Following Coco’s departure, the queens return to the workroom looking like a bunch of children who just learned that the chicken we eat is the same thing as the chicken that walks around and clucks. Roxxxy is the most shaken, since she’s the one who had to behead the metaphorical fowl. It’s not fair to foist this heavy a moral quandary on a woman who doesn’t know how to say “sequin.” To deflect some of their guilt, the ladies dissect how harsh the critiques were: since the judges no longer have the power to bite, they have tripled their bark. The mere mention of Michelle’s name triggers Adore’s PTSD, which she developed in the half hour since she got chewed out. On top of it all, everyone’s worried that, given their collectively high skill level, winning will require almost superhuman amounts of strength and style. The pressure is so intense that Phi Phi has already lost a tooth! (I know it was fake, but still. To whoever edits this show: can we remove any shit like that from future episodes? You censored Violet Chachki’s male nipples in Season 7 and all of a sudden you’re going full-tilt body horror on me?)
Everyone comes back the next morning refreshed from a night of slumber and excited to face the day’s assignment (except for Adore, who is either psychologically damaged or changing her aesthetic to emo). Contestants and audience alike are thrilled to learn that the main challenge is… Snatch Game! Viewers at home get to revel in the kind of rampant stupidity that could only have come from 1970s broadcasting standards, while the racers get a second lap at the most notable event in the competition. This will be particularly tough for Tatianna: as the winner of the first Snatch Game, she has to reclimb a mountain that has only gotten taller. Phi Phi, Detox, and Alyssa are in some ways lucky to have set the bar low, since it will now be much easier for them to jump it.
Amidst all the discussion of which celebrity hairdo each queen will half-assedly recreate, Adore is just over in the corner crying into her wig. Ru, who is an amateur detective in her off hours, astutely notes that something is wrong with Our Lady of Perpetual Hogbody. And then the dramatic music cues in: she’s putting the “no” in Delano and quitting.
This shit is so juicy that the other girls stop getting ready and blatantly stare at the conversation as it unfolds. What follows is a verbal tennis match that boils down to a battle over who can deliver the best Oprah-esque amateur life coach platitudes. It’s important to be true to yourself and live your truth and do what’s in your heart and keep your eyes on the prize and don’t shit where you eat and a stitch in time saves nine and FUCK GUYS ADORE IS REALLY LEAVING! I have to say, I’ve seen high school guidance counselors work harder at getting someone not to drop out; you can tell that Ms. Charles is half invested in preventing an early exit and half thinking, “this is going to make everyone on Reddit crap their pants!” Adore then meets with Michelle, who also reeks of bullshit initially (eliciting a facial expression from Ms. Delano that would count as the best of the episode if Alyssa weren’t here to snag that title every single week), but she eventually gives a more honest apology. Still, it’s too little too late, and let’s be real: by the end of the main stage presentation, they’d probably go right back to telling Adore that she looks like an obese gibbon doing Daria cosplay.
But we’re not here to dwell on that downfall, because it’s time for the Snatch Game, which has delivered more abominations than an obstetrician in Chernobyl. You’d think that people who had been through this would have learned from their experiences, but you’d be wrong. And it doesn’t help that Phi Phi has been dropping helpful hints in some people’s ears (though anyone who would listen to her advice obviously didn’t watch her Season 4 performance as a freshman theater major who thinks Lady Gaga is really edgy). She’s better this time around, even if her Theresa Caputo is still medium by any measure. Her mind games derail Roxxxy, however, who abandons Sofia Vergara (who she could probably pull off) for Alaska (please stop).
Though she brings back a celebrity that was done a disservice in Season 8, Detox can’t save Nancy Grace, and vice versa. Rounding out the middle, Ginger throws down a vague Tammy Faye with an accent that wavers between Minnesotan and Australian depending on the Bible verse. The strongest contenders are Katya, who taps into her innate mania to deliver a hilariously nonsensical Björk, and Alaska, who turns Mae West’s veiled innuendos into brilliant pornographic haikus. Special mention must be made, however, of the juggernaut that is Alyssa Edwards as Joan Crawford. An expert at winning by failing, she has a minimal grasp on the look, no grasp whatsoever on the voice (take that, Phi Phi), and nothing but a handful of Mommie Dearest quotes to support her performance. From any other queen, this would have been a one-way ticket to the bottom two, but her inimitable presence turns the botched characterization into the most entertaining showing of the night. She’s only good at one thing, and that’s being Alyssa Edwards, but she’s so good at it that context ceases to matter. One imagines that she might begin winning marathons and resolving legal disputes not with physical stamina or constitutional knowledge, but with her uniquely compelling oddness.
And then there’s Tatianna. Even after managing to turn into an exact physical replica of Ariana Grande, she comes up piccolo on punchlines. (It’s Italian for small. Read a book.) Gosh I hope she has a stunning runway outfit to save her!
She does not. And she’s stuck in the bottom three with Roxxxy, who can almost always be counted on to turn a look, and Detox, who is admittedly hit-or-miss but who unequivocally burned this motherfucker to the ground with her fetish gear Romper Room pony play presentation. The top two represent opposite ends of the spectrum with their latex loveliness: Katya is as campy as Alaska is chic (and critically, neither of them wore a one-piece bathing suit and acted like that was acceptable). It’s up to them to decide who will sashay away. Adding insult to injury, whoever is chosen will have to sashay in a rubber dress, which will probably make all sorts of fart noises that we will childishly laugh at after she’s gone.
The ladies retire backstage for the dreaded one-on-one meeting portion of the evening, where we learn no new information and everyone just sort of awkwardly dances around the specifics of the topic. It’s like listening in on a team meeting after someone heard there will be layoffs: everyone is looking for the boss to drop hints, and the boss is remaining stone-faced until the last possible minute because no one wants a situation where Legal has to get involved. Meanwhile, Katya changes her entire outfit and Alaska puts on a shorter heel and both of them get ready to leg sync for their leprosy or whatever.
So here’s the thing: “Le Freak” is a surprisingly limp choice for a drag number. On top of that, Katya (who is in full-on FLATS, mind you) trots out a C+ show that only adds to the flaccidity. It’s not like she has to worry about going home; maybe she thinks it’s worth $10,000 to force someone else to chop Tatianna. People make a lot of Hunger Games jokes on this show, but between the accounting decisions and the hiring/firing politics, it’s basically a very sparkly office drama. And it really is sad to see Tati pack up her desk and file for unemployment: she was always so much fun at the holiday party and never stole from the break room fridge.
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