Finally! Last night's Project Runway was the first good episode of the season, with an old school unconventional materials challenge, Portland contestant Michelle Lesniak Franklin getting more face time with the cameras, and the coolest looks to have come down the runway from these folks yet. Even if the flower concept did originate from Glade air freshener (shudder). Here is Franklin's contribution:

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Spoilers ahead!

Being that this episode was sponsored by an air freshener, the challenge was for the designers to make their looks using only materials from a hardware store and a flower shop, with each team given a generous $2,500 to do so.

But first! The depleted Dream Team got to choose two members of Team Keeping it Real (god you guys, with the names) and for reasons that defy all logic they did not choose the designer who has won every challenge and is constantly trouble shooting and bailing out his teammates: Daniel. Nope, instead they went with Stanley (ookaaayy) and Layana. And then! Tim announced that team KIR also got to poach a DT designer. As soon as he started talking Michelle started with the "Oh my god, you did not, oh jeez, oh god," because apparently it was obvious that she would be their choice, and was putting up some kind of farce about how all she wanted to do was avoid working with Patricia, who is probably a genius. It was an unsuccessful attempt to mask her evident delight at having been rescued from the ship of losers and taken in by the popular kids where she belongs.

However! Michelle now worries that she is the harbinger of doom, because this was the first challenge that KIR didn't win. They didn't lose, mind you, the judges haven given special dispensation because of how generally great they all did, but they "won slightly less." This is essentially because while each of their pieces looked cool, they lacked cohesion, whereas DT had an agreed on color palette and Dior New Look theme (which, luckily, sounds more boring than it was). Nonetheless, it was Michelle's idea to designate each look as representing a different decade, which totally works. Or would have worked if their looks had come out, oh, I don't know, in chronological order? Maybe? I only hope this was a decision they were not allowed to make, because there was no prayer of the judges being able to interpret that slapped-on logical band-aid without that basic rule of presentation. Oh well.

At any rate, speaking of judges, there were two guests this week, because why not. There was the Man Repeller herself, Leandra Medine, whose relatively schlubby outfit was pretty funny, actually:

And the other, who kind of out-shined poor Leandra, was none other than Bette Midler, which was kind of a genius pair-up for this challenge, given the costumey nature of dresses made from plants and Midler's extensive experience with wearing insane costumes.

And like I said, all the designers did pretty well with this one. Even Benjamin saved himself from certain doom by shutting up for once and building a loom, on which he spun a cool bodice panel for his piece, which he even managed to complete with little-to-no drama or anguish as well.

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The winner this time around, though, was Samantha, who has gotten relatively little play so far, and totally deserved this:

Can someone make me a gif of Layana saying "it looks messy" like that over and over again? Thanks. For the record, this was Layana's, which was the first runner up. It's pretty cool, not as modern as Samantha's, maybe, but still totally worth a gander:

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As for this week's loser, I thought I would be more sorry to see Joe go home, but the truth is he really needed to get out of there. I don't think he was really that bummed out at all. He could see that his ideas weren't going to survive under Heidi's reign of tight miniskirts, and he is way too cool for that shit.

It's our loss, anyway. Maybe Joe will follow the lead of so many PR contestants before him and come to Portland to show a full line. I'd be happy to buy this guy a drink.

As for Michelle, it's good to see her getting more play on the show, but she's a lot of it is being devoted to shit talking: pantomiming Benjamin's crash and burn that never happened, and poo-pooing her partner Richard's totally hilarious and barely comprehensible creative rush. She seems well liked by her fellow designers, though she has yet to distinguish herself as one of the best competitors in the eyes of the judges. Oh well, there's always next week.