It may be episode three, but it feels like the first real installment of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This season’s 13 queens are finally all together, and the results are … a little tiresome.
Before we get into it, it’s worth noting that the Sherry Pie situation continues to affect the season. In addition to the disclaimer that aired before last week’s episode, this week featured a noticeable lack of confessional interviews and camera time for the queen whose history of manipulating and taking advantage of young men has recently been reported. (They also included a card at the end about donating to the Trevor Project to offset Sherry’s prize.)
It seems the show is taking a similar tact to how I explained I’ll be handling the queen’s contributions: Keeping mentions to an absolute minimum. Some of you disagree, and that’s OK.
Seeing all the girls together, I’m fine being short a queen anyway. The overstuffed cast struggled through a seemingly never-ending series of partially improv’d comedy scenes that would make Rock M.’s fart jokes look like Lenny Bruce. There are at least three or four more girls we could cut right now and still have a sickening season.
You wouldn’t know it by all the peacocking happening around the work room when the two premiere groups first meet. In typical reality-TV fashion, each group feels an inexplicable loyalty to their premiere sisters right away, and it casts a weird vibe through a mini-challenge and team selection that requires critical thinking.
First, Ru has winners Jaida and Widow each rank a group of girls from the most threatening to the least. Jaida puts Gigi first and Heidi last, while Widow picks Sherry for tops and Aiden Zhane at the bottom. All that matters are the bottoms (as usual, am I right? #justiceforbottoms). Aiden and Heidi will each captain a team, as will Jaida and Widow.
The basic framework for the main challenge is an America’s Got Talent–American Idol hybrid nightmare. The gag here is it’s a no-talent contest where the point is to be the worst. Let me tell you, it’s a very close competition!
The first (and easily best) group consists of Heidi, Jackie and Gigi portraying a geriatric group of sister singers. The (production-supplied) outline of the sketch has Jackie basically Weekend at Bernie’s-ing Gigi through most of the sketch. However, it’s Jackie’s quick-thinking and Heidi’s natural charisma that makes an otherwise stupidly silly sketch thoroughly enjoyable.
(Let is also be said that Gigi managed to play the part of a corpse perfectly, and she nailed her big moment at the end. I know it seems easy to play dead, but that’s a lot of trust to put in your teammates.)
The next group, Aiden, Sherry and Brita, serve a sort of mish-mash of The Craft and Hocus Pocus as three witches who were struck by lightning and now share a brain. They give their all, but it’s only so funny watching them slowly say prepared bits in sync. (Truly, the improv of these scenes is minimal, and what’s written is … not great.)
It only gets worse from there. Widow’s team, along with Crystal and Nicky, take the scene in a Shark Tank direction as abandoned scouts hocking nut butter. The jokes here are the most obvious, and this team basically leaves every single potential pun on the table. Widow makes a few character choices, which is a few more than either of her teammates, so her performance shines by comparison. Nicki merely fades into the background, while Crystal whiffs every groundball Ross tosses her way. (Whoa, did I just do a sports metaphor?) It’s uncomfortable watching Crystal squirm.
At this point, when the final group took the screen, I shrieked THERE’S STILL MORE?! #TooManyQueens
The final group is just … ho boy. Look, it’s not really the fault of Rock, Jan and Jaida. (Dahlia, well, she’s got some things to answer for.) As many times as I try to summarize the premise here (a group of straight … men? … pretending to be a group of gay activists dressed as fruit? And also a broccoli for some reason?) the more I start to dissociate and lose touch with reality.
It’s bad, y’all. Even Jan can hardly wring a laugh out of this drivel. By the time Jaida arrives and starts a “food fight,” it’s clear even the low-hanging fruit they’re mining for laughs is rotten to the core.
The runway this week featured buttons and bows, and the ladies continue to bring it with their fashions. We’ll chat about the individual outfits in our rankings.
Our top three are Sherry, Heidi and Jackie, with Sherry picking up the win. Heidi and Jackie out-performed her in the challenge, in my opinion, but Sherry’s high-fashion runway likely pushed her over the edge.
As for the bottom, Crystal, Nicky and Dahlia all face the judges for fading in their scenes. Crystal gets extra clocked for her makeup choices, which everyone saw coming. If she can’t get it together and push herself, she won’t be long for this cast.
She will at least live to see next week, since she’s spared the bottom two. That leaves Dahlia and Nicki to sloppily, lazily smack their lips together loosely to the rhythm of Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea’s “Problem.” It’s a weak sync, with Dahlia barely attempting to mimic the lyrics and neither queen pushing their dance moves beyond “disinterested go-go boy” levels of enthusiasm.
