Tensions are high as we pass the midway point of the competition. After a competitive design challenge honoring RuPaul’s own Legendary Legend Looks, the field has shifted and some of these queens are beginning to pull ahead of the pack. And you KNOW I can’t resist a power ranking, so let’s dive in:
Y’all … is Trinity going to win this whole thing? A little more than halfway through the season, and it’s seeming more and more likely. Her track record so far speaks for itself. She started off incredibly strong, claiming a definitive Snatch Game win as well as a top two spot during the ball challenge. And now, after a spell of close calls, she’s added another title to that list, a second design challenge at that! This string of victories is an impressive feat on its own given that she’s competing against the best of the franchise’s best, but add in the fact that Trinity seems to be playing the long, strategic game better than anyone else? Baby, that’s a winner right there! Trinity spends equal parts of this episode designing and sewing the most impressive gown of the night, smartly ingratiating herself with other powerhouses (like Shea) by helping them finish their garments, and putting on a goddamn show. If there’s one contestant who understands how to use every solitary second of her time on the show to her advantage, it’s definitively Trinity the Tuck/Train/Truck.
Say it loud, say it proud: Jaida “Front-Runner” Essence Hall. Last week, I was unapologetic in my insistence that Jinkx would quickly come to regret her decision to give Jaida her spare Legendary Legends Star, and this week, I’m proven right. The fact of the matter is, Jaida doesn’t need help. It’s easy to underestimate Jaida: She’s the winner with the least amount of experience in the post–Drag Race world, her pandemic-era win gave her very little time to tour and perfect her performance prowess, and she doesn’t seem to have a competitive bone in her body, at least when compared to the likes of Trinity or The Vivienne. But don’t mistake Jaida’s overall silliness for a lack of cunning or drive. Her good nature got her that second star after all, and she’s quick with a strategic observation (like when she announced to the group that Monet was the logical choice to block next). Not to mention the fact that Jaida is talented, bitch. Let the record show that in two straight seasons, Jaida Essence Hall has never not killed a design challenge. In fact, she’s won three! Just like on season 12, Jaida is gaining momentum at just the right moment. Underestimate her at your own peril.
Jinkx was … well, on one this week! It’s understandable, though. After eight episodes, the delirium is sure to set in for even the most iron-willed of queens. And Jinkx is anything but iron-willed. When she’s not screaming just off camera, giggling about some inside joke or another, or racking up FCC violations by doing light BDSM with Yvie Oddly, Jinkx is manically trimming fringe and clutching a hot glue gun like it’s her horcrux. But the crazy thing is … it kinda works! Jinkx was never going to win this design challenge (she’s also blocked from receiving a star anyways), but she puts her whole narcoleptic ass into it and turns out a garment that’s certainly the most impressive piece she’s designed on this show to date. While it doesn’t get her the win, or even come particularly close, she’s showing the judges that after all these years you still can teach an old queen some new tricks. Good for her! Now get some sleep, Jinkx.
4. The Vivienne
I continue to be impressed by the Vivienne’s craft. Her ability to transform into any character with spot-on mannerisms, incredibly sophisticated makeup, and uncanny vocal impersonation is a force to be reckoned with. But, as we know, that’s just a small piece of what she’s capable of. She holds her own in acting challenges next to Jinkx, and apparently can do the same in a design challenge next to the likes of Jaida and Trinity. She has my third favorite look of the evening: a gorgeous homage to Ru’s Despy Awards gown as a Vivienne Westwood-style asymmetrical dress. But this particular RuPaul look is not just remembered for the dress, it’s also revered for Ru’s spectacular makeup that night. And the Vivienne is nothing if not a wizard with a brush. It’s an excellent interpretation, and feels both true to its source material and deeply the Vivienne. Unfortunately, despite dominant challenge performances, Viv still finds herself stuck with one star. Maybe next week’s acting challenge is a chance for her finally to break through to front-runner status.
