Welcome back to another episode of Shea Coulee Eliminates One More Obstacle to The Inevitable! Although Diary? We probably shouldn’t say stuff like that because we would not put it past Ru to swerve at the last second, just to go against expectations. Shea is so clearly above all the other girls right now but we don’t want to make a Hillary out of her, if you know what we mean. From the vantage point of episode two, she looks like the standout professional that she is, but never forget that Drag Race, while an unsurprisingly terrible platform on which to apply sports metaphors, is undeniably excellent at throwing curveballs. Shea? You’re in danger, girl. Maybe.
In other news, these queens are SWIMMING inside their heads. That’s another reason why Shea stands out so much. She’s one of the few girls here who doesn’t seem remotely unsure of herself. In fact, she’s the only girl here who isn’t suffering from some need to prove herself or get her head above water. Miz Cracker’s insecurity is rearing up under the guise of being an authority on how other queens should act, zeroing in on the one queen in the group whose self confidence issues are most obvious. It was a classic bit of crabs-in-a-bucket bullying, whether Cracker could admit it to herself or not.
She came to some sort of realization later that absolutely no good came from her little speech to Ongina, but we wonder if she ever realized how much of it was due to her own need to tear someone down. Not that we’re trying to disparage her character or anything. We’ve recapped a million reality competition episodes and one thing we’ve learned is that the tension and claustrophobia of a reality competition makes everyone a little crazy. And also that things are edited to ridiculous extremes to make storylines, so take the entire paragraph with a grain of salt. Although they really are in their heads too much – most of them, anyway.
All-Stars typically tries its best to ramp up the drama, based on that pronounced need for returning queens to prove themselves – and with a much more advanced knowledge on the production team’s part as to how to push each of these queens’ buttons. Which is fine, we guess. We’re going to continue to see rivalries and alliances play out in the elimination each week and we can tell this gaggle of queens walked in with a lot of issues to play off, but this was the second week in a row where the main challenge was a highly underwhelming talent display that wasn’t all that much fun to sit through.
We can’t tell if this flock isn’t collectively up to the task (which doesn’t seem likely) or if the production is handing them sub-par material (which seems more than likely with this week’s number, which was a total snooze).
The only thing the number had going for it was the fact that it was a fairly low key, slow tempo song, which meant the queens couldn’t rely on over-the-top theatrics and mugging to get them through. They had to nail every part of it, from choreography to character to lyrics.
Most of them weren’t up to the task. Some of them were downright painful to sit through.
And one of them commanded the stage, the song, and the choreography way above any of the others. The idea of Shea not winning the challenge after this performance was ridiculous.
This week’s category was “Love the skin you’re in,” which sounds more like a cosmetics tagline and also feels a little weird as a drag category, since it’s not exactly a form that celebrates natural beauty. Given the rather broad interpretations – or outright ignoring – of the category, we suspect it wasn’t particularly well articulated to the queens.
India chose an “I love all skins” approach and the results were pretty matronly. Jujubee chose an “I’m feeling how gorgeous I am” approach and just served up good drag.
Blaire just dyed her face to match her dress. We’re glad she got lightly called out for it, even though she does look pretty amazing.
Ongina chose an ethnic pride theme, interpreting a folk costume. We can respect that, but it just didn’t make very good drag. Mariah also chose an “I’m really feeling myself” take and looked stunning. But let’s face it: once again, Shea walked out and simply dusted the other queens. This was a gorgeous look.
The naked illusion drag was well done, but it was the styling, hair and makeup that took this to another level. Total goddess drag. Like we said, the outcome of this episode was clear well before Ru’s choice was made and we suspect the whole season’s going to feel that way so long as Shea doesn’t give them a thing to criticize.
Cracker, Mayhem and Alexis essentially matched their underwhelming dresses to their skin tone, which is probably why they were all just safe and why there wasn’t enough footage of them on the runway to screencap them.
It also seemed more than obvious who was going home, especially once she blurted out “SEND ME HOME!” It’s got to be a hell of a culture shock for Ongina to be thrown back into the Drag Race grinder after 11 years, especially given how unrecognizable the current show is in comparison to the one in which she first competed.
Always a pleasure to see Alyssa Edwards and while this truly was an epic lip sync for the ages, her slightly underwhelming performance made it feel like she was holding back, which forces a question about the whole setup. Alyssa is not going to win a dime for her performance and the only reward she will get for winning the lip sync is yanking $20,000 out of another queen’s grasp and sending yet another queen home – AND she knows ahead of time which queen it’s going to be. Given all that, what reason does any visiting queen have for giving the moment her all? There’s so many negatives surrounding a possible win and pretty much no positives.
Which isn’t to say Shea didn’t earn this one handily. She literally strolled right up to every task handed her this episode and then completely crushed it without breaking a sweat. This is going to sound SUPER bitchy, but these other queens aren’t testing Shea. The only reason she doesn’t already have a crown is because her competition was Sasha Velour, who is also well above a lot of these girls in terms of artistry and professionalism. We keep coming back to the fear that the production will see this and start fucking with things so as not to make the outcome so inevitable.
On the other hand, the folks at World of Wonder (if not Ru herself, who often seems WAY out of sync with the fandom) must know on some level that the fans would shit a brick if Shea’s win was denied her.
As for Ongina, we really are sorry to see her go (and it has been a bit of a nostalgia blast to get to write about her again after 11 years), but we just couldn’t see any other outcome. She’s a great queen who just wasn’t prepared for what Drag Race had become. We’re glad Ru told her that she changed her life because it’s so damn true. We said in our book that Ongina’s HIV reveal was a clear turning point in the show’s history. She planted the seed that eventually became the show’s greatest strength and a huge reason for its success: the idea that the lives of these queens are loaded with stories that speak of the queer experience. Every tearful revelation about coming out, getting sober, growing up poor, being cut off from family, having their heart broken or the spirit crushed – all of that started with Ongina and the producers of the show realizing what her revelation meant.
“Our book Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life is on sale now!
The Los Angeles Times called it “a nuanced exploration of the gender-bending figures, insider lingo and significant milestones in queer history to which the show owes its existence.” The Washington Post said it “arrives at just the right time … because the world needs authenticity in its stories. Fitzgerald and Marquez deliver that, giving readers an insight into the important but overlooked people who made our current moment possible.” Paper Magazine said to “think of it as the queer education you didn’t get in public school” and The Associated Press said it was “delightful and important” and “a history well told, one that is approachable and enjoyable for all.”
[Stills: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]
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