RECAP! Face Off: Bottled Up

Before we begin, I’d like to apologize for missing a week. I was unexpectedly whisked away on a trip, and I felt that posting a recap nearly a week later was silly. But briefly, I was sad to see Anna go. I liked her.

With six contestants remaining, we’re nearly at the end. Right now, I’d say Rob has the best odds of taking the whole thing, but we’ll see where it goes.

Tonight, we’re teased with the challenge of genies, and plenty of Whole New World puns abound.

Upon lab arrival, it’s clear we’re being set up for a Foundation Challenge. Darn. The artists must develop a valkyrie using the model’s given wings as inspiration. McKenzie hits us with a little Norse mythology before introducing Douglas Knoe as the guest judge here, asking “Will your valkyrie tell your story without uttering a word?”

Of course, we can’t have a valkyrie challenge without Robert singing “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Knoe seems to like most of the makeups, having many good things to say. He favors Yvonne and Melissa, with Melissa winning the coveted immunity for the week. And that’s that.

At the start of the Spotlight Challenge, McKenzie is standing in front of a set of itty-bitty living spaces, explaining the challenge would be to create their own genie. But she doesn’t really give parameters on what the judges might be looking for, other than using the words colorful, devious, and mysterious. So going in, I’m already a little confused as to what I should be expecting.

Mel zeroes in on the carving of a gazelle on her genie vessel, so she starts on a human-gazelle hybrid, though her initial sculpture looks very cat-like.

Melissa admits she knows very little about genies (aren’t we all kind of in the same boat here?), but she has immunity, so it’s not a big deal.

Walter is pulling inspiration from the dragons on his vessel, creating a reptilian fantasy character.

Robert’s bottle is probably the prettiest, and he’s developing a cat creature who loves to party. Sure.

Michael Westmore offers LOTS of advice to each of the artists, solidifying the idea that no one actually knows what they’re supposed to be doing. He suggests Mel start over, using the patterns from the vessel, not the animal. Michael isn’t quite sure what to make of Robert’s cat. There’s clearly some work to be done.

Day 2, Mel’s feeling better about her plans. Walter’s hard at work on his cowl. Robert’s molding away. When it comes time for Walter to mold, he’s lost track of time and is just covering everything as fast as humanly possible. With “mere minutes” left, he attempts to open his mold. With help from Melissa, he manages to open it, then Yvonne jumps in the help him clean it. Team work!

On Day 3, Walter sees his piece, and it seems to be okay. But it’s kind of fuzzy how this happened. The show never really explains *what* the artists must have done at the end of the day. From what we saw, Day 2 ended with Walter’s (mostly) cleaned-out mold. Now, he has a fully formed piece, meaning overnight, someone actually ran the mold in foam (or whatever substance they decide to use), let it set, and got it out. Meaning, this step in the process seems to be taken care of by, I don’t know, Face Off PAs? And that’s fine, but sometimes it makes the “drama” of the clock a little confusing, since we’re not actually certain what should be done by time.

Anyway, the models arrive and it’s time for application. Everyone seems to be mostly okay, justifying their paint choices. Rob is the only one who seems a little concerned about time. Last Looks goes by uneventfully.

At the reveal stage, we see  Bill Corso is a guest judge.

My Amateur Impressions:

Mel’s Former Gazelle now Green Goblin: Odd. The face is really strange, and the nose looks sloppy. I’m a little disappointed. But I like the cowl.

Melissa’s … genie: It looks okay, I guess. Sprightly.

Walter’s Dragon Witch: Tons of detail, and it looks great. I’m not sure if it reads “genie” to me, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

Yvonne’s Elephant Man: It’s a smooth, clean sculpt. It feels odd she went with skin tones, but it’s okay.

Rob’s Incan Handle Head: I kinda like it. I like the coloring and the handles are pretty cool.

Robert’s Cat Woman: Oh god. That’ll induce some nightmares. She looks like a reject from Cats, and that’s pretty sad. But it’s not bad. It’s just really scary. And not genie like. At all.

The Professionals’ Impressions:

Glenn thinks Melissa’s is more pixie or fairy than genie. Ve questions if Yvonne’s elephant counts as a genie. Glenn, like Mr. Westmore, just doesn’t know what to make of Robert’s Cat Woman.

Rob and Walter are the top looks, with Walter winning this one.

And sadly, Robert is leaving us. They kept him around as long as they could. The remaining contestants just got a lot less interesting. Ah, well.

Overall Thoughts: Not one of the better episodes thus far. As an audience member, I just wasn’t sure what the challenge was looking for, and I think that came through in the makeups. Here’s hoping the last remaining episodes pick up the pace a bit.

Beauty in Words:

“It’s Bill Corso!” a very excited Rob, with an adorably cracking voice.

“It’s an absolute literalization of a pachyderm.” – #Nevilleism

“…form language.” – #Nevilleism AND Glennism. Drink!

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RECAP! Face Off: The Gauntlet II

It’s back and better than ever: The Gauntlet.

At this point in the game, we’ve got 8 contestants left. And a good old-fashioned Gauntlet competition will help whittle it down a bit more. First appearing the season before, the Gauntlet, as McKenzie reminds us, is a 3-part competition, each part with a very specific focus, in an effort to put certain skills on display.

This year, two winners from both Round 1 and Round 2 will receive immunity, and won’t have to participate in the final challenge, pitting 4 contestants against each other at the end. That’s brutal.

Let’s get crackin’.

Round 1: McKenzie calls out Hook (yay!!) and Pirates of the Caribbean, referencing ship captains. The challenge is to create a captain of a specific mythical ship, with the requirement of hand-laying a beard. Confidence ranges from absolute (Melissa’s got it down) to not at all (Anna’s never laid a beard before!) so this will be interesting.

