After the overly-complex (and controversial) end of All Stars(we’re all still salty about that, right?), it’s nice to see Drag Race get back to basics. Last night’s episode was chock full of the sort of silly slapstick that’s this show’s (sprouted, low-carb) bread and (grass-fed, clarified) butter.
I’m thrilled to see the return of the mini-challenges (even though this one was particularly nonsensical), and, with a super-sized cast and extra-long episodes, easy, breezy humor helps to keep things moving.
That doesn’t mean the episode was devoid of drama — far from it! In fact, it seems all the girls, especially the Vixen, were taking their Conflama (apply directly to Aquaria’s forehead!).
Grab a fistful of your favorite meds, and let’s break it down in the recap below.
Fresh off Miss Vanjie’s elimination (Miss … Vanjie … Miss … Vanjie … ), the gals declare the memory of Vanjie will live on. (Oh, it will!)
Apropos of nothing, I’m sure, (definitely not producers’ prodding) Kalorie brings up the interesting conversation she missed while on the main stage surrounding Aquaria and Cracker. Aquaria does her best to sweep the whole mess under the rug, violating one of the cardinal rules of reality TV: Thou shalt not deny what was clearly caught on camera.
Despite Aquaria’s best attempts to convince the girls she was not bothered by Cracker’s alleged copping of her style, the Vixen leaps fully into the center of the drama to assert that, yes, indeed Aquaria was QUITE bothered, in fact, and she should be able to say that to Cracker’s face. Ooh, she did come here to fight!
What’s certain is that Aquaria is for sure bothered now. She literally runs away from her problems, hoofing it clear across the workroom as the Vixen flashes a lightly menacing piece of paper at the camera that just has “The Vixen Will Fight You” scrawled on it. OK, Vixen, you got my attention.
Tensions have eased when the queens return to the workroom for this week’s mini-challenge. Here’s Ru and chief Bravo daddy Andy Cohen decked out in Western wear for reasons that are utterly unclear. The gals will have to throw on some quick drag for a good ol’ fashioned hoedown. Asia and Vixen are picked as winners, but it hardly feels like it’s earned or based on any demonstrable performance skill. (If we’re really getting picky, I actually think Vixen had the worst quick drag. What was Western about any of that?)
They’re rewarded with team captain status for the main challenge: A pharmaceutical-themed musical number shilling products that help with everything from “Restless Tuck Syndrome” to stymieing the overuse of drag cliches (alright, fine, maybe I need some of that, okrr?). Aquaria and Cracker land on separate teams, thankfully, and Eureka is the last picked.
It’s not a matter of talent, but attitude. Eureka is a lot of things, but, of all those things, she is A LOT. That big personality clearly grates the nerves of her fellow queens, so Asia isn’t thrilled to deal with all of that. It takes about 10 seconds for Eureka to start throwing her weight around (in a metaphorical sense), making suggestions and questioning Asia’s every move. Asia doesn’t quite handle Eureka with grace, but her firm hand keeps the team focused on getting the basics of their choreography down.
Vixen’s team may be jelling better, but their time management is a real issue. Instead of choreo, they work on costumes.
And what a week to not focus on choreo! Our guest choreographer is none other than Drag Race legend and living, breathing meme, Alyssa Edwards. She’s here in full geish, 5-6-7-8-ing like nobody’s business. Her direction for everyone is just BIGGER BIGGER BIGGER over and over until the queens are shaking and flailing and screaming like they’re on fire. Alyssa is a pro-dancer, but sign me up for the Beyond Belief School of Dramatic Arts, mama. Where else would you get an acting note to give more Aubrey O’Day? Truly nowhere.
Both teams struggle with Alyssa, and not just failing to meet her impossibly high standards for camp weirdness. On Asia’s team, Kalorie can’t give a solid twirl, and Eureka gets some Grey’s Anatomy-style, PTSD flashbacks of injuring her knee during last season’s episode two musical number.
The Vixen’s group came in with less preparation, which was clear to Alyssa right away. Oddly enough, the one to struggle the most was Blair St. Clair, the supposed musical queen. But if you can’t dance and you can’t act … doesn’t that just make you a singing queen? And trust, you don’t need to be a good singer to succeed here. (Have you heard Kennedy Davenport’s single?)
It feels like a real toss-up heading to the main stage, but after the performances it’s clear the win is going to go to Vixen’s team. (More on individual performances in the rankings below.)
The runway category is Best Drag, but more than a few girls seem to have misunderstood the assignment. So many sparkly bodysuits. Where was the Courtney Act winged moment? Where was Sharon Needles’ Rupocalypse living dead couture? Ivy Winters on stilts?! There was some pretty up there, but good gosh almighty what a huge missed opportunity across the board. The only ones to really slay are Aquaria and Cracker. Not only are they far and away the best looks on the runway, they also feel very, very distinct.
Vixen’s team gets the win, and Vixen is given the overall win for the day. I’m not sure she was the strongest in their performance, and she was far from a star on the runway, but that’s the way the reality cookie crumbles, I guess. To the captain go the spoils.
