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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