We wouldn’t say that Ink Master season 9 episode 7 was a banner hour for the show. Instead, what we had instead was a further reminder that the team dynamic of this Shop Wars season is something that many artists just weren’t all that prepared for. How could they be?
The latest victim of the team twist came via Boneface and Hobo Ink, who had devised a great strategy for elimination challenges in which they could work together: Hobo was a great artist, and Boneface was a master technician. One of them handled the creative, and the other the application.
Unfortunately, that entire strategy fell apart the moment it was revealed that the two artists had to work individually for three hours each on a new-school tattoo. This put Hobo Ink in a spot where he had to do a lot of application, and he’s not someone who does much new-school — or color tattooing in general. This was clear when the judges saw the final products, and no matter how much the show tried to create drama and suggest that Black Spade was in danger with a far superior tattoo, the reality was still the reality: This elimination was obvious. The cat tattoo just didn’t work, and even the canvas didn’t seem all that thrilled about it.
As a matter of fact, this is one of the first times where we’ve seen artists be so open about having a tattoo that was the worst of the group. Boneface didn’t eliminate his shop from the competition directly, but he knew that he was going home from the moment the challenge was over seemingly and seemed to vote for himself in the jury of peers. At least he and Hobo Ink were good sports about going home — we’re not sure either had all that memorable a moment this season beyond just Boneface annoying DJ Tambe, but we appreciate that they tried something interesting this season in their strategy entering the competition. It’s too bad that it was only effective on some of the challenges and not all of them.
As for everyone else, there was a surprise in that Black Spade struggled despite winning the Flash Challenge earlier in the day. Their tattoo, if you were far away from it, was actually really awesome-looking with the cupcake and the crazy blueberries. Some of its issues only started to become clear when you looked a little bit closer. This was not a challenge where there were all that many clear winners. Unkindness Art and Old Town were the standouts, with the latter taking home another Elimination Challenge win yet again. We’re almost surprised that people aren’t going after these two even harder given that DJ and Bubba are pretty consistently now the strongest team remaining in the competition. Artistic Skin Design has faded, and Pinz and Needlez alternate between doing well and being barely above the bottom.
For a good chunk of the episode, we were convinced that Classic Trilogy Tattoo would be leaving given that we were starting to see them have a ton of confessionals about how this was their week and how they needed to expand their boundaries — then, they had a new-school challenge (hardly expanding boundaries), and then beyond that, they had a canvas who was really uncooperative and wanted what she wanted. They gave her that, and then the judges ripped them for not pushing her to take their vision. They remained in the same position they’ve been all season: Good enough to survive, but not good enough to be taken seriously as a threat. These guys are nerds, and they definitely followed one of the classic nerdy behavior traits: Not being all that assertive when it mattered!
Enter Christian Buckingham
After finishing in third place two seasons ago, Christian returned in this episode with Noelin Wheeler from his shop Basilica Tattoo — he credits Noelin for being an early mentor of his, and the two worked together really well despite doing a style that left Christian incredibly irritated for most of the challenge. This was a pretty ho-hum hour in terms of drama, so we at least appreciated Christian’s charisma and swagger gallivanting around the room and listening in on some of his competitors. It also didn’t take him long to suss out some of the competition. Christian didn’t cause a whole of drama this time — instead, he did a lot of listening to see where people are at.
In terms of season-long trends, it’s interesting how the veterans seemed to have the upper hand in the early going, but we’ve now seen this group leave for three straight episodes. We’re now left once more in an interesting spot given that there’s another veteran pair entering; will this be when the pendulum swings in the other direction?
It’s hard to comment too much more on an episode that we do personally believe to be the weak point of season 9 to date. There wasn’t much in the way of awesome tattoos beyond a few, the elimination was super-predictable, and probably the biggest argument of the night was between April and Chris Nunez. In a post-Kyle Dunbar world, no other fight with Chris is ever going to get us that psyched. Even the bubble wrap flash challenge was close to popping here and there. Grade: C+.
What did you think about this episode?
Share now in the comments below, and be sure to head over to the link here for some further information on Ink Master, including a preview for what lies ahead on the show next. (Photo: Spike.)
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