“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Four-mation

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Determined to keep this season of RuPaul’s Best Friend Race as cordial as possible, the girls return from Alexis’ elimination full of praise for her performance and remorse that she is gone. Sasha laments how badly her fallen sister wanted to make the Top 3, as if there were contestants this season being like “I really hope I get booted sixth.” (Then again, we’ve had three lip syncs where someone just gave the fuck up, so I guess some of the girls really didn’t want to make it to the end.) On the other end of that spectrum, we have Shea, whose substantial four-win track record means that she could sit on the mainstage doing a crossword in a RuPaul Sucks t-shirt and still make it to the next round. (Not that I think she’d ever do that. This is Slay Coulee we’re talking about! It’d be a RuPaul Sucks bathing suit.)

s9e12 01The ladies begin the next morning the same way I begin every morning: with a primal howl to the heavens expressing an indefinable, uncontainable mix of complex emotions. Little do they know that by calling the queer corners, they have performed unintentional bitchcraft and summoned the spiritual essence of every woman who went to her high school prom with a closeted gay friend, Michelle Visage. This grim spectre does not take lightly to being pulled from the interdimensional strip mall in which she resides, and thus punishes the poor souls before her with a series of rites that they must perform. Corroborating the translations of the ancient texts, she states that the blood pact they now share can only be undone by performing the Three Gay Humiliations: writing a verse to a lesser RuPaul single, learning choreography from an insufferable YouTube star, and discussing painful memories on the “What’s the T?” podcast. Satisfied that she has struck fear into the hearts of her new minions, the demon queen vanishes in a puff of Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon fragrance mist.

As the only competitor to have released an album before the race got started, Peppermint has no problem writing snappy lyrics or laying down a killer track. Beyond skill and charm, she brings a great deal of professionalism to her recording session, managing not to laugh at the preposterous image of Todrick Hall surrounded by gold records. (I’m giggling just typing it!) Her interview about keeping her gender identity separate from her drag career hits exactly the sad but ultimately uplifting and empowering tone that the hosts hoped for, but Ru does not give her a congratulatory Squatty Potty because all discussions of bathrooms are inherently transphobic. The podcast and recording also run smoothly for Shea, even if her pen was writing checks that her mouth couldn’t quite cash with that rapid-fire rap. Part of me wishes that she had gone all the way and just started speaking in tongues right into the mic.

s9e12 02Resident weirdo Sasha goes for smart spoken word art, which confuses resident basic bitch Todrick. He’s all, “what if this was a Disney parody instead?” and she’s all “I would have to turn off three quarters of my brain to even be able to explain this to you.” On the podcast, RuPaul has the good taste not to reduce Sasha’s complex drag to a single exploitative origin story about her mother’s untimely death… JUST KIDDING that’s totally what she does. Full disclosure: my mother died of cancer over a decade ago, and it remains the only reason I do anything. I’m writing these recaps in her honor. Cast me on Season 10! Trinity is the only contestant who really struggles with the recording session, though she avoids a full “I’m here to make it clear” debacle. And her interview more than makes up for it, as it gives our Nightmare Empress, the Devourer of Sorrow the chance to impersonate a dead relative that she has never met. The bad taste is so powerful that I almost physically taste it. What a shame that this happened after her verse had been finalized, because “Bitch, you don’t know my grandma!” is a catchphrase that Ms. Taylor could really sell. She does not receive a Squatty Potty because no one is sure where her post-surgery anus ended up.

And Trinity’s trials aren’t over yet: her rocky dance rehearsal reminds us that Barbies have a limited range of posing options. She and Sasha both assure Todrick that they will learn their steps later, partially because they need more time to practice and partially because they’d prefer to stop talking to him right now. “I’m gonna go run through this over there… could someone else deal with him for a sec?” Peppermint is no stranger to production numbers: she came out of her mother’s uterus by descending a lit staircase flanked by backup studs. And Shea has actual dance training to support her. Like, she can do a triple pirouette, so let’s shoehorn one of those into the choreography even though it blatantly doesn’t fit.

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But any implication that someone might struggle with this number is abandoned during the actual performance, which shines with the white-hot light of a thousand Anderson Coopers having passionate carnal relations with a thousand Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons. The slayage is so intense that it banishes the sorrow on which the Tear-Eating Wraithmother feasts. “Silence!” she bellows. “Gaze upon your past and weep for me, chattel.” Each contestant dutifully obeys, crumbling under her ravenous gaze. Still, she is unsatisfied. “The people have enjoyed your pageantry too greatly. WE MUST UNDERWHELM THEM.” At her ominous command, one of her own mediocre singles plays, and the captive contestants are forced to shuffle their way around an overcrowded stage in a vain attempt at weaving straw into gold.

Her hunger for others’ discomfort finally sated, Ru rewards us all: there will be no elimination this week. All four queens will have a chance at the crown. And if the Reddit spoilers are any indication, this finale is gonna be so good it leaves me hospitalized. I’ll be starting a GoFundMe page soon to offset the medical bills.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Five Girls, One Ball

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With another elimination out of the way, Trinity is too focused on the prize to express any concern or regret. Frankly, she’s relieved to see Nina go (though probably not as relieved as Nina herself). To her credit, Alexis briefly congratulates Shea before turning the focus back to her favorite topic: herself. She’s tired of the judges telling her that her looks are basic. The obvious answer is to stop dressing like a midwestern high schooler from the ‘90s, but I guess she’s waiting for someone else in the workroom to tell her that. Somehow, she hasn’t yet realized that we’re at the Top 5 of a phenomenally fierce competition, and the only assistance she’s going to get is some help packing. Sisterhood is cute and all, but I’d consider throwing an actual family member under an actual bus for $100,000.

s9e11 01There’s no time for a video message from Ru the following morning, but I’m OK with it because I could watch Trinity dodge invisible bugs for days on end. Let’s have fewer crying jags and more manic episodes next season. For now, though, we’re sticking to the formula with the annual puppet mini-game (aka the Rereading Challenge). One by one, the ladies drag up their felt dolls and improvise shady scenes that would give the Muppets nightmares. Shea nails Peppermint’s signature scream, which has become my favorite sound in the universe and should be incorporated into future seasons like the shade rattle. Peppermint earns some laughs for painting her version of Alexis green, while the real Alexis struggles to elicit any sort of reaction from the crowd. The clear scene stealer is Sasha, whose dead-on mimic of Trinity’s country accent underpins a series of razor-sharp reads of several members of the cast.

