I’ll be honest. I love Olympics. I love the pageantry, I love the feel-good backstories, I love the ludicrous Mary Carillo packages about the all the host country’s wacky customs. I love those TOIGHT Olympic bods. As someone who loudly loathes most professional sports, every other year, I don my own Olympic patriotic drag and transform into Captain Gaymerica, serving truth, justice and thunder -high realness.
So how has it taken this long for Drag Race to serve up a worthy Olympic challenge?
Perhaps it’s my own Olympic bias, but last night’s RuPaul’s Drag Race was a downhill super combined spectacular worthy of the gold.
Hit your own half-pipe, and let’s recap.
Fresh off Ariel’s elimination, Vanjie is feeling shaken by the judges’ comments. Never one to miss an opportunity to rub salt in the wounds Yvie (rightly) suggests Vanjie needs to change up her silhouette. While definitely true, it’s not exactly what Vanjie needs to hear in the moment. Plus, as A’Keria points out in interviews, it’s not like Vanjie can change what she brought to wear. Decisions have been made.
The next day in the workroom, Ru arrives to intro this week’s mini-challenge: An aerobic dance showcase with Internet sensation Love Connie.
Like previous Soul Train-inspired variations, this “Galistentics” setup was a great way to let the girls show some personality and surprise us. Yvie turns out some hyperflexible flips, and Plastique shocks with a stunt-filled performance that made perfectly clear she is more than a pretty face. However, it’s A’Keria who lets it all out, and, along with Plastique, is named the mini-challenge winner.
Each winner will get to pick her team to perform a floor routine with compulsory elements of fanography, voguing and SHABLAM!, which, in addition to being exceptionally fun to say, is basically a more elegant, slow death-drop.
Representing Tuckpantistan is Team A’Keria, featuring Silky, Yvie, Brooke Lynn and Shuga. Considering their stacked lineup, their opponents on Team Glamazonia are going to be our plucky underdogs. With Plastique working with Vanjie, Nina, Ra’Jah and — oh god — Scarlet, they’re gonna need a miracle, henny.
Choreographer (and regulation hottie) Travis Wall isn’t taking it easy on the ladies. Working first with Team A’Keria, the entire routine feels next-level challenging. Bless her, Silky struggles, but, man, she is determined to keep up and push herself. Yvie is also pushing herself, but maybe a little too hard.
Her previously disclosed condition, Ehlers-Danlos, means she doesn’t produce enough collagen. This contributes to the look of her skin, the wrinkles on her head and her joints. After pushing herself in the mini-challenge and rehearsal, she’s clearly in pain. Still, she sort of fibs to Travis about what’s causing her pain. Admirable? Maybe. Smart? Definitely not. Take care of your body, gurl, you only get the one!
Overall, the team impresses Travis, particularly Brooke, whose experience as a ballet dancer has been a huge asset early in the race.
Team Plastique feels less successful. Ra’Jah and Vanjie are both looking for Rudemption this week, so it’s good they’re both relatively strong dancers. Nina and Scarlet, however, are a mess. Travis would later say Scarlet was one of the most difficult dancers he’s worked with. Yikes.
Before they hit the runway, Vanjie has a little breakdown. She is worried she is letting Ru down. After all, Mama Ru brought her back, and she hasn’t even won any challenges. Vanjie cries, and you heart just breaks. It just feels so real, not like the typical reality-TV histrionics. You get the sense Vanjie, for all her ridiculousness, is an incredibly tender-hearted person.
Also in the workroom, Yvie confides in Shuga and Nina more about her condition. It sounds awful. By Yvie’s assessment, her performance style is on borrowed time, because she will lose flexibility and mobility.
She holds it together during the performance, though she misses a kip up and it looks painful. The entire performance is a hoot to watch, and smartly integrates everyone’s strengths, including A’Keria’s twerking, Silky’s baton twirling and obviously Brooke’s ballet. Shuga also shines in her segment with Brooke lip syncing along to a remix of the classic Aja/Valentina “You look like Linda Evangelista” exchange.
The other team fails to make as much of an impression. Scarlet just seems terrified. Ra’Jah fades in the background. Vanjie and Plastique give it a solid go, but Nina West feels like the real standout. She fully compensates for any lack of dance skills with an abundance of charisma and performánce.
After an “All That Glitters” runway, the judges, including Wall alongside Olympians Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu, predictably choose Team A’Keria as the winners, awarding the team captain this week’s challenge win.
Critiques also felt fairly predictable. Plastique impressed but Michelle still needs MORE. Although Ra’Jah impressed in rehearsals, Travis points out during the main challenge her presence was lacking. Vanjie slayed the dancing, but Michelle is BORED with her runway. She rightly says that she knows Vanjie is going to be in some kind of bodysuit or corset/panty with glitter on her chest. No bueno. Nina actually gets a helpful tip to add more padding to her lower half to balance out her broad chest and shoulders.
