You guys, I want to have a whole meta-discussion about Phi Phi O’Hara’s social media meltdown, because I am so interested in what is going on in her brain. It would be a mistake to make the whole recap about the stuff happening outside the show, but I will say this. 1: threatening her with violence is wrong. 2: I buy neither her version of events nor the one shown to us on TV; the truth is obviously somewhere in between. And 3: she failed herself, bottom line, because the only way to beat the producers at their game is to NOT SAY SHIT ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. They can’t edit footage they don’t have. Unfortunately, she is in possession of the world’s strongest verbal shovel, and every time she opens her mouth, she can’t help but dig herself deeper.
OK, on with the show.
The cliffhanger of the previous episode left me absolutely chafing all week. I never thought I’d be this eager to return to a place called “The Workroom.” Each of the eliminated queens makes a dramatic entrance with her two-in-one outfit (though Coco honestly just takes off a vest and calls it a day), and then we dive right into the “I heard what you said” discussion. It’s shocking how easily Phi Phi deals the victim card to someone else, given that she’s usually clutching to it for dear fucking life. I have trouble seeing how she can assign ulterior motive to Alyssa without recognizing that Alyssa’s brain couldn’t possibly manage subterfuge. Like, look around the room. Which of these people is likely to be subtle and clever? Alyssa doesn’t know how each sentence is going to end before she starts it; she couldn’t possibly demonstrate the foresight required for manipulation. In a further act of projection that would make a whole block of IMAX theaters jealous, Phi Phi literally shouts “DO NOT GET MAD!!!” at one point. I hope she made enough money off these five episodes to get some good therapy.
I’m sure they have enough footage to make a whole 90-minute special on just that one interaction, but the show must go on, so we cut to the next morning, when Ru introduces the maxi challenge. This time around, the ladies will entertain an audience of previous Drag Race contestants as comedy duos, with each returning hopeful choosing her own partner. Alyssa grabs Alaska right off the bat, partially to prove the two of them can succeed together but mostly because who wouldn’t pick Alaska first for this assignment?! Ginger’s choice of Katya as a teammate is also fairly obvious, given their existing friendship. I can’t even make a joke about how Tati picked Detox because she’s not Roxxxy or Phi Phi, because Tati is smart and funny and already made that joke. Left to pick between unfunny and unstable, Coco takes the risk that maybe Phi Phi’s insanity will manifest as hilarity in the way that Alyssa’s sometimes does. (It definitely won’t.)
But what about Roxxxy? Surely the small percentage of you who can count were suspicious when Ru announced a couples task to an odd number of contestants. (I was suspicious that maybe the producers were not in that small percentage.) As consolation for being picked last (well, not picked at all, really), Ms. Andrews will serve as host of the show. If one of the eliminated girls wins, then that girl will stay. But if Roxxxy wins, she gets to choose who returns. (Don’t worry, that also definitely won’t happen.) Among the predictable montage of rehearsal clips where, you guessed it, some people don’t give the best performance of all time during a first run-through, Phi Phi starts a conversation hoping to bury the hatchet with (or possibly in) Alyssa. The problem is that she doesn’t seem to want to apologize: she wants an apology. The whole thing is fake as hell, so she probably should’ve expected the bogus-ass non-hug she gets for her effort.
On the mainstage, Ru wears her best bathrobe and forces people who weren’t cast on this season to show up in full drag to listen to an onslaught of mediocre stage buffoonery. I assume they were paid. Not with money, obviously, but somehow. Maybe they were told it would be great exposure. As hostess, Roxxxy should be given at least some credit for not sweating every drop of paint off her face, given how much effort it takes for her to squeeze out each lame joke. At least she’s not as bad as Coco and Phi Phi. Their narrative-heavy, stereotype-ridden short play garners about as many giggles as a live-action snuff film. The best part of their act is watching Porkchop not laugh at it.
I’ll give Roxxxy credit for sharing hosting duties with her Season 5 character Tasha Salad because it’s a bold, silly move that actually kind of works. Like, she’s never going to be George Carlin (without a lock of his hair, a thick pewter cauldron, and a full moon), so reveling in the stupidity of a lisp and a lot of dressing-based puns is really the best any of us could hope for here. Speaking of exceeding expectations: Alaska and Alyssa are apparently so good that people who weren’t even there were laughing. (Seriously, you’re showing me an audience of 20 and playing me the sound of an audience of 80, and I can tell the difference. Don’t prove Phi Phi right, World of Wonder.) Katya and Ginger do a solid if somewhat schlocky routine. I tittered, but modern-day drag queens shouldn’t bring to mind phrases like “vaudeville duo” and “Borscht belt.” Detox and Tatianna play to the same invisible crowd that Team Alysska slayed, and further stretch credulity by producing matching outfits. But their routine is pretty great.
Since Katya is only safe, Ginger is sent right back home. Roxxxy lands in the bottom along with Phi Phi, meaning that Coco will also be leaving us. That means the girls who might actually return are Alyssa, who is so watchable that I want her edited into episodes of my other favorite shows, and Tati, who’s working her ass off to earn her redemption instead of just talking about it like some people. I mean, she had a matching dress for her partner! I’m assuming one of them brought both those garments just in case? I wouldn’t have been mad at a little explanation on that one.
You know who would be mad at explanation? The same person who’s mad at everything else. During backstage deliberations, Phi Phi decides that she is not interested in defending herself and pleading her case. She eventually does submit to one-on-ones, but they’re not exceptionally productive. Her relationship with Tatianna is tense, and her connection with Alyssa is so frayed that I can’t even call it a relationship anymore. They have a “thing,” maybe. “It’s complicated.” Roxxxy, who is able to manifest emotions other than resentment and blind fury, cries during her meeting and basically assures us that this decision is close in the way that the race between Trump and Clinton is close. (Like, we’re not actually letting Trump win, right? No one’s allowing that to happen? I need to believe that his victory is literally impossible or I won’t be able to sleep at night.)
The top two, finally given something to fight for, lip sync the tits off that Rihanna song. The fact that Tatianna is once again wearing an outfit to match her partner concerns me, though. Did she burn all her drag in effigy after she got eliminated the first time? Why does she not have her own clothes? Why is it even important that she and Alyssa have complementary dance costumes and blond wigs? Whatever, their combined performance is so phenomenal that it’s almost impossible to focus on even glaring questions. They’re so good I caught Phi Phi smiling behind them, and even through her delusion she has to know she’s getting cut no matter who wins.
And that’s the amazing thing: THEY BOTH WIN. Ru returns two girls to the competition, cementing this as the best season of television that has ever been broadcast. On top of that, their custom-printed lipsticks will BOTH count, so there’s a chance that they’ll chop both Phi Phi AND Roxxxy. (They definitely won’t.) (Will they?) No! Of course they don’t! With their powers combined, they banish the no-longer-in-joke-quotes villain of the season to the section of Hell where everyone spends all day talking about how personally persecuted they are. (Not really, of course. At least, not without a lock of her hair, a thick pewter cauldron, and a full moon.)
SOCIAL MEDIA A-GO-GO! FOLLOW US EVERYWHERE!