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Face Off Takes Gargoyles Around The World

Some architectural styles are more gargoyle-appropriate than others, it turns out.

We've finally reached my favorite part of the competition: the part where I can tell everyone apart immediately! I do not wish to disparage any of the departed contestants, but it seemed like we had an awful lot of Medium Guy With Beard this season. Cig and George have non-medium facial hair, and Tyler is clean-shaven, and also they, along with Emily, make up the top four I was hoping for. So this is great! unfortunately, this sweet spot isn't going to last, because we have to cut another person before the finale.

Hey, you know what would be a really mean twist? What if they went back to teams, but they were Cig/Emily and George/Tyler, and the losing team got eliminated? That would make everyone very sad, which means it feels like a plausible reality show idea. But this is a show that actually likes its contestants (and its viewers), so we're still in individual challenges.

Getting The New Challenge

The challenge is issued on an unnamed (and undecorated) rooftop, which is nearly justified by the news that the task is to make gargoyles. We don't get any example movies or shows, possibly because they're just going to be Gargoyles and the Disney Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

To keep everyone from just doing regular stone gargoyles, each designer is assigned an architectural style that the gargoyles are supposed to match. Tyler gets "Victorian," which means he's supposed to make a gargoyle that would seem at home on the roof of a Victorian building, but everyone (including the judges) interprets that to mean that the shapes of Victorian architecture should be reflected in the gargoyle's face. I don't think that's actually correct, because regular gargoyles don't look like cathedrals. But it's how everyone understands the challenge, so I should stay out of the way and just list the styles. Emily has Art Deco; Cig has Russian Renaissance; and George has Deconstructivism.

There is also a requirement that each gargoyle have wings, which seems reasonable.

Design Phase

Emily is confident at the beginning, because art deco has a lot of repeating shapes that she can pick up in her sculpture, and there are often statues of eagles or men around the place. So she's doing an eagle-man gargoyle, which fits all the requirements and will also let her do an interesting sculpture. My only concern is that eagles don't have hair, and I keep expecting her to bust out some of her fancy hair-work as we get closer to the finale.

Cig seems to find Russian Renaissance architecture a little garish. It's full of bright colors and patterns, and he comments a few times that he doesn't know what the Russians were thinking. But this doesn't get in the way of him planning to mimic it. When it comes to the wings, he would prefer to have animatronics in there, but he doesn't have time for that kind of foolishness.

Tyler figures that Victorian architecture already looks like it should have gargoyles, and he's kind of thinking of the Addams Family building. I also think he's looking at a picture of the British Parliament building. He's going straight down the middle with a stone bird-man.

George doesn't like it at all. Deconstructivism means those huge buildings that look like twisted metal, such as the ones created by Frank Gehry. We've got one of those in Seattle (it's currently called "The MoPOP Building," but everyone still calls it the EMP from when it was the Experience Music Project), and it is silly-looking. It's also not very gargoyle-friendly, because it's all giant swooping curves that I think a gargoyle would have trouble fitting in with. George is concerned because he's thinking of "Deconstruction," which would seem to suggest that he just bring out a bucket of latex and an airbrush and put them on the stage next to his model.

George is also concerned because he lost in the semifinals in his first appearance on the show, while everyone else who's left made it to the finals. So he's going to bring that up a lot in this episode.

Day 1 Begins

After panicking for the duration of the design phase, George has settled into a plan. He doesn't want to just "take a building and put it on a dude's head," so he's wondering what a gargoyle designed by Frank Gehry would look like. George's is going to be kind of abstract and metallic. The best way he can describe his plan is "weird twisty-face abstract robot guy," but as long as he knows what he means by that, he should be fine.

Cig, on the other hand, is putting buildings on his model's head.

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That feels a little obvious to me, but there's no question which architecture is being represented here. Cig's also choosing to do a gargoyle that's more of a hound or bat than a bird, and he's on solid ground there. From where I'm sitting as I write this, I can see three gargoyles based on dogs and none based on birds. I realize that's more gargoyles than one might find in the average living room, but my point is that a lot of them look like dogs with wings. And maybe horns.

Emily is putting forms from the Chrysler building on her gargoyle's face, and she's going to repurpose a huge wooden fan for her wings. Does this prompt George to tell Cig he found his "biggest fan"? What do you think?

Mentor Session

Since we're down to four people, there's time to soak in each person's individual time with Michael Westmore. Cig has a mouth that's too human, and Mr. Westmore thinks it should be more stylized. George has a tough challenge in front of him with his abstract sculpture, but he should avoid making it comedic. Mr. Westmore recommends squaring things off so that there are no round edges.

Tyler just gets practical advice about adding an edge to his face sculpt in case it shrinks too far to connect to his cowl. But he's planning on molding his face on Day 1; then he's going to run a "latex pull," which I believe to be a sample face. The cowl will be sculpted to exactly match the sample face, so I think any facial shrinkage will be accounted for.

Emily's bird face is too much of a human face. Mr. Westmore particularly thinks there should be a giant beak in there. Emily's concerned because she'd have to start over completely, and she might not have time.

