OK, would that headline have been better if Tina were still around? Sure. But still! It’s fitting given how this week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race roast challenge went down in flames.
There are those that struggled with jokes and stage presence, but one queen drew such ire from the judges, they turned on her mid-set and became openly hostile. It was an iconic moment that will no doubt be etched in the annals (with two Ns, pervs) of herstory, and it was deeply, deeply satisfying to watch.
We get “Montero” and THIS all in the same day?! I’m feeling gayer already.
Let’s dish on all that went down on last night’s Nice Girls Roast.
Coming off last week’s popping soda challenge, Utica is a mixed bag of emotions. She tells the other queens she doesn’t think she deserved to outlast Tina, but it comes off extremely insincere. She follows up with celebrating her lip sync and then fishing for compliments on her performance from her competitors. I’m with Kandy; I didn’t think her lip sync was all that, and, in my opinion, Tina outperformed her.
RuPaul gives the gals this week’s mini-challenge, which is another fun one. This time, two queens work together to shoot a makeup tutorial but one gal’s the beauty and the other is the … arms? (It’s similar to the classic season six beach-themed mini-challenge.)
All three pairs are fun, but they each take a different tact. Symone, with Olivia as her arms, tries too hard to force the character that’s worked for her thus far, but it seems too pre-written, rather than making comedy out of the set-up. Gottmik and Utica create some natural physical comedy pairing Utica’s long limbs with Mik’s small frame. They choose to let Utica’s arms drive, while Gottmik reacts. The funnier approach is what Rosé and Kandy land on, with Rosé narrating what Kandy should be attempting, and then Kandy trying her best without being able to see. It’s a slight distinction, but it creates a lot more unexpected comedy.
Ru agrees and awards the mini win to Kandy and Rosé. It’s an important one to win, because it comes with the power to set the performance order for tonight’s Nice Girls Roast. We’re bringing back three former Miss Congenialities — Nina West, Heidi N. Closet and Valentina — to absorb the abuse.
At first, their lineup choices seem sort of insane. For starters, they choose to have Kandy open and Rosé close the show. Those are two of the most difficult positions, but their reasoning is pretty sound. For Kandy, she’s concerned about other queens (accidentally) stealing her material. For Rosé, this is going to be a slamdunk, so it’s helpful to be the freshest in the judges’ minds. They’re considering the quality of the overall show, so they spread out the strongest performers and slot Gottmik in the middle. It may strike you as odd, but after seeing the show, it makes perfect sense.
Right from rehearsal, it’s clear Kandy is in her comfort zone. Guest judge Loni Love joins Michelle to give the gals some feedback, and Kandy is off to a strong start. She opens the show with ease and confidence and some real strong jokes. I wouldn’t say she has the most cerebral jokes, but everything is delivered confidently and the judges are enrapt in sustained laughter. My favorite joke is when she tells RuPaul she told her to act her age, and she died. It’s a bit of a played out punchline, but damn does Kandy sell it like it’s fresh and proudly served.
You’d think she greased the crowd good for Symone, but, oh no. This season’s frontrunner has finally hit a true stumble. She’s slayed the runway, nailed acting challenges and just last week delivered a standout commercial. But we’ve also seen her struggle in the Rusical. A little blip here or there is one thing, and it’s possible to bounce back from an off week. However, Symone finds herself flailing here, in rehearsal and on stage. She rejects Loni and Michelle’s advice to shorten her setups, and she mostly bombs her time at the mic. You can hear her holding back tears. It’s a nightmare. Not that it’s the worst (ohhh, just you wait), but it feels like an actual nightmare. Like realizing you’re on stage and don’t know what you’re doing. It’s hard to watch.
But not nearly as hard as what comes next. Oh, boy. Ok. So. In rehearsal, Utica fires off all these … fat jokes. Just, fat jokes. Now, before everyone starts invoking Joan Rivers and Lenny Bruce, or whatever, I understand a roast is supposed to be based around insults. But the reason why it’s a ROAST and not a FIGHT, is that you take time to lovingly craft a little turn of phrase or something unexpected. That’s what helps ease the sting. It’s not that her jokes are too mean; it’s that they’re too BAD! Too underdeveloped, too easy, too smugly recited. She loses the audience almost immediately and then just gets worse. I have seen many comedians bombing (sometimes the one bombing is me!) and the worst thing you can do is turn on the audience. People are already not having a good time, don’t provoke them! Of course, what happens? The audience turns on Utica. OK, but technically there is no audience, so the JUDGES turn on Utica … WHILE SHE IS STILL PERFORMING.
It is a sight! She tries to come for Loni’s comedy career, and, oof, what happens next is pure poetry. Keep in mind the room has been deadly silent this whole time, and Loni just starts laughing and really takes a moment to let it soak in. Then she tells her: “You’re the one bombing.” The entire cast, crew, COVID nurses, Dr. Fauci, Leslie Jordan, Lil Nas X and queer people everywhere erupt in truly the most uproarious laughter of the evening. Then, Utica tries desperately to get things back on track by asking RuPaul to standup as part of the setup to her next joke. Instead, Ru won’t give her an inch. No, instead, she gives her two middle fingers and blurred gesture that I can only assume was her acting out the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. It’s a moment that is already living on in memes.