Her prize is the dubious honor of choreographing the opening number of the Gayest Ball Ever: in addition to serving three looks, the queens will wiggle their ribbons in a rhythmic gymnastics presentation that everyone will have to pretend to enjoy. (It will unfortunately be impossible to outdo Ru’s stupendous demonstration of proper wand-waving technique.) They’ll then serve rainbow flag realness, clomp the runway as unicorns, and finish up with a Village People look of their own design. Since this is the first official season of RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, the gals confer on their role assignments and make sure that everyone is happy with their place in the village. They have various levels of stability in the reasoning behind their selections, unfortunately.

s9e11 02Sasha and Shea, as the cowboy and construction worker respectively, see the high-fashion potential in their selections. Similarly, Trinity is still looking to escape her pageant roots with a runway-ready cop creation, though at this point no one sees her as just a pageant queen anymore. Peppermint goes for the biker because she likes black, and Alexis… oh, Alexis. Remember ten minutes ago when you shouted “I would never wear that color” in regards to your puppet’s turquoise dress? Maybe instead of waiting for someone else’s advice, you should start taking your own, because fixating on the beads in the Native American costume immediately sounds like a terrible idea. (As does, let’s be honest, dressing like a Native American at all. The group’s original lineup also had a GI; why did we not go with that as an option?)

Dance rehearsal goes about as well as you’d expect for a non-dancer trying to corral some of the biggest egos in the country. Each of these people thinks she’s first in line for the top spot and behaves accordingly. And then back in the workroom, they have the audacity to blame Ms. Velour’s direction. Basically, they can’t be held accountable for talking instead of listening because it’s someone else’s job to manage their nonsense. Not surprisingly, Alexis is the biggest champion of this theory. While waiting for someone to tell her not to waste three hours gluing plastic baubles to an ugly corset, she stresses that the problems stem from Sasha’s insecurity. Yup, Sasha’s insecurity. That’s it.

s9e11 03Of course, on the main stage the next day, the whole ribbon routine proves to be completely inconsequential. It barely impacts the critiques, and the judges grimace through it like they’re watching someone else’s kid’s piano recital. When it comes to clothes, Sasha serves knockouts for all three categories: her cubist take on the rainbow is outside the box, her Medieval unicorn is by far the most interesting and artistic of the night, and her couture cowboy can herd my cattle any time. (Look, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, they can’t all be good lines.) Shockingly, she is only safe, with the win going to Shea. And admittedly, that construction cape was art, but her fetish unicorn forced me to think of that whole category as an extended pony play porn, and the panel fully admitted that her rainbow look didn’t fit the theme. So, I guess congratulations on failing a full third of the assignment? Whatever.

Trinity delivered three great outfits: she may not have risen to the top, but easily escapes the bottom. The devil is in the details for Peppermint, however: a bit of sag in her unicorn costume and a slight lack of inventiveness in her leather creation leave her in danger of elimination. The most deserving critiques obviously go to Alexis, who doesn’t see the problem with wearing, in her own words, “a literal rainbow flag” for the first part of the runway, or with wearing a skirt that could literally be from Rainbow as part of her couture presentation. Also, she may have to resign from her throne as the queen of wordplay for thinking it was clever to wear that archery “bow” in her hair.

s9e11 04In the next talking head segment, Alexis fumes that she shouldn’t be in the bottom because she thinks she’s more fashion than Pep and Trinity. And suddenly it all makes sense: she doesn’t have working eyes! How did the pre-season medical screening not catch this? The poor girl is sent blind into the gladiator pit with Peppermint, and frankly she’d have a better chance against an actual tiger. Our Lady of the Glorious Lip Sync burns it down once again. She is unstoppable. She cannot be outshone once that music starts playing. Tearfully, this season’s Broadway baby takes her final bow before heading back to the workroom to pack up rack after rack of the stunning, sparkly, fashionable dresses that she repeatedly promised but never wore.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Crew Zing

drag race header 4I know that Valentina’s elimination sent shockwaves around the globe, but even eight months ago in the vacuum of space where this episode was filmed, the ladies FEEL it. Everyone comes back to the workroom experiencing full shookification, and not just because they’ll never know if she stoned those tights. Her departure hits Nina the hardest: she feels guilty because they were on a team together, and feels bad in general because she is a person whose mental illness is being exploited for entertainment value. (Like, sure, we can just say she’s “being negative” and write it off, but I think in our hearts we know that she needs a lot of professional counseling and that putting her in a high-pressure competition that separates her from all of her support structures is wildly irresponsible AND ASSHOLES LIKE ME WHO MAKE FUN OF HER ON THE INTERNET FOR SURE AREN’T HELPING.) Sasha, as an intellectual, rightly recognizes that faux interventions steeped in the non-reality of reality TV won’t make a dent in the issue, so she steers the ship elsewhere. But if she, Trinity, Shea, and Peppermint are all through with this discussion, then the editors are going to give up and roll the opening credits.

s9e10 01As usual, the following morning offers no time for anything involving small talk, video messages, or minigames. If they rushed it any faster, Ru and the contestants would have to teleport into the room like on Star Trek. It’s worth cutting to the chase, though, because the week’s main challenge announcement is spectacular: the annual makeovers have arrived, and the recipients this year will be members of the crew! Since I don’t personally know the men involved, I can’t grasp the full hilarity of the situation, but it’s clear from the reactions in the room that anyone even tangentially involved in the process is getting their whole entire life right now. There’s so much to explore: uncomfortable straight dudes, workplace drama, open-minded straight dudes, cross-cultural exchange, hot straight dudes… ok, mostly it’s fun because of straight dudes. But come on, how often do we get to really enjoy them? They’re usually so incredibly awful.

After Shea and Sasha pair each lady with her new sister (a task that they take seriously and execute fairly), everyone digs right on into the challenge. Handed the artiest partner, Nina starts getting conceptual with things. It all goes smoothly until she convinces herself that she should sew two outfits even though she knows in her brain (and says out her mouth) that she can’t sew even one outfit. After repeatedly asking for help from people who are busy with their own shit, she finally has to throw in the towel. God only knows how she thought that was going to work itself out. Like, I can’t run a half marathon; I’m definitely not volunteering for a full marathon just to prove a point.

s9e10 02What’s left of the training montage is mostly spent watching dudes clomp around in heels while the queens tease them for how clompy they are in heels. There are some minor ups and downs: Sasha is trying not to be too serious with dour Duncan at her side, Peppermint brings out an inner diva from Sarge so strong that it almost retroactively erases Kimora Blac from reality, and Alexis… well, Alexis is here. The main attraction, however, is Trinity’s new family member Rizzo. I was already sold on that handsome face, but his sensitive discussion of the need for a broader definition of masculinity seals the deal: I am going to fellate him continuously until we are both dead.

