Out of 14 episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14, there have been FIVE episodes with no elimination and two episodes whose eliminations were later undone. That means HALF of this season has been spent treading water, which is why tonight’s latest twist in a seemingly neverending series of attempts to prolong the season just didn’t have the zing it should have. I simply have nothing left to give, RuPaul!
The penultimate episode of the season (reunions don’t count) usually feels as if the stakes are at their highest, but the bizarre pacing has left me deflated. Despite the drawn out season, it still felt too early for all this. Too early for the Tic-Tacs, too early for the music video (or “Rusic Rideo,” if you’re RuPaul/Scooby-Doo).
It’s just too much content to allow all five queens ample screentime while they chat with Ru and Michelle, design a custom lewk for the shoot, write lyrics to a verse, learn choreo, film a music video and give advice to their younger selves.
On top of all that, they’re trying to cram in a ton of major storylines: Daya’s and Bosco’s roads to redemption, Lady Camden’s late-season surge, Willow and Angeria’s friendship. There’s a lot!
In some ways, having such a competitive final five doesn’t help. It’s much more satisfying to see if the frontrunner will hold onto their top spot, or who will just barely make the cut for the final four. I have been ranking these queens weekly all season, and I don’t have a strong sense of who’s in the lead or a specific outcome I’m rooting for anymore.
The episode feels like CliffsNotes, so consider this a recap of a recap as we take a whirlwind journey back to Making the Video!
The Tic-Tac chats are what we’ve come to expect. (And putting them in the same episode as the advice to your younger self feels particularly heavy-handed.) Bosco talks about being reborn after being nearly eliminated. (Cue Ru’s psychobabble about how we must die to really live, or whatever.) Daya discusses living with diabetes; Angeria has eight drag kids back home; Camden overcame losing her brother to suicide; and Willow reflects on how her experience with cystinosis shaped her. If it wasn’t already hard not to fall in love with these queens, this certainly sealed the deal. Even Daya is making an unexpected pivot from this season’s established villain to comeback kid.
In advance of starring in Ru’s new video for “Catwalk,” the ladies all design a custom outfit that arrives like magic in the werk room, as if cobbled together by little drag elves. They’re quickly ushered into rehearsal with Michelle and Miguel Zarate, but they’re in full camera-ready drag. Strange, no?
The concept is an homage to George Michael’s video for “Too Funky,” and in that regard, it’s spot-on. In terms of the gals a super models, well, let’s just say for Angeria at least, the struggle bus is indeed still running.
Angeria’s struggle with choreo is the driving thrust of rehearsal, while the rest of the gals seem to pick it up pretty quickly. I am always curious how the queens rehearse or continue working on a garment overnight/when the cameras aren’t rolling, but in this instance, there is no additional time. They go right from rehearsing to filming.
As with most of the episode, the shoot flies by in a flash. Angeria barely has any time to pull herself together, but she manages to Mariah Carey her way through the combos. Michelle encourages her to crawl on the runway, which Angeria does not. Next up, Daya Betty seizes the opportunity to brown-nose Michelle by doing an extended feline crawl down the runway for her solo moment. Camden slays the whole thing with perfect choreo, a smartly constructed verse and an exciting, raver fairy-inspired custom outfit. Willow thinks Bosco looks like an “intergalactic mom ready to pickup her kids,” while Bosco calls Willow “the sleepiest super model of all time.” Both are spot on.
The final runway is themed “You’re A Winner Baby,” and every queen knocks it out of the park. The finished video is one of Ru’s better products, and a savvy edit makes any weak performances tough to spot. The judges find fault with Angeria’s dancing and Willow’s distracted performance, but I don’t think I’d pick up on either if it weren’t spoonfed to me by the show.
In the end, another fierce, fully-realized performance from Daya Betty snatches one last important win. Lady Camden’s expertise nets her a spot in the finals as well. Ru ultimately overlooks Bosco’s catsuit from the Kohl’s Jetsons collection and leaves besties Angeria and Willow to duke it out in the bottom two.
