RuPaul’s Drag Race
The bell curve of a given season’s Snatch Game is pretty set at this point: There’s the couple of duds who bomb the whole thing, followed by a cavernous hollow of fair-to-middling ones that make up a majority of the performances, which then take us all the way to the two or three standouts. That distribution holds true for Drag Race season ten, but as we go through the yearly exercise of snapping out of our collective amnesia to say, “Oh yeah, the Snatch Game is usually just okay,” none of these queens even break into the top 20 all-time best Snatch Game impersonations. Add to that a most disappointing exit by a fan favorite, and we’ve got ourselves a tough episode to swim through, mermaid-style.
Moments after wiping down Blair’s lipstick message, the Vixen gets some seemingly warm words of encouragement from Eureka, who quickly takes a left turn in her pep talk once she invokes Vix’s ursine behavior in front of everyone. It’s like, come on, Eureka! You’re gonna poke the bear by literally mentioning the bear? Oof. Monique then laments her constant safety despite turning out some great performances and looks, and brings up the cost-prohibitive aspects of the competition working against her limited resources. It’s a completely valid point that the judges (Michelle in particular) are always quick to shut down during critiques, and it feels as though an underdog narrative is being set up for Ms. Heart.
The credits roll and Ru greets the girls the next day by opening the Library for the perennially delightful reading challenge, but not before taking a dig at the Department of Education. Because reading is what? Deeply alarming in the United States due to sluggish child-literacy rates and we should all be concerned and vigilant in pursuing Betsy Devos’s removal from her position of power. But we digress. For the most part, everyone does a decent job delivering some classic setup-punch line reads, with recurring targets in both Aquaria’s insipid personality and the Vixen’s thirsty wigs. Eureka bucks convention and reads all of the queens as she blasts their inevitably lazy jabs at her weight, and she goes on to win the mini-challenge while Vixen rolls her eyes. We smell a spat wafting over from a commercial break away!
Then comes the big reveal as RuPaul asks the ladies to stretch their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent this week for the Snatch Game, Drag Race’s marquee maxi-challenge that separates the wheat from the chaff and sends any remaining cannon fodder flying. It’s as demanding a comedy performance as any entertainer would be asked to do, and finding the perfect celebrity to impersonate seems to be the most arcanely challenging task for even the most self-aware queen.
The queens share their celebrity picks amongst themselves as they tend to their wigs, with Monét testing out her Maya Angelou monotone while Kameron explains Chyna’s mannerisms to a politely attentive Aquaria. We then get to the Vixen, who seems confident in mining the veins of comedy gold that are so apparent in playing Blue Ivy Carter. Even Vix knows that Blue doesn’t have many documented idiosyncrasies other than what she’s seen in “memes,” which really just means photos of a child looking bored at award shows and NBA games.
Ru drops in for some werkroom walkthroughs with a visiting Bianca Del Rio, who, lest we forget, did not win Snatch Game during her (particularly strong) season. That’s not to say Bianca doesn’t impart some great advice to the queens, but as she and Ru check in with everyone, we can’t help but think that these cute chats are overproduced to the point of becoming casual sabotage. Eureka, Monique, and Asia each seem torn between two options, and for someone who constantly harps on silencing everyone’s Inner Saboteur, RuPaul sure likes to make these girls second-guess their instincts. While Eureka takes it all in stride and switches gears after doing a bad Divine à la Pink Flamingos, Monique’s Cookie Lyon and Asia’s Whitney Houston might have served them better in an alternate reality. Asia could have absolutely pulled off an over-the-top Whitney without any mention of cocaine and Monique’s Cookie probably would have been more suited to her ooh-ah-ah sensibilities, but these are unknowables to which we’ll never be privy.
Elsewhere, Ru and Bianca raise eyebrows over Miz Cracker’s choice to play wisecracking witticist Dorothy Parker. It’s a questionably esoteric choice, and Ru points out how cerebral it might come off to a fault, but Cracker insists on this being true to her sense of humor and presses on. At Aquaria’s station, everyone seems on board with her approach to Melania Trump as a way to package her own vapidity in a fun way. Aquaria is a true child of the internet and has come up having to deliberately filter her words based on how her massive following might perceive them, but Bianca reminds her that the most lovable Drag Race stars stay true to their authentic selves. As it happens, Aquaria’s authentic self turns a sickening look, and that might be what leads her to victory.
