RuPaul’s Drag Race Back and DragCon Forth
Somehow, RuPaul’s Drag Race is tricking me into recapping panels from DragCon. Not a satire of panels at DragCon. Not a send-up of con panels or wink-wink taking the piss out of the global Drag Race corporate machine. No, instead, on this week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, we just get to … sit through two panels featuring Drag Race queens discussing men. There are jokes, sure, but no more than you would get at any decent panel. It’s not bad, but is it TV?
Convention panels are deep dives for passionate fans, but there’s not a lot of sizzle, not a lot of flash. It’s usually a hastily erected stage in front of the world’s ugliest and most uncomfortable chairs in a nondescript hotel conference room. Who goes to a drag show to see a TEDTalk?
What’s frustrating is that the perfect twist is right there. The worst part of any panel at any con is always when they open the floor to questions from the audience. Socially-stunted STANs line up and give long, meandering preambles to questions designed only to showcase their own creepy level of knowledge. Yeah, Bosco and Willow can write a joke. We know. But let’s see them react in real-time to questions from Ru, Michelle, eliminated queens, real Drag Con attendees, whatever.
They’ve done DragCon challenges before, but those panels focused on drag skills, required a demo and included audience questions. (Plus, it gave us “proportionizing.”) This is closer to the conversations the gals used to have in a final-three podcast episode or RuPaul Tic Tac lunch. The queens give vulnerable, personal answers alongside some pre-written zingers. They’re good panels, but just panels nonetheless.
The theme of the week is “menzeses.” I originally read this as “menses” and assumed this would be a challenge to put on a grade-school appropriate workshop about going through the change, first periods, our bodies, ourselves, etc. Sort of like a special Drag Queen story hour featuring “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Instead, both panels play out like a merciful episode of the fictitious podcast X, Y and Me from And Just Like That (with, thankfully, 100 percent less Che Diaz). That’s the tone.
BombCyclone the Men — It’s Raining Queens
Willow gains an early advantage by winning a mini-challenge that tasks the queens with photobombing some of Hollywood’s hottest men(zeses). The win gives her the opportunity to choose her own team, and she chooses wisely. She picks DeJa, Camden and Angeria, all strong competitors. It makes sense to avoid the increasingly toxic Daya Betty, the rambling Jasmine Kennedie and Jorgeous, who lacks confidence speaking. But what about Bosco? Did Willow want to avoid another group challenge paired with Bosco, or was she trying to stick one of her strongest competitors with all the deadweight?
Whatever the strategy, it works. Willow’s group is easy, breezy on the panel. Willow’s second genius move is to delegate moderating to DeJa. This allows Willow to punctuate the conversation with quick quips and well-crafted answers. She speaks about her medical condition, feeling more confident in drag and lands punchline after punchline. DeJa still shines, as well. As moderator, she seamlessly transitions between segments and keeps the convo moving. Angeria and Camden are charming, but it’s clear Willow and DeJa are the standouts.
Lewk and Glisten Challenge
Despite some shaky moments, the other team isn’t hard to watch. Bosco absolutely slays the role moderator, infusing a little twisted humor into her hosting. She makes every word count, while still steering the conversation. Her hilarious, effortless performance snags her this week’s win. Her teammate Daya also acquits herself nicely here. Daya’s standout moment is a cute anecdote about WWE, and I’m just glad to have some company in the Venn diagram of RuPaul’s Drag Race watchers and WWE fans.
Clearly in her head, Jasmine makes some, as Tatianna would say, “choices.” First she chooses a lewk the judges HATE. They rip on it endlessly for making the young, vibrant queen look like an aged magician. That’s some pretty harsh criticism, but it’s not unwarranted. After weeks of being berated for talking too much, Jasmine is obviously trying to rein it in and share the stage (a key part of the challenge). Jorgeous stumbles over her words a bit and never seems to fully recover. She doesn’t totally wipeout, but the nerves are on full display.
After a pleasing shoulder pad runway (more on the lewks in the rankings), Angeria and Camden are declared safe. The judges praise DeJa’s moderating ability and love her take on a Chanel suit with oversized shoulder pads, it’s just not enough to overcome Bosco’s slamdunk. Even though Michelle isn’t wowed with Bosco’s outfit (and even though I am outraged no one mentioned Jubilee from the X-Men even once), Bosco’s win is undeniable.
