RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Bag Ladies

RuPaul’s Drag Race

The Bag Ball
Season 13 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

RuPaul’s Drag Race

The Bag Ball
Season 13 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: VH1

if you’re not

watching Untucked

you’re only getting

half the story

-rupi kaur

We have plenty to unpack this week. Kandy fights Elliott, Kandy really fights Tamisha, and the queens engage in a dancing-baby-themed mini challenge that’s as mystifying and unearned as it is psychically disturbing. However, the majority of this episode consists of the main challenge. A Bag Ball in which the queens serve a total of THIRTY-SIX LOOKS. So let’s dispense with the foreplay and get right to the main event, going queen by queen:

Symone deigns to reveal a flaw to us this week: She can’t sew! Finally, a mortal quality. Symone makes it clear early on that she’s aiming for “safe,” but that doesn’t stop her from serving some show-stopping runway moments along the way. Symone’s “mixed bag look” is my absolute favorite of the category. Think Swiss scientists impact Diana Ross and Amanda Lepore in the Hadron Collider. Her excellence in the first two categories buoys her final look: a simplistic (but well-fitting) skirt/bra ensemble. Symone doesn’t kill this challenge, but she didn’t have to. Her record remains unblemished, and the audience gets a chance to see some other contenders for the crown take center stage.

Denali desperately needed to stay out of the bottom this week, and she does so admirably. Her crash-test dummy is creative and fun, and her Cruella de Vil money bags look is truly gorgeous. She also has a compelling concept for her handmade couture look, but, ultimately, it’s paper glued onto a corset, which the judges rarely give top marks to on Drag Race. Nonetheless, she’s solidly safe, so we don’t get the pleasure of seeing her lip-sync talents again.

Elliott with Two Ts
How is it that Elliott has technically never been in the bottom, and yet every week I remain convinced she’s the next to go? It’s telling that Kandy says that Elliott is mediocre and deserves to go home twice this episode, and not one of her fellow castmates steps in to disagree. Elliott’s two prepared looks are completely unremarkable (special shout-out to “gift bag,” I’d like to burn it), but her saving grace is her ’80s beanbag power suit. Perhaps it’s a result of my low expectations, but I whispered an audible “wow” this week seeing her turn the corner on the runway. So, shout-out to you, Elliott. I give you 1 out of 2 t’s.

Olivia Lux
Before Untucked descends into madness this week, the queens have a little debate over which of the safe queens might have deserved a top spot (presumably over Rosé). Among them, I think Olivia has the best case. But while her marvelously well-constructed geometric sleeves are certainly a step above Rosé’s skirt/bra, her boxer couture unfortunately suffers from an acute case of SDIBS (“Symone Did It Better Syndrome,” for those not in the medical field). So, our good-natured NYC queen is safe for yet another week. But is that a small flicker I’m detecting in that 1,000-watt smile? Only time will tell.

If there’s one thing RuPaul’s gonna do, it’s project onto/gush over the season’s youngest, thinnest, prettiest fashion queen. And this year, that’s Gottmik, baby! Gottmik smoothly glides into a first-place finish after an effortlessly charming werkroom walkthrough and an editorial main stage presentation. The judges are particularly gagged over her money bags look: an asymmetrical, metallic suit with ruffle detailing adorning the sides. Gottmik is now undefeated in her matchups against Utica (the first being their lip-sync in the premiere). Maybe I’m just a sucker for a weirdo, or maybe I’m a little sick of the fashion-twink-industrial complex, but I think I would have given Utica the win both times. Gottmik leaves this episode with a win and momentum, but she’s still got a ways to go before she catches up to Symone.

Much like her New York sister Jan, Rosé has had a strong start to her season. Besides losing her first lip-sync, Rosé has now had high placements and positive critiques in every episode in which she’s appeared. But every time, she’s just shy of the gold (in this instance, a little shyer than usual). So, now, I pose the question: Is RuPaul setting Rosé up? Ru is no dummy. He knows Jan’s face crack last season was TV gold. And he knows exactly which buttons to push to turn a competitive but otherwise affable musical-theater twink into a swirling tornado of BFA-trained chaos. And I have reason to believe he’s doing it again. Rosé’s looks this week are polished and prepared, and her couture look is certainly the best of the skirt/bra brigade. But Michelle says she’s not “drag” enough, and RuPaul is gaga over Gottmik. So, once again, Rosé is told “not your turn yet,” and leaves the stage a little more peeved. I’m worried for my girl. Somebody call Stephanie’s Child Protective Services.