Then, after a bit of nervous back and forth between the Vixen and Asia scripting some interplay as Bey and Blue, we finally arrive at the Game of Snatch, with special guests in the legendary Audra McDonald and Kate “I’m So Excited to Be Gere” Upton. Queen by queen, it goes a little something like this:
Monique Heart as Maxine Waters
Whether it’s nerves, a lack of research on her subject, or just a straight-up bad day, this is a bigger mess than the current state of our union. Monique has no prepared bits beyond a sign that reads “Impeach Trump” and the idea to break out a “Reclaiming my time!” at some point. She is unable to respond comedically to anything she is offered, even with Aquaria sitting there as Melania Trump. She really should have chosen Cookie, and the fact that RuPaul steered her away from that decision leaves us feeling salty.
Kameron Michaels as Chyna
The physical resemblance is an easy entry point, and we actually guessed that Michaels would make this first-thought decision to play the muscled, and ultimately tragic, professional wrestling heroine. It doesn’t end up being a bad choice, as her interpretation of Chyna’s speaking voice is actually pretty good. She doesn’t get to do much else besides make some cracks about testosterone intake, but it’s not as distractingly bad as some of the other performances surrounding her, so she skates by.
Miz Cracker as Dorothy Parker
She seems nervous? Reserved? Don’t get us wrong, the jokes are funny, and maybe we’re starting to expect too much, but at what point are we going to be blown away by someone who claims so fervently and so often to be this mind-blowing comedy queen? Snatch Game is designed for contestants like Cracker to succeed; she is smart, quick on her feet, and a more than adept entertainer. So why is this so average? It could be that the choice is too niche, but we think it has more to do with Cracker in general. When is she going to start playing to win this competition? When is everything going to stop feeling so studied?
Asia O’Hara as the Queen of Mean, Apparently, Beyoncé Knowles
What is this characterization, you may ask? Well, this is what happens when you realize you’ve got nothing on stage — you rely on what’s worked in the past. In this case, Asia does not have a Beyoncé impression whatsoever, or a comedic take on her at all, and so she goes to shady. Unfortunately, it’s transparent that she’s unprepared. It’s not that these contestants can never do Beyoncé, as we believe you can make anything work if you make a choice and have fun with it, but you can’t expect to get away with a Beyoncé that has no grounding in reality. When would Beyoncé ever act like this? To the left, to the left.
Monét X Change as Maya Angelou
Thank God. The vocal impression is fun, she has jokes ready to go, and she improvises quickly and intelligently. She’s even armed with a soliloquy when it’s her turn to give an answer. The choice to intermittently fall asleep throughout the performance may not be something we understand, but she plays it well. You believe that it’s something Maya Angelou really did because Monét is selling it, honey. Choices are made. Upon receiving some attempted shade from Maxine Waters, Maya responds confidently, “Like dust, still, I rise.” This is what comprises a great Snatch Game performance: sharp comedic instincts and knowledge of your subject’s attitude and quirks. Monét has both. The caged bird sings, girl.
Aquaria as Melania Trump
Well, well, fuckin’ well! We will be honest: When we saw that Aquaria was planning to do Melania Trump, we figured she’d use it as an excuse to sit quietly and prettily, hopefully sneaking through the way Kameron Michaels does here. But that is not what goes down. Aquaria has a lot of fun with her portrayal of the woman who is unfortunately our First Lady, and appears to have even more fun as the performance goes on. The clever “Michelle Obama” name tag, the gift to RuPaul from “Trinity’s” (in lieu of Tiffany’s) which is just a piece of paper reading “HELP ME,” the reference to Russian hooker piss: It’s all great. But what gets us here are the off-the-cuff remarks. When Kameron jokes about testosterone, Aquaria remarks, “My husband could use some, as well.” When Beyoncé is writing an answer, Aquaria throws in, “This is the first time Beyoncé has written something for herself.” Drag her, queen! What really gets us is another joke directed at Kameron: “This is why my husband is always complaining about China!” Color us surprised and impressed, because this is the most surprising and impressive Snatch Game performance of the bunch. Seriously, who knew!
