You guys, I am tired. Don’t get me wrong, I still love RuPaul’s Drag Race, but mama needs a break. As we head into the upcoming finale, the thing that excites me most is for the whole thing to be over.
It’s not the fault of the queens or the producers or Ru herself, there has just been a crushing cycle of RuPaul’s Drag Race content for so long now. If someone needs to be blamed, I guess it’s VH1. Rolling from season to season of Drag Race and All Stars has left fans fatigued. Plus, now every episode is 90 minutes (and another 30 for Untucked). It’s making viewers cranky, and I think more folks are looking for reasons to justify their crankiness.
We have a real talented crop of queens this season. Unfortunately, they were bogged down with too many starting contestants, adding weeks of mediocre competitors being wiped out one by one. It’s a shame, because by the time the talent was concentrated to our top, let’s say, eight, we were already TWO MONTHS into the season.
So, it’s not that this final challenge before the grand finale left me feeling flat, per se, but I can’t help feeling flat anyway.
As Ru herself said of her own show:
Our final five tuned in strong, if not mind-blowing, performances, which the judges then tried to convince us were not all relatively equal for the sake of drama. Let’s hash out the details in our recap and rankings below.
With the end of the season in sight, after a brief agreement that it looked like a (warranted) double sashay last week, Yvie and Silky finally make nice. Cute.
When Michelle arrives the next day for their final challenge, we know it’s going to be a real gauntlet. They’ll do the obligatory appearance on What’s the Tee? podcast, a rap solo for Ru’s latest single and a choreographed dance number, which we later learn they will need to perform for one uninterrupted take.
Of course, these rehearsal/interview segments are always purposefully misleading to keep viewers on their feet going into the finale. They always bend over backward to make it feel like a real nail-biter. Let’s go gal by gal.
Vanjie feels confident in her rapping skills, but when she’s brought in to work with Todrick Hall, he’s not as impressed with her lyrics as she had hoped. As usual, she excels in the dance rehearsal, but Todrick warns her to make sure she doesn’t lose her face while concentrating. During her podcast appearance, Michelle and Ru grill Vanjie over her relationship with Brooke, but Ms. Mateo plays it pretty coy. (Adorably, during a confessional interview, she says she’d like to see the relationship continue after the show, and Brooke better agree!)
Her bae shows up to record her rap with much more confidence than is probably warranted. Brooke may be many things, but a rapper is not one of them. She’s doing her best, but every gesture is cringe-worthy. Similarly, her dance moves are accurate, but they lack the sort of energy of the hip-hop-tinged track. Of all the gals, Brooke has the most boring conversation with Mama Ru and Michelle. It’s all blahblah I’m a perfectionist, and then they do the whole BUT WE WANT TO SEE YOU LET GO. How many times have we traveled this road? It just always feels like the default story for the season’s frontrunner. When in doubt, make a lack of struggle the struggle.
Yvie, however, has a really nice moment with Michelle on the pod. It’s not particularly deep or profound, but Michelle sees the tenderness beneath Yvie’s hard exterior and encourages the young queen to let more people in. Again, it’s not a revolutionary concept, but it does seem very genuine and poignant. Todrick works to get her to ad some creep to her vocal performance, but she brings it to the dance moves.
Silky too is crushing choreo. In rehearsals like this, she always gives 200 percent. She brings the energy to recording as well, but she struggles with enunciation. Of all the interviews with Michelle and Ru, Silky’s is probably the least compelling. She shares how she first did drag, her education and how she wasn’t well received by the other girls when she first arrived in the competition.
Now, the queen we spend the most time worrying about this week has got to be A’Keria. In her interview with Michelle and Ru, we learn A’Keria is raising her brother’s child for him and what a role reversal it was for A’Keria having always believed she was less worthy than her siblings. In the recording, A’Keria can’t quite get in the pocket. More than any other queen, it appears like A’Keria can’t nail what Todrick wants from her. While dancing, A’Keria seems to be the most lost. Everything is signaling an A’Keria exit … which all but guarantees her a spot in the final four.