We see some glimpses into the creations. Mel’s doomed herself to the next round already. Melissa explains her technique she’s honed after 7 years of experience. Robert names his character Captain Dishwasher… okay.

When time is up, the judges are revealed to be…. the judges! Neville, Ve, and Glenn will be critiquing these rounds, so that’s not intimidating at all.

This round runs a lot like a Foundation Challenge, so it’s too quick to really break down. In general, the judges seem mostly positive about what they see, and from my perspective, there are no train wrecks.

The top looks for Round 1: Walter and Melissa. They’re done competing for this challenge. But there’s more! McKenzie reveals that they’ll also enjoy a night on the town, complete with limo service. How very Hell’s Kitchen.

Round 2: Pandora’s Box. The artists are presented with a box of pre-made prosthetics. They must use all pieces in their creation — but not where they were meant to be used. So ear pieces can’t go on the ears, etc. That is a real challenge. Playing with face shape in a short amount of time is insane. Neville warns the crew to not be lazy about it, i.e. putting a chin on the forehead and calling it a “chinforehead.” This challenge will really test the creativity of the artists under specific guidelines. Very interesting.

Each contestant is hard at work re-imagining their prosthetics. There’s a lot of cutting. Some are struggling with positioning, but by the end, everyone seems on track. I really like Rob’s forehead and paint job (Neville and Ve agree), and Robert’s demon is utterly terrifying. Using the ears as eyebrows was really smart. Poor Anna got stuck with a jaw piece, complete with teeth. She used it as a crown, and the judges seem to approve. With Mel, they question the chin pieces under the jaw.

Top looks from Round 2 are Rob and Robert. Rob is adorably excited.

The remaining contestants are told to go home for the night and return tomorrow for the final challenge.

We get a few scenes of the winners enjoying their limo and dinner at the Castaway. Are these the final four? It’s definitely possible. Robert and Walter could go either way.

Day 2, Round 3. McKenzie is very serious, standing in front of a big red curtain. When the curtain drops, there are 4 sets of 3 models, each with a black band around either their eyes, mouth, or ears. Wait, are they going to have to do THREE makeups? Damn. That’s just mean.

The challenge is to show how “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil” might manifest itself in a horror makeup. Who thought of this? This is crazy.

Mel develops a post-apocalyptic group who have sacrificed their sense, like a religious leader. Kaleb wants to go tribal, but he’s unhappy with the costume choices, so he reconsiders. Anna’s going with zombies. It’s a solid concept. Yvonne’s struggling with an idea. When she finally comes up with one, it’s a little confusing. Something about a king and acid torture and civilians revolting. Ultimately, they’re ghostly figures who bear the scars of an acid attack. I think.

Mel’s idea in pretty twisted. She creates skin flaps that have been cut and pulled up over the respective sense. It’s gory and horrible and a great idea, if it comes out clearly. Kaleb is now going with a crew that tempts others to give up their senses, which doesn’t really sound like the challenge, but maybe the judges will dig it.

At this commercial break, we see a “behind the scenes” clip about how Mel’s boyfriend’s favorite German word is dishwasher, and how now it’s an inside joke with the contestants, and that explains Robert’s captain. Got it.

Last Looks, or “Fast Looks,” as Yvonne calls it, is kind of a madhouse. None of the contestants seem to be in a good place except for Mel, which is nice to see. Kaleb looks near tears.

My Amateur Impressions:

Anna’s Zombie Team: They’re…. okay. They look a little plastic or something. I like Hear No Evil.

Kaleb’s Aliens (?): They don’t look terrible. I kinda like See No Evil, in an American Horror Story kind of way. But I still don’t know if it meets the challenge.

Yvonne’s Ghosts: Oooooh. Scary. I LOVE Speak No Evil. The bald cap over the mouth was a great idea. They all look cohesive.

Mel’s Sacrificees: Holy scary. Freaks me out. Which, I suppose, is a good thing?

The Professionals’ Impressions:

They aren’t fans of Anna’s color choices or mouth prosthetic. Glenn questions Kaleb’s choices. Glenn is super impressed with Yvonne’s wardrobe selections.

Mel wins, comparing it to the Hunger Games, which sound about right with this challenge.

Kaleb must pack up his kit. I don’t disagree. And like that, we’re down to 7.

Overall Thoughts: Another fairly drama-free episode, the challenges in person were probably incredibly tense, but that didn’t come across really well here. Doing a Gauntlet Challenge is a good idea, though, so I hope they continue. The last challenge was particularly well-done. I missed Michael Westmore, though. 😦

Beauty in Words:

“You are a strange, strange man. I like it.” — Glenn, to Robert and his Capt. Dishwasher.

“It’s better to have a bad idea than no idea.” — words all Face Off contestants should live by, courtesy of Mel.

“Evocative. Emotional. Visceral. Creative. But I’ll end with a ****-yeah.” #Nevilleism. Please insert exclamation points on your own time.

A Multi-Cam Hero: James Burrows and My Favorite Episodes

On Sunday, NBC will air a two hour special honoring a man that not many may realize has had a hand in creating some of the most beloved sitcoms over the past 40 years: James Burrows.

The Internet has been freaking out since the Television Critic’s Association meet-up in January, where NBC announced it. It’s not that everyone is crazy about James Burrows, at least not consciously. No, it’s because news sites used misleading headlines… like “A FRIENDS Reunion is Finally Happening” or “Will & Grace Reunion Special to Air on NBC Next Month.” That’s what made the Internet lose its damn mind. And yes, many of these casts got back together. But not for us or for themselves. For one man. The man who had a huge part in their careers.

Mr. Burrows is THE multi-camera sitcom director. Starting on such hits as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and Laverne & Shirley, he found his first moment with a little show called Taxi, where he directed 75 episodes. A few years later, he co-created Cheers, directing 237 (out of 271) episodes. He favors pilots, giving him the opportunity to help a fledgling show find its voice. NBC is honoring him for directing his 1,000th episode of television.

