RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE: SEASON 11, EPISODE 9 – “L.A.D.P.!”

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It seems last week’s loose Snatch has led to a much tighter race between our remaining queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. We’ve finally axed about half of our starting lineup, so now’s the time for the front runners to really start swinging.

And last night’s episode gave them just enough rope to hang themselves.

That’s not to say last night was a total disaster, but two fairly open-ended challenges and an ambitious runway theme all but begged the queens to show us what they’re bringing to the table.

Who turned it out and who has the right to remain SILENCED from the competition? Let’s discuss!

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The mini-challenge is a fan-favorite: READING IS FUNDAMENTAL, DAHLING. Yes, the library is open, but don’t get too excited. While there are moments of hilarity, they rarely spring from the presenters’ reads. In the past, I feel like even the weaker performers showed up knowing this challenge was coming, and they brought a few set-up, punchline formulas to plug in names and a detail or two. The results typically fail to measure up to the searing reads served by comedy queens, but they usually at least land.

This time, that structure snags Brooke the win. She’s the only queen that seems to have come prepared. Others like Silky and Vanjie attempt to steamroll the challenge with oversized personalities and almost zero actual jokes. Shuga, Yvie and Plastique also attempt some formulaic material, but the reactions from the other queens actually far outshines whatever they’re saying. Nina, a comedy queen you might anticipate thriving here, plays it much too tentatively. The only really challenge to Brooke’s win is A’Keria, who gives us some real solid, actual reads.

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Brooke’s win allows her to pair up the queens for this week’s improv challenge. Inspired by the OG reality show COPS and your racist aunt’s current favorite television entertainment, Live PD, this week the gals will be improv-ing alongside Cheyenne Jackson and Fortune Feimster. Brooke picks Nina as a partner (smart move), allegedly pairing the rest of the gals based on a big personality/little personality dynamic. That means it’s Vanjie (big) and Plastique (small); Silky (big) and Shuga (small) and finally Yvie (big?) and A’Keria (small?). It’s clear A’Keria’s been underestimated by her competitors. Or maybe it’s the benefit of seeing her in the confessionals that’s kept me rooting for Ms. Davenport.

We spend much too much time in the workroom and with Ru’s visit. It feels like it lasts forever. Vanjie needs to leave space for heightening and can’t just come in at a 10. Plastique needs to showcase who she is beyond the Asian accent. Shuga needs to add dimension to her character. Yvie and Brooke need to makeup for a terrible Snatch. There. I saved you like 40 minutes.

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The resulting performances are a real mixed bag. Brooke completely overpowered Nina in the workroom earlier. Nina had the (correct) instinct that they should both play against type in their scene, which called for a hippy nude sunbather and their uptight neighbor. Brooke is nervous about reaching ever so out of her comfort zone, so she convinces/demands Nina swaps parts with her halfway through their work.

And yet? It ends up being a great move. Brooke fully lets it all hang out, throwing her naked body all over Cheyenne and Fortune. There’s loads of physical comedy, but some great one-liners too. In fact, Brooke is having such a good time, she forgets to give Nina her cue. Nina, no comedic slouch in her own right, is able to roll with these punches and make an impression on the scene. The edit didn’t give her tons of time to shine, but the judges would go on to praise the performance later. It’s clear they’re a strong pairing.

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Their biggest competition is A’Keria and Yvie who elevate this entire challenge to a new place. Telling the story of two “twerkin’ girls” fighting over the same street corner, the tale turns into them being long-lost mother and daughter. It sounds insane (and it is), but it’s one of the most cohesive, compelling narratives any team produces. While all the other teams devolve into different levels of screaming, this is a journey. Yvie is good, but, man, A’Keria kills. She’s playing an older twerkin’ girl, and, boy, she is having a blast. She twerks WHILE crying. She twerks WHILE running. She twerks WHILE being arrested. It’s a joy to watch, and it feels like actual comedy.

Team Silky Shuga is half good, and I bet you can guess which half. Silky goes full Silky as a shady buttpad saleslady. At one point, she offers the officers chicken. Did she bring the chicken? Was the chicken supplied for this scene? It’s hard to gauge if it’s an inspired choice or baked (not fried) into the script. How does that work, exactly? Did she snag it from craft services? I know I’m belaboring this very small point, but truly I need to know the provenance of that chicken. All Silky’s screaming and flopping around and carrying on (which is very funny), leaves very little room for Shuga to do much of anything.

That leaves Vanjie and Plastique. The less said, the better. I cannot tell you at all what’s happening here. They’re both dressed as cats, there’s some talk about auditioning for Cats, maybe they’re in a fight over stealing a man? Something with milk? It’s a screeching mess, and I could not wait for it to be over.

