RuPaul’s Drag Race
Welcome back, people! Last week, our drag queens/POWs were forced to lip sync, held captive in a loading dock, and were then told they would be voting each other out of the competition. When reached for comment, a CIA black-ops interrogation squad referred to the episode as “a bit much.”
The first few minutes of this episode give us the highly anticipated epilogue of RuPaul’s Psychological Warfare Race. The queens commence their lipstick vote, choosing their least favorite queen based on first impressions, or, in Denali’s case, feather quality. The queens (correctly) surmise that Elliott is the weakest of the bunch, and give her the boot … Or do they? As it turns out, Elliott is not eliminated at all. In fact, the queens have voted to send her to the winning team for this week’s episode. RuPaul informs the queens that this has all been one great Orwellian allegory for how your reality is only limited by your perception of yourself. It begs the question: was it worth it, RuPaul? Don’t tell me, save it for the Senate Intelligence Committee (who I’ve been told are in the process of launching an investigation.)
The rest of the episode represents a far more normie season premiere/RuPaul infomercial (thank god). The winning team must write original verses and create choreography for Ru’s new single, “Condragulations.” But first, a Drag Race fashion show featuring two categories: Ladylike daytime eleganza, and “vampy, nighttime whore.” I love a Drag Race fashion show, but this one doesn’t quite meet the high bar set by previous seasons. While there are no iconic Violet Chachki two-in-ones, there are definitely a few standouts. My personal favorites are Gottmik’s Elvira-does-burlesque form-fitting nighttime gown, Symone’s ’90s hair with her daytime rainbow suit, and Olivia Lux’s vampiric Vanessa Williams nighttime eleganza.
Back in the werkroom, a little drama is already stirring up. Turns out the queens, particularly Kandy and Tina, aren’t so receptive to their new pal Elliott, or her two T’s for that matter. Tina accuses Elliott of being “a mole” (Deja Ru), and Kandy goes into attack mode when Elliott asks her if she thinks she’s gonna go home early. I’m not a huge fan of Elliott, but I’m kind of obsessed with the self-destructive lack of impulse control it takes to walk into a room of competitors (of whom you have been dubbed “the worst”) and immediately antagonize the most confrontational bitch in the room. Confidence goals! The tension is only exacerbated during the choreo rehearsal. Elliott is apparently a choreographer, but, instead of taking the reins, she watches her teammates cannibalize themselves over missed kick-ball changes and sloppy quarter turns. Elliott doesn’t fool them for long, though. Tina the Wise knows a trained dancer when she sees one, and Elliott’s half-baked deception only serves to cement her status as “the mole”.
On the other side of the stage, Gottmik has a minor freakout when, in a Glee-like twist, he realizes he has accidentally come out as a trans man in song before he had a chance to talk to the girls about it in the werkroom. Luckily for Gottmik, most of the other queens are too busy collecting intel on the seditious Elliott with two T’s to notice. But nonetheless Olivia and Gottmik have a lovely convo while they get into drag, where Gottmik is able to officially come out, clarify pronouns, and ease some of the earlier anxiety. Before we head to the runway, the queens finally resolve their conflict with Elliott the best way they know how: lying! Elliott spouts off some banality about being happy to be there, and the rest of the queens chorus “We LOVE you!!” through gritted teeth as they contour on a smile. Onto the runway rundown:
While not as comfortable on stage as, say, a Kandy or a Symone, Gottmik’s two-sentence verse is perfectly delightful. The judges praise her looks and the versatility she’s been able to show this early in the competition (by which I assume they mean: top of the group in runways, and bottom of the group in choreography). It’s a very solid second episode of Gottmik, and it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see her in the top two of the week.
No shocker here: Kandy performs the shit out of her almost completely unintelligible verse. Pour one out for the VH1 closed captioner. Much like her personality, Kandy’s runways this episode are psychically overwhelming, but extremely entertaining. Michelle does her best to extract a thesis statement out of Kandy, some throughline that would make her aesthetic choices seem a little more cohesive, but it’s no use. Hopefully Michelle will soon learn what Ross already seems to grasp: we don’t love Kandy in spite of her chaos, we love her because of it.
