We looked at each other at the end of this episode and said in unison, “Yikes.” Not because we were shocked or appalled by the outcome, but because we knew we were going to be in a position to kinda-sorta defend it, given all the things we’ve said and written about Drag Race over the years. But first, some setup.
The queens were reeling from Jimbo’s exit and it sure looked like a couple of them had a problem with Pangina’s reasoning behind her decision. This has come up in every season of All-Stars where the winning queens had to decide on which of the bottom queens would go home. It always comes down to the same question posed to the queens: Are you eliminating someone because they were the worst of the lot or because you fear having them stay in the competition?
While a lot of queens like to claim that their decisions in these matters are entirely above-board and like to act horrified that anyone would attempt strategy and gamesmanship in a competition, the fact remains that at least once an All-Stars season (but usually more than once), some queen sends her competition home precisely because she’s competition and not because she deserved it for giving a poor performance that week. When it comes to audience outrage regarding these matters, we are always compelled to return to the point we’ve been making about Drag Race since practically Day One: This is a variety show that hands out cash prizes, but it is in no way a true competition. To that we’d add the other thing most reality show fans hate to hear from us: reality shows don’t succeed without drama injected into them. We didn’t want to see the outcome that occurred, but there isn’t any part of us that can claim it was wrong or shady or underhanded. This is the game. The queens themselves have said it plenty of times. In fact, this week’s eliminated queen managed to say it through her sobs as she exited the show.
We suppose the real question for us is: Did the bottom queens deserve to be put in that position?
Every queen on Drag Race will tell you that the Snatch Game is the most difficult and stressful of all the challenges put before them and success is measured by one metric only: Make Ru laugh. Sure, that’s arbitrary as hell and no queen truly knows what’s going to set Ru off.
More often than not, Ru goes into hysterics over something that no one else seems to find as funny as he does. Even the most skilled of comedy queens goes into this one nervous. In other news, we enjoyed the Family Feud style of Snatch Game. It works better with the format than the Dating Game version they’ve tried before. Also: we were surprised by how quiet and toned down Katie Price was.
Baga has been acting a bit like she’s not into the whole thing, but we never believed it and we think this week’s performance made that clear. She’s in the game. Or at least she was with this challenge. While her natural accent kept creeping back in (her American was surprisingly good when she stuck to it), it only tended to make the performance funnier. Also: kudos to her for picking the perfect camp character and then utterly nailing the look with almost no effort. Not quite on the level of her Margaret Thatcher, but that one was an all-timer.
Speaking of nailing the look… Pangina Heals, ladies, enbies and gentlemen. This was like one of those makeup artist YouTube videos where they paint the unlikeliest uncanny resemblances onto their faces. Pangina had the look down and she had the mannerisms down. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the one thing this challenge requires above all: jokes. The judges kept saying that Mariah was a hard choice because she’s not innately funny and we kept wondering what Mariah they were talking about, because the OG is HILARIOUS.
Jujubee didn’t make the most original choice in the world, but she did set herself up to fail, since so many queens have done Cher and there’s no real way to do her accurately without lapsing into a lot of cliches and old jokes. But he won Ru over through sheer force of will, taking the Alyssa Edwards tactic of just leaning into the ridiculousness of the impression. And “Chercuterie” was our biggest laugh out loud moment of the night. Not necessarily a win for Jujubee, but definitely a move that kept her in the game.
We like Janey. She’s glamorous and full of fuck-you energy. She’s not, however, particularly funny. Ru was the one who talked her into doing James Charles, but we honestly think that was good advice. There’s a resemblance and Janey’s original choice of Tan Mom felt too dated and relatively obscure to be a winner for him. Unfortunately, unless you’re willing to go deep and make a lot of jokes about the controversies surrounding Charles, any impression is going to fall a little (or a lot) flat.
Austin Powers is another huge cliche of a character who’s been parodied countless times. The two things Blu had going for him: It’s been a long time since the character seemed to be everywhere and Blu has such a balls-to-the-wall attitude this season that he really made it work. He didn’t necessarily land any perfect jokes, but he remained consistently funny throughout.
Ru also did Mo a huge favor by talking him out of doing Gordon Ramsey. We guess Mo thought he would get points for choosing a character so far away from himself, but that’s not really how the Snatch Game works. There’s a reason Ru keeps saying things like “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Billy Porter was a perfect choice for Mo. Since there’s a resemblance and their personalities are somewhat similar (they can both do “imperious queen” like no one’s business), all Mo had to to stay safe was show up and be Mo, more or less.
The runway category was “Luck be a lady” (can’t believe they’ve never done that one before) and there was a lot of repetition for such a small group of queens. Two drag leprechauns and three casino-themed ensembles.
As a true Irish girl, Blu’s drag leprechaun look felt a little truer and less cliched than Baga’s take, what with more understated green and the celtic knot motifs in the costume and wig. Her makeup was fabulous and we love the necklace.
Thematically, Janey’s look was great and her makeup was spectacular. The dress felt like an afterthought, though.
We’d like to say Jujubee finally brought it to the main stage, but this only felt like half an improvement. Doing the iconic Lucky Kitty was a perfect idea. We just don’t understand why she didn’t… well, dress up like a cat. You can only get the reference when he does the arm movement, but even then, most of the judges were like, “Ohhhhh, okay.” Why wouldn’t you sport cat ears with this? Why wouldn’t you do more of a cat eye than that? She looks fantastic, but she slightly missed the mark.
Mo looked absolutely spectacular. Our only critique is that the headpiece was crushing her.
Baga went for more of a pure camp take than Blu did and the results were tackily hilarious. We were so glad to see Michelle point out that he does the exact same walk each week, whether it serves the look or not. Look, we’re happy he found a catchphrase, but he’s been coasting on “Much betta!” for a little too long now.
Pangina’s look was pretty fabulous and in a different week, we’d have been more impressed by it, but we think Mo blew the other two Vegas girls out of the water.
When someone who really shouldn’t have been sent home gets sent home, the fandom will always look to Ru to blame him, but the only real manipulation we saw was the choice to put the all the non-tops in the bottom. But if you want to claim doing so resulted in Pangina’s exit, we don’t think that’s a convincing argument. Let’s say Ru stuck to the format of just two bottom queens. Of the four above, who do you think those two would have been, going by the critiques? Janey and Pangina. Sorry to say it, but no matter how sickening you are, if you fuck up the Snatch Game (and they both did, far more than Mo or Jujubee), you’re gonna be looking at a potential exit.
Blue nailed the lip sync, but that was no surprise. This, on the other hand, was a bit of a shock, even if the whole episode led up to it.
Pangina’s exit was one of the most painful ones we’ve ever seen and we truly felt bad for her, but she really was one of two bad performances this week and she already showed the rest of the queens that she’ll cut a bitch from the competition if she thinks it’ll benefit her. Blu didn’t do anything wrong, but we suspect they’re all gonna give him hell next week. Except Janey, of course.
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 Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]
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