The Rusical is typically one of the challenges I look forward to the least. It’s a lot to ask these queens to deliver big, comedic performance, actual vocals, complex choreography and a passing semblance to the central figure. But, much like last week’s Snatch, this season’s stage spectacular was truly fit for a Queen.
With Aiden Zhane in the rearview, the field has finally narrowed to strictly serious players. Gentleladies and men, we officially have a race on our hands.
Gigi is still flying out ahead of the pack, but the rest of the queens are all in the mix, vying for the next rungs on the ladder. It’s got tensions running high. Heidi is salty over Gigi’s Untucked assertion she hasn’t improved her makeup, and Widow is truly over Jackie’s (accurate) harping about how Snatch is the challenge they have the most time to prepare for. In both instances, it’s like Marge Simpson says, “It’s true, but he shouldn’t say it.”
People’s breaking points couldn’t hit at a worse time as Ru announces this week the queen’s will put on a Rusical about the life and times of Queen of Pop, Madonna.
This is Rusic to Jan’s ears. She’s a singer, a dancer, SHE WENT TO A VERY EXPENSIVE MUSIC SCHOOL. She’s so ready for this challenge that for fun she forces her friends to watch every Rusical from every season in a row. (Which is why I guess Jan and I can never be friends — once is enough for me!) She’s one “She’s f*cked, I’m ready and the g*ddamn show must go on!” away from having Big Fritzi Energy.
Jackie is a little less excited. Singing and dancing are not her strong suit. (Though, one could argue the Rusical is just as predictable a challenge as Snatch.) Widow goes in ready to rock the choreo, but she busted her knee during the first week, and even though it sounds legit, it comes off a little like an excuse.
Heidi nails the choreo, but Gigi struggles to let go and Brita can’t get the moves. Brita had made a stink over the role of cone-bra Madonna with Gigi, and now they both seemed a little … well, hung up.
Jan excels at the choreo and the vocal recording. Jackie can’t quite get the sexy playfulness of “Like A Virgin”-era Madonna, but Brita’s deep lower register feels like a comedic slamdunk. Jaida needs a little coaching on being a sex kitten. Overall, most of these gals aren’t really singers … but, then again, is Madonna?
Anyway, one of the highlights of the episode were all the ways they honor Madonna’s greater impact. Centering the challenge on Madonna superfan Michelle Visage was a smart (and sweet) move. It was great seeing Michelle fangirl out, go deep on her idol’s tics. I like how they emphasized Madonna’s support of the LGBTQ community and early HIV/AIDS advocacy. It opened the door for some good workroom conversations, particularly Heidi’s story about her gay uncle.
Guest judge Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (joined by supermodel Winnie Harlow) is a strong addition, obviously familiar with the judging rubric for the show. She correctly calls the performance the greatest Rusical in the show’s history, and — like universal healthcare and the Green New Deal — I couldn’t agree more.
From Jan’s flawless opening, the gals deliver a thoroughly entertaining performance that, even when they’re getting it wrong, they’re still getting so much right.
Jackie comes off a bit hesitant after Jan’s energetic first number. It’s still charming. Next up, Gigi (a tightly wound ball of nerves in choreo) comes alive on stage. She looks better than the original, she commands the stage, she’s oozing confidence. She flips! She’s amazing.
Then out comes Brita in the cone-bra role Gigi desperately wanted. Brita goes big — can Brita go any other way? — but it feels more Brita than Blonde Ambition. Jaida slinks around convincingly enough, serving “Sex”, but it’s a low point until Crystal comes into frame channeling “Ray of Light” Madonna perfectly. This is the best casting of the bunch. Crystal’s quirky charisma is the perfect fit for Madge at her most metaphysical. She slays.
Widow has the moves for “Music”-era Madonna, but, overall, it lacked a bigger punch. Same thing for Heidi, who did a great Heidi performance, but there’s little Madonna to be found.
The whole thing culminates in a massive “Vogue” number that recalls Madge’s legacy. From start to finish, the jokes, the lewks, the performances, the lyrics, the choreo — all great. I was very entertained!
The runway theme is Night of 1,000 Michelles, which is adorable. The ladies did some deep dives and pulled out some fun looks, which we’ll get more into in our rankings.
