“Face Off” Episode 102 Recap: “I Came For the Nudity, Stayed For the Artistry”

Let’s get one thing straight before I get to the actual discussion of this week’s episode of Face Off — even though I’m a huge fan of Top Chef, and loved Top Chef: Just Desserts, and was surprised Work of Art worked so well, I am sick to death of reality competition shows.

I’m tired of Project Runway, much less The Fashion Show. I don’t want any more reality shows about florists, people trying to lose weight, or grade Z celebrities trying to dance, skate or do synchronized swimming.

That’s why when I heard that Syfy’s Face Off — which pits special-effects make-up artists against each other — actually featured a Team Gay, I still wasn’t interested in watching. Then I saw the promos for this week’s episode which showed the make-up artists painting completely nude models and suddenly I was slightly more interested. 

Yeah, I’m really that shallow. Hey, I’m a gay guy so the idea of one guy painting another naked guy is, um, intriguing.

Come on, you know it’s exactly what Syfy was hoping for! Anyway, that was enough to get me to tune in and watch an episode.

On the plus side, at least Face Off is about something your average viewer knows very little about, but has seen a great deal of. We’ve all watched Star Trek or CSI or Spartacus and marveled at how make-up artists create such convincing aliens, dead bodies and chopped off heads. But most of us have almost no idea of what’s involved. (As opposed to floral arranging about which most of us can grasp the basics of even if we wouldn’t be very good at actually doing.)

On the minus side, Face Off was produced with pretty much the exact same cookie cutter format as every other competitive reality show. I swear, I kept expecting Padma Lakshmi to show up and announce the Quickfire Challenge sponsored by Nabisco!

So back to the episode. The Quickfire Challenge, or whatever they call it here, was for the contestants to design their own tattoo that “means something to them.”


Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think so as one of the artists spent the majority of the time reading a book and then tracing over an existing tattoo he already had. Then the “world famous” chef/hairstylist/artist/assassin these sorts of shows always trot out, passes judgment on the tattoos and at least he and I are in agreement on the two best tattoos.

He picks a winner, but I’m not really paying attention because A) I don’t really care and B) all am I really thinking is “When do we see the nude models?”

Finally, we do. They come out as a group and each poses in front of a different background — a seascape, an elevator door, a waterfall and so forth. The challenge will be for the artists to paint their models so that they fit into the picture which will then be shot for a magazine cover. Think Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair painted like she’s wearing a suit.

(BTW, it seems almost all of this sort of art is done with female models. Just Google “body painting” and see how many male models you get. It took me a while to find just one.)

Then the Padma Lakshmi wannabe tells the models to drop their robes.

Next page! Naked at last!

If you think my wanting to see some male skin is immature, it’s nothing compared to the giggling and blushing that erupts among the contestants. Seriously, people? Are you six-years-old? I find it hard to believe that a bunch of Canadians or Europeans would have such a juvenile reaction, but maybe I’m wrong.

The contestants then have their names drawn to see which model they’ll be painting. Naturally, most of the straight men gravitate to the female models and seem hugely relieved they won’t have to paint any male wang. The exception is Tom who acts like a grown-up about it, and to his credit Conor, despite a little discomfort, also picks a male model since he has an idea of how to use him.

Conor and his model

Worst of all is Frank. When it’s just him and Meghan left to choose between a male and female model, he begs her to pick the male model, but since it’s been two years since she’s last seen a real penis, she’s also freaking out. When her name is drawn, she grabs the last female model which leaves Frank stuck with the guy in front of the elevator picture. Frank is so panicked about what to do, he considers withdrawing from the competition. It takes Conor to talk some sense into Frank, but I seriously wish he’d just let him go.

So what is Frank’s solution to this most awful of dilemmas? He makes the model face the painting so he only has to paint his backside.

Sheesh. And what’s with the stupid lampshade?

Meanwhile, over on Team Gay, Gage picks the guy who might arguably be the cutest of the male models which prompts a snarky observation from fellow gay Marcel.

As for Marcel, he doesn’t exactly pick the ugliest guy in the bunch himself.

Next page! The final images!

Next we have a flurry of shots of the artists busily at work (and Frank probably covering his eyes as he paints his model’s butt) followed by the photo shoot.

Sam, Gage, Meghan, Marcel and Frank all end up being safe which is great for Team Gay, but I really wanted the judges to chew out Frank for being such a twit.

Here is Marcel’s final image.

And here is Gage’s

The judges favorites are Jo’s seascape.

Tom’s placement of his model at the bottom of these stairs.

And Anthony’s use of his model as part of a petrified tree.

Next page! And the winner is…

While I agree emphatically that Tom and Anthony belong in the top two, I thought Jo’s seascape was trite and obvious. Anthony is named the winner and it was definitely the right choice. Not only did he incorporate his model beautifully into his background, his image of her being “reborn” out of the petrified wood was rather brilliant.

So who is the loser? It was Sergio which was pretty obvious to everyone from the get go. His concept of painting an aboriginal person into the tornado backdrop was fine, but he hardly did any painting and the result was weak at best.

Oh, well. At least Sergio learned that touching a guy who happened to be naked isn’t all the horrifying.

And while I came for the nudity, ultimately I’m leaving pretty impressed with at least some of the artistry. Will that be enough to get me to come back next week. We’ll have to see, but a challenge involving, oh, say, the gladiators from Spartacus wouldn’t hurt.

What did you think?