Project Runway Season 9 Finale Recap: And the Winner Is...

It seemed like a bad sign that the Project Runway Season 9 finale started with a visit from Tim Gunn telling the final four designers that they were all getting the “tremendous gift” of $500 to spend at Mood and improve their collections in whatever way they saw fit. Translation: Somewhere in a dimly lit, jasmine-scented office at Marie Claire magazine, Nina Garcia and Michael Kors were still clutching their pearls, torturing their assistants, and hurling verbal venom at the three-piece mini collections the contestants had shown last episode. And that must’ve had the show’s producers throwing a hail-mary pass and hoping at least one contestant would be in the end zone to catch it.

In the end, though, Viktor, Anya, Kimberly, and Joshua can hold their heads high: All four of ’em managed to pull off respectable showings at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and while my favorite (whose name rhymes with Richter) didn’t take home the $100,000 cash prize, I’m not really upset by the end result, either. I just wish the judges had loudly and clearly announced that their guiding criteria had more to do with which finalist could launch a distinct and distinctly commercial brand than whether or not they showed originality, innovation, and a wide range of construction techniques.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the very beginning. No, I don’t mean the beginning-beginning, when Olivier could cut some holes in a dog bed, slip it over a slender woman’s head, and have Nina and Michael clutch hands and titter and squeal “Fashion! Fashion! It’s totally on-trend!” I just mean the beginning of the episode, where we had Kimberly attempting to remake her pink “booty” skirt in black, Anya declaring “I am a Caribbean designer,” and Joshua having a tearful meltdown — probably as a result of looking in the mirror and discovering he’d paired an pink knit tank top with violently gauche aqua boots. The whole first half of the episode — even Tim Gunn’s fly-by critiques — felt oddly perfunctory, although Anya’s trip to Mood marked her return to luxurious print fabrics.

And then — bam! — we had Heidi in sequins, Tim in a state of choked-up-ness, and our Final 4 ready to debut their collections at Lincoln Center. Here are my thoughts on the highlights (and lowlights) of what they showed:

Kimberly: Loved the metallic aqua top and miniskirt; those cream-colored slacks and delicate sheer top; and especially the dramatic, flowing, Anya-esque frock in blue, pink, white, and green print. Not so fond of the half-back blouse, that black sparkly bag top, and the overworked “bubble” skirt. And of the four finalists this season, Kimberly’s overall show seemed the most disjointed. Could Nina be right that Kimberly simply needs more time to develop her craft?

Joshua: I appreciated that Season 9’s most controversial contestant gave us what Heidi correctly called a “gutsy show,” but the whole of his collection wasn’t really as great as the sum of his ambitions. His final look — with its plastic alien-skin collar — looked like a giant hefty bag from the neck down, and made his model’s backside look more sprawling than a suburban outlet mall. His central print was alarming in its tackiness. And that split-thighed lime-green short with the insane crotch actually made me gasp an audible “WTF!” from my living room couch. (Nina’s support of said garment in any scenario should’ve resulted in her immediate ouster from the show.) That said, Joshua’s sheer plastic card-dealer’s vest was undeniably unexpected, and his purple one-shouldered sack dress was draped beautifully.

Viktor: In the judges’ defense, my final note on Viktor’s collection was “two sheer skirts too many?” But while Nina kept calling those frocks a “wasted opportunity,” I still thought that the guy deserved the win for giving us jacket, sundresses, gowns, pants, and coats in a variety of silhouettes and colors (including self-designed prints!) that managed to work together in perfect harmony. The long, narrow blue-print gown was almost as sensational as Mondo’s black-and-white circle dress from last season, the glass-mirror blouses were fun and flirty, and the midnight blue halter-topped dress was sexy without any vulgarity. Plus, Heidi really should buy the white leather jacket with pearl-sleeve detailing and wear it to her next casual red-carpet event.

Anya: Whether or not you agree with her win, there’s no denying Anya is a master at choosing spectacular prints and fashioning them into garments with major-league movement and sex appeal. That opening gown with gold-chain halter and a print that was reminiscent of the sea and sand, was one of the best garments we’ve seen all season, and Anya’s new bathing suit and cover-up were seductively elegant. But like Heidi said, it would’ve been nice to see a sweater or a pant — or anything that didn’t look like a giant bolt of gauzy fabric hastily stitched into a saucy caftan. Plus, to paraphrase MK, not every woman has the luxury of floating around the world in a caftan at all times.

Of course, if the “overcome the odds” edit wasn’t enough to give away the winner, it became abundantly clear when Kors started talking excitedly how he could envision the Anya handbag, the Anya dress, the Anya firstborn to save the planet. And thus, Kimberly got auf’d, Viktor got auf’d, Joshua got a momentary flutter of excitement that Nina really really liked him, and then Anya was declared the winner of Project Runway‘s ninth season.

And just remember, if you’re not 100% thrilled with the result, at least Anya bumped Gretchen’s name off the top row of the Runway Hall of Fame plaque. If that’s not reason enough to pop a printed caftan into your carryon and head to your private jet for an island celebration, I don’t know what is.

(p.s. #ViktorWuzRobbed)

What did you think of the finale? If you disagreed with the Anya win, do you still find it more palatable than last year’s Gretchen-palooza? And what was your favorite outfit of the night? Sound off below. And for all my reality TV news, views, and interviews, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!