The following day, things start off with Ariana Bo’Nina Brown being so phenomenally helpful that she absolutely has to be a plant. Like, she manages to draw out Nina’s insecurities, give a supportive pep talk, and replenish the season’s supply of tragedy with a backstory about her addiction, all while gluing down her own brows. It took me close to a year to figure out how to get my brows to lay flat, and you’re claiming that this guy is brand new? Next thing I know, you’ll be trying to convince me that Valentina started drag ten months ago. Across the room, Trinity is reminding my future husband that her family doesn’t have jewels, and she’s going to use as much tape as it takes to flatten out that fat pussy. (She’s also going to use as many excuses as it takes to catch a glimpse of that sweet D, and I don’t blame her one bit. Just be gentle, girl: he’ll need that equipment later, because he’s getting inappropriately propositioned 24/7 once episode airs.)

s9e10 03The queens bring all the creativity they can to the mainstage with carefully rehearsed runway walks and well-choreographed lip syncs to (part of) a RuPaul song. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her spotty fashion choices in previous weeks, Peppermint makes two wildly clashing garments and gives her sis a noticeably lopsided paint job. But Winter Green brings such a powerful presence with her that she stuns the judges like deer in a particularly sassy pair of headlights, and they let the family pass safely through to the other side. (I realize that my metaphor has failed because that’s not how it ends for a deer in the headlights, but whatever.) I thought for sure that Sasha’s outlandishly fashionable design and truly transformative makeover would snag her the win, but the panel prefers Trinity and Glittafa for their sharp dance moves and smooth crotches.

Though her pedestrian tastes once again underwhelm, Alexis skates through to safety. It has less to do with her own abilities and more to do with the fact that Shea left her sister a little ragged around the edges. I feel like if that wig hadn’t collapsed, it might have been a different story. Nina, on the other hand, was destined to lip sync pretty much from the get go. Without a set of newly-created garments to wear, she and her sister have made do with a couple of black corsets, and the overall effect is that they barely tried. (I’m not totally convinced that poorly-sewn yellow overalls would have been a significant improvement, however.) Moreover, their bunny heads make them look like the imaginings of a pothead randomly cycling through the character creation screen of a really weird video game.

s9e10 04As “Cool For The Summer” starts, it’s clear that Nina needs to get out of here. She can’t even pretend to want it anymore. And honestly: good. If Eureka got an honorable discharge for her busted knee, I think we owe this wascally wabbit the same respect for her busted brain chemistry. Her negativity and paranoia are not her fault, but this scenario is not her friend. Hopefully there are people back home who she trusts that she can lean on while she finds a good therapist. As for Shea: this song wasn’t the best opportunity for her to show the slayage you know she can bring, but she did what she needed to do. (The real gag would have been if she had hit the bottom last week against Valentina and fucking Deadpooled that song. Ru would have burst into flames.)

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: The Show Must Go Wrong

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The workroom is alive with waaahs and woes as everyone laments Farrah’s departure while waxing poetic about how cute her whine was. I initially don’t understand the sentiment, but then Alexis and Nina start doing their decidedly un-cute whining and I realize it’s all relative. Like, Trinity is asking why the girl is green when she should be asking why the girl is still here. Her call to cut the fillers (an ironic request coming from those particular lips) is a little late: half the contestants are already gone, and everyone that’s left is here because she deserves to be. Or because her Snatch Game win made the judging panel look on her more favorably during the last lip sync. But I’m not naming names.

s9e09 01The next morning, we get no sex dream analysis, nor did anyone die in their sleep. (I’m not saying I want that, I’m just pointing out that it didn’t happen. If someone died in their sleep and I left it out, I’d be a bad recapper!) We also get no video message and no mini-challenge. Maybe Skin Wars and Girlboss and the What’s the T podcast are keeping Mama Ru too busy? She’s gotta run in, describe the week’s main task, and then dash to the recording studio so she can turn the diagrams that Lucian Piane scrawled on the wall in his own feces into an album that can be released before Season 10. By comparison, the seven remaining superstars-in-waiting have a much easier job: break into teams, come up with a concept for a new TV series, and film a pilot. Well, they keep saying it’s a pilot, but it’s very clearly a commercial.

Since they did so well in the first challenge that involved filming a TV show (for the record, this is the third… fourth, if you count the fact that RuPaul’s Drag Race is literally already a TV show), Sasha and Shea immediately Voltron themselves into a single unstoppable robotic glamazon. Peppermint is maybe trying to dig her manicure into their coattails when Trinity lurks up behind her. The two of them then absorb Alexis, leaving Nina and Valentina to make do with each other. It says a lot about the workroom dynamic that those two were picked last. I can completely imagine a scenario in which you are asked to find someone funny and quickly turn away from the two people most likely to be cast as the creepy doll in a horror movie.

s9e09 02If you’re wondering whether the girls who turned broccoli into something both sexier and funnier than the 30 Rock porn parody could make magic a second time, then wonder no more. Shea and Sasha churn out a pitch for a series that I can’t believe hasn’t gone into production yet: the hero from a blaxsploitation movie and a Russian spy team up to tear down crimes against fashion while building up a healthy sexual tension. It’s a rock-solid concept that plays to their considerable strengths, and their ability to cooperate seamlessly leads to a buttery-smooth filming process. Small Wonder was on the air for four years; I feel like with a good letter-writing campaign, we should at least be able to get Teets & Asky in as a mid-season replacement.

The three-person team does alright for themselves with Mary Mother of Gay. It’s a terrible title for a passable program about the conservative mothers of a same-sex couple and the meth-addled hobo in a nun’s habit who toys with them for his own amusement. (I realize that we’re firmly in sitcom territory here, but Trinity’s character has about as much connection to Catholic scripture as my gay ass has to… well, to Catholic scripture.) Other than a brief tiff between Alexis and Peppermint over who should do the voiceover, things coast right along and everyone walks piously under His watchful eye.

s9e09 03And then there’s Nina and Valentina. They’re unfamiliar with the concept of “concepts” and thus spend most of their writing time reassuring each other that the filming process won’t cause physical pain. Deciding to rely on improv skills that they haven’t yet developed, they flail through a series of poorly-conceived scenes that become watchable only because the audience comes to realize that these two deserve to be humiliated as punishment for putting so little effort into the project. There are people who write shows for a living that don’t make $100,000 a year. Get it together!

After a solid night’s sleep (during which everyone dreams about having frantic, animalistic sex with the Pit Crew on furniture loaned from 204 Events), the girls return to their make-up stations. Except Shea, who has chosen a new place on the other side of the room to escape the thick cloud of depressed paranoia that Nina has been cultivating. But there’s little time to dwell on that interpersonal drama because we need to give a lengthy history on what Club Kids are. Like, with a slideshow and everything. Because apparently everyone watching this show is too young to be allowed, and the runway theme wouldn’t make sense without some remedial reading. I guess I should be thankful that a whole new generation is being taught about gay nightlife icons; it just pains me that our education system can’t even prepare kids to differentiate between Leigh Bowery and Michael Alig. That should be standard in every third grade classroom across the country.

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At least the outfits look good. Unsurprisingly, Shea (with her McDonald’s-on-mescaline concoction) and Sasha (who is almost indistinguishable from a legit birthday clown) make off with a second joint win; everyone else is considered “in the bottom.” Peppermint and Trinity have created phenomenal costumes and performed their scenes well, so of course they’re safe. And there’s no reason for Alexis to worry given which team she’s on, but she can’t keep her mouth shut, and the in-fighting she instigates with her costars nearly puts her in the line of fire. But there’s no denying that Nina is a terrible actress who wore little more than a tutu to the mainstage, and her place in the bottom two was dusted off pretty much as soon as Farrah left. And Valentina’s belief that the judges like her enough to overlook her mistakes is immediately invalidated. If only there had been a grinning-like-Satan’s-graduation-photo mini-challenge to save her!

s9e09 05Speaking of the devil: the lip sync starts and all Hell breaks loose. Valentina, who is in some sort of lace Zorro mask, tries to hide the fact that she has lost the lyrics by keeping her mouth covered. But Ru, also known as the Jessica Fletcher of drag, uses her heightened intellectual capacity to see through this inconceivably clever ploy. How did she figure it out? As she stops the music, gay bars around the country erupt in a unison primal scream. And then… AND THEN… “I’d like to keep it on please.”