James Burrows has been an idol of mine for 15 years now. Not long, considering his massive career. But his style of directing multi-camera comedy cannot be matched. He knows good writing and respects the theatricality of filming in front of a live audience. Since Mr. Burrows is behind 3 of my all-time favorite shows, I decided to put together my own list of my favorite episodes of those shows, in no particular order, directed by the man of honor.

The BIG episodes: Pilots, Season Finales, Weddings, and Break-Ups:

You know the ones. They’re important to a series structure, sometimes an arc that writers have worked on for months. And networks know they usually could bring in big ratings. No pressure, there.

Cheers

Give Me a Ring Sometime (S1.E1): Most likely the greatest pilot of all-time, and a constant threat to my own attempts at penning a pilot, this episode set the stage without feeling like it. The actors instantly own their roles, nailing delivery, many times in a subtle way, setting the tone for Cheers’s natural, bar-banter humor.

Show Down Pts 1 & 2 (S1.E21-22): The season one finale that gave us all that we wanted from Sam and Diane – a memorable fight culminating in a passionate kiss we’ve been waiting for. And though it could’ve been easy for the rest of the cast to allow Ted and Shelley to carry the entire thing on their own, they give it their all with the subplots: their love for Sam’s (unseen) brother, Coach’s attempt at speaking Spanish, even the ladies ordering their drinks (“I haven’t had a beer since I don’t know when”). It feels so effortless for such a big moment. There would certainly be more moments, but none that top this one.

I’ll Be Seeing You, Pts 1 & 2 (S2.E21-22): A brutal break-up episode, we see the dissolution of Sam and Diane’s relationship. Sam’s ego and vanity and Diane’s impossible expectations where never a match – we love them apart, but they’re a terrible couple. They had to crumble. Christopher Lloyd, whom Burrows worked with extensively on Taxi, plays an aloof artist infatuated with Diane. It was almost too easy. The arc’s pinnacle moment is the difficult argument between Sam and Diane, that begins with childish slapping and nose pinching, but quickly delves into the seriousness of their emotions. The weightiness of their relationship is powerful. There’s a long silence between Diane walking out and Sam opening the painting, giving a simple, sincere “Wow.” That one word held so much, and was an impactful way to end the season.

An Old-Fashioned Wedding (S10.E25): A classic farce that could pay well on stage,  it has everything a farce needs: a wedding, a dead body, a drunk uncle and a jealous German husband. The revolving door of issues means timing is everything, from Sam’s exits and entrances to Carla’s unfortunate dumbwaiter trips. While it seems absurd that so much can go wrong on one day, the actors never miss a beat, so you don’t get too caught up in one story.

Frasier:

My Coffee with Niles (S1.E24): Not always ranked high on usual best lists, I always loved this episode because of its dark underside: Frasier may not be happy. It’s a deep topic, particularly for a sitcom character, and both Grammer and Pierce pull it off brilliantly. The entire episode takes place in the coffee shop, practically in real time, as Roz, Daphne, and Martin come in and out, bringing out different sides of Frasier during their interactions, along with the poor barista attempting to get his coffee order correct. For a series that so often looks at others’ internal psyche, it’s a rare meta moment of introspection and a quiet way to end the first season.

Friends:

The One with the Prom Video (S2.E14): An instant classic, and the reason why so many sitcoms afterward delved into character flashbacks. Monica and Rachel, in typical ’80s fashion, are preparing for prom. Unbeknownst to Rachel, a nervous Ross was ready to step in as her date, at the encourgement of his parents. When Rachel’s date shows, they leave Ross heart-broken, holding the flowers he just pulled from a vase. The killer moment is Rachel’s long, slow walk from the living room to the apartment door, as she realizes what Ross did for her, all these years later.

The One with the Morning After (S3.E16): This one is tough. I have to really gear myself up to watch it, but that’s because it makes me feel so strongly. The episode wisely puts us in the position of the rest of the gang, trapped in Monica’s bedroom, unable or unwilling to interrupt this blowout. Ross and Rachel were at an impasse, and their hours-long argument feels real and painful for both sides.

The Regular episodes that left a mark:

Season openers and closers, big break ups, and wedding episodes naturally lend themselves to good TV, if all the players are present, of course. But it’s the middle of season episodes where it’s harder to stand out. So when they do, they’re even more impressive.

Cheers

Diane’s Perfect Date (S1.E17): What seems like a typical sitcom set-up (two characters who are obviously into each other deflect by setting each other up with somebody else) plays with hilarious consequences here. Sam’s sly cockiness that Diane is setting herself up with him is both dumb AND revealing. When he sees he was wrong, we’re introduced to the unassuming, homicidal creep that is Andy Andy. The double-date that ensues is comical and terrifying. The final scene, where Sam and Diane engage in school yard “I’ll say I like you if you say you like me” tells us all we need to know about this relationship.

Pick a Con… Any Con (S1.E19): Harry Anderson plays Harry the Hat as a smooth if geeky conman, at once a throw back and completely relevant. He’s a known swindler, but when it looks like Coach is being taken advantage of, Sam knows who to call. This episode is wrought with tension, as the gang is trying their damnedest to win back not only Coach’s money, but his dignity. When Harry reveals how he pulled the ultimate con, it’s a testament to the directing that we in the audience are just as shocked as the gang.

