Face Off Is A Precious Snowflake

The teams make snow queens in case the country isn't sick of winter yet.

Getting The Challenge

There's snow! Right outside the lab! This is very exciting for the designers and production people, because they are in Los Angeles, where it ordinarily does not snow. It is probably less exciting for the viewers, some of whom are in the process of digging out from blizzards in preparation for the next blizzard.

Also it's fake snow, which means that the inevitable snowball fight is being done using ice chips. I'm basing that on my memory of growing up in San Diego, where snow is a mysterious and fantastical concept. Sea World used to do this thing called "Snow World" where kids could sled and play on stuff that looked like very nearly like snow. It was not totally satisfying. I suspect the same was true here, although everyone participates in a snowball fight with an attitude that I would describe as "mandatory glee." Like when Top Chef has a guest judge you've never heard of, but all the contestants lose their shit.



Anyway, enough about my unsatisfying childhood. The challenge is to make snow queens, which makes Emily freak out with joy. There's a part where people have to find oversized snowflakes and get their inspiration from that, but this seems like an even thinner "inspiration" than usual, and almost nobody bothers connecting the dots. The judges don't even mention it.

Design Phase

The best moment in the episode, for me, is when Cig asks George if it would be weird to do a translucent silicone face piece with makeup underneath it. I think it's a really good example of how teams can be done well, because Cig is coming up with ideas that push the envelope, and he's got someone to rein him in if necessary. In this case, George also thinks that's a fun idea, and what the heck, they've got immunity. It probably helps that they share an aesthetic, because Face Off took the nearly unprecedented step of pairing people up that would work well together, rather than to maximize drama.

Everyone else pretty much just describes what they're about to make. Ben and Evan are making a "Black Ice Queen," but it's important to group those words correctly. They're taking (Black Ice), the dangerous stuff on the road, and using that to inform their decisions about their queen, rather than taking an (Ice Queen) and making her African-American.

Sculpting Day One

Cat and Niko are the only ones who really seem to be taking their snowflake seriously. Its blocky form reminds them of the Statue of Liberty, so they're going to make a queen that has turned herself into an ice sculpture -- specifically, an ice sculpture that will end up looking suspiciously like the Statue of Liberty.

A lot of people are making icicles. They're an important part of any snow-based look. I personally am sick of fabricated icicles and ice blocks, because they all kind of end up looking like the Fortress of Solitude from the Christopher Reeve Superman movie. But it's something that everyone has experience with, so there's not a lot of time wasted before the fabrication begins. They've got two days instead of the usual three, which is causing a lot of talk about time management. Normally I am on the side of giving people more time, but two days seems like it should be enough for a team of two all-stars to create one look.

Teamwork is proving to be a problem for Ben and Evan, who are worried that they're going in different directions. This is paired up with Adam and Logan, who are openly just working on different stuff and hoping that the occasional check-in will keep them in sync. I think one thing Ben and Evan could do is occasionally switch places, so that each of them ends up working on the other guy's stuff. But, at least so far, there has been a refreshing lack of under-bus-throwing. If a team does badly, both members take responsibility.

Mentor Session

This is only a "skip" because it's almost too short to be comprehensible. Mr. Westmore gives a lot of really good advice on color selection, but it's too bang-bang to really enjoy it. I'd watch a thirty-minute chunk of Mr. Westmore sifting through a team's five ideas and telling them which two to focus on and why, but this was too rushed for me. And the only specific note I can take away is when he tells George not to put frostbite on his model's nose, because it usually just reads as a black spot that pulls attention.

Back To Work

Did you know that Emily hasn't seen either Pretty In Pink or The Breakfast Club? Well, why should she? She's very young. But this revelation leads to the other designers quizzing her on what movies she's seen, and the answer is: almost none. You'd think someone in the special effects makeup field would have seen Frankenstein, right? Or Star Wars? Or SOMETHING? Anyway, her favorite movie is The Lucky One, a Zac Efron vehicle based on a Nicholas Sparks book. I like seeing the designers chatting with each other, because they have to do something while working. And the discussions cross team boundaries, because it's hard to ignore that someone five feet away just said she hasn't seen Star Wars.

Cig and George continue to come up with goofy things they can do. There's a skeleton in the lab (of course), and they disassemble it so that they can vacuform the spine and skull to make a cool scepter. Then they joke about drinking out of it like it's a beer bong, and it is definitely not a joke. I think there's a spine-and-skull beer bong in Cig's house right now.



There's some mold drama involving a small crack that never comes up again. I'm sorry I even brought it up.

