RuPaul’s Drag Race
It is month three of Drag Race season 13. We’re fresh off a double shantay, nine queens remain, and the producers at World of Wonder are deep in talks with MyBestJudyMerch on how best to roll out a stimulus package to the beleaguered Drag Race fandom. Randy Barbato wants direct payments, but Fenton Bailey argues that Tamisha Iman Hightops4All will have a greater economic impact. The light at the end of the tunnel? We’ve made it to the Snatch Game! After a fever dream of a mini-challenge in which Tina Burner wins for shaking that ass (which appears to be filled with some sort of not-yet-classified non-Newtonian fluid), we get right to the good stuff. So let’s talk Snatch Game!
Rosé chooses Mary Queen of Scots. The fact that this forces production to pull a Renaissance painting as a reference photo in lieu of a red-carpet photo makes this choice instantly worth it. After spending her preparation time styling her wig while casually flexing her Scottish-dialect work (we get it, Gary Oldman), Rosé sails to a very solid (albeit mostly unintelligible) performance in Snatch Game. There are some funny beheading jokes, and Rosé is able to riff affably with Ru (I think? Again, I barely understood most of it). That said, I’m surprised to see Rosé placed in the top over Symone this episode. While I think she does a solid job, I simply didn’t find Mary nearly as memorable as Harriet Tubman. To sum up, I’d give Rosé a B+ in Snatch Game, but an A+ in her NYU Tisch voice-and-speech class. For the fascinator runway, Rosé sports a dress made of roses, which Michelle says she “didn’t hate.” High praise!
Kandy elects to employ a tried-and-true strategy for the Snatch Game: Find the most Kandy Muse–adjacent celebrity and use them as a vehicle to let her own personality shine. Silky did it, Sasha Velour did it, Roxxxy did it, and all to great success. In a weaker season’s Snatch Game, Kandy might very well have claimed a top placement. I mean, she wolfs down half a banana (including the peel) in a single bite … need I say more? The other skill Kandy has on lock is the ability to land a joke. Kandy doesn’t have any lines as Patrick Starrr that are particularly genius, but the rhythm and cadence of her delivery is top of her class. The contrast could not be clearer between her and, say, Olivia Lux, whom she eats RIGHT up both figuratively and literally (in the case of her banana). On the runway, Kandy’s dress is cool, avant-garde, and editorial. Another strong week in the books for the season-13 narrator.
Wow! A great showing from Denali this episode. It’s clear that Denali has been feeling frustrated of late. She’s had consistently safe placements since episode two (with the exception of the Rusical), and if there’s one thing you need to know about us high-strung, type-A bitches, it’s that “safe” gets on our damn nerves. And what better episode to break out from a six-episode rut than this one? For Snatch Game, Denali chooses to portray Jonathan Van Ness (dressed as Jared Leto), and, baby, it works. In my opinion, a good Snatch Game celebrity is always more Muppet than human, and JVN certainly satisfies this requirement. Denali has their speech pattern and mannerisms down pat, and her delightful ’60s-diner-waitress runway helps her cruise to a second-place finish this episode.
In the words of Gottmik: “No.” This is a queen whom I once had pegged for top four, but, given her distinct downward trajectory on challenge after challenge the past few episodes, I’m starting to think that Drag Race may be sunsetting Miss Utica. I had high hopes for the Minnesota queen. While her sleeping-bag gown will still go down in herstory as one of the greatest ball looks of all time, it’s becoming clear that Utica isn’t checking most of the boxes on Ru’s America’s Next Drag Superstar rubric. Her improv performance was a bust, as was the disco-mentary challenge. Snatch Game represents a great chance at redemption for Utica, but yet again she manages to get in her own way. I think what’s most frustrating to me is the sheer number of characters whom Utica could have done well. In no particular order: Miss Frizzle, Twiggy, Joni Mitchell, Yogi Bear, Ozzy Osbourne, a soy wax candle I bought from Etsy, and Ella Emhoff. But instead Utica chooses Bob Ross. In a well-meaning but ultimately misguided move, Utica expends most of her creative energy trying not to be cancelled for wearing an afro, which culminates in her making a headpiece out of squirrels (Vassar energy). This leaves her unable to internalize any of RuPaul’s notes and general misgivings about a Bob Ross Snatch Game, and the result is a pretty dismal performance. Utica has gotten negative critiques three times now, and this round finally lands her in the bottom two.
I can’t say Gottmik killing Snatch Game is a surprise. Gottmik has always been funny and charming, and the hot fashion girl of the season claiming a Snatch Game win is a tried and true tradition (Aquaria, Gigi Goode). But I will say that Gottmik gave us a rare (and wholly satisfying) instance of a Snatch Game choice that is perfect in both concept and execution. Right off the bat, Gottmik playing Paris Hilton feels like a match made in heaven. The sheer number of traits they have in common are too numerous to list: fashion-icon status, extreme L.A.-ness, bimbo passing. On top of the superficial similarities, Gottmik has clearly spent a lot of time around Paris and thus was able to assume her personality to an eerie degree. Every line is a joke, and every joke is delivered inimitably. My personal favorite moment? The Mark Twain–esque masterpiece of a line “There was a girl on my flight and I mentally counseled her because she smelled insane.” On the runway, RuPaul and the judges are smitten as ever with Gottmik’s unique mix of ’80s goth-rock chic, Mugler runway model, and missing little sister to Kate and Rooney Mara. Gottmik snags her second win this week, and I bet there’s more to come.
