Perhaps more than any other season before, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 is giving us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. After a Snatch Game so horrendous it landed seven queens in the bottom, the surviving queens bounced back in a big way this week.
Billed as “the most romantic Rusical,” Moulin Ru is actually the greatest Rusical of all time. Maybe that’s faint praise for what’s herstorically been a mixed-bag challenge, but this production stands heads and shoulder pads above the previous outings.
There are a few contributing factors. For starters, the production budget feels higher than ever before. I guess the RuPaul Cinematic Universe is finally starting to turn some profits, because everything from the sets to the costume to honestly even the camera angles and transitions feel slicker than ever before. Perhaps there’s been some skill-sharing with the live Vegas revue?
Plus, the music slaps, which is almost never the case in these challenges, especially when pulling from the deeper cuts of the RuPaul oeuvre. However, the spastic, proto-mashup stylings of the original Moulin Rouge is the perfect scaffolding on which a Rusical can be built.
Composer Leland turns in some of his best work of the series here, and special guest director Leslie Jordan is every bit as delightful as you’d imagine. As an added bonus, both men feature in the live Rusical, which helps flesh out the story.
However, what really makes Moulin Ru zing is the casting. That’s what also makes this episode so compelling: watching the queens once again clash over choice of roles.
No Small Parts, But Plenty of Big Casting Drama
In an interesting reversal, once Ru lays out the challenge specifics and leaves the ladies to scrap over parts, it’s all the queens who have acquiesced in the past that suddenly are eager to claim their preferred role. DeJa is first out of the gate to brandish her Snatch Game win and the fact she compromised during ’60s Girl Groups week, so she wants a smaller part no one really is fighting for anyway. OK, easy enough.
Then, Angeria and Jorgeous both try to lay claim to another smaller role, both reminding the rest of the queens they’ve been on their best behavior during previous scrambles for parts. Jorgeous is a bit more stubborn than Angeria, and Angie eventually relents.
But those are just bit parts they’re fighting over. The real star of the show is Saltine, inspired by Nicole Kidman’s Satine from the original Baz Luhrmann film. Bosco sees herself in the sexy courtesan and needs a big comeback following the last few weeks of devastating losses. The theatrical Lady Camden wants to prove to Michelle she’s not too quiet to be noticed.
Bosco and Camden dig in their heels. Tension begins to mount. Bosco isn’t just sticking to her guns; she’s aiming them right at Camden’s face. She comes out swinging, hard. She’s nasty and dismissive. As Jorgeous says, “It’s rude, honestly.” In an attempt to stop the squirming, Camden offers to flip a coin, but Bosco instead demands to make the queens vote! How very dare she!
Everyone seems thrown by Bosco’s Big Teresa Giudice energy, but Camden composes herself long enough to instruct the queens to just close their eyes, and …
Not so fast. Bosco would rather they keep their eyes open. She wants to see. Savage.
Yes, this puts all the queens in a very awkward position, but this has been dragging on, and, obviously Bosco’s not budging. Jorgeous and DeJa vote Camden, while Angeria votes for Bosco. Realizing where this is heading, Daya jumps in to throw her support behind Bosco, forcing Willow to break the tie in Bosco’s favor. (Say what you will about Daya, but she played this perfectly.) For a lot of queens, it comes down to Camden having a better shot at the other remaining role, the bearded Mama Z.
Although she’s at first disappointed with the outcome, it’s not long before Lady Camden sees the potential in the role no one wanted. Remember, Camden already gave us that unforgettable Freddie Mercury runway, plus Shakespeare in Snatch Game. (Though the less said about the latter, the better.)
With the roles finally settled, rehearsals with Leslie, Leland and choreographer Miguel Zarate fly by. Every queen looks strong, even if Angeria appears the least comfortable with the dancing. When rehearsals wrap, Leslie Jordan is most concerned for … RuPaul, because this going to be a tough decision.
Curtains Up for Moulin Ru
That’s an understatement. From the moment the lights go up, the show is fantastic. Camden especially is crucial, weaving the numbers together with slimy style, keeping the plot moving in a uniquely unctuous (but still sexy!) way. Her performance is fully dialed-in, adding tons of subtle character choices, like facial expressions, a twirl of the mustache, a flick of the wrist. It’s so fun to watch. It’s a wonder this wasn’t a more popular choice, because she features prominently throughout the Rusical, including the show-stopping “Covergirl” number that features Leslie Jordan and Leland. This could not have worked out better for Camden, after all.
In truth, everyone is pretty good. Willow gives Camden a run for her marquee money as the Green Fairy, an absinthe hallucination that delivers an increasingly frenetic number while becoming increasingly exasperated. She knocks the manic musical number out of the park, but it’s a fairly contained part of the overall Rusical.
Portraying four “Ru girls” dancers, Angeria, Daya, DeJa and Jorgeous play Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent (proxies for Maya, P!nk, Lil’ Kim and Christina, respectively). Daya truly understands the assignment, giving nods to the inspiration with a baby pink ensemble, complete with top hat. DeJa makes the most of the small part by killing a rap verse, while Angeria clearly is trying to make memorable moments out of a small part. She may have fought hard to play Talent, but Jorgeous flops under the big lights. It’s not bad, but it’s not the total slay it should be.