Ru spares Sherry, Jaida and Widow, sending them to safety. Jan earns top marks for her professional-level performances and sickening Glamazonian Airways drag. Crystal also gets praise for her kooky performance and well-timed surge in the competition.
Of course, none of them have anything on Gigi. Her incredible performance is paired with a flawless runway that is more than the actual art she used for inspiration. The judges award her the win, but before they do, they send Jan to safety and the reaction on Jan’s face will be GIF’d, meme’d, imitated, impersonated, remixed into other drag performances and replayed over and over like when Lisa Simpson broke Ralph Wiggum’s heart. (Sorry, I’ve been watching A LOT of Simpsons in quarantine.)
The fact they didn’t show us Jan locking the doors and starting fires WITH HER MIND in response to failing to win what she thought would be her signature challenge leaves me hopeful the breakdown is still to come.
Our bottoms, Jackie (no surprise there), Heidi (for her Madonnaless Madonna) and Brita. Jackie’s detail-oriented recreation of one of Michelle’s Jersey Shore signature looks.
That leaves Brita and Heidi in the bottom, and they’re lip syncing to “Burning Up,” a classic (but not thrilling) Madge track. If we were really assessing this lip sync, Brita may have had the edge, but after weeks in the bottom, it was her time to go back to New York City. Maybe they’ll appreciate her there.
Where does that leave the other queens? Let’s break it down in the rankings below.
- Is there anyone who can stop Gigi now? She’s already had multiple jaw-dropping, iconic moments in just the first few episodes. She’s untouchable on the runway — prepared or handmade on the spot. She’s funny, she works hard and she is savvy about spinning every weakness into a strength. (See: Snatch.) Typically, I don’t love a fashion queen, and these young Instagram girls always give me pause. But Gigi is great. I hope she goes all the way.
- I can’t help but laugh a little at Jan, but I think that’s only because I am deeply a Jan personally. I can relate to wanting something so badly, working so hard to get it, trying to be gracious about losing, but also being almost uncontrollably bitter. (Hey, nobody’s perfect.) Jan is going to pop, and it’s going to be great TV. I just hope it’s a very fun blowup and not something that derails Jan for good. She was also awesome in the Rusical, and she looked great as Michelle.
- Jaida had a sleeper week, but I think she’s still one to keep an eye on. She always serves on the runway, but she held her own enough in the musical this week.
- There’s something about Widow’s attitude that’s off-putting. Some of the gals have said she can get moody, and I see that playing out. It was tough to hear her brag about her dance skills only to sort of crap-out of the rehearsal because of a pre-existing injury. It was a strange editing choice if it wasn’t intended to make Widow look bad. She had one of my least favorite runway looks, and I imagine she was close to the bottom.
- I’m not letting this week’s stumble hurt my outlook for Jackie too much. This was going to be a tough challenge for her, she knew that. But the future is still bright for this Persian princess. Jackie might give Heidi a run for the Miss Congeniality title with more moments like her teary exchange with AOC about her immigrant mother. Good stuff. The challenge was a disappointment (not a disaster), but she really impressed by taking her own questionable taste and channeling that impeccably into Michelle’s questionable taste.
- This was Crystal’s best week BY FAR. We got to see her personality, her makeup was spot-on for the character she was doing, and that Michelle Visage outfit was the perfect overlap between Crystal’s and Michelle’s Venn diagram. Still not sure she can catch up to the rest (especially Gigi), but she’s earned more time here to show us.
- Even though Heidi didn’t give us Madonna, she still gave us a great performance! I was mesmerized with her dance moves. Had her runway been a little sharper, she might have been safe. The top four or five are starting to shape up, and I worry about Heidi’s ability to keep up.
- Regardless of the lip sync, if Brita was in the bottom this week, she was going home. It was just too many trips. Plus, it’s for the best. It feels like the audience started turning on Brita, who might not have been shown saying so frequently how beloved she is in New York had another contestant not been scrubbed from the footage. She has a distinct style that will keep her busy for years to come, but this is just one of those cases where it doesn’t translate.
How would you rank the queens?
Please stay well, stay healthy and, most importantly, stay the f*ck inside.