Quick poll: Did anyone expect this to go well? No? Didn’t think so. RuPaul all but slaps Elliott across the face when the double-t’d queen announces she will be doing Rue McClanahan. Elliott is faced with a conundrum regarding her choice. On the one hand, RuPaul (the host of the show she’s competing on, with total decision-making power) is expressing outward disgust at her character and makes it abundantly clear she will be watching with extreme scrutiny. On the other hand, Elliott’s husband watches Golden Girls before bed. But despite every sign begging Elliott to stop, she perseveres. “Because it’s such a risk, it could be such a huge payoff,” Elliott says, employing the same logic I used when buying $40 of Gamestop stock. Needless to say (for both of us), the risk does not pay off and Elliott finds herself in the bottom two for her deeply one-dimensional portrayal of the gay icon.
I cannot describe how happy Symone made me this week. While Utica worries about being canceled for wearing an afro, Symone unapologetically announces to Ru that she will be playing abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman for Snatch Game. She explains to Ru that she’s unafraid of failure. Does this run the risk of coming across in poor taste? Absolutely! “But if it makes people uncomfortable, then it at least starts a conversation, and I’ve done my job,” Symone explains. It’s a refreshing mentality for Symone, who was critiqued last week for resigning herself to failure before the challenge had even begun. And the risk indeed pays off. It’s joyous to watch Symone as Harriet screaming “TO FREEDOM!” and stamping her own face onto $100 bills. I would’ve placed Symone in the top three this week, especially after her incredibly moving runway presentation. But herstorically, Ru awards queens who can riff in the moment during Snatch Game. While Symone executes her prepared jokes flawlessly, queens like Denali and Gottmik are able to improvise with RuPaul, giving them that crucial edge. Nonetheless, this episode represents a return to form for Symone, and it leaves me eager to see what the rest of the season holds for her.
This week, Tina Burner is safe once again on a challenge that should be well within her wheelhouse. Is Tina doing poorly on Drag Race? Certainly not. But is she sufficiently impressing the judges and audience enough to claim a top-four spot? Not yet. Kandy puts it best: Tina is in her head. It’s honestly a little shocking. When asked if she considers herself a comedy queen, Tina (whom I’ve watched mime-fingerblast members of her audience at a drag brunch, by the way) responds, “I mean … sometimes!” What the hell?? I understand not wanting to oversell your own abilities and land yourself in the bottom, but at some point you have to have the courage of your talent! If Utica is toward the end of her downward trajectory, I think Tina may be at the beginning of hers.
Olivia Lux makes herstory this episode by impersonating the first TikTok star on Snatch Game. Unfortunately, any and all excitement surrounding her performance ends there. In the walk-through (I guess I should be calling these stand-throughs now), Ru gives Oliva some sage advice: In order to land a successful Snatch Game, a character needs a game. Some through line that prevents the performance from just being a nice vegan lady sitting on a panel. Olivia seems to internalize this to some degree. During the Snatch Game, we watch Olivia try out at least three different games for Tabitha Brown, desperately trying to get something to stick. Is she a vegan who secretly craves meat? A vegan who’s only been at it three months but spouts off wisdom regardless? Or perhaps a vegan evangelist trying to convert her fellow contestants? But while Olivia’s trying to figure it out, she forgets to throw any jokes in the mix. The result is a concept that withers on the vine and a performance that never quite bears fruit (these are vegan jokes, to be clear). On the runway, at least, Olivia looks stunning as a mad scientist caught in a chemical explosion. Having worked in a couple of research labs over the years, I can pretty confidently assert that few inorganic chemists are this sexy, which makes the garment all the more thrilling. Olivia escapes the bottom two this week, but she still fails pretty hard. A mistake I hope she won’t soon repeat.
After some very typical and super-illuminating critiques from the judges (“Snatch Game is about being funny … and you weren’t!”), Elliott and Utica land in the bottom two. In a season full of iconic lip-sync performances, this one … doesn’t make the list. Utica is somewhat fun to watch, but it’s hard to imagine she would’ve prevailed against the likes of a LaLa Ri or a Denali. Luckily, she’s up against Elliott, whom the judges seem sick to death of watching at this point in the season. And so it is with great relief that I can finally announce that Elliott exits the competition this week. Elliott gave us some great moments, though! Who could forget that hilarious time that she … um … hmm. Well, nothing springs to mind. Bye, Elliott! We’ve finally whittled the cast down to a top eight, and the eliminations are sure to be less clear-cut from here on out. We’re only at mile 13 of this marathon, ladies, so grab a powerbar and I’ll see you next week!