Queer Eye operates on a simple premise. It’s even simpler than “five gay guys come into your life zhoosh you into a better version of yourself.” Ideally, the Queer Eye Fab Five, like Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, tell you that you’ve had the power all along to become a better version of yourself. Rather than offering you anything, they try to remove any obstacles that might be in the way toward becoming a better you.
But not all the Queer Eye makeovers are created equal. The show’s best makeovers include inner and outer transformations, sure, but also hinge on whether the person involved truly gave themselves over to the process. Here’s a ranking of the third season’s eight makeovers, by who truly felt the most changed by the end of the process.
8. Robert, “When Robert Met Jamie”
Robert’s episode has the benefit of a sort of “ticking clock,” in that the Fab Five happen to drop in on his life on the week of his wedding, which adds a great element to the episode’s narrative. But the episode ultimately feels like a series of bandages on a larger issue. During the episode, the Fab Five talks extensively about Robert’s own feelings about his weight and the weight of his family. While there’s a debate to be had about whether the quintet veer into fat shaming, what is true is that they allow Robert to treat his fat as if it’s a negative part of him rather than talking to him about accepting and loving the body that he has. Yes, they couch it in positive language, but there’s a wide chasm between, “Don’t call yourself fat” and “There’s nothing wrong with being fat,” and it’s one the Five haven’t yet closed.
7. Tony, “Baby on Board”
Sure, Tony Blanco’s episode made for an emotional season finale, given the fact that the show featured the birth of his daughter. But that moment pulled off some hefty emotional weight in an episode that otherwise didn’t have quite the oomph that the rest of the season did. The Fab Five are able to get to the bottom of Blanco’s messy habits and sort of address his depression — but not really? Sure, none of the exercises done on the show are as beneficial as long-term therapy, but the attempts at transforming Blanco seem half-hearted compared to the rest of the season.
6. Joey, “Lost Boy”
It’s probably not Joey Greene’s fault that his episode ranks so low. One of the best parts of a makeover show is usually finding something relatable in the subject at hand and something about the story of a man living at a summer camp as a counselor felt a little bit too removed from most people’s goings-on to feel applicable. And while the narrative of him connecting with his son tugged at the necessary heartstrings, it seemed like the Fab Five was more preoccupied with making Greene’s house a place he’d visit rather than working on the bond between the two.
5. Thomas, “Sloth to Slay”
There’s a triumphant moment in “Sloth to Slay” where the episode’s subject, 21-year-old Thomas, says that he no longer identifies as a sloth and instead has begun to identify as a lion. Perfect, love it. But the steps as to how he got there seem a little bit less filled in than in other episodes. This episode is mostly hurt by one of the season’s most absurd moments: when Karamo asks Thomas to stack a number of boxes on the floor and says the boxes are a wall that he has yet to tear down? He then … has Thomas tear down the boxes? Whatever works, I guess.
4. Jody, “From Hunter to Huntee”
The strength of this episode rests on the can-do attitude of its heroine, 49-year-old Jody Castelluci, a hunter who kills her own food and stores squirrel meat in her refrigerator. Castelluci is married to a man who adores her, but she’s lost that love for herself — something that most people watching will probably find relatable. Rather than relying on an external narrative arc, like a wedding or the birth of a child, Jody’s story is a completely internal arc about the work it takes to fall in love with yourself when you haven’t exercised that muscle in a long time. We stan.
3. Rob, “Elrod & Sons”
Rob Elrod’s story is one that definitely tugs at heartstrings. The 32-year-old single father is a widower whose wife died of cancer two years ago, just around the same time their second son, Vincent, was born. Rob is loveable and though his circumstance is particular, it’s also universal. Rob’s is a story of facing a terrible, life-altering circumstance — in this case, a loved one's illness — and trying to defeat the long-term trauma that accompanies it. Watching the Fab Five teach this dad that there are still good years for him and his boys ahead is worth the tear-filled ride.
2. Deborah “Little” and Mary “Shorty,” “Jones Bar-B-Que”
Are there two people more lovable than Deborah and Mary, the owners and operators of Jones Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Missouri? The answer is, “No.” The twosome fill the screen with love every time they appear and their story, like all great episodes of Queer Eye, is multi-pronged. Their entrepreneurial spirit and nonstop, breakneck pace have left them with no time to love on themselves. And the constant minute-to-minute of their business has left little room for long term planning. In this case, their makeover is internal, external, short term and long term! The Fab Five not only make over the women, but also help them to bottle their famous barbecue sauce and set themselves up to leave their father’s legacy alive. The episode features several generations of family: Mary and Deborah talk about the values their father instilled in them and their niece, who nominated the duo, finally sees the women give themselves the pats on their backs that they deserve.
1. Jess, “Black Girl Magic”
Jess Gilbo is everything we want in a Queer Eye subject. Sure, the show’s original premise was that queer people makeover straight people, but when the show turns its lens to other queer people, the results are always magic. Jess, a 23-year old Black lesbian who was kicked out of her home when she came out at 16, gets a heartfelt makeover that not only gives her the confidence to embrace the “soft butch” label, but she also gets the most heartfelt connection seen all season. Though heavily undervalued, the Fab Five’s resident home expert Bobby Berk connects with Jess on a level none of the others can: Bobby also left home at 15 after dealing with a strict religious upbringing. Queer Eye works best when it feels like the Fab Five don’t just jump into the person’s life for a week and then disappear. When it comes to Jess, the transformation doesn’t just feel long term, it feels as if she dove into the process and emerged as someone who physically can’t revert back to who she was. You know what that’s called? Growth.