In my notes about this week’s episode of Project Runway, I wrote the sentence “Elaine Welteroth wearing a mirrorball phoenix gown looking through opera glasses on the Vessel at dawn” like I was just free-associating the most extra things I could think of. I really want to be on Eccentric Family Feud where that’s one of the category answers (Eccentric Family Feud is like regular Family Feud except the contestants are the Wingfields from The Glass Menagerie and the dinosaurs from Dinosaurs. It’s hosted by George and Martha’s son from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And all of the answers are about Elaine Welteroth in evening wear at dawn staring through some damn opera glasses and simultaneously slaying me and bringing me to life.)

This week, the designers have to make an avant garde look, which they showcase in a mini-collection with some of their previous designs. Instead of the regular runway, all of this happens at The Vessel and, despite the delightful optics of Elaine, Karlie, and Mrs. Maisel staring across a city block through opera glasses, I do have some general reservations about this concept. Like… what is going on with The Vessel? Every time I ride by it I get nervous that aliens have landed and somehow I missed the day we were talking about it on Twitter.

The Vessel at Hudson Yards in New York City

Gary HershornGetty Images

The Vessel is very pretty but, also, I don’t think we are fully prepared for it to reveal what it really wants from us. It’s all beautiful views and opera glasses until it becomes sentient and demands an audience with Amy Adams from Arrival. I’m just saying. It’s also funny to me how beguiled we all are by The Vessel which, sources say, is just stairs. They took everyone’s favorite part of a building—long staircases that go nowhere—and made a whole other building out of it. Genius. It’s like MC Escher was asked to describe a bee hive from memory. When you think about it, a lot of our public monuments and tourist attractions are really just large staircases, artfully arranged. Are we being bamboozled into better cardio with the promise of “nice views?” Find out on the next episode of Eccentric Family Feud.

Honestly, I could talk about The Vessel all day long. I think it would be hilarious if I spent 12 weeks recapping Project Runway only to reveal that that it was all a long lead-up to my true goal which was to muse about an abstract statue in Hudson Yards. This entire series is just Vessel sponcon. It’s not so far-fetched. The Vessel works in mysterious ways; those staircases go everywhere and nowhere at once. Anyway, let’s do some superlatives as The Vessel powers up in the background (I’m sure it’s fine).

Most Stairs

Because the runway happens at The Vessel, the models have to take a huge glass elevator all the way up and then walk down the stairs to show off the designs! In stilettos! At dawn! It looks amazing but if I were them I’d definitely be calling HR. One of the models has to walk the entire Vessel in 20 pounds of chainmail! Another has to walk it wrapped in latex! In the middle of the summer in New York City! Honey, I’d take one step and then pull out my phone and start composing an email on the spot. “Hi Diane, it’s me again. Listen, this is going to sound weird but I am at The Vessel…”

Most Stares

The judges, plus Christian and Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, are positioned across The Vessel to give them the most dramatic view of the show but it makes it slightly difficult to see details of the designs, hence the opera glasses, which are both beautiful eccentricities and practical attributes. Like the stairs of The Vessel itself! I’m going to crack this code eventually, I swear I am.



Today in Victoria-isms

During his critique in the workroom, Christian tries to impress upon Victoria how important this challenge is as it will determine who the final four will be. He mentions how two designers will be cut. Victoria doesn’t even want to talk about it, interrupting him abruptly. “I am not going home; don’t even say this word in front of me!” which is also how I respond to my server when they tell me bottomless brunch ended at 3 pm and it’s now 6 pm and can I maybe go someplace else? The Vessel perhaps? Anyway, Victoria is correct: she does not go home and earns a place in the final four!



Least Getting On My Nerves

You know what, I’m just going to let Sergio be Sergio. I am powerless against whatever it going on there, much like I am powerless against The Vessel. At one point in this episode he delivers yet another of his blithe bon mots about how great he is and I barely even noticed. Is this progress? It’s something! “I always set a really high bar for everyone,” he says, “and I feel like I push all of the other designers.” I mean… sure. Maybe. I will say his technical skill is truly stunning, as showcased by this week’s design: a huge taupe skirt with a high-collared, horned bodice. But his perspective remains so peculiar. For instance, this week he decides that his design is a reference to female samurais and is a testament to the fact that women can do anything men can do. And to show that he… puts his model in geisha makeup? Nope, I cannot engage with this. The category is Least Getting On My Nerves and I have to stay strong. Anyway, he gets into the final four but Nina warns that she wants him to stop referencing other designers (the styling was reminiscent of Galliano and McQueen shows, something Sergio seems to not know or not acknowledge he knows.)



Most Slick

Geoffrey returns to his design roots by making an all-latex design, including latex panties with a padded hip, a flowing latex train, and a structured latex top with huge shoulders. He tells his model, Thijin, that to get latex to shine you smear it with water-based lubricant. Thijin remarks that she has never seen lube before so Geoffrey sings her a song with the lyrics “can’t have sex without it!” Everything is educational and strange and confusing and horny and I love it. Geoffrey eventually joins the final four as well. He is, as expected, a Vessel of emotions about it.



Most Romantic

OMG, Nancy and her husband met on a golf dating site and I have never swooned harder whilst being deeply confused. What is the primary objective of this site? Is it for golfers who want to meet other singles or it is for singles whose only interest is golf (and, I guess, eventually pivoting to fashion)? I need to visit this site! Do they talk only of golf and eventually realize that love has emerged? Do they use golf puns unabashedly, away from the judgement of non-golfies? Are there other such sites? I would like to go on a Vessel dating site. Golf-loving Nancy creates a tornado of horsehair for her look and earns herself a place in the final four. As they say on the dating sites: final fore! (I presume!)

Elaine Welteroth Pop Culture Reference of the Week

Brittany creates a hot pink, ruched coat that the judges love from across The Vessel but aren’t as enamored with up close. Elaine dubs it a “full-on Monet” pulling a Clueless reference out of the air like pro she is! I just want an hour-long show of Elaine in evening wear at dawn, looking fierce, and chatting about things she saw on TV once a couple years ago.

Ultimately, the judges all share Elaine’s assessment of Brittany’s design. They don’t agree with Elaine, however, when she advocates hard for Marquise to make it to the final four. She and Karlie argue that his skill in menswear with give the show a final runway like it has never had before. That vision, like finding the end of the stairs on The Vessel, is not to be as Marquise and Brittany are sent home. They should be incredibly proud of the work they did and I’m excited to see what comes next for them. And I’m excited to see what comes next for me as I continue to walk around The Vessel looking for an exit! See you next week (if The Vessel allows it)!

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