RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: The Empire Strikes Back

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Naomi Smalls and Bob the Drag Queen. Photo: Logo
RuPaul's Drag Race
Episode Title
RuCo’s Empire
Season
8
Episode
3
Editor’s Rating
4/5

What an absolute disappointment. At the end of the last episode, RuPaul kicked off two awful queens and made a phone call asking someone to come back on the show. We all thought it was going to be an amazing former contestant from a past season, probably someone like Shangela, who turns up more often than Oprah does at the bread basket. ("I loooovvvveeee breeeeaaaadddd!") But no, it is none of those things. The queen that comes back is Naysha Lopez, who got kicked off in the first episode. Can someone add the sad-trombone sound here? Thank you.

When this was revealed, I felt totally ripped off. It's like when Bugs Bunny finally got to take the veil off the beautiful girl bunny and found out that she had huge lips, busted teeth, a hairy mole, and the personality of Anne Heche when she woke up in someone's backyard rambling about her alien sister. Naysha Lopez deserved to be kicked off. She was bad the first time around and she continues to be bad. Couldn't we give Willam a chance to redeem herself or Alyssa Edwards another spotlight?

Now that we're several episodes in, I must admit that my admiration of some of the remaining queens is rising. Chi Chi Devayne, most especially, seems like a force to be reckoned with. I wrote her off as a boring pageant girl, but she has got sass for days and some hoodrat glamour for the better part of two afternoons. Naomi Smalls also deserves some credit. Yes, she's an awful actress, but I haven't seen anyone look that sexy in a judge's robe since Joseph Wapner on The People's Court.

Naomi wins the mini-challenge of making judges' robes look sexy, so she gets to be a team captain along with Zombie Naysha. The two teams are supposed to do skits based on Empire but, as Ru always does, they become all about her. Naomi chose Bob, Robbie Turner, Chi Chi DeVayne, and Cynthia Lee Fontaine. This was a pretty solid group, and of course, Bob was absolutely made to play "Chocolate Chip Cookie."

Robbie Turner does that thing that acting queens always do in the challenge — they plan to be all fierce and then they totally flub it because they're thinking about it way too much. It's like when you get a colonic and you actually push against the hose; shit flies everywhere. You just have to ease up, girl, and let it flow naturally.

I need to take this opportunity to discuss Cynthia Lee Fontaine, who I think is the most hilarious queen on the show. However, like Alyssa Edwards, I'm not sure that she's in on her own joke. She's doing her young Charo "touch my cuckoo" act and she's like a campy stereotype of a bad Latina actress, but she's not doing it on purpose. Sometime a performer is so — hmm, how can I say this diplomatically — natural that she lucks into something that is akin to performance art. I feel like that is what Cynthia is always doing. She knows it makes people laugh, so she keeps doing it, but she doesn't quite know why.

Naysha's group consists of Acid Betty, Thorgy Thor, Kim Chi, and Derrick Barry. This was obviously going to be the challenged group because, as the contestants pointed out, there weren't any black girls. Trying to make an Empire drag parody without any black girls is trying to make Uggs: The Movie without basic bitches. Derrick Barry is obviously the worst here. He has about as much personality as one of those cardboard cut-outs of Britney Spears that people take selfies next to in the lobby of the Hard Rock Casino, because that is essentially what she is.

I felt the saddest for my darling Kim Chi because every time she said "Rucious," which is what RuPaul renamed the Lucious character, she sounded like she was making fun of Asian people. Unlike Robbie or Derrick, though, Kim Chi knows how to take her bad acting or bad dancing and turn it into an asset. She just embraces her lack of skills and it ends up coming across as funny. It doesn't hurt that she can beat that face of hers for the gods.

The runway was such a perfect idea and I'm shocked that, in seven seasons, it hadn't already been used. The queens all have to get on roller skates and do a disco derby. A clink of the cosmopolitan to whichever producer thought that one up. Here is how the ladies looked.

Naysha Lopez: If "Hung Up"–era Madonna lost a wrestling match in a vat of Pepto-Bismol.

Thorgy Thor: I never thought I'd see the Prancercise video come to life.

Derrick Barry: Britney Spears on moving day caught in a tumbleweed of bubble wrap.

Kim Chi: An illustrated toucan on the most popular brand of juice boxes in Brazil.

Acid Betty: Seventies subway graffiti come to life and on the hunt for a meatball grinder.

Naomi Smalls: Apparently she mopped the tissue box out of Debbie Reynolds's boudoir.

Bob Thedragqueen: C3P-No.

Cynthia Lee Fontaine: Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard, as played by a mosquito with the Zika virus.

Chi Chi DeVayne: If Slimer wore a Halloween costume, it would look like this.

Robbie Turner: When Valerie Cherish was first discovered in a mall in Paramus Park, New Jersey, she was wearing the same exact jumpsuit.

Bob, Thorgy, and Acid Better are all praised for their performances and their outfits, even though Bob's is straight out of the bag from Party City. Derrick, Cynthia, and Robbie are all called out for being horrible in their little videos. Robbie and Cynthia are asked to lip-sync for their lives, which seems a little unfair, if only because Robbie has shown much more talent and promise than the very one-note Derrick. However, she makes the bold decision to keep wearing her roller skates and absolutely slays her competition, breaking two lights in the process and nearly taking a header off the stage to conclude her number. (Am I the only mean queen who was a little sad that mats at the end of the runway kept her from toppling to the floor?)

Robbie Turner totally turns it out and sends Cynthia on her merry way, where she can spread her cuckoo all over this great land. I'm really going to miss her, but on her way out she says, "See you all soon." No, do not come back. Please don't bring anyone back. The only way ahead is forward. If you keep bringing back these tired queens who can't get their own jokes, well, that's just cuckoo.