RuPaul’s Drag Race
Call it nerves, call it exhaustion, call it a nervous breakdown, but I truly don’t know what’s gotten into Farrah Moan. Where she got the moxy to come for Nina like that, we may never know.
So far, this season’s workroom has been a bit like The Great British Bake Off in drag. They’re all friendly and supportive (aside from one misfired joke or two) and quite honestly, that’s bullshit. These girls can be shady ladies when they’re in the confessionals, and it’s high time they bring some of that tension to the floor. We finally see of that with poor Farrah, who says what many of us probably thought after Nina’s mini-meltdown: “Do you even want to be here?”
It’s nice to see a little drama, but what could possess someone like Farrah to come for Nina like that? Nina sits at the tip-top of every fan-made bracket on Twitter, she had stood out week after week (for good or ill), and she will most likely be sticking around for quite a few more weeks. Farrah’s most memorable moment on the show might be the one we’re talking about right now. Of course, the Nina vs. Farrah beef doesn’t last very long. Thanks in part to the peacekeeping efforts of Shea Coulee, Farrah backs down from this confrontation almost as quickly as she mounted it. It all ends with what I think is an iconically hilarious breakdown: “I wish she looked at me in my eyes the way she looked at you in yours.” This bonkers lil’ piece of word salad, combined with the white girliest of all sobs, made me laugh harder than anything that happened in Snatch Game.
Which is a shame, because Snatch Game really is the marquee challenge of the series. Snatch Game is when stars are born, cannon fodder is highlighted, and early favorites prove if they’ve got the chops to stick around. While not every winner has won Snatch Game, no winner has ever bombed it (yet). I don’t mean to say that this was an especially rough Snatch Game, but nothing really popped quite as much as I hoped. This, I think, has more to do with wonky celeb choices than anything else, so let’s get into it.
It’s clear that all of these girls are not only fans of the show, but are savvier than most about how it works. The problem is that none of them want to be the villain. Every season of Drag Race needs a villain, so the editors will piece together that narrative and force it on somebody before the season’s over, like it or not. And it feels like this year’s tribute will be Alexis Michelle. Think about it: She has the perfect combination of entitlement, delusion and talent to fit the bill, plus she’s already calling out Nina, Farrah and Cynthia for their various weaknesses. It just feels like she’s got the juice, you know? It’s inside her and I hope she embraces it. Alexis will never win this competition (don’t @ me when she’s crowned, please), but if she leans into this villain thing, that I could get behind.
For all her talk and the hype leading up to it, I felt a little let down by her Liza. Like Alexis herself, it all just felt sort of lifeless, which is not something you should ever be able to say about a Liza impression. Can you believe this is the first we’re seeing of Liza on Snatch? It feels like almost a crime that a Liza impression — already a low bar to clear — could be so basic and still take the win. I contend that any gay man with half a BFA could’ve given you a better Liza, and twice the jokes to boot.
On the other side of the workroom, we finally get to spend a little quality time with Sasha and thank God for it. As much as she’s been floating near the top since the beginning of the competition and as much as she is clearly the biggest piece of trade in the workroom, she also seems like the biggest question mark to me in many ways. She is thankfully self-aware of her own lack of comedy chops — something she demonstrates with her brief Judith Butler impression — and instead opts to go with Marlene Dietrich for Snatch. This is a risky move, but a smart one for Sasha. There’s always room for a surprise standout in Snatch (remember Ben Del La Creme’s Maggie Smith?) and it definitely feels like Sasha checked that box this year. Sure, it was surprisingly good, but was it great? Eh, what the hell do I know.