5. Monet X Change
Yes, I know Monet only has one star, and yes I know that like Shea, she hasn’t received a top placement since the premiere, but hear me out! Whether it’s 200 IQ strategic plays or just luck, Monet has not only found herself in the only alliance of the season, but she’s also in it with the best queen to be allied with. Trinity the Tuck did not come to be second fiddle this season, and has found herself in the top three times in the first half of this season. Not only that, but when she’s done sewing her own garments, she seems to have plenty of time to help out competitors she’s deemed worthy of her favor. First on that list? Her twinner Monet. So not only has Monet ensured she’ll never be blocked by one of the front-runners of the competition and a not-infrequent helping hand, she’s also guaranteed to have a voice in deciding who will be blocked for the next week whenever she and Trinity partake in one of their (conspicuous) side chats in the Werkroom. To top it all off, she’s not doing too bad! The judges made it clear she was in contention for a top spot this week, and she may have just enough time left in the season to pull off a comeback. With the help of her twinner, of course.
6. Yvie Oddly
After a truly unbelievable last episode, Yvie is back to the middle of the road. For her Legendary Legend Look, Yvie picks the ever-iconic Supermodel of the World–era Ru. In true Yvie fashion, she states that her goal is to make it “weird,” which she’ll accomplish by flipping the volume of the piece, making some oversized Japanese hakama-style pants. Credit where credit is due: The final product is quite chic. I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of the ways in which Yvie presents her runways (make a kooky face, end of list), but her skill with a sewing machine this week is undeniable. The pants come together beautifully, and the ruffles she wears as a scarf maintain the inspiration of the original piece. Check, check, check!
It’s been a tough few weeks to be a Shea stan, as many of us are. She exploded onto the season with a definitive first-episode victory, but since then she’s been a little stagnant. She wasn’t able to reproduce her Snatch Game magic from her last All Stars, and she wasn’t top two for the girl-group challenge, either — another notable strength of hers. Even Shea herself seems a little disheartened, noting that it’s been a slow couple of weeks since her last top two appearance. And try as she might this design challenge, it just isn’t Shea’s week. The rouched sleeves and head scarf she designs out of Ru’s pink leopard fabric are spectacular, but they can’t bring her over the top to compete with Jaida and Trinity. Far be it for the judges to give any negative critiques this season, but it feels likely that, had she been able to incorporate some of the dress fabric and detailing into the pink leggings she was wearing, she might have won this week. Regardless, it’s my belief that Shea is still one of the top contenders this season, and not just because of the runway moments she’s been able to create throughout. There’s still time, Shea! Don’t give up just yet.
I must hand it to her, there’s no one in the competition more at peace than Raja. Despite only having one star and one visit to the top two, Raja seems wholly unintimidated by her fellow competitors and utterly uninterested in selling herself to the judging panel. Last week, she chuckled along with Ru and Michelle as they talked about her not knowing the words or the choreo, and this week she riffs with Ru about her edible kicking in halfway through making her garment. But while this strategy has not been too helpful in getting stars, it’s certainly earned her quite the passionate fanbase online, which is probably the most powerful asset a RuGirl can get. So who’s really winning? Math and statistics would indicate “not Raja,” but then again … gays suck at math.
After the runway presentations have concluded, Trinity and Jaida are given the honor of top two this week. And for the first time in the last few weeks, I have not one quibble with it! Both looks are completely showstopping, (bewigged) head and (shimmering) shoulders above their peers. And after a competitive and decently fun lip sync to “I Want Love” by Jessie J, it’s Trinity who claims the tippity-top spot. As we’ve come to expect from her, Trinity puts on a show — nay, a five-act play — as she decides who to block. Will she betray her twinner? Take revenge on Shea? But alas, she makes the safe, strategic choice of Yvie, ensuring that she won’t take even more of a lead than she already has, and halting her upward trajectory.
She may wish she’d gone with someone else however, because next week? A good old-fashioned acting challenge. Perhaps Jinkx can regain her front-runner status, or maybe Viv can sneak up from behind to claim a top-two spot of her own.