Nicky wins, whatever, and Dahlia quickly thanks Ru and scuttles right off stage. Bye, gurl!
Before our rankings, now would be a good time to remind you that drag queens (and LGBTQ performers of all stripes!) are all getting hit hard with cancelations right now. If you want to support drag, go order a T-shirt or other merch from your favorite queens. These artists depend on gig money and tips, neither of which is going to be easy to come by for the next few weeks. Go to your queens’ websites, or get started at DragQueenMerch.com.
Now, on to the rankings.
- Although this was a sleeper episode for her, Jan still seems to be ahead of the pack. Her Voodoo doll runway finally delivered what so many other queens have attempted over the years. While her character had little to do in the challenge, even her initial approach to the character in the work room highlighted how savvy this queen is.
- Gigi had another surprisingly successful comedic performance, proving again she’s not just a pretty James Charles-copycat face. She’s tackled rap, a wacky lip sync and now this slapstick character, each one requiring a different comedic muscle, and she excelled at all three. She’s smart about knowing her limits and using her weaknesses as strengths (like how she anti-danced to “Starships” in episode one). I adored her button lewk. Clearly, she plans on mopping the floor with these runways. Let’s see what happens when she needs to construct with unconventional materials on the spot.
- Brita took charge early with her group (though with the Sherry edits, it’s hard to say how much share she really had in the leadership), but it looks like it paid off. She had solid notes and clear direction for the group, and she’s packed plenty of polished outfits, it seems. (Although, I do wish she’d do a better job steaming some of these gowns. They look a little wrinkly.) It’s evident she’s a multi-threat, even if she’s sort of flying under the radar for now.
- Jaida clearly doesn’t work well with others, but she knows what she’s doing when it comes to looking out for herself. She wisely snatched the best role from her group, and she seems to have the perfect outfit for every runway theme. What she lacks in performance talent, she more than makes up for it with confidence and charm.
- Widow had another strong week, but I do think her comedic performance was bolstered by being alongside some very weak teammates. She looked much stronger by comparison. The way she clowned the runway was a nice touch, but hard to see next to Jan and even Heidi who both did character work with much more fashion flare. My real concern with Widow is her over-confidence may blind her to her own shortcomings. That’ll catch up to her at the worst time.
- I am fully here for the rise of Heidi. I hope she continues to shoot up the rankings until she is No. 1. A true oddball in the vein of Alyssa Edwards, Heidi is destined for internet adoration. She will be the queen to launch a million memes, and I love it. She was a top performer this week, and her Pinocchio runway could stand side-by-side with all the other pros.
- Jackie is a fighter, no doubt, and she carried her team (metaphorically and literally). There’s clearly a ceiling to her fashion sense, but there is no limit to this queen’s smarts and talent. Let’s hope she’s packed enough to keep it interesting for the judges, because this season features some of the strongest lewk queens we’ve ever seen.
- Even if Aiden feels like she’s not in the same league as the other competitors, there is something oddly compelling about her. In drag, she gives me Big Dark Fairy energy, if that makes any sense. She’s going to be struggling through these challenges, but her uniqueness will carry her beyond some of the other also-rans we’ll burn through first.
- I get the sense Nicky is an incredibly talented, fully-realized performer, but this just might not be the arena for her to shine. A lot of times it seems like these queens need more time to incubate, find their voice, etc. However, it seems like Nicky is there already. Her Cinderella-inspired runway was so clever, and I couldn’t stop looking at it, noticing new details each time. She’s incredibly talented, but she’s never going to be a comedian.
- Oh, Rock M., are you OK? Her meltdown in the work room after the first challenge was cause for concern, but now (on, what, day three?) she’s already needing help with her emotional core. She did better this week, and I really enjoyed her Alice In Wonderland runway, but it does seem like she is cracking under the pressure almost immediately.
- Also cracking? Crystal. We were told on day one not to underestimate her, but, I don’t know, maybe we properly estimated her? I get that her whole thing is like Powerpuff Girls villain, but surely she knows she can’t maintain that for a whole season. Maybe she gets her confidence from Crystal’s paint, because it’s the only face she’s good at doing? If only her comedy chops could compensate for the narrow aesthetic, but that sketch was rough.
- Yeah, no surprise to see Dahlia sashay away. Most disappointing, how is anyone from the Haus of Aja gonna do a lip sync like that? Aja was an assassin; Dahlia is an Ambien. Stay pretty, sis, and we’ll catch you on the ‘gram. Sashay away.
How would you rank the queens?