Maybe it’s the paralyzing stress of our current global situation, but last night’s RuPaul’s Drag Race felt like a massive treat. Not only did the episode feature possibly one of the greatest Snatch performances of all time, but we were also treated to a guest appearance from Miss Vanjie, an homage to Mean Girls and a gimmick-heavy lip sync. There were twists! Turns! Drama! Lisa Rinna! It was thrilling.
(Or, I don’t know, maybe I’m getting really tired of the same walls?)
Regardless! We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get cracking.
There was barely enough time for the weekly pile-on Aiden before Ru drops the bomb that it’s time for Snatch Game! The ladies were buzzing when Ru enters the workroom with the one, the only, Miss … Vanjie. After weeks of seeing a dozen or more queens jockeying to be the biggest personality in the room, Vanjie swoops in and immediately takes center stage. The schtick is, allegedly, Ru is there to tell them the Dos of Snatch Game, and Vanjie is there to provide the Don’ts. In reality, it feels more like Ru is actively trying to sabotage the girls, while Vanjie gives us the comic relief.
Even though Vanjie excelled with the laughs, Ru’s advice was all over the place. Even when she was right, she was wrong. Take Gigi, for example. I completely understood Ru’s reaction to hearing she’d be playing “Maria the Robot.” It sounded too high-concept, too forced, too difficult to match the Snatch’s manic energy. Gigi, without hesitation, assured Ru: ““I understand your concern, but I do not have the same concern.” And in that moment, I fully believed her. Gigi has proven she’s come prepared, so if she’s feeling this confident about her Snatch, I am, too.
Ru also has bizarre advice for Heidi, who was planning on portraying Leslie Jones, complete with a recreation of her guest-judging lewk from a few weeks ago. Ru instead suggested she portray Phaedra Parks from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Yes, I agree, Heidi does bear some resemblance to Ms. Parks, but Heidi has never seen the show. Similarly, Ru thought Crystal should do El DeBarge, whom we’ve already established Crystal shares a haircut with, but has no knowledge of.
It’s a good thing none of them followed Ru’s direction. (Well, maybe not for Crystal, but more on that shortly.) Gigi’s android character should go down as one of the strongest Snatch choices ever made. From start to finish, Gigi maintained character with stilted, jerking body language and unnervingly cheery facial expressions. She came with prepared bits that mixed both physical comedy and zingers, and she successfully returned every single one of Ru’s “volleys” (a term the host was fully obsessed with all episode and dropped into conversation more times than Misty May-Treanor).
Joining Gigi in this season’s Snatch stars, Sherry Pie got laughs as a later-years Katherine Hepburn. Her best bit involved shakily-written, utterly-illegible answers that she would say were matches. It was a very funny, very sharp bit that she delivered flawlessly.
Just barely behind them, Jackie arrived locked and loaded (she reminded us multiple times here and on Untucked that this is the challenge you have the most time to prepare for). She did a portrayal of Lisa Rinna that left no characteristic unturned. She drank wine, she had a bag of pills, she had diapers, a duster, Harry Hamlin! (Though, as a true Bravoholic, it needed the infamous bunny and a single tear, imho.) It just felt a little sweatier than Gigi and Sherry. Plus, I wished she did more with her face. Lisa Rinna has a WILD face. I want to see bigger lips! I want to see giant Greta Gremlin eyes!
The rest were middling to complete duds. Heidi wasn’t nearly as effective as our top stars, but did a decent job as Leslie Jones. I still think her outfit choice was the funniest thing about the characterization, followed by sneaking in Widow’s infamously hideous yellow shoe. Speaking of Widow, she chose to do both Tina Turner and Ike, and, well, you can imagine how that went. It was uncomfortable at its worst and forgettable at its best. Jan’s Bernadette Peters was also just OK. She had the voice and the wig, but not the jokes. Jaida as Cardi B barely registered.
Then we get into our real strugglers. Perhaps Crystal might have done better as El DeBarge than as internet musician/cult-figure Poppy. Although unconventional, it’s not the worst idea. It just needed a lot more thought. Poppy is unusual and iconic in her unique way. It just never dawned on Crystal to think about how to integrate that character into the game. You can do an obscure character as long as you give everyone enough context. Instead, it all went sort of nowhere.
Brita went with an over-exaggerated Jennifer Holliday that wasn’t nearly as funny as it was loud. But even being loud was more characterization than poor Aiden gave his choice, Patricia Quinn. Now, as a fellow former insufferable Hot Topic teen, of course I already knew who Patricia Quinn was. Unlike Aiden, I haven’t kept up with her career since the 1981 deep-camp follow-up to Rocky Horror, Shock Treatment, and I certainly would know better than to attempt modern-day Patricia Quinn in Snatch. Aiden’s justification that she had lunch with the actress didn’t bolster my confidence. In the Game, wow, it stunk. She basically threw her arms up and acted like she didn’t know what was happening the whole time … which is pretty hard to “volley” with.
The runway theme was inspired by Frozen THE BROADWAY MUSICAL AND ONLY THE BROADWAY MUSICAL™. There was a great mix of high-concept and high-glamour, and they decked out the runway in what looked like leftovers from Melania’s White House holiday decor. Ru sent Jaida, Widow, Jan, Heidi safely to the back, before lauding top performers like Gigi and Jackie. It was shocking to see Ru eat crow about Gigi’s gutsy choice and legendary performance. Jackie got praise for her well-researched Rinna and Frozen glamour, but it was never in doubt this was Gigi’s week. Ms. Goode’s delightful ice cream delivery runway was just the cherry on top of a dominating performance this week.