On the runway, category is best drag, and all five ladies bring it. The one-take performance feels universally strong. Like “Kitty Girl” and “American” before, this is a lot of fun. No one flat-out flubs the challenge, and everyone shines in their own unique way. On my first viewing, I would’ve clocked A’Keria as just slightly a hair less watchable than the others.
The judges disagree. Todrick lauds A’Keria’s turnaround from the most struggling to a standout. They heap praise on Yvie as well. She undoubtedly turned in the most memorable performance in the video, doing a backward crab walk that made me both horny and terrified. Her final “best drag” runway was also a highlight, combining glamour with her signature, three-eyed, three-fingered, three-boobed weirdness. Silky was bit of a mess in the video, but what she lacked in poise, she compensated for with enthusiasm.
That leaves Brooke and Vanjie. The former has been dominating this competition. Brooke’s final runway was full ballerina eleganza, once again walked en pointe. I’m surprised to see her end the season on this. By now, we’ve seen it. We know her ballet background. Considering the exciting fashions she’s served in previous weeks, this was a (gorgeous) letdown. Likewise, in the video, she was technically perfect, but devoid of the sort of attitude that radiates off the screen.
Vanjie, whose greatest export is attitude, failed to deliver in the video. I didn’t notice on first watch through, but as the judges spoke and the edit replayed, you could see her acting real tentative. Her final runway was a breathtaking emerald gown that gave serious Gone With the Wind fabulous vibes.
Ru also took this opportunity to pull out the childhood photos, and, y’all, I just can’t. You know how this works. Everyone cries.
After deliberations, Yvie is the first queen sent to the final four, followed by A’Keria and Silky. Here we have it: Brooke v. Vanjie, a lovers’ lip sync battle. Surely the producers couldn’t resist pitting the two boos one-on-one in a lip sync for their lives. It’s too perfect.
Both gals give it their all to Aretha Franklin’s “Pride: A Deeper Love,” but Vanjie seems just a bit defeated. Could you blame her? She’s been to the bottom multiple times, and Brooke has been this season’s frontrunner. She knows she’s toast.
And she’s right. Vanjie once again shantays away, and we have our final four.
Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!
- Yvie picked a great week to surge. She excelled at every aspect of this challenge. Her rap was creative and delivered well. Her choreography was truly one of a kind. Her best drag stayed true to her while still giving the judges something visually engaging to gag over. It feels very much neck-and-neck between Yvie and Brooke for the crown.
- Even if I disagreed with the judges’ interpretation of Brooke‘s performance in the video, she slipped for me this week due to that runway. When I think of Brooke’s “best drag” I see something way more exciting than Swan Lake. I thought her video performance was strong — not legendary — but enough to secure her spot in the final four. Producers just could not resist putting her up against Vanjie.
- A’Keria has been a dark horse this whole competition, but I have to admit I think SHE had the weakest performance this week. If we were only focusing on this week, she would’ve been the one I sent home. I’m glad that’s not how it went down, because she’s worked hard enough all season to warrant a spot in the finale. I don’t think she’s a frontrunner, but her polished runways and endearing humor make her a star.
- It’s sad Vanjie got so close only to fail to make the finale. She may have started this season as a meme, but she is leaving as one of the most hilarious, genuine, lovable queens to every grace the workroom. Yes, she’s struggled, but I think she worked hard enough to make that top four. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
- I started this season firmly in Silky‘s corner. She coasted through the early weeks as filler queens fell off one by one. When they turned up the heat, she sort of rejected the call to action. She got defensive and dismissive when it came to stepping out her comfort zone. She pushed herself this week, and I appreciated that, but I still didn’t it find it nearly as exciting as what Vanjie or Brooke did. (Plus, I cannot forgive last week’s lip sync.) This was the best she’s ever looked on the runway, though. I just think surveying the entire season’s worth of work, she’s given us the least to gag over.
I don’t usually recap reunion episodes, so my pick for Miss Congeniality would be Nina West! I think there’s a case for Vanjie as well, but Nina’s my choice. What’s yours?
How would you rank the queens last night?