What a weirdly fascinating episode of Drag Race that was – not so much the challenge or the various queens’ efforts at winning it (no tea no shade against anyone involved). No, it was the sudden appearance of that bitch Rona, coming in to fuck up the proceedings like the messy-ass, shit-stirring, shady queen she is – that’s what made it so interesting to watch. And it honestly took us by surprise how invested we became in watching Drag Race’s response to Covid unfold.
But first, the remaining queens got just a moment or two to react to Ginny’s voluntary exit. There was a lot of cheering among the fandom last week when she peaced-out of the competition, but we were taking the perspective of her competitors when we said in last week’s review that it was a bit disappointing – and yes, a little disrespectful. People worked their asses off to get in and stay in the competition and after they were eliminated, they got to watch someone who didn’t seem to take it as seriously as they did simply throw their chance away. Don’t get us wrong. It’s no crime what Ginny did. And it was fun to watch the drama. But the view is different from inside the arena and we don’t blame the girls for expressing some annoyance with her. Regardless, it was a minor point that had to be put aside almost immediately because 2020 got in the way.
The smartest thing the production could have done was to simply lean into the weirdness of what was going on. Who knows how things would have shaken out had history taken a different turn in 2020, but it was smart to make the show hiatus a part of the actual show, especially since no one knew how long lockdown was going to be back when we all first entered into it. And you have to figure the producers were somewhat concerned about the prospect of picking up a reality production mid-season, after the cast had spent seven months away from the weirdness. We’ve met and interviewed our share of reality competition contestants over the years and every single one of them will tell you without prompting just how bizarre the entire production process can be, and how much you have to get yourself into a certain head space in order to navigate it. It’s why Pork Chopped queens can come off so flighty and ill-prepared. They didn’t have the time or the chance to figure out how this all works. Bringing a partial cast back to the fold and immediately plunging them back into the competition after over half a year away from the cameras was an incredibly risky proposition – not that the show had much choice. What made it interesting – for us, at least – was watching them take a moment to right themselves and get back into the proper head space. After all, they haven’t just been away from TV cameras in all that time; they’ve largely been away from people, from work, from everything that defined their former lives – just like the rest of us. We suppose there was some sense of awe and envy on our parts, watching people pick up exactly where they left off after spring 2020. Such a prospect still feels for us like a faraway wish.
And we suppose there was comfort to be found in watching them get back to it relatively quickly and without fuss. Just enough time was spent discussing how bad the previous months had been for everyone and they all got to react appropriately to the news that Veronica wouldn’t be returning because she had tested positive, but it was probably smart of the show not to linger too long on this interruption, historic and unforgettable as it may have been.
Bringing back the three eliminated queens was a savvy choice as well. Veronica’s absence left an opening and the queens had all been a bit annoyed with Ginny, so forcing them all to have an open vote on who got to return immediately plunged them all back into that competitive mindset, with all its accompanying grudges and scheming. Not to be too shady about it, but it seemed pretty obvious to us that Joe Black got an almost unanimous vote because no one really wanted to see Asstina or Cherry back in the competition, even if none of the queens were willing to say so on camera.
The challenge was a cute idea – and timely, we suppose, if you look it as a response to the early lockdown popularity of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, with the accompanying surprise fervor for the film’s song “JaJa Ding-Dong.” Unforch, we can’t say the results were quite up to expectations. To be fair, Drag Race just doesn’t have the space or budget to mount anything that comes close to the over-the-top camp extravaganza that Eurovision can be. Despite the lofty inspiration, this turned out to be no different from any other song-and-dance challenge.
The song was an utter horror show of a tune, but we suppose that was at least partially the point of it. We think there was a notable difference in quality between the United Kingdolls and Bananadrama, but the show really oversold it by having the judges cheer their way through the former’s passably okay rendition and sit stone-faced through the – let’s be honest here – only slightly worse latter team’s efforts.
To be fair, the judges dinged Bananadrama for exactly the right things: their rather haphazard approach to stage costumes and the embarrassingly basic choreography. We just think they somewhat overplayed the differences between the two teams, which really weren’t all that vast. The Kingdolls looked like a pop group and played up the camp aspect with a little more smoothness and confidence.
At the end of the day, Drag Race always make it clear that the runway presentation features heavily in the final fate of each queen and once again, these slightly rougher-than-their-American-sisters UK queens came in for some serious criticism for not having stepped their pussies up to Mama Ru’s specifications. Again, there was something a little refreshing about a judge admitting that quarantine and the overwhelmingly apocalyptic feelings that defined 2020 are causing her to come down hard on the contestants and forcing her to expect more from them.
Having said that, the judging was a little all over the map. Ellie’s seagull was a cute idea with some great makeup effects, but we don’t know how you can look at her next to Tia and understand why she was praised and Tia was raked over the coals for something that looked crafty and home-made. Are we supposed to pretend Ellie’s muppet arms are fabulous? Not that Tia didn’t deserve the slapdown. She keeps missing the judges’ point, which is that she’s got everything in her arsenal to be a sickeningly high-fashion queen – except the actual costumes. Sister’s bag of chips wasn’t as good as A’whora’s and it sure did sound like she ripped the idea off. Joe’s look was fantastic and among the more creative of the lot, but boy, he should have never admitted he was wearing an off-the-discount-rack dress during the main challenge. Ru was downright offended by that.
This team may just have secured their win on this runway. All of them served better drag than their sisters. We continue to be surprised by how polished Bimini’s drag can be when she really puts her mind to it. Tayce’s look is great. A’Whora’s is better than Sister’s if for no other reason than it has a more glam, more “drag” feel to it. After this week, it should be clear to all of the remaining queens that Ru is not looking for panto or cosplay from her girls. She wants full-up, glitter-and-wigs, pageant-style drag from them. You can complain that Drag Race is limited and has too much of an influence on the art form (both of which are true), but the brief to any competing queen has always been the same: step up your drag more than you ever have before. Lawrence’s look was cute and well-executed. It’s no surprise he’s one of Ru’s favorites because he has yet to serve a look that didn’t come off highly professional and polished.
We don’t know that Tia necessarily deserved to be in the lip sync, but we think it was a deliberate wake-up call coming from Ru. When she tells you to step your pussy up, you better do it or she’ll throw you to the bottom of the pile without a second thought. We can’t say we were surprised to see Joe on the bottom. We don’t think anyone in that studio was either. We have no doubt he’s an entertaining queen, but it was always clear that he wasn’t going to serve what Drag Race asks.
We wouldn’t say Tia gave us an epic lip sync, but it was pretty clear she was hungrier to stay. It looks like the queens’ gambit paid off. Voting Joe back in gave all of them another week in the competition.
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[Photo Credit: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]