Queer Eye may only have launched on Netflix in 2018, but the Fab Five have already racked up a lot of episodes – putting out four seasons and a four-part special, with a fifth season on the way.
So if you’re considering a bit of a re-watch, or if you’re wondering where to start, I’ve ranked all of the episodes from worst to best. Disclaimer: it was really hard to choose because I love Queer Eye!
This is, of course, entirely a matter of my own subjective opinion… but here are all 36 Queer Eye episodes, what happens in them, and why I’m totally right to rank them in this order:
36. Below Average Joe, S1 Ep 7: Joe is an aspiring stand-up comedian, 33, who lives in his childhood bedroom at his parents’ house. He lacks confidence and money. The Fab Five help him learn how to dress and present himself confidently, and move him downstairs into his parents’ basement (more of an upgrade than it sounds). But (being harsh for a second) they maybe also need to encourage him to consider other career paths. (Sorry.)
35. Japan season episode 3, The Ideal Woman: Kae has been nominated by her mum and sister. Bullied since childhood, she’s now 23 and living at home and trying to make it as a manga illustrator. Netflix says she “discovers the strength to break through the negativity”, but it feels like there’s more going on than the Queer Eye guys can fix with a makeover and a pep talk.
34. Big Little Lies, S2 Ep 6: As Netflix puts it, Ari is “a jobless couch potato who can’t stop lying is forced to start fresh and tell his mum the truth: that he didn’t actually graduate from college.” Ari is not the most sympathetic Queer Eye subject, but some tough love puts him back on the right track.
33. Dega Don’t, S1 Ep 3: This was one of the most-discussed episodes when the first series came out. 36-year-old Cory is a former marine, cop, and NASCAR fanatic, an all-American man with a wife and two daughters. There’s a scene in the car where Karamo tells Cory patiently how scary and dangerous it can be for African Americans to encounter police officers, and Cory acknowledges that – but also repeatedly equates that experience with the “stereotyping” he experiences as a cop. While it’s presented as a brilliant example of opening up dialogue, and while Karamo clearly sees it as a success, it didn’t sit right with everyone – and it doesn’t sit right with me.
32. Japan season – Ep 4, Bringing Sexy Back: Makoto was nominated by his boss, who’s noticed he’s totally stuck in a rut: he’s shy and timid, he lives on takeaway food, his flat is a mess and most importantly he’s totally disconnected from his wife. They’re more like flatmates and the marriage is totally sexless. By the end of the episode Makoto has taken some big steps to re-igniting things with his wife, but the Queer Eye guys are a bit out of their depth here.
31. Unleash the Sexy Beast, S2 Ep 3: A nice but non-standout episode about a bartender and father-of-two whose wife thinks he is a “ginormous slob”. Can Leo become a bit more presentable in time for a parent-teacher mixer at the end of the week? It’s a low-stakes event, but really the ultimate goal is to impress his wife a little bit more.
30. Sloth to Slay, S3 Ep 7: Shy gamer (and anime enthusiast) Thomas is about to turn 21. His sister (who he lives with) wants him to be a bit more sociable and get out of his comfort zone and stop just eating tater tots. By the end he seems to be enjoying life a bit more away from the computer screen.
29. Camp Rules, S1 Ep 5: Bobby’s life is tiring just to watch. He’s a devoutly Christian father-of-six who holds down two jobs to support his family, his house is cramped, and everything is chaotic. His wife is still kind of sad she never got a fancy wedding all those years ago, so he gets a much better haircut and and good clothes and stages a do-over. It’s sweet.
28. Make Ted Great Again, S2 Ep 8: “The ‘hipster mayor’ of a small town has really big plans,” says Netflix. “But first he needs to upgrade his look so that others will start taking him seriously.” However, I’m still not sure Jonathan should have shaved his whole beard off.
27. When Robert Met Jamie, S3 Ep 4: A nice episode full of affirmation and self-confidence building. Robert’s getting married at the end of the week, and the Queer Eye guys are in town to help him with body image issues about his weight and make sure he feels great at the wedding.
26. From Hunter to Huntee, S3 Ep 1: An okay episode. Jody is a 49-year-old old farmer, prison guard, and hunting enthusiast nominated by her husband Chris. She loves to wear camo clothing. Apparently she needs help “when it comes to crafting a look that’s both womanly and powerful.”