And in this moment, we learn the limits of the twink fandom. They will allow you to coast by on looks alone. They will allow you to tell overt lies about your past. They will allow you to speak at length with a dead-eyed insincerity that would make even members of Trump’s cabinet uncomfortable. They will allow you to wear a motherfucking beret. But they will NOT allow you to forget the words to an Ariana Grande song. And so Saint Valentina, favorite queen of every viewer with less than seven chest hairs, is yanked from the heavens and cursed to sashay among mere mortals. But don’t get too Greedy, Nina: if Ru is willing to eliminate someone that beloved, then she might not hesitate to cause you physical harm on camera for a quick ratings boost.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Declining Literacy Rates

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This episode is all about bullying, and Nina gets the ball rolling straight away by calling Aja’s elimination “rough” (and you know how sensitive she is about her skin). Sasha hates to see her Brooklyn sister go, but Manhattanite Alexis doesn’t mind putting rivers between herself and the others and then burning the bridges. But she’s right: at this point in the competition, if you’re not winning (like Shea and Trinity), then you’re losing. This fact has Farrah and Peppermint on edge, because neither of them has gotten top marks on a challenge yet. Their names exemplify the very different approaches they take to their worry: one stays fresh, while the other just moans. Oh, and according to the judges, Valentina is still perfect. So I guess we know four people who have RealDolls under their beds.

s9e08 01With so much post-elimination hubbub, the girls have absolutely nothing to converse about the following morning. Neither does Ru, really: she comes in with her novelty sunglasses on, and by this point we know the drill. One by one, the ladies step up to share mildly humorous observations about each other, and they’re all… well, you know how a first-grader with a Dr. Seuss book and a Ph.D. student doing dissertation research are both technically reading? Same concept here. The important thing is that everyone put in their best effort and had fun doing it. Participation awards all around! Except for Valentina, of course, who takes the win for unclear reasons. I’m assuming witchcraft. Like, if she doesn’t receive a steady stream of effusive praise, she’ll curse Ru with a lifetime of doing her own makeup.

In light of everybody’s tepid mini-challenge performance, the mood in the room darkens significantly when the main event is announced: another roast, this time with Michelle Visage as the guest of dishonor. Valentina gets the dubious prize of assigning the evening’s running order. Like the rest of the show, it only matters if you’re first or last, but unlike the rest of the show, most people want to be somewhere in the middle. You need a whole lot of confidence to open or close a gig, and Alexis is just the showboat to volunteer. (Which is not, by the way a comment about her size, which she would consider unjustified. On the other hand, if she was hypothetically talking trash about someone’s physical appearance, for instance their teeth, just to pull an example out of thin air, then that might be a different story.)

s9e08 02So yes, offense was taken, but the discussion of how heartless everyone is diffuses into a more generalized series of grunts and whines as everyone vocalizes at the blank papers in their hands. I’m assuming that during her check-ins with the contestants, Ru reminds everyone that when you want the words to sink into the paper, you need to use a pen. She also introduces Ross to the workroom, where he will stay until he has helped everyone create at least one identifiable punchline. To say that would be like pulling teeth for him is an understatement; with some of these girls, he’d have better luck actually performing amateur dentistry on them. (Which not a comment about Shea’s teeth. Inexperienced dental work is the last thing she needs!)

s9e08 03During runway preparations the next day, Farrah apologizes to Alexis for fulfilling the requirements of yesterday’s assignment, and then Peppermint put things in perspective by talking about the physical danger she regularly encounters as a trans woman of color. (Side note: it didn’t actually go down like that; you can tell by Sasha’s make-up that this whole discussion is lifted from the day of the Snatch Game. I assume it was moved because we need to make sure we sprinkle a uniform amount of tragedy into each episode.) Besides, if Ms. Michelle wants to feel some body positivity, she can just read all the glowing reviews she’s getting on Reddit. You can dry your tears on a new twink’s ass every day of the week, mama.

Someone needs to fix the oven, because the temperature of this roast is really inconsistent. And my dreams of a runway to redeem the weaker performers are quickly dashed, because we dive directly into critiques without a single outfit change. At least that means we get to look at Trinity’s blacked-out tooth and Nina’s painted-on glasses for a little longer. The judges basically state the obvious: Shea kicked things off well and Sasha succeeded by merging her brains with some bravado. But Peppermint stayed true to her namesake by being sweet and ice cold at the same time, earning her the win she needed. Meanwhile, there’s no question that Farrah and Alexis will have to lip sync: if they had bombed any harder, they’d have left a smoking crater where the runway used to be.

s9e08 04It’s honestly a toss-up for me in terms of who performs the song better. I give Farrah a lot of credit: for the several seconds that the camera actually focuses on her, she seems to be doing a wonderfully energetic little hoe-down. The running split probably went a long way toward keeping Alexis in the running, but I’m not sure if Dolly Parton songs warrant acrobatics. Also, I personally had to dock her a couple points for pulling a tiny witch hat out of her panties. BITCH WHY DO YOU HAVE A TINY WITCH HAT IN YOUR PANTIES? Like, we just covered how painting yourself green was not a reference to The Wizard of Oz, and now suddenly it is? Besides which: I think you know that the standards for a costume reveal on this show are higher than that. These judges aren’t satisfied unless you transmogrify yourself into a different species at this point. But she survives, tacky prop and all, and the show hears its last Moan. Shine on, little highlighter addict, shine on.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Prom ‘n Mama Drama-Rama

drag race header kffIt’ll be a long time before someone is chosen America’s Next Drag Superstar, but as they return to the workroom, the contestants have other crowns in mind. Shea nominates Peppermint as the latest Lip Sync Assassin (she has a shotgun, remember?), Trinity dubs herself the new Cucu (because I guess we have to keep saying that even after sending Cynthia home), and Valentina claims that it’s going to become the Alexis show from now on (which is weird, because it’s pretty much been the Valentina show since we got here). Speaking of recasting, Sasha auditions for the role of Farrah and nails it. I say give her the part: let’s get a double dose of the Brains from Brooklyn and remove the Vacancy from Vegas entirely. Then again, why cut your opponents when you can tear them to shreds? Valentina’s blood-curdling scream as her sister “helps” her to de-drag sends a clear message to the remaining racers: Ms. Taylor is here to tuck you up.

s9e07 01The following morning, the editors include the usual “it’s a new day” clip, but then stumble upon a much better way to prove that time has passed: the girls discuss the weird dreams they had last night, culminating in Alexis’ admission that she had a sex dream about Sasha. Honestly, I would love it if every day began with a couple minutes of rapid-fire analysis of what everyone’s subconscious is trying to tell them at night. These people are under extreme duress; there’s probably a rich vein to be mined there. In fact, they should take a page out of the Bad Girls Club handbook and have a fake therapist come by once in a while. Hell, that’s a whole Untucked-style spinoff right there! (Dear World of Wonder: I am willing to part with this intellectual property for an extremely reasonable amount of money.)

