OpinionReviewsTelevision & Film

STEAMPUNK’D Pushes Our Buttons


Challenge #2: “The Secret In Front of You”

In the wake of Tobias’ demise, the contestants this week are given the challenge of building the “Secret Lair” — not the nursery as they teased at the end of the first episode.


Challenge 2: Secret Alchemy Lair

Alchemy Lab
Femme Fatale character
hidden mechanism gadget

TEAM AVE: Ave, James, Charles, Tayliss, Karianne

TEAM MORGAN: Morgan, J.W., Lady Hawk, Eddie


Special Guest Judge: Visual Effects designer John “D.J.” Des Jardin (Fantastic Four, Man of SteelWatchmen, the Matrix trilogy), known as “the Don Quixote of the visual effects industry”.




SONYA: Well, the start was interesting, team captains Ave and Morgan had to choose teams.  I got a very funny, middle-school dodgeball feeling right off the bat.

JASON: I was usually one of the last ones picked, but we won’t talk about that here…

That tone, though, sort of carried through the entire episode. As we predicted last week, J.W. was again the thorn in everyone’s side.

Yes, he was just completely rude to Morgan, but I liked the way Morgan at least tried to set him straight about who’s in charge for this one.

Well, while Morgan was right to establish the chain of command, I do think she might have jumped a little too quickly into that confrontation. I think everyone was spoiling for a fight with J.W. and the first chance anyone got, we got our first bit of drama for the hour, but certainly not our last.

No, it wasn’t, but we’ll get there soon enough.  After what happened last week, I think it was good that Morgan went at him right when he started with his bossiness.  She had to be clear.  Did it work?  Not really. Anyway, so they start choosing teams and off we go.

The irony is that Morgan picked him for his skill set. She could have just let him go to Ave’s team and let her deal with the headache of having to deal with him.


I was really happy with the team Ave chose.  Ave got the team pumped with her energy and everyone was contributing ideas, and the work started to happen.  We got to see the work.

I was very happy that we got to see more process this week. Ave has a natural enthusiasm, and it helped her get everyone moving pretty quickly. What we saw last week as natural leadership skills came to the fore this week. I also liked the fact that she showed some loyalty to James and Charles from last week’s team, calling out their skills and attitudes as reasons to work together again.

I was pretty shocked Morgan picked J.W. after everything last week, but like you said, it was more for his skill than anything.  She also got Eddie, the team leader of the winning team from last week.  He totally rocked his part of the lair, it was definitely my favorite part of that room’s design.

I felt that Eddie and J.W. would be the last two people chosen for the teams, but Eddie came through pretty well. His design for the alchemy device was pretty innovative. And the Morgan’s team came together pretty well despite having to deal with J.W.’s attitude.

Although I’m a little disappointed neither team incorporated a library section. If this is an alchemy lab in the secret chamber, you’d think they would include all the reference material for both the alchemy and the globe-trotting adventure usually associated with the femme fatale and the heroes of that kind of story.

I was also disappointed in the alchemy parts of the rooms.  There was no lab/science stuff.  No beakers and like you say, a library.  Neither room had a lab feel to it. I did like the idea for the chair and globe.  The globe ended up being a disappointment after it was done, though.

I think there were two things that would have improved the globe-as-secret-compartment gag: you make it work with a hidden mechanism, and you let the same guy work on it from beginning to end and not hand it over to someone halfway through the challenge.

Thanks, Eddie.


Oh YES!  The button!  The button that closely resembled the Staples Easy button.  So there’s this button, that hostess Jeannie Mai presents on day two, that if you press it, something good or something bad will happen, depending on how you look at it. It’s like, “press this button to throw a wrench in everything”  and then Jeannie leaves and the button is just there, staring at you, just waiting to be pushed, by anyone.  Team Ave agrees that no one on her team will push the button.  Team Morgan have two players, Lady Hawke and Eddie, that are dying to push it.  Morgan has no real opinion either way.  So, thanks to Eddie, the button gets pushed.


And that’s the game-changer for this hour — the button activates the “Swap a Player” trick, and Morgan gets to trade out one of her team for one of Ave’s. Naturally, she dumps J.W.

Yup, and at first I was happy with the switch.  She dumped J.W. and acquires Charles. I thought it was a win-win.  Charles couldn’t handle the switch and his unfinished chair was left to J.W. and J.W.’s globe was left to Charles who just couldn’t really make it work.

I have to say I was more impressed with J.W.’s ability to adapt to someone else’s design than Charles’, although Charles did as well as he could given that he had to use someone else’s idea as a starting point. He made it work, but it would have been better if he’d been working on it from the beginning. The mechanism would have been hidden, at least.

J.W.’s design for the gadgetry inside the secret compartment of the hall tree worked, though, and the device inside was distinctly steampunk — two things you could not say about his efforts last week.


Yes, and that was my favorite part of Team Ave’s room.  The chair, which was Charles’ idea, was executed very well by J.W. I do agree that when J.W. went over to the other side, he was ready to work.  He accepted his job and gave 100 percent and it was great.  Maybe that’s what he’s good at, great big little jobs, not leadership.