25. Saving Sasquatch, S1 Ep 2: Neal Reddy is a single 36-year-old programmer and a “dork” with a huge beard and long hair. He lives with his dog (also very hairy). Neal is a bit of a loner with a self-deprecating sense of humour, and he needs a bit of help opening up. He also needs someone to tell him to change his clothes more often.
24. To Gay or Not Too Gay, S1 Ep 4: 32-year-old gay civil engineer AJ plans to come out to his stepmother at the end of the week, having missed his chance to come out to his father before he died. He’s not in particularly bad shape at the beginning, to be honest, so the physical transformation aspect definitely secondary to AJ’s journey towards coming out and self-acceptance.
23. God Bess Gay, S2 Ep 1: In the first episode of season two, Tammye becomes the first woman to be made over by the Fab Five. She’s devoutly religious and heavily involved in the church, and she needs some help preparing for her family’s Homecoming event at the end of the week at the local community centre – but the episode has a second focus, because Tammye’s son Myles is gay and Tammye is determined to make sure everyone accepts that.
22. Bedazzled, S2 Ep 7: Sean VanMeter is a talented homeschooled teenage pianist who’s been raised by his godmother Lulu and is more used to hanging out with older folks than kids his own age. But now he’s about to move out for college, and he needs help getting ready. That involves a lovely new pad and a new wardrobe and a crash-course in socialising, as well as basic cooking skills. It’s great to see the Fab Five getting in early to help an 18-year-old approach this turning point in his life, although part of me feels he would have figured it out on his own anyway because that’s kind of what the awkward teenage/student years are for. Right?
21. A Tale of Two Cultures, S4 Ep 6: Deanna Muños is a “proud Chicana woman” and a second-generation Mexican-American, but she also lacks confidence – feeling not-quite-Mexican-enough and not-quite-white-enough. She needs a pep talk from Karamo, especially because she’s the founder of the Latino Arts Festival in Kansas City; a bit more polish and self-esteem will go a long way to making her feel more professional, as will a haircare makeover. She also desperately needs some cooking lessons, probably more than Antoni can impart in one single session, although he tries his best to facilitate a passing-down of wisdom from the family elders in the form of a guacamole recipe.
2o. Baby on Board, S3 Ep 8: A nice, solid, standard episode of Queer Eye. Tony the procrastinator has been nominated by his girlfriend Bri, who’s expecting a baby daughter really soon and needs him to get himself together. With the help of the Fab Five, he duly gets himself together in time to become a “papa bear” for his newborn and step up as stepdad to Bri’s six-year-old daughter. He also learns how to ask for help with his mental health, and at the end (spoiler alert) he even proposes. (She says yes.)
19. Japan season – Ep 2, Crazy in Love: Kan, 27, is a Japanese guy living in Tokyo. He’s in a long-term long-distance relationship with Tom, who lives in the UK, and now he wants to introduce Tom to his boyfriend and his mother – an idea which leaves him stressed and worried. Kan himself doesn’t feel particularly welcome or accepted in his own country, and struggles with low self-esteem – though underneath his shyness is a quirky, funny guy. It’s wonderful to see Kan come out of his shell by the end of the episode, although the Queer Eye guys can’t help giving him and his home a bit of an American-style makeover.
18. Farm to Able, S4 Ep 8: Matt Morland is a freshly divorced father-of-two, and it’s all still very raw: the divorce was only made official a week ago, and he’s reeling from a very tough year. Plus he’s a farmer, working the land that’s been in his family for generations while struggling to make it all work financially. He’s even had to put his dairy cows up for sale! Things are not easy, but the Fab Five arrive in this conservative rural area to help him host a farm-to-table dinner at the ranch as a trial-run for a new money-making venture. It’s wonderful to see him transformed and feeling some hope again.
17. Sky’s the Limit, S2 Ep 5: In this episode, as Netflix puts it, “the Fab Five help a trangender man who’s recovering from top surgery throw a party to thank his friends who’ve shown unconditional love and support.” It’s a nice, solid episode with a good house renovation and cool clothes and a party at the end.
16. Lost Boy, S3 Ep 2: It’s time for a visit to an all-American summer camp! Where we meet Joey, the much-loved but scraggly program director. He’s been nominated by his boss, who needs him to be a lot better-groomed and a lot less smelly (he doesn’t see the point in showering or brushing his teeth). But divorced dad Joey also needs to shape up for his teenage son by giving him a home that’s actually comfortable – and Bobby is happy to oblige.