The bottom two gals are this season’s big girls, Eureka and Kalorie. The track, “Best of My Love,” isn’t a barn burner by any stretch, and both girls already feel so beaten down after a tough critique. Kalorie completely phones in this one, while Eureka pushes through enough emotion to punch up her performance. Is this going to make any greatest lip sync of all time list? Certainly not. It’s fine.
Ru keeps Eureka, warning her “Don’t be sorry, be fierce.” That means we’re going Kalorie-free for the rest of the season.
Let’s dive deeper into the individual performances in our rankings below. Aside from a few obvious fumbles, most of the gals still feel pretty neck-and-neck.
1. Miz Cracker remains high atop my list again this week. She was a dependable player in the musical tonight, showing up fully every time she took the spotlight. Plus, her runway look was a stunner. The gold, futuristic fashion felt right out of Metropolis, and that big, boxy, cracker wig stopped the damn show. Epic.
2. While Cracker served future glamour, Aquaria delivered future high fashión. It was severe and creative and totally unique. I’m still not super into Aquaria’s persona, but I think she was solid enough in the performance. There are other girls that had stronger nights tonight, but when I try to zoom out and consider their overall potential Aquaria might have what it takes to make it to the end. I’m curious how she does with think-on-your-feet comedy challenges (like Snatch Game or the roast). That will be her sink or swim moment.
3. Asia came to PLAY this season, henny. Although her team came up short, she managed to handle Eureka without popping off or being steamrolled. She was the strongest performer in her group, and her Best Drag (while not my personal favorite style) definitely felt like a worthy selection.
4. OK, bear with me on this, but I think I’m watching Monique on a different show than the judges are. Last week, I felt she was fully robbed of a top three spot. This week, she inexplicably lands in the bottom. They clocked her for not knowing the lyrics tonight, but I didn’t notice it (especially beside some girls that clearly had no idea what they were doing). I thought she actually stood out a lot in their group number. She made a big entrance up top and had the most fun reveal. Unlike Padma, I loved the runway look. It was silly, but she sold it.
5. The surprise of the night was Kameron. She’s not just here for trade, y’all. Even as the self-described quiet girl, she came alive on stage. She stole the show with her scene and lit up the stage even when she was supporting in the background. Her butterfly bodysuit was cute and hyper-feminine. For me, it still felt a little too Michael’s craft store, but it was something different from all the other bejeweled bodysuits.
6. It was a brilliant reality-TV move for the Vixen to insert herself into the Aquaria/Cracker drama. For a gal to spot this season’s juiciest narrative and seamlessly make it about HER is some next-level masterminding. She told us upon arrival that she is here to fight, and I’m glad to see her deliver. It’s definitely more entertaining than what she wore down the runway. I need her performances on the main stage to start reaching the level of her performances in the workroom.
7. This was a GREAT night for Dusty. She was one of the MVPs of her team, and that Beetlejuice-esque blazer was gorgeous and so on-brand. However, the fact she even ENTERTAINED THE IDEA of maybe, possibly doing the dots again after last week’s judging was a huge red flag. If she wants to succeed here, she’s got to take criticism, but I am worried she’s going to pick those dots as her hill to die on.
8. I’m still high on Monét X Change (but I can quit any time, I swear). Neither her best drag nor her musical performance really knocked my socks off. But everything was competent, and she’s a great Greek chorus for this season. She strikes me as adaptable and well-rounded, which will carry her far in this competition. I’m just waiting for a big, break-out moment.
9. If anyone blended in the background this week, it’s last week’s winner Mayhem Miller. She gave an utterly forgettable stage performance, and I hated what she wore on the runway. The wig and the big tulle shoulders completely enveloped her head. I didn’t love the print, the color or the fabric. It all just felt off. She’s lucky her team was on top so she was spared the judges’ wrath.
10. Yuhua does not want to get a reputation as the girl who can’t take a critique. One, because it’s not cute, but, also she needs the advice. She’s a funny, original, kooky queen, but I question her taste level.
11. I just don’t get Blair. Am I missing something?
12. Oh, honey, Eureka. What is happening? If you had told me she was your pick for the top three this season, I’d buy it. Now? I’d be surprised if she makes it to Snatch Game. Keep in mind we’re still early enough in the competition for things to change in the blink of an extra long lash, but this was not a good showing. Anyone could see that musical lip sync was BAD. REAL bad. I didn’t hate the mermaid sequined catsuit as much as the judges, but that lip sync was egregious. Worse yet, with this many queens in the competition, there are more group challenges to come. It’s not a good sign if no one wants to work with you.
13. It was time for Kalorie to go. I’m glad she got to share her story about being mercilessly bullied as an overweight teen, and I hope she can look back at this experience and feel proud of what she did. She’s got a lot of talent, but this is a super strong cast. She was in a bit over her head. Once she walked BEHIND the other girls during her solo, I knew it was over.
How would you rank the queens?