Episode: Artsy Bunker (Or, Bravo Shows Bad Taste Or Simply Bad Timing)
September 10, 2008
Previously on Top Design: Over 1,832 interior designers crowded our television screens and challenged us to remember their names. At some point, smaller groups designed lofts for three sassy judges and one dull host/judge. At least sixteen people were granted immunity and twelve were up for elimination. In the end, one mob won and two lost. And some guy named Serge was sent home because he kept trying to "break the rules" without knowing the rules.
After the usual "morning after" chatter, in which no one seems to remember the last eliminated designer, the remaining horde of decorators gathers in their airplane hangar of a workspace. In comes noted relative of a famed designer, hostess India Hicks with the pack's newest challenge.
Unlike the previous week's task wherein they had to furnish a large space, this week they will be tasked with designing for a small space ... terrariums. They will each be handed a box turtle, some grass clippings and ...
No. I guess I heard that wrong. We'll let the Bravo AV squad explain it.
Here comes Designing Pixie Mentor Todd Oldham rolling in a '60s-era TV set and a top-loading VCR. He's going to show us an educational film about the dangers of Ho Chi Minh and VD! Yea! We get to nap!
Well, actually it's not about ratting out your pinko neighbors and showering to avoid the clap. The film is about the bomb and how to avoid it by building your very own bomb shelter!
Yes, gentle readers, the designers will be working in pairs to outfit 12x14 "bomb shelters" where, if they had to, they could spend the rest of their lives!
(Now, personally I think of many a reality show contestant I'd like to sentence to living in a bomb shelter for the rest of their lives ... but I haven't really had the time to learn to dislike any from this bunch yet.)
Also, there's this other pesky business. We'll let one of the contestants explain.
Ondine: "The concept freaks me out because we live in a post-9/11 world and it's reality that that could happen."
Did anyone at Bravo realize that this show was airing less than two hours before the 7th anniversary of the 2001 attacks or was this another brave attempt at co-branding? Were they trying to get people to watch the memorial footage on MSNBC the next day the same way they wanted to get Bravo eyeballs to watch the Olympics on Project Runway? And was Rudy Guliani (who has the trademark on 9/11) involved with this decision at any point? Answers. I want answers!
So, let's try to not think about carnage and destruction and have our little decorating fun now, shall we?
After Todd waves his arms comically and India tells the group they'll have a budget of $6,000 we learn that the pairs break down as follows:
- Designer Andrea ("Don't let anyone know I'm married to the guy from Silver Spoons!") will be working with Designer Eddie ("Martha Stewart has me on speed dial. What am I doing here?").
- Designer Ondine ("I worked on Sex In The City. Why am I doing this?) is paired with Designer Preston ("Here for your ogling pleasure!").
- Designer Kerry ("Big is beautiful, darlin'!") joins Designer Shazia ("No, it's OK if I call myself the 'brown' one!").
- Designer Jennifer ("If I hear one more person asking me, 'How's the weather up there?' ...") joins Designer Robert ("OCD is not a personality flaw, it's a requirement in my field.").
- Designer Natalie ("Isn't this the bus to Cancun for Spring Break '08?") will work with Designer Teresa ("I'm on this show! I swear!").
- Designer Nathan ("Why does everyone keep thinking I'm all about Jesus and razor blades?") is matched with Designer Wisit ("Would. You. Like. To. Hear. Me. Sing. La. Tra. Vi. A. Ta?").
We see the "bunkers," which, oddly, are in the next room. They certainly look like fallout shelters. They appear to be last season's "white boxes" posing as shelters. But there's one thing that will make it pretty hard to believe they would work as shelters.
They don't have bathrooms. Or water. Of any kind.
Enjoy the rest of your lives, designers! They'll be short ... and marked by hypotension, dizziness and delirium. Fun!
Eddie and Andrea decide their shelter will be pretty, green and not "disco inferno." See, the inferno will be outside the bunker ...
Ondine and Preston think their small space should be made into two smaller spaces, either because she doesn't want him to see her dressing or because he thinks girls are "icky."
Kerry and Shazia want to make a spa. One of those really exclusive, post-apocalyptic spas that don't use water.
Jennifer and Robert have different approaches to design. Robert wants an idea of what will be in the room before doing anything else. Jennifer would rather just pick wall coverings and let the rest just happen spontaneously. (I believe Goofus and Gallant had this same conflict.)
In between each scene of bickering designers working towards their doom, we hear that same Project Runway gong-like sound. The husband expects Heidi to pop out at any moment with a button-bag and a cheery, "Hello!"
