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Back In The High Life

An awesome Flash Challenge and a back-tat face-off combine for a Memento-us Best Ink finale.

In the third season of Best Ink, some ruled, some flailed, and Pete Wentz modeled Delia's fashions.


Pete Wentz greets them by video from Japan, where he's on his Fall Out Hello Kitty Tour. Just kidding! Anyway, all three judges greet the final three at a tattoo shop, where…

Flash Challenge

…they'll spend the next eight hours tattooing five skins each. Finally, a Flash Challenge with real-world applications that isn't an irrelevant waste of running time! Joe Capobianco is looking for consistency and creativity, and is also fixing to give one of them the boot at the end of the day to leave two Inkers.

Karly is concerned, because at home she's appointment-only, but she's already ahead of Alayna, who's still drawing. The initial set of skins don't come in with anything too challenging -- a little dolphin; a rose with a ribbon that looks like a mustache (hee) -- but she steadily falls behind. On the other hand, Darnell pulls a simple writing tat that takes no time but could burn him on the uncreative tip. Then he's onto a complicated Celtic cross while Karly finishes up a gorgeous hummingbird and moves on to a Russian nesting doll.

Alayna finishes a meh "evil queen" and heads into a Hand of Hamsa as the show goes into montage mode. Then we get a weird break with Richard the ex-con and the scripture cards he used to get in the mail from Rose Gunn (geddit?). Darnell tries to talk his fourth client out of a complicated chain idea, but she's insisting.

The end approaches. Darnell's skin compromises. Alayna is behind. Karly is exhausted.

Everyone seems fairly even on positives and negatives, but it's Alayna who's sent home on minor technical mistakes.

Ink Challenge

The finalists must complete a back piece, which Karly says usually takes 30 hours, in two six-hour sessions.


Darnell is having some scale struggles, and Capo hates Karly's design, especially that she's putting the ass of a stag in a forest scene. Her skin looks scared but tries to trust her. Capo returns to fire the starting gun, although Darnell isn't even done his stencils yet.

At the end of the first day, Karly is feeling the pressure, and Darnell's skin is feeling the pain; Darnell hopes he can hack it the next day. Did Karly go too small with her revised stag (which…looks like a Labrador in the face, yikes)?

Day Two. Exhaustion. Second-guessing; last-minute additions. Darnell and Karly both finish.

Biggest Gap Between Challenge Brief And Tattoo Art

Not really applicable this time around, though Karly's is somewhat smaller.

Tattoo I Would Consider Copying

Alayna's Flash birds in flight are so beautiful, the impressionism of them taking off from the rest of the tattoo.

Client Who's Saving For Laser

Darnell's garish Buddha/Flash Gordon hot mess is what the client asked for, but eeeeeegads, the color. Also, one of the comets looks like a peen.


Capo hates Celtic designs but admits that Darnell's Flash cross is great, and will look the same in 10 years. Hannah compliments Karly on finding something new to do with a dolphin.

At the final panel, everyone's dressed up and as incisive with their comments as always: Sabina tells Darnell that his figures should have come in larger, and Capo didn't love his sort of random use of negative space; Karly is complimented on the depth she got in her piece, and the halo effect drawing the eye to the stag, but Sabina isn't into the slapped-on tribal black at the bottom.

Sabina and Capo get salty with each other, which is always fun, and then Pete dials in again live to announce the winner.

Karly wins, and is flabbergasted. Hannah beams (aw) and Capo makes a point of "yelling" at Darnell not to disappear.

Quote Du Jour

"Guys, get up and give her a hug, all right?" -- Pete, via Skype

Crackerjack Or Memento?

The episode is definitely Memento, thanks to a Flash Challenge that finally felt on point; the season overall? …Also Memento. It had some draggy bits and annoying personalities, but 1) the draggy bits always came at the same place, and were easily enough avoided, and 2) the real dinks all went home in pretty short order. Pete Wentz seemed sidelined in the third season, and though he's likeable, it's not clear to me what he does that Capo couldn't do (and had to do in the last couple eps), and the Flash Challenges need overhauling in a big way, but it's a solid show that felt like it gained confidence this time around, and it's got some of the best and most thoughtful judging in reality TV.

Until next time!

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