Woof. That certainly was one stinker of a RuPaul’s Drag Race episode. Full of fan-favorite, dependable challenges and a head-to-head lip sync between two queens who have yet to appear in the bottom two, all the ingredients were there for a barn burner.
And yet? In the words of Mama Ru herself, “Meh.”
Instead, all this season’s shortcomings were on full display in an overly dramatic, over-stuffed episode. Let’s hunker down and power through, because this was a slog.
After the typical, obligatory sadness over Shuga’s departure, Vanjie and Silky express their shookness over harsh critiques and that’s about it. We pick up the following day with a fave mini-challenge: The gals have to sell a fake slap.
Last season, Ru “accidentally” actually slapped (allegedly!) Asia O’Hara, so he’s sitting this one out. Instead, the ladies will egg each other on. The instigation is the weakest part of the challenge, and it harkens back to this year’s incredibly disappointing reading mini-challenge. Fortunately, the gals’ physical comedy is much better than their joke writing, so there’s still a lot of fun to be had.
Brooke takes yet another win, and the prize is a good one. Ru brings back some of the eliminated ladies (Honey, Scarlet, Shuga, Ariel, Plastique and … ugh … Soju), and Brooke has the advantage of pairing the queens for this season’s makeover challenge.
Now, as far as makeover challenges go, this is one of the absolute easiest. They’re making over existing drag queens, AND there is no additional performance element like in previous iterations. Brooke does her best to keep it pretty fair, pairing A’Keria/Honey, Nina/Shuga, herself/Plastique, Vanjie/Ariel, Yvie/Scarlet … Silky/Soju.
Alright, alright, I could see how someone might interpret the Silky/Soju pairing as slightly shady, but whom could’ve Brooke paired with Soju to NOT seem shady? There is no good option. And it does seem like all the other pairings are best case scenarios, so, technically, this would be the least overall shady option.
But, ooh, gurl, is it a struggle for Miss Silky. Soju is already the greenest in the room, but — prepare to be gagged — she don’t walk in heels. Let me repeat that, season ELEVEN RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant once in the running to be crowned America’s Next Drag SUPERSTAR, CAN. NOT. WALK. IN. HEELS.
Unacceptable! Vanjie gets it:
It’s a rough episode for Silky all around. When Ru shows up in the workroom, she lays into Dr. Ganache for that wack padding last week. Silky still doesn’t seem to fully grasp what she did wrong, and the exchange ends awkwardly. This does not bode well.
There’s more pile on later. Scarlet, ever the beautiful snake emoji, sounded off about the gals she thought would be gone by now, so of course A’Keria has to bring it to the full group while they do makeup. Scarlet was surprised to see Vanjie and Silky still in the competition. Obviously this news is not well-received by our two most boisterous queens.
Matters aren’t helped any when Yvie — once again, fully correct in her opinion, but way off-base in her timing — throws herself into the mix. She’s backing up Scarlet’s assertion that Silky has struggled the most of the remaining gals, and she takes criticism too personally. (Both accurate statements.) There’s a lot of screaming and carrying on, but it all amounts to mostly nothing.
Another non-drama playing out is the Mysterious Case of Ariel’s Wigs and the Crimes of Grindelwald, or whatever. Ariel seemed real salty about her wigs when she first arrived back int he workroom, but when A’Keria (bless her) brings the matter to the full room, Ariel retreats. It seems that Ariel only meant to leave one wig behind for Silky, and the rest were all left accidentally. Now, she’s mostly mad at Ra’Jah for taking most of the wigs and disappearing. Sure. Yawn.
Our mainstage guest judges Lena Waithe and Wanda Sykes deserve much better than what they get tonight. The straightforward presentation is middling at best. Brooke and Plastique excel in matching glamour gown eleganza and a choreographed little exchange that gives the presentation a hint of story. A’Keria and Honey serve pageant the house down. Vanjie wows alongside Ariel, both looking flawless in coordinated stoned, red ensembles.