She’s still better than Bosco. That’s right, after essentially holding the show HOSTAGE until she got her way, Bosco bites it. First, she keeps the signature Bosco brow, which does not fit the character. (Michelle is also quick to point this out later.) Unlike Daya, Bosco doesn’t even attempt to acknowledge the source material, opting for her usual black hair over a curly red or blonde in the style of Kidman.
Most egregious of all, the performance is just fine. Camden as Mama Z is transcendent, so recalling just how ruthless Bosco was earlier in the episode makes the whole seem even worse.
DeJa Has A Hard Look In the Mirror, Mirror
A Mirror, Mirror themed runway is a great showcase for nearly everyone. DeJa’s haphazard iridescent cage over an ill-fitting dress fails to both live up to the brief and flatter the usually expertly tailored queen. Angeria especially rocks an iconic lewk, covered in holographic, mirrored scales cascading from a tall crown to the floor of a gorgeous gown.
No one is wearing anything good enough to outshine Camden’s performance, which the judges rightly assert could be just as at home in Moulin Rouge, the actual Broadway musical. Coupled with a killer runway, she’s the clear winner this week. It’s well deserved and narratively satisfying, considering how poorly Bosco treated her earlier.
Bosco’s payback isn’t complete though. Not only does Camden snatch the win, but, just as Bosco forced everyone to vote earlier, now Ru wants to hear from everyone who should go home and why. How you feelin’ about an anonymous vote now, Bosco?
Predictably all the gals pick Bosco to go home because she demanded the role like a spoiled, little brat and then completely dropped the ball. Bosco picks Jorgeous, claiming “track record,” and that sets Jorgeous OFF. She tells Ru Bosco should go home due to her performance in the challenge, AND because she was needlessly nasty to Camden earlier, AND, while we’re talking about track record, Bosco was in the bottom three times just last week.
Stop! She’s already dead!
Ru goes with the crowd, leaving Jorgeous and Bosco to duke it out in the bottom two to the Hex Hector remix of Whitney Houston’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” It’s a blast of a lip sync, of course. Both Jorgeous and Bosco are giving their absolute all.
Once again, Jorgeous is unconquerable. Bosco hit a string of rough luck and made some bad choices, but it still feels like it’s too soon to say goodbye to the Seattle weirdo.
BUT! Luckily, we don’t have to! Pains me as it does to address this whole silly chocolate bar thing, this is the moment. Bosco unwraps her candy to reveal the coveted gold bar! Haha! Remember when RuPaul said only fate would decide going forward? And then she called like a bunch of non-eliminations?
Anyway! Bosco gets to stay, and I think, really, for real this time, no more shenanigans from here until the finish.
So where does that leave the queens?
- Willow‘s dominance continues. She was so funny this week, and her dancing was fantastic. No one else could do what she did with the role. On the runway, she describes her look as “Elton John, Joan Jett and Evel Kneivel got into a bunch of fireworks,” and I can’t do better than that. I think Snatch Game was a fluke. This is Willow’s race to lose.
- There’s a lot to love about Angeria. She’s got exceptional stage presence. She looks incredible on the runway. She has a magnetic personality. She may lack some performance polish in terms of singing, dancing and acting, but classical training is not required for America’s Next Drag Superstar. Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent IS, and Angeria has those in spades.
- I’m hesitant to give Lady Camden all the props she certainly earned this week, because she’s yo-yo’d so much this season. Her performance in the Rusical was possibly the best of any queen ever in the challenge. Her runway was strong, but not perfect. I still question her taste, and it’ll only take one whiff of “soft spoken” on the wrong week for Michelle to zero in for the kill.
- I hate to admit it, but, once again, Daya managed to impress in a large group challenge. In “The Daytona Wind,” ’60s Girl Groups and Moulin Ru, Daya took small parts and made sure she filled every moment with attitude. As severe as Daya may be offstage, onstage that killer instinct pushes her to the foreground. She followed up a strong performance this week with a great runway, inspired by KISS. The spike adornments, the cape and the high-shine material took it to the requisite drag place. Good week for Daya.
- DeJa‘s rap knocked it out of the park, though Ross was stretching to say she was in contention for the win. She didn’t come close to making the impact Camden or Willow did in the Rusical. The judges were justified in ripping her runway. Being off-theme is one thing, but to also be sloppy is just too much.
- Ru love Jorgeous, and so do I. Yes, her performance in the Rusical was a little flat, but Bosco took a bigger swing, and, thus, a bigger miss. Jorgeous had the stronger runway of the two, and, unsurprisingly, the stronger lip sync (though just by a hair). It’s strange that no one brought up how Miguel Zarate told Jorgeous to make sure she blends into the group. Jorgeous could have made the argument she was holding back, per Miguel’s suggestion, so she didn’t outshine everyone else.
- My how the mighty have fallen. In the span of three episodes, Bosco went from beloved, kooky frontrunner to persona non-grata. I’ve been saying it’s only a matter of time until Michelle came for Bosco’s predilection for undergarments on the runway, but it could not have come at a worse time for the struggling queen. To be clear, I definitely dig Bosco’s whole thing, but she bet big and lost. She would have rightfully gone home tonight, if not for the — ugh — chocolate bar. She’s got the goods to fight her way back, but she’s starting from the bottom.
What did you think of the episode?