RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Blame It on the Malaise

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Blame It On the Edit
Season 15 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 2 stars

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Blame It On the Edit
Season 15 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race

It’s taken me a while to write this recap because I just keep laughing. The ending of this episode is nothing short of, to use the language of MTV, ridiculousness. “In the beginning of the season, I promised myself to have an elimination every episode,” RuPaul intones during the deliberations this week. Between that and shouting at the audience at regular intervals that there would be a top three, the show put in a lot of work to make it seem like the last-minute save to make it a top four was something we weren’t to expect. It didn’t work. Instead of a bold choice to up the competitive stakes, at the last minute, RuPaul’s Drag Race defaulted back to a boring status quo.

This last-minute save is of a piece with a general malaise that surrounds the final episodes of Drag Race. The queens know that if they can just make it to the end, they will have months to prepare for the finale. So by their final round in the werkroom, they can just relax. The choice to fake out the girls with a potential final three is a desperate attempt to ratchet up the intensity, which could have worked if they’d followed through. Instead, it leaves the audience with blue balls, with two queens saved through not the strength of their final lip sync or their work this week, but the strength of their work throughout the competition. The message is clear: This week still does not matter.

What we’re left with, then, is a completely disposable episode that judges the queens on what feels like an outdated standard. It’s a talent showcase following weeks of a different talent showcase that actually had stakes. Even the bottom two seem pre-ordained simply because there are two girls who are good at learning choreo, and two girls who are not. Recent weeks, as I’ve noted regularly in these recaps, have been judged not on talent but on charisma. That’s good! It reminds the audience what it takes to be a superstar, rather than a competent drag performer. Here, the stakes are lowered by making it entirely about each queen’s ability to pick up choreography, and then deciding at the last minute that the girls have too much star quality to eliminate anybody. The judges all but told us weeks ago that all the queens left were talented enough to win, and from now on talent was to be taken for granted. Does it matter if Mistress can’t pick up choreography that fast when she showed she could get it in time for the Rusical?

There’s no interpersonal drama left, either. This is also typical. Most of the time, by the time we get to the top four, the queens who are there recognize each other’s skills enough to understand why they are all in the top. There’s a mutual respect that stops anybody from going for the jugular, and often a friendship as well. This season, the vibe is distinctly “respect.” While Mistress and Luxx are often shown kiki-ing, one of the weaknesses of the season is that Sasha and Anetra’s relationships are so ill-defined. That could be simply the truth of the matter: Anetra is a bit reserved, and Sasha is more of a mother than a peer to most of these girls. No clearly defined dynamic between the remaining queens is a weakness when we only have four left. Drama is the best way to define that, but Bianca, a mother figure like Sasha, had a clearly defined relationship to Adore, for example. Has Sasha had a meaningful interaction with anybody there?

So what are we left with? An episode with low stakes, irrelevant judging, and unformed relationships. Unfortunately, this is typical. Last season, they injected some drama into the proceedings by telling us that Willow Pill and Angeria, a relationship we’d rarely seen, had grown close, before throwing them in the bottom two and eliminating neither. It didn’t work. Has a Rumix or music-video challenge ever been interesting on the main show? Only in years where the winner is crowned at the end (seasons one through three and All-Stars two spring to mind). Otherwise it’s just filler.

But let’s talk about the filler we got. The week opens with a eulogy to Loosey, perhaps the most compelling character of the season, with both Luxx and Mistress essentially saying, “I didn’t like her, but she was talented.” It is a testament to Loosey’s value as a reality-TV character that this is the most interesting the episode gets.

The challenge is then announced: starring in a music video for “Blame It on the Edit,” a song Mistress is excited for because it’s shady as hell. The girls are also “informed” that there will be a top three. I don’t think they ever believe it, for what it’s worth. They’ve seen this show.

Then the girls sit down for their TicTac lunches with Ru. Seeing all of these back to back is a lot. I wish they’d intercut them with werkroom scenes, as they often do. It’s four deep dives into hardship all in a row (though Luxx’s is more celebratory), and similar to the overuse of Trauma Makeup Corner, when everyone’s story is edited in the same way, and no one’s story is allowed to stand out.

Sasha is first, and what’s notable about this is how, more than anybody who’s ever been on the show, save maybe Bianca, her conversation with RuPaul feels more peer-to-peer than mentor-to-mentee. At one point, Ru asks Sasha if she’s had any hard points in the competition, and she informs Ru and the audience that when she won two challenges in a row, she was worried that the girls wouldn’t like her to the point that it was making her wish she hadn’t won. Then she describes working herself out of that hole by realizing it was related to not having acceptance as a child. What’s notable here is that, in the context of this show, digging queens out of a hole via personal realizations is supposed to be Ru’s job. Sasha didn’t need that, and she did all that work off-camera. She’s too mature, too fully realized, to require that kind of assistance or to show those struggles to the camera when she doesn’t want to. It highlights what’s made Sasha both the strongest queen of the season and its most unknowable major character: She doesn’t need this show. She’s happy to be there, and she’s excited. But she was a superstar beforehand, and she will be after.