LaLa Ri falls towards the bottom this episode. She definitely has the most pedestrian daytime look, and her verse isn’t particularly memorable. She’s significantly buoyed by her winning personality, which makes her an early frontrunner for narrator of the season. What can I say? The girl gives great talking head. The judges seem entertained, however, and I think she might stick around for some time, yet.
I said it last week, but it bears repeating: Olivia. Is. BEAUTIFUL. Her smile lights up the stage, and, as the judges point out, it’s impossible not to be charmed by her. She’s second in star quality only to Symone, and she has one of the most beautiful mugs I’ve ever seen on Drag Race. Jamal Sims compares her to Beyoncé AND Michelle Obama in the same sentence, and I don’t think praise gets any higher than that. Her looks this week are quite stunning, and she earns her spot in the top two.
Symone had HIGH expectations to live up to based on last week (mine), and for a moment I was worried she wouldn’t meet them. To put it bluntly, Symone has two left feet. One left foot is Rihanna’s and the other left foot is Naomi Campbell’s, but they are left feet nonetheless! She struggles hard in the choreography rehearsal, and it’s not clear that she’ll stick the landing. But when that spotlight hits her, boy does she light up. Symone is a STAR. When she steps to the front of the stage, it’s a solar eclipse, and all eyes are on her. Or, maybe not because in that metaphor we’d all go blind I guess. But we’re still watching, because she’s a star. Just not … literally. Ugh, whatever. You get it. Symone eats this episode up, and even gets the coveted RuPaul seal of approval. Frontrunner.
Tina rounds out the top of the field this episode. Her looks are polished across the board (everybody say thank you Florence D’Lee), and she saves the best for last: a tinman-inspired lamé garment complete with the reveal of a sparkling, ruby heart. It’s quite excellent, and it’s a hit with the judges. Her verse is perfectly fine, but it’s hard to connect with her since she loses her sightlines with the cameras for 90 percent of the verse. As Michelle succinctly puts it: “This isn’t a bar.” (Reader, I guffawed.)
Finally, Elliott. One thing I will say is that Elliott looks technically great this entire episode. Each look is a finished concept, and seems to understand the assignment. It all just feels a little hollow. While Elliott clearly has talent, she doesn’t have the same magnetic quality that makes you want to follow her arc throughout a journey or season. Perhaps it’s the lack of star quality, or perhaps it’s the lack of muscle movement in her upper face area, but Elliott doesn’t connect with me this episode, on or off stage.
As you probably saw coming, it’s the top two, not the bottom two, who will be lip-syncing to cap off the episode this week, making this the second non-elimination episode in a row (probably next week, too, if this pattern holds). I certainly don’t mind giving the queens some extra TV time, and the first episode raised the stakes sufficiently enough for this non-elimination to feel earned. Props to you, RuPaul, you maniacal genius. Symone and Olivia Lux take the stage once more to lip sync to Dua Lipa’s Break My Heart. They both tear up the stage, and it becomes a battle of presence and storytelling (the best lip syncs always are!) Symone is, once again, just irresistible. Her swag, her comedy, and her body language are all so cohesive and effortless. She takes her second lip sync win in as many episodes, and it feels very right.
Leaving this episode, this group does indeed feel like our top six (sorry Elliott). It’s hard to see how group two will hold up to these titans of drag, but I’m excited to see them try. Until next week!
“It DO Take Nerve!”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
• “This is not a bar.” —Michelle Visage
Michelle Visage said, this is NOT Barracuda, and NO coked-out twinks are coming stage left to give you dollars Tina Burner! Eyes on your camera!
• “This little angel twink walks in … I don’t know who it is … but I’m gagged” —Gottmik
Mark when “Today 4 U” starts in Rent.
• “Baby you got eliminated three times in the first episode?” —LaLa Ri
This made me scream. In one episode?! The poor lady.