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Face Off Picks A Master Of Puppets

What if Pinocchio were made of metal or leather instead of wood? Turns out he'd be really creepy!

Resolving The Cliffhanger

As you might remember, last week ended with the bottom three teams getting an hour to fix their problems. This week, we jump in with the close-up judging.

Evan and Logan have taken stuff off their model so the face is more visible. And they cleaned up the paint job and added some tattoos, because it's always possible to have more tattoos.

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Keaghlan and Melissa went in the other direction, making their makeup dirtier and more smudged. They also removed an exposed bone that they'd painted gold because everybody hated it.

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Syfy

Rachael and Gage took the cage of their model's chest because nobody liked it, and they added some lines to the face because postapocalyptic fashion is all about the facial lines.

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Rachael and Gage get the chop, and again, it's 100% based on this look. So the off-weeks really seem to have no impact on the eliminations aside from giving a team immunity. On the way out, Gage says they had so much more to give and were just finding their groove. I get what he's saying, but you had six whole episodes, man. If you can't come in hot, that's going to come back on you. On the other hand, Rachael calls them "a partnership forged in fake blood, sweat, and tears," which I think is great.

Getting The New Challenge

McKenzie starts with "In the book The Adventures Of Pinocchio," so it's clearly a "living puppet" challenge. But little wooden boys are played out, so the teams are being asked to create puppets as though they were made by stonemasons, tailors, tanners, blacksmiths, or goldsmiths. The only person who seems particularly excited by this is Emily, who looks forward to doing something "whimsical" without being "over-the-top whimsical." I think she wants to do something fun without having to go full Tim Burton.

Design Phase

George, it turns out, loves puppets. He's happy to tell us about the time he worked with Dave Barclay, who was an assistant puppeteer on Yoda and lead puppeteer on Jabba the Hutt. After checking IMDB, I can report that he was also "principal plant performer" on Little Shop Of Horrors, so it's safe to say that Frank Oz thought he was pretty good. Anyway, George and Cig decide to design a rodeo clown made out of leather.

Adam reminds us that he was eliminated on a doll challenge, so he's a little nervous. He wants to just be funny on this one, so he and Logan go with a stone sailor puppet made by a guy who does countertops, and whose wife left him. That seems like an awful lot of ideas to throw together all at the same time. And I'm not sure I'd put the "wife left him" part in a wacky backstory. On the other hand, I find their sketch very appealing:

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Syfy

Keaghlan's father is a welder, which she thinks should give them some sort of advantage for making a puppet that looks like a blacksmith made it. I guess it might, but those are not really the same job.

Day 1 Begins

Ben and Evan look blankly at gold. Ben seems beaten down by the show so far this season. Neither of them has an idea, and they have only one day, so there's no time to lose. In my opinion, they need an idea fountain on their team. Cig and George are both idea fountains, and they don't mind if one gets shot down because they have more. Ben and Evan eventually decide to do a ballerina made out of gold, which is sort of an idea. It's also worth mentioning that Tyler and Emily are doing a tailor's ballerina puppet.

Tyler is making cool joints for their ballerina while Emily is softening the features so that they look like fabric. They're putting a lot of effort into imagining how their doll would be put together, which contrasts with Ben and Evan, who appear to have basically shrugged their shoulders. They're going minimalist, and I think they're not putting their all into it because it's a non-elimination week.

Mentor Session

It's another whirlwind appearance for Michael Westmore, who recommends that Keaghlan and Melissa make sure their blacksmith's puppet looks like metal. Specifically, he doesn't think they should put a green patina over the whole thing; they should save it for the joints. And maybe Ben and Evan should consider some bronze highlights so that their look isn't just one gold color everywhere. Cig and George are doing a face that's stitched together from leather, and Mr. Westmore recommends not using patches that are too small, since that can easily read as Frankenstein. It's all interesting, accurate advice, but it takes about forty seconds before Mr. Westmore is back out the door again. We'd probably have had more time with him if the elimination had happened in the last episode instead of the beginning of this one.

Back To Work

There's a lot of fabrication going on, because teams of two can't both sculpt on a face at the same time. George is in his wheelhouse as he makes what he describes as "big, silly horns" that will be attached to a cowboy hat that will be equally big and silly. Does he describe his team's character as "real horny"? What do YOU think?

Melissa, meanwhile, is just throwing chunks of foam onto a mannequin because she doesn't have time to measure it properly to make sure it looks like proper armor. She also has a plan for smoke coming out of a smokestack, which is always fun.

Hanging Out

The day is over, and all the contestants are in a little lounge area in the lab. It's definitely a staged scene, where the producers want to make everyone engage in some small talk for the camera, but the actual small talk feels genuine. It turns out this is a darker challenge than anyone expected, since there are a lot of dead spouses and stuff in the backstories. Everyone's very tired, but they seem to like each other, so I enjoyed watching it.

