Ink Master season 9 episode 12 review: Judging from the hip

Ink Master season 9There are few things more confusing than the way that the Ink Master judging panel often fluctuates through the rules. Let’s dive into that through the lens of this week’s episode, which was a two-part armpit tattoo challenge where artists had to not only come up with concepts for the challenge, but then also mimic another artist’s work who was not even on their team. This was easily the hardest challenge of the season, given that you were forcing people to match the style of an artist they don’t know while also doing a tattoo in a nearly-impossible part of the body.

The best way to describe it is like this: Marvin Silva of Empire State Studio came up with a design for his armpit tattoo, and Tommy Helm was going to follow that up with one of his own. However, the judges flipped things and Tommy was then in a position where he had to match Cleen Rock One’s from Golden Skull Tattoo. Complicated, no?

Suffice it to say, there were people who did far better than others. What still was the most interesting was the way in which this was analyzed after the fact. Basically, the artists saw their work judged against artists from another team rather than directly against each other. There were face-offs all across the board against other shops.

Even though Golden Skull technically only “won” one of their two showdowns, they were still given Best Tattoo of the Day over Black Cobra. Really? We’re obviously a big fan of Matt O’Baugh and Katie McGowan here at CarterMatt, but rooting interest aside you would think that the artists who managed to both win their showdowns, and against some challenging opponents no less, would be given a little more credit than they did. To be fair, it’s not as though Best Tattoo of the Day matters for a hill of beans. Ever since we heard that Cleen Rock One was coming back this season we felt like this was going to be his year to win no matter what. He’s been in the finale twice, he’s a fan favorite, he’s a judging favorite and we know the show would benefit greatly from a Cleen Rock win. After seeing him win this elimination tattoo over Black Cobra we are feeling even more confident that we are moving towards this.

It was a little bit easier to understand why Allegory Arts went home over Unkindness Art and Old Town Ink, even if Ulyss Blair delivered one of his best tattoos of the season. Eva put herself in a rough position doing an extremely hard tattoo, and her struggles there coupled with the shop’s history in the bottom were enough to send them home. Sooner or later, you do have to view the competition in some sort of cumulative fashion especially when we are at this point in the competition where all of the artists left are outstanding. It was probably their time, though we do think that Old Town did struggle overall more in this challenge. They’re just one of the more dominant teams of the season otherwise, and we don’t think that their tattoos were disasters by any means. It’d be a completely different situation if they put work out there that was simply inferior to the remainder of the field by a mile.

How was this episode for entertainment?

We admit that we do miss the Flash Challenges just because there’s something fun that comes out of watching teams fight to screw each other over with golden skull picks. It adds another dimension of strategy to the proceedings that isn’t there otherwise. We didn’t have that this time, though there was some in how the artists each chose whose shop / style they wanted to try to emulate during the second part of the armpit challenge.

Overall, though, we’d say that this was probably the weakest episode of the past few weeks, just because the judges felt slightly inconsistent in their criteria, and managed to both reward a team and send another team home despite them each having a 1-1 record in this challenge. Also, you could see this elimination coming from the moment Eva’s design started to take shape. We didn’t think the tattoo looked bad by any means; they were just building up some trouble for her with those circles. Grade: B-.

What did you think about this episode, and did the judges send the right artist home? Share in the comments!

Also, be sure to visit this link in the event you do want to see a preview for the next new Ink Master episode right now. (Photo: Spike.)

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