The Triangle (S4.E15): Frasier has lost his mojo. Diane and a reluctant Sam scheme to help him out, but their assists result in an unexpected emotional explosion from Frasier, where he calls the pair out for their infantile, petty relationship. As a teeny-tiny subplot, there’s Norm and Cliff’s argument over Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, which is brilliantly executed by comically punctuating the very serious situation happening with Sam, Diane, and Frasier. Though Kelsey Grammer’s monologue is one of my favorites, it’s the following scene that shines. Sam and Diane sit in awkward silence, sneaking glances at each other. Diane fidgets, Sam leans back, then they tepidly discuss what the good Doctor has revealed. It’s yet another moment that’s heavy with emotion, and it’s what makes Cheers the sitcom by which all should be judged.

Abnormal Psychology (S5.E4): At five seasons in, it’s good to see Cheers wasn’t afraid to create a budding new relationship. With Sam and Diane on a clock, it was time to find a new pair to exchange testy banter. Enter Lilith. Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier was already well-developed, but Bebe Neuwirth matches him line for line, heated glance for heated glance. To frame their contested conversation within the bounds of a TV screen at the bar makes the sexual tension even more palpable.

Thanksgiving Orphans (S5.E9): Crescendoing to an epic food fight, this is episode takes the cake. One of the original “friendsgivings,” the Cheers gang ends up spending the holiday together because they all have no where else to go. They prove, however, that friends ARE family, complete with family-sized arguments over football, turkey, who’s really thankful. The food fight is just plain fun.

Everyone Imitates Art (S5.E10): A personal favorite, because it reveals a side to Diane we don’t often see: intellectual inferiority. Shelley Long brings a manic obsessive energy to the episode, while Ted Danson perfectly underplays (as usual), giving Long the power to control her scenes. Diane goes through a whirlwind of emotion here, and we, like the rest of the bar gang, just sit back and watch.

Frasier:

The Innkeepers (S2.E23): An episode that highlights the delusions of grandeur the Crane boys suffer from, it’s so fast-paced, you don’t really have time to consider just how unrealistic it might be. David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves are particularly great here, working together in the kitchen.

The Show Where Diane Comes Back (S3.E14): Again, a personal favorite because of how much I love Diane Chambers. She’s written a play that’s being produced in Seattle, which she convinces Frasier to help support. Frasier thinks he might actually be falling for Diane again, and it’s interesting how the series handles Frasier’s past here, recognizing how painful it was for him to be left at the alter. The slow-build during the first act, where Diane admits her troubles leads to a brilliant pay-off, and an epic rant performed by a still-bitter Frasier. Considering Long left Cheers nearly 10 years prior, she falls right back into her role easily, as does Grammer with her.

Friends:

The One with the Blackout (S1.E7): A standout for Matthew Perry, as we get to see his nerdy awkwardness without nerd-stereotyping. The rest of the gang is huddled in Monica’s apartment, doing what you do in a black-out – swapping stories, having singalongs, and getting attacked by stray cats. It’s also one step forward and three steps back for the Ross-and-Rachel relationship, an episode that brought “friendzone” into the pop-lexicon.

The One Where Nana Dies Twice (S1.E8): Death and comedy can go hand-in-hand. This episode handles the death of Ross and Monica’s Nana with poignancy and laughs. Ross helping pick out his grandmother’s burial clothes, Monica’s difficulty with her mother, and Joey sneaking in the football game all make the funeral events feel believable.

The One with All the Poker (S1.E18): A fun episode with a basic premise, it’s chock full of quoteable lines. Even though it’s tad bit sexist that none of the women know the game, it lends itself well to some great comedy and the girls finally do come around to playing with some skill. The final showdown between Ross and Rachel is incredibly revealing, since unlike Rachel, we as the audience know how Ross really feels. Did he let Rachel win? Maybe. “But look how happy she is.”

 

“Must See TV: An All-Star Tribute to James Burrows” will air Sunday, Feb. 21st at 9pm on NBC.

 

RECAP! Face Off: Death’s Doorstep

It’s episode six and like a first-year journalism intern, we’re neck-deep in the obits.

The contestants are brought to a printing facility. After a brief, somewhat unnecessary history lesson on the facility, McKenzie segues into the real challenge, which stems from the obituaries. McKenzie stresses these “freshly minted ghosts” must comically reveal how they died through their appearance.

The Spotlight Challenge is simple: They must create a “whimsical ghost,” using the obits provided. In other words, they’re creating a character who would be found in the waiting room of Beetlejuice (even though, in Beetlejuice, which I LOVE, Barbara and Adam show no signs of their presumed drowning… ). And to reinforce that concept, they’ve even included the “Take a Number” machine.

The characters include:

Sally Slopes – Mel’s person died skiing, so Mel developed a character whose bottom half got twisted around to her front side. Could be funny.

Thomas Watts – Robert’s electrocuted dude, complete with rubber duck, was taking a bath when his hair dryer falls into the tub.

Wendy Wand – Rob’s designing a magician’s assistant who was sawed in half. But the real unique aspect here is he’s making her in grayscale – “As if she walked right out of a black and white television.” I don’t have the heart to tell him that there was no television in the ’20s, but it’s fine. I know what he means.

Rose Mary – Anna’s grandma cook died in an explosion while she was making pasta. Is that a thing? Can that happen? Now I’m scared.

Jerry Rig – Yvonne’s DIYer will get a holesaw in the face. She’s a little worried, since her last crack at whimsy didn’t go over too well.

Finn Waters – Kaleb’s victim was a scuba diver who died under “fishy” circumstances. (Hey, Face Off, who wrote these obits? Can I do it next time? Seriously. Let me know.) Kaleb decides to take the fish part literally, designing a fish on the top of the guy’s head.

Sarah N Geti – Johnny’s safari explorer got trampled, and he starts sculpting hoofprints to go on her face. His sketch is just a headshot, so it’s unclear how whimsical this will be, though Johnny believes he can do it with the paint job.