15. Elrod & Sons, S3 Ep 6: Single dad Rob has been grieving since his wife died two years ago, and he needs a bit of help with learning how to parent by himself. He’s now moving into a new house, where he’ll be hosting a housewarming party at the end of the week – giving Bobby the perfect blank slate for his interior design talents (hurrah). Antoni teaches him to cook healthy meals for his kids, Tan teaches him to shop for boys’ and men’s clothing, and the Fab Five help him say an emotional farewell to his old house and the memories that live there.
14. The Renaissance of Remington, S1 Ep 6: Remy lives in his grandmother’s house, which is basically a time capsule from the 1970s, and he mainly wears workout clothes and has limited cooking abilities besides “meal prep”. He’s 27, but he’s in a rut and he needs to “start thriving”. Half the battle is won when Bobby gives him a really nice home makeover, which is also great news for his flatmate. (It would be quite nice to be a flatmate of a Queer Eye subject.)
13. Disabled but Not Really, S4 Ep 2: Well this episode is… memorable. Who would have guessed that, by season four of Queer Eye, we’d be in the territory of “Fab Five reunites their hero with the man who shot him”? A bold move. Wesley, the subject of the episode, is a 30-year-old community activist and father of a 10-year-old daughter. A self-confessed “bad boy” in his younger years, his life changed when he was shot – leaving him paralysed from the waist down. He has since founded the organisation “Disabled But Not Really” and turned his life around, but there are some big practical things that the Fab Five can help him with to truly gain his independence; making his home wheelchair-accessible is top of that list. Also, Tan does a lovely job of demonstrating the power of bespoke tailoring for Wesley’s new wardrobe.
12. Stoner Skates By, S4 Ep 3: John has been nominated by his precocious and lovely 10-year-old daughter, Lucy, because she needs him to step up and act more like her parent than a kid himself. She’d also really like him to show a little more enthusiasm for her talents as a competitive figure skater “His lifestyle’s a little unpredictable,” she says, describing him as a “man child.” Lucy is not wrong: John is locally known as “Cat Suit Man” for the hilarious outfits he wears to sports games. At first I found this episode exasperating, but Karamo got John to open up a bit about his mental health and it soon became clear just how much John loves his talented, independent-minded kid.
11. You Can’t Fix Ugly, S1 Ep 1: The first episode and a strong start for Queer Eye as the Fab Five show us what they can do. Tom is a divorced 57-year-old dump-truck driver with lupus that affects his skin (enter skincare expert Jonathan!) and very little confidence in his appearance. But the end, he’s amazed by his own transformation. Plus, he can make guacamole now, which is apparently all you need to impress the ladies and stay healthy.
10. How Wanda Got Her Groove Back, S4 Ep 4: Wanda Winters is the founder and CEO of the Pythons Drill Team in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a demanding leader who, like so many people featured in Queer Eye, has sacrificed everything to her job. Even her house is barely furnished, except for the trophies of course. But over the course of the episode, Wanda learns to let her guard down a bit and open up to her two adult daughters.
9. The Handyman Can, S2 Ep 4: Jason is a free-spirited handyman who lives for the Burning Man festival. Like, he spends all year polishing his flamethrower and he has an actual mirrored blazer. He’s built a community of like-minded friends in Atlanta – but perplexingly, he’s determined to drop everything and move to Reno. The Fab Five are skeptical about this idea, as are his friends. But regardless, our Queer Eye guys arrive in town to polish him up and tailor his clothes and give him a pep talk and organise a going away party. And then (spoiler alert), in an epilogue we find out he decided to stick around in Atlanta after all! And the friend who nominated him is now his girlfriend! A true happy ending.
8. Soldier Returns Home, S4 Ep 7: In 2011, Brandonn Mixon was medically discharged from the US Army after an unfortunate accident led to a traumatic brain injury. He was devastated. Now he’s 28 years old, he’s nine years into a marriage with wife Alexa, he has three kids, and he is passionate about building ‘tiny homes’ for veterans – a job that has given him purpose and helped him fight depression. But he’s also a shabby dresser, he doesn’t cook, he’s barely home and his communication skills leave much to be desired. Thankfully, he’s very open to tackling all those issues – and he makes so much progress by the end of the episode! Plus, Bobby does a really nice job with his house.