Wisit and Nathan take their planning time and use it to plan their Cape Cod honeymoon. They envision their marital bed and how Wisit will serenade Nathan with diva arias sung in castrato as they make sweet, sweet love.
Natalie and Teresa, meanwhile, want to be sure they fill their small space with every object they can find. This, they will call "Zen." Natalie also shows off why people who actually follow Zen Buddhism are beating the pants off Americans in the economic department.
"If the world was to end," Natalie says, "and I could plan it be cause I was god, it would have to be something stupid like ... the Chinese have built the Transformers to bomb us back because they were pissed about the Hiroshima bomb."
Well, that's what too many tequila shots at Homecoming will do to your brain.
Teresa then tells us she would love to spend the rest of her life trapped in a small room with Natalie. There's all that new history to learn!
The teams run off to two different sponsor stores to do their shopping. There, Shazia declares a coffee table to be "awesome"; Jennifer and Robert declare a three-minute truce; Eddie and Andrea get pissed at Jennifer for stealing their "fucking pillows"; and Wisit and Nathan register for their wedding;
In the second store Shazia reveals that she wants to fill the bunker -- the small, non-ventilated space in which they will need every bit of oxygen to survive -- with lighted votive candles. Kerry foresees himself as a "fat boy on a rotisserie."
In that case, they may want to pick up an apple for his mouth. Hey, he brought it up!
And, again, the contestants themselves are left to do as directed by the producers and call out the time countdown to their colleagues, since Todd will not be "that kind of mentor," thank you very much.
Once everyone gets back and gets to work, Jennifer insists that she and Robert will "make it work." Andrea reminds us that her husband is Ricky Rick Ricky Schroeder. And Wisit and Nathan start picking out names for the daughter they will be adopting from Guatemala.
Oh, and Eddie shows the world that he's a "crack" designer.
Later, the Battle Of Jennifer and the Tiny Boy Canuck continues when she starts to notice that the room is looking like two disjointed spaces and he thinks she's stressing "oot" for no reason.
Finally, the day of the tzujing arrives and we greet the decorators at the Domicile O'Design.
Nathan is worried that he and Wisit have spent too much time picking out gay-friendly IRAs and not enough time on their room. Wisit seems unconcerned, though, focusing on the plants that already decorate their non-bunker sleeping quarters.
"Did. You. Ev. Er. No. Tice. This. Won. Der. Ful. Mag. No. Li. A. In. Our. Room?" he asks, as he applies his morning face lotion.
"I hate it," snaps Nathan.
Well, when you get legal gay marriage, you also get legal gay divorce. So, there's that to look forward to.
Over in the women's sleeping quarters, Girl Canuck Andrea tells Ondine that she's worried "aboot" her bunker, too.
With only two hours left and with everyone scrambling, mentor Todd arrives to give the designers all the advice that they will need. Surely 120 minutes should be enough time to fix a horrible paint choice or select a different sofa.
As it happens, Todd's input is limited to moving from room to room, saying what great choices everyone has made. Well, to be fair, he does suggest to Ondine and Natalie that they each remove one of the 2,000 items they have placed in their bunker so as it doesn't look "overdone."
As for Jennifer and Robert's space, I suppose he judged it best to say as little as possible, only warning that it could end up looking like a "sad dorm room." But since they have all kinds of time to remedy that, it won't happen.
After Todd leaves, Fast Eddie and Andrea have enough time to peek in on everyone else's work. Eddie covers his ass crack with a sweater around his waist and they get a-spyin.' Eddie's conclusion: Jennifer and Robert's room looks like "tribal meets Cape Cod," Teresa and Natalie's looks "fffun" but not "expensive."
Eddie should be a judge on this show. He knows his stuff, is funny and, if he's sitting down the whole time, we won't all be emotionally scarred again.
The designers again do just as they're told and every sixty seconds yell at each other about how many minutes are left until time finally runs out.
Then it's time for the judges' walk-though. And since these spaces are so tiny, with such bad acoustics, we're only going to see two judges in any one room at once.
How They Did
- Kerry & Shazia (Concept: "Clean & Classic Spa"): Yep, it certainly looks like the quiet room at a spa, filled with cool, soothing aquas and browns and many votive candles. It's just the sort of place you'd want to relax as your lungs explode from a lack of oxygen.
- Nathan & Wisit (Concept: "Ed.I.Ted. E.Le.Gance."): The pale pink room looks exactly like what you'd expect out of the bomb shelter in Barbie's Dream House™. The one where Ken™ and G.I. Joe™ go to for their secret rendezvous when Barbie™ and Skipper™ are out at Barbie's My Scene Mall™. When the judges arrive, the two men wow their guests with ribald tales of their sleeping arrangements. Judge Jonathan thinks the pair's relationship is "very modern." He also finds declares the fabric-tented ceiling "awesome" and Judge Kelly's outfit "otherworldly."* (I made up that last one.)