The Vixen as Blue Ivy Carter
You can’t say it’s not an imaginative choice. If only there were anything imaginative done with it. The Vixen essentially plays a whining baby, very reminiscent of her character during The Bossy Rossy Show. Also, for someone who’s so hung up on Eureka constantly making fat jokes about herself, it’s interesting that it’s one of her go-to jabs for Eureka and her character. There’s not much to say here that wasn’t already said about Asia. It’s evident that the well was pretty dry to begin with when it came to playing Blue Ivy, so the Vixen falls back on what she knows: arguing with other contestants. The Vixen and Asia O’Hara ultimately make each other look worse by using the other as a crutch.
Eureka O’Hara as Alana from ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’
The broad physical comedy is certainly here, and she’s the only one occupying that space comedically, so she stands out. It’s pretty one-note with the drawings, though, until it heightens with the reveal that Alana has decided to color all over herself. Aside from that, we’re not sure this is as uproarious as RuPaul and the judges seem to think it is. We can appreciate that Eureka has chosen to portray someone who allows her to be a bigger and, if you can believe it, even more performative version of herself. This is a very weak Snatch Game overall, and because things actually happen during this performance, it lands at the top.
The next day, Asia wants nothing to do with the Vixen in the werkroom, and she proceeds to push all her chips forward for her runway look. Vix and Eureka get into another tiff when Vixen accuses Eureka of steamrolling her competitors, but Monét astutely points out in confessional that Asia was more guilty of that than anyone else. Conversation in the room eventually turns to politics, and Monét prides herself on her socially conscious material back home. Monique, meanwhile, can’t say the same for herself, with being a queen of color in a deeply divided red state boiling down to survival. Missouri’s track record with anti-blackness isn’t exactly comforting, and Monique has had to navigate her spaces while being deeply aware of its troubled racial history. Speaking of which, the Vixen explains the origins of her politically motivated drag and charts them back to a Boystown bartender’s despicable claim that “South Side trash” had ruined Chicago’s Pride. We get a deeper glimpse into Vix’s ideology that drag should be a tool to confront painful realities rather than escape them, and she recounts a lifetime of succumbing to respectability as a black drag queen. This all serves as a perfect primer to her eventual showdown with Eureka during critiques, but more on that later.
On the runway, the queens are wheeled out as mermaids in a glorious homage to Bette Midler’s iconic Delores DeLago persona. Monique comes out in a somewhat disjointed story while waving delightfully at the judges, followed by Cracker’s pretty, pink, pearl-encrusted eleganza. We then get a stunning, gloriously morbid Deepwater Horizon look from Aquaria, whose slicked oil-spill ensemble, matching hair, and tear rivulets are nothing short of breathtaking. The webbed hands? Forget it. Asia O’Hara reveals a hilariously bonkers Shape of Water fantasy with a noxious Lisa Frank color story, followed by the Vixen’s cute sea-foam look. Monét then comes out with a mermaid-warrior edit that’s solid, especially as she slings a naval mine like an oversize flail. After that, Eureka’s mermaid is a bit of a miss for us, since the whole thing gets thrown off by the blood spilling out of her mouth for no apparent reason. Anytime a queen performs some repeat of a herstorical stunt, all we think of is the original event, and Eureka immediately reminds us of Sharon Needles’s post-apocalyptic look. Finally, Kameron Michaels’s coral colors leave us on a fun and flirty closer, and we move on to critiques.
Kameron and Miz Cracker are dismissed from the runway, safe to be safe another week. We’re side-eyeing both of these queens, since each needs to make big choices in order to make strides in this competition; neither of them have won a challenge. On the mainstage, it’s obvious that we’re dealing with a Monique, Asia, and the Vixen bottom three, while Aquaria, Eureka and Monét will receive some apposite praise.
Monique goes on the defensive when receiving her negative (and mostly fair) critique, specifically from Michelle Visage, but we feel as if she knows what the judges are saying is true, and the added stress of putting together outfits on a day-to-day basis so that she has something for the runway is beginning to wear on her. The judges definitely sense Ms. Heart’s ornery stance, and we don’t feel it will bode well for her.
