We knew RuPaul, that trickster, would pull a stunt. Whether it’s a double elimination, the shocking return of an eliminated contestant, or some shenanigans wherein eliminated contestants return to vote on who makes the finals (haha, that would be silly), every season contains that little shakeup. This year, it is the “Shanté, You Both Stay,” not seen for quite some time. There have been seven in the series before this episode, and almost all of them have followed fight-to-the-death lip syncs that make a decision impossible. That’s what we get in this episode, which is a true nail-biter from start to finish. This competition is getting fierce.
The episode opens on the queens discovering a message scrawled by the Vixen on the mirror about evil triumphing when good queens do nothing, or something. The ladies seem, to put it bluntly, kind of over this drama, and Asia, galvanized by her own lip-sync performance and ready to up her game, wipes that shit right off. Kameron, despite winning the last challenge, doesn’t seem too outwardly excited about her newly developed edge in the competition, while Aquaria’s confidence upsets the other queens. Eureka, of all people, talks about how if Aquaria can’t “share the spotlight” and “let other girls have their moment” there could be a problem within the group. Our eyes roll right the fuck out of their sockets and onto the ground, where they will likely continue to roll for centuries. We’re gonna go ahead and guess this is not actually how Eureka feels and has more to do with the editors needing to milk some drama out of a Vixen-less group that seems to really enjoy one another.
A video featuring Stephen Colbert performing drag-speak brings Ru into the room, and right behind her are the Pit Crew and all their good Pit Crew cousins. The mini challenge, Pants Down, Bottoms Up, requires the queens to remember which kind of Rounderbum underwear the boys are all wearing and correctly make as many matches as possible. It’s an excuse to show ass, and we’re not mad at it. Young Aquaria (labeled a “bossy bottom” by RuPaul, earning her third consecutive Hosting Emmy right there) proves to have the best memory and wins the opportunity to cast the roles in this week’s maxi challenge. The queens must act in a comedic scene based on Westworld, titled Breastworld. It proves to be edgy, violent, and confusing, just like the infamous Mimi Imfurst–India Ferrah lip sync. We mean … Westworld.
Aquaria decides to cast the roles based on the character descriptions and the instincts of all her competitors. It’s a move that is obviously designed to appease the other girls, who have been critical of her cocky attitude as of late.
It doesn’t end up boding too well for Aquaria, in her own opinion, as she reports in a talking head that she has little to no lines in the scene. Several of the other girls also express disdain for her casting methods after the fact, with Asia making a funny reference to being sure that this not the way Nicole Kidman goes about selecting roles! (She is actually correct about this. Nicole Kidman famously chooses roles based on the wig budget.)
During walkthroughs, RuPaul gives Aquaria a hard time for bending the knee to the other girls in terms of assigning the roles. Monét is explicitly told that she should try giving some big old hair to go with her big old ass, and the queen nods agreeably, noting that she really has to follow through with her runways, post haste. Eureka has selected a big and loud role to match her big and loud self, and Ru notes that she’s gotta keep standing out. Kameron and Ru discuss the differences between quiet offstage Kameron and apparently gregarious (even if we haven’t totally seen that yet) onstage Kameron, and Ru hints that it may be time to show some real charisma. It is part of the Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent rubric, after all!
An emotional exchange with Asia results in one of the most heartwarming moments of the season, in which Mama Ru reminds her that she is “a champion” and to “remember who you are.” This brings the queen to tears, and our hearts melt at home, as well. Over at Table Cracker, Ru speaks out loud what we’ve been saying all season; Cracker feels so rehearsed and studied that her comedic performances are suffering. It’s almost like, despite a comedy background, she comes most alive on the runway. Maybe that’s because she’s not stressing out over that element of the show, therefore her natural brilliance shines through. (This is the part where we say for the hundredth time that we have seen Cracker perform live many times and she is a full stun, y’all!)
It’s time to shoot Breastworld with directors and relentless line-read-givers Michelle Visage and Ross Matthews (all tea, no shade). Basically, this scene takes place on a cruise ship where everyone is a robot drag queen. As Julie, the cruising director, Miz Cracker serves personality and commitment, but the minute she is noted, she gets in her head. This would ordinarily be when a director backs off on set, because the No. 1 thing you shouldn’t do to a performer who’s in their head is force them deeper into confusion and panic with aggressive notes. But Michelle and Ross are also reality-show personalities. So they’re actually slaying this! They also slay at pronouncing the name “Ivyyyyyy Winterrrrrs,” as does everyone but Eureka. Unfortunately, she needs to know how to do exactly that to execute one of her biggest jokes as the Drag Bingo-Bot Rosie. She also has trouble acting a scene in which she has to shoot a member of the Pit Crew, and it’s altogether a surprisingly shaky effort from her. Aquaria acquits herself well as ditzy robot Dyslexa, and it’s hard to see why she thought this was such a bad role for her. A vacant robot drag queen? That’s … not not you, girl!
Kameron is committing to full hysteria as Muffy, the straight man of the scene who can’t believe what she is experiencing at Breastworld! Her performance is so big that we worry it will feel like it exists in a totally different drag queen sci-fi satire. She also struggles to land the emotional beats (yes, the emotional beats) of her character’s big monologue. Monét gets laughs on set with her performance as Muffy’s best friend, but the fact that we can’t remember her character’s name is a little telling. She is, yet again, playing very close to herself, and while her ad libs are funny and she does her job well, it’s not cause for excitement. The last character to be introduced is Para Sailin’, which we admittedly only understood when we saw Asia O’Hara dressed in the former Governor of Alaska’s famous red getup. Asia really takes her space here, and the reaction on set bodes well for her.
