So, I guess "Project Runway" has been around so long (this is the 11th season) that the show has to start throwing gimmicks against the wall to see what sticks. This season? It's teams! Not just for one challenge, but to the very end! I can't see this creating a lot of good design. Traditionally, we get plenty of squabbling and whining and mish-mashy looks that suggest no one wanted to waste their really good ideas on an outfit when they're only getting half the credit. I'm sure someone thought this would be good reality TV drama. The problem is, I think most people watch this show because they really like design and they're interested in the process. If we just wanted fighting, we'd be watching "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."

Oooh, there will only be one winner!  But everyone has to make it work. And that's why Tim Gunn says it's his favorite season ever! Really? Because I am not feeling that at all. I realize you have to be able to compromise when you work for a label like Liz Claiborne, but I don't want every challenge to feel like it's going to end up at the mall. Does Alber Elbaz buckle to someone else's orders? Does Miuccia Prada ask someone if she should make a really wacky skirt this week? Well, maybe. But I'm more interested in the designers having more room to test themselves instead of less. 

Layana Aguilar, 28, is originally from Brazil. She's freaking out! She can't wait! Richard Hallmarq (yes, with a Q, that isn't a typo) is from Sacramento, the other fashion capital. He likes to push the envelope, which means his menswear is like drag wear. Thus, he designs clothing for women. Hopefully not women who look like men. 

Kate Pankoke, 23, is a type A personality. She's a lone wolf, but as a bridal designer she has to… not work well with others, but delegate. I see Kate going home quickly or killing someone. 

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, 34, has cool arm tattoos. She designs geek chic for a vivacious woman who could recite a periodic table of the elements. How cute.

Daniel Esquivel, 48, has never been to New York before. He has very unfortunate facial hair AND he's never been to New York before? He is self-taught and feels it's never too late to pursue a dream! We'll see, Daniel.

James Martinez, 29, seems nice. Emily Pollard, 24, is used to not sleeping. And she's gonna win, she says in a tiny voice. Benjamin Mach, 35, is from Sydney, Australia but he's living in London. He is very tall and likes faded glamor.

Cindy Marlatt, 59, is a funeral director. She looks like someone's grandma but her clothes look pretty sexy. I'm keeping an eye on Cindy. "Project Runway" would not bring on someone who has no sense of style. 

We don't meet everyone. That's fine, I guess. Do the designers even get to pick their partners? Heidi reveals the twist. Eyes bug. Samantha Black, 28, is not a team player! Daniel is thrilled, though. He works well with others. Maybe they can advise him to dye the mustache. I know the Snidely Whiplasj thing is trendy, but when you're grey? You just look old. 

The designers are divided into two teams. Snap judgments are made! Cindy is widely seen as an fusty old lady. I hope she surprises all of us. 

They have to make a garment inspired by New York using the input of each designer's teammates. "We want to see who you are as an individual; you just have to do that in a team setting." So, it's an individual challenge, but with talking! 

The designers go to the roof of the Atlas. They drink champagne. Hey, they've already gotten their twist and their challenge, so they can actually relax! Slightly! Then, it's time for a boat cruise to see New York from a safe distance! 

Richard's team is  called Keeping It Real. Stanley Hudson, 44, does wardrobe for film and television. His point of view is bringing couture to ready-to-wear. I like the way Stanley thinks.

Dream Team is the other team. Michelle says it's a big warm hug… so far. 

Patricia Michaels, 46, is Native American. I wish she'd use her native name, Water Lily. That's awfully cool. Then she wigs everyone out by doing some kind of native singing. 

There's a lot of fawning over New York City. I'm waiting for someone to squeal, "Oh my GOD! I saw a rat! It's so CUTE!" Because they're just that happy to be in the Big Apple. 

Amanda Valentine, 31, knew she'd be friends with Michelle. Of course she'd be friends with the girl with bones in her ears! Why? Amanda looks like she just walked out of a sorority house. 

They pile into the work room and the designers are so excited! Tim Gunn walks in, and they're so excited! There's a Lord & Taylor accessory wall and they're so excited! I am exhausted by these people. They're going to Mood! They have $1,200 per team, which is $150 per designer, and they're so excited! 

Time for sketching. And talking to one another. Here we go! 

Kate feels like she's going to be babysitting. I'm not so sure she is. I think she probably wants to babysit, as in control the situation and force everyone to eat the vegetables she wants them to eat. Again, I think Kate is going to go home early or kill someone. 

Lots of sewing. 

Tim returns to check in! First up, Dream Team! He's looking for the designers to give one another good, thoughtful feedback, and he's on deck to moderate, participate and to facilitate. 

Michelle is first. Tim is wowed! Cindy is making pants with a skirt, but her team thinks she should just make it a dress. I think she should burn it. WOW, it's ugly. Tim suggests James go with something more volume on top. Tim thinks Emily has too much going on. But Tim is really impressed with everyone as individuals and as a group.

Kate's up first. She likes her dress with sleeves. Her teammates don't. Tim agrees with the teammates. Kate doesn't give a bleep what they have to say! But she'll do it if Tim wants her to. And he does. Tim is frowning. But he says it's all very compelling. 

