Ink Master Season 12: Every Woman for Herself on Episode 5

Please note: This post contains spoilers about Ink Master Season 12, Episode 5.

If you were starting to feel like Ink Master was getting a little bit predictable in Season 12, episode five decided to throw everyone for a loop.

No teams. No flash challenges. No coaches. Blind judging. Are we even watching the same show?!?

There were twists. There were turns. Here’s what went down on the latest episode. 

Tattoo Challenge: Any Style, Any Subject

As much as we enjoy watching people crush coffee beans and wrap people in wire, it was refreshing to start this particular episode off with tattooing right out of the gate.

The men’s and women’s teams were told that they would be getting right into an elimination tattoo challenge and that it was every artist for themselves.   

Instead of being given specific parameters for the first tattoo challenge, the artists were allowed to choose a style and subject that they wanted to do—a rare occurrence on Ink Master. As Chris Nunez said: “Being able to tattoo anything you want in this competition is a huge gift. If you’re able to do anything you want, you shouldn’t have to defend it.”

Women’s team prepares for the tattoo challenge

The judges also revealed that the tattoos would be judged blind—meaning that Chris Nunez, Oliver Peck, and Dave Navarro wouldn’t know who tattooed the design in advance, allowing the artwork to speak for itself. What a novel concept!

Most artists welcomed the opportunity to have full creative freedom, but Dani Ryan—as a relatively new tattooer—struggled with choosing a concept and design. “I’m so much better at doing things when people tell me what they want,” she said. 

The challenge gave all of the artists the opportunity to show their specialties and impress the judges with something new. 

Blind Judging Surprises

When it came to blind judging, the judges definitely weren’t successful at matching the tattoos with the correct artists.

They mixed up Fon and Ashley’s black-and-grey tattoos; they thought Creepy Jason’s color palette was done by a girl (because male tattoo artists apparently don’t use teal and purple ink?); and they credited Cam for Laura Marie’s super-clean Japanese style tattoo.   

When all was said and done, Pon took home tattoo of the day for his illustrative, Oliver-Peck-themed eyeball tattoo. 

Unfortunately, this week, the women struggled a little bit more than the men—despite coming off of a two-week winning streak. 

Pony’s canvas was hurting while she attempted to tattoo one of her signature realistic roses. In fact, the canvas refused to finish or sit through the tattoo due to the pain and Pony’s lack of “bedside manner.” Her unfinished tattoo was ranked the worst of the day.

The judges also called out the work of Alexis—which we gotta admit—surprised us. We loved her bulldog-ice-cream-cone design and thought others (cough…Tito) struggled more than her. The judges complained about the linework in Alexis’ tattoo and said that her colors looked “muddy.” The harsh critique put her in the bottom with Pony. 

Rather than eliminating one of the artists on the spot, the judges gave Pony and Alexis the opportunity to call out two other artists to participate in a face-off tattoo that would send someone home. 

Everyone assumed that—being female artists—Pony and Alexis would pick opponents from the male team. Pony chose to bring Tito into the face-off challenge, but Alexis went rogue and called out Ash, creating a clash on the women’s team.  

Alexis challenges Ash in a face-off tattoo

Needless to say, Ash took it personally. “For Alexis to drag me down there when I didn’t earn my way there—I’m not thinking about anything but sending Alexis home,” she said. 

A Four-Way Face-Off

Because Tito and Ash were brought to the bottom by Pony and Alexis, they were able to pick the style and subject of the final elimination tattoo. Tito chose neo traditional as the style and Ash decided on lady faces as the subject. 

Alexis and Ash both went into the challenge with confidence. Ash decided on a Native American design while Alexis went for a bold, straight-on witchy vibe. Tito felt comfortable with his illustration but used his teammates for color advice. 

Final face-off elimination tattoos from Ink Master Season 12, Episode 5

Alexis’ plan to beat Ash backfired. The judges all agreed that Ash’s tattoo was the best of the group and kept her out of the elimination discussion. 

Pony—who was determined to create a tattoo with strong outlines and bold color—wound up with another tough canvas. The woman’s leg kept twitching, causing Pony to take up the majority of her time on the tattoo outline. That lack of time to punch in color and help her canvas get comfortable enough to finish the tattoo wound up costing her. 

While it was a close call for the judges between Pony and Alexis, the judges decided to send Pony packing due to the unfinished overall look of her piece.  

Tattoo artist Pony Wave leaves Ink Master

Pony, who does KILLER tattoos in the real world (check out her Instagram account), left the competition with a Russian saying that translates to “If you live with bulls, you will become a bull.”

“If Ink Master means stepping on people to get there, I’m not an Ink Master,” she said. “I’m excited to go home to do my art with no rules.”

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