Face Off adds Redemption Island, so its surprisingly weak contestants get a second chance

Top Chef borrowed Redemption Island from Survivor–and won an Emmy for its online “Last Chance Kitchen” series–and now SyFy’s Face Off is doing the same thing, and using the same subtitle, Redemption.

While its version is still stiffly hosted by its alpha male head judge, with Glenn Hetrick following Tom Colicchio’s example, the structure is slightly different: the winner won’t re-join this season, but will join the cast next season. Also, instead of one-on-one competitions, groups of four compete at the same time, though it’s not clear how the rest of the competition is structured.

The format has worked pretty well on Top Chef, where there’s strong talent all around, but this season on Face Off there appears to be a huge gap in talent; it’s almost like amateurs versus pros. And I’m not quite sure about giving those with such weak performance a second chance to come back next season–though ideally, I suppose they’d end up losing to one of the more talented contestants who is eliminated late in the competition.

I’m sure everyone is talented, it just seems that some are collapsing under the time and other pressures, while others thrive. It’s like some people glue badly painted things to their models’ faces, while others create makeup that would work in a summer movie. Last night’s challenge, creating an original character using candy, resulted in some absolutely stunning and absolutely dreadful creatures. Glenn Hetrick told one contestant, “there’s such an appalling lack of makeup for the amount of time that you have, I just don’t know what you did,” while Ve Neill said, “it’s not even glued down.”

That said, I thought Anthony and Eric F’s designs–a stunning colonel and a grotesque melting creature–were ridiculously strong, and that they didn’t make it to the top group is pretty bizarre. Since Anthony won the first four challenges in a row, my inner conspiracy theorist wonders if the judges needed a new winner so the competition didn’t seem like such a blow-out.

Despite sticking to a rather rigid formula week to week, Face Off remains entertaining and watchable, but I’m looking forward to the point in the season when the weak contestants have left and only the strong remain.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.