Suzanne Stitches – …who died from some kind of sewing accident? Melissa struggles a little with a concept (while I’m thinking — sewing machine! Her arm got caught in a sewing machine! Or her hair — pulling her face into… okay. Sorry. It’s writing season at the haunted house). Melissa concocts a story about Suzanne falling into her sewing supplies and having pins stuck all over. I’m about as excited as Melissa is about that. Not very.

Seymour Sharp – Walter’s amateur juggler will be a clown, who dropped everything he was juggling, including bowling balls, chainsaws, and knives.

During Michael Westmore’s rounds, he wisely advises Mel to include some twisted skin around the midsection that the judges will see, because apparently she decided to sculpt the entire lower half. He also warns that this is a time-consuming piece, so she better get it done today. And Mel promptly enters panic mode, which might be warranted this time. With Walter, McKenzie blinks in confusion at his concept. Mr. Westmore advises against the bowling bowl idea, but Walter doesn’t agree with just one appliance.

Johnny has decided to add porcupine quills to the face, thinking that it’s whimsical. To be fair, when he describes the scene about the girl being trampled in a stampede by zebras and all, followed up by a lone porcupine who wandered over her — it’s funny. But the end result appearing on the model? Not really funny. Kinda confusing.

Mel’s FrontButt piece is huge, and she’s freaking out about it. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why she molded that giant piece if no one will see it under the pants. She could have padded the costume to get the same shape, and it would’ve taken half the time creating and no time applying. I guess once you’re committed, it’s hard to think outside of that.

Day 2 shows Robert making some changes to his face sculpt. Johnny explains his very complicated process of sculpting his hoofprints. Mel needs an army to carry FrontButt to the molding room. We see Robert’s duck and bar of soap. Sadly, the duck doesn’t seem to have a name or a theme song. Robert is slacking off, man.

Anna’s working on a wig for her grandma, using a Kryolan product, of course. Yvonne makes a smart comedic decision, making the holesaw larger than in reality — something Johnny could’ve taken notes from. He’s just now realizing that he might have spent too much time on the hoofprints.

On Application Day, Mel’s thrilled with FrontButt. Rob’s model has a tiny waist, so he adjusts his midsection piece and seems happy with it. Walter’s knife, on the other hand, is not working. It’s too heavy, so Walter uses just the tips of the blades, as he has no other choice.

Anna plugs for Kryolan again, this time using their old age stipple to get, well, an old age effect. Yvonne wants a whimsical paint job, so she goes with yellow, and I’m immediately having flashes of Crayon Man. But at least she applies several shades of yellow for depth and shadowing. There’s hope.

Mel wants to do a frostbite makeup, but it’s coming out more of a zombie green. Going into Last Looks, everyone’s a mess over their paint jobs. It’s Rob’s turn to plug for Kryolan, using their aqua colors to get a good gray going.

My Amateur Impressions:

Yvonne + Jerry Rig: I actually laughed out loud. It’s truly funny. The swirl of the face going into the holesaw is brilliant, and yellow color isn’t nearly as distracting as I thought it would be.

Johnny + Sarah N Geti: Well, she’s… pink. From my couch, I can really only see one hoofprint. Shouldn’t the other side of her face be smushed and dirty? I’m not sure this is nearly as whimsical as it needed to be.

Kaleb + Finn Waters: The fish cowl is well-painted, I think, though it’s shape is weird. Not sure why he went up instead of out. But it’s whimsical.

Melissa + Suzanne Stitches: Looking like Sally’s older sister (of Nightmare Before Christmas fame), Suzanne is okay. The face looks whimsical, but is it enough? I’m can’t say.

Rob + Wendy Wand: She looks exactly like his sketch. The vision was clearly successful. But her injury seems a little too subtle here.

Mel + Sally Slopes: I’m so sorry, Mel, but this is kind of a hot mess. The ski suit doesn’t lend itself well to the FrontButt, and the paint job doesn’t make sense. There’s no sign of snow or ice.

Robert + Thomas Watts and Duck: Meh. It’s okay. I’m not sure he went far enough into the electrocution element, but the duck and soap pieces stuck to him are clever. Have we seen a really killer piece from Robert yet? Feels like he’s coasting through.

Walter + Seymour Sharp: Honestly, the best part was when he smiled and teeth fell out. I like the clown makeup.

Anna + Rose Mary: Well, it’s kinda whimsical. She could have gone heavier with the explosion aspect of it.

The Professionals’ Impressions:

The judges are confused by Johnny’s porcupine. They are not impressed with FrontButt. Glenn wants to know why Thomas Watts wasn’t wetter. And he and Neville note the lack of story with Rose Mary.

The winner? Yvonne, hands down.

With Mel, Kaleb, and Johnny in the bottom 3, it’s Johnny who bit the dust. A tough one, because his makeup wasn’t terrible. He just made some questionable decisions. But sometimes, that’s enough to send you home. Sorry, Johnny.

Overall Thoughts: Loved the challenge. They spent quite a bit of time with the artists as they worked, which was good. But the initial scene at the printing facility seemed like a waste; it had very little to do with the actual challenge.

Beauty in Words:

“But where’s the angler? Where’s that funny thing that could be hanging out there and he’s constantly going ‘pfffff’ ‘pffff’ ‘pfffff.’ …… It’s funny.” — #Nevilleism, an explanation of comedy, about Kaleb’s character.

“I really wish the splits were more of a gaping maw…  like fun, family-sized guts and gore.” — Glenn.

“It looks like Blue Man Group gone elfish.” — Ve, discussing Finn Waters’s fish hat.

 

What did you think? Was it Johnny’s time? I wanna know!

 

RECAP! Face Off: Foreign Bodies

Episode 5 and all we see is slime. Could the artists be recreating You Can’t Do That On Television?? Sadly, no. They’re just making scary aliens bursting out of people. I suppose that’s acceptable.