Lipsync Got a Hold On Me
That leaves Jasmine and Jorgeous in the bottom, and, honey, it is everything you expect. The dancing divas tear up the stage for Etta James’ “Something Got a Hold On Me.” They are both instantly clicked-in, nailing the lyrics, facials and timing. It’s also one of those lip syncs that feels more like a duet, and I love that. The whole thing is such a blast, Mama Ru decides to keep them both.
That’s right! It’s a double-shantay. So, we’ve brought back two eliminated queens and skipped a week without eliminations. Is this RuPaul’s Drag Race or RuPaul’s Leisurely Drag Stroll? Let’s put the pedal to the metal here!
Maybe business will pick up next week with Snatch Game. The teaser gives a lot away in terms of who is playing whom, and let’s just say there are a lot of picks that can go either way. I’ll toss some stray thoughts in the rankings below. Let us know who you think is pulling ahead before next week’s Snatch in the comments!
Willow’s on top
- Willow‘s winning ways continue. I did find it odd that such a ridiculous mini-challenge would yield such a powerful reward. Did Willow really earn that privilege with a demonstrably better photo than the other girls? Really, Willow didn’t even need the leg-up. She was great in the panel, coming off casual while still delivering expert pre-written punchlines. It was surprising to see her so clearly misunderstand the assignment on the runway, though. Luckily, her excellent taste prevailed, shoulders be damned. The teaser for next week is meant to have us believe she’s going to struggle in Snatch Game as Drew Barrymore, but I think it might be a misdirect.
- It had to be a tough decision to put either Angeria or DeJa in the top this week. While Angie misses out on top marks this week, it was not for lack of trying. I’ve got no notes to improve her performance on the panel; she just didn’t make as big of an impression as her teammates. Her runway was also a stunner, head-to-toe houndstooth the house down. Next week, she tries her hand at *checks notes* … RuPaul’s Drag Race season one oddball Tammie Brown? Is this crazy … or is it so crazy, it just might werk?
- Do not sleep on Miss Bosco, mama. She is picking up steam at exactly the right time, and she has managed to work her unique point of view into every challenge. It’s unclear whom she’s portraying in next week’s Snatch Game, but it’s definitely a blonde. I actually really dug her iridescent undies under that jacket, but how you gonna go up there in a yellow raincoat, blue gloves, big sunglasses and not make a joke about a mall babe eating chilli fries?
- Was Lady Camden‘s Blake Lively/Shelton gaffe scripted? Or did she legit forget his name? Either way, it was the only notable part of her performance on the panel. The Nutcracker runway was cute, but she’s always teetering just on the edge of costume. Next week, she’s brining William Shakespeare to Snatch Game, which is a huge swing that could either really pay off or completely tank her.
- This was Deja‘s best week. She was such an affable hostess, and she made sure she didn’t just manage the conversation, she contributed, too. Her Chanel-style suit was a great runway, and it addressed the brief better than anything else on stage. For Snatch, DeJa is taking a risk as rapper Lil Jon. It strikes me as the kind of character that could be one note (“YEAH! WHAT?!”) and quickly devolve into some season four Romper Room bullsh*t.
- Daya Betty has become so unlikable, she’s hard to watch. It feels like the other queens don’t even want to be around her, and, frankly, neither do I. Everything she did this week was … fine. It was fine. I just find myself rooting against her, because she’s harshing the vibe! In at least the third male character in next week’s Snatch, Daya is performing as Ozzy Osbourne. I’m predicting some sort of bat-biting, and maybe a quick change into Sharon.
- I’m not surprised to see Jasmine whiff this week, especially considering how so much of this season has been devoted to Jasmine’s struggles with group conversation. However, Jasmine also has the potential to turn a deficiency into a moment of Alyssa Edwards brilliance. (Remember her Southern accent in The Daytona Wind?) I’m giving her a slight edge over Jorgeous this week, because I think he has the potential to slay Snatch, even if it’s by sort of accident.
- Jorgeous gonna Jorgeous. We know what she’s good at, she knows what she’s good at, but when she is out of her comfort zone, she is not going to surprise you. She performed exactly as expected in the panel and exactly as expected in the outstanding lip sync. It’s not easy to tell whom Jorgeous is portraying next week, but I can’t see it going well for her. Being quick-witted and speaking confidently in character (or otherwise) are just not this queen’s strong suit. I fear Snatch will be her ultimate undoing.
What did you think of last night’s episode?