Then, poor Scarlet. Of course the dancing was bad, but even Travis tries to spin that by saying she’s most improved. (The editors also did Scarlet a real solid by not focusing on the moment when she actually fell during the show too much.) What sinks her is the boho, Lana del Rey knockoff she’s trying to sell down the runway. Plus, butterfly clips?!! Michelle — really doing all the heavy lifting on the judges panel without Ross or Carson there — reminds everyone that, after Asia O’Hara, butterflies are sort of a sore subject around these parts.
Ru asks the team who should go, and the consensus is largely Scarlet. Of course, she doesn’t want to say herself, so Scarlet picks Ra’Jah, which is understandable. However, she twists the knife a bit with her explanation, pointing out how Ra’Jah has “been in the bottom … a lot.”
Scarlet and Ra’Jah end up our bottom two, lip syncing to “Last Dance.” Like the track, this performance starts slow, but builds to something really fun. Ra’Jah is bringing it from the beginning. Scarlet attempts a reveal in which she takes out a pair of scissors to cut her gown off into a jumpsuit, but it’s clumsy and doesn’t really hit. But once she’s in the pants, she can start to move. It’s not graceful, but it is fun! She even pulls out a few handfuls of gold glitter, which is a nice touch. By the end, they’re dancing together, and it seems like everyone’s having a great time.
In the end, it’s Scarlet that’s sent packing. I’m a bit conflicted. I definitely think she was the weakest this week, but I also think she had more promise than Ra’Jah, whom I feel we’ve already seen all we’re going to see from.
Where does that leave us? Check out our Top 10 rankings below.
- Finally, some clear frontrunners are emerging, and Brooke is in front of them all. These early challenges have been dance heavy, which really leveraged her strengths. But Brooke is more than just a ballerina. She’s consistently delivered some of the fiercest runways of the season. Last night’s Norma Desmond-inspired ensemble was gorgeous. (Though, this is a me thing, I tend to think gold lamé looks a little cheap.) You still can’t touch that mug, and her runway presentations always tell a story. She is the one to beat.
- Yvie proved with last week’s witchy lewk she can deliver glam when necessary. She’s also demonstrated acting chops, performance skills and isn’t afraid to stir up some behind-the-scenes drama. All of that combined with a compelling narrative overcoming the disadvantages of her condition, and you’ve got a pretty strong reality-TV contender. She smartly integrated a cane with her runway after injuring her ankle in the performance, delivering a character that would be at home in a Miyazaki porn parody. I live.
- I have been waiting for A’Keria to step it up, and she did it big. This was a banner week for the queen that just needed the right moment to shine. Her runways have been consistently stunning, and this week’s gold glamour gown upstaged even Mama Ru’s better runways. Even though she reminded us she’s not a dancer, she deployed her twerking smartly, and I love the stank-face she served along with it. She’s surging, and it’s a great time to stand out.
- I didn’t know Plastique had those kinds of moves in her! Routinely one of the strongest presenters on the runway, this additional skillset is quite impressive! Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to move Michelle. I’m not sure she knows how to bring it more than that. She slayed this week, but if that’s still not good enough, I suspect a steady downward slide from here.
- Despite Vanjie‘s struggles, how could you not say she’s still a top contender? You just know she’s not going anywhere yet. By my estimation, we’re about two weeks from Snatch Game, and they’d be fools to not give us Vanjie in the Snatch. She was a saving grace during her team’s performance, and she was consistent on the runway. I liked her sort of Ariana Grande as a Bond villain ensemble. Since next week seems to be a sewing challenge, she at least has a chance to show a different silhouette. Whether she can pull it off or not is another story.
- I still stan Silky, but she needs a big win. I love every moment she’s on screen, I love everything she says, but her runways never wow me. I appreciated her can-do attitude during the dance, but keeping up doesn’t keep you around. I’m nervous for her sewing skills next week.
- Nina was better than she got credit for in the dance, but her runway was worse than the judges read. I’m surprised they didn’t come for her costumey Viking outfit. I get that she does camp, but she needs to amp the camp up! You can be camp AND glamour. That looked like it was straight out of Party City.
- I was gagged for Shuga‘s “Rita Repulsa/Goldar lovechild” eleganza, and she was sharp in the dance routine, but it is starting to feel like she is not on caliber with the rest of the girls.
- I almost feel cruel for continuing to be harsh on Ra’Jah, but I can’t shake the feeling she’s on borrowed time. This should have been her week to shine, and she dropped the ball. She’s combative, she’s volatile, but it’s clearly coming from a place of her own insecurity. The catsuit was cute, but not sickening. The lip sync was fierce, but it was not legendary. Scarlet was right; she’s made too many trips to the bottom.
- It was a tough call this week. Scarlet was a dud in the dance, her runway was a snore and her lip sync — despite her best efforts — was amateurish. On paper, she clearly should’ve gone home. And yet? I still think there was more there to show. I would’ve preferred to see Scarlet for a few more weeks over Ra’Jah (or, to be honest, Shuga).
How would you rank the queens?