Costello reveals he was married to a woman (presumably the mother of his son, Giovani), but that in 2007 his partner, Richard, "outed" him to his conservative family. His parents don't buy into his fashion aspirations or his lifestyle. This explains his poignant bonding with the equally isolated Mondo Guerra.
Gretchen Jones has her own domestic drama: She's come home to a busted relationship, an empty bank account, and has to move. No wonder Miss Bossy Boots needs a hug from Papa Gunn. Too bad he's worried her in-progress collection is "granola" because judge Heidi Klum hates "crunchy" stuff.
Guerra has pulled at our heartstrings as he revealed the isolation of growing up in a Mexican Catholic family in Denver who didn't accept his homosexuality or creativity. At lunch with his parents he tells a bittersweet tale of playing Little League shortstop so he could take piano lessons. His parents, however, seem sweet, and Guerra's partner, Ben, is at the lunch as well. So we see progress. Guerra's designs, meanwhile, scream "Flintstones" and Gunn cautions about going "too costume."
The Final Challenge: Back in New York City, the designers get two days and $300 to complete a final look.
The Runway Show: The critiques are brutal as the judges vent that no one has shown their best work. Guerra is chastised by Nina Garcia for going "circus." They snipe that Jones should have shod her models in Birkenstocks because her looks are so hippie casual. South gets ripped for saying he "saved his favorites" for the real runway. Costello gets a lashing for sending copper-hued fall bridesmaids -- not fashion models -- down the catwalk.
Who's In: Guerra and South -- exactly as StyleList predicted-- and say-it-isn't-sew Miss Bossy Boots Jones make the cut.
Who's Out: Costello breaks StyleList's heart by collapsing upon hearing that his collection is not "enticing" enough for New York Fashion Week. He slumps to the floor, punches the wall, and can't be consoled by the weepy chosen ones backstage. He wails that his family will never accept him and he will have to go home and marry a woman. Even the shoulders of Papa Gunn can't seem to comfort him.
What StyleList Thought: We're happy to report that Costello did get to show his collection at the "PR" finale decoy show during New York Fashion Week.
Having seen his collection and that of rival Jones, we think the judges could have called it either way. Costello's pieces were red carpet worthy, but his collection lacked true day looks and color diversity. Jones's apparel was refined but boring.
Costello had a skip in his step as he walked the runway holding his models' hands, shouted out to his partner, and flashed his impish grin.
Meanwhile, read our one-on-one interview with Guerra about his revelation that he's HIV positive.
And on a lighter note, click here to see some adorable kiddies reenact an episode of the show.