Application Day

Cig and George have rips all over their face piece, but they do not panic. George just announces that he's "'bout to rassle some foam latex," and gets to work. I thought it would help that their design is already supposed to look like it was sewn together, but the rips are in inconvenient places.

Ben and Evan are painting their model a solid gold color. I hope they remember to leave an unpainted spot, or she could die. James Bond wouldn't lie to me, would he?

Emily wants to make sure their face reads as fabric, so she wants to get some fuzz on the latex. Her technique involves shaving moleskin and then gluing the fuzzballs and then wiping the fuzz off to make it even. It seems to be working pretty well, and it's the kind of crude, hands-on technique that the judges tend to love. Professional makeup people love techniques that use household items.

Cig and George put a lot of effort into the painting of their leather stitching. Cig's drybrushing doesn't bring out the detail he'd hoped, so they add an alcohol wash that makes the stitching pop. By contrast, Keaghlan and Melissa are on completely different pages, so Keaghlan overpaints Melissa's work, then Melissa overpaints Keaghlan's.

In Last Looks, Cig and George ask themselves if their look is really as goofy as they were going for. The face looks really good and also kind of creepy, so George's giant-horn cowboy hat seems out of place. They wisely decide that even though they put a lot of effort into it, the hat is too hokey, and they cut it. Luckily, Cig is always up for wearing a silly hat, so it won't go to waste. There's also a silly moustache and some comedy arrow they decide not to use. I'm a huge fan of this decision, because it shows that they're thinking in the moment, instead of just blindly following their plan.

Reveal Stage

We appear to have entered the Guest Judge phase of the show. This week, it's Suzanne Todd, who was a producer on Memento, Austin Powers, and Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. (Also an Associate Producer on Hudson Hawk, which does not get mentioned for some reason.)

Also joining us is Paul W.S. Anderson, the maker of some Resident Evil and Death Race movies. But not the good Death Race movies. There's a new one called Roger Corman's Death Race 2050, and it's exactly as cheesy and bad as a Death Race movie should be.

Cig and George's rodeo clown has ended up with an acceptably creepy smile.

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Syfy

The barrel is still wacky, but having one wacky thing on a creepy clown is absolutely fine. I think they made the right decision to edit the props.

Ben and Evan did not hide their seams very well.

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Syfy

They mostly seem to have just painted their model gold and then attached a few appliances that are a slightly different color of gold and don't blend at all.

Logan and Adam have taken their fun sketch and translated it directly into reality.

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Syfy

Unfortunately, what I liked about the sketch was how crude it was. That didn't mean I wanted to see a crude final look. Shouldn't a professional countertop maker do better work than this? At least shape the jaw! It just looks like carved foam.

Keaghlan and Melissa did this metal monster.

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Syfy

It looks cool, and I like the working smokestack. My only objection is that the model is moving a bit too much, which is making the head look like it's very light. When he stops moving his head suddenly, the corners wobble a little.

Emily and Tyler did a lot of work, and it doesn't really come across from a distance on the television. But close up, it's awesome and the facial texture is great.

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Syfy

They also have a model who can stand on her toes, which gets across the ballerina concept really well.

Judging

Everyone likes the details on Cig and George's look, with Neville pointing out that the fake leatherwork on their latex face actually looks better than the real leatherwork on the gloves. I suspect a producer was involved in Ve's specific praise that they "didn't goof it up with a bunch of silly stuff," but that's just because it's such an accurate comment. They had the silly stuff all ready to go.

Ben and Evan get no praise, since their puppet looks like "skin painted gold" rather than "gold." The texture is very different. And the knees show a huge problem:

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Syfy

First, the seams are just awful. And ideally, the legs would look like they're made out of the same material as the joint, right? And the joints aren't something a goldsmith would make. Where's the filigree, guys?

Logan and Adam claim that they embraced the comedy element of the challenge, which nobody else did. Well, Cig and George did at first, but they wisely went with what was working. (Is that too much alliteration?) Anyway, even the explanation for Stone Popeye is wacky, and Glenn scolds them, "There's no extent of goofy storytelling that will make this any better than it is." Neville observes that it's not even funny, let alone well made. In the private comments by the judges, Glenn says, "I'm not saying you can't have goofy elements, but they have to take it more seriously." Coming into the season, I thought the judges would say things like that about Cig and George.

Emily and Tyler are showered with praise, especially for Emily's handmade flocking technique. I thought Ve would be the one to be excited about a new technique, but Glenn gets in there first.

The winners are: Emily and Tyler. Congratulations! There's no official loser, and previous performance has not appeared to affect eliminations. But Ben and Evan need to pull it together, because they've been close to the worst for a few weeks in a row, and they both seem beaten down and out of both ideas and energy.

Verdict

There are few enough teams that it's possible to watch everybody's process, so it's like watching five different stories at once. And bonus closure!

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