There’s this concept in comedy called “punching down,” and it typically applies to making a joke at the expense of someone who is less successful/privileged/etc. than the performer. It’s not quite what Ra’Jah is doing up top on this week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, but it feels every bit as gross to see.
Technically, I guess it would be considered punching up, since Ra’Jah has been struggling for most of this competition. She opens the episode saltier than a biggie order of fries, resisting reading Scarlet’s fairly innocuous mirror message. Then she begins, as Vanjie describes, “reading the dogsh*t” out of Scarlet in front of all the girls. (She also calls herself a “lip sync assassin,” which does not feel earned at all.) In interview, Ra’Jah directs her shade over Plastique, Nina and Shuga.
The thirst, my friends. The THIRST.
Well, if you’re thirsty, I hope you like milk, because this week’s mini-challenge is all about jugs. Tatas. Boobies. The ladies are stuffing their brassieres with tig ol’ bitties for a Great American Potato Sack Race. The slow-motion race was one of Drag Race‘s silliest mini-challenges, but, you know what? Sometimes drag is just drag. Not everything needs to be a MENSA exam. Shuga and Nina are named the winners, but it hardly matters. They get a cash prize, but no advantage in the challenge.
This week, the ladies are tasked with creating a New York Fashion Week-worthy ensemble using unconventional materials straight from the farm.
There’s a ton of filler in the workroom prep. Shuga eats supplies. Vanjie gets Yvie’s input since she knows she’ll be brutally honest. However, the real meat of the episode is all about Plastique. After weeks of the judges asking for more personality, Ru is able coax the story from Plastique. The young queen confesses to Ru that she’s from a very strict, conservative family, and she has spent so much time hiding her true self.
Ru launches into a lot of her typical affirmations, but as Plastique breaks down, a really tender moment unfolds. Ru drops the mentor/host schtick, and instead grips Plastique in an embrace. She tells her this is her home now, and she’s her mama. Nearby, Nina and Yvie both get emotional. It’s one of the show’s most evocative moments.
So many of us (too many) know the mental and emotional burden of hiding ourselves away from an unforgiving family. It will go down in Drag Race herstory as one of the series’ most powerful moments. It’s a good reminder that while we all play armchair judge each week and nitpick the ways the show could be better, it has been instrumental in elevating queer stories — particularly stories from queer people of color — into the mainstream. It’s moments like this that make me all the more appreciative of its impact.
It also makes me all the more sour on Ra’Jah. She’s sitting off to the side wondering if this is all a ploy. It looks desperate. It looks mean. It is not cute.
Besides Plastique’s emotional moment, there’s not much else happening in the workroom. Yvie and Silky clash over their responses to Ru asking who should go home. Silky picks Yvie, because she’s injured (and, let’s be honest, because she don’t like her). Yvie picks Silky because she doesn’t take the judges’ critiques. (Also, she don’t like her.)
Before hitting the runway, the ladies get a runway coaching from the legendary Alyssa Edwards. It’s a fun chance to spend some time with one of the ultimate fan favorites, but not much story develops here. The only real takeaway is seeing Plastique interact with her drag mother, Alyssa. It’s fun!
On the main stage, the evening kicks off with a country-fried group line dance. Yvie, still recovering from her injury, steals the show as a fiddler on a hay bale while the other dance.
Ru dismisses Silky, Vanjie and Shuga as safe. The judges loved Yvie’s gorgeous, glamorous getup that gave us autumn in Oahu. Similarly, Brooke Lynn’s chambray and candied orange draped dress was sickening. (She didn’t deliver enough personality in the line dance, though.) Plastique was a standout on the runway with her red, showgirl-inspired piece, and she oozed personality in the dance.
Of course Ra’Jah lands in the bottom. Her burlap pants are literally coming apart at the seems, her bark headpiece stinks and she disappeared in the performance. An organic dye mishap led to A’Keria having a last-minute rework of her runway, and it costs her with the judges. They find the look boring, and they’re right. Nina lands in the bottom due to her continued struggle with proportion.
Nina’s commitment to the dance performance luckily spares the campy queen, leaving A’Keria and, ugh, Ra’Jah to lip sync in the bottom two to Sheena Easton’s “Strut.”
It’s a mid-tempo number that doesn’t lend itself to a gangbusters performance, but A’keria makes a lot of smart choices to jazz up her lip sync. Ra’Jah is mostly meh, but once she loses her wig, it’s clear it’s her time.
Ru sends Ra’Jah off, while A’Keria lives to slay another day.
Heading into Snatch Game next week, where do we stand? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!
- Despite missing the win this week, Brooke is still ahead of the pack. Even Ross couldn’t help but acknowledge her frontrunner status. Her dress this week was incredible. It would win a Project Runway challenge, and she sold it like no other. If she crushes next week, nothing will stand in her way.
- Love her or hate her, Yvie ain’t going anywhere soon. Yes, she’s spooky, but she’s also a razor-sharp designer. That fiery grass skirt tonight was stunning, and she picked the perfect hair and makeup to complement. Obviously, she’s brought a lot of DIY fashion, a lot of small-town glamour (sorry, Denver), so I wonder if eventually some of the other queens with bigger wardrobes (and bigger budgets) may outshine her in the end.
- Plastique came surging back this week. She’s already rocked an acting challenge and a design challenge, plus she can death drop and shablam with the best of them. This episode revolved around her with Ru, with Alyssa and with her win. The skills are there if she can call upon them at the right times.
- I am still rooting for Vanjie. No matter how these challenges shake out, no matter how the rankings land, Vanjie is a star. Like Shangela, she doesn’t need the win. If she can add some variety to her runway presentation, she could stay a while. However, more than anyone else remaining, I am the most worried about her Snatch Game. We’ll see!
- Yes, A’Keria had some missteps this week, but, man, I am a fan. I want to attribute the lacking runway lewk to the dye mishap, but she still did her best to sell the garment. Then, during the lip sync, she really made lemons out of lemonade against a lackluster opponent to a middling track. (No offense, Sheena.) Considering some of A’Keria’s best, she has the potential to go much further still.
- I have loved Silky from the jump, and I still do, but I’m worried about her resistance to pushing herself outside what she considers her drag. I’m with Yvie, she needs to listen to the judges and push herself. The runway wasn’t great. It was fine. It was simple. It was EXPECTED. Compared to what Brooke, Yvie and Plastique showcased, Silky look amateurish. I’m still waiting for her to crush a challenge and have a MOMENT.
- Nina‘s not here because of her bottom finish tonight. I never felt like she was in danger of lip syncing. Michelle is still dead right about her proportions, but she gives her whole self to every appearance, and she does interesting stuff. The corn husk dress was a good idea, and I think it was mostly well-executed. Snatch Game SHOULD be Nina’s challenge to win. Let’s hope she seizes the moment.
- I almost always forget Shuga. The runway was good, but not great. It was at an 8.75, and I wish she pushed it to 11. The ideas were good. I love the lavender and green color palette. I love the makeup choices. I liked the IDEA of the windswept hair, but I just wish she took everything further, refined it just this much more. Of all the remaining girls, I’m the least excited about her.
- Yikes. What a way to go, Ra’Jah. I’m not sure who Ra’Jah pissed off to get the edit she did, but, man, what a sour note to leave on. Like Ross said, I agree that Ra’Jah just isn’t ready for primetime. But, more importantly, she’ll never be ready with that attitude. I hope she watches this back and learns something. Though, I worry she’ll just get more salty.
How would you rank the queens?