The judges are spot-on with their critiques, as well as their praise. Michelle, the mother of teens, knows a thing or two about Poppy, and she was quick to find parts of Poppy that Crystal could have capitalized on. Luckily, Crystal slayed the runway in a fashionable high-waisted palazzo-style pant, sparing her a bottom-two finish this week.
Despite also walking a killer runway, Brita isn’t so lucky. Her Jennifer Holliday was one-note (which I still contend was one note more than both Aiden AND Crystal), plus I’m sure producers couldn’t resist a Brita v. Aiden face-off for dramatic effect. Aiden’s runway was something anyone could throw together with access to a Wet Seal and a Michael’s craft store. To add insult to injury, Michelle flexed on Aiden by asking the alleged Patricia Quinn super-fan if he knew that she had a BRITISH ACCENT. Yikes. YIKES.
The lip sync is to “Let It Go,” made famous by Frozen THE BROADWAY MUSICAL AND ONLY THE BROADWAY MUSICAL™. They dropped a little snow, which was cute. Brita went for a little trick burst of flame from her hand, but it was just a little mistimed to the music. Ultimately, it didn’t matter because she easily plowed the floor with Aiden. No contest.
With that, Aiden’s unlikely bid for the crown came to an end, probably a week or two later than necessary. But where does that leave the rest of the field? Let’s take stock in our rankings below. Disagree? Leave yours in the comments!
- The writing is on the wall, chickens, and it says GIGI. The young queen snuck in as simply a fashion gal, but, as we’ve seen, her exacting approach and expansive artistic vision goes far beyond that. She’s been a standout in nearly every challenge. All of her runways are fabulous. She has a confidence that elevates her already excellent work. When she flat-out refused Ru’s advice, it was a major risk, but she knew she had it in the bag. Impressive stuff. Can anyone catch up?
- Don’t sleep on Jaida. She’s got a big personality and a very sharp sense of style. Having survived some of these early acting and comedy challenges, her style and personality can really get some time to shine now. What she lacks in practiced performance, she more than compensates with a very refined, polished presentation.
- Jackie is putting in the work. She gave us a well-thought performance in Gay’s Anatomy, she was a star in the improv challenge and tonight her Lisa Rinna character was one of the tops. Jackie is smart. She’s not just funny, she understands comedy and joke-writing. Unlike someone like Alyssa Edwards (no shade), Jackie understands exactly what is funny and why, and that allows her to deploy humor on demand. My concern is that her runway always strikes me as a little cheap. I’m sure it’s not actually cheap, dollar-wise, but the materials always feel a little less embellished, a little less luxurious than the others. If we could create a hybrid queen of Jaida and Jackie, Gigi might have a real threat.
- Widow is becoming very hit or miss for me. I liked the idea of her Titanic runway, but it looked mostly like something from a high school theater costume department doing The Unsinkable Molly Brown. I don’t want to see two-character Snatch Games become the norm. When neither character is a homerun, it makes me wonder why the queen didn’t just focus on having ONE really strong character instead. That’s kind of the case here. Even the Tina Turner wig didn’t feel exactly right.
- Oh, man, Jan is going to SNAP if she’s safe again next week. However, her spot in the middle of the pack was well warranted after Snatch. Her Bernadette was a voice and a wig and little more. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I loved the concept of her White Walker runway, but I actually think silicone was the wrong material for the icicles. They were too flexible and shiny. It looked more like she was covered in a big, blue, sticky load of a White Walker’s “Annie Get Your … ” OK, MOVING ON.
- On another season, Heidi’s Leslie Jones could have landed her in the bottom three. She had a decent enough visual approximation (and, again, loved the nod to her Untucked moment), and she understood the nature of the content. She just needed to refine some elements of the performance to either capture or heighten more of Jones’ mannerisms. It was just missing a little magic. Her runway was another snooze, but Heidi’s personality makes for great TV, and I think she’s an early Miss Congeniality frontrunner.
- With this little feud behind her, I’m hoping Brita gets her act together. She had one of my favorite runways, and she lip synced the hell out of that number, despite it being a challenging one to bring to life in this setting (and in that gorgeous gown). Plainly said, she hasn’t been up to snuff this season, and her droning on about being the pride of NYC is turning off fans in droves (even if there is some truth to it). Her chief antagonist is gone, so, hopefully, she can get her eyes back on that prize.
- More than her Poppy performance, I’m most concerned about Crystal’s breakdown in the workroom with Ru. Weirdos can thrive in this competition — see winners like Sharon, Alaska and Yvie — but you need to believe your own hype. You need to have confidence in the schtick you’re selling if you want anyone else to buy it.
- If her Snatch Game flop and crafty runway weren’t bad enough, tonight’s lip sync laid bare exactly why Aiden is kind of out of her depth. It wasn’t an easy song to wow with. It doesn’t lend itself necessarily to stunts or big comedic sells. But when you compare Brita to Aiden during the song, you see the difference between someone who is practiced delivering on a stage and someone who has only practiced in their mirror.
How would you rank the queens?
I hope you’re all staying well, healthy and, most importantly, inside.