It’s honestly not that tough of an act to follow, since literally anything would be better than Utica’s performance. This week’s edit wants us to believe Gottmik is going to have a hard time, but instead she slays. There are nerves to overcome, but the material is super solid. There’s a great joke about being a fan of all of RuPaul’s hit song, and then another knockout about Ross watching porn so he can c*m when the pizza arrives. It’s a little rough around the edges, there are moments where you can tell Mik is nervous, but there is a lot to like in her set.
Next up, Olivia. Anyone could’ve seen the polite queen coming into the roast at a disadvantage, but she attempts to spin a weakness into a strength. The idea is to amp up the niceness to make the insults stick. Instead, it comes off childlike and cloying, and the zingers themselves are hit or miss. I do like when she tells RuPaul she is so old she signed the Declaration of Independence “as Parent-slash-Guardian.”
And finally, Rosé. A consummate professional, of course Rosé is the only queen to do her set without notes, and she just appears like a headliner. No one came close to her polish or confidence. Every joke is great, the rhythm is perfect, it’s a joy to watch. The only thing that hurts it is that Loni and Michelle feel like she was BETTER in rehearsal. That sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, but they’re referring to an energy level or a intangible kind of “in the pocket” quality that’s really splitting hairs.
It’s a little surprising to see Kandy take the win solo when Rosé was as strong or stronger, both with her comedy and certainly with her outfit, which is a white, lacey, Sheila E. fantasy that I just love. Still, Kandy is overdue for a win, and her performance is certainly worthy of a win.
Unsurprisingly, it comes down to Olivia, Symone and Utica in the bottom three, though clearly it’s Utica that’s got to go. The judges spare Olivia and send Symone and Utica to lip sync to Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left to Cry” (though, again, c’mon, we all know how this ends). Utica does that Utica thing, which is, you know, fine, I guess, again. (Not like it matters.) Symone stuns with an artful, compulsively watchable sync that is so much better than it needs to be, because there is no way Utica is not going home.
Symone shantays, DUH, sending Utica home. I would be SHOCKED if she doesn’t return for Rudemption on a future All Stars season.
Wow! What an ep! What a MOMENT! What a top five! Where do we stand? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!
- After weeks of a seemingly impenetrable top spot, Gottmik finally soars into the lead. I have been singing the praises of Mik’s fashions, which are without exception incredible, but the performance chops have really come out. What a performer! The Russian Bots, the Snatch Game and now the Roast; Gottmik is so much more than a pretty face.
- Don’t count Symone out, though. Yes, it was rough this week, but everyone’s gonna be talking about Utica, and Symone can wipe the bad taste out of everyone’s mouth with a killer performance next week. We know what she’s capable of, so it’s not a stretch to imagine a sublime moment surging Symone straight back to the top. She’s her own worst enemy in these challenges, because we know how brilliant she is in the werkroom, in interview, in so many other challenges. She’s got to stay out of her head.
- Another super strong showing for Rosé this week, both in her lewk and in her jokes. The more Rosé relaxes, the easier it is to appreciate her. She was giving too much Big Jan Energy in the early half of this competition, trying too hard. With less competition for camera time, Rosé has been able to relax and let her exceptional talent shine. I’m still more EXCITED by Symone and Gottmik, personally, and I think Ru and co. likely agree.
- While the top three are a sure bet, the fourth and fifth positions seem totally up for grabs. I’m going to lean toward Kandy, who has been building momentum lately (while Olivia is slipping). Kandy looked beautiful with her cinched waist, but the look was still basic. Folks may poo-poo her performance in the roast, because it was just more klassic Kandy, but it was deployed well and with intention. She earned this win tonight, and I’d like to see her in the Top 4.
- Olivia can absolutely pull out an amazing performance next week and land in the top four, but it’s looking less and less likely. We’re starting to see the inexperience that the gals alluded to early in the start to the season. It’s not that her work is sloppy or amateurish; she just need a surer sense of self to put all the talent to good use. A lot of folks will say it should’ve been Liv and Utica in the bottom two (again, not like it matters), but I think, objectively, Olivia’s performance was better than Symone’s tonight.
- Well, you can’t say Utica won’t be remembered, that’s for sure. Is this our “We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!” moment? I can’t recall ever seeing the judges turn on a girl like that. I mean, they torpedoed her set while she was still performing. Usually they humor the queens and play along with the setups just to see what the punchline would be. Not here. Ru didn’t even want to hear it. As an audience, it was so cathartic. We were suffering through Symone and then really going through it with Utica. Thank you, Loni and Ru for saving us! I don’t know, Utica, maybe it’s time to focus in on all the wonderful, artistic, twisted, spooky, sunshiny, weirdo stuff and leave comedy out of it..
How would you rank the queens?