Tina Burner
I almost forgot Tina was in this episode until Untucked came along and Tina planted herself as staunchly Team Kandy. Do we think that’s a good sign? Lucky for Tina, though, it’s historically a sound Drag Race strategy to fly under the radar for the first half of the season (if you can stick around, that is). The New York City queen has been safe, safe, and safe these last few episodes and you can tell she’s a little tired of it. This week, Tina turns out three B-plus looks, but she’s going to have to do a little better than that if she wants to rise to the top of this crew.

Kandy Muse
Don’t say she didn’t warn you. Kandy Muse told us from the jump that she has a loud mouth and no filter. And to quote me quoting Instagram quoting Oprah quoting Maya Angelou: When people tell them who you are, believe them. Kandy starts the episode content simply to nurture her feud with Elliott, but when Tamisha chimes in, Kandy is more than happy to turn her fury toward the Atlanta queen. The tension is thick as a hip pad, and they pick up right where they left off in Untucked. Honestly, the fight progresses to a point where it seems like Kandy might be on the verge of getting physical. Luckily, things cool down … for the moment. It’s clear that this conflict is far from over, and neither queen will be backing down any time soon.

Tamisha Iman
I came into this episode betting on a Tamisha win. But much like a Wall Street hedge-fund manager, my bet did not pay off this week, and I will be whining about it through the media. More worrisome than her bottom-three placement, though, is the almost violent aforementioned argument with Kandy. I have Tamisha pegged for top four (I bought the shares at 11 cents!), and while many a Drag Race finalist has had a season-long feud, I can’t think of any who have almost thrown hands with another contestant. The first few episodes painted a picture of Tamisha as a mother, both figurative and literal, and a mentor figure to some of the younger queens in the competition. But this episode shows a side of Tamisha that’s a little less maternal and a lot more insecure. Now, listen, I’m not saying Tamisha is wrong. I think most would agree that Kandy has displayed some arrogant behavior throughout this season. But choosing to antagonize her not once, but twice? Mom, you’re embarrassing me! I hope Tamisha can draw upon her pageant experience and squash this Kandy beef, but, as I said, something tells me these two are just getting started.

An impressive (and necessary) showing for our kooky Minnesota queen this week. Utica has had a middling past three episodes, and I was beginning to think my early impression may have been off base. Luckily, this week proved that I’m perfect and literally never wrong. Oh, and that Utica is poised to be a force this season. While some Christian queens might hide their light under a bushel, Utica is not shy about sharing the fact that she can sew. (Wholly unsurprising, by the way. You ever just look at someone and know for a fact they own a loom?) And sew she does. In addition to two well-styled early ball looks, Utica manages to transform nylon sleeping bags into a breathtakingly well-tailored hooded gown. It’s truly extraordinary, and, were I in RuPaul’s position, I would’ve most certainly given her the win. And again: I’m NEVER wrong!

Joey Jay
We say good-bye to Joey Jay this episode. Joey Jay came in declaring herself a “filler queen” which proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. She delivers three distinctly mediocre looks this episode, landing her soundly in the bottom. After a brief, perplexing game of “Who’s on First” with Carson and Nicole Byer, she’s forced to lip-sync against the god-tier LaLa Ri. Poor thing never stood a chance. A moment of silence for Joey Jay: drag queen, sister to all, chicken-feather enthusiast. She will be missed. Amen.

LaLa Ri
No one fails this week’s challenge quite as spectacularly as LaLa. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call her arts-and-crafts project the worst look in Drag Race herstory. We are living in unprecedented times, after all! However, I wouldn’t change a thing, because it leads us to one of the best lip-sync performances of the season so far. LaLa hits every beat of this Iggy Azalea ditty and just dominates poor Joey Jay. This master class leaves me champing at the bit for a Denali vs. LaLa Ri matchup. Don’t let me down, Ru.

This episode is an impactful one, and I think it will be viewed as a key turning point of the season. There are some necessary ranking shake-ups (notably with Gottmik and Utica establishing themselves as strong contenders for top four), and the beginnings of what I’m sure will be a season-long conflict between Kandy and Tamisha. Queens are already picking sides, and I only see them escalating from here. Trust: There will be blood.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Bag Ladies