RuPaul’s Drag Race
Wow! It’s hard to believe we’re only six episodes into the season, and we’ve already crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar: Gigi Goode. Congratulations, Gigi! Readers, it’s been an honor recapping this season for you. Next up, All Stars!
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly! In the last four episodes, Sherry and Gigi have won every challenge, and, in their respective premiere episodes, both queens were in the top two. So at this point in the season, it’s pretty clear that we have a two-horse race. And since one of those “horses” is a serial catfisher disqualified for posing as a “horse” casting director, that means we have ourselves a one-horse race. That’s right, Gigi is this season’s SecRutariat! (I am so sorry.) While that’s lovely news for Gigi Goode, it does not make for compelling television. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gigi Goode. It’s hard not to! She rises to every challenge, slays every runway, and this week was no exception. But I also love Jaida, Crystal, and Heidi, and I would be much more excited to watch the rest of this season if I didn’t feel like we were performatively going through motions and ignoring the fact that we have an unbeatable front-runner.
In the great tradition of, um, RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s time to play the Snatch Game! I cannot put into words exactly what makes a successful Snatch Game, but apparently neither can RuPaul. Ru relies on the word “volley” to explain how to nail this iconic challenge; it’s his Word of the Day. Allow me to use it in a sentence: “I hope my favorite queens can successfully volley Ru’s jokes back and forth, even though he spends the first half of the episode giving them insane, unactionable advice.” As he is wont to do, Ru leaves a trail of chaos and tears in his wake as he sashays around the room chatting up the girls with his partner in anarchy, Miss Vanjie.
First up is Heidi, who plans on doing Leslie Jones. It seems like a slam dunk. Heidi is riffing with Ru and Vanjie, and she’s even fashioned an exact re-creation of Leslie’s runway ensemble from two weeks ago. However, somehow Ru interprets Heidi’s conversational ease as evidence that she should … switch her character entirely. To whom, you might ask? Why Phaedra Parks, of course! A celebrity Heidi has never heard of from a show that she has never watched. Heidi wisely chooses not to take this advice and delivers a solid Leslie Jones. Her best moment is her callback to Widow’s infamous ugly shoe, which she managed to smuggle in from the Werkroom.
Crystal, on the other hand, could certainly use a guiding hand. She’s doing Poppy, a pop star/cult leader/YouTube sensation who’s Ava Max-meets-Jim Jones. The concept seems solid, but Crystal is unable to express exactly what she will do to make Poppy pop. Ru’s suggestion? Do El Debarge! A musician Crystal hadn’t heard of until Ru pointed out they have the same haircut. Crystal leaves this tête-à-tête no better off but does receive a coveted and rare hug from RuPaul (that’ll be $5,000). In the Snatch Game, she misses the mark, predictably unable to land her jokes or “volley” the improv Ru is lobbing her way.
Finally, Miss Gigi portrays “Maria the Robot,” a rights-friendly version of the famous robot citizen/publicity stunt Sophia the Robot. Gigi’s concept is too niche, extremely bizarre, and sounds way too high-concept for the format. I’m immediately onboard. Not to mention that if the last five episodes have taught me anything, it’s that I trust Gigi’s taste implicitly. RuPaul, however, does not. “A robot doesn’t really volley,” Ru explains. “It’s a lot of rapid-fire stuff.” Gigi pauses and smiles, looking effortlessly chic in her gender-fluid Steve Jobs Werkroom drag. “I understand your concern, but I do not have the same concern,” she says. Ru doesn’t buy it but encourages Gigi to try to make them laugh anyway. “I’m going to,” says Gigi, with a self-assured calmness that only comes when you’re that gorgeous, that talented, that 21 years old. And GOD does she make us laugh. Gigi nailed Snatch Game. She shines as a physical comedian, she’s quick on her feet, and she can “volley” with the best of them. She totally earns her win. Only Sherry Pie as a geriatric Katherine Hepburn comes close, but Gigi’s ability to play off every one of Ru’s robot commands pushes her into the lead.
On the other end of that spectrum, we have Aiden and Brita. Aiden decides to portray Patricia Quinn, most famous for playing Magenta in Rocky Horror Picture Show. The characterization is nonexistent, she can’t riff off any of Ru’s suggestions, and her go-to response is “I don’t know.” It’s low-energy, it’s uninspired, baby, it’s Aiden Zhane! Brita doesn’t fare any better. She decides to play Broadway legend and original Dreamgirl Jennifer Holiday to no success. Brita has decided to center her impersonation on a mouth sound. It’s not funny, and darling, there’s no way (no, no, no, no way) she’s not in the bottom two. I suppose the lip-sync is supposed to provide a sense of closure to the Brita/Aiden feud, but it doesn’t. The girls piling on Aiden is exhausting at this point. It feels like punching down, and, like many Drag Race feuds, has gone on about an episode too long. Brita has been coming across as a bully, so there’s no satisfaction to be had from her trouncing Aiden in a lip-sync.
The rest of the girls fall somewhere in the middle. Jaida is perfectly fine as Cardi B, and Jan lands her two jokes as Bernadette Peters. Jackie Cox is great as a QVC- and Harry Hamlin-loving Lisa Rinna but yet again trails in a distant third to both Gigi and Sherry. Widow Von’Du plays both Tina and Ike Turner, and her concept for Ike is centered on his infamous abuse of Tina. Widow even brings a prop cake, referencing a scene from the Oscar-nominated Tina Turner biopic that culminates in Ike physically assaulting her. It’s uncomfortable, especially when we cut to Jonathan Bennett (who I now hate, btw!) cracking up. The next day, Widow says she picked Tina because she too has been the victim of abusive relationships. It’s powerful to hear Widow discuss her past trauma, and it takes such courage to detail her experiences on TV. I can’t say it put me completely at ease, particularly since the scene Widow is referencing doesn’t seem to sit well with Tina, either, but I’m grateful that Widow was brave enough to give us the context behind her portrayal.
On the runway, the theme is “Frozen Eleganza (inspired by the Broadway musical.)” It’s cute! Ru says “inspired by the Broadway musical” the number of times contractually directed by Disney, and we’re served some standout looks from Jaida, Jan, and Gigi. Aiden is dressed down by Michelle, Brita calls herself the Queen of New York again, we are unfortunately subjected to Jonathan Bennet’s impersonation of Valerie Cherish (pass!), and RuPaul declares Gigi the winner. I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing that a lot.
Of course, it’s still possible for a mid-season shake-up. Jaida or Jackie (always the A’s to Gigi and Sherry’s A+’s) might close some of the distance between their strongest competitors, Heidi might translate her effortlessly likable personality into a couple of challenge wins, and Crystal could get out of her own head and step into her El DeBarge star quality. Gigi could even stumble, providing a chance for one of the other girls to take her place. But honestly … I doubt it! If this episode taught us anything, it’s that the girl is unspookable. In an episode full of RuPaul trying to produce queens into botching Snatch Game, Gigi doesn’t break pace. My money’s on her, and I’m placing bets across the board.
“It DO Take Nerve”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• “Again? We’re doing this again?” — Aiden Zhane
Okay, I will give it to Aiden on this one. I’m done with this Brita/Aiden feud now. We just finished this, honey! Let’s move on!
• “You are cute. You know, I’m known for walking into the Werkroom and walking out with a piece. I ain’t no sugar mama, BUT I could get you a lunchable or something …” — Miss Vanjie
Miss Vanjie has been back in the Werkroom for five minutes and is already hitting on Jackie, God bless her. Jackie looks like she wants to call HR.