‘Ink Master’ season 7, episode 12 review: Was Cleen Rock One, James Vaughn eliminated before finale?

Cleen -Tuesday night’s new episode of “Ink Master” was the second-to-last one of the season, and fundamentally, this was an episode all about the face-off. The episode started off with us having two separate showdowns of newbie artist (at least on the show) to veteran, where the newbies finally had some of the power for the first time this season. Christian Buckingham and Anthony Michaels had their chance to pick the subject matter and style and this advantage couldn’t have come at a better time – just one week from the finale.

If you enjoy the show for the narrative, this really had a delicious feel to it to see the guys who have been around from the very beginning still there at the end and calling the shots after having the veterans have the advantages all season. Also, it doesn’t feel forced in any way by the producers, since they’ve earned it and did some really awesome stuff along the way.

Now, we turn to the final, winner-take-all face-off between Cleen Rock One and James Vaughn … and let’s talk about narrative once again. As much as we dig James’ art and his personality, him being in the finale feels somewhat anticlimactic. It’s like someone coming in halfway through hot-dog eating contest and being able to win while eating only half the hot dogs – we really wish James had been there since the beginning, not only because we love watching him tattoo, but because it would’ve felt like a well earned win. Cleen has been around for almost the entire season, so it at least feels like he’s been there the majority of it.

Did the judges think Cleen was the best on this particular night? Yes, Cleen is in to the finale! We love James’ work, but Christian, Cleen, and Anthony feels like the perfect way to end this season based on how much of their story has been told on the show, and also the quality of their work. Neither tattoo in the face-off was perfect tonight, so that at least added some drama. Episode Grade: B+.

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