The gals of RuPaul’s Drag Race are still reeling from last week’s double shantay. But that’s not the only thing that has the queens shooketh. The bottom three last week (Tina, Kandy, Symone) were all part of the original group of lip sync winners. No longer are they some sort of untouchable, dominating force. It’s not really all that meaningful, but at the same time, it does mark a shakeup in the standings.
And what a moment for a shakeup!
First, a good, old-fashioned mini-challenge. My favorite mini-challenges usually involve the Pit Crew in various states of undress, but my second favorite type involves quick-drag. This week, we’re honoring Ru’s punk roots. The queens need to whip up a quick drag using stockings and then sync the house down to what I guess we’re calling Ru’s … punk? … song, “LGBT.”
Everybody has some fun thrashing around the stage, but Ru awards the cash prize to Tina for shaking her ass in a way that demands recognition.
After Ru breaks the news to the queens, we get a nice little twist on the traditional Snatch preparation. Likely due to COVID-restrictions with filming, the girls all watch everyone’s one-on-ones with RuPaul. Their analysis and commentary was its own sort of Miss-tery Science Theater.
It’s shocking to see some queens stomp right into disaster despite Ru’s warnings. Olivia commits the Snatch Game sin of choosing a web celebrity that you know most of the judges won’t know. (Except Michelle, she knows … everything?) Coming off an earlier improv win, Olivia has a lot of confidence. Clearly, too much confidence. Ru tries to warn her about giving Instagram chefluencer Tabitha Brown some defining characteristic to make her funny. You can see it does not stick.
Picking something Ru knows intimately isn’t ideal, either. Just ask Elliott, aiming to portray Blanche from Golden Girls. He thinks falling asleep watching the Golden Girls with his boyfriend for what? a few years, max? somehow means she’s anywhere near approaching RuPaul’s familiarity and reverence. It’s obvious she has no idea what she’s in for. How did she not immediately take the hint and abandon this ship?
Then there’s Utica. On the surface, the quirky queen’s choice to impersonate iconic TV painter Bob Ross seems ripe with potential. We’ve seen queens successfully do male characters, so there’s no concern there. Had Utica told Ru that she planned to play Bob Ross’s mesmerizing lecturing as like a way to subliminally sell dildos or SOMETHING, it could work. Instead, Utica tells Ru she’s going to lean into Ross’s quiet. Ru all but throws Utica’s afro wig made from stuffed squirrels in the trash for her.
We’re also led to believe Symone is taking a risk with Harriet Tubman. Ru acts concerned it may be offensive, but this is really just an opportunity to indulge in one of those performative subtweets about how drag queens are supposed to offend, to instigate, make people uncomfortable, yada yada yada. Look, anyone who’s read these recaps over the years knows I’m your typical bleeding-heart, virtue-signaling snowflake. But that doesn’t mean I necessarily disagree with the concept. The problem is that what these convos always glaze over is the HOW to do it right. How much more enriching could this conversation have been if instead Ru asked Symone how she thought about her material so that she wasn’t punching down or taking the obvious route? On a show that’s known for highlighting important conversations, it’s disappointing to see this topic get flattened. It makes it easier to folks less equipped to wield satire to justify the worst of it.
But that’s a lot of pixels spilled for nothing, because OF COURSE Symone is thoughtful with her performance. Volleying back and forth with Ru and celebrity players, Raven and Porkchop, Symone smartly channels her jokes into Harriet’s voice, rather than making her the joke. The highlight of her Harriet is when she mistakes Jennifer Lewis for Jennifer Lawrence. She has a few planned bits — the lantern, stamping her own picture on money — but, for me, she slips a little too into Symone too often.
Similarly, Kandy gives us Kandy as … Kandy in a pink turban? Oh, I’m sorry, Patrick Starr. I actually tried to watch YouTube videos of Patrick Starr to understand what Kandy was going for, but, y’all, it’s Kandy in a pink turban. Luckily, it’s still pretty funny. Kandy focuses the whole performance on being hungry, but at least that’s a choice. Her best moment comes when she takes a big bite of a banana, peel and all.
That’s more than Tina brings to Richard Simmons, which is nothing. Nothing flops, but there just isn’t any “there” there. Maybe her best bits are on the cutting room floor, but I struggle to recall any slam dunks.
Then again, it’s hard for anyone to shine on the same stage as Gottmik. I mean … I was not at all prepared for Gottmik to just straight-up murder this Snatch Game. Portraying Paris Hilton, Mik uses a deep, personal knowledge of Paris, but isn’t afraid to go all the way. The highlights? Literally any time Paris is featured. Every exchange is packed with punchlines. There are details, but only in service to the jokes. Not a moment is wasted. Plus the beat is flawless, the lewk is perfect and Gottmik fully embodies the character head-to-toe. Reader, I am gooped.
Denali is also a pleasant surprise, though less so. The figure-skating queen does a serviceable Jonathan Van Ness, but it’s more about the personality than the jokes themselves. Denali throws herself in fully and gives 100 percent of JVN’s relentless cheer.
Rosé takes a risk with Mary, Queen of Scots, but uses the opportunity to leverage her Scottish brogue for hilarious effect. It’s a bit one-note, but the note is funny, and Ru is having a good time playing.
