On its own, RuPaul’s Drag Race format-breaking LaLaPaRuZa Lip Sync Smackdown was a needed jolt in the show’s sagging midseason. But, once the last traces of Jasmine’s shablam are mopped off the mainstage, are we really any further along?
Last week’s cataclysmic Snatch Game certainly warranted special circumstances, and in that regard, the episode delivers. The LaLaPaRuZa structure is indeed thrilling, but the conclusion made the whole experience feel less like dramatic twists and more like the scenic route.
If you recall, seven of our eight ladies are in danger of elimination. DeJa’s perfectly fine Lil Jon earns her a safe spot, but, in hindsight, it feels like a missed opportunity to show up and show out at a time when all the season’s standings are being recalibrated. She gets to kick it in the Werk Room and watch the battles with the winning queens from each round.
The other seven girls stand quaking on the runway while Ru unveils the rules. First, the inexplicably hot Pit Crew guy, Calix (whose Instagram is worth losing yourself in for a spell), picks a gal via lotto drum. That queen picks her opponent. However, her opponent gets to pick the song. It’s a diabolical layer of strategy to spring on the queens during an already stressful time, and I am living for it.
Round 1: Jasmine v. Daya
For a queen that was already eliminated earlier this season, Daya sure is salty Jorgeous and Jasmine have escaped the chop for so many weeks. She’s in a full-blown tizzy early in the episode, so when Calix picks Jasmine Kennedie for the first lip sync, it’s no shocker whom she chooses to face.
As the first queen drawn, Jasmine isn’t expecting the additional twist of Daya choosing the song. (The other competitors immediately take note.) Daya wisely picks Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” hoping to limit Jasmine’s stuntability (a word I think I just invented and will not remove). Joke’s on Daya, because Jasmine still finds ways to slam her taint on the runway like a jackhammer.
Outdanced, Daya is still not outdone. Instead, looking like a scene girl right out of Myspace in 2004, Daya uses the opportunity to demand the “respect” she’s been clamoring for all season. Jasmine does have the dancing skills, but, if you look closely, she struggles to stay consistent with the lyrics when there’s more than one part singing. This is a tight lip sync though, and every little thing counts. Daya manages to eke out the win, and Jasmine must lip sync again later.
Round 2: Willow v. Bosco
Calix, who only somehow gets hotter throughout the episode, pulls Willow’s ball next. Willow knows the queen she chooses picks their track, so she’s keen to choose a queen she believes will select the song she most wants to sync to. Still with me? That’s why she chooses Bosco, another comedic queen (and the one most likely to choose the campiest option). Bosco plays right into Willow’s plan, selecting “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross.
Willow seems to settle into the song about midway through, but once she hits her stride, it’s really fun to watch. She masterfully toes the line between sexy and stupid, punctuating a slinky, sultry sync with just a few perfect moments of levity.
I’m a bit disappointed seeing Bosco in more underwear on the runway, decked out in another kooky, spooky Bettie Page-inspired look. She gives her all to the performance, but it ends up feeling one-note. It’s a good note, but it fails to ride the sexy vibes of the song the way Willow does. Ru declares Willow the winner and sends a shocked Bosco to await her next challenger.
Round 3: Jorgeous v. Camden v. Angeria
I appreciate how Ru and crew don’t get tripped up on the odd number of competitors and flow seamlessly into a three-way sync with the remaining gals. Because we still need an excuse to cast our gaze upon Calix, he draws a ball to pick the song. When he pulls Jorgeous’ ball, everyone assumes Jorgeous will pick the available J. Lo track, but she shocks everyone by selecting “Radio,” by Beyoncé.
On a night full of strong lip sync battles, this one still stands out. The song is a banger from the jump, and all three queens kick things off at 11 and keep the energy going the whole way through. The spectacle is so unrelenting, it’s like watching a three-ring circus. There’s something exciting happening everywhere you look.
The argument could be made for any of these queens to be declared victor, but Jorgeous’ unstoppable lip sync streak continues. Even the other safe queens have no choice but to STAN when Jorgeous triumphantly enters the Werk Room.
Round 4: Camden v. Bosco
Camden gets to pick her opponent next, opting for a clearly still shook Bosco. Like Daya before her, Bosco tries to a pick a track that will limit her competition’s dancing strength. Unfortunately, the closest available song to a snoozer is En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go.” Although it’s a slow jam, the song is, scientifically speaking, an absolute atomic bomb of emotion.
