Puppet Masters

LEGO® Masters USA – Season 2, Episode 8: Puppet Masters

The latest episode of LEGO® Masters USA, Season 2 put on a show, a puppet show to be exact, and is aptly titled “Puppet Masters”. Our 6 remaining teams must create an original brick-built character filled with personality and movement. With their new buddies in tow, they must perform a scripted show written and directed by Martin Scorsese! Wait . . .that sounds wrong (*checks notes*). Yes, my mistake, it probably wasn’t him. But no one specifically said it wasn’t him, so who knows right? I have to say the comedy this episode was very hit or miss for me, quite a few groans. But we did get some great builds (of course) so, without further adieu, on with the show!

©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

Curtain Call

Puppet Masters was all about putting on a show, LEGO® as theatre if you will. After last week’s construction challenge, this was a very nice change of pace. I really enjoy the artsier elements of brick-building, and sculptural builds are the most satisfying in my humble opinion. I’m a big theatre fan myself, so this is a cute combination for a challenge. The criteria is fairly straightforward: each team must build a puppet with personality and moveable features to put on a pre-scripted show for the judges. The script is a fairly open to characterization so everyone’s unique build got to fit right into the story. Let’s also take a minute to admire the brick-built stage folks. Amazing work.

Ruuuuunning Gag

Before talking about the amazing builds let’s talk about Will Arnett’s puppet doppelgänger, Will Puppett. First off, SOLID name! The reveal is fun with jokes often being meta and clever. The banter with each team is also fairly entertaining. The first joke about stealing human Will’s job is OK. Then it repeats. A lot. The joke gets played out very fast. I am no comedy expert folks, but I know when a gag runs a little too far – this one fainted. It’s definitely better when Natalie is the one doing the joke stealing – she’s a natural. Despite all this, the puppeteer deserves a big shout out for doing a great performance. He’s the unsung (and unseen) hero this week.

This week’s challenge let everyone decide which team they partnered with. The partnering is more a technicality than a collaboration however. Each team helps inform the other on their storyline and character, but at no point is anyone building or designing together. Pairing the teams together is a smart idea too, it allows the characters to play off one another and create much needed interaction. I can’t say I really followed any of the 3 ‘plots’ though. By the time we got through each scene I could only recall a few jokes or moments. Sculpting and creating with LEGO® bricks is not in every builder’s wheelhouse. But Each team really brought a unique and original personality to their character. Overall though, great work by everyone.

Best Frenemies

Mark & Steven team up with Caleb & Jacob, brothers vs brothers. Mark asking the twins if they want to pair up with their “arch rivals” is pretty cute. Although this friction is more of a, oh, I dunno, school yard squabble, rather than a proper rivalry haha. Family programming folks! Their banter is fun and Will suggesting their plan is to “take the twins down from within” is actually hilarious. Mark & Steven present a dragon as their character which ironically is also what Caleb wants to do. Mark put the veto on that one pretty quick and steers them towards a Princess character. It works out wonderfully in the end, but I’m surprised Caleb caves so easily. Dueling dragons would have been a fun visual, but the Princess absolutely makes a better narrative choice.

Both these teams make stand-out creations this week. Mark & Steven’s ‘Bernie, the Burnt-out Dragon’ is hilarious to look at. Those droopy eyes! The judges really compliment them on on the facial articulation and for making great, rounded shapes with square bricks. I need to give Steven a lot of praise for his voice work during the play, he did an awesome job. My one question: Why is the dragon ‘burnt-out’? Or maybe, what is the dragon burnt-out on. Because….ya know, *cough*, my mind is making up its own story. Caleb & Jacob’s “Sassy Princess Samantha” is another stand-out of the show. She is a big build, and once again Jacob is getting his exercise in just holding it up (remember the Hat challenge?). She has so much great facial movement – the rolling eyes are everything! They really gave her lots of personality and it plays off Bernie very naturally.

Inspired From Real Life

Our next grouping is Natalie & Michelle with Lauren & Bryan. Natalie & Michelle’s creation, ‘Betty Bricks’ is a hip grandma with curlers in her hair and some sweet vocal chops. I love the design on this, it hits all the classic cues and visual gags that you would expect. The eyes are great and the LEGO® Dots tiles are used perfectly for her chic sweater. Sadly I have to agree with the judges; the build is very square and heavy looking. The head is a perfectly realized, but the body is basically a robotic block. They are also the only team that suffer a small break during the performance. Poor Betty’s arm detached during her savage vocal solo😬. The girls recovered quickly, but it did make an impact on judging.

