Wow, I thought last week’s Untucked was rough, but then I made the fatal error of reading the comments.
Yes, the case of Kandy v. Tamisha continues to be litigated on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the stink of last week’s legendarily loud conflict hangs heavy over this whole week’s episode. I get Kandy rubs people the wrong way, but Tamisha came into that room looking for a fight. You can’t watch that back and not see Tamisha gunning, while Kandy was just being obnoxious. For Tamisha to get all hot that Kandy said Symone was her biggest competition, which most people would agree with, (as opposed to what? saying everyone is equally talented and full of sunshine and rainbows?) is absurd.
It certainly doesn’t help Tamisha’s case as she refuses any opportunity to call a genuine ceasefire and keeps spraying gasoline on a fire. Like, let it go. The top of this week’s episode devotes its post-elimination kiki to unpacking the argument. In hindsight, Tamisha looks even more like the instigator. Her fixation on the exact transcript makes her argument look extra flimsy. Even as Kandy attempts to put a button on the fight, Tamisha bristles. Neither looks great, and I may be on the wrong side of herstory (wouldn’t be the first time), but I think Kandy is getting a disproportionate amount of blame online. Sorry, sue me.
Tempers get set to simmer as we ease into this week’s challenges. First the gals are asked to pair up, with odd queen out and last week’s winner, Gottmik, getting to choose which group to join. The decision is obvious, uniting with besties Tina and Kandy (dubbed The Mean Girls, eyeroll.gif). Each group needs to create a dress from wallpaper and sell it in punny narration. Team Tamisha and Elliott get the win with an homage to Tiger King, though the read seemed shaky, and Ru did the heavy-lifting, joke wise.
The gals will stay in the same pairs for this weeks Discomentary dance challenge. Ru is really going for tenure in her ongoing role of adjunct professor of queer history. She spends the majority of the workroom visits waxing philosophic about the deeply subversive roots of disco, created by queer people and communities of color. It’s a long overdue pop culture reset for a movement that’s too often dismissed and derided. Of course, none of these sweet summer children have the slightest clue about the finer points of disco.
Between cram sessions with Ru, the gals get time with tyrannical choreographer Miguel Zarate. And … that’s it? It’s just a choreo challenge. There’s not really a narrative or characters specifically to play. They just have to do a bunch of disco numbers in the “spirit” of disco. But you can’t tell me there are real meaningful differences between the segments. Whether a pair like Rosé and Denali were doing Disco Fashion or Studio 54, who’s to say?
The aforementioned Rosé and Denali, for example, put on a crisply choreographed number, and still only landed safe. Same for Lala and Symone, two performers whose performance seemed at least on par with two of the three top queens. (Gottmik was also spared from the lone threesome.) It stands to reason then the “little black dress” runway may have a bigger influence on this week’s judging.
Or does it? Oddly enough, tops and bottoms are from the same groups, while top performers like Elliott and eventual winner Olivia, are kind of a runway snooze. Tina Burner actually seemed to have the best combined score from performance and runway, so Olivia’s win feels even more curious.
Utica’s compulsive quirkiness rears its ugly head again. First, she can’t stop mugging long enough to keep up with the choreo. Then, her high-concept (and actually pretty cool!) runway inspired by her earrings completely goes over the judges’ heads. She’s lucky this week’s bottom two is more narrative-driven.
Which brings us back to Kandy and Tamisha. Both ladies had a chance to add some shades of humanity back into their character after last week’s slugfest. Kandy opens up about the roots of her tough exterior and big personality. The judges want elevated fashion and less attitude. Meanwhile, Tamisha reveals she’s been competing with an ostomy, which is insane to think about. Tamisha’s journey to overcome her medical obstacles has been an ongoing part of her story, and it’s inspiring, to say the least.
The other aspect of Tamisha’s personality is, of course, her motherly instinct. She shares a really beautiful anecdote about a woman in her past that took the time to encourage Tamisha’s talent, and inspire her to start a house and be a mama herself. This is the Tamisha I adore.
Tamisha’s timidity is once again her undoing. The judges can’t keep waiting for Tamisha to get her groove back. Plus, the opportunity to settle the score with Kandy via lip sync is just too good for the producers to pass up.
The ensuing lip sync lands like a fart at brunch. I’m sorry, but after the last two lethal lip syncs, this felt like a real letdown — especially with the emotional dynamics behind it. The two march and point along to “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” by Blu Cantrell. Kandy puts more feeling into her performance, and Tamisha keeps things polished, but both are simple. Overall … eh.
In the end, the judges can’t refuse Kandy’s fire, and the legendary Miss Tamisha Iman sashays away. This is usually where I say something about how this eliminated queen couldn’t keep up, but that’s just not the case here. Bad timing, maybe? I hope Tamisha is remembered more for the moments we loved — her commentary in the Pork Chop Loading Dock, her comically oversized Cher impression, the incredible sheer runway, those lovely, motherly moments with the younger queens — than her screaming match with Kandy. (The two made peace on this week’s Untucked.) Count me among those eager to see her return for the All Stars run she deserves.
