"Face Off" Season 3: Kids draw the darndest things



Last night I realized that we're at least 2/3 of the way through this season, and at this point we can make a few judgment calls. Overall I think the challenges this season have been pretty great. We've had some good sci-fi staples (zombies, super heroes) and some more creative exercises (the Chinese zodiac, this week's assignment). Since the DQ of crazy Joe in Episode 1 all of the contestants have been, for the most part, likable. And I think on the whole the talent this time out was higher than the season before. But the one major problem with this season is that we've known who the finalists will be since pretty much the beginning. Barring some major catastrophe in the next few weeks, this is all coming down to Laura vs. Roy, who are leagues above anybody else still in the running.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. With only six artists left and an entire month's worth of shows to fill, the producers had to re-stack the deck a bit, so they did the old eliminated-designer-returns bit. This mini-challenge brought in almost all the axed S3 contestants -- C.C., Eric, Jason, Nicole, and Tommy (Joe was noticeably left out, probably because dude tried to SUE THE SHOW) -- and they were tasked with creating a Day of the Dead-inspired look that was judged by erstwhile panelist Patrick Tatopoulos. The clear stand-outs were Nicole's colorful, rich-looking mariachi dude and Eric's prosthetic skull construction. Surprisingly, Patrick gave the win to Nicole. Don't get me wrong, she deserved it. But I thought bringing the brother back (Eric and Derek are fraternal twins) would be too tempting for the producers. Good on the show for rewarding actual talent instead of backstories.

The main challenge saw the Final 6, plus the returning Nicole, paired up with child artists and asked to bring their monster drawings to life. Some of these kids are VERY creative, and the monsters were wild and wacky. Some of the designers took the decidedly non-human-looking drawings and tried to anthropormorphize them. Others embraced the unusual shapes and really went for the challenge.

At judging, Glenn Hetrick told the designers that the panel was more polarized than it has ever been, and that showed in the critiques. Ve Neill and Neville Page seemed to more or less agree on their favorites -- which tended to be the less humanoid-looking works -- while Glenn gravitated toward the more traditional, adult-looking monsters. Personally I thought Glenn was missing the point here. Yes, they were supposed to be making a movie make-up based off of a kid's monster. But it was the kid's monster. Turning it into something for an adult horror film seemed like a cop-out.

My favorite look was easily Laura's, which she described as a "half vampire, half dragon baby that throws rocks at people." Hilarious. She is SO talented - has she ever put out anything that wasn't amazing? - and she got a much-deserved win. Roy came in second for his really cool multi-eyed, multi-colored alien that had a face for a hand. These two absolutely brought their kid artist's drawings to 3D life. (Click here for close-up looks of all of last night's creations.)

Derek, Rod, and Alana ended up in the bottom, with Rod getting the axe for once again making another big-headed creation despite repeated warnings from the judges not to do so. I think Rod is something of a one-way monkey (TM "Project Runway"'s Dmitry) -- he's talented, but is stuck in a very limited range creatively. But I sympathized, because he was tasked with bringing someone else's vision to life, and that vision really did have a giant head. I wondered if there were producer shenanigans at play there, giving him a kid whose drawing would almost certainly screw him with the judges.

At this point Nicole is total cannon fodder (I like her, but you know it's true), Derek is wildly inconsistent, and Alana has been outclassed since basically the beginning of the competition -- and the judges are starting to notice. Ve's critique of Alana's paintjob this week was pretty brutal, and if Alana somehow makes it to the finale I'll be seriously upset. I had pegged Sarah as the third finalist early on, but she's been falling apart the past three or so weeks. I thought she made a return to form this week with her sweets-based monster, which looked very cool from my living-room couch. But I'm afraid she's lost momentum, and her clear lack of pop-culture references and time-management problems might screw her, leaving that third finale spot open to Derek (eh) or Alana (boo).

Next: Dr. Seuss challenge, with the Seussian-haired Brian Grazer as guest judge.

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