The remaining contestants enter the lab where they’re met with “Science!”-looking equipment – microscopes, vials, bottles of chemicals. Without wasting a beat, McKenzie dives right into the week’s Spotlight Challenge. Calling out films like Aliens and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we learn this challenge will be about parasitic creatures taking over their host body, taking inspiration from a microscopic image of a real parasite.

And now I’m putting down my sushi until a commercial break. The parasite images are freaking terrifying, especially blown up on a screen. Yeah, that’ll haunt me for a little while.

Lance Henriksen, whose IMDb page is ginormous, appears as the special guest.

Now that we have an even number of contestants, we’re back to a team challenge, and the contestants choose with whom they will work. Only mere minutes into the episode, and we’ve already hit the Design Phase. Something’s up.

Anna and Yvonne have what might be the scariest organism, and their design involves the creature coming out of the side of the model’s face – like half-human, half-alien, judging by the sketch. Cory points out this is not “bursting from” but “transforming into.”

Katie and Robert have a tentacle-y, worm-looking parasite. Katie is not thrilled with her choice in teammate, referencing the difficulty they had the last time they worked together. Their design consists of a tumorous head where the worms will (theoretically) burst from. It makes sense, though it looks a little boring.

Rob and Kaleb, whose microorganism is maybe 2nd scariest, are making it so their creature can be “revealed” on the back of the model. Definitely dramatic, though I’m curious to see how the judges feel about it.

Before we get any further, McKenzie walks in with Mr. Henriksen. McKenzie’s in a smashing dress, by the way.

(Side note: I feel terrible when the only thing I have to say about McKenzie is what she’s wearing. She’s a likable host, and a lovely actress. But her wardrobe on here is always so noteworthy, it’s hard to avoid talking about it.)

Apparently, there is another step to this challenge. Mel is already mid-panic attack (I get it, girl! Been there.). Every good alien makeup, according to Bishop, must have SLIME. It’s funny, and a testament to my generation that when I hear slime, all I can think of is Marc Summers, Nickelodeon Studios, and a bucket of the green stuff. I know good horror aliens have slime, but that’s simply not my association. It’s not film, it’s my childhood TV that makes me feel like a slime expert.

Anyway, this slime element turns into the season’s first Foundation Challenge – and what a great way to do it! Foundation Challenges can sometimes feel like a waste of time and talent, just a way to get a famous face in as a “judge.” But by both interrupting the process and making the it apart of the main Spotlight Challenge, this one feels more integrated and necessary, upping the drama and the stakes. I like it.

The teams have 2 hours to develop a slime that will work for their character design. They’ll be judged on color, texture, and “if it works the way you intended it to.” The slime will be “tested,” — thrown, dripped, or otherwise placed on a model in a hazmat suit. The materials they get to use are wheeled out, and I spy lots of Gatorade, food coloring, and highlighters. (Every haunted house has used highlighter ink at some point. I’m also betting there’s laundry detergent and KY on that cart somewhere.)

McKenzie announces that for the first time ever, the winning TEAM will get immunity. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it takes away that awkwardness of making one person on the team bear all the responsibility of a bottom looks makeup. On the other hand, why even let that team compete? Hm.

Mel and Melissa’s concept is an alien literally bursting out of their model’s face, where the human face will be draped around the neck of the alien. A pretty genius design, if the human face looks real enough. Mel wants their slime to be sticky, and here’s where I start yelling at the screen: Glycerin! Mel hears me, and uses that in conjunction with corn syrup and lube (called it).

Johnny and Walter have a microorganism that kind looks like a pig or a bear. Their design is a little confusing. Walter says the parasite will be shedding it’s human skin. They also want it bursting through the chest, where the slime will shoot out. Johnny’s using laundry detergent (also, called it) but he sneakily pulls flocking from the lab to give their slime a unique quality. But SSSShhhhh. Keep it on the down-low.

As the other teams work on their slime, I can’t help but want to be there. This looks like the coolest, messiest thing ever.

During the judging, Lance takes the slime very seriously. His favorites are Johnny and Walter, and Mel and Melissa. The latter win the challenge and immunity. Hopefully, this means Mel can relax and enjoy the creative process.

Back to the main challenge. Kaleb and Rob are working well together, and from what’s shown, it’s clear Rob has real leadership skills. After his win last week, I’m sensing a finalist here.

When Michael Westmore arrives, McKenize skips Mel & Melissa, given their immunity. But JK. Over with Robert and Katie, Mr. Westmore advises to limit the number of tumors on the head. We learn that Walter and Johnny are making their chest piece swirl using a drill, which is pretty clever. Anna and Yvonne are warned about the non-bursting qualities their piece has right now. Lots of torn skin advice.

Aaaaaaand Mel is upset now. She’s miserable with her face sculpt, freaks out a bit, starts over, and the day is done.

Day 2 is all about finishing these sculpts and molding.

Robert’s main focus is the alien worm, who he’s named Hans. Hans even has his own theme song, of course, which Robert sings on the spot.

Johnny is having trouble with polyfoam (surprise, surprise). The chest piece is just a pile of goo, so they must try again.

Rob is now uncharacteristically panicked. Afraid he spent too much time on the sculpt, he’s muttering to himself and throwing things around the molding room. Kaleb tries to offer help, but Rob stalks out, feeling “claustrophobic.”

Application Day will be Johnny’s bitch, or so he says.

Everything seems to be going relatively well, except for Katie and Robert, whose cowl is showing a huge edge right across the forehead, an issue that carries through Last Looks. Robert and Katie are very unhappy going onto the Reveal Stage.

My Amateur Impressions:

Mel & Melissa’s Face Melt Burst: Genius. The face skin on the shoulders just makes it work. The moving mouth is pretty creepy, too.

Johnny & Walter’s Drill Chest: My thoughts are the same as when I saw the sketch. The chest looks great, but I just don’t understand what’s happening on the head.