The runway theme is “Facekini” which leads to some of the most exciting lewks we’ve had all season. It requires the girls to cover most of their faces. The majority of the queens work big eyes and lips into the equation, but Silky waits until the last minute to do a minimal mug that you just know is going to bite her.

On the runway the judges react as expected. Silky is praised for being hilarious, but dinged for not being a great scene partner. (I truly could have written that part of the recap before even seeing the performance.) Her attempted wingless fly runway is torn apart from Michelle for missing its wings, basic construction and lack of detailed makeup work.

Her partner, Shuga, is called out for fading into the background of their scene, only serving the Shuga they already know in her brief moments. Luckily, her stunning My Fair Lady-on-acid will likely spare her from lip syncing.

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The panel, including guest Natasha Lyonne, go nuts for Brooke’s performance and absolutely killer runway. There’s a steampunk element to her gold and black glitter zebra with coordinated Equus mask. I can’t even tell what’s facekini and what’s paint on her face, it’s so stunning. I wish we spent less time in the workroom and more time marveling at this ensemble. A+++ (Yvie and Nina are both safe, but Nina also receives some praise during Brooke’s critique.)

Less lucky is Vanjie. Yes, she served a different silhouette, but this latex fetish wear has its own problems. It could’ve used some more chest padding, and the legs remind me more of rubber gloves instead of American Horror Story: Murder House Rubber Man. The judges eviscerate her scene with Plastique, and with good reason. Plastique’s runway is also a miss, failing to cover enough of her face to satisfy the challenge.

Running away with this whole thing though is A’Keria. She was a revelation in the performance, and she delivers a whole new twist on the plastic surgery motif we’ve seen on the runway, most famously from Sharon Needles, Miss Fame, Kandy Ho and even Ariel Versace. The bedazzled body suit is a clean, creative take on the trope. Coupled with an outstanding performance, she’s rightfully named this week’s winner.

Our bottom two are Vanjie and Plastique, but the track (Fantasia’s “Hood Boy”) never really allows either queen to kick into high gear. Vanjie gets the save, sending Plastique back from whence she came.

Where does that leave us? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments.

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  1. Brookeis running away with this whole thing. She’s ahead by a country mile. She was amazing this week, but she also showed how shrewd she can be in this competition. Her pairings were not designed to set people up for success, and she plowed right over Nina. Her win on the reading challenge makes me feel good about the inevitable roast. I think she’d give a great makeover, given how creative and good at design she is. And, of course, she’ll destroy the final music video challenge. With Snatch out of the way, can anything stop her?
  2. Well, if anyone can challenge Brooke for the crown, it’s Yvie. A’Keria outshined her in the scene, but she still held her own. I loved her Swamp Thang runway with big, bold lips that felt like less of a viral joke than Asia O’Hara’s fish face. She’s showing so much more polish than with what she arrived. It would be a shock to see her not in the final four.
  3. A’Keriais surging at just the right time. The talent was always there, the runways were solid, but now that her personality is coming through, she is tearing this competition up. The runway tonight wasn’t an immediate gag, but the devil was in the details. That’s where she shined. Great week for A’Keria.
  4. It’s neck-and-neck for Ninaand Silky, but Nina gets the slight edge this week. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s going to change in the coming weeks, but Nina was solid in the challenge and her Leigh Bowery-esque runway was one of the tops. It was classic Nina, while making club kid look couture.
  5. Even in her strong challenge performance, Silky‘s weaknesses were glaring. When she’s on, she’s unrelentingly on. It worked in the maxi, but sank her in the reading mini. The runway finally put her laziness on blast, and she better heed the warning. If she shakes things up next week with something unexpected, she could work her way in the top four.
  6. Vanjie‘s on borrowed time. She barely eked out another week by the skin of her teeth, gurl. Vanjie is a superstar, and I adore her, but I can’t see her stepping up to where the frontrunners are thriving. Her challenge performance was unwatchable, and her runway — FINALLY something different — was just differently disappointing. I feel like Vanjie is destined for a really remarkable All Starsrun at some point.
  7. After two weeks of stellar runways, if the judges aren’t yet in love with Shuga, I just don’t think it’s gonna happen. They were right about her just giving her Shuga character in every context. (And it’s not that funny of a character in the first place.) I think her fashion sense is very hit or miss, so now that we’re down to the real contenders, there’s just not any room for someone to only sometimes clear the bar.
  8. Plastiqueplummeted this week. Her runways are typically super sickening, but this one was lacking, and not just in the facekini department. She’s equally (if not more) to blame for the horrendous scene with Vanjie. It was bad enough to warrant a double sashay away, but if someone had to go, it was Plastique’s time.

How would you rank the queens?

SOURCE: TOWLEROAD

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