RuPaul’s Drag Race
I think I’m beginning to turn on this season. And, no, not just because this episode has forced me to type the phrase “Bossy Rossy Ruboot” twice. Even worse: We have officially sent home two of my favorite queens in a row, and, yet again, I feel that my favorite performers are being passed over for inscrutable producing reasons. Drag Race is of course no stranger to questionable judgments, but the number of baffling choices in the last few weeks is beginning to outweigh the excitement I had at the beginning of the season for this talented cast.
However, I will grant you that this episode starts on a high note. That’s right, get your library cards and that overdue copy of A Little Life that you checked out but never read, because the library is open, darling! Because reading is whaaat? An impossible task due to the fact that my attention span has been decimated by the pandemic. In the mini-challenge, we get shockingly good reads and off-the-cuff rejoinders from Gottmik, some fun one-offs from everyone else, and then a truly spectacular failure from Elliott. Come for the bizarre word association, stay for the sad B-roll of a cape crumpled on the ground. All in all, it’s exactly what you want from a reading challenge.
For this week’s maxi, the queens will be acting out improvised scenes in assigned teams for the Bossy Rossy Ruboot (now three times …), a Maury Povich meets Dr. Phil–type show with Ross Mathews in the titular role. This time around, presumably due to COVID-19 measures, there is no studio audience, so the queens perform to a completely empty house (the full improv-show experience!). The first team-up is “I’m pregnant with my imaginary boyfriend” starring Denali, Rosé, and LaLa Ri. Not to have yet another recap devolve into Rosé/Denali apologia, but once again I truly thought this team had it in the bag! Everything is just right: the accent work, the matching maternity outfits made of clashing animal prints and distressed denim, the pratfalls, the object work … the platonic ideal of an RuCB Theater improv scene. LaLa definitely whiffed a couple crucial moments, but overall I was still quite entertained by these country drag queens and their philandering invisible boyfriend. On the runway, Denali steals the show, and I thought for sure we’d be seeing another Denali/Rosé top two. But once again, I underestimated Ru’s desire to push the psychological limits of this pair of type A overachievers. And thus, with some not-insignificant face cracks, Rosé and Denali are safe once again.
Team two is “escaping the cult of mimeology,” with Gottmik, Utica, and Olivia Lux. Here’s where the episode starts to feel repetitive. For the second week in a row, Olivia stuns the judges with her star power and brilliant Valentina-esque smile. But this time, I don’t quite see it. There’s no doubt that Olivia has the goods, but I’m just not convinced that she deserved the top prize this episode. Olivia plays a former mime (who nonetheless pantomimes 90 percent of the scene) who’s processing her trauma with the help of Bossy Rossy and her interpreter, therapist, and charades partner Gottmik. Yes, Olivia fully commits to the role, and displays some solid physical-comedy chops, but Gottmik deserves equal credit for punctuating every bit with a funny translation. Unfortunately, the scene really falls off the rails when Utica enters, and it becomes immediately clear why she pushed so hard to play Olivia’s part in the werkroom earlier. Utica is a weird, lanky comedy queen, and I can only imagine the kooky energy she would have brought to a mime with PTSD. But much like her bestie Jesus, Utica is just too nice! (Is that in the Bible? Haven’t read.) Olivia merely has to say she wants the part, and Utica practically falls over herself to give up the role. And she pays dearly for it. Utica is in the bottom three for the second week in a row, and narrowly escapes a lip sync. It’s time for Utica to take a lesson from Eve and start being a #girlboss! (Again, have not read it.)
Next, Symone and Kandy Muse play Tiffany Gibson and Lil’ Deb Deb, two former spoiled, rich teen stars who had a falling out. Compared to invisible babies and 600-pound asses, Symone and Kandy have a relatively grounded premise for their improv scene, which makes it all the more impressive that they still manage to make it feel over-the-top and fun. Symone having a candle scent for every emotion is a funny touch, as is the fact that she’s wearing an ankle monitor that she never addresses. From where I’m sitting, Kandy doesn’t add much in the way of comedy to the scene, so I’m surprised to see her in the top (especially over Rosé), but the judges appreciate the fact that she made an effort to play a character other than herself this week, and they praise her highly for it. On the runway, they both look beautiful, particularly Symone in a stunning beaded two-piece ensemble complete with her name spelled out in braids. Though we aren’t even halfway through the season, it’s hard to imagine anyone touching the level of excellence Symone is bringing to the runway each week. Both queens get top marks, but fall just shy of the win. Symone is sitting pretty, but the real question is, will Kandy’s reversal of fortune with the judges translate to the fan base, which rapidly turned hostile toward her after her fight with Tamisha? Only time will tell, diva.
Finally, Elliott With Two T’s and Tina Burner in “my 600-pound ass is killing our friendship.” As Tina predicts early in this episode, this is not Elliott’s challenge. I’m not really inclined to go to bat for Elliott in any way, but I will say that whichever producer decided that Elliott should play a NASA rocket scientist for an improv comedy challenge was not being a girl’s girl. On the whole, this episode had me feeling some sympathy for Elliott. She starts the week by confessing that she doesn’t have any friends, and then goes on to tell Tina how her crippling depression keeps her from being able to emotionally connect with her fellow queens and others in her life in general. Granted most of my compassion dissolves IMMEDIATELY once Ru announces that she’s staying over LaLa after the two lip sync to Kelly Clarkson’s “Whole Lotta Woman.” Elliott is certainly a trained dancer, but it’s truly baffling to me that anyone could leave that performance thinking that Elliott brought more joy, entertainment value, or star quality to the stage. Elliott may be a dancer, but LaLa is a performer. If you were ever confused at the distinction between the two, look no further than this lip sync. However, Ru disagrees, so Elliott and her two T’s remain to fight another week. It happens to at least one queen every season, but Elliott is one of those queens who simply does not benefit from a run on Drag Race. Her new national platform has brought severe scrutiny to her online behavior, and the fact that she’s now overstaying her welcome is sure to bring down even more ire from the fan base going forward.
Drag Race is by its very nature quite repetitive, but I think I tend to sour on it when it starts repeating the bad patterns. For the second week in a row I find myself very disappointed with the result of the lip sync, the decisions of the judges, and the inscrutable producer favoritism seemingly occurring behind the scenes. It’s frustrating that instead of getting more time with entertaining queens like Tamisha and LaLa, we’re getting a couple more episodes of some middling conflict with Elliott that doesn’t seem to be for her benefit or ours. This is all compounded by the fact that I have so little going on in my life at the moment that Drag Race accounts for about 80 percent of my weekly mood. So please, RuPaul, fix this. My mental state depends on it.
Until next week!