RuPaul’s Drag Race Season-Finale Recap: The Butterfly Effect, or Lack Thereof

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Photo: VH1
RuPaul’s Drag Race

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Queens Reunited Season 10 Episode 13
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Facts are facts, America: After months of gags and upsets and emotional flare-ups, we’ve finally reached the end of a great, if somewhat inconsistent season that began strong as ever and ultimately petered out in the back half. This finale had no shortage of unforgettable moments, either, and we’re breaking it down with a good ol’ back-and-forth. Cue the confetti cannons.

Bowen: What a freaking season. That’s the only holistic thought I can muster for now.

Matt: Yes. What felt like a nine-month-long season (not complaining, just saying!) ended tonight in a true No Guts No Glory gauntlet of lip-sync extravaganza. These girls were pulling out all the stunts. And I do have mixed feelings about said stunts.

Bowen: Are stunts the new normal in drag now? Have too many of us yawned at even the fiercest death drop, only to enter this new domain of virally engineered moments? Is Sasha Velour to blame?

Matt: Here’s my take: Sasha Velour didn’t “ruin drag” like some fools are out there saying.

Bowen: Fools like me.

Matt: Yes! Sasha Velour incorporated a genius narrative into a song that she was assigned to perform. Incidentally, she killed the lip sync of it. The words to “So Emotional” looked like they were coming out of her mouth. If a queen sees what Sasha Velour did last season, decides to try and recreate that and fails, then that is on them. My mixed feelings have to do with the fact that the queens feel they need to have a stunt or a gag or a prop. It was a little comical to watch them all come out looking 100 pounds heavier than we’ve ever seen them at the top of the lip-sync portion of the show. No one really nailed it the way that Sasha Velour did. But you can’t blame Sasha for that any more than you can blame Mariah Carey for popularizing melismatic singing and the use of riffs. Not many do it as well. But that doesn’t mean it ruined singing.

Bowen: That analogy is flawed, because it’s not like every singer has been trying to do whistle tones since.

Matt: I didn’t say whistle tones, bitch. I said melismatic singing, honey.

Bowen: Mariah didn’t invent melismas, sweetie. Sasha did invent rose petals.

Matt: You have a disease and I hope they find a cure.

Bowen: So what complicates your feelings about the stunts then? We all know Asia is a fierce lip-syncer.

Matt: I feel sad that she felt she had to resort to a stunt that was, sorry, never going to work. We don’t live in a cartoon. Butterflies don’t just do what you want them to do. It was sad to watch, and next to Kameron, who had no stunts, it did look a little desperate. We all wanted Asia O’Hara to succeed here. I feel disappointed that she distracted herself from doing what she is so brilliant at. We all saw “Groove Is in the Heart.” Asia is to blame for her mistakes. Not the winner of last season for being influential. I’m sad Asia wasn’t in the final!

Bowen: But in some way, I admire Asia’s vision. Sure, butterflies and Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” don’t make any visual sense together, but the logical heighten from a rose-petal reveal is to incorporate living things. Lepidopterans seem somewhat manageable on paper, and I’m willing to bet Asia rehearsed the hell out of these reveals. It’s just so tragic to watch Asia disgraced, seeing it implode before her eyes.

Matt: And it’s also, unfortunately, pretty on theme for her performance on the season. Very high highs, very low lows. She didn’t time her last low very well, but I don’t think this is the end for Asia. She is someone who now has a real reason to come back for All Stars. Look, this is a queen that everyone with a brain loves and would want to see more of. The redemption arc starts now!

Bowen: Meanwhile, Aquaria’s “stunts” were smartly conceived. She knew any centerpiece reveal would exist in the shadow of “So Emotional,” and so all her tricks felt like flashes of color instead of the main event. She played it exactly right, like she did all season, and that’s what makes her a deserving winner. It’s a bit complicated that she might represent our obsession with thin whiteness and that four of the last five winners are New York queens, but Aquaria did earn it, in our minds.

Matt: I will say that I was nervous watching Aquaria’s initial lip sync against Eureka (to Janet’s “If”) because I was unsure just how much the gag reveals and stunts were going to count in Ru’s final decision. Eureka had a lot of them, and I’m sure if we were watching her in a club we would be screaming, but they didn’t feel like they were a part of the story of the song or a clever narrative device. They were just reveals of different outfits. And they were cool! And Eureka was great! But I didn’t want to lose Aquaria to them when she was also executing her shit perfectly. Luckily, we didn’t. We kept both.

Bowen: Which adds salt to the wound for Asia, in a way. Not that it wasn’t warranted, but just makes the whole situation even more devastating.

Matt: I mean, it’s gotta feel bad.

