Last night the beleaguered and increasingly obviously cracking up contestants of Project Runway's Season 11 were dragged into a mega-douche cowboy themed bar in Manhattan to be introduced to their next challenge: designing for country music superstar Miranda Lambert. Here's what Portland player Michelle Lesniak Franklin submitted at the end of the day:

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Hit the break for the full recap (be warned: it ain't pretty).

So to keep things "interesting," the contestants got something of a break from the larger team dynamic and were broken into pairs. Michelle wound up with Matthew, an unexciting development for our hometown champ. They were tasked with making one performance outfit and one for the red carpet. Michelle went for the more formal option while Matthew was charged with performance.

Unlike last episode, when every contestant kicked a little bit of ass, the designs this time were far less interesting and Tim seemed sincerely exasperated when he came through for his consult. Matthew in particular struggled, and it was actually pretty hard to watch him completely roll over and give into failure.

Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. "Like when you know something's wrong with you and then you finally get a diagnosis???" Good god.

Michelle didn't do so hot herself, winding up in the bottom along with Matthew, although I didn't think her look was so terrible. She was mainly criticized for that huge fringe necklace, which I wasn't a huge fan of but didn't hate, either. I actually like how the length of it works with the separates. And the leather she chose for the vest, which as Tim pointed out looked like eel, was pretty cool, although it read cheaply on the runway. The denim of the skirt was hard to read as denim in the final analysis—it's not like it was a classic light blue wash—and the idea of "denim and leather" translated to a formal look for a country star with a rocker edge sounds more like a parody than it looked.

Still, the judges hated it, forcing her into the uncomfortable moment of pumping one lonely fist into the air while exhorting that one should "never forget hair metal!" I agree with her on that, but I also agree with the judges' general skepticism regarding her taste level as a whole. She's been tipping way too far toward literal and trashy without the leavening of modern sophistication you need to pull off those references. It is possible.

On the other hand, I didn't like Richard's tacky mesh/chain/fringe number at all. Every criticism that was leveled at Michelle's dress I felt could have been equally applied to his. Dated? Check. Cheap looking? Yep.

Trashy! Actually looks like a materials challenge from a tire factory-sponsored episode.
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  • Trashy! Actually looks like a materials challenge from a tire factory-sponsored episode.

Oh phew, I thought I was the only one who didn't know who Miranda Lambert was. Frankly I preferred Amanda's look to Richard's, although she needs to stop mentioning that her brother is in Maroon 5 already. Girl, you should bury that shit.

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Even though Michelle took a beating this episode, she also revealed a wonderful gift in the form of an excellent Nina Garcia impression. How had she gone on the show this long without busting that out??

Lastly, darling Daniel got a lot less darling. His obvious glee over his winning streak led to some serious lack of objective thinking and he spent most of his time in the workroom applauding himself for having taught America about soutache. The overconfidence has clearly set in, and for that I'm glad that he got a sound drumming from the judges. But honestly, I didn't hate this:

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In the almost department: The elegant shape of Benjamin's dress was great, but the weird boob decoration looked like a squid was trying to escape. Kate would have done well had she chosen shades of red that didn't actively hate each other. Layana's dress was pretty, and the detail on the bodice was quite impressive, but I don't know who she was designing for. Probably not the busty country star sitting on the other side of the runway. Patricia's leather halter was amazing but I don't know what she was thinking when she chose her fabric. It would've been much stronger had she stayed away from the upholstery department.

At this point I have no clear favorite. Daniel is in the dog house, Joshua relieved of duties, Patricia yet to realize her potential, and Michelle needs to start breaking Portland stereotypes instead of reinforcing them. So... this could go any way.