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This week, Gigi Edgley greeted our final five contestants when they walked onto the Jim Henson Studios lot. Gigi suggested they take a look at the Sound Stage, where Brian Henson and the art department were hard at work on the stage for this week's challenge. Brian also gave them this week's brief while they were there.
The designers were to build an organic creature that lives within its natural environment. The creatures were to camouflage as completely as possible into the swamp set that the art department was building. The creatures were to hide in plain sight—oh and it's feeding season! Brian also informed the contestants that this was going to be an individual challenge. The contestants were allowed to choose a sample from each of the different areas of the set to use in the construction of their creature. They were also instructed to integrate one bit of mechanization and they had a whopping three days to build the creatures.
Melissa chose the grass. Ben chose the mossy rock. Jake chose the gnarly wood. Robert chose the lily pads. And Russ was left with the weeping junipers. Ben was shooting for a creature that was a variation on a turtle; only its shell would be the camouflage as a mossy rock. Robert was rather excited about the lily pads, deciding that the creature needed to have one eye buried within the lily pad flower that it would wear as a hat.
Russ's first thought was about primates. He believed that the weeping juniper would make some awesome dreadlocks. Hmm… Meanwhile, Jake was working on a creature who would blend into the wood at the base of a tree. One thing he was trying to do was design something that wouldn't involve a lot of eye mechs.
Melissa was psyched about using the grass in her creature, especially when she saw the green fur that was in the supply room. The grassy effect it would lend would be wonderful. Ben was pushing himself on the eye mechs, as he felt his contributions to last week's team win with Melissa weren't recognized perhaps as much as he would have liked. In an individual challenge, he was determined to show them what he could do.
Russ was worried about time by the end of day one, as he knew he was spending too much time sculpting. Melissa decided that her one piece of mechanization would be servo eyes. It wasn't her strong suit in past challenges, but she decided to take the gamble. By day two of the build, she was convinced that eye mechs were the bane of her existence.
Our master this week was, once again, fabrication supervisor Julie Zobel. As she came through for master sessions on day two, Jake was psyched when she said that his creature reminded her of Jim Henson's sensibility.
When Julie met with Ben, she tried to caution him that the head being hidden wasn't meeting the challenge's statement of hiding in plain sight. Ben listened—half heartedly—and went forward with his original concept anyway. Over in the other end of the workshop Julie seemed to enjoy Robert's idea to have one of his creature's eyes being inside the flower on the lily pad. She also made sure Melissa was thinking through how her creature would hide in plain sight in the grassy environment of the swamp. When Julie reached Russ, she immediately noted that his paint and flocking job was very bright. Russ was very proud of the fact that he was going old-school with wood block eye mechanisms.
When screen test day came, the contestants were allowed to rehearse in their space. Unfortunately, Russ got a little flamboyant with his rehearsal, and ripped one of his creature's arms out. A quick fix got it working again, but Russ was hoping it would hold. We had a special guest judge this week, none other than Neville Page, who Melissa stated was one of the modern day masters.
Ultimately, the judges liked Robert's and Melissa's creatures the best, with Melissa taking the challenge. Jake was declared safe for the week. The judges wanted something more from Russ and Ben's creatures. While they believed that Ben had missed the challenge completely, including ignoring the warning signs from Julie, Russ's concept and design wasn't believable enough, and didn't work in execution. Russ was our eliminated designer this week.