Bowen: Before we get into the final showdown, let’s run through all the mostly bland lead-up moments. I’m glad they dusted off the season-one queens and had them wave like they were at a Veterans Day fair.

Matt: Any day where I get to see Bebe Zahara Benet do anything is a good day for me.

Bowen: Agreed, but where was Tammie Brown? What have they done to sweet, lovably weird Tammie? RuPaul needs to be investigated.

Matt: Weird that she was missing! Calling police on RuPaul.

Bowen: We are all of us #PermitPatty. We got some cute greetings from Oprah and Judi Dench in between the queens’ interviews, which mostly seem like filler to me. All I remember is Aquaria played the Nutcracker fairly recently and that Kameron’s grandma is adorable.

Matt: And RuPaul has a surprisingly large discography and we knew every word to every song, just like the season one and ten queens who lip-synced them. By the way, the Vixen seemed to be in pretty good spirits! She played ball all night and even clapped for Ru when she made her grand entrance. She didn’t wave her finger at her, but, you know, she clapped and smiled!

Bowen: And Vixen cheering for Aquaria all night was fun, and also made me think, “Wow, we’ve come a long-ass way from the beginning of the season.” The megamix was a great way to give a lip-sync moment to the season-ten queens, and the mix itself was a nice nod to all the finale songs from each season. “The Beginning” is the song I should have lost my virginity to, but didn’t.

Matt: I lost my virginity to “American” two weeks ago. :) “Finally!” (Asia O’Hara–as-Cher voice.) Just imagine that gif right here. Anyway, let’s talk about that final lip sync. Three entered: Kameron Michaels, the lip-sync assassin. Eureka O’Hara, the comeback queen. And Aquaria, the rightful front-runner. The song was “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj, which could be looked at as a touch narratively convenient with three competitors still standing, but we’ll just assume it’s a coincidence. They’re all pretty on brand throughout, with Kameron giving you the words and the body, Eureka powerfully commanding the stage (the “Big Girl” tearing away to “WINS” may have sewn this up if it felt better timed), and Aquaria aerobically tossing herself around the stage, slaying the lyrics, armed with a (bang bang, y’all) confetti cannon. I mean, come on. Gag city, yes. But a lot was going on.

Bowen: My hope is that all of this portends the death of reveals for reveals’ sake. If we’re forcing our finalists to be prop comics every season, where does that lead? Every drag queen also needs to be a dolphin trainer?

Matt: That would be a fun challenge. To make over a dolphin so that it’s gay and fabulous.

Bowen: Dolphins are sexually problematic and have no place in drag culture.

Matt: Look, I don’t want to talk about animals. Forty butterflies are dead.

Bowen: Fine! But we do have to talk about that snake that was coiled around Sasha Velour, who came out in that Book of Genesis eleganza like a Martian Eve biting into the apple.

Matt: Endoparasitoid Extraterrestrial But Make It Biblical Eleganza Extravaganza. Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t have survived this ho.

Bowen: No, bitch. It was gorgeously Sasha, who gave a sweet and earnest answer about how her reigning year went.

Matt: Also! Snaps for Monét X Change, a very, very, very deserving choice for Miss Congeniality. I am so happy that they threw out the ridiculous public vote and had the queens vote amongst themselves instead. That is how you really choose a Miss Congeniality and they got it exactly right.

Bowen: Would have gagged over Monique getting it, but Monét is a worthy winner! Valentina not being in the room to present the title is also so, so, so on the nose. She was too much. She is bad. That rose? No. Our collective queer amnesia cannot allow her to regain all the goodwill she has yet to earn back! This is as political as I will get in this recap.

Matt: I would like to say, to close out our time writing the recaps for this season, one more thing and it is this: I am truly worried about Kameron Michaels’s future from a neck and back-health standpoint. The woman appears to have no bones. She can just fling that thing (her head) back and forth at 100 miles per hour. It is thrilling but concerning. If I did what she does repeatedly even once I think I would be … dead? Actually dead. I have truly enjoyed my time writing these recaps, even the times when we got physically threatened for lightly reading the Vixen, and the times when we were “too easy” on the Vixen and were accused of overcorrecting for our privilege and having a personal vendetta against Eureka. The fans are a joy. The fandom is beautiful. Bowen, final thoughts?

Bowen: Commenters are the lifeblood of this show! But truly, bless this season for earnestly starting a much-needed conversation about race in the drag community, and it’s been genuinely nice to read the responses, even if some people were truly pressed that we’d make an effort to empathically see things from the Vixen’s point of view.

Matt: Everybody say love!

The World: Love!

Bowen & Matt: … SAID THE BITCH!

RuPaul’s Drag Race Finale Recap: The Butterfly Effect