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Gunpowder and Leather

By laurareineke Fri., Feb. 22, 2013 ,4:27 am EST

This recap is brought to you by Tim's use of the insult "stinkpot," which I'd never heard but plan to incorporate into my vocabulary immediately.

Before the designers have a chance to recover from last week's elimination, Heidi and Tim appear with Ye Olde Button Bag to winnow down the teams into pairs. We end up with Samantha and Daniel, Richard and Stanley, Patricia and Layana, Matt and Michelle, Kate and Tu, Amanda and Benjamin. This seems like a fairly natural extension of nascent friendships and what we've been able to glean about their individual aesthetics.

The gang heads to Johnny Utah's, a New York City bar that has wholeheartedly embraced the country-western aesthetic, and it's there that Tim announces their next client: Miranda Lambert. She's a successful, respected country music star now, but Ms. Lambert got her start as a contestant on the talent competition show "Nashville Star" a decade back. Take aspirational note, designers! Each team must create both a red-carpet look and a stage-ready look for the singer.

At one point in the workroom Layana says, "There's a fine line between interesting and glamorous and tacky." I personally don't think the line is all that fine during a typical challenge. "Glamorous" and "tacky" are opposite ends of the spectrum. But the materials the teams jump to use here—fringe, sequins, denim, leather—can very easily trend toward tacky, so the difficulty really becomes reigning everything in enough that it feels country without feeling Dolly Parton-style country.

Top Two
Richard/Stanley - Richard's look is the one that immediately strikes me as being perfect for a country performance AND perfect for Miranda Lambert herself. Heidi likes that it looks expensive, Nina likes that it's flattering, Miranda likes the style and the length. Stanley's gown is complimented for highlighting the waist but neither Nina nor Miranda like the volume of the skirt.

Benjamin/Amanda - I don't love Benjamin's gown because it's sort of boring and the beading on the bust looks like sleepy eyelashes. But the judges and Miranda like it, and so does Benjamin, who looks thrilled to have done well yet again. Amanda's dress, like Richard's, rocks the fringe in an easy, flattering way.

Bottom Two
Michelle/Matt - The enormous fringe leather necklace on Michelle's look is such a huge misstep, and she's so convinced that it's great, that it ruins basically everything else about the look, including the otherwise satisfactory leather vest. Matt's lack of confidence gets the real critique because his dress is so blah.

Daniel/Samantha - No one likes Daniel's look, myself included. Unflattering silhouettes are never improved by unflattering fabrics, Daniel!. Nina tears it apart, and Zac gives him the "you're good but you better get better, fast" speech. Samantha has immunity, so the fact that no one likes her dress is a moot point for now.

Richard takes the win, deservedly, and he looks super excited. Go Richard! He's turning out to be quite the personality. I'm glad to see him get a win. On the sad-trombone side of things, Matthew gets the auf after failing to establish confidence and authority over his work. Michelle lives to see another challenge, but she's going to have to pull out all the stops to break away from her seemingly permanent place on the bottom.

What say you? Was Matthew's look the worst? How would you compare Richard's dress with Amanda's? What look screamed "Miranda Lambert" to you? And now that we're a few episodes into the season, which designers are you the most excited to starting to like— and dislike? Weigh in below!