OK, that leaves our rankings. You know, I’m surprised (and a little flattered) people still remember how I didn’t get behind Violet Chachki six seasons ago, but look at her now! Everywhere you look, it’s Bob the Drag Queen, Trixie Mattel, Alaska, Bianca del Rio and … Violet.
So, just to reset expectations here. This is all for fun. (IT’S DRAG!) I am merely an armchair critic, same as y’all. The only difference is I spend my Friday night spilling thousands of words to get the conversation started. I do rankings specifically because they are so easy to react to, ranked choice, etc. It’s a mix of this week’s performances, overall strength and, I don’t know, moxie? Chutzpah? Star power? It’s squishy metric, for sure, so there are no right or wrong answers. That’s part of the fun.
Now, I guess this is the part where I say you’re all still my sisters? Ha, just joking. As Tamisha said, there’s a couple of you girls I really don’t care for.
Let’s get on with the rankings!
- Even though Symone seemingly flew under the radar the last two weeks, make no mistake, she’s still the one to beat. She seemed more than competent in the challenge, and her runway was so gag-worthy, the judges could barely choke out pithy commentary. She doesn’t waste a single moment on that stage. It’s a thrill to watch.
- While we have a clear frontrunner, there are a few queens jockeying for second position. I loved everything about Olivia this week. Her personality is truly infectious (there’s a cream for that), and I love her sense of style. I’m glad to see the micro purse make a return (and appreciate her resting the game). The LBD runway wasn’t memorable, but she could light up the stage in a burlap sack. She’s having a great early run.
- It’s taken me some time to warm to Tina Burner, but she played it smart this week. The judges were a little harsh about the runway wig, but she was genius to choose that beaded dress for the dance number. It had so much movement, I would watch a dance performance from Charlie Hydes and still be captivated. The LBD was clever AND chic.
- Like Trinity, Gottmik has that “What will she wear next?” aura that makes every trip to the runway positively thrilling. The artistry, the concepts, the attitude, it’s all there. The dancing/performing still doesn’t seem to be as natural a fit, but that didn’t stop Aquaria.
- The bloom is off the Rosé. It seems almost cruel to keep teasing Rosé with near wins. The competitive queen is being pushed into the same narrative track as her bandmate, Jan. Denali and Rosé gave solid performances, but their fashions disappointed. (I’m very tired of Rosé’s tulle trim.) She could be on the precipice of a breakthrough — or a breakdown — in the next few weeks.
- Denali’s Discomentary dress cost her the top this week, I’m sure. Her dance moves were great, and her spider-themed runway was fine, especially compared to the group. Is it just me or all the lewks a little too cutesy? A little too character-y? The spider, the quetzal, the crash test dummy. This is not RuPaul’s Spirit Halloween.
- Lala felt inconsequential this week. I expected more from the dancing, considering last week’s great lip sync, and the LBD runway felt very off the rack.
- I did feel vindicated regarding Utica this week. The judges essentially issued an ultimatum: Utica needs to be able to turn the character on and off when the situation calls for it. She’s unquestionably creative, incredibly talented, but maybe not the most discerning. Sort of a forest vs. trees way of approaching her character and performance. In fact, it was the details that really tripped her up this week. First, the minutiae of the choreo, not just the steps, but the performance. Then, the little black dress runway was completely dependent on the earrings. It would’ve killed on Instagram, but this is Drag Race.
- For such a big week for Elliott, I still don’t feel confident in the young queen’s ability to overcome these top girls. From what we saw, I didn’t find Elliott’s performance nearly as compelling as Olivia’s (though the edit focused more on a struggling Tamisha during the dance). I was almost offended by the little black dress for being so bland. I’ve seen better drag on Grace & Frankie. Of the remaining girls, I’d be the least likely to buy a ticket to an Elliott show.
- I may be a Kandy apologist, but even I can’t keep justifying her lackluster performance. Each week is some kind of struggle on that runway. It’s a mess of outfits, last minute scrambles and messy details. The lip sync, which should’ve been a really fun one, was another missed opportunity. I’m with the judges: It’s time for Kandy’s content to meet the level of her personality.
- The bottom ranking here has so much less to do with Tamisha’s talent or potential than it does her fit for the competition at this time. I can’t imagine being six months out of treatment, secretly wearing an ostomy bag, stepping up to prove/justify decades worth of work on the largest stage. Of course she’s struggling! I still hold her a bit more accountable for the blowup with Kandy, but she is no doubt leaving this competition with a new legion of devotees, myself included.
How would you rank the queens?