Eureka’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.
Aware 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.
But 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.
The 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.
Wearing 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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