So much of the early episodes of any season of RuPaul’s Drag Race is about waiting for the inevitable to happen. As so, after hearing a contestant say in the first episode that she has never performed before, we watch as she is summarily dismissed in the second episode as soon as she was, you guessed it, asked to perform. This is even worse than a queen showing up not knowing how to sew. You can sell the shit out of an awful outfit (well, maybe not if you’re LaLa Ri) and sewing is one of the lesser skills in any queen’s arsenal. But if you can’t perform, then you can’t even sell the most amazing outfits on the stage, which, no doubt, Starlet had this episode.
This was the inevitable girl group challenge, or as I like to call it, “Trying to Recapture the Magic of ‘U.K. Hon?’” Black Peppa and Dakota Schiffer, as the winner of the last challenge and the lip sync, respectively, are named team captains, and both have to form a girl group and compete against each other with the same song, Ru’s new single “Come Alive.” The idea is that they’re on stage at the YAAAAAStonbury Festival. Oh, come on. London has its own queer pop music festival called Mighty Hoopla. Mighty Ru-pla was right there.
Black Peppa picks Baby, Sminty Drop, Jonbers Blonde (which both Ru and I are both shortening to JB cause life is too short for the spell check on my Google Docs), and Starlet. Dakota picks Danny Beard, Le Fil, Cheddar Gorgeous, and Pixie Polite. Everyone is treating Copper Top like a red-headed stepchild (sorry, I had to) because she was at the bottom last week. Because she’s last, she gets to pick her own team and chooses Dakota’s. When they ask why, she says that Peppa’s group is going to be like “slay the house down boots gagged gooped Laganja Estranga tonguepop.”
Across the workroom, Peppa and crew are like, “Thank god she didn’t come over here.” That is when anyone fluent in the reality television arts and sciences clocked the story we would be told this week. Peppa’s team, with Baby, who has a degree in songwriting, is going to be overconfident and that will be their downfall. It’s just like Oedipus being blinded by his hubris only to be blinded by his mother’s brooches. But enough about actual mother tuckers, which is apparently something you can’t say on the BBC while over on Channel 4 they’re showing limp dicks on a dating show. Danny Beard keeps getting scolded for saying it. I mean, what is this? Drag Race or an audience with the Queen? Oh, sorry, I mean King.
I am immediately Team Dakota for a few reasons, the first of which is I already know they’re going to snatch the crown. Even better, Dakota bans anyone from using “snatch the crown.” Just like Real Housewives can’t resist a ‘20s party, no drag queen can resist the lure of “snatch the crown.” It is like a siren, calling to them, only to dash them on the rocks sending wigs, nails, and breastplates everywhere. I also love this team because the song they’re doing is a rock song, and they name themselves Queens of the Bone Age, which is camp and drag and rock and everything that John Waters was doing in the ‘60s that we’re still catching up to.
Meanwhile, across the workroom, the other team has called themselves Triple Threat. This is the dumbest name ever. It’s like if Fifth Dimension or Fifth Harmony or Maroon 5 had six members. Oh, wait, Maroon 5 does, but after seeing the way Adam Levine DMs, of course, they would have a name as stupid as Triple Threat.
The episode plays out as ever. Each team takes the world’s last remaining iPod Nanos, which they use to listen to their song, and heads to record their vocals. Some are great, and some suck. Some you thought would be great suck, and some you thought would suck are great. Tale as old as time. One thing is clear, Queens of the Bone Age are shouting and screaming and being punk rock while the Triple Cooked Chips are treating it like something else. A Carly Rae Jepson jam, I guess. Then we see both groups struggling with choreography and we immediately learn who can’t dance. That would be Sminty, JB, Danny, and Starlet, who can’t seem to do anything except drone, look like Barbie, and wear the best clothes I have ever seen. She couldn’t even be bothered to give an entrance line when walking off the runway.
