Like every gay man who at one point has lived in New York City, RuPaul long ago tried his hand at improv and to this day maintains an unwavering belief that he’s very good at it. So it should come as no surprise that this week’s Drag Race tries yet another iteration of an improvisational-comedy challenge. And like every friend or acquaintance of a gay man who at one point has lived in New York City can tell you, a good improv scene has several key factors: It should be short and to the point; it should have a straightforward game; and it should feature strong performers who understand how to shape the comedic premise. And while this cast indeed boasts many strong performers, they’re handicapped by drawn-out scenes and overly intricate setups that make for a tough sell. However, the episode is far from unsalvageable, and key players make for some memorable moments during this week’s courtroom dramedy, “Fairytale Justice.”
First out the gate is Team Jaida, who picks Monét, Jinkx, and Yvie as her castmates. If you feel a little bit of Snatch Game déjà vu, it might be because Jinkx once again dominates this challenge from the second she enters the courtroom and triple-closes the door. In this first scene, “Spare Rib” (Jinkx), a swinish Instagram influencer, sues the beastly — and I guess “sexy”? — Big Bad Wolf (Yvie) for blowing her house down. Though she’s unable to earn a star, Jinkx pulls no comedic punches this week. While much of the challenge feels scripted, Jinkx is clearly the most alive in the scene, reacting to her environment and scene partners with alacrity, often making me laugh out loud. In the middle of her testimony, when the rabbit-faced pit-crew bailiff drops the court’s Bible (understandably, as he seems to be covered in an entire Walgreens aisle’s worth of baby oil), Jinkx immediately quips, “Yeah, it’s drop-the-book shocking.” She continues to carry a rather enjoyable back-and-forth when Jaida enters as “Twiggy,” who, despite sporting a pig’s snout, somehow manages to look like the most gorgeous woman who has ever lived.
But lest you underestimate Jaida as just a pretty face, she quickly proves her comedy chops. Her interjections aren’t as numerous as Jinkx’s, but Jaida is no improv slouch, proving her prowess in the political-debate challenge back in season 12 was no fluke. Rounding out the scene in Act Five, Monét appears as Wolfie’s luckless girlfriend. As with Jinkx, I’m laughing from the second she enters, slamming a briefcase full of blank pages onto the witness stand. While she doesn’t shine quite as bright as Jaida or Jinkx, she holds her own, bringing an energetically necessary pick-me-up to the right side of the courtroom. While Yvie is once again praised for her “sexiness” in a challenge about being funny, conspicuously absent are any compliments about her improvisational skills or comedy chops. To her credit, her Big Bad Wolf admirably keeps the scene’s pace and certainly doesn’t drop the ball or stutter the pacing. After Michelle awards the plaintiffs no damages, the pigs are given one last exit interview with RuPaul, giving Jinkx a last chance to shine. After a wardrobe malfunction (her pig ear falls off), Ru begins to ask Jinkx a question when she goes, “Sorry, you’re gonna have to speak up.” A perfect cap to another dominant challenge performance.
For her team, Trinity selects The Vivienne, Shea, and (by default) Raja. In this much more convoluted court case, Halle Beary (Shea) sues Goldilocks/Little Red/Gretl/??? (The Vivienne) for breaking and entering into her home, sleeping in her bed, and eating her porridge. Sure. While undoubtedly the weaker team overall, Trinity and The Vivienne make for notable standouts. Shea is perfectly fine as Mama Bear, who’s taken aback by the crass, flat-assed Goldilocks and appropriately aghast at accusations that she shops at low-end furniture stores. Much like Jaida, she also took this as an opportunity to look absolutely stunning for no particular reason other than, well … she can!
Raja is a little less refined as Grandma Hood, who comes off rather one-note (the one note being “old lady voice”). It’s not all her fault, however, as Raja finds herself in the unenviable position of being responsible for all the exposition dumping of her team. After all, there’s not much room to crack wise when you’re word-vomiting all the necessary plot details the audience needs to even grasp the basics of your improv scene. But among these three, it’s The Vivienne who really shines. While her central character motivations remain hazy as ever, watching her cycle through a half-dozen specific regional accents at a rapid-fire pace is both funny and a technically impressive feat. One moment she’s from Scotland, the next she’s from Hamburg, and by the end she’s an unapologetic brat from Glendale.
However, in my eyes, the star of this team is Trinity. I’ve said it before, and I have a feeling I’ll be saying it again: Among all the queens this season, Trinity is so obviously having the most fun. And it’s fun to watch! As the witch Theresa, she comes in and quickly bonds with Michelle over their identical dresses and wigs. The accent is bizarre, and when Michelle points out, “You sound like Cher!”, Trinity immediately leans in. But the moment of the episode for me? When describing the state of her gingerbread abode, Trinity cries, “I’m frantic!” and proceeds to do a quick box step about the stand. A truly inspired comedic choice.
On the runway, it’s another great night for our winners. Raja, The Vivienne, and Jaida, in particular, look fantastic, and Yvie defies gravity and human anatomy in her alienlike spiked ensemble. The judges have high praise for all the girls but seem most impressed with Jinkx’s continued acting-challenge supremacy and The Vivienne’s chameleon-like mastery of accents and characters. But with Jinkx blocked this week, that leaves The Vivienne as the sole recipient of the legendary legends star. They duke it out to “Love Will Save the Day,” by Whitney Houston, a distinctly non-Jinkxian song. The Vivienne, however, knows every word. Her fringe is fringing in all the right places; she hits all the right beats and emerges with an indisputable victory. That leaves one final decision: Who to block? Though there’s some performative deliberation, the outcome is obvious, and Monét begrudgingly accepts this week’s plunger. It’s about time! Monét has been very conspicuously concocting schemes and machinations for three weeks now, and as Jaida points out at the top of the episode, she’s yet to be punished for it. She’s a good choice to block, and perhaps this will encourage her to play her cards a little closer to the vest going forward.
Next week, the queens will be writing commencement addresses in what appears to be a twist on the standard stand-up comedy challenge. I’m eager to see what twists Ru has in store and even more eager to see Trinity try to look slutty in a cap and gown.