Aquaria is rightfully praised for both Snatch Game performance and her superlative runway, which stands out from the rest. Monét is given props for her performance as Maya Angelou, especially on the heels of Chi Chi’s botched performance as the literary icon in All Stars 3, but her runway story is again unclear. While she looks good, the judges aren’t understanding the shark warrior narrative that Monét believes is obvious. This is nitpicky, and she’ll be fine.
Asia and the Vixen have their fishy asses handed to them for their messy performances in the Snatch Game, but both receive mixed reviews for what they bring to the oceanic runway. Michelle, unlike us, doesn’t get the gilled face mask that Asia is presenting tonight, but overall the judges appreciate it for its comedic value, and for the most part it’s a well-constructed lurk. The Vixen is told she’s serving facial beauty, but the running theme of being told off for her faulty outfit construction remains strong. Her shell bra is oddly positioned and does ruin a female illusion, and she immediately tries to pin the blame for her shaky performance on Eureka, who receives praise all around for her strong and consistent Snatch Game performance and her runway look.
It is at this point that RuPaul asks the girls that dreaded question: Who deserves to go home this week and why? Eureka is first to be put on the spot, and she answers with something of a cop-out pageant answer, saying that Asia should be sent home “because she’s my biggest competition.” All aboard the Eye-Roll Express. The first to actually answer the question is Monét, who feels that it’s the Vixen’s time when taking everything into account.
The Vixen then proceeds to claim that Eureka should go home, despite that being an impossibility at this moment in time. The Vixen is always gonna say whatever she feels, and she digs in on Eureka’s “unprofessionalism,” further detailing how she is “baffled” that the judges could possibly enjoy her. Warranted or not, this is the Vixen’s answer to the question.
What is unwarranted, however, is Eureka’s rebuttal. At no point was it made clear that the queens would be able to individually respond if one of their competitors named them as their choice for elimination, so the fact that Eureka butts in only highlights the Vixen’s claim that Eureka has a compulsive desire for attention and plays up her fragility at tactless times. It’s a difficult exchange to watch, but let it be known: This was the Vixen’s time to talk. When the rest of the contestants claim that the Vixen should be next to go, she doesn’t reclaim her time from them in those moments. She sits there, respects the fact that everyone is doing what they’re told in answering a simple question, and knows that she will be able to talk this out in Untucked. Eureka’s crying and carrying on is, to put it bluntly, kind of insufferable here, and while the Vixen may not be 100 percent in the right, it’s tough not to take her side in this particular scenario.
In a stunning surprise victory, Aquaria wins the Snatch Game and her pick of Fire Island lodgings, while Eureka and Monét stay safe. Asia gets spared a lip sync, and we come down to the unfortunate bottom two of Monique and the Vixen lip-syncing to the most Caucasian bubblegum pop song from the last decade, “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Monique’s circuitry seems to give out from the start as she fumbles through her moves and barely syncs up to any of the lyrics. It’s an agonizing watch as she seems perturbed by her circumstances, and seeing such a lively, radiant queen lose her shine when she needs it most is heartbreaking. The Vixen leaps and rolls into another gymnastic lip-sync win, and her survival in the face of her perceived failures won’t go unaddressed for the remainder of the season.
As we close the books on a Snatch Game that was more underwhelming than usual, we raise a tear-soaked glass to Monique Heart, the ooh-ah-ah sensation, the Heart of season ten, and one of the most irrepressibly charismatic queens to have made it on this program. She left an mark on countless new fans, and her off-the-cuff, joyfully quotable moments both on and off the show will surely cement her as an All Stars 4 contender, if we have anything to say about it. Trust on Jesus’ name, America.
SAID THE BITCH! A Weekly Quote Spotlight
Monique: “Ms. the Vixen, though your tumbles are stunning, your hair gives me tumbleweed.”
…SAID THE BITCH!!! Fine, maybe we’re just in mourning over Monique, but this was a delectable bit of wordplay worked into a solid read. We’ll just miss her, okay?!