Sorry, but we think this episode was absolutely HILARIOUS – for all the wrong reasons.
Here you have the perfect sort of challenge for late in a Drag Race season; the kind of challenge that really separates the girls from the queens, so to speak. The drag roast challenge combines just about everything Ru looks for or values in a queen; a big personality, a cutting wit, the ability to roll with the punches and react to the audience, a facility with shade (which, at this stage in the game means a laser-focused ability to hit your mark cleanly), and a fully realized character embodied by a distinct look. At the end of such a challenge, there should be no question as to who’s got the chops to go all the way and who’s basically wasting the judges’ time at this point.
Which is why the outcome is so hilarious to us. As far as we’re concerned, there was no question who the top queens were and who the bottom queens were. We might have quibbled over who should have gone home and even who might have been the winner, but we thought there was one thing that was inarguable about the outcome and it was of course the one thing where Ru went completely off the rails. In other words, Kandy winning this one was so dumb and so clearly a case of being Ru’s pet that it just struck as hilarious in its awfulness.
There was a cute and funny mini-challenge hawking Anastasia Beverly Hills products, but the main challenge dominated the episode to the point that there wasn’t even a runway presentation, so we may as well get right down to it.
We’ve been bickering about Kandy all season. Lorenzo’s of the opinion that seems to most jibe with the general fandom, which is that Kandy is wildly over-praised to the point that her flaws are completely overlooked. Tom tends to think that Kandy’s a lot better than the fandom might like to admit and that the reason for the fans turning against her and the reason Ru loves her so much comes down to the same thing: She’s a loud, occasionally crude, smack-talking rough queen. But her looks are usually pretty high-level, this one included. People keep comparing her to Silky Ganache, but we think the real comparison is to Miss Vanjie. To be fair, Kandy’s not quite on that level but she’s working the same block on that street, if you know what we mean.
Anyway, our point is this: She’s better than the fandom seems to want to admit, but not as good as Ru seems to think. This was a damn good set with some funny lines, but we would have called this a third place finish. Give the queen a pat on the head for triumphing and send her to the back wall.
Oof. Giiiiirl, a mess. There’s just nothing good to say about this performance. Symone’s a top queen and there’s still a chance for her to snatch the crown in the end. In fact, we think her excellent track record and the way she’s managed to charm the judges is ultimately what saved her from elimination. Loved the look, though.
Sigh. This one.
The problem with the freaky, performance-art queens on Drag Race is not that they’re different; it’s that they tend to be so damn stubborn about it. We absolutely support any queen who works outside the rather strict and narrow confines of what Drag Race deems superstar-level drag. The pageanty tendency of the competition needs to constantly be challenged, and sometimes, a good freaky queen is the best thing about her season. We love Utica’s drag, but we’ve gotten increasingly annoyed with her constant blithe dismissal of any critiques she gets. There’s a way to be true to your drag and still give the judges what they want, but she was always way too stubborn about the former and never seemed to give much thought to the latter. Michelle and Loni were very clear and specific in their pre-show critiques and Utica didn’t listen to a word of it. For us, that was reason enough for her to go — although we think Ru really was a little pissed at how mean she was. Fabulous look, though. It probably worked against her during the lip sync, though.
Gotta say, Gottmik was the biggest surprise of the night. We’ve been getting this feeling lately like she’s basically given the competition all she’s capable of giving and that she was likely to hit the wall soon. And she certainly gave the impression going into this challenge that she was going to completely blow it. To be fair, she was hilarious in the Snatch Game, but we think we kinda chalked that up to the fact that she knows Paris Hilton and can resemble her rather easily. But this time around, we came away truly impressed with her comedy skills. She nailed the jokes and looked really cute to boot.
Sorry again, but we really hit the wall with her this episode. Her cuteness turned grating and came off incredibly disingenuous. The little tottering toddler walk, the constant grinning and shrugging – she did everything but stick a finger in a dimple to let you know just how fucking sweet she is. And look, all of that annoying doll-like behavior might have really worked in her favor if she landed a couple of good, cutting jokes. But from where we’re sitting, it only highlighted the fact that “I’m so sweet” is literally her whole brand. When you ask her to do something else, she just leans harder into it.
We’ve said before that Ru sometimes passes over the really smoothly professional queens because she finds it more interesting when a queen struggles with a challenge and triumphs. It makes a certain amount of sense, based on her own musings about drag and also because it makes for a more interesting reality competition when it’s not just a bunch of well-trained professionals smoothly vying for the crown. Even so, it was completely insane to see Rosé ignored like this. Sure, she got to be in the top and the judges lavished praise on her, but the idea that she didn’t clearly win this one just doesn’t scan. We don’t care how much of a story you want to tell about diamonds-in-the-rough who turn out to be princess swans under Ru’s maternal tutelage, sometimes you just have to give the best girl the win, dammit.
We didn’t love this look, but it was very character-based and kind of unforgettable, which makes it great stagewear.
The editing was very choppy here and it really felt like Utica’s efforts were being short-changed, but even so, it seemed like Symone was simply way more suited to the song and Utica’s costume wasn’t conducive to really getting into it.
Not that it mattered. Probably. Her stubborness and her somewhat surprising nastiness were ultimately what doomed Utica, not her envelope-pushing, freak-flag-flying drag, which the judges mostly loved. If you’re on Drag Race, no matter what your style or background, at some point, you’ve got to show the judges you’re listening and willing to bend a little.
Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life, a New York Times “New and Notable” pick, praised by The Washington Post “because the world needs authenticity in its stories,” and chosen as one of the Best Books of 2020 by NPR is on sale wherever fine books are sold!
[Photo Credit: VH1 via Tom and Lorenzo]
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