In the workroom, as the queens get into their Silver Foxy runway looks, they discuss getting older and dating as a drag queen. It’s nice to be a fly on the wall for these conversations and not uncomfortable and emotionally charged dramatic tension, for once. In any reality competition, the Top Six are really the stars of the show. It’s at this point in the competition where we feel like we really know all of the girls, and they each other.
The guest judges this week are Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, and they are just about as Abbi & Ilana as you’d want them to be. After some brief comments about clitoral prolapse between the Broad City gals and Ru, it’s time for the Main Event: the runway. The queens are tasked with showing what they will look like 50 years from now, and the results are pretty fantastic.
Miz Cracker looks swell serving Upper East Side glamour, sporting big old pumped-up lips and the superior attitude of a certain fictional magazine editor played by Meryl Streep. Asia O’Hara’s well-executed runway story is that she’s still a drag queen 50 years in the future, except now she’s wearing TOMS with socks underneath and popping potato chips ‘cause she hilariously gives way less of a fuck. Monét X Change ignores Ru’s strongly worded advice to rock big hair on the runway this week, but she is amusing as a hospital patient pushing IVs full of wine and liquor down the runway, and her sagging breasts are an inspired, if slightly kitschy, choice. Aquaria looks exactly like Aquaria will look in her 70s, fashion-forward and still serving capital-F Face. Eureka looks like anyone’s grandmother, albeit on the best night of her life, but it’s Kameron who really goes for broke — not only in terms of aesthetic (and arthritic) value with prosthetic old-age face makeup, but performance as well. She initially barely makes it down the runway, but when she pops her pills she comes alive. It’s vibrant and different from what anyone else has done. You just can’t deny Kameron on that damn runway!
Watching Breastworld is a lot like watching the rehearsal, except there’s really no one to clock as a failure here. The footage of Cracker having a hard time earlier would have you assume the performance would be worse, but it’s good! Eureka, too, ends up pretty firmly landing the jokes she had struggled with before, and Kameron is a little one-note throughout, but we don’t have a super clear loser here. Aquaria surprises, and is probably thrilled to hear her fellow New York City icons Abbi & Ilana really enjoying her work, and Monét comes across as … Monét! Funny, charming, and grounded. It’s Asia, however, who chews the scenery as Para Sailin’, and she smartly takes her own advice from earlier and takes full ownership over the challenge. She does very well in terms of making this role her own when she could have done a Tina Fey–esque imitation.
The judges are pretty in line with us in terms of critiques, except Aquaria is given a hard time for her runway not looking “old” or “in her 70s” enough. Telling Aquaria she doesn’t look old enough a week after a Cher-focused challenge in which “agelessness even in your 70s” is a theme is a little beyond us, but that’s the critique and it will likely stop her from winning a third challenge. Miz Cracker is told she is a chaotic presence on set and needs to get out of her own way, but her runway is praised and her performance is not critiqued negatively. Kameron Michaels is rightly told that her performance lacked emotional levels, and Ross smartly notes that her tattooed hands are distracting on Muffy, an uptight character. Her runway performance, however, is undeniably superior to everyone else’s. Monét probably went a little too far with the titty bit, as Ilana clocks it as a little more sketch comedy than glam drag, but she gets credit for her ad libs. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Eureka receives almost no positive attention for her vague performance or clean yet unimaginative runway, while Asia will probably win the week based on the love her performance as Para Sailin’ inspires and the reaction she gets when she explains the idea behind her runway look.
Moments later, we discover that Asia does take the win, which ties her with Aquaria and Eureka for most wins this season. Aquaria (visibly gagged by her loss), Monét, and Miz Cracker are all safe, and it’s Eureka and Kameron in the bottom two. Prior to this performance, we were under the assumption that this would be a clean victory for Eureka, but Kameron proves to be an excellent lip-sync performer, something we saw glimpses of earlier in the season during the Pharma-Rusical. The girls slay a lip sync to Patti LaBelle’s classic “New Attitude,” and it’s a true toss-up. When Ru announces that Kameron Michaels is the winner, we are pleasantly surprised, probably because we feel that the show has decided on a Top Three narrative for Eureka no matter what. Lo and behold, that still may be true as Eureka is also safe. We have to agree with the decision, as both gave an incredible, memorable performance. What Eureka does is pretty wild, and it’s hard to believe that this is the same queen who, just weeks ago, was almost tossed out of this competition due to her hesitancy whilst dancing. The bitch was turning it out.
So the Top Six remain the Top Six, even as it seems like the front-runners are firming up. Asia, Aquaria, and Eureka each have two wins. Kameron has one. Miz Cracker and Monét both have zero, but the competition would be tough to imagine without them. It may seem like anyone’s game, but Aquaria seems unbeatable at this point. It’s almost impossible to imagine her in the bottom two going forward because of how consistently fierce her runways have been, and she’s proven she’s a terrific performer. The winner of the ball challenge, and Snatch Game? Tied with the most wins so far? Never in the bottom two? The weeks ahead are crucial, but we may have another New York City winner here, folks.
SAID THE BITCH: A Weekly Quote Roundup
Michelle Visage, Director, Breastworld: Unless the set falls over this is our last take. I don’t want to do this anymore.
…Said the bitch!!!!! Michelle has been peak Michelle this season, and we love when she’s heavily involved in the challenges. She’s really the head judge of this show, and a critique from her can send a queen reeling. We have a feeling this line earned laughs on set, but make no mistake, the bitch was done with this day!