If The Daytona Wind taught us anything, it’s that Camden is not only a dancer; she’s also an actress. It’s that skillset that shines brighter here than her kicks and splits. She’s the one giving the song the intense emotion it demands, despite Bosco’s best efforts. It feels a bit of more of the same from Bosco, and Ru unfortunately agrees. Camden is declared safe, and Bosco faces a third lip sync.
Round 5: Angeria v. Jasmine
The last two remaining queens for this round battle it out to the last remaining track, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” Angeria is fond of dipping into a deep squat repeatedly, but those unmistakable eyes are hypnotizing. It makes it hard to look away from her, adding to her already striking presence. The safe queens spectating all seem agree, and so does Mama Ru. That means Angie is safe, and Jasmine faces her sixth sync of the season.
Round 6: Jasmine v. Bosco
It all comes down to this. For a final showdown, Ru demands the girls perform Diana Ross’ “Swept Away.” Finally, Bosco breaks through, pushes through the ceiling she struggled against all night to go full-out on the last number. She tells us she’s busting out all her stripper moves, but there’s more oomph overall. Jasmine, to her credit, pulls out moves that could only be possible by replacing one’s spine with a pool noodle. There are backbends scientists are still straining to explaining. It’s good, but just not good enough.
Ru keeps Bosco, sends home Jasmine, and … wait, couldn’t we have just done this last week? Jasmine was one of the (if not THE) weakest in this season’s cursed Snatch Game, so why not just eliminate her then and move on? I have no problem with how it played out, Ru’s choices round-to-round, but it feels like just another way we’re stretching this season.
With the LaLaPaRUZa in the rearview, where do the queens stand? Let’s review in our rankings, and leave yours in the comments!
- If anything is certain now, it’s Willow‘s clear ascent to frontrunner. After one of the most disappointing Snatch performances, Willow reminded everyone why she’s not only a talented queen, she’s a savvy one. And savage. She expertly played the cards she keeps famously close to her chest. She looked great and reminded everyone that, in addition to her creative, comedy and design skills, she’s also a great lip syncer.
- Angeria‘s confident performance tonight all but erases the bad memory of her miserable Tammie Brown impression. Instead, she reminded us of the charismatic queen who introduced herself with a killer lip sync to her own original track in the beginning of the season. Did she accomplish what she needed this week? Check!
- It goes to show how strong these lip syncs were this week when Lady Camden‘s excellent performances are hardly even remarked upon. She gave plenty of face, tons of technique and even some comedy in there. (I particularly enjoyed her interpretation of Beyoncé’s line “Then I hear vibrations all up in my trunk.”) It looks like another acting challenge on the horizon, which favors the fair Lady, so it’s looking good for Camden in the near term.
- I hope Daya defeating Jasmine serves as the conclusion to their mini-rivalry and Daya’s general sour attitude. Her look on tonight’s runway brought me right back to the studded belt rack at Hot Topic in 2003, but in a good way? Although her lip sync wasn’t spectacular, it sent a strong message and may give her the confidence she needs to transcend the desperation dripping off her over the last few weeks.
- This was a great night for Jorgeous. Oh, you’re just asking her to dance to a Beyoncé song? That seems like a warm-up for Jorgeous on any other night. Even the other queens can’t help but compliment Jorgeous on her effortlessly fierce performance. She seemed genuinely reenergized when she got safely back to the Werk Room, so I hope she’s turning a corner with her own confidence in the competition.
- It’s hard to place DeJa this week, which may be a bigger issue for her in the competition/fandom more broadly. Without question, the other seven girls all impressed tonight, which makes DeJa (whose Snatch win wasn’t that impressive in the first place) start to fade away at a really inopportune time.
- What a precipitous fall from grace for the once surging Bosco. Coming right on the heels of a deeply disappointing Snatch, her repeated defeats in the lip sync smackdown feel all the more devastating. These should have been displays of Bosco’s strength, but they were flops. Plus, again, we see her in Bettie Page undies on the runway. The pacing of this season is all over place, but seeing Bosco attempt to weather three lip syncs in a row was tough.
- Jasmine made a valiant effort this week to stave off an elimination that probably should have happened weeks ago. I’m glad she got to show off what she loves to do one last time (OK, three last times), but it was her time to go. She also seems to be leaving a little bit humbler than she arrived, which will only serve the immensely talented young queen going forward.
What did you think of the episode?