7. Without Further Ado, S4 Ep 1: It’s a Jonathan Van Ness special! In this episode, we meet Kathi, the music director at Quincy Senior High School, who also happens to be Jonathan’s former teacher. She’s been hanging on to the same mullet hairstyle since anyone can remember, and working herself to the bone – but now the people around her want Kathi to put herself first, for once. This episode features a particularly strong hairstyle transformation. Plus, of course, a peek into the childhood of Mr Van Ness and how much a wonderful teacher changed his life.
6. Hose Before Bros, S1 Ep 8: Jeremy is a fireman who loves to help people, and now has responsibility for training other firefighters. He is passionate about his job, and is also a dedicated family man who’s married to Bonnie and has five adopted children. Jeremy is wholesome with a capital W. Unfortunately his fire station is struggling for money, so the Fab Five have been called in to smarten him up in time for a big fundraiser. However, the best transformation in this episode comes courtesy of Bobby Berk, who completely revamps the fire station from a dump into a proper HQ.
5. Japan season: Ep 1, Japanese Holiday: The best episode from Queer Eye’s spin-off episodes where they travel to Japan. This episode introduces us to Yoko Sakuma, a 57-year-old hospice nurse whose adventurous and quirky and “offbeat” personality has been dimmed a little since she converted her entire home into a care facility for the dying. Her best friend wants the Fab Five to get her to focus on herself, at least a bit more than ‘not at all’. It’s a very moving episode, and it helps that Yoko is a hilarious lady who you fall in love with right away.
4. A Decent Proposal, S2 Ep 2: This is one of the classics. 41-year-old William works at Walmart, loves movies and filmmaking, and is stuck in a bit of a rut. He lives with his girlfriend of three years, Shannan, and he wants to propose to her – but William is stuck in his own head and can’t seem to get it done. Enter the Fab Five! Who, of course, give him a fabulous makeover and some great new clothes and a lot more confidence. The proposal itself is sickeningly romantic but also stays true to their relationship. Even better: in the years since this episode aired, the two have actually tied the knot and William has pursued his acting career, even appearing in Netflix drama Stranger Things.
3. Jones Bar-B-Q, S3 Ep 3: One of the standout episodes of season three. The owners of Jones Barb-B-Q, Deborah (Little) and Mary (Shorty), have a brilliant and busy local business where they work hard to serve the food they love. But by the end of their Queer Eye experience, the whole venture has been transformed into something much bigger: Antoni and Karamo help them get their special BBQ sauce ready for manufacturing and sale, Deborah gets her teeth sorted, they get new outfits, they get a redesigned shop, they get an outdoor dining area… this is not just about trying to pump the two Jones sisters up with some Karamo-style self-belief, but about the material different that $$$ makes. And these two truly deserve the investment.
2. On Golden Kenny, S4 Ep 5: In this episode, “the Fab Five help a kind but lonely bachelor find unconditional love and get his dusty home ready for visitors, the first guests he’s had in years.” And the unconditional love comes in the form of… an adopted rescue dog! Truly this is what Queer Eye is all about. Kenny Yarnevich is retired and a bit aimless, volunteering at the Catholic Club with its old fashioned bar and bowling alley; a lifelong singleton, he lives in his late parents’ house which is another ’70s time capsule. And he’s a total sweetheart who is delighted to embrace his Queer Eye transformation, even naming his new pup “Fab Five”.
And my favourite episode…
1. Black Girl Magic, S3 Ep 5: This one’s tearjerker! Jess Guilbeaux is a 23-year-old waitress whose adoptive parents kicked her out of the house when she was just 16 after discovering was a lesbian. She has experienced so much rejection in her life, and on top of that she’s been through real financial hardship – having to drop out of her computer science degree at the University of Kansas because of the crippling student loan debt. She’s barely begun to make her house a home, because she doesn’t have any sense of permanence. Enter the Fab Five! Who help her open her heart to let people in and accept herself as the amazing woman she is. “You all just showed me that it is beautiful and sexy to care for yourself,” she tells them at the end. “It’s cute and confident to just be black and be gay and be a woman and what that is, is me, and I am always that.”