Well, this is going to be awkward, huh? In case you missed it, season 12 contestant Sherry Pie was recently revealed to have a history of predatory behavior. The story is actually pretty bizarre, but it’s left production in a bit of a pickle.
(Also, just in case it needs to be clearly stated, the effect on the men Sherry preyed upon is much more important than the effect on this television show, but, as this is a TV recap, I’m sticking to my remit.)
The show has publicly responded to the situation by disqualifying Sherry from the win, meaning she won’t be at the finale, which is yet to be taped. It’s unclear how far Sherry makes it this season, but the remainder of the episodes will air “out of respect for the hard work of the other queens.”
In terms of these here recaps, I’m going to only really acknowledge Sherry when it’s necessary, but I’m not going to hash out her performance, wardrobe, etc.
This week we met the remaining queens for the season, and the episode followed nearly an identical format, but felt less successful overall.
We begin with the usual entrances, starting with Rock M. Sakura, an anime fan from San Francisco who needs us to know she is a high-energy comedy queen. She is spinning on the floor, jumping up on tables, generally doing the most. She is literally putting it on for the camera, because there’s no one else in the room. I am exhausted already.
Next up is Dahlia Sin, a young queen from the Haus of Aja. She may struggle with a resting bitch face, but I’m more concerned about her resting on pretty.
Now, I may have shown my cards as a Brita stan last week, but it’s going to be hard to shake Jan from the top of my list. The singing superstar is a juggernaut of a performer. (And if you’re not keeping up at home, her drag name is Jan Sport, which is obviously a trademark issue on cable TV, so she’s JUST JAN. Not the first time this has been an issue on the show, but I do love how they’re leaning into it here.)
Next up is Jaida Essence Hall, a fierce fashion queen that makes her own clothes and does NOT keep her opinions to herself. This pageant beauty is clearly not one to be messed with.
Finally, we meet Aiden Zhane, the oddball of the week. The other queens (and I) are befuddled exactly how she got into drag since she has no drag family, no drag friends and doesn’t perform frequently. (She explains the nearest city is Atlanta, which she describes as “not very diverse.” It’s a tough balance to strike between not gatekeeping when it comes to access to the arts, but it’s tough to shake the impression that Aiden is way out of her league here among some of these heavy-hitters.
The first challenge is an exact duplicate of last week’s dual-season runway show. Rock M. wowed in a hand-drawn, all-over print kimono for spring, and a mermaid gown adorned with koi for fall. Jaida showed her stuff in two sharp designs with enough peekaboo cutouts to showcase her skills. Jan pulled out two stunners, including a crocodile lewk for fall that proved there’s some edge to this friendly face.
Dahlia and Aiden both have a decent showing, but certainly feel like they’re just a rung or two below all the other gals.
In lieu of last week’s group rap performance, we’ll have a Fosse-style musical intro to this week’s queens. The choreo session is tough to watch as Rock M. first attempts to wrangle all the queens and others, like Jan, pitch in with ideas. Jaida is having none of it. She is not a dancer, and she is adamant about not over-complicating the routine. It’s a move entirely motivated by self-interest, and the other queens worry going too simple isn’t a smart move.
I’m with Team Not-Jaida on this one. I can’t fault her for looking out for herself, but the attitude is a bit off-putting. We want to see these competitors pushing themselves beyond their limits, not throwing a hissy fit when the going gets hard in week one.
The performance itself is better than I expected, even if the music is much worse than last week’s track. I don’t dare invoke the name of Lucian Piane (who, like Candyman, if named five times, will appear to haunt us all), but, yikes. This was some cheesy stuff.
Aiden is the big surprise here. From a shy, spooky entrance, she delivers this incredibly engaging, magnetic performance. She starts the number with clever lyrics and purposeful performance choices. Jan and Jaida also show up to slay. Despite her lack of dance skills, Jaida acquits herself nicely with a routine that is just challenging enough while not distracting from her precise lyrics.
Rock M. makes some bizarre choices to put on a 1920s gangster accent, see, while dropping in some fart humor. The whole thing is as well-received as, well, a poorly-timed fart. It just feels like Rock M. is doing a performance of what she thinks a comedy queen would do. From spinning on the floor on her entrance to the accent to the fart jokes, I just have a hard time believing she has a developed comedic point of view. It’s not that she’s not capable, but it feels like she needs a bit more time to understand her voice.
The ladies strut their stuff in a tulle-themed runway, and it’s the big, bouncy affair you expect, save for a gag-worthy construction-themed lewk from Jan. Guest judges Thandie Newton and Robyn add little to the discourse, and, like last week, Ru revealed the final two queens standing are our top two.
This week’s winners are Jaida, praised for her finely-tuned fineries and perfect presentation, and Sherry. The lip sync is set to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” and it is a wicked disappointment. First off, the song is a gay-bar staple, and the video features some iconic choreo. Jaida is mostly pointing with a few stunts (none of which seemed particularly well-timed or suited to the song). Sherry, I think, was attempting to deliver an emotional All Stars-style “Dancing On My Own” lip sync, but it was really just standing there.
How are you going to be a campy queen and not even attempt that backward somersault?! Booooooooooooooo!
Jaida wins, which is the right call, but compared to last week, I wasn’t nearly as impressed.
Before we merge the two groups, how’d this week’s ladies measure up against one another? Check out our rankings below.
- No need to check Jan‘s backpack, we know she’s done her homework. Clearly, she is not messing around, coming correctly armed with the previous eleven seasons worth of critiques firmly committed to memory. Her fashions are polished, her concepts are high, she can act, she can sing, she seems genuinely kind. If she can stay out of her own head, she’s gonna be tough to beat. (Or, she’ll be like a Brooke Lynn Hytes or BenDeLaCreme, and crumble under her own self-applied pressure.)
- Jaida certainly looks like she’ll be getting the villain edit this season. When she’s on, she is ON, but she is not going to suffer any fools. (Unfortunately, sometimes the fools are right/more likable, so it’s not necessarily a strength in this context.) I hope we spend as much time watching her do well as we do her being cutting.
- I don’t know if Aiden can keep up with all the queens for long or if the seams are going to start to show very quickly. I liked everything she wore tonight, but it’s not very elevated. Her performance was good, but, don’t forget, that wasn’t really “acting.” She was just being herself. I’m not super confident in her, but I am intrigued.
- I need Rock M. to pick a lane. If you’re going to be a comedy queen, you’ve got to be funny. And to be funny, you gotta have a point of view. Her sense of humor feels more like a set of GIFs from Family Guy. It just seems like she’s guessing. I’d rather see more of her geeky art. I disagree with Michelle about her tulle runway. It was cleverly constructed and beautiful. Is it too late to rebrand her strictly as an anime fashion queen?
- Out of all the queens we’ve met on both episodes, Dahlia seems like the obvious choice to send home first. I don’t mind her lack of knowledge about Fosse, or whatever, she’s a baby, I get it. However, she can’t maintain this bad bitch attitude while clearly quaking in her boots when it’s time to hit the stage.
How would you rank the queens?