But instead of using the time for something that would interest me personally, the producers bring back the video message from RuPaul, followed immediately by the spoken message from RuPaul. (I assume there is also a coded message from RuPaul that only gay illuminati can perceive; I checked to see if she was typing in Morse code with her eyes, but as a higher life form, she barely ever blinks.) This week’s main challenge, she announces, is to act out a comedic script based on Beverly Hills, 90210. While I reminisce about how much I enjoyed watching that show while I was in high school, Farrah announces that it premiered the year she was born. I remind myself not to be angry because she is a human Snapchat filter.

s9e07 02Ru puts Peppermint in charge of assigning roles, spinning it as a reward for “winning the lip sync” rather than stating it plainly as “being the second-worst last week.” Trying to use her powers for good, she asks everyone who they’d like to be before making her decision, but the effort backfires when Aja doesn’t get either of her first two choices and has what doctors refer to as a fussy-poopy-diaper-baby bitchfit. (Fun fact: the spellcheck function on my computer does not question the word “bitchfit” because modern technology can sense how gay I am.) Shea, with the eager acquiescence of an estranged father visiting for the weekend, readily jumps in to propose a trade so that everyone can get along. Peppermint, with the pragmatic decisiveness of a weary single mom, calls the swap final and tells everyone to pipe down so that mommy can rest for ten minutes. Ten minutes! Is that too much to ask?

Everyone has different methods of preparing. Some, like Farrah, add quick… quark…  quack… I don’t know, I guess someone named Kirk is coaching her on her line readings. Other people, like Alexis, convince themselves that they’re ready by telling everyone else what to do. Guest directors Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling further prep the ladies by performing a scene of their own as a reminder that acting talent was never one of the prerequisites for the stars of this program.

s9e07 03Filming gets off to a strong start when Shea, in the old lady role that she didn’t want but volunteered for anyway, positively demolishes the scene with her razor-sharp timing and ridiculous look. Not to be outdone, Nina decides that she will also demolish the scene. Her method (skipping every other consonant) is technically effective, but not in the way she intended. The next scene isn’t scripted to be all about Trinity, but it becomes all about Trinity. Her outsized comedic talent shines so bright that Farrah’s over-highlighted cheek picks it up, making her seem funny by association. The opposite happens in the following bit; Valentina is a black hole, and the attention paid to her must be taken away from Alexis and Sasha, even though both of them honestly do a totally capable job.

Oddly, the ladies who chose their own roles have the hardest time. Though she could have had any character, Peppermint seems to have picked the one who doesn’t deliver a single punchline, and thus fades completely into the background. And Aja’s hard-fought battle to claim the bitchy girl title must have tired her out, because she has nothing left to give when it comes time to say her lines. At least the two of them share a memorable kiss. Fun fact: one in four New Yorkers has herpes (which can be transmitted orally), and there are four NYC queens on this season, so…

s9e07 04Anyway, the next day’s pain-by-numbers montage goes into overkill (literally) when everyone chimes in to talk about who they’ve lost. Shea’s father reconciled with her while facing his own mortality, and Sasha’s mother died before she could see the bald beauty she inspired; Aja lost both of her biological parents, while Trinity lost her mother and grandmother. It concerns me that so many tragedies were revealed in this episode, because I am afraid of the lengths to which Ru would go to make sure she has dark histories to plumb. By the end of this season, the video messages from home are all going to be snuff films.

The mainstage theme of “big hair” is a thinly veiled admission that we’re all out of ideas. Like, really Ru?! You asked a bunch of drag queens to serve big hair? What revolutionary concept will you pull out next week? Maybe ask them all to put on lipstick, if you think the viewers are ready for that kind of shock. Then again, it’s possible she was keeping it simple so that her 9021-OG guest judges could follow along. Not that I should fault them for having so little to say. How do you even critique this runway? “Well, she sure was wearing a wig.”

s9e07 05It’s a tight race for the top spot, but Trinity clinches her second win by turning even silent background moments into full-fledged comedy routines. Sasha somehow lands in the bottom even though she was quite funny and had (as usual) the most unique take on the night’s assignment; aware of the lax logic that put her in line for critique, Ru deems her safe and sends her backstage. For their crimes against fake teen drama (and the real-life teen drama they keep starting), Aja and Nina are thrown into the coliseum and forced to duel. And though Ms. Bo’nina Maidenname Hyphen Brown chose to cover half of her face with prosthetics for a battle that requires expressiveness, she is spared from the jaws of defeat. Aja is a phenomenal performer and she has ignited every single venue in Brooklyn with her talent, but this isn’t the best showcase for her, and that’s fine. Just remember: being good at drag and being good at Drag Race are two very different things.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Shooting Blanks

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s9e06 01Eureka’s surprise elimination leaves the remaining queens shaken, and tears flow freely as they return to the workroom. I’m surprised how emotional they are about their fallen sister, given that no one in the past two weeks has said her name without the words “shut up” in front of it. Maybe she’s easier to appreciate when you can’t hear her. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Alexis congratulates Shea, but her tone is as genuine as the costume jewelry she’s wearing. Like me, Ms. Michelle is eager to free space in the workroom by packing up some of the weaker contenders. Farrah (who is herself one of the weaker contenders) goes on a teary tirade: apparently Nina’s self-doubt is so strong that it’s bringing everyone else down. Well, everyone except for Shea, whose confidence and charm could probably persuade her opponents to Heaven’s Gate themselves. But she uses her powers for good, defending her sister while remaining secure that she can take the crown the old-fashioned way. (Just in case: no one eat or drink anything she gives you, OK?)

The following day, the editors go to overzealous lengths to remind us that it is the next day. “It’s a new day,” says Alexis. “It’s a brand new day,” says Aja in the very next sentence. Has World of Wonder been getting a lot of complaints about the show’s unclear timeline? Like, is there someone at home who thinks that, because no one has said “it’s a new day” yet, the contestants haven’t been allowed to sleep all season? To be fair, I’ve been losing sleep over this moment myself, because today is the day Ru says the two most beautiful words in the English language: “Snatch Game.” I’m not sure what evolutionary quirk causes my brain’s pleasure receptors to go into overdrive when drag queens impersonate celebrities, but my endorphins are #triggered right now.

s9e06 03Aware of the importance of this challenge, the queens quickly fly into action. Ru makes her rounds, starting with Nina because the smell of insecurity is like chum in the water for her. The two discuss seeking the light and avoiding the dark in what I can only assume is a verbatim preview of a scene from The Last Jedi. Get that advertising coin where you can, you know? Shockingly, this season does not include a montage of two girls fighting over the same character or someone making a last-minute switch. It’s almost as if they all came prepared because they’ve had many years of advanced warning about this exact situation. The only whiff of drama comes from Sasha’s corner when she admits that her analytical bent makes her less obviously funny than some of her cohorts. Just as I’m starting to disagree, she hauls out a Judith Butler act that keenly illustrates her point: I can intellectually identify where the jokes are being made, but have no desire to laugh.

