RuPaul’s Drag Race
Lip syncs, lip syncs, lip syncs! Unlike Drag Race, I’m not one for drawn-out intros, so let’s dive right in:
Jasmine Kennedie vs. Daya Betty — “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
First up, it’s the lip sync we’ve all been waiting for. The culmination of ten episodes of (primarily one-sided) conflict between Jasmine Kennedie and Daya Betty. On the surface, Jasmine has the advantage over Daya physically (e.g., being 21, having legs that defy physics and gravity) and statistically (Jasmine is three for three in lip syncs, while Daya has lost her only one.) However, much of that advantage disintegrates when Ru reveals her second twist of the night: the second queen gets to pick the song. Jasmine’s face visibly cracks. Sure, she might wipe the floor with Daya to JLo, but to Aretha Franklin? Not so much. Daya’s choice proves wise: She enunciates every syllable of the soul classic, and her movements, while simple, are effective from a storytelling perspective. It’s the perfect song for Daya if you think about it. In between snapping at Jasmine and Jorgeous, Daya’s driving narrative in this competition has been her desperation for recognition and, well … some R-E-S-P-E-C-T from the judges. Her ferocity is palpable. It’s not a blowout, but it is decisive. Daya has finally claimed victory over her sworn nemesis, and we can finally put this conflict to rest (I hope).
Bosco vs. Willow Pill — “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross
I am terrified of Willow Pill. Or rather, in awe of her strategic mind. RuPaul announces the twist to catch the queens off guard, refuses to tell them the rules, and makes every attempt to turn their panic meters up to 100. For most of the queens, it works. And yet, after one singular example of watching the game play out, Willow immediately absorbs all relevant information, forms a winning strategy, and executes it perfectly. In heels and a scoochie dress, no less! But let’s back up a minute. While Willow’s talents appear to number in the dozens (not that she’d tell you about any of them), acrobatic lip syncs are not her forte. This makes her nervous. She can play to her strengths, of course, but of all the songs in the lineup, only one has the potential to highlight her comedic, camp sensibility. Unfortunately for Willow, she’s selected first, leaving her no control over the song choice … or so you’d think. Back in the Werkroom, Willow and Bosco commiserate over wanting a song they can explore comedically.
While they never name a song explicitly, the implication (and Bosco’s thought process) to Willow is clear as day. So Willow picks Bosco as her lip sync partner, hedging a bet that Bosco’s choice will play right into her hands. And it does. Much of the lip sync is an even split, but Ru can’t seem to take her eyes off Willow’s hip gyrations, air guitar, etc. While still nowhere near as strong a lip syncer as some of the other queens remaining in the competition, Willow (not to mention her mind) proves she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Angeria vs. Jorgeous vs. Lady Camden — “Radio” by Beyoncé
Much fuss is made about how good Jorgeous and Jasmine are at the top of this episode, but we’ve seen both Angeria and Lady Camden destroy their share of lip syncs. Angeria won the very first challenge off the strength of her performance chops, and Lady Camden’s Blondie lip sync a few weeks ago was a high point of the season. So it’s only fitting that this lip sync is the tightest of the evening. Jorgeous is in peak form, swinging her B’Day-era Beyoncé hair and firing off complex, highly technical choreo like it’s nothing. Angeria is fully dialed in, making unwavering eye contact with the judges’ panel while occasionally dropping into a well-placed dip. Lady Camden’s dance ambitions are equally if not more ambitious than Jorgeous’s, and she even manages to layer in some funny comedic bits during the bridge. It’s a feast for the eyes to the point of being overwhelming. I watched three times just to take in as much of each individual queen as I could. My occipital lobe is positively fried, but I couldn’t be happier. In the end, though, it’s Jorgeous who triumphs. I might have made the argument for Lady Camden here, but I can’t be mad. Ru is almost certainly playing favorites with Jorgeous, but not without reason. She’s a star, and she has the skills to back it up.
Lady Camden vs. Bosco — “Don’t Let Go” by En Vogue
Next, Lady Camden again, who picks the rapidly deteriorating Bosco. For their song, Bosco picks En Vogue. The idea? Minimize Camden’s ability to outdance her by picking a slower ballad — a strategy Willow co-signs. However, Lady Camden’s extensive ballet background doesn’t just give her the flexibility and stunts to kill a high-energy number. The technical aspects of her training give her precision and innate knowledge of how her body moves at all times. She embodies the sensual rhythm of the En Vogue track and manages to steal the spotlight from Bosco completely. Lady Camden snags a win, and Bosco is in peril at 0-2.
Angeria vs. Jasmine Kennedie — “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” by Jennifer Lopez
This one is tough. With one song left on the list, Angie and Jasmine are left to duke it out to J.Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” It’s well known by the girls at this point that few, if any, are going to be able to touch the ease with which Jasmine can move her body. Even Daya Betty is in awe of Jasmine’s ability to slink down into the floor before swinging her legs above her head in a circle. But what Angeria lacks in athleticism, she more than makes up for in presence. While she may only be a few years older, Angeria and her wealth of experience are on full display here, bringing gravitas and specificity to the lyrics that Jasmine cannot match. Not to mention that Angeria is still a front-runner in this competition. She has one of the strongest contestant track records to date, and it’s hard to believe that the judges would allow her to sashay away so prematurely. Angeria takes the win, leaving our true bottom two for one last high-stakes battle.
Bosco vs. Jasmine Kennedie — “Swept Away” by Diana Ross
“There’s no time to be scared,” Bosco says in confessional. “There’s only time to be fierce.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. That said, while theoretically high stakes, it’s tough to picture anyone but Jasmine sashaying away even at the outset of this lip sync. Rarely does a queen make it past two lip syncs on Drag Race, let alone Jasmine’s (technically) six. Barring some extraordinary circumstance or bit of performance magic, the end result of this lip sync feels almost predestined.
So it would be easy to assume that this lip sync would feel anti-climatic or disappointing, but it’s neither. Bosco doesn’t hold back, and for the first time this episode, we get a taste of the type of lip sync she can kill. Bosco serves Jasmine’s floor work meets Angeria’s stage presence meets her own brand of campy, perfectly-paced comedy. It’s an excellent final lip sync and a much-needed jolt of energy that reminds us why Bosco is still a frontrunner. Jasmine holds her own, but it’s clear her time is up and that it’s time for her to sashay away graciously.
By the end of this episode, I can’t help but think, “… couldn’t we have done that last time?” While, yes, Snatch Game was weak across the board, Jasmine and Bosco could arguably be considered the weakest of the bunch. If this episode was merely a long-winded, inexorable march toward Bosco eliminating Jasmine, couldn’t we have saved ourselves the trouble and just done that the week before? Sure, lip syncs are fun, and it is great to see another chance to showcase the talents of Lady Camden and Jorgeous in particular, but the tradeoff (sacrificing the midseason’s pacing) doesn’t seem worth it to me. Nonetheless, we’re now back where we started, down to seven queens and onto the latter phase of the competition. Let’s see who survives.
Until next week!