Not in front of the canvas.

Haukur Örn Hauksson
4 min readSep 13, 2018

Ink master: Grudge match, episode 3 recap.


Holes are interesting, because they’re not an actual thing: They’re an absence of something. Sometimes, this is beneficial. Like when you putt a birdie on a beautiful, sunny day, the golf ball rattling down that little hole.

Other times, holes are not ideal. For example, in an isolated, highly pressurized environment, like an airplane. Or this show.

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Another thing with holes in it this episode was Christian’s strategy, which I was frankly baffled by. Now, before I get into that, let me say this: There is a very real chance that Christian is playing some sort of masterful, slow-burn long game. After all, the man has trudged the Ink Master hellscape not once, but twice. And, let us not forget, Christian is lauded as a genius-level player, far surpassing the strategic capacity of the other, what, 250 people or so who have competed on this field.

So there’s that. My credentials, as they are, consist of watching, mostly intently, every single episode of Ink Master, ever. I’ve even dabbled in stuff like Ink Master: Redemption, and Ink Master: Angels, which I know is not necessarily something you publicly admit to, but here we are. Anyway, my point is, I’ve seen a lot of skulls handed out.

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And I’ve come to believe that while there’s definitely a subtle art to the politics of the house and such, there’s actually a very simple, fundamental strategy to handing out skulls. You give the people on the other team the hardest, in theory, tattoos. This includes placement, style, complexity, and, of course, the relevant artists overall skill and previous experience.

I’m not revealing any trade secrets here. Any moderately seasoned Ink Master viewer knows what I mean. And, if you think about it, we’ve all gotten a little bit better at spotting the tough ones, predicting skull picks.

Christian has lived all this, he’s a professional tattoo artist, he reads “Art of War” recreationally. But after winning that flash challenge fair and square he went directly against a lot of the semi-universally accepted strategy I mentioned above, and it almost cost him dearly.

Goodbye Tiara, A.K.A Japanese vampire manga school girl. You are a way better artist than both of those dudes combined, I had you at least finishing top 8, and you and your cherry sweatshirt will be sorely missed.


Speaking of holes, Stacy is a swiss cheese of accomplishment. Where to begin, really? She is an alleged watercolor specialist who went for the title of Ink Master — a prize awarded for flawless execution and versatility — while having no clue whatsoever how to tattoo nearly any style or subject matter. Surely, any contestant who has watched the show before would take the time to practice and grow their repertoire? Or at least put on an act, talk a big game (I’m looking at you, bald Austin). Not Stacy. She just shrugs and greets every new tattoo challenge with “I’ve never done that”. I really do hope she never says that in front of the canvas.

But seriously though, what she’s doing, permanently marking people without any idea, or experience, or skill…it’s cold-blooded, really. Like a snake.


There’s something up with Cleen Rock One. I’ve never seen him like this. Mr. One is suddenly patient, he listens, he’s kind. He’s doing some excellent coaching, he’s being a father figure, and he was only undone by the Domino Flash Challenge because Bad Austin probably never had a loving upbringing.

Cleen being this likeable, I don’t trust it. Especially the way it kind of mirrors that whole “Christian suddenly being terrible at strategy” stuff. I’m inclined to think it’s a trap of some sort.

Speaking of traps, watching Christian being incredibly supportive and nice to Oba was a bear trap of affection, and I’m generally confused now, questioning even the most basic of things.


I know this is a lot to digest (like a snake would), so let’s break it down. We have all these unusual things going on, Cleen and Christian infusing us with hope, and then Christian has an innocent little speech where he states that “Some predators rip your throat out, some take a little bite and poison you and wait until you die off then eat you alive. That’s what we’re doing.”

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5th place:

When they awarded Kyle tattoo of the day, and then cut to Stacy grinning proudly, as if she got partial credit for “coaching” him on watercolor technique.

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4th place:

When on-the-edge 70s rockstar Jimmy Snaz got in an altercation with his brother in the domino flash challenge, foreshadowing the dramatic altercation we’re all waiting for.

3rd place:

That cross made out of bicycle parts was pretty well executed from A to Z.

2nd place:

The elephant trunk on JP’s tattoo kind of looks like a snake, or a penis. That’s no excuse for everybody to be so mean to him, though.

1st place:

“Not in front of the canvas.”



Haukur Örn Hauksson

Writer/basketball lover/semi-professional dog sitter. Born on a savage, volcanic island in the North, currently residing in the Big Apple.