RuPaul’s Drag Race
Well, readers, we’re entering the endgame. (Okayyy, that’s a great name for a movie. Someone write that down …) It’s the top six, for real this time, which means we are only moments away from some sort of iconically messy Zoom finale episode. As I’ve said many times before (and as Ru even voices this week), this is an incredibly strong top six. That’s why it’s a little surprising and a little disappointing that this week’s one-queen shows are kind of messy.
First, let’s talk about the mini challenge, which serves to foreshadow this episode as a whole (in that it’s just okay). The mini challenge this week is puppets. Why? Because everybody loves airing very specific grievances about their competitors under the guise of comedy! Crystal gets the Jaida puppet and uses the opportunity to declare that Jaida is an earring repeater, Lizzie McGuire! Jaida has Gigi, and we learn that Jaida is incapable of even a baseline vocal impression. Therefore, the Gigi puppet speaks like Jaida speaks: in Arial Bold with the caps lock on. Heidi has a similar problem impersonating Crystal. Heidi’s soprano southern drawl is so distinctive that it makes it impossible for her to mimic anyone else’s voice. Gigi has Jackie. Remember when Gigi said her specialty was “everything”? Anyway! Jackie wins again impersonating Sherry Pie. We can only assume the impression is accurate, but Sherry has been all but edited out of this season, so we have no way of knowing. How fun for all involved!
After the puppet show, Ru reveals that, for the maxi challenge, the queens will be mounting five-minute one-man shows (which, incidentally, should be the maximum length of all one-man shows). Three-time mini challenge winner Jackie Cox is in charge of picking the order. And as everyone knows, in comedy challenges (unlike in human centipedes), it’s best to be in the middle. No one wants to go last, but after minutes of pained silence, Jaida eventually admits, “I guess it doesn’t matter.” Jackie interprets this resigned sigh as a binding verbal contract, and so Jaida is immediately and unceremoniously conscripted into closing the show. But before the opening night of the RuPaul Fringe Festival, the queens have the honor and privilege of being directed by icon and EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg (yes Daytime Emmys count!). And as Meghan McCain and Elisabeth Hasselbeck can attest, Whoopi is not afraid to tear a girl to shreds.
Jackie is first up with her concept “Drag Race 101 with Professor Jackie,” because why laugh when you can study? Whoopi and Ru ultimately dissuade her from this, and encourage Jackie to bring a level of vulnerability to her performance. This ends up being a spot-on note that results in Jackie having one of the most successful shows of the night. Jackie’s show is adorable, and she shines when she dons a pair of chunky glasses and begins impersonating her dry, strict Iranian mother. On the runway, Jackie serves Purple People Eater couture, and cements her place in the top five. And yes, I’m aware I said Jackie wouldn’t make it this far. I’ve actually never been wrong before; is this how you people feel all the time? It’s awful.
But it’s Crystal Methyd who really brings down the house tonight. Crystal’s concept for her show is future Joe Exotic husband/genderqueer stripper Phenomenal Phil. The idea is insane, but if you haven’t learned to trust Crystal’s judgment implicitly at this point, then we don’t have anything in common. Most of her performance consists of stripping while walking the audience through tutorials of various “sexy” dances, but the beautiful cherry on top is the end when, as she’s leaving, she says, “I’m doing a Bar Mitzvah later.” Crystal has been on the rise for weeks, and tonight she finally clinches a well-earned challenge win. Tonight, we dance to the beat of the rhythm of the night. (An expression I just made up.)
Unfortunately, after Crystal’s performance, the night begins to go downhill. Let’s start with Gigi. I have a lot of appreciation for Gigi’s performance as a stewardess on the flight to Hell. Her concept is excellent, and she even manages to make some airplane jokes feel fresh. (Unlike airplane food! Am I right? Haha, please let me know if you would like to see a writing sample!) However, Gigi’s confidence has been quite shaken the last few weeks, and her anxiety throughout her set is palpable. Her fumbling in the rehearsal didn’t help matters, either. RuPaul and Whoopi really made that poor twink cry! (Not the first or last time I will type that sentence). Ultimately though, Gigi Goode is definitely the best of a “Bade” bunch, and she’s rightfully declared safe.
Next, let’s talk about Sherry Pie, and, unlike Sherry, I’ll keep this brief. Sherry’s concept for her one-woman show is a medium who is possessed by a psychic goldfish named Madame Bubbles. If at any point during my description you thought, that bit could not possibly last 18 minutes, you would be wrong. Let’s move on, shall we?
Friends, it’s time. Tonight we say good-bye to Heidi. Our little Ramseur wood nymph has valiantly slayed three lip syncs, but tonight she did so for the last time. For her one-woman show, Heidi plans to channel her inner character actress and play four different members of her family at a typical N. Closet family barbeque. However, Heidi is no Eddie Murphy, and when she gets onstage, she quickly finds her characters falling flat. The lack of laughter is deafening, and the silence creates an eerie tension that permeates the room. It’s less Coming to America and more Madea Goes to Twin Peaks. While I’m sad to see Heidi go, her charm and personality have captivated the Drag Race fan base this season, and I have to imagine she’s a lock for Miss Congeniality. Personally speaking, I’m in love with Heidi, and I’ll follow her career wherever that may take her (provided she doesn’t pivot to character-driven Off Broadway plays.)
Lastly is our reluctant show closer, Jaida Essence Hall. Jaida decides to go the route of storytelling for her one-woman show. It’s a complete miss, and, as someone who’s listened to almost one whole episode of The Moth podcast, I’m prepared to explain why: The main problem with Jaida’s story is that the audience has no idea where the story is going for the first two-thirds of it. This makes it impossible for Jaida to build up any tension or excitement for the ultimate punch line (which is good, by the way!) and so the audience is left wanting. I found myself wishing that Jaida had just spent her time making off-the-cuff comments about the rest of the queens’ sets. “Baby, the ship is … it’s not sinking, but there’s a few holes in it,” Jaida quips after Heidi’s set. Anyone can see that Jaida is one funny bitch, but tonight was definitely not her night, and so she lands in the bottom with Heidi. Luckily for us, one bad performance can’t keep a good queen down, and Jaida slays the lip sync. She puts the P in Prince as she and Heidi boogie to “1999.” I knew Jaida had it in the bag the second she whipped off her fascinator to reveal an early-’90s-era Prince wig. Jaida is a wonderful performer, and, despite this slip-up, I think there’s a strong case to be made for crowning her the winner of this season.
And then there were five. And with Sherry disqualified, that means we have our top four, I guess? Yay? While that certainly drains some dramatic tension out of next week’s episode, I’m still eager to see if Jaida or Gigi can thrive, seize the moment, and make a final case for why she deserves to be crowned America’s Next Drag Superstar. Hall Monitors, Goody Two-Shoes: Take your battle positions. See you next week!
“It DO Take Nerve!”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• “If I have to whoop these girls one more time, that’s what I’m gonna do. Love you though.” —Jaida Essence Hall
If Jaida whooped my ass, I would simply say “thank you.”
• “It makes you selfish. And you’re taking time away from the other girls.” —Michelle Visage
GET HER, MICHELLE! Sherry infuriated me this episode, and I was thrilled to see Michelle call it out on the runway. I’m equally happy she didn’t back down when Ross Matthews called her “harsh.” The nerve!
• “Rose Nylund? From Golden Girls?”
“I’m thinking that’s some bitch from New York City they know, I don’t know who that is. My bad!” —Jaida Essence Hall
Rose Nylund is at Pieces.