Lauren & Bryan’s creation, ‘Hazel the Princess Pup’, is based on their family dog. Hazel’s design is similar to Betty’s with very blocky and minimal articulation or face movement. Their performance comes across a bit stiff and very ‘heavy’. Bryan also admits that he was too distracted by reading the script and didn’t give enough attention to Hazel’s movements. Despite the boxier design, Hazel is a pretty adorable. She’s got that fun crown, a big waggy tongue and the eyelashes add quite a lot of verve to this big ol’ pooch. But with such a static face and large design, Hazel isn’t as well received by the judges.

En Garde And Drop Me A Beat

Zack & Wayne build ‘Panachio, the Pompous Fencer’. As we’ve come to expect from the brothers, they create a well articulated character with apparent ease. They even manage to finish well before teammates Dave & Richard who continue to make adjustments until the end. Panachio tips his hat to the judges, swashbuckles and sports a very dapper capelet. The cape is a smart move as it covers up a very blocky and plain torso. I honestly don’t think this should be in the top 2. Looking at it close up, the facial details are very abstract and quite plain. The beard is just flat plates, same with the hair. It reads well from afar, but they definitely put their efforts into mechanics and not aesthetics.

‘DJ Treatz’ is a Jamaican DJ dreamed up by last week’s winners Dave & Richard. I absolutely love this character. It’s great to see some different representation on the show. His swinging dreadlocks are such a simple way to create motion and it compliments his facial expressions. What really stands out for me is that DJ Treatz is the only fully built puppet. Because he has legs he comes across as a fully realized character and the closest to a complete marionette. The judges find his body a bit plain though, which I don’t fully agree with. I honestly think this should have been in the top 2 for the week. I know I stan these guys every week, but it’s such a unique character! Had they focused solely on the upper body, I think they could have taken home another win.

I’ve Got No Strings

The top 2 teams this week are Mark & Steven and Zack & Wayne. This is the third time these two teams have been in the top spots together. The judges love both builds for similar reasons: lots of personality, great movement and advanced build techniques. Our champs this week are Mark & Steven, earning their second win of the season. They are now the only other team besides Dave & Richard with multiple wins. It is definitely the right call of the two. Bernie the Burnt-out Dragon (I still have questions…) is a wonderful build, made all the better by Steven’s great performance. Congrats to the Viking siblings.

This week’s bottom 2 teams were Lauren & Bryan and Michelle & Natalie. Both builds are large, fairly blocky and don’t show much range of expression in the face, which is a key component of the challenge. Michelle & Natalie’s character is also the only build to break during the performance. So it certainly factors into their placement in the bottom this week. But their attention to detail and great vocal/singing performance by Natalie saves them. That means Lauren & Bryan are the eliminated team this week. They are a lovely pair, with lots of great, positive energy. Job well done!

Final Thoughts

This week was a mixed bag. I really enjoyed the builds overall and everyone made something unique with a fun story. The comedy though…was not a success. The Will Puppett gag started well but dragged on far too long. This season has quite a few restrictions because of health and safety limitations, so I do applaud this as a clever “guest appearance”. And again, great banter and performance by the unseen puppeteer. While I would have preferred to see Dave & Richard in the top 2, Mark & Steven definitely deserved the win this week. Bernie the ‘nearly-comatose’ dragon is bound for his own TV show.

  • If Natalie wants to steal Will’s hosting gig, that sassy puppet might get in her way
  • Mark & Steven hold on to the golden brick again. This thing honestly makes no impact
  • Wayne is a fencer. Naturally. Tune in next week when we learn he also competes in horse racing
  • Anyone catch Steven clap back at Mark? “You don’t have to take that tone!” Wild
  • Will’s chats with the teams are usually the funny bits – more of that!
  • Best line by Will Puppett to Will Arnett: “So you just say what they tell you to say? Who’s the puppet now?”
  • Brickmaster Amy’s suit jacket is awesome. Amy is awesome. Full stop

OVERALL SCORE: 7 / 10

We are down to the top 5 folks. With a slimmed down group, I hope we get to see more of each build and more conversations with the teams. The vikings are gaining on Dave & Richard with wins, so the competition is heating up. Did you enjoy this episode? Which build did you enjoy the most? Did Will Puppett make you groan or LOL. Please comment below and as always, keep on brickin’.

-Frank

LEGO® Masters USA airs Tuesdays at 8:00 PM ET/PT on FOX in the US, and on CTV, CTV.CA and the CTV app in Canada.

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