With regular "Project Runway" queen Liane Bonin Starr going on hiatus, I'm lucky enough to step in for the show's big finish (although look for a surprise below).  And after a season that was more entertaining than many might have expected (especially considering that host Angela Lindval turned out to be a cold meanie), the final three designers could provide a runway finale for the ages.

(Yeah, that's incredibly optimistic, but considering the disaster "Project Accessory" turned out to be, we're happy we didn't have to go a year without some good "Runway.")

Throughout the season Austin Scarlett has shown he's more than just a master of luxury gowns, fan favorite Mondo Costello (who probably needed another year off before returning to "All-Stars") has seemingly battled fatigue and moodiness to win challenge after challenge (and finally knock off that one-note Kenley Collins) and Michael Costello has once again become the little designer that could.  The show's producers have created an extended two-part finale which was pretty ridiculous considering the designers didn't return home to create their five piece collections. And the not-so surprising surprise was that each designer got to pick an eliminated peer to assist them in creating one more design with one day to go.  And it already means lots of eye rolling from Anthony (assisting Austin), Mila (helping out Mondo) and April (just happy to be helping out Michael in a losing cause after exiting in episode 4). Ah, designers. What would Tim Gunn think?

(By the way, who the hell isn't thrilled Tim and Heidi are coming back this summer with a new "Runway"? Can I get an amen from the internet congregation?).

As this episode starts we find out Mondo really, really, really wants this (tears).  Michael also wants it, but he's already done so he's fine. Austin is ready for a "fashion orgasim."  The trio arrive at Gotham Hall for the runway show. Gotta say it's a very beautiful hall.  No doubt popular with weddings and corporate events (Note to the IFP: Great space, would be better for the Gotham Awards next year).

Mondo starts doing a whole mantra of visualization and winning (eke).  Must be a Colorado thing. Everyone moves back stage and thank god those irons and steamers are there, but where are the assistant designers? Kicked to the curb already?  Mondo starts calling out Austin thinking he's "bitten off too much" as Austin admits he's "frantic" but, hey, that's just Austin.  Michael is having a meltdown because his models have somehow changed their bodies overnight and won't fit into all their clothes (double eke).  Mondo is being indecisive trying to do everything possible to get rid of his rapid fanbase (it's working).  Meanwhile, the judges and pseudo fashion celebrities arrive for the show (basically anyone gay in NY who doesn't work in theater).  Johanna is told by the producers, er, decides to come over and see Austin who is having issues with his dress.  Any advice she might have given is cut.  To be honest, by the time she gets to Michael she looks like she's over this and realizes reality TV ain't as fun as running a daily magazine. Especially when you realize you can't scream at the contestants (although that might have made her more interesting). Johanna then decides to lint roll Mondo who is somewhat unnerved by it.  A Nina Garcia sighting!  To see how the little spin-off show is doing! Boo, just a shot of her in the crowd.

Angela comes out to tell the crowd that it all comes down to "tonight."  (Angela somehow can make everything she says sounds like you are insanely beneath her. Not only that, perhaps even breathing or walking is beneath her.)

Our guest judges are Tommy Hilfiger and Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus (cough, sponsor, cough).

Austin comes out first with a sparkly jacket and says his collection is about a vampire who comes to Brooklyn and sites a Hasidic influence. OK, then.

Outfit one: Like the jacket, hate the pink flare-out pants. And the hair? I know Hasidic styling was one of his influences but that so doesn't work.

Outfit two: Pretty dress. Nice patter. A little Kenley influence?

Outfit three: Pink top with very nice and tight leather skirt. Pink thingy in the back is tacky though.

Outfit four: Not sure this gown is that flattering to the model, but the fabric is gorgeous. 

Outfit five: Slick one piece short pants and top piece (or it looks one piece).  Not sure any lady who doesn't have a 24 inch waist could wear it though.

Outfit six: Could be a wonderful wedding dress if you got rid of the black gloves. Don't love the hairstyling on the model. She looks a little frumpy.

Austin says "This is who I am as an artist." "I feel like an all-star winner now."  Hmmm.  Didn't blow me away.