Luckily, once the game is on, she manages to give us classic camp Deitrich and not current dead Deitrich. There are several standouts on the panel this season, including a couple surprises. Shea’s choice of Naomi Campbell sounded iffy, but she finds humor in the character’s outsized prim bitchiness. Similarly, Valentina takes us on a well-built roller coaster of emotional highs and lows as Miss Colombia. And Nina truly does have something to say in her fresh-out-of-fucks embodiment of Jasmine Masters. But the uncontested top dog is Ru’s dream diva Liza as embodied by Alexis. Ms. Michelle mugs and shimmies and giggles her way through the questions, capturing that signature Minnelli mania without sliding into mockery.

s9e06 04But where there are tops, there must also be bottoms. (In fact, I’m surprised how many tops there were in a show filmed in LA.) Aja and Trinity fade into the background as Amanda Lepore and Alyssa Edwards respectively. As Gigi Gorgeous, Farrah fails to find a foothold in her character and mostly sounds and looks exactly like herself. Note to future contestants: please do not portray Farrah Moan in Snatch Game. I expected Peppermint to excel at this task given the personality she serves in her interview segments, but she couldn’t be struggling any harder if she were carrying Nene Leakes up flights of stairs. She owes a lot to Cynthia, though, who saves her from being the outright worst. Despite having an extra year to think about it, Miss Congeniality can’t translate laughing at her into laughing with her, and she manages the Herculean task of making Sofia Vergara flat.

As the ladies prepare for their reductive Madonna runway the next day, a conversation about gender fluidity leads Peppermint to reveal to her fellow contestants that she is a trans woman. Though she worried about their reactions because of the stigma surrounding gender identity in the drag world and the world at large, she receives only love and support and emerges from the experience absolutely glowing at being accepted for who she is. I’m starting to enjoy the weekly tears-through-the-makeup segment, and this one is particularly good because it will encourage the audience to explore their ideas of what drag is. Like, those of you who think “drag” means “a man in a dress,” this is a great reminder that the art form requires neither a dress nor a man.

s9e06 05The mainstage presentations should be fun, but especially after the Lady Gaga recreation challenge, I’m 100% done with watching these queens wear someone else’s clothes. This isn’t RuPaul’s Halloween Costume Race. I legitimately do not care if the girls can find an exact replica of an existing garment. That’s not talent; that’s shopping. Only Valentina manages to stand out from the crowd by making a boldly creative choice and walking the runway in nothing but a couple of censor bars. I honestly think she should have snatched the prize for that choice: everyone else found a look, but only she found an idea. But it’s Alexis who takes the win, and I applaud her performing skills, even if congratulating her for being able to wear clothes seems like setting too low a bar.

s9e06 06Wearing clothes helps Farrah escape the bottom two, however, pushing Peppermint and Cynthia over the boarderline. And when Pep says she’s worried for her lip sync opponent, you better listen, because this woman came armed. Her faux shotgun fires with real accuracy, proving that unintentional appeal is no match for precise execution. Cucu (since she said it so much that it became her literal fucking name) isn’t bad, per se, but also doesn’t seem to know what good looks like. She lucked into some fun moments, but her luck has run out. Don’t worry, she enjoys leaving a room: it gives us one last look at her… well, you know.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: There’s No K in Team

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Emotions are running high following Charlie’s surrender. Most people voice their disappointment with their voices, but Trinity, being a woman of action, jumps for the mirror so hard she almost breaks it. (Good thing she didn’t: that’s seven episodes of bad luck, and she’ll be eliminated long before that.) What follows is a discussion so predictable that there must be a computer program editing the clips together: “I was thrown under the bus,” “I need to stand out from the crowd,” “some of these girls are too confident,” blah blah blah. Part of the reason this season is falling flat is because we’re wasting time with stock phrases that could be spent on people’s individual personalities. When you have cerebral artists like Sasha and shit starters like Aja and legitimate weirdos like Nina, just let them do their thing. Whatever they come up with will be more interesting than the story arc you’re shoehorning them into, I promise.

s9e05 01The following morning, we’re still missing the video message segment (which is honestly a smart cut, since it always had to be re-explained anyway), but Ru announces the triumphant returns of the mini-challenge and the long-lost Pit Crew. The girls are given an unspecified amount of time to get into quick beach drag, then handed a selfie stick and a side of beefcake and let loose. The person who takes the best group shot with the boys is supposed to win, but instead Ru chooses Alexis. (Seriously, look at the picture she took; it isn’t flattering.) Her victory earns her a generous gift card and the authority to assign roles for the week’s main task: a lip sync performance of a Kardashian-themed musical.

Her choices seem just and well-informed for the most part, but there are notable exceptions. It’s unclear where Cynthia would be a good fit, I guess, but making her the center of attention as Kim had to have been a strategic move to make Cucu say bye-bye. Plenty of people don’t get the character they wanted most, but no one has more to say about it than Nina. She didn’t just want to play Blac Chyna: she needed it. She’s addicted to that solo like heroin, and she will not be satisfied until it is hers. She will wander the Earth in a state of endless hunger, forever cursing Alexis and Shea, the harpies who stole her one true happiness. She will carry this hurt with her until she is nothing more than a rotten, unblended corpse, and even then she will probably haunt the studio.

s9e05 02Aja halfheartedly tries to console Ms. Bo’nina Brown Baxter-Birney, but the already-difficult task of mustering sympathy for such a minor slight is made all the more challenging when Eureka hobbles by on actual crutches. Like, she’s got a physical injury that hampers her ability to carry out more than half of the competition’s demands and she’s been assigned the aggressively stupid role of North West the future space demon and she still has a decently positive outlook. Honestly, this whole situation is dumber than asking Todrick Hall to come on this show AGAIN. It’s dumber than asking the audience to be shocked that someone in rehearsal wasn’t clear on the dance steps, as if that isn’t the entire point of rehearsal. It’s dumber than writing an extended musical number about a family from a reality TV show.

