One of the great things about Drag Race is that it allows the unfolding action of an episode to determine the type of drama it’s going to indulge in. The production makes course corrections on the fly or responds directly to what’s happening with a twist that feels appropriate and on-point, rather than just a whim of the producers or a way to ramp up the tension. When six queens did a terrible job on a challenge and none of them would point to whose fault it was, Mama Ru threw up her hands and told them all they had to lip sync. If that had simply been some twist to fuck with the queens we might have been annoyed, but it was the right thing to do and it resulted in one of the most entertaining and high-drama lip syncs in the show’s history.
The challenge itself was fairly basic as Drag Race acting challenges go; focused on skewering a slice of culture that the queers either love to skewer or the queers feel compelled to skewer because of their natural adversarial feelings toward it. This isn’t the first time the show has parodied modern Christianity and we doubt very much it’ll be the last.
What made this episode so interesting was the conundrum it posed. What do you do when one team absolutely kills a challenge and the other does such a godawful job that you can’t even decide who was the worst? Nina West and her gals were focused and almost completely drama-free (until they won and Silky decided to take that moment, make it all about herself, and engage in an utterly ridiculous screaming match backstage). Everyone knew their lines and their roles. No one broke character or lost focus. The jokes flew fast and furious and nearly all of them landed. The musical number was funny and for the most part, well performed. It’s actually pretty rare to see a team do this uniformly well in an acting challenge.
Having said that, we are once again compelled to point out that Vanjie is a mothertucking STAR and she makes us laugh literally every single time she opens her mouth. If she was just some unintentionally funny queen in the mode of Alyssa Edwards, that wouldn’t be so notable, but she keeps bringing her A game to every challenge and runway. Despite the fact that Ru hasn’t seen fit to reward her and the other queens just see her as another competitor, we think she’s the clear frontrunner this season – by far. She was flat-out hilarious in this scene.
Ra’Jah, on the other hand, lost control of her team almost immediately. She basically strong-armed them all into a diva choice that half of them weren’t sure about and the results showed that fairly clearly. There was no point to the sketch; no jokes that landed. Nina’s team was tight and nearly perfectly rehearsed while Ra’Jah’s gave the impression that they hadn’t rehearsed at all. Perhaps it’s understandable why Ru opted to make them all lip sync, but we would have definitely picked Ra’Jah as one of the bottom two.
A little Bear n’ Twink action for the gays.
The show has made it nearly impossible to get screencaps of the looks, so you’ll have to make do with these largely still shots. From the left: Not really feeling Nina’s mop, Brook Lynne’s flower fringe is pretty cute, Vanjie looks great, but Michelle’s right that bodysuits are lazy drag, and Yvie continues to push the drag envelope in fabulous and eye-popping ways (although we had to fast forward through the Untucked scenes of her smoking in this firetrap because it was making us way too anxious that she was about to go up in flames at any second). Mercedes remains weird, aloof, and low energy. We didn’t love this look at all. Ariel’s drag is all face – and it’s the same face every time. At some point, Silky’s rather dull drag needs to be addressed.
As much as we think Vanjie owned this challenge, it was a good thing for Ru to reward Nina with the win. That team was tight as hell and she was a smooth and unruffled hostess throughout the whole sketch. Good for her. We hope she gains some confidence from this.
Scarlett’s looks was pretty great but we don’t like how she erases her eyebrows. We’re all for weird drag, but glamour drag is really your forte, mister. Shuga’s bodysuit had a sharp and well-rendered theme but we have yet to see a decent makeup job from her. It’s always “man in makeup.” Plastique is once again pretty, but unremarkable – and her “I don’t understand pop culture because I’ve only been in this country ten years” was a RIDICULOUS bit of excuse-making.
Akeriah slayed in that lewk and we think Honey’s is dramatic, but too heavy and funereal. Ra’Jah’s look was perfectly assessed by Michelle when she said “This isn’t a bar.”
The lip sync was a bit hard to get a handle on because so many of them were working that stage, but the split screen was a great idea that really ramped up the drama of the moment and turned it into an epic throwdown. When Honey rolled off the stage in all her heavy leather and then took forever to get back up there, her fate was sealed.
We felt really bad for her because she was utterly devastated and humiliated, which is a shame. But she also didn’t seem to know what the judges wanted from her and she still seem confused by it as she walked out the door. Was she the worse this week? Maybe. But this early in the game, it’s not necessarily about cutting out the worst so much as it is getting rid of the cannon fodder; the queens who aren’t ready or can’t figure out what they’re supposed to be offering the judges.
We had a few things to get off our chest regarding Silky’s total bitch move during Untucked in today’s podcast:
[Stills: Tom and Lorenzo via VH1]