RuPaul’s Drag Race
OH BOY. After four episodes of queens kindly uplifting each other, this week we have ourselves a good, old-fashioned bitch fight. After receiving barbs left and right all episode long, Aiden Zhane finally snaps, culminating in the best Untucked episode of the season. After a brief eulogy for the gone-too-soon Rock M. Sakura, the girls waste no time telling our resident Hot Topic brand ambassador who they think really should have been in the bottom. While I personally would never say anything mean about Aiden, the girls do not shy away from listing all the reasons she should not be here. She takes naps, she poorly embellishes corsets, and she makes more excuses than Charlie Hides lip-syncing a Britney song. Despite all Aiden’s shortcomings, however, the judges see star quality in her — a star quality that has yet to be revealed to the rest of the queens, or the Drag Race audience for that matter. Where the judges (and Heidi) “see a fire in her,” the rest of the girls, in the words of Poet Laureate Widow Von’Du, see “a candle.” Which type of combustion reaction best describes Aiden is still TBD, but she lives to see another day, thanks to this week’s acting challenge.
Aiden earns a brief respite from constant scrutiny as Ru tells the girls they will be starring in Gay’s Anatomy. Oh, the Drag Race acting challenges. I would like to use this opportunity and my public platform to make a plea to the Drag Race producers. Please let me punch up these scripts, I beg of you. Just to pick one example at random, I found myself wishing for any sort of story justification to explain why Dr. Sandra Okurrr had to have sex with her patient to treat her incurable Restless Ass Syndrome. I don’t even need money! I will happily accept payment in the form of Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pencils and RuPaul Iron Fist shoes. That said, Gay’s Anatomy is by no means bad (like, for example, Breastworld or Sex and the Kitty Girl 3) and cements itself as one of the better installments into the Drag Race adapted-screenplay canon.
Nicky Doll and Gigi Goode are put in charge of casting (Allison Mossey was not available). While the process is done mostly without incident, it does provide us with another five minutes of dunking on Aiden Zhane. “Aiden doesn’t really strike me as someone who’s going to stand out,” Gigi foretells. We cut to Aiden in the middle of a long yawn. Maybe she’s about to nap again. They ultimately assign Aiden the role of Henny, explaining, “When we were deciding, we were like … she could do good as a ghost!” *Shade rattle reverberates*
Acting challenges are all about the performances, so let’s get to them. While the judges give us a top six on the runway, it’s clearly a three-way Best Actress race between Jackie Cox, Widow Von’Du, and Sherry Pie. Jackie Cox is nuanced and subtle in the titular role of Meredith Gay. She has by far the most lines of the group, which include narrating the entire episode. Jackie’s a smart one: She understands how to deliver every joke, and her delivery even sells some of the less funny non-sequiturs. An actress! We simply had to stan(islavski). At the beginning of Untucked, Jackie expresses her frustrations with her Pandora Boxxx-esque run thus far, and I understand why! This makes two acting challenges in a row she’s lost to Sherry, which can’t be fun for a polished perfectionist like Jackie.
Widow is also a standout. She’s initially frustrated with her assigned role, but the part seems tailor-made for her. She’s funny, gives excellent ad-libs, and serves some of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments of the sketch. Widow’s role is significantly less featured than Jackie’s or Sherry’s, but between her scene-stealing performance and her supercute watermelon cape runway, I think she could have taken the win this week.
Of course, the infamous Sherry Pie continues her streak of strong performances and serves a very smart, polished Elvis look on the runway. At this point, Sherry’s Top 4 trajectory seems unstoppable. This week she notches her second main challenge win and shows no sign of weakness or diminishing momentum. Her victory casts an unfortunate shadow over an otherwise fun episode.
Now let’s talk bottoms. No, not Ross and Carson; I’m of course referring to Nicky, Heidi, and Brita. The writing was on the wall for Nicky this week, and her lackluster performance rightfully locked her into the bottom two. While Nicky clearly understands the critiques she’s received, she is consistently unable to let her hair down and show the judges the goofiness they crave, and so this week Nicky Doll sashays away. We’ll always have Paris. Here’s looking at you, queen!
Though she survives the lip-sync, Heidi still got a little “forked” over this week. Heidi is excellent in the acting challenge. Her physical comedy is on point, and her chemistry with Crystal makes their scene one of the best of the group. However, Michelle insists that she knows Heidi “could’ve given more.” Uta Hagen has spoken! Granted, Heidi’s rainbow cape runway is definitely a little mismatched, but it feels disingenuous to critique her on a very solid acting performance, especially since they lavish praise on Crystal for the very same scene. A knife (or fork) in the back, indeed!
Finally, my dear Brita. Can you remind me where Brita is from again? I think it was Albuquerque? Toronto? I had to look it up, but apparently Brita is from New York. In New York, Brita Filter is a former Entertainer of the Year. In New York, Brita Filter lights up a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar with her charm and effervescence alone. But unfortunately, 3,000 miles away in this Los Angeles warehouse studio, Brita is just Brita, and the judges aren’t buying what she’s filtering. Carson wants more, and Michelle says her cape runway isn’t quite on-theme enough. I feel for Brita, and anyone who’s seen her live can attest to the star quality she exudes on stage. But even I have to admit that the Brita I’m watching on TV is not quite as lovable and is acting more than a little cocky. She’s spared from the bottom two this week, but that doesn’t stop her from storming into Untucked guns blazing and directing all her ire toward (who else?) Aiden Zhane.
As ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote in his seminal work Analytica Priora, “if you’re not watching Untucked, you’re only getting HALF the story.” And never has that been more true than this week. Untucked starts off slow, but when the critiqued girls make their way backstage, shit hits the fan. “Brita, you look twisted right now,” says Sherry (from out of frame). And indeed she is. In what comes as no surprise, Brita reveals who she really thinks deserves to be in the bottom: Aiden. Nicky and Jaida are quick to agree, but before they can really go in, Aiden interrupts. “From day one of this competition, I have had everyone in this goddamn place coming for me.” And she’s right! What follows is one of the best Untucked fights in a while. Everyone loses their shit: Jaida, Brita, and Nicky because Aiden has been getting a pass from the judges (I can’t blame ’em), Aiden because of the constant needling from her supposed sisters (I can’t blame her), and Heidi because she has a goddamn lip-sync to learn and she can’t hear the Kim Petras on her iPod over everyone screaming about Aiden. (I can’t blame her either!)
In one way or another, everyone is right, and everyone’s outbursts are coming from a real, raw emotional place, which is what makes this explosion so compelling. I do feel bad for Aiden (who, again, I’ve never said a mean word about) but I also fully understand the girls’ frustrations with her. I can’t see her lasting much longer, but … I said that last week. So what do I know? Maybe Aiden will nap herself all the way to the crown. This is Drag Race, baby! Anything can happen.
“It DO Take Nerve”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• Aiden: “Who gives a shit?”
Nicky: “Us! Because our fucking asses are about to be kicked out! Are you serious?”
Nicky went out in a BLAZE this episode. Looking forward to seeing her at the reunion.
• “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. I’mma worry about Heidi” — Heidi N. Closet
Even when she’s mad as hell, you can’t not love Heidi. Tell ’em, queen!
• “It may not be RuPaul’s Best Friend Race, but it has to be RuPaul’s Colleague and Co-worker Race.” — Jackie Cox
RuPaul’s Colleague and Coworker Race: premiering this Fall, coming to a Slack channel near you.
• “Motherfucking Sherry Pie.” — Widow Von’Du