Everything is looking good for Queens of the Bone Age, though. Pixie is talking about how they might win and is outfitting the group when Le Fil says, “Thanks for bringing extra fabric.” Pixie answers, “That’s just a dress in my size.” Le Fil better, “And I Oop” that statement right back. Danny says that the other team will look like a girl group, and they’re going to look like “a queue for Greg’s,” which is the funniest line in the show (if you’re not British enough to get it, I am sorry). However, right after that, Dakota talks about her twin sibling Henry, who is queer and non-binary, and their coming out process. It was lovely and touching, but doesn’t backstory in the early episodes usually spell doom? Wait, they can’t be sending Dakota home (though that also seems like an upcoming inevitability.)
When we get to the performance, the Triple Deckers look amazing, but you can already tell it’s off. This is a pop song, yes, but rock based. This is Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat,” and they are dressed for Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” (let’s go!). There was an assignment, and they clearly did not understand it at all. It is wrong from the start with Starlet, in an amazing fully body fishnet stocking with a waist so tiny that TI would marry it and little stars on her little twink nipples, doing a verse that wasn’t bad. However, she is essentially Colin, the energy vampire from What We Do In The Shadows. Then she’s in the middle of the formation, and you can feel the mood deflating like the Cialis just wore off.
Some performers were better than others, but JB and Sminty tried to pack in so many words they couldn’t even lip-sync them correctly. I mean, JB had to have every line reading fed to her by Leland, who was recording with the group. How is she going to put them all together on stage? Also, there were large gaps in their formation and the dancing was sloppy.
Meanwhile, Queens of the Bone Age comes out, and they’re all in black leather and acid green. They look like a group of rockers, and they scream, snarl, and shake their way through their numbers, each of them hammering it, even Dakota, who looks amazing, giving Courtney-Love-Just-Woke-Up-in-a-Gutter realness. As soon as the performance is done, we all know who won and who lost, including the two teams, so now it’s just about hearing it on the runway.
Ru gives all the Queens of the Bone Age a Ru Peter badge. Who is she? Oprah infesting her audience with bees? They’re like the Hollywood Handshake at this point, so ubiquitous that they eventually become meaningless. We’ll be on week three, and more than half of the cast already has one. I’m also sad that none of them get to stay to be tops this week. (RuPaul is just like Andy Cohen; when she throws a party, she wants to ensure she’s the only top.)
We only get to hear about the bottoms, but for me, Starlet is no bottom. I mean, her pink neon devil with the yellow feathers everywhere? Iconique, which is how you spell “iconic” if you once owned a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. I don’t understand how the judges feel about the rest of the outfits. Graham talks about how Baby’s neon monstrosity is too much and looks like a drag queen junkyard — just insanity sticking out in every direction. No, Michelle, this is not “fun” this is what Big Bird looks like when she goes on How to Build a Sex Room. I also don’t love Peppa’s yellow-on-yellow big hat Diana Ross look. We all love Tracee Ellis Ross’s mother, but a good reference should not save a lackluster outfit.
Scarlet gets the harshest critiques, with Michelle saying she didn’t look like she was having fun at all. “I was. Having. A lot. Of fun,” Starlet says like a robot. Michelle tells her she needs to express it with her face, but apparently, Scarlet wears face tape in drag, so she can’t really move it. How about you, I don’t know, take them off for the challenges where you have to move your face and just put them on for the runway?
It’s her and JB in the final two, and it is like the Charlie Hides lip sync all over again. JB is running and working and jiving all over the stage, and Starlet is just standing there in the same place, kind of singing the words but not really. I think that the show did a disservice to Starlet by casting her. She is one of the great queens that is not great at RuPaul’s Drag Race. Maybe in a couple of years, she could have gotten her energy and performance skills to match her mastery of character, fashion, and makeup, but now we’ll never get to know. Her consolation prize is that she will be the only queen from this season I follow on Instagram because I can’t wait to see her next look.