I’m writing this through a cloud of crippling depression because I can’t believe that this season is over. It was the best television I’ve ever watched, and I’m not sure what to do with myself now that it’s gone.
Speaking of over, Alyssa’s time in this competition has ended, and literally no one is happy out it. Even Detox cried, and it’s her fault! Hell, at this point, I’m surprised Roxxxy didn’t just volunteer to pack her shit. You know what helps her keep the weight off? The calories she burns by maintaining boundless optimism in the face of repeated, decisive failure. If she says she’s still here to win one more time, she’s going to collapse from exhaustion. And speaking of exhausting, the only thing more aggravating than seeing Alaska win every week is hearing her explain that she threw that tantrum because she’s so used to winning. Like, it’s hard for her to be in the bottom two because she’s really good at this and she wants to win. I realize that this isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, but GIRL. Girl. Girl.
But by the following morning, everyone has forgotten that there were ever more than four girls in the competition. Only two things matter anymore. One: that they do well in the final challenge, and Two: that Michelle survives her careful walk down the stairs to explain it to them. This is why Ru visits the workroom in flats. Once Mama Face has made it back to sea level, she informs the ferocious finalists that they’ll be doing a performance marathon: each queen will write and record a rap verse, then they will then learn group choreography and perform the full song together on stage. In addition, they’ll be interviewed for the What’s the T? podcast, serve a final runway look, and share a speech explaining why they should take the crown. We know immediately that Detox will not win because, no matter how well she does, she must be punished for denying us the opportunity to see Alyssa Edwards go full lunatic on this assignment. Years from now, I’ll find myself lying awake at night with a weight in the pit of my stomach, still frustrated at how close we came to experiencing such true greatness.
Rather than track the episode chronologically, I’m just going to look at each contestant individually. It’s too choppy otherwise. Handle it.
We’ll start with Roxxxy, because the fact that she’s going home is just plain not a spoiler. Like: come on. She insists, while recording her verse, that we shouldn’t tell her she’s not Nicki Minaj. Normally I’d disobey, but her mental state must be exceptionally fragile right now, so you know what? You are, girl. You just are. Anyway, Nicki’s podcast interview is all about whether she was edited to look bad on her season; it’s basically a series of questions designed to papercut Phi Phi O’Hara to death. Ms. Minaj doesn’t embarrass herself in the final performance, but looking great in a jeweled bodysuit and a fan can’t hide the fact that she established permanent residence in the bottom two.
Detox (who is also not winning; see above) demolishes the rap. Even AB Soto says so, and you know you can trust him because he’s completely unknown except for previous appearances on this show. (Though that low-cut sequin nightmare suit he’s wearing suggests that he’s exceptionally eager to get noticed more.) Continuing the season-long tradition of giving her no story arc whatsoever, she is asked only about her clothes during the interview. And while she was shaky on the chairs during rehearsal, she tears the group performance up. I can’t pinpoint why her chances of being crowned are so low, because she’s totally great, but there really is no way it’s happening for her.
Katya, on the other hand, has a real shot. Her rap is funny and allows her to use the Russian character that is only intermittently present during challenges. Since she’s the only person in the competition who’s not a member of Rolaskatox, she’s the only one who doesn’t have to waste time in her interview talking about Rolaskatox. And her supernatural flexibility, which puts the fear of God in her costars during rehearsal, allows her to give perhaps the most spectacular visuals of the group number.
As for Alaska, she has a lot to deal with emotionally right now. It somehow just dawned on her that Rolaskatox has reunited, even though she has been asked about it literally every week. “Is Roxxxy here because of Rolaskatox?” “No, of course not, we’re just three best friends who have decided not to send each other home… fuck.” Yup, you “accidentally” formed an alliance. The best part is that she takes her suitcase to the other side of the room as if she can somehow change things on the last day of the game. That’s like burning a house down and then hoping you can undo it by blowing out the match. Of course, you can’t deny the strength of her delivery across the challenge: she’s good at recording, she’s good at talking, and she’s good at performing. It’s entirely possible that she’ll make it to the Hall of Fame. (Though with only two portraits hanging, it might just as well be a Closet of Fame.)
We should talk about the backlash against Alaska. Up until last episode, everyone was positive she was going to win. And I think that was the intention. Then, at the last minute, the producers were like, “Oh, it’s really obvious who’s going to win. We should spice it up by making it look like Katya might take it.” Only they swung the pendulum too far and overemphasized Alaska’s tantrums and negative attitude, and it backfired horribly, to the point where no one wanted her to even exist on the TV anymore. Her weakness is best illustrated by the speech she gave to the judging panel at the end. While her three competitors showed genuine emotion, becoming overwhelmed and struggling to get the words out and hesitating and generally being human, Alaska was a robot succubus: perfectly polished, impeccably rehearsed, and totally cold. If her tantrum had been counterbalanced with humility and gratitude and warmth, she would have been redeemed in the eyes of the audience. Unfortunately, she is cursed with a voice that sounds like a particularly insincere door being slowly opened, and her every word conveys the subtext that we can’t sit with her and her friends.
This is made further apparent in the slow, sincere lip sync that follows. After Ru dismisses Roxxxy (since apparently nobody fucking else was going to), she challenges her girls to dip into the bountiful well of Gladys Knight’s longing on “If I Were Your Woman.” As usual, Detox does everything right and still can’t catch a break. Katya is similarly wonderful, but after stepping on a witch’s toe at a meet-and-greet, she was cursed to lose lip sync battles for the rest of her days. Alaska smears her make-up and thinks to herself, “is that what feelings are?” She legitimately might not know.
And then it’s time to crown a winner. And sure, Alaska refuses to give us access to her actual inner self. And sure, she’s the predictable choice. And sure, we were manipulated into thinking that Katya might take it because she has an arc and her deeply addled sense of humor makes her seem like someone else who got dismissed from the Cool Kids’ table. But in the end none of that matters because a) I’m pretty sure that this entire season was staged just to make sure that Alaska would win it, and b) she kicked this season’s ass. Her track record is outstanding, the diversity of her skill is unreal, and the drive and focus she displayed were borderline concerning. Let her have this one. Katya will be just fine.
Thanks for joining me all season, guys. I’ll be back in Season 9 to throw more shade than a solar eclipse. xoxo, Ariel Italic
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