The other winner this week is Nina’s Jasmine Masters drag which, well. I guess I have to side with Michelle and Candis here and come out as a HATER because I hate when they do other drag queens in Snatch. We have certainly seen success stories — I remember both Max’s Sharon and Violet’s Alyssa doing well, lol — but by and large it feels at once esoteric and lazy. Jasmine in particular seems like a bit of a deep cut, as she barely cleared three weeks on the show before she departed. Yes, she’s certainly built up a bit of a social-media following and should return to the franchise post-haste, but is this really what any of us wanted to see from a queen like Nina? Snatch offers so many possibilities and what we get is just … fine. She played the game well and it was smart to choose something that tickled RuPaul, but I’m just not sure there was enough there.
This week’s losers include Farrah (Gigi Gorgeous, a real deep cut), Peppermint (a deflated Nene Leakes), and poor, poor Cynthia Lee Fontaine. While the other two committed the cardinal sin of being unfunny, Cynthia was one hundred percent incoherent. She flew too close to the sun with her Sofia Vergara. Half the battle with Snatch is the selecting a celebrity who has a very clear character game that you can generate jokes from. It was obvious that Cynthia couldn’t think very far beyond “she has a funny accent and gets words wrong,” which unfortunately happens to be Cynthia’s character game and the source of all her jokes, so the two canceled each other out and we were left with a garbled mess.
I actually thought the most interesting choices and most dynamic performances actually fell in the safe category this week. Valentina, not exactly a comedy queen by any means, still made a smartly conceptual choice with Miss Columbia, a.k.a. the former Miss Universe. There was only one joke to be had, but Valentina milked it until there was nothing left and she was fun to watch. Shea’s Naomi Campbell has a higher degree of difficulty to pull off than a Liza, and what she did was funnier than anyone else on that dias.
On to this week’s runway, which is a downright read of last season’s “kimono-gate” debacle during the night of 1,000 Madonnas. Four kimonos was truly humiliating, sure, but I take real issue with these kinds of challenges. I mean, is a Rockford Peaches costume that you can buy on Amazon that much more interesting than four kimonos? Anyway, how wild is it that Lady Gaga has been a thing for a fraction of the time Madonna’s been around, yet somehow nobody duplicated looks for her challenge. Oh, how we laugh. In any case, I’m relieved as all heck to see a full runway this week, complete with queen commentary and quips from the judges.
Aja: Safe again this week, though it’s unclear to me where Aja actually stands in this competition. Her Alyssa was competent but forgettable and this outfit is just okay.
Alexis: This is stunning, there’s no denying that. Alexis really loves this silhouette and why shouldn’t she.
Peppermint: Peppermint is always cute, and this is no exception. But there’s something just a little off with the fit and the length, which makes me prefer…
Shea: For me, this was the winner of the two. She elevated it. Should have been top three.
Trinity: This is inch for inch a Madonna look and Trinity certainly sells it. She is very fun to watch on the runway.
Nina: This definitely suffers by comparison. It looks cheap after seeing Trinity’s version.
Sasha: This look wins. It’s perfect, she sells it, and I truly had no idea who this was when she walked out.
Farrah: Fine, I guess. I’m a little surprised it was good enough to keep her out of the bottom, though.
Cynthia: Sadly, I think this might be my favorite Cynthia look in the history of all Cynthia looks.
Valentina: This was another smart choice, though probably too simple for the judges.
And so, it’s Cynthia versus Peppermint in the bottom, which means we’re treated to our first glimpse of what Peppermint can do. The lip syncs at this stage in the game tend to be fairly good, but while this wasn’t exactly a Trinity versus Charlie situation, it’s clear from the outset that Peppermint is going to win. Sometimes it’s not about the other queen biffing it, it’s just about one queen capturing the full attention of the judges and never letting go. This was revelatory for Peppermint, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time we’ve seen her actually have fun this season. It’s not exactly enough to convince me that she’ll make it to the top, but I’m excited to see her giving us that show again.
I’m also sad to say good-bye to Cynthia (again), but I’m mostly confident that she’s contributed all she could to this season. It’s time for us to take some space away from the cucu until the next time Cynthia sneaks her way back onto my television.