Back To Work (And Day 2)

Emily starts over completely. She's decided that the most important thing is to have a piece she's proud of, and if that means starting over, that's what she has to do. At the end of Day 1, she has neither a face nor a cowl done, and she's freaking out about how far behind she is.

At the beginning of Day 2, everyone gathers around Emily's workstation and gives her advice.

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This is probably my favorite thing about the show. Nobody wants their rivals to do badly. They all like Emily and want to see her do good work, so they're happy to take time out from their own work to weigh in. On some shows, this segment would be replaced with some snotty talking-head interviews where people sneer that they don't like Emily's piece. I much prefer this kind of team spirit.

Cig is doing a complicated pattern in his clay, which he is creating with popsicle sticks. I'd be worried that he was in a rut, but if the rut is "complicated detail done well," I think that's probably okay.

George is the last person to finish molding. While he's still in the mold room, everyone else is working on wings. I'm excited by this because there was an episode of Cosplay Melee with wings, so I have something recent to compare. Cig makes bat wings from armature wire and L200 foam, and he's probably still sad they won't move. George's first plan is too heavy, so he tries a lighter plan that doesn't work either. With thirty minutes to go in the day, he starts to panic.

Emily is also panicking. Her molds are done, but she needs to clean the clay out of them before they can be used to make the appliances. Tyler helps her hose them out, but it's too close to the end of the day and she doesn't have clean molds. She seems completely defeated right now.

Application Day

And now Emily's in a good mood! Her stuff didn't come out clean, but she's able to persuade herself that it looks like weathered metal. Because what else can she do? This is what she has, so she has to figure out a way to make it work.

George is also in a better place. He's decided to concentrate on doing good makeup and on having fun with it. On the other hand, he's also fabricating his wings on Application Day, which is a bad sign. And he's decided to do one small silver horn and one huge gold horn, even though he knows it doesn't make sense. His theory is that the architectural style also doesn't make sense, and I think he's right.

Cig is the last one to start painting, but he gets to do a lot of high-contrast stuff that shouldn't require a lot of blending.

Reveal Stage

Emily goes first, and her sculpt really does look like weathered metal.

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It feels a lot like an eagle to me. And that's not a traditional gargoyle, but it's very true to art deco, which means that (in my opinion) she has successfully melded the two aesthetics.

George did a great face.

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That's as realistic a face as you're going to get and still stay sort of close to deconstructivism. However, the wing is an afterthought and is, frankly, terrible. It's just a single rectangle of foam tied to the model's back.

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Oof.

Cig's is awesome.

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My only concern is that the judges might find it too obvious to just stick onion domes everywhere. But the domes look really good, and I like that cig embraced the patterns even though he personally might not care for them.

Tyler's last...

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...and the one that's closest to what I think of as a gargoyle.

Judging

The judges like Emily's eagle person a lot. There's just the right amount of bird anatomy for Glenn, and the wings feel to Neville very art deco.

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Ve has a lot of experience riding elevators in New York City (which is kind of a weird thing to brag about, Ve) and she feels that Emily's creation could have stepped right off an elevator door.

George made some bold choices that the judges aren't sure how to deal with at first. They talk themselves into liking it, because they recognize that he was given a nonsense architectural style that requires a certain amount of weirdness. No one likes the horns, and everyone hates the wings, but the face is a good job done with a difficult challenge.

Glenn is concerned that Tyler's forms aren't Victorian enough. He was hoping for peaks and sharp angles, with maybe some stained glass in there. He lets Tyler make his argument, but it's not really Victorian or even Gothic. Everyone recognizes that it's a good gargoyle, but they really wanted more Victorian influence.

Everyone loves Cig's work. Ve says that, from a distance, it's "a picnic at a carnival," but up close she finds it beautiful. They geek out over the different patterns on each of the domes, and Glenn decides the thing that holds it all together is the bit on the bridge of the nose.

What I liked about the judging was that the competitors, while still rooting for each other, are still basically in their teams from earlier. After Emily's critique, Tyler congratulates her, and after Cig and George go, they pat each other on the back.

It's clear that the top two are Cig and Emily, either of whom could win. Of the other two, George has a lousy wing and iffy horn, but Tyler wasn't Victorian enough for the judges. Glenn points out that he would run screaming if he was given George's assignment, which I enjoyed seeing him admit.

Tyler hopes that his track record will see him through, but George also has a pretty good record this season. I feel that it's very close. I'm worried for George, but I'm hoping he goes through.

The winner is Emily, with Cig obviously safe. They're quite happy, and the other two are happy for them.

Tyler is eliminated, which means that George is in. Tyler is bummed, and so is Emily, a little. But Tyler's happy for Emily!

I don't know what's happening in the finale, but if they do the standard thing of having returning competitors be helpers, I think this works out really well for Emily. Cig and George's best collaborators are each other, so they can't work together. But Emily will almost certainly have Tyler on her team, and they're great together.

Verdict

It's my four favorite designers! I don't know if that means that they're your four favorites, but surely you like at least a couple of them. And this is also probably the peak of people getting along and working together while competing, which is kind of the essence of Face Off.

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