The remaining queens all crash and burn, just as RuPaul predicted. Olivia’s Tabitha is harmless, but there are too many swings-and-misses. Elliott’s Rue McClanahan/Blanche Devereaux is devoid of jokes or context. Both miss repeat ground balls from Ru.
But the worst of the bunch is Utica, by far. From the squirrel wig to saying “environments” instead of “landscapes” to the inexplicable Sling Blade accent, nothing about this is Bob Ross. It’s not funny, and it’s not accurate. However, what really sinks the whole thing is Utica’s refusal to volley and engage; she’s got her bits and she’s going to do them, whether we like them or not.
Ts Madison joins us for judging following a runway all about highlighting headwear. How’s your head? FASCINATING, henny. We’ll gush on our faves in the rankings, below.
Judges send Tina, Kandy and Symone to safety, but not before Ru recognizes Symone’s stunning runway. The all-white ensemble carries an important message on the back: Say Their Names on the headpiece, two bulletholes in the back. Symone walks the runway back with her hands up in the air. It’s a powerful moment executed expertly.
Gottmik cinches the win with a memorable, truly punk outfit, complete with an oversized safety pin through the head and drop of red Swarovski crystal blood. Outstanding!
I know it’s not chronologically possible, but it does feel like Michelle has been reading these recaps, because she echoes my distaste for Rosé’s frills and Denali’s costumes. Both get lauded for their performances this week, and the judges give them both props for strong runways.
By now, the bottoms’ problems have been well documented. After weeks of strong showings and a campy evil scientist runway, Olivia manages to escape the bottom two, leaving Utica and Elliott to duke it out to “Fascinated” by Company B.
Despite Elliott’s strong dance skills, it seems like she’s accepting her fate. Utica performs circles around her, earning at least another week.
Which means it’s time for Elliott to go. I may have been hard on the young queen, and at no point did I think she had a chance to win this whole thing. However, I think Elliott earned a lot of folks’ respect, myself included. There’s talent in there, and maybe with a bit more age and experience she’ll put it all together.
Finally! A top eight! Where does everyone stand? Let’s hash it out in our rankings, below. Disagree? Leave yours in the comments.
- Symone‘s been slipping for a few weeks, but I’m not ready to give up on her just yet. Those runways are still sickening. She is so sharp and so bright. With the Ru-sical and Snatch behind her, I have faith Symone can bounce back. The next few weeks are going to be critical.
- And if Symone falls, I am ready to throw myself fully behind Gottmik. Every word out of Paris’ mouth in Snatch Game was funny. Everything had a punchline! This deserves to be up there with some of the best of all time. Give Gottmik a Masterclass! Then, that runway? Shut up. I feel like a teen. I just want to cover my locker in Gottmik pictures. If Symone’s place in the finale was already locked, I think Gottmik is a good guess to join.
- It was a bad week for Olivia, but she’s earned enough goodwill to not let it drag her too far down. The judges still loved the mad scientist/mercury headpiece on the runway. Not everybody can Snatch, but she survived. If she can right the ship next week, it’s easy to imagine her overcoming this setback.
- You might think I’m holding Rosé down here, but I don’t think she’s going to go all the way to the crown. I already had my reservations about her taste level, but now that Michelle named it? Forget it. Michelle has decided she is no fashion queen. I liked this week’s rosy outfit, but I still didn’t love it.
- The last couple of challenges should have been Tina‘s to lose, but lose she has. Snatch, Ru-sical, if these aren’t a campy queen’s challenges, what are? I like her equestrian-styled runway outfit, but the horse head fascinator was actually my least favorite part. Her Richard Simmons left a lot on the table, but no real big bungles.
- I want to see Denali really do something to establish her among the top of pack. To me, neither her JVN nor her skating diner waitress runway really fit the bill. They were solid, charming, but no wow factor. You stand that next to Symone or Gottmik, and it’s just no contest. I am loving this more confident Denali, and hopefully that will help fuel a bit more success yet.
- It was a fine week for Kandy. I know I can be a Kandy apologist, and I do like a brash queen, but I thought everything she did tonight was fine, just fine. The runway was one of Kandy’s strongest, but certainly not a memorable entry into the Drag Race canon.
- Utica could have saved herself. RuPaul gave her all the clues. Instead, she ate paint. Literally. It was a bizarre, uncomfortable performance. She thinks she’s Andy Kaufman funny, but she’s Jim Carrey funny, and therein lies the problem. The more cerebral she tries to be, the harder it is to translate. And when she needs to vibe with scene partners or volley, forget it. I did adore the picnic outfit on the runway, and she clearly out ‘synced Elliott, which is an achievement considering Elliott’s dance background.
- Elliott needs to spend a few more nights mainlining episodes of the Golden Girls, clearly. Even the wig and dress were WRONG. It was too egregious an error to overcome. Then, I didn’t buy the flamingo runway. Flamingos aren’t one-legged; they stand on one-leg. Had Denali skated down the runway with one-leg up in a hot pink leotard, I would say: yes, flamingo, werq. But the weird flesh-colored, wide-legged, sequin pant? As Elliott would say, “Imma do cricket sounds.”
How would you rank the queens?