We’re in the final stretch now, which means the “storylines” are all going to get very predictable. If you thought Lawrence was going to let bygones be bygones or that Ru wasn’t going to use her double-shantay, we don’t know what to tell you, darlings. It was written in the stars.
As we noted last week, Lawrence’s outrage over Ellie’s gamesmanship has way less to do with his own hurt feelings or the idea that Ellie did anything underhanded (she didn’t; not really) and way more to do with the realization that his once near-lock on the competition has slipped out of his hands as Bimini keeps racking up wins. In the first half of this season, the judges routinely got rapturous over Lawrence and showered him with praise. For the last few weeks, he’s watched Bimini get that treatment while he comes in for relatively minor but completely on-point critiques about getting out of his head. We can feel the panic in his diatribes against Ellie. It’s to her credit that she’s not paying it much mind.
Because there’s the expected rising tension among the competitors as they head into the finale, now’s the perfect time to hand them all a puppet and give them a chance to rip into their sisters.
One of the great things about the puppet challenge is that the very presence of puppets makes the shady insults harder to take seriously. Every once in a while someone gets hurt or annoyed in the Library challenge, but it’s really hard to take insult to a puppet version of yourself getting read. It’s also to the show’s credit that both the mini and main challenges resulted in performances so uniform that it was hard to render judgments on them. Everyone’s pretty close to being on the same level here, even if Lawrence and Bimini have the clear advantage going into the finals.
Before launching into the seemingly long overdue Eastenders sketch (we realize this is only the second season, but this seems like such a no-brainer, we’re surprised it took this long), the dolls all get messages from their mums, which made for a really cute segment. Tensions may be high, but these bitches have been through something together and that almost always forges a bond.
It’s been at least a decade since we checked in on the residents of Albert Square, but it seemed to us that the queens all did a pretty good job of hitting the mark on parodying them, even if the acting wasn’t likely to win any BAFTA awards. Lawrence was a mess in rehearsals and it seems to us he’s got a lot of work to do in order to win that crown. He’s on the wrong trajectory and giving the impression he may have flamed out early.
We think Ellie was a bit over-praised when it came to her acting, but she commits to every challenge and gives it her all each time. That may not win RuPeter badges, but it does tend to build up a backlog of good will from the judges. Bimini’s acing everything the does at this point. Hence Lawrence’s unsteadiness. Like Ellie, whatever Tayce lacked in acting or comedic skills, he made up for in sheer commitment and a willingness to overperform to an absurd level.
The runway category was Panto and like the Eastenders challenge, we’re amazed it’s taken this long for the show to feature it. We’ve long pointed to the panto tradition in UK drag as the one thing that separates it most decisively from American drag. UK queens have a much more evolved sense of camp and a taste for the absurd in their drag, in the most general sense of course. But that campy sense of clownery is one of the main drivers when the UK queens come up against Ru and Michelle’s American-style criteria. This has been such a defining feature of the UK show that we think they should make panto drag a recurring runway category, like the family makeover challenge.
As with Ru’s comments, you should take ours regarding the results here with a giant grain of America-shaped salt. Even so, we think it’s clear that Lawrence nailed the brief. It’s not for us to say whether there was a reason to single Tayce out for doing a not-inappropriate fairy look over a panto dame one, but the other judges seemed to shoot her down.
Bimini nailed it even harder than Lawrence did.
And Ellie once again served a killer face on top of a mediocre look.
Even if Ru’s double-shantay was a given, we think it’s fairly justified in this case. These girls brought everything they had to it. It wasn’t quite epic; more along the lines of all the challenges this episode: a case of very evenly matched girls going up against each other with results that are hard to differentiate.
Still, we have no complaints about the final four. It seems fairly obvious that there’s really only a Final Two, but Tayce and Ellie have a chance to shake things up, so it could be anyone’s crown at this point. That’s how you want a Drag Race finale to be.
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: WOW via Tom and Lorenzo]
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