It’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.
The 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.
Ru 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.
Filming 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…
Anyway, 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.”
It’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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