Liane's thoughts:

"He should stop talking when he can -- the vampire story was all sorts of cray-cray.
I almost liked those weird umbrella pants, but only on a model, I think -- and the second dress was interesting, but that bulge isn't exactly flattering.
The hot pink just popped.
That wedding dress? LOVED IT."

Mondo says he needed some therapy and put his passion into his work which is why it's called..."Therapy."

Outfit one: Knockout.

Outfit Two: Sweet one piece dress, love the print, not sure I like the edges on the pockets. A bit much.

Outfit Three:  Mondo, Mondo, Mondo. In a good way.

Outfit four: Seems like there was a great look in there, but was a bit conservative.

Outfit Five: Love this dress, but looks like something he did on his Runway Season eight, no?  Am I crazy?

Outfit six: Amazing dress. Love that print. Can I buy that for my sister now?

Impressive, but not as flashy as Austin.  Hmmm.

Liane's thoughts:

"Love the Rorshach print dress. LOVE.
Some of the hip pockets were annoying, though -- very little girl Peter Pan looking. Made it useful, yes, but it's not flattering to plop pockets on the hip.
But overall, strong and very cohesive. Much more cohesive in some ways than anyone else's."


Michael's collection is titled "Serengeti."  Be warned.

Outfit one: Um, as Liane would say, this looks like Chicos.

Outfit two: Nice print on the dress. A very conservative cut though.

Outfit three: Nice print, but isn't that the same dress we just saw?

Outfit four: Starting to get bored. This looks like a very South Beach look, but not sure it would pop on Ocean Ave.

Outfit five: Michael channeling Jerell with these flowing print pants. He must love that.

Outfit six: And yes, the Costello elegant drapey dress.  Probably the most impressive of the bunch, but we've seen this before. At the opening ceremony for the Athens Summer Olympics (sorry, truth hurts).

Liane's thoughts:

"Not a single original thought here. This looks like resort wear I could buy at Macy's.
There's no story here.
Wearable, but not original."

All the other designers come back and congratulate. Most of them are probably thinking "Crap, I could have easily beaten these guys."

Nina says it's nice to see them again and how they have evolved and what they have been doing.  Michael is close to tears, very happy with his work. But what will the judges think?

Austin is first up for critic.  Here come his models.

Hilfiger likes a lot of Austin's design, but he thinks its half rock n'roll and half period.  Mizrahi thinks it's a "best of" show, not a true cohesive collection. Overall, they like Austin, but seem to have some reservations about whether it's a collection or not.

Angela says she thought she saw more of Mondo the last two weeks than tonight. It fell short of what he's capable of in her view. Georgina says "I think we expect a lot from him and we set his bar very high." Hilfiger thinks with the right muse he'd be great (just like Austin).

As for Michael, Hilfiger thought it was more cohesive and commercial than the other designers. Mizrahi didn't think they were sophisticated at all (I think he's ready to sock it to Tommy).  Georgina stands up for his draping and Hilfiger thinks his clothes would sell.

As they come up with a final choice, is it about just this night's collections or what they have done before.  Hilfiger stands up for Michael (!).  Lord, this is why you don't put Tommy Hilfiger on as a judge. Good lord. Georgina stands up for ideas. She and Issac may be the only sane ones here.

As for the final decision...

Both runners up get trips to...Paris. Oh, that's nice. So, you don't really lose if you lose, but you still do. More sponsors to plug!

Angela kicks Michael to the curb first, but give him his tickets to Paris.  Michael says he's "hurt" (self delusional), but he's made big strides.

And now the moment...maybe...

And the winner is:

MONDO

YES. FINALLY. 

Mondo breaks down.  Austin does not look happy as Angela gives him his tickets to Paris. "Thank you, this is a wonderful consolation." (Ha). Mondo is euphoric.  But I want Heidi to hug him!  Not Angela!  Where is Tim Gunn?  Tim should hug Mondo!  

Georgina says she's so excited she's going to have a chance to buy his clothes. So, that's right ladies, you can soon buy Mondo's work at Neiman Marcus. Mizrahi says he should enjoy himself. We hope so too!  And then all the other designers come out with Champagne.

Well, what did you think of tonight's show? Should Lifetime bring back "All-Stars" next year? Share your thoughts below.