We are in the midst of a Drag Race cold war. Gone are the days of open conflict during which Alexis wheels around in her makeup chair to give Miz Cracker a direct dressing down, or when Derrick wheels around in her makeup chair to give India a direct dressing down (hmmm … I’m sensing a pattern). This episode, our girls are doing their best to display a veneer of niceness (in addition to their actual veneers). At the top of the episode, the queens are back in the Werkroom counting lipsticks. Lo and behold, Shea discovers that not one but two of her fellow All Stars attempted to vote her off the island, giving her the second-most votes after Mariah. Alexis and Mayhem quickly cop to the votes (opting not to pull a BeBe) and attempt to spin their votes for Shea as a by-product of their deep, meaningful friendships with Mariah. Why, they simply wouldn’t dream of sending their best friend home! And how dare you even ask! In confessional, Mayhem openly admits that her strategy “backfired,” but Alexis keeps her cards a little closer to the breastplate. To her credit, Shea doesn’t buy either queen’s explanation. “These girls have no idea the kind of games I can play,” she says. “So. Let’s have some fun.” GAG!
For this week’s main challenge, the girls are tasked with honoring one of this nation’s most venerated journalistic institutions, a true pillar of the Fourth Estate, TMZ. In true Drag Race fashion, the queens must improvise a scene as celebrities caught in various ~whacky~ scenarios by the drag network SheMZ. As a bonus, the ladies also get into boy drag to play butch SheMZ newsroom editors. It’s a really fun concept, and one of the strongest and most accessible premises for an improv challenge yet. Unlike last week, I found myself genuinely engaged during each scene. And as with actual TMZ, I can confidently state that I would moralize with friends about how SheMZ is exploitative and trashy, yet watch it behind their backs. Ru dispenses with any pretense and chooses the teams, seemingly for maximum drama purposes: Shea and Alexis; Blair, Jujubee, and Miz Cracker; and India and Mayhem.
First up is Team Shealexis. For their scene, Shea and Alexis play two queens fired from their Real Housewives franchise for being fake and trashy, respectively. There’s a lot of discussion about them being typecast, which I do not quite understand. I have never associated Shea with being “fake,” and I’ve always thought of Alexis as more high energy or boisterous than “trashy.” Am I dumb? Don’t answer that. At any rate, we’re treated to a true master class in passive-aggressive banter in the Werkroom as Shea and Alexis make their best attempts at being cordial (no drag queen’s go-to demeanor). The scene itself is set in a COVID-friendly restaurant where the Housewives are dining alfresco. SheMZ shows up, of course, which means this eatery is probably the drag equivalent of the Ivy (the Ivy Winters?). The scene goes off without a hitch, and both queens have moments to shine. The judges correctly point out that Alexis bulldozes Shea throughout, but it’s ultimately not at the expense of the scene, and I don’t know how they can really be mad when everything Alexis says is funny anyway. I think my favorite Alexis Moment™️ is when she at one point makes air quotes after she finishes her sentence. Either that, or when she screams her seminal catchphrase “BAM!” in her butchest boy reporter voice. Shea is perfectly in control of the scene, a significant feat when your partner is Alexis Mateo. She shines with minute facial expressions and absolutely keeps up as Alexis advances the scene at a rapid pace. After burning the runway (yet again), Shea is safe as well.
Next, let’s talk about Team Mindia (ugh, weak …). India plays a shoplifting celeb, and Mayhem plays a fame-hungry shop owner who catches her in the act. India wants to channel her own shoplifting past into another challenge win (she doesn’t), and Mayhem is determined to prove that she’s gotten better at improv since her season (she hasn’t). However, it would not be fair to these girls to claim they did “bad.” The scene is perfectly fine, but it goes off the rails when they stray from the initial premise. We learn that India is a … licker? And, subsequently, that Mayhem is a… licker as well. India introduces the bit by licking a donut (a very normal thing to taste), then within 90 seconds has progressed to licking broken glass on concrete. The Drew Carey of drag!!!
The judges don’t connect with either performance, and Team Mindia becomes our bottom two. Mayhem seems resigned to her fate, whatever that may be, but India certainly is not. While Mayhem is practically saying her good-byes, India whispers to the girls that she thought Mayhem dragged the whole scene down. I don’t think Mayhem wants to go home, but while India is running attack ads and making stump speeches, Mayhem hasn’t even set up a field office in Wisconsin (Too soon?). Mayhem is a bar legend in L.A., and it’s frustrating that she never got her star moment on Drag Race. However, it’s moving (not to mention deeply relevant) to watch her discuss her experience with her addiction and DUIs this episode, as well as recounting a horrifying experience of police abuse when she was arrested in drag. Throughout this season, Mayhem has spoken about addiction in a nuanced way that I don’t often see reflected on television. We’re lucky to have her, and I’m sure she’ll be the life of the party for years to come. Adieu, my queen!
Finally, let’s talk about the strongest of three teams: Saint Crackbee. (There better not be teams next week — I’m SICK OF THIS BIT I COMMITTED TO.) Saint Crackbee gets the strongest premise of the bunch, which is parodying the college-admissions scandal of this past summer. The scandal also has the distinction of being the last news cycle to bring me any joy. Remember when Lori Loughlin signed autographs outside the courthouse right before her arraignment? God, I love her … Miz Cracker plays the orchestrator of the scandal who is in love with Jujubee, the overbearing mother. Rounding out the cast, Blair plays Juju’s obnoxious, prissy daughter. Before they get to the scene, however, Cracker confronts Blair based on some intel she received from Alexis last week. Cracker straight up asks Blair if she’s been conspiring against her, and Blair vehemently denies it. I don’t think Cracker really believes that Blair is up to anything sinister, but as the old adage goes: Trust, but verify.
The scene goes off without a hitch. Cracker, smart cookie that she is, does what the other girls should have done: write jokes!! Yes, it’s an improv scene, but if you have the outline in advance, what’s to stop you from throwing in a couple well-placed zingers to give the scene that extra edge? Cracker gives herself the best lines, which include: “Our friendship has been over more bumps than your foundation stick,” and “No one has been to your shows in years. When Lady Gaga said there could be 100 people in a room, you were shocked.” It’s a slay, and Jujubee and Blair have no problem staying just as engaged. Cracker rightfully snatches the win while Juju and Blair are safe. (Also worth mentioning that Blair BURNS the runway — credit where credit is due!)
Back on the main stage, we RuVeal that the lip-sync assassin is none other than the legend herself, Morgan McMichaels. Cracker even takes a knee when the artist in residence of Micky’s WeHo takes the stage, which I fully support. Nothing but respect for my Nazi-punching queen. I would say this is the weakest of the lip syncs this season, but the previous three have set a very high bar that won’t be easily cleared. To me, Rihanna club singles are about sex, and I was ultimately Not That Horny after watching this performance. (I’m sure that this is just the kind of data-driven, scientific criteria you’ve all come to expect from my recaps.) So it’s odd to me that this is the double win of the season. That said, Morgan double-Dutching with Miz Cracker’s leg as she breakdances is drag excellence. The double win turns out not to matter (except to Cracker, who is now $20,000 richer) and Mayhem is the only queen eliminated tonight.
Eliminations are getting tougher, and, as Shea learned this week, no one is safe. Additionally, conflict seems to be coming to a boiling point in the Werkroom, and we might see the consequences of that next week. Anyone could go home next, from India Ferrah to India Ferrah, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Until next week!