“Lip Synch Eleganza Extravaganza” S5 / E2
- A- Community Grade
In a season where fish is the keyword, Serena “Suff-Sculpture” Cha Cha is the guppy that somehow found its way into the shark tank, desperately overcompensating for a lack of talent by acting like a child to pull focus from the other queens. She’s a mix of all the bad qualities of the obnoxious young queens in this show’s history—the Shangelas and Mimis and Phi Phis—with none of the good, and this episode is an hour of Suff-Sculpture drowning before being eaten alive in Untucked. Sometimes you just need a good bloodbath, and that’s what this episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race delivers, along with the huge laughs, insane fashion (fuck yeah, stilts!), and an intensely passionate guest judge in Kristen Johnston of 3rd Rock From The Sun.
The girls have already started to form little social circles, and this season’s spiritual successor of the season three Heathers is Ro-Laska-Tox, a partnership between Roxxxy, Alaska, and Detox that is going to be hard to beat. Everyone is tired of Suff-Sculpture, but Detox is extra-bitchy, loudly talking about how she liked Penny and wishes she had stayed. The person who seems to be taking last episode’s elimination the hardest isn’t Suff-Sculpture, but Monica, whose confidence issues stem from a secret she reveals this week. Last week’s Untucked showed that Monica was already on the verge of a breakdown after only one episode in the competition, and she waits until she’s on the runway this week to expose her big secret.
Ru arrives to tell the queens that the mini-challenge is a lip-syncing challenge to one of three RuPaul songs—“Tranny Chaser,” “Lady Boy,” and “Peanut Butter”—and the contestants can only use their lips because they are behind a wall of RuPaul gloryholes. Brilliant. It’s a great mini-challenge, and it forces the queens to focus on one aspect of their craft and take it to an even more exaggerated place than they normally would. Detox definitely gives the best mouth (yeah… she may have a porn star past too), giving herself neon pink Joker lips and moving them to the music when she’s not singing to make the RuPaul face come to life. She’s a winner along with Ivy, who has her lips similarly exaggerated although nothing really sticks out about her performance. Suff-Sculpture is also a winner because she’s so cartoonishly over-the-top that it works when she’s covering everything but her mouth. It would be great if Suff-Sculpture was in permanent lip sync mode and no sound ever came out of her mouth when she moved it, because that girl does not know when to shut up.
It’s fine that Suff-Sculpture is one of the mini-challenge winners because that makes her a captain in this week’s lip-syncing group challenge, a role in which she is a spectacular failure. Granted, it’s a weird challenge, asking the queens to act out and lip sync classic scenes from previous seasons of Untucked. It’s oddly self-referential and basically a commercial to get people to watch Untucked by showing them the best clips. Yet while the challenge is strange, it ends up testing a lot of the queens’ skills, from their lip-syncing to their ability to capture another person’s mannerisms, fashion, and makeup style. Suff-Sculpture’s group has season three and includes Jade (Delta Work), Alyssa (Shangela), Roxxxy (Mariah), Jinkx (Mimi Imfurst) and their leader as Raja. Detox (Sharon Needles) handles season four with Alaska (Phi Phi O’Hara), Monica (Jiggly Caliente) and Coco (LaShawn Beyond). Ivy (Morgan McMichaels) has season two, with Honey (Mystique Summers), Vivienne (Tatiana), and Lineysha (Tyra).
From the very beginning, it’s clear that Suff-Sculpture is going to be a complete mess as Raja, and she has a group of girls around her that turn it out in their roles to make her look even worse. Jade banks on her fatsuit and food prop too heavily for Delta, but Roxxxy is an appropriately icy Mariah, Alyssa has an outlet for her obnoxious personality in Shangela, and Jinkx is a comic treasure as Mimi Imfurst. There cannot be enough GIFs of Jinkx slumping into the couch as Mimi. (Also GIF-able: Juliette Lewis’ Jujubee impression during judging.) Alyssa takes over once the group gets in front of the camera, and while she appears to be a fairly bitchy director—she gets results. The season-three lip sync is solid except for Suff-Sculpture’s apparently drugged Raja, but that’s exactly what this group wants. The worse their leader looks, the better the chance that the yappy bitch will go home.
Detox’s group has season four, and Alaska immediately embraces the opportunity to make Phi Phi look as bad as possible. (She also does Sharon all the time, so why do her now?) “Anyone have any orange paint?” Alaska asks as she looks for a way to make herself as unnaturally dark as possible without venturing into minstrel territory. She glues one of her eyelashes to her eye to capture that extra Phi Phi wonk, then just tries to move her hands as much as possible when she gets in front of the camera so that no one will notice if she doesn’t have all the words. It works, and she has great chemistry with Detox’s Sharon, ending the lip sync with the Phi Phi/Sharon kiss that was just waiting to break out from all the fireworks between those two queens last season. Coco’s LaShawn is flawless, and the deflated Monica can’t find the strength to bite back as Jiggly, which would be such a fun part to play. The most successful queens in this challenge take the characters they are playing and turn up the volume because they need to be exaggerated if the scene is going to read in a lip sync; Monica could go much further with her Jiggly, from the personality to the outfit.