Application Day

Once everyone stops yelling at her for not having seen movies that were made decades before she was born, Emily gets to paint her work. She and Tyler decided to do a snow queen that's partially based on evergreens, because snow on a pine tree looks very wintry. And they've made a chest piece that's intended to look like bark, which is involving some very detailed multi-shade painting.

Cig and George apply their makeup, then check to see what it looks like underneath silicone. Then they do their makeup again, because it has to be much bolder to stand out. But they don't have to worry about shading, because the silicone diffuses everything for them. Meanwhile, Ben and Evan are well behind everyone else and have to do pretty much all their face makeup in Last Looks.

Just before pushing to the Reveal Stage, Niko comments that he and Cat did something very different from everyone else. At first I thought he meant that there was a lot of light blue in the room, because the "snow queen" color palette is kind of limited. But really he meant that everyone else put a lot of interesting fiddly detail into their looks, while he and Cat just did a blocky statue.

Reveal Stage

The judges are back! And they don't mention last week at ALL, so I guess people aren't really being judged on two weeks' worth of work.

Here's Niko and Cat's statue.



Yup. That sure is something that looks like the Statue of Liberty. There's a sculpted hairstyle you can't see, but you're not missing much.

Rachael and Gage have a bunch of facial bumps.



I think I like the bumps. They seem like that belong there. She also seems mad, but there's nothing wrong with that. I've read a lot of books with ice queens in them, and they're rarely in good moods.

Cig and George did exactly what they set out to do, and I think it's an interesting effect.



I'm not sure that looks like a queen, exactly, but it certainly looks like a person covered in ice. I think it looks cool, but I don't really understand it. I could probably be convinced by hearing a good story to explain why this person looks like that.

Ben and Evan don't seem to have done a lot of makeup on their model's face.



I also don't like the stuff on the forehead. Or chin. Or the dress, even though the dress isn't usually important. This is their Black Ice Queen, and I think the problem might be that black ice is practically invisible. You can't just do ice shapes in a different color and hope it reads.

Emily and Tyler did their tree-based snow queen idea, and the tree part does not dominate.



It kind of looks to me like the tree is sprouting from underneath the snow, which is a really cool idea. I mean, it's a cool idea if it's what Emily and Tyler were going for. If it's something I came up with, I don't mean to shower myself with praise. Although...someone's got to do it, right?

Adam and Logan's armor does not please me.



It looks like cosplay to me, because I've seen a lot of people with armor sculpted out of craft foam. I'm also not thrilled about the expression the model is stuck with.

Keaghlan and Melissa made something that I think looks cool.



They were worried about it being too androgynous, and the judges are about to make that complaint. But what's wrong with an ice queen looking a little androgynous? They started this episode by bringing up The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, and I don't remember anyone complaining about Tilda Swinton in that.


The close-up judging is great, because the judges don't feel the need to hold anything back. They tend to be very complimentary about the models, but if they want to talk about how awful a given decision was, they will. The statue of liberty does not impress them, and Glenn is particularly annoyed at the waste of time involved in sculpting a hairstyle you can't even see.

For Keaghlan/Melissa, Ve wishes the crown had been moved about an inch or two up, while Glenn thinks they should have used the models' "natural, beautiful shapes," which...I guess that's complimentary?

Adam/Logan, Cat/Niko, Emily/Tyler, and Keaglen//Melissa are the top and bottom teams, so they get to explain their ideas.

Adam and Logan are up there because Glenn loved their use of stencils, and Ve loved their profile. And because Neville wanted to say, "She looks so cold, you can almost see her quiver." Because she's an archer. He's SO proud of himself.

Cat and Niko explain that their queen turned herself into a statue, and the judges say they pretty much figured that out for themselves.

The judges love the story of Emily and Tyler's queen, who rules over a forest but is losing her power as winter ends. Glenn points out that they didn't just do "ice" because they asked themselves what the ice was on. Ve says she could step right onto a movie set, and since Ve is still very active in the industry (remember that season where she missed half the episodes because she was working on the Hunger Games movies?), I'm inclined to believe her.

And then there's Keaghlan and Melissa, where Glenn complains that the model has a very feminine face bus still somehow looks masculine. Ve wants the crown higher to raise the spires a bit, and I think that's a fairer criticism.

Emily and Tyler win, which seemed inevitable. Cat and Niko are eliminated for probably making the most boring look, and it seems to 100% be based on this week.


After a week where everyone had different tasks, it's fun to have one where the challenge was pretty much the same for everyone. The snowflakes provided some slight variation, but it's basically all Snow Queens. And even the bottom looks weren't in the bottom for bad makeup; they seemed to be criticized for the overall design decisions. It's nice that an All-Star season can deliver all people that know how to do the job, so we can get higher-level comments.

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