CALLING A SUEDE a Suede: a surprisingly but nonetheless annoying low count of 8.
Guest Judge Usefulness-O-Meter: 3. Really, Sandra; we expected much more of you.

“Inspiration.” “Innovation.” Words that are tossed about on “Project Runway” like a cheap cocktail dress shedding feathers. I don’t think it’s right to ask of the designers something the producers don’t ask of themselves.

Like, come up with a new challenge for this season. Just ONE. I mean, they’re styling wigs for women with alopecia over on “Shear Genius,” for cryin’ out loud.

So, morning at the Atlas. There is fake bemoaning of Wesley‘s aufing; there is a wonderful dance of awakening by Terri. Then there is …

Suede won the last challenge, so Suede gets first pick of the mannequins. “Suede loves Whozits. Suede can never change. Suede …” oh, forget it.

Tim Gunn is taking the designers out for a “night on the town.” Dancing! Drinking! Harming oneself in a futile attempt to impress a hot young fellow contestant! Slutty models rump-shaking in the faces of predatory gossip-masters!

Oh, sorry — that was Season One. Instead, the designers don ponchos and rain boots (because … they aren’t allowed to wear their own rain-repelling outwear? They are, to a man, too shortsighted to have brought any?) and are herded onto a double-decker sightseeing bus, the better to view NYC with fresh, touristy eyes. Stella, who looks almost pretty with a ring of eyeliner and lots of spiky mascara, drawls that she’s never seen her home city from that point of view. I think that’s a good attitude. She’s fallen right off my Hate Scale. There’s only so much room.

They’re dumped off in groups at four spots — Columbus Circle, Times Square, the New York Public Library, Greenwich Village — given cameras and asked to take pictures that will inspire their designs — coughSeasonTwocough — and may choose one photograph to use as muse. Stella can’t work her camera. Ha! She’s old like me. Blayne‘s all, “Uncover the lens, here.”

Blayne, Cirque du Soleil called; they think the dress is too over-the-top. It’s a black jersey long-sleeved two-piece with an uneven hem, the last resort of designer cowards, and a bunch of big top-colored ruffles pasted randomly up one side.

Keith took his intriguing inspiration — a magazine that had been rained on, stepped on and otherwise janked up — and cut up a bunch of fabric scraps into what Michael Kors rightly described as a toilet-paper dress. There’s altogether too much white.

Daniel has made quite a pretty frock in a greenish satin that’s way too shiny. It’s one-shouldered with half of a black sleeveless bustier over the left boob. The green fabric flares into an uneven peplum and it’s belted niftily. A solid middle-of-the-pack effort.

Something has gone horribly wrong with Emily‘s one-shouldered black satin mini; it’s sprouted a revolting, model-devouring tumor in internal-organ pinks and oranges. The parasite has already consumed the model’s bust and is creeping ominously crotchward.

Jerell‘s crazy cha-cha dress has a lot less fabric or support at the bust than it needs, but he worked his skinny ass of making yards of greenish ruffles, and the way the ruffles angle down off the hip is lovely. Not wearable for, like, shopping, but it’s OK.

Joe makes pretty designs — well, one pretty design. They’re always well-executed but they’re always a very short skirt with a bustier top. This one has black netting over the back of the black skirt, black strappy-thingies on the gold bodice and some business around the neck that implies the model’s going to be attached to a white carriage and asked to trot newlyweds around Central Park. He’s starting to bore me.

Kelli … I dunno. It’s kind of punk-rock cocktail party, which sounds better than it looks. There’s a cage of fun-fabric material making up the top, a supertight black shiny skirt, a strange metallic peplum. It’s incoherent.

Stella gets to work with leathuh! She even says, “I’m into leathuh” and Woody Allen dies a little inside. She drives the other contestants crazy with her grommet-pounding and stud-knocking, and emerges with too-tight — but I think that’s her aesthetic — gray jeans with a tie-up fly and a silver halter bodice.

Korto is losing it. Boring black wide-legged jumpsuit. America, we can do better!

Leanne was inspired by the circular bars of a tree grate. Her design perfectly mimics the inspiration without being to literal (sorry, Jennifer). The drape of the top echoes the crescents of black (on one side) and gray (on the other) fabric making up the skirt, and she’s had the good sense to either layer the gray or trim each crescent with black, so it doesn’t look like two skirts smooshed together. Lovely.

Suede “is here to rock it” and to fling his offensive double-gun fingers and wink at us unsuspecting viewers. My Heterosexual Viewing Companion unspools a long fantasy about Suede dying in a fire, which distracts me from the military-styled gray satin dress with stupid chain belt. Thanks, honey!

I like Jennifer‘s dress. I would buy and wear Jennifer’s dress. Sure, in the manufacturing, they’ll clean up that sag over the hips, but it looks like an updating of a Poiret “lampshade” look. The midnight-blue satin two-tiered dress is trimmed with ivory, the lower part of the skirt nicely pleated and the elbow-length sleeve has a little volume, echoing the gathered sack effect of the first tier. (Here’s a picture — it’s a little hard to explain.) Love the proportions, love the color, kind of hate the thing at the collar.

Kenley was robbed last week. (Leanne was robbed this week, but we’ll get to that.) So maybe the judges wanted to make it up to her. I hate the dress at first sight. The fabric is so busy — aqua, pink, yellow, purple — and there’s a lot of it. It’s high-collared, which makes a nice change; the elbow-length sleeves puff at the shoulder and the whole thing swoops down over one side of the thighs. To fill in the remainder, Kenley’s added a half-skirt out of ombre blue-and-purple tulle. The skirt is a modified bubble and the whole thing has a nice super-constructed look — very old-Ungaro-meets-new-Balenciaga. The two fabrics work well together. Over the course of the show, like it more and more. It’s chic and unusual.

I hate, hate, hate Terri’s design. Hate. Mumsy, busy, Miami-retiree sheer fabric making a high-collared, long-sleeve tunic with a front pocket (!!) for keys, lipstick and Med-Alert beeper, over black satin pants that flare at the knee. The dress would be lousy on its own; over the trousers, it’s abominable. Do the judges tell her to edit? Do they decry the hideous fabric? No; they put her in the top two.

So Emily’s out for her tumor dress; Blayne gets an undeserved pass for his circus dress; Jennifer is bottom-three’d for her “matronly” look (Jennifer, call me!); Terri top-two’d for styling a 5th Dimension album cover; Keith slides by on his toilet paper; Sandra Bernhardt is useless. In the words of Sweet P, “What is going ON?”

Side note: Every time I type the word “designers,” I hear Josie Bissett‘s annoying voice in my head on “Melrose Place” saying, “These are my dee-signs. A dee-partment store wants to buy my dee-signs.” We’re watching Season 4; what can I say?

Next week: “Oh, my God!” Again, again, again. Keith and Terri fight over fabric. There’s an Olympics theme. Weigh in below, possums! If you watched this episode, you’re in for the long run. Embrace it.