RuPaul’s Drag Race: A Pair of Balls

Posted on January 22, 2022

Well, you can’t say this episode wasn’t loaded to the rafters with developments. We’ve got more ground than usual to cover, so let’s get to it. First: the day and night shifts meet each other for the first time and while there are minor bits of shade tossed on the table, it seems that this whole group is fairly laid back and community-minded. This will almost certainly change if Ru decides to keep pitting the shifts against each other.

This happened, but we all kinda figured it would, no? We tend to get less upset than most Drag Race fans about the ways the show fucks around with its own rules or pits the players against each other. It’s always been openly manipulative and in the end, all these things do is provide a little more drama to a competitive variety show.

 

Ditto all the silliness with the candy bars. It’s just a way to make every lip sync just a weensy bit more dramatic each week and we can’t really see how it would change the direction of the competition. Ru is gonna crown who she’s gonna crown. It’s just a lot of jumping through hoops and shadow play until you get to that point.

 

It was the Ball Challenge this week, with each shift being tasked with slightly different takes on the same three themes. As always with balls, the results were pretty illuminating and we’ll get to them in a second, but the Werk Room conversations this week were especially entertaining or notable, mainly because it’s always interesting when the sewing machines come out (Willow’s struggles were eye-opening and also set up her win perfectly), but also because the two shifts met for the first time and we saw a bunch of the day shift react to Maddy. Without going down that road again, we’ll just say if there’s any value in having a straight man in a traditionally queer space like Drag Race’s Werk Room, it gives a chance to show how accepting our community can be about allies and ostensible outsiders who want to join in. It’s always been that way with drag, which relies on a healthy stream of revenue from non-queer patrons and always has.

 

It’s also notable and interesting to us that we can have a scene with two trans women connecting about their shared stories in a way that was always – and rigidly, for most of a decade – given over to gay men talking about their coming out. Drag Race has always evolved, from nearly the beginning of its prominence. It’s just slow and sometimes begrudging about it, but without getting too lofty, that has always been the way with the LGBTQ community. Hence, a little critically acclaimed book centered around the connection. Call us whores, if you must. We would never argue with such a classification.

Anyway, we’re off to the balls. The day shift went to the Hide n Chic Ball, where they had to fulfill the categories of Resort, Evening and Bridal using animal prints. Pause here for a moment of recognition of Lorenzo the Screenshotter’s efforts. He may have cried a little when they announced the challenge. Given the rapid-fire camera work and editing on the main stage, it’s close to impossible to get clear shots of each look, but our guy’s been doing this sort of thing for fifteen years, since all the way back when we used to record episodes of Project Runway on a DVD recorder in order to publish screen shots the next morning.

First up, Alyssa Hunter, who wound up safe. That seems about right to us. Each of these looks are cute or witty or well rendered, but we wouldn’t call any of them all that exciting.

 

Bosco was also safe, but we tend to respond really well to her drag, which continues to surprise us with its diversity of looks. Not that she’s showing all that much range here, but we might have been a bit dismissive in thinking she’d be little more than a standard burlesque queen. We love the catsuit and the bridal look.

 

Willow Pill won the challenge and we can’t really argue with that one either. She’s creative, she’s got a great eye, and she’s got range.

 

Kerri Colby was safe and we fear she’s such a natural stunner that Ru & Co. may be taking her for granted. We certainly can’t argue with the excellence of these three looks, although we do stand by our earlier observation that her drag isn’t as transformative as Ru & Co. tend to like.

 

Kornbread was safe as well and again, we can’t really argue with that. Ru’s coffee enema may have caused her to give some of the least useful advice any queen would want to hear (at one point, she was doing little more than barking), but this is one week where we think the decisions all made sense. Anyway, these looks are fine, but balls always separate the high-performing looks girls from the ones who need help in that area in order to move forward and we think Kornbread’s in the latter group. She’s gonna kill the performing challenges, though.

 

In the Werk Room, Orion Story revealed that her drag is largely a memorial to her mother, who died by suicide. Drag with memorial origins isn’t entirely uncommon and there’s an apocryphal quote we came across in researching our book made some time in the sixties or seventies that “We all dress like our mothers or our mother’s best friend.” It’s just one of those little things in drag that reveal how biographical a form of art it actually can be. The judges’ critique that her drag was “too much” may seem silly on the face of it, but we do tend to agree that a sort of thematically pure approach yields the best drag. It’s a little hard to sum up who these three women are except tacky.

 

Hate to say it, but June Jambalaya’s the epitome of the Not-Ready Queen. Her drag just isn’t there yet and we tend to think she covers for it by trying to serve a lot of good reality TV sound bites.

The Night Shift went to the Red, White & Blue Ball, where they had to fulfill the same categories of Resort, Evening and Bridal.

We can’t really say Daya Betty’s earned her return to the competition yet. It’s not that her drag is bad so much as it feels very basic.

 

Angeria is never not going to serve you pure pageant excellence and polish that makes a diamond look dingy. Like Kerri, she’s going to need to show the judges that she can perform as well as she can serve a look because it seems like the judges already find the results here to be expected.

 

Deja is another girl whose drag is revealed to be a little basic and a little under-baked, but that’s exactly what these ball challenges are supposed to do.

 

Jazmine reveals herself to be a… There, But Not All The Way There girl, if that makes any sense. She’s got range and wit and she can look gorgeous when she’s all done up, but she’s not quite crushing the looks on the same level as some of the other girls like Angeria or Kerri.

 

Or Jorgeous, for that matter. There’s a certain sort of direct, no-frills, this-is-drag approach to her drag and it’s serving her really well so far. We suspect she’s going to be asked to step outside her comfort zone very soon.

 

We were pleasantly surprised by Lady Camden’s three looks, which were high-glam, character-based and well rendered.

 

Maddy is yet another queen whose drag just isn’t quite there yet, although we’ll give her credit for having some range and showing a little originality. She seems to have an issue with style and gravitates toward costumes that look a little dowdy.

 

June and Maddy faced off in the lip sync, yet another decision that seemed about right to us. We wouldn’t normally have assumed that the straight man would have the better shot here, but June has been singularly unimpressive so far and the way she cast her costume off and struggled to keep her dress from falling off her through the whole thing just served to illustrate how much further she has to go before she can call her drag stage-ready. It’s not that Maddy wowed us here – and there is some cause to wonder if the bar isn’t being set really low for him – but sending June home was the right way to go. And for this season’s true Porkchop’d queen, she got a lot of chances to prove herself before being shown the exit.

 

 

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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