Theme: Million Dollar Runway
Guest Judge: Eric Daman
Winning Designer: Kate Pankoke
Out Designer: Kahindo Mateene
Best Judge’s Quote: Nina Garcia: “He walks the line between …” Eric Daman: “… stripper and chic.”
The show kicked off with a couple of menacing armed guards appearing on the runway, and lots of speculation as to what it meant, but I think the designers were actually more intimidated when Heidi appeared carrying the button bag. The models strutted onto the runway adorned in glittering jewels—necklaces, earrings, and bracelets—on loan from the Diamond District. Gorgeous. And valued at nearly $30 million dollars in total! The challenge this week: Design a look that would best showcase the stunning jewelry. Designers chose their models—there were lots of model/designer pairings that changed based as designers picked the jewelry that inspired them most. And they have one day to do it.
After choosing their models and spending some time sketching, the designers headed to Mood, armed with their total $4,000 fabric budget for the entire series at their disposal. I think this new twist with them managing their spend could be interesting. Some designers definitely spent more on lavish fabrics, while others reigned it in and will have more money to blow on later projects—assuming they survive the cuts—but no one went really nuts.
Timothy  lived up to his Most Annoying Designer reputation again this episode. First by announcing, “I’m not inspired by jewelry. I’m not inspired by money. We have to pick the prettiest diamond and I think that that’s very superficial.” Then by eschewing the bolts of fabric lining Mood’s aisles and instead digging through cast-offs and remnants sitting in garbage bags in the back room, self-justified by his “sustainable” designing practices. Oh, Timothy, you are so much better than the rest of us. Not.
The drama begins early once they return to Parsons, with Sandro  taking some digs at Ken  (who we haven’t seen much of yet this season). Justin , as he said he would, conveniently removed his hearing aid to avoid the distraction. Love him. Sandro really does seem to be an overbearing bully and if his behavior wasn’t bad enough on last night’s show, his shirt certainly was.
Back in the workroom, the designers are heads down and, for the most part, seem to be on the right track. Kate ’s design shows immediate promise as she constructs one of her now-signature corsets in a soft blue hue and shows Tim her plans for the soft fabric folds that will make up the rest of the gown. Alexander  doesn’t have kind words for her creation, however, calling it a Vivienne Westwood knockoff and deriding her lack of originality. Bradon  seems to be on track with a slinky silver gown made out of … drapery fabric, and Dom  is working with a gorgeous white and emerald green print that works beautifully with the diamond-and-emerald jewels her model will be wearing. Tim warns her to keep it elegant and not let it go beach muumuu, and she seems to take his notes well.
But not everything is rosy in the workroom. Train-Wreck Timothy shows Tim his bargain-bin creation, which consists of some heavy blue velvet gathered at the waist, a white chiffon top, and a rectangular swatch of velvet slapped on the chest to cover the breast area. WTF? Following his critique with Tim, he seems more confused than ever and shuffles around the workroom asking different designers for help.
Helen , despite bragging that she had this challenge in the bag, seems to be struggling as well. Her colors are dismal and her design is far too ambitious to be achieved in the limited time they have. Despite counseling from Tim to simplify her design and focus, focus, focus, Helen sticks to her guns and insists, “I think I’m going to blow his mind, like hardcore.” Hmmm.
Kahindo  is struggling as well. The graphic silk charmeuse print she picked up at Mood is causing her problems—she can’t figure out how to handle the print or the fabric, having never sewn charmeuse before. When Tim stops by for consultation and notices the puckering around the keyhole shape she’s constructed for the back of the bodice, he suggests she change directions and ad a layer of dark green chiffon to tone down the print and hide some of the construction flaws. Silly Tim. Don’t you know you can’t hide flaws on the runway? Especially not with the close-up look the judges are taking this season.
It wouldn’t be Project Runway without some eleventh-hour meltdowns. Sue  rips everyone a new one when she can’t figure out how to rethread a machine. (Dom graciously helps her.) Helen is near hysteria when she realizes what a total disaster her dress is. Sandro, freaking out because he can’t figure out how to work the steamer, slams all the other designers for not taking time out of their runway prep to help him and then physically DRAGS one of the show’s production assistants into the workroom to help him.
Then it’s time for the runway. This week’s guest judge is Emmy Award-winning costume designer Eric Daman, known for his work on TV shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. Heidi, after going through the long list of prizes, introduces regular series judges Nina Garcia and Zac Posen, and we’re ready for the show to begin. Here are the top and bottom looks of the evening and a bit about the designers who made them:
Designer: Dom Streater
We didn’t see much about 24-year-old Dom last show so it was nice to get to know her a bit more in this episode. While the judges gave her a hard time for the matchy-matchy headband she put on her model’s head, overall they were very pleased with this look. It was a beautifully draped gown that looked young and fresh and looked like it could actually be worn. Heidi loved the gown, and in my opinion, she would rock this look.
Designer: Sandro Masmanidi 
I’m a bit conflicted about Sandro’s look, a super-tight, super-vampy bustier/skirt combo. I like some of the graphic lines and the way the neckline frames the jewels, but thought he went a bit overboard with some of the black lace embellishing and the poor model could barely walk. Zac wasn’t sold on the see-through lace panels on the side—he said it made the look a bit “trashy” but said the just-right amount of midriff showing through saved it. Sandro, a Russian immigrant with a red-hot temper and an opinion on everything, disappointed in Episode 1 with his overly revealing parachute fabric bathing suit. But he seemed to redeem himself a bit with this sexy neutral number that was a nice complement to his ruby-and-diamond jewels.
Designer: Kate Pankoke
Kate, returning from season 11 for a second chance, showed why she was worth bringing back with this gorgeous, voluminous gown. It made such a statement on the runway and Kate’s whole “Marie Antoinette fleeing Versailles” inspiration painted a pretty picture. She sold it with the hair and makeup choices she made as well. This one definitely deserved to take home the top prize this week and it’s nice to see Kate keeping her nose clean in the runway and putting her energy toward creating great work, not problems with the other designers.
The bottom looks this week included two total disasters and one that was just plain blah. Here are the three that ended up in the bottom. Designers Timothy Westbrook  (again), Helen Castillo  (showing you both back and front of her horrible look), and Kahindo Mateene  delivered the worst looks of the evening. But as bad as the looks were, Helen’s emotional meltdown that caused Heidi to stop the runway show while Tim ran over to calm her down was definitely worse. At least we got to see a semi-sweet side of Sandro who consoled Helen while she sobbed and stood up for her on the runway when she tried to save herself by expressing her undying passion for design. In the end, it was Kahindo who was out. I can’t believe Timothy skated through again, although it does appear that the judges are going with looks that while crappy, also display some creativity, over ones that are just safe and boring. The look of surprise on the other designer’s faces when Timothy entered the green room and announced he was safe was priceless.
To see all the looks, view behind-the-scenes videos, and learn more about the designers visit Lifetime's Project Runway  hub.