- Natalie & Teresa (Concept: "Zen Den"): If "Zen" means "let's cover every available inch of space with pillows and lamps and bric-a-brac," then, yes, it's very "Zen." The room also has one wall painted bright, '70s-electric green, just the sort of calming color you would want to look at as everyone in the outside world dies a fiery death and you slowly succumb to dehydration.
- Jennifer & Robert (Concept: "Personalized Spaces"): Robbie the Robot says that they wanted to create a "somewhat cohesive building envelope." And I suppose he's right. The elements go together as cohesively as the Chrysler Building and a #10 Envelope. Both Quippy Jonathan and Freaky Kelly can tell that these two could not see eye-to-eye. And it wasn't just because Jennifer is two feet taller than Robert.
- Eddie & Andrea (Concept: "Country Garden"): The room is the clear winner. It's soothing, features a masterful non-Frank Bielec tree mural from Eddie and, with mirrors on both ends, feels much larger than it is. And it has personal touches from the two decorators, including that photo of Andrea and her husband who she doesn't want anyone to know was on N.Y.P.D. Blue.
- Preston & Ondine (Concept: "His & Hers"): It's not the end of the world, so to speak. But it really does feel like a well-appointed dorm room. The many "homey" elements the pair have put in the room (their luggage, shirts, hats, etc.) only serve to play up the dorm-like feel. And the division in the already-small room (a curtain) certainly doesn't help. I mean, if everyone you knew and loved had experienced death from on high, would a little friendly nudity between a straight girl and gay guy be all that bad?
The walk-throughs end and, after the break, the gang march into the Red Warehouse-Of-Doom to learn their fate.
From high atop the set of the Merv Griffin Show, India greets the room dressers and introduces them to the judges, Jonathan ("Still working on his Bravo-mandated catchphrase") Adler, Kelly ("I so do not look like a hooker in Moulin Rouge!") and Margaret ("One more dig at my drinking habits and I'll choke you with my pearls.") Russell.
During the inquisition, we learn ...
- The judges generally liked most all of the rooms.
- Jonathan actually thinks the phrase "j'adorable" will catch on.
- Considering Wisit and Nathan's blossoming (yet disturbing) romance, Bravo must have done away with their no-sexual-contact-between-contestants policy. (After all, if Runway's Daniel and Wesley can ....)
- Kelly thinks that Eddie and Andrea's space was "functional as well as beautiful" (unlike her hat, which is neither).
And the team with the Top Design is ... Eddie and Andrea. Yea! But seriously, was there any other way this would go?
The producers cue the new "victory" music which, with its stop-start guitar line sounds exactly like Madonna's "Don't Tell Me." Does Madge get royalties on this?
Eddie tells us that Andrea is his new BFF and if there is anyone in the world with whom he'd like to spend 50 years in a bunker, it's Andrea. (Because if you're not going to have sex with anyone for the rest of your life, at least you can spend it with someone where you'll both be fantasizing about the same Hollywood star, right?)
Wisit and Nathan are then sent back to the workroom so they can decide who gets to carry whom over the threshold.
Jonathan addresses some woman named Teresa and her mate, the clueless Natalie. He says their room was "full ... maybe too full," but declares them safe anyway. They head back to the workroom so that Natalie can brush up on her history.
Shaz and Kerry's room is called "boring," and the pair is urged to "shock us" the next time. (May I suggest a ridiculous chapeau?) They, too, are safe.
This leaves the teams of Ondine and Preston and Jennifer and Robert.
Jonathan calls Robbifer's Bunker "a total buzz kill." The two designers each blame one other for not being able to work together. Prestine's Bunker gets criticized for trying to tell "too many stories" in the design and looking like, yes, a dorm room.
The designers are sent off so the judges can knock back a few. Once everyone is suitably quipped, the losers are called back.
Jonathan criticizes both teams before India announces the panel's judgment.
"Jennifah, we cannot live with your design. You're going home."
Robert smiles a smug grin.
India makes the obligatory shaming comments to Jonathan for not being able to work with Jennifer. And then ...
"Robert, we cannot live with your design."
The two designers say their goodbyes to their colleagues. Jennifer, an architect by trade, packs her protractors and goes. Without comment, Robert assumedly find his oil can and follows.
Next time on Top Design: It's a muthafuckin' the Project Runway walk-off challenge! The L.A.-based former contestants harass the decorators in a style showdown for the ages! Santino is demanding. Jeffrey is unhappy. And André hates wicker!