The dumb continues for a little while the next morning, when Team New York marvels at Aja’s magically smaller nose. (I’d love to know what kind of crunches she’s been doing in her hotel room.) But every episode needs a serious moment, and this week’s is a doozy: Eureka’s apology for her crack about eating disorders leads to three revelations: Shea used to be bulimic, Sasha used to be anorexic, and Valentina is currently anorexic. So yeah, that’s a lesson learned regarding jokes about sensitive subjects with people whose histories you don’t know. At least she said she was sorry.

s9e05 05The Kardashian musical isn’t exactly a modern classic, but neither is it a total debacle. Pretty much everyone shows up to do their job (these are, after all, working professionals). Alexis chose her own role shrewdly, and makes a meal of her Kris Jenner moments. Similarly, Peppermint’s Britney is better than some of the actual Britney’s recent live performances, and Shea turns her brief cameo into the evening’s best moment. On the other end of the spectrum, Cynthia does that Cynthia thing where she is on a different plane of reality than everyone else: her mouth isn’t in sync with the lyrics, and her impersonation isn’t really an impersonation. The dark cloud of yesterday’s tantrum still hangs over Nina, and no amount of sparkle on Farrah’s cheek can mask the dullness of her stage presence.

After the faux fur runway, the judges have a more complicated situation on their hands: Peppermint and Alexis rose to the top in the challenge, but sink themselves with pedestrian fashion choices. That leaves Shea to stomp off with the win, even if half of her outfit is a repeat of her entrance ensemble. The bottom three pose a similar challenge: Nina and Farrah both served strong visuals, but neglected to get into the Kardashian spirit when needed. (Cynthia is a charming and wonderful queen, but let’s face it: she failed in the musical and she almost never looks good.) But eliminating Ms. Bo’nina Brown Bader Ginsburg for being in a bad mood seems indefensible even by this show’s ever-shifting standards, so Ru submits Cucu and the Iron Lady to the ultimate indignity: lip syncing to a Meghan Trainor song.

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And like Meghan Trainor herself, their showdown doesn’t matter. After watching the valiant (though by no means epic) battle, Ru stops the show to consult with the shadowy cabal of queer illuminati witches that secretly controls the entertainment industry. Their decision, which she relays to the contestants, is that due to her injury, it’s time for Eureka to sashay away. Which is a rude-ass demand, because you can’t sashay on crutches. Here’s how you know that I’m not a member of the secret coven steering this ship: if it had been my call, I would have set the fan base’s hair on fire by following Eureka’s departure with a straight-up double elimination. Seriously, are either Cynthia or Farrah going to win this season? No! Absolutely not! Not in a million years. So let’s streamline things and get down to business. Or, you know, we could do it Ru’s way and keep them both. Whatever.

 

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: What Would Joy Behar Do?

drag race header 4Returning from the latest mainstage massacre, Farrah mourns Kimora’s departure because it definitively makes her the least interesting queen left in the competition. Her polar opposite is Aja, whose time as a contestant can only be compared to a burning firework factory: you know it won’t end well, but watching it happen is going to be the most incredible shitshow. She’s insecure, she’s talented, she’s hungry for a win, she’s seethingly jealous of Valentina, she’s out of her element, she’s young, she’s quick-witted, and she’s televised. It’s incredible to me that Logo knew she was in the cast and still chose not to air Untucked this season.

s9e04 01The following morning, Cynthia congratulates herself for having appeared in four episodes this season, since her Season 8 departure came in the third week. Of course, she didn’t participate in the first challenge, so I’m not sure that her math checks out, but then again what even is time, and more importantly who cares? And speaking of fuzzy interpretations of time, this episode rushes a few things because the crowd still needs to be thinned. The first corner to be cut? Ru skips her usual video message. I’m waiting for “shedonarediduhaaaahuuuuh” and get whiplash when “elloelloello” happens instead. Apparently, there’s no time to waste: the ladies will be hosting morning talk shows for the main challenge and need to pick their teams IMMEDIATELY.

In a continued commitment to arbitrary non-logic, Ru haphazardly rewards two girls with captain responsibilities: Trinity, for winning last week, and Aja, for coming in second-to-last. The leaders then select companions one by one. From now on, we should save time by just asking them, “who do you least want on your team?” The surprise answer this time is Nina Bo’Nina Brown, perhaps because no one believes that you can find success on daytime TV as a finger painting of a gay nightmare. (Even though Kathy Lee Gifford has been doing it for decades.)

s9e04 02Rehearsals are rocky for Trinity’s team, often because her increasingly militaristic approach fails to keep her troops in line. Her main mistake is assuming that it is possible to shut Eureka up: bitch probably carries a back-up mouth in case the first one gives out. Pairing Charlie and Cynthia also shows poor judgment, given that one has a prim little cane crammed daintily up her behind and the other is a lobotomized cockatoo on hallucinogens. In a second illustration of the show’s battle with its own running time, the other crew’s rehearsal is barely featured.

The ladies of “Good Morning Bitches” film their segment first, and they get off to a solid start. Alexis and Farrah might not have bright broadcasting careers ahead of them, but they don’t tank. Aja pairs herself with Valentina to deliver entertainment news (because if you can’t beat ‘em, ride their coattails), and they are similarly acceptable. But none of them need to worry about setting a high bar, because they are saved when Shea and Sasha swoop in with a genius delivery of their sexually charged cooking segment. The next time Trump does something abhorrent and you question your ability to carry on, just remember that you live in a world where two drag queens turned eating chocolate-covered broccoli into niche interracial porn. After the literal climax of that moment, the interview that follows is doomed to be less exciting. Not that I blame the contestants: it’s nearly impossible to make Naya Rivera’s book sound compelling.

s9e04 03“Not On Today” is a better title and a significantly worse program. As anchors, Trinity and Peppermint are less “the lynchpin that holds everything else in place” and more “the dead weight that sinks everything to the bottom of the ocean.” Our entertainment reporters aren’t exactly Emmy material, either: Cynthia can’t stick to the script and Charlie can’t deviate from it, and the result is a wrestling match that they both lose. Even though Nina and Eureka correct course with a decently amusing DIY story, there’s no saving this team from themselves. I can’t tell if the abrupt, possibly premature end to their stilted celebrity chat is a mistake or a mercy.

Tensions creep ever higher as the ladies get ready for the main stage the next day. Concerned about lip syncing again, Aja continues to lash out. But part-time drag queen and full-time hypnotoad Valentina turns the tables, wringing an apology from her enemy before redirecting focus back to her beautiful, beautiful face. Charlie cries as she discusses the friends she has lost to the AIDS epidemic, raising awareness of the importance of testing and the willingness of the producers to exploit people’s pain. But the shit really hits the fan when Sasha asks Eureka not to joke about eating disorders and Eureka gets all “I’M NOT A BAD PERSON STOP SAYING I’M A BAD PERSON” even though 1) Sasha did not say that and 2) refusing to apologize for mocking a condition in front of a person who has dealt with that condition actually does make you a less good person. Like, I wouldn’t say “I’m surprised how thin Eureka’s skin is given her overall thickness” because fat jokes are lame, but if I did say that, I would own up to what a low blow it was. I wouldn’t apologize, but I’d agree that it was a terrible thing to say.

