Oooh, girl. That was NOT a good episode. Shall we count the reasons why? Yes. Let’s.
First, as always, there was this weird Pie-shaped hole in the proceedings as once again, the season’s clear frontrunner (who was even named as such during the judging session) was carved out of the episode as much as possible. Second, almost everything asked of the queens this week was half-assed and half-baked. They essentially named the episode after Gwyneth Paltrow but never once mentioned her. Girl, what?
But first, a little time with Just Jan.
Not to kick a girl when she’s down, but we think we speak for the entire world when we say “Sure, Jan.” She may actually have been upset that her apparent drag soulmate Brita got sent home, but her attempts to cover her own crushing disappointment at not winning just looked a bit tragically un-self aware. Jan is a super-talented queen with a great look and a winning personality, but we tend to think she must be much better live than on TV, where she gives off an overwhelming “PLEASE JUST LOVE ME” vibe. We’ve said this a thousand times over the years, but being bad at reality television doesn’t make you bad at your job or a bad person overall. We’ll circle ’round back to this in a bit. For now, we just have to ask:
What the frack, Ru? Why was this episode so badly conceived?
The mini-challenge was just badly conceived from the jump. We actually don’t mind product placement on reality competitions so long as they’re well-integrated or make some sort of sense. Having an episode centered around being a product spokesmodel is a long-time Drag Race tradition born less out of any traditions in drag as it is on Ru’s own career. She’s a mercenary queen and she expects her girls to learn how to whore out the products.
But trying to marry product-hawking with shade just didn’t work, leaving all the queens to scramble a bit in a nearly impossible improv challenge that came down to trying to promote a product while also being a total bitch to the other girls. This crop is really talented (that’s some impressive-as-hell 15-minute drag), and they seemed to have done alright for themselves getting through it, but it was a tedious affair, we’re sorry to say.
And while the main challenge was another well-established Drag Race tradition of having the queens come up with a product and a commercial for it, it was hampered by what we can only assume was an example of one of the oldest Drag Race traditions of all, Ru booking one of his friends on the show for no discernible reason.
This bitch knows as much about directing comedy as she does about healthy living – and that’s all we’ll say about that because if we really went off on what we thought of this queen and the damage he’s done to real people’s lives, we might get in trouble. Suffice it to say, he looked silly and he had no idea what he was doing. He was shocked to see a queen do a dip, for fuck’s sake.
Damn, Ru. You couldn’t drag Richard Simmons out of seclusion? We realize each of the queens was ultimately responsible for her work, but we have to think his half-assed and often completely wrong-headed direction didn’t help matters.
Jackie’s got a rock-solid sense of herself and what she’s doing, so hers was pretty well-rendered.
Jan just never dials it back or offers anything but full-blast at all times.
A sudden shocking twist! Jaida’s funny on top of being utterly sickening! Watch out for that one.
A usually very polished queen who really didn’t seem to know what she was doing, strangely.
Ditto. As with Gigi, you could see the smoothly professional performer underneath, but the concept and the jokes fell flat.
Honestly, just painful. We don’t want to badmouth a queen, but she seemed to be getting more bitter over the course of the competition. When you compare her “I’m a Bitch” performance in the first episode to her later work, it doesn’t even seem like the same person.
Heidi did great, which was a wonderful thing to see because damn, did this girl need a win. One of the things that might have worked in her benefit was the low-key nature of her drag. The hair, makeup and costume all said “spokesmodel,” while most of the other girls went for pure drag.
Here’s where we offer our patented Controversial Hot Take of the Week: Crystal’s was better than Heidi’s. The concept was good, the look as original and a little unexpected from her, and she really nailed the comedy.
Category is: Black Wedding 🖤💎
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) April 18, 2020
Seems like an awfully broad category with the potential to inspire a lot of samey-same looks, but to be fair, some of these queens stepped their P up for this one.
Jackie’s was good, but her sort of aging retro drag isn’t helping her. She’s capable of looking stunning, but she tends to default to looks that border on a type of Dowdy Drag. Jan REALLY stepped it up with this one. This is the first time it felt like she was wearing fashion instead of cosplay. Jaida looks stunning, but that’s not exactly a surprise. She’s tailor-made for this category.
Look at this bitch’s perfect “pretty feet” 3/4 turn stance. Flawlessness. Sherry continues to model absolutely drop-dead (no pun intended) stagewear that sets her above most of the other girls.
Heidi REALLY stepped hers up with this look. Absolutely the best thing in her arsenal yet. She can werk the high-end looks, but her makeup still looked pretty harsh here. This was the absolute best Widow’s ever looked on the runway. And Crystal continues to reveal herself to be much more than anyone originally figured. This look is a stunner.
They really did well for themselves on this front, even if the rest of the challenges seems to have left them floundering.
Of course we have no problem with Heidi winning this week. We think Crystal edged her out slightly, but she earned this and it was thrilling to see her come into her own. Hopefully, this lights a fire under her. And speaking of fires being lit under queens’ asses…
Widow benefitted from a few things in the end. First, she just seemed to need to stay more than Jan, who was pretty close to being crushed at this point. Second, she worshipped Chaka Khan, who came backstage during Untucked and more or less willed her soul into Widow’s body. And third, let’s face it:
She was WAY more suited to the material. Not just because of any resemblance to the artist, but just because Jan’s theater-kid style and neediness didn’t go with the song at all. Widow could reach into herself and interpret it the way God and Chaka Khan intended.
We know there’s a significant portion of the fandom who think she got screwed this season, but we have news for them: there’s a significant portion of fandom who thinks the same thing for every damn queen who ever appeared on the show. The thing about reality competitions is that they don’t always highlight the very best singer in the group or model in the group or fashion designer in the group. They reward the people who are not necessarily the best at whatever the competition’s about, but are the best at being reality competition contestants. Jan’s a good drag queen – maybe even a great one. But she couldn’t get the format of the show to work for her; to allow her to showcase her talents in the best way.
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[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]