HAHAHAHAHAHA IT’S ALL MEANINGLESS AND WE TRIED TO TELL YOU. Didn’t we try to tell you? Didn’t we say it’s not worth getting worked up over shenanigans on any version of RuPaul’s Drag Race because it’s only pretending to be a competition? We’re sure we must have mentioned it once or twice. Well, this week they all but admitted that the various rankings and attempts at manipulation didn’t really amount to anything because in an all-winners season, THERE ARE NO LOSERS. EVER. Everybody stays! Everybody wins! Let’s have TWO crowns, just for shits and giggles!
This week’s challenge was the long-awaited talent show challenge, or as we like to call it, the “My talent is rapping and pointing at things” challenge, when we’re feeling especially bitchy. This is the perfect challenge for the show to throw off its competition pretensions and just admit that they’re putting on a drag revue every week and that the cash prizes are just little incentives for the performers. In fact, if they weren’t already using this episode’s format to float the idea of a drag variety show, they stumbled onto the perfect setup for it. The charity twist was a great idea, not only because it’s good whenever good causes are supported financially, but also because each queen’s chosen charity told you a little bit about who they were and what they find important.
The Tic Tac chit-chats were even less illuminating than usual, since they were really only about sitting each queen down so she can talk about how great she is. There were a few moments of poignancy, but for the most part, we sort of snoozed our way through this part of the proceedings.
Since the show is too scared to be bitches about it, we’ll happily fill in and point out who should have been in the bottom, if this were a real competition. Trinity was highly entertaining – it would be hard for not to be – but her charming number about being a southern queen wasn’t among the best efforts of the week. It’s the kind of thing that might have snagged her a win in a regular competition, but it just wasn’t at the level of her all-star competitors.
Similarly, we think Yvie’s energetic and highly distinct performance would have rated higher if she were surrounded by lesser competitors. Still, it was fun to watch – the trunk reveal was really well executed – and it was poignantly sad when she revealed that she doesn’t think she’ll be physically capable of this kind of performance for much longer.
By the time Jaida came out, we were ready to declare a moratorium on rap acts (since Trinity and Yvie rapped their songs), but she’s actually very good at it and gave a crystal clear performance while serving a fantastic look.
In retrospect, it seems like each act was slightly better than the one before it. We wonder if that wasn’t partially about each successive queen stepping her pussy up that much more to outdo the queen before her. Whatever the case, Jinkx surprised no one by nearly bringing the house down. In a different season, there’d be no question that she was the best queen of the lot, in terms of overall professionalism and level of talent. Even in this season, surrounded by all-stars, she still makes her case for being the most talented queen in the Drag Race firmament of stars.
For all the shenanigans in making sure that no one looked too bad, we can’t really get mad that Shea won this challenge. While all of the queens were good and a few of them were even excellent, Shea really does bring that superstar energy to the stage; not just paying homage to Janet and Beyonce, but meeting their level.
Raja did something she almost never allows herself to do on stage or on camera: she opened herself up, displaying her vulnerable side and delivering a performance of great poignancy and sincerity. It would be impossible for us to assess whether her Balinese androgyny dance was technically well rendered, but it doesn’t matter. The beauty of the performance came from its meaning and its power to show how drag can be anything, depending on how you apply it.
The Viv gave a performance nearly as smooth as Shea’s, re-asserting her claim as one of the most polished of the performers in this group. As we said, one of the major downsides of all the shenanigans throughout this season is that someone like Viv, who was a clear frontrunner at one point, didn’t make it to what constitutes the finals of the competition.
Two things Monet should do way more often: sing using her opera-trained voice and wear wigs with some height and volume to them. This was a surprisingly emotional moment, as it usually is when someone unveils a hidden – and highly trained – skill during a talent show and delivers a moment of pure beauty, reminding you what drag can be in the hands of world-class practitioners.
So Shea and Monet won the challenge this week, catapulting the two of them into the finales. It’s incredibly manipulative, but on the other hand, we think any finale that didn’t have Shea “competing,” would look like a season that fucked up its judging. On the other, other hand, it’s kind of insane that queens like Jaida Essence Hall and The Vivienne didn’t make it to the final smackdown. Again, we could get all upset over that sort of thing, but that presupposes that this is some sort of meaning-laden international prize and the show has been working overtime just to convince you that it’s not. In that vein, they gave Monet the power to choose the fourth queen in the final smackdown (once again underlining in bright red marker that this is not a viable competition) and when faced with the choice of Jaida or Trinity, she went with her twinner, with whom she’s been in an alliance since day one.
Monet and Shea were handed a Kylie Minogue song and, as expected, they TORE THAT SHIT UP. One of the best lip syncs of the season, we’d say.
As we said, there are no losers in this season, so all of the queens not competing in the finale, will be … having a separate competition for the finale. Whatevs. This season has been about letting some of the most talented queens in Drag Race herstory put on a show, week in and week out. We think this charity-based episode provides just about the perfect template for producing a variety show going forward. Bring back six queens each week and have them put on a show for charity. It’s a no-brainer.
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: Paramount Plus via Tom and Lorenzo]
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