My favorite TicTac lunch is Luxx’s. Watching Ru interact with Luxx is such a joy because you can tell how much of herself Ru sees in Luxx. Of the top four, Luxx is probably the least polished, but what she does have on her side is a bundle of pure confidence despite being told by much of the world that she, a Black and queer artist, doesn’t deserve it. Hearing RuPaul chuckle as she tells Luxx, “You’re a good kid,” is legitimately heartwarming. Whereas with Sasha, Ru kind of felt irrelevant to the proceedings, here Ru is vital: a queer elder who is a legitimate superstar letting a younger star know that she sees her. I found it heartwarming.

We skip the recording of their verses, which is lame. I would have liked to see how Sasha, particularly, arrived at her vocal performance. But the big drama of the episode comes from the choreography session, in which the girls are asked to pick up moves at a lightning-fast speed and record the music video right after. This kind of producing is a lame and half-hearted. The best reality-TV producing shows queens in new, artificial situations that give us insight into who they are as artists. But we already knew Mistress and Anetra were bad at picking up choreo. Mistress is the center of the drama because she’s the worst at learning the steps, as we all knew she would be. Luxx and Sasha nail it because they’re the best at picking up steps. We knew that too.

The music video is set in outer space in an homage to the spaceship music videos of the ’90s and, more specifically, Janet and Michael Jackson’s “Scream,” the most expensive music video ever made at the time. Anetra’s look has no reference to space at all, but the rest of the girls nail the looks. My favorite is Sasha in her cosplay of Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire. Of course she’d have a perfect sexy outer-space outfit.

On the runway, the category is, of course, “Drag Excellence.” Anetra looks great in an elegant and elaborate Empress look. I am, however, becoming a bit bored of these hyper-sculpted wigs that every queen seems to be wearing. Like the marcel wave wigs everyone was sporting a few years back, these sculptures are gorgeous but becoming cliché. Luxx looks great, if not particularly original. (One note: I sincerely hope she takes the money and experience the show has earned her and uses them to smooth out her wig lines.) Sasha looks characteristically gorgeous in a crystallized gown bedecked in orchids as an homage to her home state of Hawai’i. Mistress is stunning in a beaded cheetah-print gown that looks like it weighs several tons. If I’m being nitpicky (and it is the final four), I’d note that the eyeshadow color doesn’t make sense for this gown.

The music video is perfectly fine, though it doesn’t exactly feel like a culmination of their work so far. For my money, Luxx is probably the best, with Sasha close behind. They’re both naturals at giving video vixen, and their verses are definitely the better two. Luxx is stunning in both her looks. It is truly impossible to take your eyes off of her. Sasha delivers a verse that is uncharacteristically low-key for Drag Race, but it makes far more sense with the song itself than something like Mistress’s, which sounds like what would happen if you fed ChatGPT all the previous RuMix verses. Anetra’s verse is unmemorable, and she is probably the least eye-catching, even when you factor in Mistress being worse at the choreo.

The judges say nothing mean to any of them, really. Then we arrive at the “What would you say to little ____?” portion of the evening. See my above comments on the TicTac lunches for my thoughts on this segment. It’s boring, emotionally manipulative, and should be cut.

Sasha wins the challenge. I would have gone with Luxx, not only because I thought she exuded the most star quality in the music video, but because it would even out the track records. But such is life, and a Sasha win is fine here. Anetra and Mistress lip-sync to “When Love Takes Over” by Kelly Rowland and David Guetta. It’s also fine. Mistress’s gown is too heavy for her to do much of anything, and Anetra is not quite as good at joy as she is at “fierce.” Still, Anetra clearly wins. Ru ends up saving both queens.

It’s fine, I’m fine. I certainly didn’t want Mistress to go home. But also … I would have been okay with it if it did happen. This episode existed to fill an episode count. Let’s hope the finale pulls out all the stops.

Also on Untucked …

• It’s a very congenial Untucked, as is to be expected at final four. This group doesn’t have the chemistry of, say, season eight’s top four, but they’re a perfectly pleasant group of people to have on my TV screen for half an hour.

• The branding of Anetra as a full-on “ballroom queen” felt off. I understand that they acknowledge she doesn’t have a ballroom scene near her, but I also think it’s worth noting that she is the queen who has talked the most about ballroom as an inspiration to her perhaps ever on the show. For a queen who’s never walked a real ball, that is less than ideal.

• I think, for what it’s worth, that Sasha Colby is still the undeniable winner of the season. The other girls I’d love to see grow and come back on All-Stars. Sasha is already fully formed.

• In terms of likelihood of winning, I’d approximate it as Sasha > Anetra > Mistress > Luxx. I think Luxx has a bit more growing to do, and between Mistress and Anetra, Anetra is definitely Ru’s favorite.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Blame It on the Malaise