RuPaul’s Drag Race
It Takes Two, a film starring Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Steve Gutenberg and Kirstie Alley, follows two girls, identical strangers, who connect at a summer camp and are instrumental in the love story that brings together the two adult leads. The themes of this week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race episode do not relate whatsoever to those depicted in the film we’ve described here, but it is an important film to remember.
You may be thinking to yourself, why did the authors of this piece, this recap of a RuPaul’s Drag Race episode that saw the competition whittled down to just four queens, open by summarizing a film that has nothing to do with this particular competitive reality program? Well, reader, that’s because we did not listen to our Inner Saboteurs; we did not consider the voice telling us that doing so was not a good idea. That we should question our instincts because they were, to put it bluntly, dumb ones. We decided to freely write whatever we felt, regardless of reason.
In this instance, we should have listened to that voice. But this episode tries to be all experimental and shit, so we figured we’d give it a whirl. This challenge, which attempts to get the queens to deeply introspect the ways in which their Inner Saboteurs keep them from attaining their potential and turn that into a runway moment, darling, is a weird one, but you can’t say that RuPaul & Co. aren’t committing to the bit.
In the spirit of duality, or something like that, we’ve decided to recap this week’s episode by turning inward as well, in the form of a back-and-forth between our biggest Outer Saboteurs: each other.
Bowen: Hi Matt. Is it annoying to call you my Evil Twin? Could that come off as, like, super cloying to the reader?
Matt: [Evil, villainous cackle] Fuck you.
Bowen: We open this episode with Kameron feeling bad about sending Monét home, and Asia rightly calls her out from confessional that Kameron should just leave if she’s so pressed about the competitive aspect of this competition show. This is BenDeLaCreme being saintly all over again, no?
Matt: To be honest with you, I don’t really buy it. Her admission that she’d rather go home than send someone home is framed with a “This is gonna sound terrible, but …” It might be classic survivor’s guilt, but she knows she’s being watched and wants to be perceived a certain way. But if she felt so badly, she wouldn’t come for victory so hard in the lip-syncs. She wants to win, just like anyone else, and acts like it until she feels like she should come off as humble. It’s either calculated or inexplicable and I’m not down for either.
Bowen: I want to see this narrative the whole way through. I want to see Kameron throw a lip-sync and just biff it if she really is so downcast.
Matt: Imagine her on an All Stars season? Maybe she should just win so we can rule out that possibility. I’m off the Kameron train. I’m off it! Hey, Bowen! Say hello to Cheyenne Jackson!
Bowen: Oh my God, hi Cheyenne! His nibbling on comically small bits of pancake that the queens decorate for the mini-challenge is his best work since Xanadu. My big takeaway from the mini is that Aquaria apparently hates food in general.
Matt: Yeah, and Eureka likes it! These are two things that they focused on. Anyway! Asia wins the challenge for decorating a pancake face into a character named Panqueesha, a pancake girl “from around the corner” who smokes a blunt. Ru loves it. And we love it. Not as much as Aquaria’s Pan’s Labyrinth–inspired pancake girl that has eyes on its hands, but we love it. Right?
Bowen: We do! Almost as much as we love the fact that Cheyenne Jackson is the father of two young twins!
Matt: Daddy daddy. And turns out, twins is on theme! Our main challenge is to take to the runway in two distinct looks and characters: the queens as the best possible version of themselves and also as the personification of their Inner Saboteur in the form of their evil twin. It’s a good vs. evil narrative, bitch.
Bowen: Very Mariah Carey in the “Heartbreaker” video, yes?
Matt: There are going to be some Biancas afoot. Can confirm.
Bowen: I feel like everyone’s evil alter ego is named Bianca. Except for people named Bianca. Then their evil name is —
Bowen: I was gonna say Chandler, but Vivian is good.
Matt: Okay, and I do like Chandler! The girls really struggle with getting their characterizations together for this challenge, and I don’t blame them. It can be hard to be honest about what it is that’s negative about yourself or what your true flaws are because oftentimes you aren’t even ready to be honest with yourself about those things yet. Or, if you’re as young as Aquaria, you may not even know. This is obviously going to throw Miz Cracker for a loop though. That may even be by specific design. RuPaul seems to really enjoy fucking with her by way of reminding her constantly that she is in her head.
Bowen: Let’s just quickly run down everyone’s dichotomies: Eureka is dynamic but irritating, Cracker is polished but soulless, Asia is warm but easily embittered, Aquaria is innovative but high-strung, and Kameron is soft-spoken but soft-spoken. Does that sound about right?
Matt: Pretty much. A lot of the queens are wrapped up in what exactly they’re going to be wearing on the runway, but I think it would be a mistake to ignore just how badly Ru wants them to go negative on themselves. For someone who wants so badly for us to shed our insecurities and our unnecessary cloaks of self-doubt, Ru is obsessed with the examination of the Saboteur here. So much so that she …physically embodies her own in a way that I felt sort of jumped the shark in terms of tossing away the grounded reality of the show. We’re supposed to buy into RuPaul speaking to the evil-twin version of herself. I really didn’t think this device would continue on the main stage but this episode commits. to. the. bit!
Bowen: Ru would not have won an acting challenge with that bit.
Matt: [Looks around wildly, afraid for his life] Bowen!
Bowen: I stand by it. Next day, Cracker wrestles with a sewing machine and starts to unravel a bit until Eureka talks her down, reminding her that it’s a styling challenge and not a sewing challenge. This is astute. Aquaria then makes up a fun new catchphrase, “If you pee clear, cheer!” and we can’t wait for the single to drop. Let’s talk about the runway now.
