RuPaul’s Drag Race
I will admit that I have thus far been lukewarm on the gals who’ve emerged as the front-runners for the crown this season. I’ve found Yvie Oddly to be, frankly, a little overrated when compared to queens of her ilk, like Sharon Needles or Detox, and I find Brooke Lynn Hytes to be polished, but without any discernible edge. Yvie? Freaky but not Freak-ayyyy. Brooke Lynn? You look good, but where’s the beef? Do you know what I’m saying? Well. I can now step forward and say that, after this episode, despite absolutely atrocious Snatch Game performances for both of them, I am firmly in Camp Yvie and Camp Brooke, and season 11 just went from pretty good to great for me, all because of what goes down in the episode’s final third. Namely the lip-sync, which is one of the best in RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory, and leaves Ru with an impossible decision to make.
But before getting to that, let’s rewind to the episode’s opening minutes. Viewers will be unsurprised to learn that Silky is not letting go of Yvie’s screaming that Silky is talentless on last week’s Untucked. This is one of the reasons I’ve found it difficult to enjoy Yvie in the past. You can totally be real; everybody loves real! But I hardly agree with Silky that unless you are a judge, you shouldn’t be judging, and Yvie’s constant reads of other contestants (mostly Vanjie and Silky) based on what she thinks they could and should be doing better are really tiresome and misplaced. And so going forward, Silky will employ a power move against Yvie that we haven’t yet seen on this show: She ices her out. The silent treatment is fully given, and it will eventually break Yvie down. We see the cracks forming when she has to walk away from the girls in their runway postmortem, and it only gets worse for her as the episode goes on.
In the mini-challenge, the girls have to pitch RuPaul their upcoming self-help book based on the fact that RuPaul has a book of her own, GuRu. Ru never misses an opportunity to self-promote, and neither should these girls, so this actually is a fair and relevant challenge. This isn’t shaking your titties at the camera, this is business. Silky takes the victory for her book, Eat It: The Chronicles of the Buffet, because Silky usually wins the mini-challenges even if she isn’t told so. Truly, look back at almost every mini-challenge of the season. She’s won every one.
Morgan McMichaels is on hand do a Postmates promotion (Silky has won a $1,000 credit, which is … amazing?) and also a callback to the bit where she shoots a Ping-Pong ball out of her ass and Ru catches it. Before we can think too hard about why that happened, Ru announces that this week’s challenge is the Snatch Game … At Sea! Truly, it’s just the Snatch Game, but this time it takes place on a boat. I am going to decide that I love the arbitrary aquatic theme, and now that I’ve have time to think about it, I’m also going to decide that I love Morgan’s coming back to shoot a little ball out of her hole, as well. It’s fun! It’s all just fun!
After some discussion among the girls about who they’re portraying, Ru reenters the workroom with season-five winner and Snatch Game whiz Jinkx Monsoon in tow to help the girls get their heads in the gayme. Dr. Silky Ganache (I love it every time Ru calls her this) is sidestepping what everyone expects of her and selecting T.S. Madison instead of Oprah Winfrey. I’m surprised to hear this, as she would undoubtedly have a wonderful, big take on an icon like Oprah. But nevertheless, Silky has chosen a celebrity through whom she can filter her own personality, so we can probably expect great things.
Around the room, though, the confidence isn’t at Silky levels. In fact, the girls are largely shook. Yvie, Brooke, and Vanjie all pretty much tell Ru and Jinkx that this whole impersonation thing is not what they do. This isn’t traditionally what Ru loves to hear, and he and Jinkx give some real critical analysis and useful advice to provide these girls with a leg up. It’s clear, however, that Brooke Lynn is beyond help here. Watching her try to embody Celine Dion in front of Ru and Jinkx is painful, and I questioned while watching whether I would have broken down in tears in that moment. Shit’s bleak.
On to the Snatch Game at Sea, which is lucky to have Veep actors Clea Duvall and Tony Hale as its celebrity contestants. Here’s the rundown of what goes down on that panel:
Silky Nutmeg Ganache as T.S. Madison:
This challenge probably could have been called for Silky almost immediately; having her in the prime upper-left seat ends up makes this one of the better Snatch Games we’ve seen. Every box is checked. Silky knows the character well, but more importantly, she is able to funnel all of what’s special about her as a queen directly into this character. T.S. Madison loves big dicks and partying; it’s unlikely that Silky does not also enjoy both of those things. I love everything about this performance, which is joyful, even if reveals like Madison’s “22 inches” of wig are a little wonky, and Silky is having an absolute blast with RuPaul. She’s unshakable, and the fact that Yvie’s been coming for her so hard and she is still able to deliver a sterling Snatch says a lot.
Nina West as Harvey Fierstein/Jo Anne Worley:
Opting to pull a Bob the Drag Queen and perform as two different characters, Nina West does very well. Her Harvey Fierstein is obviously well researched and very lived-in, and as a comedy queen, Nina is at a natural advantage. Looking around the room, to say that sets her apart is an understatement. Her selections will no doubt sit well with Ru, especially that of Worley, whom Ru loves and clearly enjoys going back and forth with. Nina will surely be commended for what she’s done here.
