RuPaul’s Drag Race
“THE VIXEN WILL FIGHT YOU.”
No, but for real, the chicken scratch on that note is no joke. If you thought her entrance line of “I’m just here to fight!” was played purely for laughs, think again, and if you gathered from last week that the Vixen’s vibe isn’t giving you much more than being Shea Couleé’s less impactful little sister, Ooooh bitch. No. Within the first few minutes of this episode, it’s clear that the Vixen is here to mix it up with dramatics, honey, and she is not above inserting herself into other people’s conflicts in the name of getting real and/or getting attention. Because bitch, if you didn’t know, she is from Chicago!
The big story by the end of last week’s premiere centered on Miz Cracker, the New York comedy queen who fell just short of victory against Mayhem Miller, though Cracker certainly garnered the lioness’s share of attention with her cleverly personified Drag on a Dime look and her right-on-the-money banter with RuPaul and the rest of the judges. One could argue that the big story going into this season centered on Aquaria, the young, innovative and wildly popular queen, also from New York City, with a massive social-media following and sky-high potential.
Conveniently, these two queens occupy the immediate center of what looks to be a possible season-long conflict, one that might ultimately pit them against each other in the bottom two at some point. It’s just one of those Trinity-Eureka, Alyssa-Coco situations that gets producers foaming at the mouth, especially with tensions flaring this early on.
This week’s opening minutes are light and fun as the queens walk into the workroom distraught over Vanessa’s departure. We see some truly great footage of Michelle Visage cracking Ru up with her “Miss Vanjie” runs, and after some more friendly ribbing on Monét X Change’s sponge-centric runway look, the conversation quickly turns to Aquaria and Cracker.
Aquaria tries to downplay her frustration in front of Miz Cracker and is obviously unprepared to have the conversation right at that moment, but she vaguely alludes to their not-that-similar makeup looks, which has happened before, but like, it doesn’t bother her or anything! Moving on!
Except NAW. Because remember: The Vixen is just here to fight. She clicks “Detonate” on the bitch right then and there, loudly interjecting to explain that Aquaria feels straight-up ripped off by Cracker, and she’s done been feeling this way, even outside the competition. She goes on to shout at Aquaria for being fake and pretending to be unbothered when just moments ago she was capital-B Bothered. Rattled, Aquaria storms away from the whole situation, which the Vixen also calls out. It’s rich, thick, good old-fashioned reality-show squabbling, girl. What started as a discreet, behind-the-scenes affair between Aquaria and Miz Cracker has now blown up into a marquee issue involving everyone, all thanks to the Vixen. Because, as her hastily scrawled words and their indignant loose leaf presentation to the camera make clear, the Vixen Will Fight You. *Tongue pop.*
Cracker’s narrative of being the whip-smart front-runner? Taking a backseat. Aquaria’s cultivated “unshakable cool girl” deal? No deal, for now. The Vixen has done something shrewd and calculated here: She has assessed the big-picture scenario and found a way to insert herself in the main narrative, front and center. She is now in a powerful position as the “Whistle-blower” of the season (a title bestowed upon her by Talking Head queen diva Monét), and it’s now clear that she is gunning for that villain edit. It’s a bold move, but will it take her all the way to the title?
Probably not, because the fact that she won this week’s challenge is a farce. Yes, she was the team captain in the PharmaRusical lip-sync challenge, but she certainly wasn’t the strongest and most compelling performer on her team, and by no means was she wholly responsible for the group’s success. Her runway, meant to show off her best drag, was underwhelming. Decidedly not a slay.
The winner in our eyes, if we have to choose from the winning team? We’re surprised to say it, but … probably Kameron Michaels, who surprised and delighted with a tight, lived-in lip-sync performance and a beautiful pink, flowery runway fantasy featuring seamless face.