s9e04 04Cut corner #3: the naughty nighty runway flashes by more quickly than a subliminal message. I have no idea how the ladies looked, but I just bought everyone in my family a copy of Ru’s album. It comes as no surprise that Shea and Sasha are chosen as winners, given how great they were and how not-great everyone else was. Aja’s team is excused from the runway, and then Ru goes in for the kill. Having consulted with the producers about the exact amount of psychological torture she can legally dole out per episode, she asks the dreaded question: “Who should go home this week?” No one says Eureka, Cynthia, or Nina because those three did their damn jobs, so they live to fight another day. Peppermint is also excused because she at least has some sparkly charm to distract from the many faults in her look and performance. Trinity and Charlie are left, and the final battle begins.

s9e04 05Or, at least, it begins for Trinity, who flies into a whirlwind. She dances with the force of two drag queens, which helps to compensate for the fact that her opponent is running on empty. We learn that the stationary songstress has a longer name than we realized: Charlie Hides Behind Excuses. I’m sure that 99% of the queens in London do sing live. I’m also sure that 99% of the queens in London aren’t talk show hosts or cheerleaders. But most importantly: 99% of the queens in London aren’t on this stage right now, girl. It’s just you. You knew Snatch Game was coming, so you brought celebrity impersonations. You knew you’d have to walk the runway, so you brought outfits. The lip sync is fucking not a surprise, and acting like you shouldn’t have to do it is insulting. Sorry, Chuck: you were specifically told not to fuck it up and you deliberately did it anyway, so you’re gonna have to go.

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“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Take Out Your Rulers

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Now that Jaymes is gone, everyone is quick to point out that she seemed scared and unsure of herself. They were also quick to point that out while she was still here, though no one seems to connect how a roomful of strangers making pointed observations about your skills and personality might lead to feelings of insecurity. Go fig! Which is not to say that the ladies ALWAYS share their opinions: when Kimora says that she was surprised to be in the bottom two, there’s an almost deafening lack of response. As they dedrag, Trinity seethes about the praise Valentina continues to receive (Alexis is going to have to start issuing trigger warnings before she compliments someone) and vows to knock the blushing bride off her pedestal. It’s pretty rare for a queen to win on the main stage two weeks in a row, so it’s likely that Valentina won’t be on top for long regardless, but if you need to cling to that jealous rage, then go right ahead.

s9e03 01The next morning opens with an unannounced “Schtickiest Workroom Entrance” challenge: Alexis and Charlie deliver a short scene, Aja and Sasha do a synchronized jumping heel click, Valentina hits high notes, and whoever is behind her is probably also doing something but the editors forgot that there are other contestants to feature. Luckily, Ru still pays the bills around here, so she manages to steal back some of the spotlight. After her animated video message, she emerges in person to hint to the girls that there might be a hidden camera in the wax figure in the corner. Everyone’s like, A) the wax figure itself is far creepier than the concept of covert surveillance, and B) there’s a full-scale film crew in the room; everyone came here specifically to be on camera. At first I thought this was going to be the setup to a joke, but the whole topic is abandoned before anyone can get to something resembling a punchline, so who knows? Let’s hope it never comes up again, because a plotline where Ru is “secretly” watching the contestants will be not-so-secretly insulting to the intelligence of the viewing audience.

Anyhow, this week’s main challenge will demand a lot of creativity: everyone will come up with a fairy tale princess, write her back story, design a look for her, and portray an animated sidekick who narrates her appearance on the runway. It’s the kind of assignment that presents the opportunity for unique, entertaining successes, but also dull, disappointing failures. After all, we’ve got shallow-ass queens like Kimora, who would be offended by this sentence because she thinks I’m saying she has a flat butt. For starters, she complains that Eureka’s Sewer Princess concept is something she’s never heard of, failing to realize that that is the literal definition of an innovative idea. The poor thing is lost without the ability to pay someone to create her look for her. More alarming still: she’s getting grammar lessons from Cynthia, who replaces one word in every sentence with “cucu” like she’s a fucking smurf.

s9e03 02Farrah is similarly at sea, both figuratively and literally: she’s one of several queens sticking to an aquatic theme, while even gluing cloth to a bra threatens to sink her. If only she had been asked to HIGHLIGHT a dress! And it’s not as though she doesn’t have assistance; Eureka does everything but physically carry Ms. Moan down the runway. (She’d make an adorable accessory, to be fair.) Thankfully, there are some more confident characters elsewhere. Aja, for instance, likes it uncut. (Meaning fabric, you whore. She makes her own costumes.) Speaking of costumes, Valentina does her interview with Ru in a turban and oversized sunglasses. It’s to avoid looking “completely crazy,” she says with the manic-yet-dead-eyed grin of someone assuring the cops that there are no body parts buried in her backyard.

The next day, Cynthia continues educating Kimora (a project that could easily consume her entire life if she’s not careful) by explaining the genesis of her… I’d say catchphrase, but it’s only one word. Elsewhere, Alexis brazenly asks if fans will be disappointed in how Aja looks without Facetune. It’s a downright rude question and I live for it. (But also, she thinks it doesn’t make that much of a difference? Girl. Please welcome to the runway Princess Delusion and her sidekick, Lies.) And speaking of rude: the extended segment on Pulse feels exploitative, so while I’m truly sorry for the losses our community suffered, I’m not here for grief porn.

s9e03 03On the main stage, Category Is: Underwhelming. The theme even extends to guest judges Todrick Hall and Cheyenne Jackson, who bring neither insight nor wit to a role requiring solely those two qualities. The one contestant to grab my attention is Sasha Velour, who creates a compelling, conceptual look and a rich mythology to support it, explained by a well-acted and well-differentiated companion. She’s safe. Peppermint’s piece makes it to the top because Ru can smell tragedy from a mile away and is biologically hardwired to make people relive their childhood traumas. The hunger in her eyes as she hears about the burning kitchen is unsettling, and I’m sure they edited out at least 20 minutes of probing questions aimed at wringing a tear or two out of the situation. It’s unclear why Valentina made it to the top for wearing a tulle-embellished bathing suit; maybe her Enzyte commercial smile gives her hypnotic mind control over others? I’m similarly suspicious of Trinity’s win, which seems as motivated by plot arc as it does by skill level. (Like, at the beginning of the episode, she said she wanted to win, and now she won. I guess the editors think I’ll find that fulfilling.)

s9e03 04The bottom three make sense, I suppose, but the bottom two do not. I do agree that Kimora should absolutely be lip syncing. The one-note joke of a princess who likes big bananas is so lame that even calling it a joke makes me feel complicit in something unsavory. Obviously she’s never put her spoiled girl money toward hired a writing teacher or an acting coach. And when Ru and Michelle couldn’t stop themselves from openly mocking her harrowing saga of appearing on the main stage without hip pads, it was clear she was in dire trouble. But she should have been up against Farrah: I think it’s better to sew something bad than to sew nothing at all. Aja’s look may have been suspect, but at least she worked instead of whined! But after last week’s B-52 bombers, Ru couldn’t allow another dull showdown, and Aja is known for her high-energy performances. The volcano princess may not have had a coherent fairy tale, but she comes through in the end by showing us what an eruption looks like, setting the night ablaze with her jump splits and death drops. The latest fashion trend: Blac is OUT this season.

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