On the opposite end, Yvie decks out Scarlet in tattered denim that reads more Hobby Lobby than Hermes. Nina thinks her choice for Shuga is inspired by Kinky Boots, but it looks more like Payless Boots. It feels like a Pride costume, and Shuga’s makeup is a big miss.
Worst of the bunch by far is Silky. Michelle notes her pads are still a mess, Soju’s makeup is atrocious and the outfits look like they’re falling apart. This feels like something we’d see on an early episode of season two. Disgraceful.
Ru then asks all the girls, even the eliminated queens, to pick who should go home this week. Party lines are drawn with “Dreamgirls” (A’Keria, Vanjie, Silky) and their sisters picking Yvie, while the rest go with Silky.
The queens get it half right, because Silky is in the bottom, lip syncing up against Nina West. Set to one of the campiest R&B tracks I can think of, TLC’s “No Scrubs,” neither lady has any fun with this. Nina gives a serviceable, but utterly lackluster performance, hitting all the words, but with “cool cousin at a wedding”-level dance skills. Silky’s choices are even more mind-boggling. First, her sash slips down, tripping her up. She uses more of the space, heading to the back and slamming into an awkwardly-timed split. It’s bad. Real bad.
Even RuPaul can’t hide her disappointment, letting out a very loaded “Meh,” before sending Nina sashaying away. It’s a real shame. Nina was nowhere near as bad as Silky this week. Plus, Nina’s coming off a stronger run of performances in weeks prior. I have been a bit of a Silky apologist this whole season, but the bloom is off the rose, folks. Maybe Silky would be a great TV/podcast/bingo host, but she can’t sew, she can’t lip sync, she can’t possibly win this thing. Nina deserved at least another week here, though I think she is a frontrunner for Miss Congeniality.
OK, so where does that leave us? Let’s review our rankings, and leave yours in the comments!
- Brooke is so far ahead of everyone else at this point, she’d have to behead Diana Ross in front of Ru Cersei-style to lose her standing. This is feeling like Jinkx, Bob or Bianca’s seasons, where the winner is clear. Her styling for the runway was flawless, and the way she gave a hint of storytelling was perfect.
- My love for A’Keria continues to grow. After a sleepy start to the season, she is emerging as a strong contender for the finals. Save for that one disastrous denim frock, her runways have been strong showings. She proved she has some comedy chops, and she gives some of the best confessional interviews of the bunch.
- All the digs at Yvie this week didn’t feel justified. Sure, her runway wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster either. It certainly wasn’t enough to send her home. I do think there’s something tentative about Yvie when she has to be ON, like in the slapping challenge and the magic show. She’s better playing a character than holding court as herself when it comes to the stage. Still, she’s got a compelling story and a unique presence that translates to serious star power if she’s allowed to just do what she does best. She’s slipped a bit these last few weeks, but I don’t expect her to miss out on the finale.
- Great week for Vanjie. Again, the ask wasn’t all that big, but Vanjie delivered. Both she and Ariel looked gorgeous, the silhouettes were fresh and there was just a touch of humor to their runway. Not sure it solves the bigger problem of Vanjie failing to reach beyond Vanjie, but she earned another week here, for sure.
- Ru did wrong by Nina. Shuga’s makeup wasn’t great, and the outfits were a touch too campy to qualify as high-fashion, but she had a vision. It was the wrong vision, but it was all done with intent. That’s more than I can say for the last queen on the list. I still think this show was great for Nina, and it should raise her profile considerably. I would love to see a Nina West live show, and I really admire how she used the platform toward her activism (and not just her own personal branding).
- Ooh, how the mighty have fallen. What happened, Silky? Where did it all go wrong? Every single thing Silky did tonight — on and off stage — was bad. Yes, the deck was stacked against her with Soju as her partner, but I feel like Silky would have struggled regardless. Soju didn’t make her wear that ill-fitting outfit. Soju didn’t force her to do that shockingly bad lip sync. She does ONE (beautiful) mug and has a huge personality, but it all sort of ends there. I do think we’ll see Silky sneak into the Top 4, but I wish it were Nina in her place.
How would you rank the queens?