Model fittings. And guess what? Emily, who is sure she will win, is nowhere close to having anything done. And it's the end of the day. Uh-oh. 

Cindy suggests she won't help Emily while she's talking to her roomies, but in the workroom, she caves and offers to put together a skirt for her. Emily is grateful, but I think Cindy is looking at the big picture. Emily could sink their team, and there's no reason to start at the bottom. 

L'Oreal hair and make-up, plug, plug, plug. 

Time for the first runway show of season 11!

Heidi reveals that the winner will get tons of stuff, including a Lexus. Time to meet the judges! Designer Zac Posen, Nina Garcia and guest judge/"Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano. I have to say, it may be time for Christian to do something about the hair. 

 

Team Keeping It Real

 

Stanley Hudson

This is a great sleeveless jumpsuit, but I detect some sewing issues. This fabric is beautiful but really unforgiving. 

 

Kate Pankoke

This is… okay. The stringy little bodice detail isn't doing anything for me. 

 

Richard Hallmarq

I dig this, but it could be a smidge shorter.

 

Patricia Michaels

You know, this doesn't look craft project-y to me at all. It's very cute and wearable. Like the touch of blue.

 

Amanda Valentine

This isn't bad, but the shirt isn't much of anything at all. An asymmetrical hemline does not a fashion statement make.

 

Layana Aguilar

The front is nice LBD, but the back is kind of trashy with the lacing. She's a girl, not a hooker boot.

 

Joseph Aaron Segal

Too much is going on in this. I like pleating, but this looks like a napkin that's gone insane. Again, this mid-calf length thing is totally unflattering.

 

Daniel Esquivel

I take it back about Daniel. This is impressive, especially given he had to make it in one day. Nice take on the peplum trend. Michelle can suck it. This is so not 30 years ago, and if it is, it's back in style.

 

Dream Team

 

Matthew Arthur

Hey, chickie, get me another helping of dem der tater tots! 

 

Samantha Black

I like this. Simple, but well-executed.

 

Tu Suthiwat Nakchat

The jacket is actually very well-made, but I do not like this bare midriff thing. Love the white and black, though, and if it was over a little shift, I'd LOVE it. 

 

Jame Martinez

Well, it's ready for the mall, I guess.

 

Emily Pollard

You know, I get the impression the original idea was pretty great. But yes, this is a stapled-together horrible hot mess. 

 

Benjamin Mach

The shoulder brooch/detail is overkill. But the rest of the dress is interesting. 

 

Cindy Marlatt

I have to say, I am really questioning Cindy's taste level. A lot. It looks like the model robbed a Bob's Big Boy.

 

Michelle Lesniak Franklin

I guess this would be nice if you were casting "The Hunger Games." But to wear? It looks like upholstery. For a tent.

The winning team is… Team Keeping It Real. Time to talk to the top three designers, then the bottom three. The top designers are… Daniel, Richard and Patricia.

Heidi tells Daniel his suit looks super chic and super expensive. Zac thinks it looks beautifully made. Nina thinks it could be done in many colors. Christian loves the neckline. 

Nina thinks Richard's outfit looks very urban. Zac thinks the asymmetry is very flattering. Heidi thinks it's a great basic, but it's not shlumpy. Christian liked that it was so different. 

Patricia talks about hand printing fabric. And talks. And talks. Okay, we get it, it's a dress. Heidi tells her nicely to shut up. She thinks the dress speaks for itself. Christian likes the little cityscapes, and Zac loves that it's tactile, though she needs to bring that quality into the shape of the dress. But Nina likes the fact it's simple so you can focus on the tactile quality. 

Dream Team is on the block. James, Cindy and Emily are at the bottom. 

James tells the judges he loves color blocking, but his team thought he needed more detail. So, it's all their fault. Zac declares it pedestrian. Nina is uninspired. 

Emily tries to explain herself. Heidi thinks it looks nike her 8-year-old daughter made it. Christian would have liked to see the sculptural idea. Nina thinks it's the most unfinished garment to walk down the runway. Zac gets it, but her craft isn't ready to go. 

Heidi hates Cindy's dress. I do, too. Nina thinks it's not urban. Christian is glad she made a gown, but it has no designer quality to it. Zac doesn't get it.

The judges talk. I think Emily is going home, but it's hard to know. Emily made a mess, but they appreciate the fact she has a vision. 

Daniel… is the winner. He's weepy. I bet Michelle wants to throttle him. Richard and Patricia are in.

James… is in. Cindy… is in. Emily is out. 

Emily is sad. She didn't get to show the judges what she could do. Well, she did, but what she showed them was a hot mess. Tim sends her to the workroom to clean up her space. Waaah-waah. 

The promo for the season includes Europe, insults, crying, men ripping off their shirts, and a duck. Okay. Bring it on, "Project Runway." Bring. It. On.

 

Do you think Emily should have gone home, or did Cindy suck more? Did you love Daniel's suit? What do you think of the team challenge format?