HGTV Design Star: And Then There Were Two

I wondered for a hot second if this week’s episode of HGTV Design Star would end in a Gladiator-style duel to the death. After all, returning judge Candice Olson (who’s been sorely missed all these weeks) seemed to be setting up a swords-and-sandals scenario when she asked our two finalists to turn toward each other, then declared the only thing standing between them and their own TV show was the person standing in front of ’em.

Thankfully, Meg didn’t pull a shank on Karl, nor did Karl try to garrote Meg. Maybe the two of ’em were simply reeling from the shock of seeing Mark and His Strategically Bared Biceps of Doom take a lonely, unexpected walk back to obscurity.

At this point in the Design Star season, any strong opinions I had about who should take home the ultimate prize have been sanded down, rolled onto a clear plastic tarp, and hurled into the dumpster — honestly, Karl, Meg, and Mark are/were all totally fine — but here’s few observations that went through my head during the telecast:

* When Meg kicked off the episode by announcing “In. Walks. Tanika.” was anyone reminded of the female voice declaring “Oh. My. God. Becky.” at the start of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”?

* Are tiny houses — which range anywhere from 65 to 135 square feet — really “part of a hot new movement of people living simply” or is Tanika Ray the world’s most casual liar?

* Anyone else get the impression carpenter Carmen De La Paz wanted to take a hammer to Mark’s ’70s pornstar head when he changed the design of his tiny house on three separate occasions? “When it felt right, he made the decision and we were good,” she said through teeth gritted into the tightest of smiles.

* Was it crazy squelchy in that Battery Park bog where the tiny houses were located, or did Karl, Mark, and Tanika all read the same article about the rise of rubber boots for Summer 2011?

* I really liked Karl and Meg’s finished projects this week, even if neither of them were particularly daring. Mark’s “argyle installation,” however, seemed like a colossal waste of $200 (and the 63 belts it purchased). Like Candice said, the end result actually made his cramped room look even smaller — even if his on-camera stretch-out at the end of his walk-through was the smoothest, sexiest moment of the entire telecast.

* Was Mark’s bedspread the same one (or quite similar to the one) that Cathy purchased for her Jersey shore B&B, or is my design eye in need of some new lenses?

* Thank you Vern for noting how much thought went into Karl’s selection of home furnishings with multiple purposes. In a challenge focused on maximizing space, dude definitely earned himself a spot in the finale by using both halves of his brain in his design.

What did you think of this week’s Design Star? Did the right person go home? And based on the season to date, which contestant deserves to win next week’s season finale: Meg or Karl? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!