Plastique Tiara as Lovely Mimi:
It’s truly, truly the same voice as her character from the Why It Gotta Be Black? Panther challenge, so that’s a demerit, but it’s certainly funny and Plastique is faster on her feet than we’ve been led to believe. She develops a delicious little back and forth with Silky’s T.S. Madison, which says to me that she’s not going to back down from someone else who’s succeeding. She’s going to be a part of that energy and use it to her advantage. Her answers are clever, she looks fun, and it’s overall a success. But you can’t ignore that she is using a major crutch with that characterization.
Yvie Oddly as Whoopi Goldberg:
I’m always surprised when people like Whoopi Goldberg are chosen and then perform as though they’ve never done anything in their life worth parodying. For me, the comedy here is clear. Snatch Game is a bunch of crazy female characters vying for attention and trying to get a word in. Does this not remind you of The View? There could be a lot of comedic fodder in Goldberg’s attempting to moderate discussion, chiming in with a passionate and declarative opinion that’s pretty much wrong, or just loudly claiming that she doesn’t give a fuck about whatever topic is being discussed. These are all very Whoopi, in her current form. But Yvie is obviously shaken by the challenge at hand and seems to pretty much ignore the fact that she’s basically on The View. If any research was done prior to coming to Drag Race, it isn’t showing up here. She will obviously be in the bottom two for this.
Shuga Cain as Charo:
This ends up being a much-needed almost-breakthrough for Shuga, and I say “almost-breakthrough” because her performance would have needed a little more oomph for this to be a true runaway success. The choice of Charo is good, Shuga obviously loves her, and Ru is certainly laughing, but something extra is missing. Shuga seems a little tentative, a little too content to do just enough to get by. I’m very much enjoying the performance, but Silky is sitting behind her truly dominating the scene. In a talking head, Shuga even acknowledges this much. Girl, you gotta stop being a fan. You’re in the same competition as her.
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo as Danielle Bregoli, a.k.a. the “Cash Me Outside” Girl:
Vanjie is lucky that she is a impenetrably funny comedic presence no matter what she does, because this was a bad Snatch selection made worse by the fact that she backs out of a vocal character choice almost immediately. Illusion? Broken, bitch. The “Cash Me Outside” Girl is famous only for saying “cash me outside,” and once that is used up, where do you go? Turns out Vanjie just opts to go all Vanjie for the rest of the game, and it sort of works. But it ain’t the assignment, and she will certainly hear about it at judging.
A’Keria C. Davenport as Tiffany Haddish:
Is it a rock solid Tiffany Haddish? No. She ain’t necessarily ready for SNL. But she’s having fun! She makes a fun choice to call a Groupon a Ru-pon so that she can reference Haddish’s famous Groupon connection on this show, which does not count Groupon as a sponsor. Overall, she makes Ru laugh without impressing her with specificity. She’ll be fine.
Brooke Lynn Hytes as Céline Dion:
A full woof. Perhaps one of the worst Snatch Game performances in history, and it seems entirely self-inflicted. Brooke Lynn says all episode long that she’s not a funny queen, but that’s obviously her inner saboteur talking. She was very funny reacting to the drama in last week’s Untucked, and while this is obviously extremely different, I find it hard to believe that Brooke Lynn couldn’t succeed here at all. Nonetheless, her Céline Dion is very bad. She commits only 25 percent to the voice, she doesn’t know enough about her home nation’s No. 1 diva export to riff with Ru, and she looks like a deer in the headlights throughout. It’s obviously one of the two weakest performances, along with fellow front-runner Yvie.
So, overall, this is actually a better Snatch Game than most! They’re usually truly godawful, and this one was not! We pull up the anchor and bring the girls back to shore to get ready for the runway, which will be themed to Sequins! Sequins on the runway!
Before we get there, one conflict is resolved while another simply sits and simmers. Vanjie approaches Yvie (or rather, has Yvie approach her) and apologizes for acting so buck wild in Untucked, as well as at the top of this episode. Yvie apologizes right back. Sisters, they decide to put everything behind them and move forward in the competition. Yvie’s conflict with Silky, however? Is not resolving anytime soon. Yvie tries to compliment Silky on her Snatch Game and show remorse for her “talentless” comment, but Silky says all she needs to say: “No thanks” to this apology. It’s clear these two are not going to be friends, and I for one think Silky is entitled to feel the way she feels. Attacking someone’s talent is a big no-no, and Yvie is going to have to eat this one for a bit.
