Give Symone the crown. I don’t really know what else to say. We’re merely weeks, and nary into an elimination, into another strong season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but the frontrunner is clear.
What’s striking about Symone’s meteoric rise (and we’ll dive deeper into her many shining star qualities shortly) is how it’s against the backdrop of such fierce competition. This season’s COVID-triggered format change gave us more time to fall in love with season 13’s queens. The split gave everyone more screentime, and the result was a strong first impression for all. Even beyond that, in just a few short challenges, several queens seized the opportunity to show exactly what they can do. Rosé, Gottmik, Tina Burner, Olivia and Denali have made big impacts already, but no one comes close to outdoing Symone.
She helped carry an episode with an overly-long, lackluster challenge, but all the girls deserve some credit for elevating the proceedings on and off the mainstage.
Let’s get into it!
The time has come for the joining of the two halves of the cast, and you know how this goes. The winners talk some low-grade trash about the Pork Chop gals. Elliott hides to eavesdrop on the ladies talking about her. It all just feels like going through the motions. Not much to see here.
Well, there is a moment in which Elliott tries to snipe at Tamisha for voting her off in the Loading Dock. Clearly outmatched, you can almost see the flames swelling behind Tamisha’ eyes. Lala Ri, in interview, tells us back in Atlanta, Tamisha is known to fight. There’s no blood spilled here, but it’s a taste of Tamisha’s edgier side.
When Ru arrives to introduce this week’s challenge, she also comes bearing bad news: Someone WILL go home this week. The stakes are set, and Ru has taken the liberty of splitting the gals into three teams for a group acting challenge. Just in time for Hallmark Channel aficionados to start their withdrawals, the RuPaulmark Channel is here with three new holiday-themed trailers featuring the queens.
Team “Misery Loves Company” (Olivia, Elliott, Denali, Kahmora)
Eager to prove herself to the winning queens, Denali nabs the leading role for herself. She regrets it almost immediately into filming when it becomes clear she can’t handle remembering the lines, nor does she catch the references in the script.
Elliott and Olivia are fine, if uninspired, but it hardly matters. Kahmora is such an unmitigated disaster, everyone looks like Meryl Streep by comparison.
Kahmora’s task is to play a talking tree. It’s not quite second lobster, but it’s far from the juiciest role here. In fact, Kahmora is in a green screen suit, with only her face showing. Olivia clocks her for still padding drag body, but I applaud that level of commitment. I mean, she could use all the goodwill she can get. She reads her three lines as if she’s streaming on bad wi-fi. Ross tries desperately to get her to nail Tyra Bank’s intonation on the infamous “We were all rooting for you!” reference, but Kahmora doesn’t just have a mental block, she has mental fortress. It’s relentless, and it never gets there.
In the finished video, it’s clear when Denali isn’t in on the joke. Kahmora’s discomfort oozes from the screen. It doesn’t look good for her.
Team “God Loves Flags” (Lala Ri, Utica, Symone, Rosé)
Already the story with the strongest punny title, the powerful pairing of Rosé and Symone significantly boosts the material. As the central character, Symone shows up with a fully embodied character, a ton of intentional choices and a commitment to every take rarely seen in these early challenges. She’s just so undeniably watchable, and I’m consistently impressed with how clear-eyed and present she is when she’s performing. What a joy to watch!
Rosé too manages to spin some gold from straw. She plays a gnome (sure, go with it) who inspires Symone’s character to keep the flag factory open on Flag Day. Or something. Rosé throws herself fully into the role and while it feels a little capital-D Dramatic Arts, her serious commitment to the role improves it significantly.
Lala is fine, but it’s the real bare minimum. There’s not a clear stumble or anything, just a general lack of oomph. Utica also seems a little lost in the sauce (more than usual), but she has an iconic moment in the workroom. RuPaul asks Utica point blank if she’s smoked marijuana, and the quirky queen responds in a gut-busting sequences of coy reactions that has everyone in stitches. It never gets less funny the more you watch it. Unfortunately, there’s none of that humor in her performance.
Team “April Fool’s Rush In” (Kandy, Tamisha, Gottmik, Tina, Joey)
Right out of the gate, Kandy declares which part she’s taking. It’s a bold move in the absence of any official team leader, but the other girls just let it slide. I guess there’s no denying that the role of Whoopi Cushion is perfect and Kandy, and she, predictably, slays the big, physical comedy.
Tina takes a Joan Crawford-esque character and gives us … literally Joan Crawford. Tamisha has a hard time at first trying to inject the right amount of Cher into her character, but Ross is able to coach her to a fun final product. Joey Jay doesn’t take the direction quite as well, and the end result is mediocre at best. Gottmik gives Joan Cusack in Addams Family Values on the outside, but doesn’t quite live up to the legend in terms of performance.
This week’s runway is all about trains, and it is a consistently strong showing from all the girls, save for Kandy, whose outfit is such a disappointment, it lands her in the bottom three despite over-delivering in the challenge. The lewks are such stunners that even Denali’s colorful feathered ensemble and Kahmora’s glamorous gold dragon gown can’t spare them from the bottom two. (More on the rest of the lewks in the rankings below.)
The judges also throw Lala Ri in the bottom for her middle of the road showing. (I would’ve stuck Elliott, Joey Jay or Utica in that slot first.)