Robert & Katie’s Lumpy Skull: Ugh. That edge looks a million times worse under this lighting and now that some time has passed. Not helping the situation is the difference in skin tones between the face and the cowl piece. Bottom look. No question.

Anna & Yvonne’s Face/Off: It doesn’t look terrible, but it really is split half and half. No bursting here. The color palette is a little bland, too, but I guess that was intentional?

Kaleb & Rob: A nightmare. In the best possible sense. The front of the makeup is sickening, but the back? Utterly horrifying. Really well done. See, Rob? All good.

The Professionals’ Impressions:

Ve likes Mel & Melissa’s blue slime, Neville loves the human teeth.  Glenn thinks Anna & Yvonne’s doesn’t have enough detail, and Neville questions why they split the face right down the middle, while Ve says what we’ve all been saying – no bursting.

Top Teams? Mel & Melissa and Rob & Kaleb, with the boys taking the win this week, making it back-to-back wins for Rob.

Katie is headed home, which was justified given her choices with the makeup.

Overall Thoughts: A fun episode, despite a very specific challenge. A great use of a Foundation Challenge. We’re finally seeing more personality from the remaining contestants, and the real talent is showing itself.

Beauty in Words:

“I love what you did. You mastered… the chunk.” – Lance Henriksen, describing Johnny & Walter’s slime.

“It reflects San Andreas Fault in the middle of her head…” – a sarcastic Robert, offering a purpose for the glaring edge across the forehead of his makeup.

“I’m a lot happier with Robert’s worm than the rocks-in-a-sock Katie put on her head –” – Glenn. #rocksinasock

“I just wish it wasn’t bifurcated almost perfectly.” – #Nevilleism, showing off his fancy vocabulary.

RECAP! Face Off: Covert Characters

Episode 4. The contestants are on a mission – a mission to disguise.

Before the opening sequence, we get a glimpse of what’s to come, and there’s a lot that we’ve seen before: Michael Westmore throwing around the term “cartoony,” Mel with neurotic self-doubt. I’m already disappointed, so here’s hoping the episode has a little more to offer than the usual.

And we do start a little differently. Four of the contestants are sitting around an outdoor table, discussing their current status. We haven’t seen many out-of-the-lab moments thus far, so it’s a nice change.

The contestants walk into the lab, I think, where McKenzie is standing, all formal-like, in front of a mock government seal and 2 rows of metal chairs. In a slightly cheesy fashion, McKenzie does her best FBI impression, telling the contestants that this week they’ll have a “focus challenge,” meaning it’ll all about that face, ’bout that face, no fabri…. cation… sorry. These challenges entered the competition a few seasons ago, after the fabrication factor got a little out of hand. I think these challenges are necessary and can tell a lot about an artist, but they don’t always make for good TV.

This is also the first individual challenge (yay!), which is a TON of pressure – a focus challenge and individually? No blaming the teammate? Yikes.

Each contestant must develop a realistic disguise makeup, with an attempt to make their model as unrecognizable as possible. Damn. That is HARD.

McKenzie points out that this isn’t just something that happens in the entertainment industry. (Good, because at this point, all I can think of Mrs. Doubtfire/Ve.) In order to put people deep undercover, the FBI and other government agencies rely on extremely talented artists to assist with disguises.  Surprisingly, it’s Michael Westmore who has tremendous real life experience here. Mr. Westmore explains some of his experiences, including disguises for Michael Jackson, the LAPD, and… wait, did he just say he helped someone hold up a casino?

Mr. Westmore offers some sage advice, and then the artists are presented with their models. It’s also revealed that this week’s guest judge is Gale Anne Hurd. Before releasing them, McKenzie offers a stern warning that the judges will be looking for detail and perfect edges. Easy-peasy.

Njoroge decides he’ll be changing his blonde female model into an Asian male, a drastic change right off the top. I’m eager to see how Njoroge performs on his own, since he’s proven fairly useless on teams. He’s extraordinarily confident he can kill this, which leads me to believe the final makeup goes strong one way or the other.

Melissa is super stoked for the challenge, saying she’s got a ton of experience changing herself into a male character. In fact, when she’s discussing how she dresses up as Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny, I honestly can’t tell if the image they pull up a picture of her or Charlie himself. Impressive. She’s turning her female into an older female, so this will be all about aging.

Robert is changing his female model into a male maintenance man. He immediately expresses my concern, that she is a tiny, tiny person. Making her a believable male will be difficult. Robert is just happy he doesn’t have to work with anybody else.

Yvonne is turning her average-looking male model into…. a heavy metal musician? Part of the challenge is to make sure that these “agents” can getaway without being noticed. Heavy metal musicians aren’t particularly average-looking… This is a questionable decision, Yvonne.

Just before we move on to Mel, I said to Cory, who was watching with me, that the artists who got females really lucked out. It’s much easier to change a small, feminine face into anything, as opposed to a larger, more structured male face.

Mel reiterates my exact sentiments. She’s turning her female into an elderly man, apparently something that brings her great joy.

Kaleb is looking to hit it out of the ballpark, so he’s planning to turn his white female into an Eastern Indian woman… And I can’t help but think that it would be poor form to turn any agent into a completely different race – putting aside the PC-ness of it, I would also imagine it’s incredibly impractical. It would probably mean much heavier makeup, more drastic appliances, making the odds of being spotted much, much higher. Just a thought…

Rob is going for the “blend into a crowd” look, changing his young model with darker features to a fair-skinned, strawberry blonde, middle-aged man.

Anna’s design is aiming for the hipster look, but… given her male model’s headshot, it looks more like she designed a costume. It’s gonna take some tough facial work to get this guy to look like a different version of himself.

Anna also mentions that the challenge must be completed today — did I miss that? Maybe those are the general rules for a Focus Challenge, and I just forgot. 10 hours in the lab Day 1, then 4 hours for application on Day 2 + last looks. Got it.