Matt: Ru warmly welcomes guest judges Ashanti and Lena Dunham and you get the sense that Lena says out loud to several producers and probably Ru herself that she “really likes this challenge, because it’s true! I have an inner voice that …” and, you know, goes from there.
Bowen: I bet Lena went up to the sound mixer on set and was like, “I’m such a fan of your work!”
Matt: Kameron starts things off and … you know, she’s Kameron! She definitely does what the challenge asks of her. I’m not sure how well she does it because the reads on herself are very obvious and I’m not sure it’s enough of a revelatory, deep moment for RuPaul, who wants these girls to confront themselves. I like her second look more than her first because the sort of tribal makeup she applies here is something she does very well. She certainly is giving you warrior. I’m not loving it as an “evil twin.” Ironically, in Untucked, she will follow the rubric she was given for this challenge exactly. So it’s not like she’s not capable, she’s just either not self-aware or willing to show vulnerability enough to succeed in this challenge. But I liked the spear and my mom’s name is Katrina so I laughed when that was her evil twin’s name. That’s all.
Bowen: Eureka comes out in a cute Cher Horowitz–inspired look, then enters as a gravel-voiced Eufilthior, who for some reason talks like a Queens taxi dispatcher who inspired Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Points for characterization, sure, but the self-negging doesn’t go beyond the well-trod “You love food and you’re obnoxious” lines we’ve heard all season. Cracker comes out in a gorgeous Marie Antoinette meets Lady Tremaine lewk, opposite her Miz Crumbs persona who is a Cro-Magnon sex witch. The looks don’t necessarily connect, but I thought her voice-over on faking her way to the middle, like, went there.
Matt: I thought she was really cruel to herself and Ru would be proud, but … sigh. We’ll get there. Aquaria is just stunning here on the runway as both the idealized version of herself, who is serving you Fleur Delacour fresh off the boat from Beauxbatons realness with her fashion-forward and optimistic vibe, and Sabatina, her evil twin with an unfortunate name but a serious eye for fashion. Her half-leopard, half-ocelot number featuring exposed bones lining her spine as well as adorning her face mask is truly one to remember. She labels the real Aquaria as lonely, awkward, and isolated, which should be more than enough for Ru, who I believe favors her.
Bowen: I mean, Ru goes on to compare Aquaria’s runway to Raja and Chad and Violet who, um, are winners, coincidentally. She may be pressing her thumb on the scale here a bit.
*A thunderclap sounds in the distance*
Matt: [Looks around wildly, afraid for his life] Bowen!
Bowen: Let them come. We end with Asia’s lively balloon-loving showgirl, complete with a gorgeous orange hair bow, who is at odds with her Gothic, glamorous Saboteur named North Korea. She goes in on Asia’s age in such a relentless way that it all feels alarmingly authentic.
Matt: She’s really doing it the way it seems that RuPaul wanted it to be done. It felt real. Kameron is told that both her runway and her personification of her Inner Saboteur are middle of the road, Eureka is loved by Lena Dunham for saying that you have to “be yourself to free yourself” and Miz Cracker is frustratingly critiqued for there being “not much there” when it comes to her Inner Saboteur’s dark comments. It feels like the judges aren’t watching the same presentation as I am. Sure, her second look wasn’t perfect but I really don’t understand this being so overwhelmingly picked on. Quality-wise, she and Eureka are on a par, for me.
Bowen: Agreed. Meanwhile the judges give Aquaria and Asia their due praise for their visual and auditory storytelling, and Ru then asks the Saboteur queens who should go home. Kameron gives a cop-out “my biggest competition” answer and says Aquaria, while the votes evenly split for Cracker and Kameron. Asia harshly prefaces her vote by saying that Cracker is “not a star,” and it rattles her pretty deeply in Untucked.
Matt: Yeah, I get that she was playing a character, but that was a lot. Aquaria narrowly takes the win — her third! — and our bottom two is Kameron and Miz Cracker. It’s a pretty evenly matched lip-sync to “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6. They both roll around, do flips, and act sexy.
Bowen: Admirable efforts from both, but we’re sad to see Cracker go home. Perhaps her narrative ran its course, but you could definitely say the same for Kameron.
Matt: I think we can expect a redemption arc for the Gods from Miz Cracker on an All Stars season. Watch this space! From my vantage point, we have an obvious Top Three staring us in the face. Asia, Eureka, and Aquaria are head and shoulders above the rest heading into the finale. If Kameron is there and it’s a Top Four situation à la last year, expect some controversy. This woman is the lip-sync assassin of the season, hands down, and we saw where that took Peppermint last year despite a rockier overall season than the rest of her competitors. It’s gonna get interesssttinngg, Bowen Yang.
Bowen: Interesting indeed that four of the five New York queens have been felled. It’s a season full of surprises, and I could make some forced commentary on the duality of things but I am too tired.
Matt: I have a lot of energy, naturally, so I’ll wrap things up. I don’t know if this is the Top Four we would have picked at the beginning of the season, but I’m happy it’s the Top Four we have. Everyone here has fought hard for their spot, and it’s fun to have four very different queens fighting for the crown. The New Yorkers in us are pulling for Aquaria, as are the people in us with a sense of justice (she has the most wins)! But, as we saw last year, anything can happen. If Vanjie somehow wins, we’d only be a little surprised.
*A thunderclap! Suddenly, out of nowhere, RuPaul appears and kills Matt.*
Bowen: And that’s … how you commit to a bit.