We understand giving Vixen the hoedown mini-challenge win, even if it was pretty unearned, because who truly cares about the mini-challenges? They exist purely so that Andy Cohen can come in, do some light choreo and look cute in a cowboy hat. In this particular episode, it was a way to maximize the explosive drama from the night before by putting the Vixen in a position of decision-making power when assembling the teams. But to look at everyone on that runway and decide she was the most impressive all-around is unconscionable, and if you disagree, then We, Matt and Bowen, Will Fight You. It’s gonna have to be better than this, Vix! If it’s not, then you’ll be the definition of a queen who’s all talk. *Second, louder tongue pop.*
We’re being hard on this queen because the competition this year is truly on another level. Look around and you will see this season is devoid of the four or five “filler queens” who are just cannon fodder in any other cast. The closest thing to a filler queen that we had has now sashayed away, and even Kalorie Karbdashian Williams would have made it much farther in another season. She simply didn’t stand a chance in a lip sync to “Best of My Love” against Eureka O’Hara, whose nosedive in the standings this week is truly staggering.
Unfocused, preoccupied, and emotional, this is not the Elephant Queen we know, and she better be counting her lucky stars that the Lip Sync for Your Life exists. She was far and away the least prepared, worst performance in the challenge, and her decision to wear a color-changing bodysuit that barely reads on camera as her best drag (?!) reveals serious concerns about her judgment. Luckily, she’ll have more time to glow back up to the champion we know she can be, but this was tough to watch from top to bottom.
Speaking of the bottom, we have to address the queen who had no business being at risk of lip syncing: Monique Heart. To pretend she was anywhere near the bottom in this episode is a joke, since she was a terrific opener in her group’s number. Her cute Cookie Monster ensemble with a Janet Jackson–inspired bodysuit-tearaway moment may have been narratively confusing to guest judge Padma Lakshmi, but it was full-on gag to us. Monique’s treatment on the show so far is confusing, as her Queen of Hearts Drag on a Dime effort last week was inspired and almost completely ignored, and this week’s bottom three placement is bewildering. We hope this queen gets appreciated soon, because the head games seem to be affecting her, almost as if the producers are trying to reverse-engineer a Nina Bonina Brown situation. It would be a shame to see such a vibrant and talented queen get psyched out so early, so don’t promise us the Ooh-ah-ah sensation and then take it away, Drag Race! We’re into this queen. Besides, this opportunity could have been used to check Yuhua Hamasaki for not putting her best drag forward (we agree with Michelle, that was a basic look) and for mouthing off to the judges on the runway. *Third tongue pop, thus completing the Rule of Three.*
We’d be remiss to pop our tongues and not mention the legendary Alyssa Edwards, fully in her element here as guest Bitchy Choreographer while Todrick is off slaying. Even in a season of strong queens, Alyssa emerges as the star of the whole show with her cameo, in which she pushes every contestant to be Alyssa-big with their performances and hilariously accepts nothing less. Yuhua literally collapses under the weight of her own goofy choices by the time Alyssa is done screaming “bigger!” at her, and it’s absolutely thrilling to watch.
While the Vixen runs away with the episode as far as water-cooler conversations go, keep your eyes on Dusty Ray Bottoms, who was smart to heed Michelle’s advice on un-dotting her face, and Miz Cracker for presenting a runway look for the ages. The blonde cracker-shaped wig is awe-inspiring along with the rest of the golden ensemble, and it couldn’t have been more different from the startling, dark, forward-thinking look Aquaria presented, which was just as momentous and featured enormous concentric septum rings. While these two may have started this episode bickering over what makes them similar, they end it by declaring their individuality in their own fierce ways.
We’ll end on a word to the Vixen, now that she’s so powerfully and forcefully grabbed our attention: Okay, bish! We’re watching now, closely, and we hope you can keep the polish at the same level as the hysteria you have a penchant for drumming up. And we know you can death drop. Vary it up. *Fourth tongue pop, destroying the Rule of Three and crossing over into insufferability.*
SAID THE BITCH: A Weekly Quote Spotlight
Miz Cracker: “I’ve been accused on national television of stealing looks from Aquaria. But I just did a look that I know for a fact she’s never done. It’s called being on top.”
…SAID THE BITCH!!! This either puts the Cracker-Aquaria conflict to rest for a little while or inflames it even more, and while the latter is more likely, it’s a great read delivered with poise and unshakability from the thin, white, salty wonder. Cracker can’t be cracked, at least not yet.