Episode 9 begins with the men discussing their feelings of dread about unceasing eliminations, and the women cattily agreeing that Dmitry should be eliminated because he's only ever made dresses. This week is the digital fabric challenge, in which the designers have a hour (!) to make a repeating design, and then make it into a look when they get it printed on fabric. This time, in a desperate attempt to recapture the magic when Mondo won this challenge by creating a fabric with a very moving and personal story behind it, the producers add that their looks must be based on their "cultural heritage." This leads into a very cute segment where each designer has either his or her mom or significant other brings them a slideshow of family pictures, I guess to refresh their memories of their heritage. Then they get the evening off to hang out with those family members, so there's time for the printing.
Gunnar bases his design on his personal history of being bullied - it's the most emo print ever, of birds being menaced by skeleton hands. He and Chris bond over bullying stories, and finally bury the hatchet. Chris makes a print based on ladybugs, which have a connection to his grandmother - and he secretly hates Gunnar's print.
Mellisa makes a red vine pattern for the bloodlines of her Polish family, Dmitry makes a red, black, and white geometric design based on traditional Belarusian textiles, and Elena makes a purple-and-yellow scribble that has something to do with her childhood in Ukraine. Fabio also makes scribbles on black, and claims that it shows, uh, genitals. Nobody else can see them, though. Sonjia makes a red, blue, black, and white tribal-ish pattern, and Ven makes very boring dark pink hibiscus flowers.
The high point of the episode is Tim's check-in with the designers. He sees how Ven is using his print - fan-pleating the parts with flowers and cascading them down the front - and says "I see an homage to a menstrual cycle!" Ven is speechless. Tim even calls out to the rest of the room to back him up. This actually makes Ven tear up a little when he recounts it in the interview. I guess if he hadn't already shown himself to be an insensitive boob I might feel bad!
Elena makes a jacket. Fabio makes a vest. They are both safe so sadly we don't get to see how Fabio would explain his print or how the judges would react.
Christopher makes a cocktail dress by covering his print with black organza, because he doesn't like to work with prints. Gunnar makes an Amish band jacket. Ven makes a dress with the same pleating he does over and over - and this was his second dress, since he totally scrapped the one Tim criticized.
Dmitry makes a shirt from his print, which goes with a plain black jacket and skirt, and the jacket has some amazing cutouts to show the print from underneath. Mellisa makes a dress. Sonjia makes pants.
Chris, Gunnar, and Ven are in the bottom. Dmitry, Mellisa, and Sonjia are in the top. The judges like how, even though you can't see much of Dmitry's print, it's still the part of the outfit that makes it special and "phenomenal." They like that Mellisa's dress is very unexpected from her, but feel it needs more edge. Guest judge Mondo like Sonjia's the best - those pants were rather Mondo-like.
They find Chris' to be the most disappointing and wish he had skipped the shrouding layer of organza. Gunnar's is called out to be "not cool, edgy, or modern." But the worst criticism is for Ven - Heidi says it looks like a Hawaiian Airlines hostess outfit, and they finally, finally, finally call him out for doing the pleating he's done over and over and over, and even express amazement that nobody else warned him off of it. In fact, once the designers go back to the waiting room so the judges can deliberate, they summon Tim Gunn to explain how Ven could have come put with the pleating again. So Tim gets to tell the whole hilarious story of the first "maxi pad' dress, since that's the reason he didn't see Ven do the pleats on his eventual look. (And he says he HAS warned Ven about repeating that element so much, in fact - just not for this challenge.) As the judges erupt into belly laughs over the whole thing, you can't help but think this is amazing karmic payback. Ven, a nobody who humiliated his "makeover client" even though there was no reason she had to respect his opinion or design abilities at all, is in turn being utterly humiliated by all of the people whose good opinion he most wants to have right now.
Dmitry is named the winner! For, as he says, NOT A DRESS. Ven and Gunnar are the last two, and this time there is no second (third? fourth?) chance for Gunnar - he is out.
Next week - costumes for the Rockettes? Oh well, at least that's better than costumes for wrestlers.