Project Runway is down to the final five, and this week's challenge is to be the last elimination before the final shows at Fashion Week. Heidi compares this to a "sausage dangling right in front of your nose - or is it a carrot?" So the editors spend all episode throwing out possible leads as to who is going to fall short fail by overreaching (Justin has never won a challenge!) or by lack of urgency (Bradon doesn't sketch before the trip to Mood!) or by collapsing under stress (Alexandria makes a tearful call home!)
The challenge this time is to be inspired by butterflies, for which they get to spend a little time in a butterfly house to observe many species of them together. We are treated to an adorable shot of Justin watching a butterfly, unaware another one is perched on his hat. It's also another product placement challenge - this time, the makeup one, so we get plenty of screentime of the consulting makeup artists painting the models' faces and nails. And on top of butterflies and makeup, their looks should be avant-garde. Since it's the last time they have to use their prepaid cards, the designers all go wild at Mood and spend around $1000 apiece on many, many different expensive fabrics.
Most of the first working day is spent in making black velvet piping (by Justin) and white silk "noodles" (by Bradon). When Tim visits, he urges Dom to not be timid in her print combinations, Alexandria to leave the extra flaps along the side seam unfinished, and Justin to use a less inexpensive fabric. He likes where Bradon is going, but doesn't get the noodles. As Bradon tries different noodle placements out, however, Tim starts believing in it. Helen's look, however, Tim is having none of. Helen has her usual crying breakdown, resulting in an awesome pep talk from Tim - he literally stands in front of her, clapping, yelling "Come to! Right now! Rally! Rally!" Dom also has to continue to try to buoy her along, as does Helen's own model.
The next day, they come to the workroom to find all of the losing looks from each previous challenge lined up. It turns out they'll get one more day to work, but have to make a second look - a transformation of one of these losers. It's a completely separate challenge though - it doesn't have to "go" with the avant-garde look, nor does it need to fulfill the constraints of the original challenge (like being for a "modern Southern woman" or whatever). From what I saw, they don't get another trip to Mood, but it also looks like - and if they mentioned this explicitly I missed it - they also get any leftover fabric that was bought by the eliminated designer for that look.
Anyhow, Dom chooses to redo Jeremy's red blazer and print dress from the Belk challenge, since the colors are good. Alexandria is tackling Miranda's red plaid pants from the shoe episode, since she really wants to remake those pants. Bradon takes a risk by taking on Sue's "unconventional materials" placemat dress. Helen selects Kate's gown from the last challenge. And finally, in a teary moment, Justin picks his own look, for which he would have been eliminated in the glamping challenge had Tim Gunn not used his save.
Work continues, and then we got the inevitable long montage of makeup sequences, so I blacked out a little bit. On to the runway!
Dom's avant-garde look, inspired by the cross-breeding of the captive butterflies, mixes multiple exuberant prints in a full-skirted jacket over a jumpsuit. Helen doesn't feel so great about her orange gown with diagonal rows of raw-edged chiffon. Alexandria's is like a messier goth version of that. Justin's outfit has an A-line black jacket over his white dress shaped with waves and swooshes of piping all over. Bradon's all-white look is also swooshy all over, with the addition of the "noodles" accenting the movement.
For the reinvention looks, Dom changed the blazer into a vest, the dress into a top, and added a black skirt. Alexandria made the plaid pants fit like a glove, with leather accents, and provided a new top and painted vest. Helen turned the dress into essentially the same cut as she did last time - super high-waisted skirt, cutoff shirt. Justin makes his foamy failure into a very serviceable cocktail dress. Bradon reimagines his chosen garment in the same silhouette, but (faux?) leather instead of placemats, with the placemats contained to just a half-peplum.
The judges respond well to both of Justin's looks. Nina crows that his avant-garde is his best work all season. Similarly for Dom's output - and they're even more blown away when the model takes the coat off, and reveals the jumpsuit underneath. Bradon also gets praise overall, especially for the fact that his avant-garde look is interesting from all angles.
The reaction is more mixed for the other two. For Helen, Heidi likes the gown but not the reworked look, but the rest of the judges feel the opposite. The orange gown is compared to "a carrot in a grater." They don't have much to say about Alexandria's gown, but they feel that though her new plaid pants are "smoking hot," the styling pushes the overall look too far into "punk costume" territory. Zac says that neither of her looks were transporting.
Now we get the inevitable lineup where they ask each designer which other two designers they think should go to fashion week. Justin and Helen both pick Bradon and Dom. Dom picks Helen and Justin. Bradon and Alexandria pick Justin and Dom. So everyone picked Dom and nobody picked Alexandria - a fact Nina points to when deliberating who to eliminate, even though Heidi is trying to save her.
Bradon is named the winner! Dom is also through to the finals. That leaves the last three. The judges end up with a hung jury - EVERYONE will go though, nobody is eliminated today, all five get to create collections, and only just before the final runway show (and another challenge) will they decide for really-real.