RuPaul’s Drag Race
There comes a time in every season where these sleep-deprived, internetless, self-isolated drag queens finally snap. And honey? That time is now. Widow is out for blood, Heidi and Gigi are feuding, and Jan just lived through the first chapter of her supervillain origin story. As famed Oracle Lashauwn Beyond once screamed at a baked potato-reminiscent Jiggly Caliente: “I’m not here to make best buddies, bitch. This is not RuPaul’s Best Friends Race.” Over the years, this quote has gone from legendary read to Drag Race lore to prophecy. That prophecy is fulfilled this week, as we immediately find out that the tension from last week’s Untucked has only festered and intensified. As the queens come back into the Werkroom this week, they begin to eulogize their apparent “best friend” Aiden.
“You may not know me now… but you sure will later,” Brita reads aloud. Aiden’s lipstick message reads less ‘friendly goodbye’ and more ‘vow of revenge’, but the girls ignore that. “I love Aiden!” announces Brita. Umm, you do? News to me! But indeed, the girls chime in behind her in overenthusiastic agreement as Brita scrubs away Aiden’s lipstick message so fiercely you’d think it was corona-contaminated. Widow and Heidi, who have had just about enough of this gaslighting and faux sisterhood, decide to air their grievances. Both queens are pissed off at the harsh, unsolicited criticism offered to them in Untucked last week. Gigi told Heidi she needed to work on her makeup, and Jackie (and Sherry apparently?) told Widow that she should have prepared a better Snatch Game. The accused parties attempt to apologize, but given the display of over-saccharine fakery displayed just moments ago, Widow and Heidi have a hard time believing them. Heidi says she’s lost her respect for Gigi, and Widow says she hopes the other girls “fall just as hard” this episode.
While many top-of-episode fights are forgotten over the course of an episode, no tension dissipates as the girls compete in this week’s challenge, the Rusical. Speaking of which, I don’t know whether it’s the rivalry established in the Werkroom or the sheer talent of this season’s queens, but Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical is the best musical challenge in Drag Race herstory. That’s right, no qualifiers. AOC told no lies! Combine that with a thoroughly enjoyable runway and we have ourselves one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. Night of 1,000 Michelle Visages (Michelles Visage?) is Drag Race at its best: campy, joyful, and self-referential. The runways and performances are excellent across the board, and, much like a Sean Cody scene, it’s hard to tell who will be in the top or bottom at first glance. Given that conflict colored so much of the first act of this ep, let’s go by feud:
First up, Widow vs. Jackie. Widow is heralded as a frontrunner at the top of the episode (by herself), so expectations are high. At their core, Rusicals are dance challenges, and as we saw in the season premiere, Widow is a dancer. While we’re shown her stumbling in the choreo rehearsal (much to Jackie’s delight), Widow delivers onstage as “Fempire Madonna.” She bucks, she twirls, she handsprings… Madame X is a stunt queen. I could have seen her in the top this week were it not for an underwhelming runway performance. Jackie fares less well (much to Widow’s delight). Despite horny girls and gays alike unanimously declaring her the heartthrob of the season, Jackie’s “Boy Toy Madonna” is stiff, and not in the good way. The performance is certainly not bad, but it’s not enough, and so Jackie finds herself in the bottom three for the first time. Widow rejoices.
Next up, Heidi vs. Gigi. Our beloved Heidi N. Closet has been having a rough go of it lately. She had a strong performance in the improv challenge, but ever since, she’s been either safe or bottom two. A dance challenge seems tailor made for the flexible internet darling, but at the end of the day it’s a Madonna challenge, and a ’90s B-girl doing headstands doesn’t exactly scream present-day Madge. Therefore, Heidi finds herself lip syncing yet again, this time against Brita. The writing has been on the wall for Brita for weeks now, so it feels like a mercy when Heidi wins the lip sync. Brita unceremoniously completes her disappointing run on the show, and so she is sent home (to New York, if you forgot).
Let’s talk about the winner of season 12, Gigi Goode. Did anyone actually think Gigi was going to stumble this week? We’re thrown some misleading confessionals to that effect (ironically, from Brita and Heidi): “Am I seeing a weak spot in Gigi?” asks Brita gleefully. “Miss Gigi, it’s okay,” says Heidi. “I’m going to give you a break from being in the top.” But, much like a Boomer Banks scene, Gigi doesn’t want a break from the top. What else is there to say about Gigi at this point? She’s as polished as ever, she oozes star quality, and now she’s doing backflips while being held horizontal in midair. Just crown her already. While everyone is strong, as usual, Gigi is on another level. In fact her only real competition this week is Jan.
Have you ever watched a drag queen be psychologically broken and then radicalized in real time? (Of course, you have, you watch Drag Race.) You can almost hear the Kill Bill siren reverberating in Jan’s skull when Ru calls her safe. I understand why: Jan could not have been better positioned to win this challenge. Jan is a musical theater Death Star, and she had her planet-destroying sights set on Madonna: The Rusical. With a high belt that could shatter glass and a pas de bourrée mastered in the hellfires of 8am jazz dance classes, Jan’s BFA was fully weaponized and set to kill. She even hosts Rusical viewing parties for Chrissake! Combine that with a fun, campy Glamazonian Airways runway look, and one would think that this challenge was all but obliterated. Jan is technically flawless, and the judges have not one critique. But RuPaul simply cannot resist Gigi Goode, who fires her proton torpedo right into Jan’s exhaust port, and notches yet another win. What will the fallout be next week? How will Jan react to this stupefying loss? I pray for us all.
This episode represents a turning point in the season. With Aiden and Brita gone, fresh new conflicts are arising to fill the void they leave. Crystal, who had a slow start to the season, is now on an uptick. The Methmentum is real! Jan and Heidi, once strong contenders for Top Four, now seem defeated, beaten down by blow after blow to their spirits. To top it all off, Gigi now has three wins, making her victory seem that much more assured. While I enjoyed this episode, this season desperately needs one or two more serious contenders to make the rest of it watchable. (Crystal, Jaida, I’m looking at you!) But anything could happen next week, from Gigi winning to Sherry winning, so we’ll have to tune in to find out. Until then!
“It DO Take Nerve”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• “People think congress and government is all about leading people, but ultimately … it’s about following the public will. And the people who change what people think are artists and drag queens… It starts with you. You’re patriots.” - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
I’m going to be earnest for a second, sorry! This made me cry like a big dumb gay baby. AOC’s ability to connect with the queens so authentically is heartwarming, and the sentiment she expresses here is so true and so eloquently put. It’s deeply moving to me. Now I’m crying again!
• Jackie: “You’re the only one who can make [early Madonna] sound good!”
Jan: “Thank you— I mean no.”
Jan was aggressively complimented into accepting a role she didn’t want. Very me.
•Producer: “Who’s Patti LuPone?”
Gigi: “Um. I know the name? Sorry.”
Gigi is dead to me.