On the runway, RuPaul looks like a gorgeous, sexy grown-up Pebbles Flintstone. And the ladies? Are ready to slay ’em in their sequins. This ends up being one of the better runways we’ve seen across the board. A’Keria starts very strong in a zebra-inspired black-and-white dress that is absolutely stunning. Her makeup is maybe the most stunning in the competition, her hair is classically Texas-big, and the tail that’s added to the ensemble makes the whole thing even draggier. Vanjie is objectively looking gorgeous, and objectively wearing a swimsuit with a cape attached. She will be shot at dawn by Michelle Visage. Nina West serves campy patriotic eleganza and digs further into her brand as a big old funny queen. I really like it, but am wondering what would happen if Nina decides to bring sex to the runway. She doesn’t need to! But I am wondering what that would look like. Shuga Cain pushes herself to the top of the pack this week in a dress that Ru can barely even make jokes about as it walks the runway. “I love this dress,” she coos as Shuga slowly makes her way to the back of the runway. It really is gorgeous, Shuga looks terrific in it, and she reports that it weighs almost 50 pounds. This is a big week for her.
Okay. So. Then. Brooke Lynn Hytes gets on the runway. At first, I’m pleased to see a disco-inspired look with a sequined cape and an Afro. It’s not a revolutio—oh, bitch. I forgot everything that’s ever happened in my life when Brooke Lynn lyfts the cape over her head, the ’fro coming with it, and reveals that she is actually the hottest woman in the world. Ru will later invoke the name Nomi Malone to describe what she looks like, and that is apt. It’s like if Pamela Anderson at her peak were a foot taller and more of a star. Brooke Lynn absolutely destroys the runway, flipping her hair expertly, and even plunging into drops and stunts as she walks, absolutely gagging Ru and the judges. She has turned her narrative on this episode all the way around. She will not be remembered for her disastrous Céline. She’ll be remembered for this. Iconique!
Then comes Yvie. The pantsuit is colorful and cute. I like her wig. The cutouts in the back that show her ass, sure. I’m still fully blacked out from what Brooke Lynn has done. It came out of nowhere. Truly the definition of shock and awe. Saying Yvie’s runway presentation seems lackluster in comparison is less a read on her than it is objective truth, because you don’t have to rewind it several times out of obligation like you do with Brooke Lynn’s. That was Drag Race herstory. Silky also looks absolutely gorgeous in a turquoise gown that recalls Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin, and she soaks up every second she’s onstage, like she do. Plastique opts for an “I’ve Emerged From the Water” look that I feel like we saw Trinity already do on All Stars, so I’m a little bored, though she looks pretty.
She and A’Keria are told they are safe, and the judges turn to their top and bottom critiques. Michelle barely lets anyone say a word to Vanjie, laying into her about her runway. “At this point, I don’t know what else to do,” says Michelle. Ross tries to argue that there is a brand happening here, and Michelle calls instant bullshit. In all fairness, she’s right. Vanjie should be bringing more to the runway. Nina West is commended on the choice to do two different characters, and told that she succeeded in that she made Ru laugh. Shuga Cain is told by Ru that she is wearing one of her favorite dresses to ever walk the runway, and the judges compliment her Charo, even though Michelle feels it could have been pushed further. The judges can’t help themselves with Brooke Lynn and her runway. The first thing they do is praise her up and down and all around for that. They agree that it will go down in history as one of the best runway presentations of all time. But! That Céline Dion still happened. It’s a very negative critique, and she still may land in the bottom.
Overall, it isn’t as bad a critique as Yvie’s. The judges start listing the things she could have done as Whoopi, highlighting all the good choices she failed to make. They like her runway look, but Michelle notes that there are two different stories from the neck up and the neck down, and she isn’t wrong. Silky receives enthusiastic feedback about both her T.S. Madison and her runway, and it’s clear she is the front-runner to win this week.
And she does! Silky leaves this week with the prestigious title of Snatch Game winner. You can tell Shuga is a little disappointed, perhaps thinking that her runway look could have pushed her to victory. Vanjie narrowly misses lip-syncing, and the bottom two are Brooke Lynn and Yvie, the two front-runners of the season. Oh, it’s on. And if you thought Brooke Lynn’s runway was the highlight of this episode? Bitch, think again.
Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry” provides an opportunity for these girls to go all the fuck out. This is one of the most acrobatic, funny, concise lip-syncs of all time, and will join Brooke Lynn’s runway as an iconic moment of the series. But this is not all about Brooke Lynn. Yvie performs a large portion of this lip-sync while straight-up doing a headstand, and if you thought you know the extent of her body-bending abilities, you didn’t. RuPaul even exclaims “What?!” while watching her at one point. The woman could eat her own ass. It’s insane. Brooke Lynn sees Yvie putting her face in her own butt and raises her a Death Becomes Her moment, resting on the side of her face while she slowly brings her legs together above her head?? And the lip-sync is perfect the whole time?! There are flips, tricks, turns, drops. It’s a roller coaster of fierceness.
And you bet your ass they both fucking stay. Sending one of them home would have been a tragedy. A tragedy! This is the best episode of the season, and maybe one of the better ones of the series. I have been saying that this season reminds me of season nine, in that it could really start popping once the filler queens leave, and we are at that point. The girls are starting to show up, pop off, and it’s going down. This season, like Brooke Lynn Hytes and Yvie Oddly, is suddenly flying in all directions.