Now, here’s the thing. The episode went out of its way to highlight the close relationship between Angeria and Willow, adding emotional gravitas to this lip sync battle. Jujubee and Raven birthed the “besties lip sync in an emotional moment” trope, and it usually doesn’t disappoint.
Angeria and Willow absolutely slay Gaga and Beyoncé’s “Telephone” in one of those great lip syncs that feels like two performers putting on a show, not trying to destroy the each other. It’s a crowd-pleaser! And, OF COURSE, neither Angeria nor Willow should be sent home — especially when they’ve managed to stay on top of the competition (and two other queens have already technically been eliminated).
But it’s hard to cheer on yet another double-save. What should have been a well-earned and emotionally-satisfying shantay for two top queens feels like just another kink in the winding road to this season’s finale. Yes, it’s frustrating as a viewer, but it’s a bummer it sapped all the oomph out of this performance. It’s not fair to Willow and Angeria, who are much more deserving of another chance than, with respect and all due, Orion Story. This should’ve felt like a bigger moment.
So, yeah, Ru saves both, and now we have a final five. The finale would not be complete without Willow or Angeria, but I hope the show learns some lessons for next season. (My pitch: Start with a bigger cast — stay with me — but eliminate people at any point, including rehearsals, in the werk room, after a mini-challenge, etc. It’ll keep everyone on their toes. They could even frame the season inspired by Squid Game, which will be just out-of-date enough for this show to reference by the time next season rolls around. You’re welcome, World of Wonder!)
However, this leaves the rankings as wild as ever before. I’ve never gone into a finale less confident in the outcome. It’s tempting to think that makes it more exciting, but it really means I have little personal stake. So, although I do think it truly could be any of the five remaining queens, I’m going to put a stake in the ground on my final rankings:
- She may have almost been eliminated tonight, but Willow also received heaps of heavy praise from RuPaul, not just on her art, but also on her life. I adored her custom outfit for the video, which included a silhouette of the profile of her face. Plus, her little rat princess (she don’t want no BIG rat princess … ) was adorable (even if it was more mouse than rat). She’s so creative and smart. She ticks every box for RuPaul. I’d have to say the crown is most likely hers to lose.
- If not Willow, Camden is a safe bet. She’s outperformed all the other queens, even if her momentum didn’t pick up until the back half of this interminable season. She has excelled in every performance-based challenge, often easily outshining her competition. We don’t yet know how the finale will play out with five queens, but it’ll probably be lip sync-based, which favors Camden’s dance background.
- What a great time for Daya to soar. Returning eliminated queens don’t have the best history in terms of winners, but Daya made good on Ru’s theory she had more to show than what we saw in her debut episode. It was such a savvy move to pick up on Michelle’s not-so-subtle hint to crawl on the stage, and her looks on the runway tonight — both in the video and in front of the judges — were 10s. It’s tough to root for Betty after she got the villain edit, but it also wouldn’t feel unearned if she wins it all.
- This was a rough episode for Angeria, but don’t count her out. Choreo may be a struggle, but she can PERFORM. So, if the finale is about lip syncing, she’s still got a chance. The judges obviously can see her starpower, and she always delivers on the runway. Her final black gown with asymmetrical ruffles was truly a showstopper without feeling like just another glamour gown. Just because she’s not the most likely winner, doesn’t mean should wouldn’t be deserving.
- I’ve been a big fan of Bosco all season. I thought she was more commanding during her video performance than she got credit for, though that outfit was indeed hideous. Surviving the LollaPaRuZa and the chocolate bar fiasco is already an achievement. It’s not impossible for her to bring out a big winning swing in the end, but it does feel like she’s already gotten every opportunity to show the world what she can do.
How would you rank the queens? Are we heading to a five-way tie in next week’s finale? I wouldn’t count it out!