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:
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: