Ink Master Season 12: Toothpicks and Freehand on Episode 9
Please note: This post contains spoilers for Ink Master Season 12, episode 9.
We’re down to the top 10 tattoo artists on Ink Master Season 12. As things stand at the beginning of episode 9, the women have the upper hand—with six female contestants compared to just four remaining male contestants still in the running.
As the teams start to thin out, every advantage matters. This is where winning flash challenges starts to hold a lot of weight. And this week’s flash challenge was a doozy.
Former Ink Master contestants—and wonderfully talented tattoo artists—Megan Jean Morris and James Vaughn returned to coach the men’s and women’s teams. They were chosen to channel their boundless creativity to help the artists win at composition.
Oh, and did somebody say the word “alliance?” Because if you weren’t aware of alliances before, you will be now. Let’s get into this week’s recap.
Flash Challenge: Toothpick Sculptures
There have been some bonkers flash challenges on this season of Ink Master. Creating light and shadow using different roasts of coffee beans, etching entire suits of armor, filling over 11,000 ink caps to test color theory.
But this week, the artists were given one of their most difficult challenges yet—to create a three-dimensional sculpture entirely out of toothpicks. Let’s face it…it’s basically Oliver Peck’s fever dream.
Megan Jean Morris instantly took command of the men’s team and came up with a Promethean idea for their sculpture, complete with a huge balancing ball being pushed up a hill by little toothpick men.
The women’s concept was a bit simpler. They opted to show a cherry-blossom tree with long, winding branches, but they added intricate elements such as a complete root system and a working tree swing.
The artists had seven hours to complete the challenge and they cut, pasted, bent, and snapped the toothpicks into all sorts of interesting forms. While the women produced a functional and sturdy finished product, the men’s was teetering on collapse (which felt apropos given the subject matter).
In the end, the women won this week’s flash challenge again and were awarded skull picks in the elimination tattoo.
Tensions Flare Over Alliances
Alliances have been part of reality television since “Survivor,” and given the game-like setting of Ink Master, it’s not surprising that friendships between opposing teammates start to take the shape of alliance-like groups working against each other.
Last week, there were rumbles of an alliance forming between Laura, Cam, and Creepy Jason. And this week, we saw another type of alliance form between Ash, Holli, Jake, and Pon—though Ash and Holli pledged their allegiance to the women’s team. These shifting dynamics caused a whole lot of silly drama, especially amongst others seemingly outside of the tight-knit circles.
Even though Laura talked about being open and honest regarding her close relationship with Cam and Creepy Jason, she eventually admitted that she wanted to see women in the finale. And when push came to shove, her allegiances were tested later in the episode.
At this point, the “alliances” seem like a distraction and another way to add drama to the competition. They’re more like simple friendships instead of cut-throat strategy. We’ll see how Laura plays the rest of the game in regards to her relationships with Cam and Jason, but it doesn’t seem like she’s willing to alienate her team members to get ahead just yet.
Elimination Tattoo: Fun with Freehand Tattoos
For this week’s elimination tattoo, the artists were given a challenge that offered nowhere to hide. Yep, it was freehand week. That meant that the artists had to draw their designs directly onto the canvas’ skin.
This is a challenge for artists who are too dependent on digital drawing programs—who don’t have the fundamentals of drawing down. As Oliver Peck said: ““I don’t mean didgeridoo computer bullshit. I mean drawing on paper—with pens and pencils.”
Both Pon and Cam had challenging canvases and designs. Pon was given a Phoenix tattoo and Cam was originally given a full-color shark scene. But Cam being Cam was able to do some sweet talking and convince his canvas to opt for a black-and-grey piece instead.
Even though the women picked their own canvases, Ash struggled as she bit off more than she could chew. She went back and forth with the canvas trying to change placement, costing her precious time to strongly finish her American flag and skull tattoo.
Overall, the women had a positive showing. Both Dani and Laura were given top scores and compliments by the judges. Laura took home tattoo of the day for her freehanded octopus.
Because Laura won tattoo of the day, the women were given the opportunity to put one person up for elimination. And even though Ash said she wouldn’t blame the team if they wanted to send her to the bottom, the women stuck together and decided to go have the dudes. They voted Creepy Jason to the bottom due to the wonky proportions on his Viking tattoo.
This is where we call bullshit. Because the judges decided to put Ash, Jason, and Alexa to the bottom. But from a purely aesthetic perspective, we thought Pon’s phoenix tattoo had a lot more flaws than Alexis’ crab piece. But, hey, what do we know?
Unfortunately, after weeks of consistently being in the bottom, Ash was sent home by the judges—keeping both Creepy Jason and Alexa in the competition for another week.
We’re sad to see Ash go. She might not have had the most experience out of the group, but she brought a lot of heart and attitude to the show.
She was feisty, funny, and strong-willed. Even Chris Nunez recognized these qualities and called her “resilient.” It’s a testament to her determination that she stayed in the competition a lot longer than other artists with much longer careers. So, we applaud her for all the effort and are excited to see where the future takes her.
And although Ash will no longer be on Ink Master, she will have a whole new role to play in her life. In an exciting Instagram