Now, on to Jason’s favorite part…the corsets.


Well, one of them turned out better than the other. I liked the one Tayliss built for Karianne’s character, mainly because it actually looked like a corset. LadyHawk’s design was good, too, but the finished piece didn’t actually define any shape.

Define any shape?  Um, yeah, I’ll say it….it didn’t squeeze and push up like it was suppose to!

Right. A corset is supposed to hug the curves, accentuate them. And make it terribly difficult to breathe.  

I actually liked both corsets. I liked the red one better, because it actually fit Karianne, but you really couldn’t see it when she put it on, because the rest of her costume covered it up. Then LadyHawk’s was a great idea for a corset, it just didn’t fit her!  It was too big. The judges made the same comments, the costume was a bad fit.

It also got covered by the cape/jacket thingy.

Yup, and this is what puts LadyHawk in the bottom two with Charles who freaked out over the change and had a total misfire with his globe.  

I wouldn’t exactly call it a “misfire” so much as a “swing and a miss” for Charles.


Okay, but the non misfire was that gun!  Totally cool.  James really did a great job on this one and earned himself a 2nd place maker for this round.

An exceptional design from James. His design capability was clearly on display with this prop.

Okay, I’ve been avoiding it…. but it’s time to talk about my little Ms. Ave.  The drama this week was again focused on her, I believe, even with the player switch.  Once duties are given out, Ave decides to pass out in the Punkyard.  Not a bad place for a snooze, but it gets a producer worried enough to check on her…enter ambulance.


I think we should start a running list — “Ave’s Dramatic Moments”.

Let’s not.

Having worked on reality shows myself, I can say that it’s a clear indicator of something unexpected when members of the crew show up on-camera. When that field producer came over to check on Ave after she passed out, I had a fairly strong suspicion it was completely unexpected.

Well, she looked completely refreshed and ready to work the next day.  That’s all I have to say about that.

I wonder if she’s diabetic. That’s certainly what it looked like, especially after her comment about eating “junk” all day.

Yeah, I don’t wonder about it.

I’ve had those days when I lose track of meal times. I’ve had plenty of days where I work with enough focus that I miss lunch and have dinner around 8pm.

I never miss a meal. I like food.  My scale can prove it.

The true test will come next week when we see if we get another “Ave Drama Moment”.

I hope we don’t.

I guess it will depend on how well things go with the two new captains, James and J.W.

The top two makers, I can’t wait to see what they have in store. We know about J.W.’s leadership skills, but James has been kind of a quiet worker bee. I’m curious to see if he can lead.  I’m also hopeful that J.W. can tone his attitude down a notch to lead better.  His comments to the judge about Morgan’s team design being basically all his was just rude and unsportsmanlike.  Even if it was his design, he needed to give credit where credit was due, not take all the credit for everything good and blame everyone else for everything bad (last week).  

I’d be interested to hear from people he works with as a contractor. So far, he’s without any class. And if Morgan’s reaction to his selection was any indicator (nice catch, camera crew), she’s not too thrilled that he’s in charge of anything again, either.

Although J.W. did have quite a bit of his hand in the execution of the design with the carpentry and rivet work.

Yes, he did.  I would have liked to have seen the plans and exactly what was his since there was such a big deal made of it, but again, we (audience) don’t get to see enough of plans and process.  It’s still one of my biggest complaints about this show.  We did see more this week than last.  J.W. has proven his capabilities and  there can be an arrogance about being good at what you do, without the rudeness.  Morgan’s reaction was good though, pure shock at his words.

Yeah, that little sniff spoke volumes.

Any team predictions? Since you were so good at calling the winning team AND calling who would go home.

Which we haven’t discussed yet. This week’s winning team: Team Ave, with Lady Hawk going home. Her design for the corset just wasn’t strong enough to keep her in “the manor”.

As far as next week goes, it could go either way. James could come out as a good leader, or he could be mild-mannered enough that Ave rolls over him. Because he’s probably going to pick her for his team straightaway.

J.W.’s team has the best chance of imploding. If James can hold his team together and get some good design work out of everyone… I think it’s his to lose.

I think you’re right.  I think J.W.’s team weakness is that HE’S the leader of the team.  I did like Ave’s room better this week.  Morgan’s room, looked empty, when you take in the entire room as a whole.  Week two, done.  

And week two’s wrap-up done. Join us next week, when Sonya says…


“Give it a rest, J.W. Nobody’s paying attention to you.”




Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “STEAMPUNK’D Pushes Our Buttons

  • How can you two focus so much on JW’s rudeness while also excusing Ave’s continual bad behavior? It’s natural to choose favorites but you’re trying so hard to make your first impressions persist. Ave is a manipulative monster. She volunteered to be the first team leader and Eddie did too and the team chose Eddie. Ave’s response was to criticize him endlessly, both to his face and behind his back (and directly to the camera). Somehow you overlooked this unprofessional, childish behavior and instead bought Ave’s explanation hook, line, and sinker. “Ave took charge and was the secret leader”. She also criticized his presentation to the judges and in her addendum she made sure to carefully point out everything SHE did while giving little or no mention of what everyone else did. But the two of you said nothing about that and instead concocted a scenario in which JW made the [somehow] unfair decision to ask Tobias to create a Rube Goldberg machine despite having no previous experience doing this. Side not: how many people do have experience making Rube Goldberg machines? Also, so what if he’s never done it? If he deserves to stay on the show then he needs to be able to work outside of his comfort zone. Choosing him for that task was not at all unfair or underhanded despite whatever spin doctoring you try to apply.

    I’ll give you credit for pointing out her crying. This was particularly irritating. She bitched and moaned and undercut Eddie’s leadership at every turn, actively promoting herself to other team members while simultaneously bashing Eddie. Would you call that bullying behavior? Wait. I mean would you call it bullying if SOMEONE ELSE did it? Let’s say if JW did that to Tayliss, or to Morgan, or to anyone. (By the way, how can you point out how glad you were that Morgan cut JW off when he said he wanted red in the room? SHE CLAPPED HER HANDS TO INTERRUPT HIM AS IF SHE WERE ADDRESSING A CHILD OR A DOG and told him that his vision was not the only vision — but she did this literally as she was cutting him off. Hardly a way to express a “team vision” concept. More like, “Be quiet, we’re doing things my way.”) So after days of bullying Eddie the host asks her an obviously leading question: “Is your team leader listening to you?” as if the Producers didn’t choose the question to throw fuel on the anti-Eddie fire. And how does your girl Ave respond? BY CRYING! If she can’t get what she wants by being aggressive she’ll go the other way and play the victim. “Boo hoo, I wanted to be the leader but they picked Eddie instead so this week I’m aiming my sites right at him”. What a disgusting display.

    And the Ave manipulation campaign didn’t stop with episode 1. Team Ave didn’t “all agree” to not push the button, 2 of the members were talking about pushing it and Ave interjected with something like, “I think we all agree that we’re not going to push the button” and the 2 succumbed to her bullying. Perhaps they would have come to the same conclusion without her aggressive insistence but it was clear that she wanted things her way regardless of what anyone else wanted. Is ignoring the input of team members good leadership? And I think you two were the only people who bought her fake concern for Charles. The hug and whispering [whatever it was, I forgot] into his ear is just another manipulation. “I’m Ave and we’re friends, right……”

    Then there was the fake “fainting” in the Punkyard. “Oh my, I’m feel so strange. Let me gently lay down on this soft material and close my eyes until the Producers must respond because of liability issues.” But you continue to do the Ave Spin — “Maybe she’s diabetic”. Yeah maybe. Or maybe she’s manipulative and maybe you’re naïve and easily fooled. One of you even went so far as to say that if the Producers appeared on camera then it must have been unexpected! Yeah, it was not expected by anyone — except Ave, who planned it all in advance. As one of you pointed out, she seemed fine the next day. And neither the judges nor the host felt compelled to point out that she lost any significant amount of working time.

    I also found it strange that you both pointed out the way JW gave himself most of the credit but didn’t say anything about the way Ave’s entire presentation was pointing out her own contributions. I’d say it’s a strange double standard but your reviews of episodes 1 and 2 are filled with them so I guess it’s not so strange after all.

    I’ve seen episode 3 already but I’ll wait until your review before I respond to it. It will be interesting if your opinions still match Ave’s EXACTLY or if you’ve finally begun to see her for what she really is. “OOPS! Was this your work that I just cut apart?” followed up by, “She needs to keep her big mouth shut!” when Morgan told the judges that Ave accidentally(!!) cut up her completed skirt.

    • Jake! Such enthusiasm! Some great thoughts there. And yes, we’ve probably been a little easier on Ave than we could have been, but all that could change at the drop of a hat.

      By the way, I’ve actually worked on reality shows, and it’s rare that the crew will ever be on camera for anything. Instructions going into a production usually include “whatever happens, happens” and we stay out of the way and roll camera. Unless it’s an emergency situation, the crew is only there to document. Granted, in a lot of these shows, the drama is manufactured, but it’s done so using whatever material is recorded. The story gets crafted from the raw footage that’s captured in situ. Sometimes we’ll have a moment when a field producer will say, “That was good. Could you do it again?” but that’s about it. I can’t speak to this particular show, but the odds are that Ave’s collapse was unexpected. Ambulances cost money, and reality shows are tightly budgeted.

      Re: Rube Goldberg device — we’ve seen two weeks now where J.W. is big on crafting rope & pulley systems, simple machines and the like. A Rube Goldberg device would have easily been inside his wheelhouse, and when Tobias started to flounder, J.W. should have at least been a leader enough to give him some guidance. But he clearly didn’t care about the device because it didn’t fit his vision for the room.

      Rest assured, we’ll have plenty to say about week 3! Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
40 ⁄ 20 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.