Naked VegasEpisodes

Penn and Teller Painted Magic
Season 1 - Episode 3
Penn and Teller Painted Magic

Nix shows off his skills with a classic fruit-bowl still-life before the credits. After them, Kelly "Red" Belmonte reports to the team that the Golden Gate Casino wants "living statues" to impress their high-roller clients from "Silicone [sic] Valley." Specifically, they're looking to use their "dealer-tainers" as the models for a Greco-Roman statuary look; when it's time for table games, the statues will come to life.

Drew scouts the room so the team can get to work on concept sketches; enter Wiser, late to the brainstorming and generally unimpressed with how easy the job is. Inspired by the interior renovation at the casino, he suggests camouflage instead -- blending the dealers into the walls of the high-limit room. Nix talks about how it's a new style, and agrees with Wiser that it's a hipper take. But it's challenging: the wrong angle or coloration, one imprecision, and the illusion won't work, plus the only way to get it right for sure is to do the painting on-site.

Red sells the clients on the idea, but in the meantime, Penn & Teller want to meet with her ASAP. She's nervous, because they're the most famous potential clients she's pitched -- and they're "synonymous with Las Vegas." We're not sure "synonymous" means what Red thinks it does, but in any case, she's right that the guys want Naked Vegas to help with a new trick. First, though, Penn pulls back the curtain on how a certain card trick works, and it's pretty cool…until Red realizes the magicians will need as many body-painted possibilities as there are cards in the deck. There's no way she's turning down the job, but it's going to test the team's powers of logic.

And before that, she's got to deal with the Golden Gate camo project, which involves packing half the studio and hitting the road at the crack of dawn. On location, it's time to figure out where the high rollers sit and what they can see, then plan out the most convincing camouflage based on how some paint colors trick the eye. Nix and Wiser work with the female models to get the right perspective, and Red notes that it's a tough job for the models, too; once they get in position, they'll have to stay there for the duration of the painting process.

Then the male model finally arrives, looking apprehensive…and hairy. Red has to ask him to shave his whole body, and he's down with it, but he stinks at it; he comes back with his legs all cut up. Red's afraid to paint him if he's still bleeding, and "safety first" means she can't deliver all three models as promised. When the clients show up for a status report, they're weirded out by the shaving story, but wowed by how great the other two look.

Nix and Red walk us through the tricks they use to make right angles on female curves, and Wiser copies the fringed texture of one of the walls. The high rollers' jet lands, so Naked Vegas rushes to clean up, then spies on the VIPs as they arrive, hoping the illusion lands…and it does. The high rollers are blown away, probably more by the models' naked breasts than by the camouflage, if we're being honest -- but the clients are thrilled, and that's what counts.

Then it's on to the Penn & Teller job. Red's having a hard time explaining it, but the bottom line is, they'll have to figure out a way to represent all the cards in a deck, using the fewest models possible. Nix loves this sort of brainteaser, and arranges the others in various ways to see how they can do it, putting Post-Its on his co-workers and comparing the process to playing Twister. Red snorts that the models will need to be contortionists…but it is Vegas, and the idea of really using contortionists serves as an inspirational lightning bolt. Red puts Nix in charge. Can he figure out the correct combination?

He's anxious, but game, and pulls out wooden figurines and a deck of Bicycle cards to work it through. Once he thinks he's got it, he has to translate it for the rest of the painters: five models, showing or covering the cards from ace to ten, and generic face cards that let the contortionists pick the suit using their shoulders and armpits. …Don't worry, we're not sure we follow it either; we're just impressed Nix's brain didn't melt, and Red is encouraged that the job is actually doable.

Nix agrees -- the painting part isn't that complicated, but the stenciling beforehand will take time. He's found a shortcut for the trickiest stencil -- the back of the card -- by using one quarter of the overall design and repeating it. He also stays up late thinking up timesaving mirror stencils for the numbered cards, which is totally obvious and yet we'd never have thought of it. Unfortunately, Red sees a problem: a playing card is a rectangle, and what they have planned won't fit that shape, because they can't include a consistent border thanks to the constantly changing poses. Nix is okay with it looking "abstract," but suggests blacking out everything on the contortionist models except the playing-card bits. Red's good with it…

…so it's go time. The base process is first; they'll use an alcohol-based paint that's less likely to rub off when the models touch each other. With all the airbrushes going, a fog of paint forms in the studio, so everyone masks up. Next, the contortionists break from getting painted to rehearse the poses and see who's going to portray which cards. Nix arranges and rearranges the models, as we wonder how much these ladies get paid to put their heads between each other's legs in the name of magic.

The face cards are stenciled on, one color at a time, and Heather (remember her?) comes in on detail work while Red stencils numbers, letters, and pips. Wiser does the blackout effect that will let the models disappear into the stage's background.

Everyone heads to the Rio for a test show. The team sweats the details and waits for Penn & Teller to emerge from their dressing rooms. It's the most complex concept Nix has ever worked on, and he hopes it gets over…

…and it works. The contortionists "guess" the audience member's card correctly, and while it's not a flawless illusion, it's still super-impressive. Penn does us a solid and shows us how it's done (basically, Teller sees the card and signals Red, who signals the models), and they both love the work. Success!

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