Mr. Westmore is back for a walk-through. He meets Walter first, where we see he’s changing his black male into an older, (white?) biker dude. Here’s where “cartoony” comes in, though it’s not nearly as drastic as last week’s situation.

Katie is going for an older, darker-skinned maintenance man, now making me forever question every maintenance person I see.

Johnny, who we hadn’t seen much this episode (meaning he’ll be safe, at the end), explains to the Westmores his concept. His model, who has very, very distinct features, will be turned into an African-American male (I think).

With Njoroge, McKenzie expresses her surprise at the concept, and Michael makes some very strong suggestions about the eye shape.

Melissa is working on skin texture, using a technique where she sculpts through a sheet of plastic, giving the sculpt softer, more natural detail. It looks pretty amazing right now.

Again, we see a rare scene of the contestants eating at said table, which I now realize is attached to the outside of the lab. How long has that been there?

Rob, who seems to be very nervous, asks Melissa about her past experiences. We see more photos of Melissa dressed as male characters, saying that she was the tallest in her costuming group, so she often got stuck as the male. She also explains how, when playing a male, it’s not so much the face as it is the body language. This is true. I’ve been in many an acting class where the sole activity was learning how to carry yourself like the opposite sex. It takes some practice, but it makes a big difference. Stuffing can also help, but that’s a conversation for another day. True though, because the girls then have a laugh at men adjusting themselves, something Walter seems to bristle at a bit. Sorry, Walter, I have no sympathy for your offense at sexist generalizations.

Mel, as per usual, is having severe doubts about her old age gender swap.

The day ends with minimal panic.

Application Day starts with Melissa punching hair into her piece to create eyebrows, but she’s not thrilled with how it’s turning out. Rob is spending a lot of time perfecting the bald cap, since his guy will have a receding hairline.

Mel’s confidence comes back as she’s painting, giving the model (and us!) a lesson in the vascular system of the human body, and how it creates our skin tone. Basing out the makeup in red seems very smart.

Njoroge starts laying facial hair, which he admits is not something he excels at. He’s not particularly proud of it, but when comparing himself to the others, he’s 100% sure he’s got it.

Katie has given her model an accidental spray tan, which she can’t seem to rectify.

Robert shares his tape trick to laying hair, and from what we see, it looks genius.

Kaleb’s East Indian skin tone is looking like The One With Ross’s Tan: 2016-02-04 15.45.09

So that’s problematic. Going into Last Looks, Kaleb is sad. At time an hour later, Kaleb is still very sad.

My Amateur Impressions:

Anna’s Hipster Dude: I have no idea how he looks in person, but he looks pretty terrible from the nose down on screen. The facial hair is falling strangely, and there’s odd texturing on his cheeks. Huh.

Katie’s Repairman man man man: Uh….. well… he’s looking a bit Wayne Newton-y. but with a sneer and a ‘stache.

Walter’s Biker Bro: Hm. It’s okay. The eyebrows seem a little too large, but the paint job is good.

Rob’s Tourist: I LOVE IT. Love it. Up close, on screen, there is nothing signaling that this man is fake. The skin texture and coloring looks right, the eyebrows and facial hair look good. Love it.

Robert’s Tiny Maintenance Person: She looks pretty good. The facial hair works.

Yvonne’s Rock Star: Um…. no. Well, not no. Just not yes. The face is bland, man. I don’t buy him as a rocker. An aging rocker would certainly show more signs of his lifestyle. And to be honest, he doesn’t look that different.

Njoroge’s Asian Kid: I don’t know. Still looks like a girl to me. The facial hair is a major distraction.

Melissa’s Boss Lady Agent: Whoa. So the mouth and neck look amazing. (My mom always says you can tell a woman’s real age by her neck.) But something disastrous went down with the eyes, and since the show spent so little time with Melissa once she started applying, I have no idea what happened.

Johnny’s Dreadlock Dude: It’s not terrible. The wig is questionable, but not detrimental.

Kaleb’s East Indian Woman: Yeah, there’s obvious problems with the paint job. The edges around the mouth are glaring, as well.

Mel’s Old Man: I kinda like it. The wrinkles and lips look good, although there might be some color differences between the top of the head and the rest of the face?

The Professionals’ Impressions:

Neville calls the Hipster “toy-like.” Glenn thinks Katie was trying to make her dude look sweaty, though he might be giving her more credit than she deserves there. After removing her glasses, Tiny Maintenance Person looks even better (ah, a classic make-over story). Gale, a very serious judge, questions the choice for Njoroge to go Asian. She also likes the neck of Boss Lady, while Glenn questions what happened above the eye.

Top Looks? Robert and Rob, with Rob taking the crown for this difficult, individual challenge.

At this point, I think it’s time for Njoroge to go home. He was a failure on a team twice, and hasn’t proven much on his own here. ….. Aaaaaand, he goes. Sorry, Njoroge. You seem nice. But it really was time.

Overall Thoughts: This was an episode where the challenge was really tough and important, but unfortunately, tiny detail work and skin tone struggles don’t make for interesting TV. Some of the editing choices were odd, too. Why didn’t we see what happened to Melissa’s makeup? It’s ultimately an episode for someone who really, really likes this show.

Beauty in Words:

“It’s like that scene from Scarface. Hey Clay, say hello to my little friend! …. It’s bliss.” – Robert, discussing his love of the power washer.

“The hair… it’s possible that somebody can have that big a hair –”
“I’m sitting right here.” Neville and Glenn, discussing Katie’s work. You decide who said what.

–Tonight’s #Nevilleisms happened as Neville was live-tweeting the show:

Screen shot 2016-02-04 at 3.59.03 PM Screen shot 2016-02-04 at 3.58.02 PM