Of course, Rosé and Symone get top honors. BUT, Symone’s mind-blowing tracksuit/do-rag train runway is one for the herstory books. Even if Rosé didn’t disappoint in a blue pantsuit, Symone gave us drag! fashion! humor! everything! Reader, I leapt to my feet and applauded.
Denali is forced to lip sync against Kahmora to Crystal Water’s “100% Pure Love,” and it is a massacre. Yes, Kahmora is restrained by her heavy gown, but, gurl, she knew she was going to be lip syncing. How DARE she come out without a catsuit under the dragon dress like some sort of sartorial Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. It’s an only slightly more mobile version of Charlie Hides infamous final sync, but even if she could crank it up to a four, it wouldn’t stand a chance.
Denali does a flawless lip sync that is edge-of-your-seat THRILLING. The judges are delighted, and I’m not just entertained, I am sports entertained. If this were a WWE match, they would call it a “squash.” The winner is never in doubt. Denali shantays, and Kahmora sashays away.
Next week: Symone faces her toughest task yet, a sewing challenge.
So how does our little blended chosen family fit into the rankings this week? Find out below, and leave your rankings in the comments.
- Symone, obviously. I’ve spilled enough pixels extolling her performance and runway this season, but I’ve got more! In the makeup mirrors, Symone shared a story of her first time ever in full drag — at her prom! She was fearless, and it was all thanks to the power of drag. This gal gets it. She understands the artistry and the impact of drag, and she knows how to wield both wisely. What a superstar.
- Rosé is a pro, and she approaches each challenge accordingly. She’s calculating, perhaps too much so. I must admit, I felt a little warmed to her on this week’s Untucked as she comforted Denali. Unlike other tender moments of Rosé, which — I’m sorry! — sometimes come off disingenuous and performative. However, in her pep talk with Denali, she felt more honest; not only hyping Denali up, but egging her on. There was intensity there that felt like the real Rosé. If you’re going to be cutthroat, just be cutthroat. After all, who likes warm rosé?
- It’s tough to find fault with Tina‘s performance this week, but not impossible. Both her character and her locomotive-themed runway were very on-the-nose. They’re excellently executed, but it’s starting to feel a bit repetitive when the joke is always taking things literally. It’s funny and tongue-in-cheek, but the charm wears off with each beat. Still, Tina has the skills to go far.
- Olivia may have flown under the radar this week, but enough can’t be said about what a strong, consistent performance she’s had thus far in the competition. I missed the tiny purses a little bit, but glad she knew when to rest the game. Her runway was creative and gorgeous, and her performance perfectly met the challenge.
- Yes, Gottmik‘s bedazzled leaf blower was everything, but the rest of the ensemble was a little lackluster without the prop. It was still beautiful, but I wanted more. Gottmik’s creative genius is her greatest strength, so the more restrictive character challenges aren’t going to be the best showcase.
- Tamisha keeps having these flashes of brilliance, and you just know she’s got IT in there. I want so badly for her to get over her confidence issues and fully unload. She got to the funny eventually in the sketch, and I was once again enamored by her hot pink handmade runway.
- She may have been in the bottom two this week, but Denali still managed to come out looking not only like a winner, but still a strong contender for the crown. I don’t think her performance was that egregious, but let’s not kid ourselves: this is all about the lip sync. She’s not just a lip sync assassin, she’s a lip sync grim reaper. I mean, damn. There are so many little moments that had me gagged, but my favorite is when the camera caught her facing the safe queens just as she synced “I’m gonna be here til the end” like a genuine threat. Watch out, y’all.
- Lala Ri had her best night on the runway in her head-to-toe snakeskin presentation. The challenge really wasn’t that bad, but she seemed happy to just be good enough. I’d almost rather have seen a bold swing and a big miss. She needs to step it up if she’s going to stay in the race.
- During the marijuana exchange with Ru, I finally feel like I “got” Utica. She had me rolling. I was less charmed by her thin characterization and only mildly amusing Carol Burnett-inspired runway. I love Utica’s ideas, I just wish she would take them all to the next level. The concepts are there, but the execution always feels like a B-effort.
- Yikes. It’s not a good sign that Kandy Muse is struggling to make it to runways already. Her first dual-runway mini-challenge was a miss, the lamé was a letdown and this week’s hastily hitched train never quite made it out of the station. Whoopi was a character that was perfect for Kandy’s huge personality, but outside those seemingly custom-made opportunities, can Kandy conform to the challenges ahead?
- So, Joey Jay may have been a little prophetic declaring herself a “filler queen.” The social media stud has fewer fans on the judging table. Gurl was a mess during filming, displaying a level of inexperience that felt like a bigger hindrance than previous amateur actresses, like the hysterical Heidi. I’ll give her props for the lips/tongue train runway, but overall, I feel like I understand the Joey Jay persona, and now I’m ready to see more.
- There were a couple of queens who said the quiet parts out loud about Elliott this week. First, Kahmora called out her lack of clearly defined drag style, and then typically kind Utica said she has a cold energy. These two reads seemed to apply to Elliott this week in the video and on the runway, where both presentations were, like, ok, I guess?
- I mean, what more is there to say about Kahmora? She is gorgeous (in and out of drag), she has wonderful clothes. I really feel for her situation, where it doesn’t seem like she has the strongest support system back home, but, whatever the reason, she’s not ready for the Race. The performance was inexcusable, and failing to prepare for the lip sync seemed like surrender. On top of all that, there was no coming back from Denali’s dance of destruction.
How would you rank the queens this week?