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The Face Off contestants, a group of 12 makeup artists from reaches as far as Hawaii and Pittsburgh, assemble for what they think will be a meet and greet – but Mackenzie Westmore, a member of the special effects makeup Westmore dynasty, informs them that the first challenge in the ultimate makeup FX competition begins NOW. A file of models enters the room, pulling their own makeup kits. But there’s a twist: the artists must use one element from the room. Contestants grab balloons, fruit, anything at hand, and use their two hours well. The winner, Gage from Los Angeles, gets immunity during the spotlight challenge.
After checking out their new digs, they get a peek at the labs that will be their workplace, and Mackenzie delivers their spotlight challenge: Working in pairs, they must make a hybrid from a human and either a beetle, an ostrich, or an elephant. Everybody digs in, and though there are the usual bumps – slow partners, conflict of vision, unusable prosthetic legs – the results are dramatic.
After three days, the teams wrap up, bring their models – with full prosthetic regalia – to the studio for last looks, and then present them for the final test. The judges are titans of the industry: Glenn Hetrick, Owner of Optic Nerve Studio, Ve Neill, 3-time Oscar winner, and Patrick Tatopoulis, creature designer and director. The models give their presentations, then the judges come in for a closer look, making the contestants break out in a cold sweat.
The teams of Megan and Anthony and Sam and Marcel are both safe. Mackenzie informs the rest of them that they are the best – and the worst. The judges call Frank and Tate, who have created a 1950s-style, B-movie beetle man, to discuss their work. They applaud the duo on having a vision, and executing a sophisticated concept. Next, Gage and Sergio are called to defend their elephant man/circus freak concept, and the judges are sorely disappointed, stating that the vision is incomplete, and the technical aspects sloppy. When the judges call Jessica and Jo to discuss their work, they site the hole in the model’s bald cap as an unforgivable sin. Jo takes immediate responsibility for the error, but Jessica gets defensive, saying her sculpting is excellent. And finally, the judges praise Conor and Tom for creating an elephant mask that was thick, textured foam but still moved remarkably well.
Of the “best” teams – Conor and Tom and Frank and Tate – Conor is the overall winner, meaning he gets to confer with the judges about who he thinks should be eliminated. He names Jessica, saying that the ostrich beak she sculpted was never going to work for the model’s breathing.
After much deliberation, the judges agree. Reluctantly, they send her home, favoring instead the contestants that they believe are hungry for the next challenge and ready to learn from their mistakes.