When Ru comes out to talk to Ivy’s group, things do not look good, especially because Lineysha doesn’t know any of her lines yet. Lineysha looks almost exactly like Tyra, but that won’t mean anything if she’s can’t get the technical part down of the lip sync challenge. I don’t know what kind of game Lineysha is playing, but she is a tricky one; when the group gets in front of the camera, she has her shit down, turning out the breakout performance of the four queens. And that’s after rocking back and forth like a crazed Muppet during most of the filming. Maybe she’s a lot more aware of this game than we’re giving her credit for, being annoying when it throws her partners off-guard but also aware of when to turn it off and focus on the competition. No one in her group even comes close to her performance, but the fact that everyone was polished and no one completely tanked means that they take the win on the runway, with Lineysha scoring a couture latex outfit from Siren Latex (yay?) and immunity next week.
In case I just didn’t hear it, there doesn’t seem to be any governing theme to this week’s runway fashions, which are judged by a panel including Ru, Michelle, Santino, drunk Juliette Lewis, and the aforementioned Kristen Johnston. Johnston seems more invested in this competition than the actual contestants, and her love for past queens makes her qualified to judge the current crop’s impersonations. The looks range from sunny beachwear on Lineysha, a sophisticated gown on Detox, Coco’s Vegas showgirl, and Ivy Winters as a butterfly goddess on stilts. Roxxxy continues to show off her body, wearing a flesh-colored dress with dangling golden strands that Santino calls “Chewbacca in drag.” Johnston loves Roxxxy’s look, thinks Jinkx is hilarious but could use some conditioner (“I tried to tease it, but I just pissed it off” garners a legitimate Ru cackle), and butts heads with Michelle over Detox, but its her feverish hatred of Suff-Sculpture that puts her in the Drag Race judging hall of fame.
With her Panama-inspired dress, granny panties, and tiny Panama flag, Suff-Sculpture serves up high school ethnic fair realness that drives Kristen berserk. “What the ‘f’ was with that teeny flag?” She asks. “You come out with this ginormous thing and then [Mimes playing with a flag.] dootdedootdedoot.” Pointing out the tiny flag is so nitpick-y and perfect, showing how one small lackluster detail can bring down an entire look. Granted, there’s a whole lot wrong with Suff-Sculpture, including her Raja lip sync. Kristen has a soft spot for Raja, and when she sees Suff-Sculpture’s impersonation, she joins the rest of the girls hungry to see this girl go down. Suff-Sculpture isn’t even a fish to Kristen, she’s a human that needs floaties.
Suff-Sculpture is joined in the bottom two by Monica, who hasn’t been fully invested in the competition because she’s been keeping a secret: she’s a transgendered woman. Monica is currently in transition, but RuPaul says that she was brought on this show for a reason, and sticks by the decision to have her on. It’s an intriguing precedent that the show is setting, and it will be interesting to see if this opens the doors to have transgendered contestants on future seasons. Monica’s revelation doesn’t make up for her shitty Jiggly impersonation, but once Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” starts up for the lip sync, it’s clear that she’s going to bring it now that her burden has been lifted. Monica is making a connection with the words and her audience while her opponent just tries to turn up the energy as much as possible until she can whip out the splits. It’s not a lip sync that will go down in drag race herstory, but it ends with Serena Cha Cha going home, making this a wonderful episode.
- This week’s Untucked: Monica gets a message from her mother perfectly timed to her big revelation. Plus, Roxxxy shuts down Suff-Sculpture with a read that sends the entire room into a cackling fit, laughing in her face until she eventually just screams to get them to quiet down. It’s nice to see Alyssa and Coco team up against a common enemy, and it’s easy to see that the remains of their friendship lie underneath the petty rivalry that currently defines them. Then Suff-Sculpture tells everyone to stop the ghettolexican language, prompting crazy face cracking and this week’s top hashtag-gag: #NoSheBetterDont. “Sit yo’ ass down and shut the hell up” indeed.
- Ru’s hair and makeup are gorgeous, but her gown gives me a bit of a French maid vibe and I don’t know how I feel about that.
- To the commenter who pointed out Alyssa’s resemblance to Kenneth the Page: all the snaps.
- Can someone explain why RuPaul says “Ivy Winters” that way?
- I really miss watching the queens dance to a RuPaul song at the end of each episode.
- Ivy Winters on Ro-Laska-Tox: “It sounds like a venereal disease.”
- “You need to pucker up and impress me with the power of your pie hole.”
- “I believe that drag is performing gender through various skills: makeup as a form of painting, fashion as a form of suff-sculpture, and showmanship through performance.” Bye bye, Serena.
- “She walks like a Dressage horse.”
- “How many blacks cocks had to die for that outfit?”
- “This is actually Detox’s best drag.” I love friendly ribbing on the runway.
- Juliette Lewis: “I don’t wanna see boobs.” Kristen Johnston: “Then why are you sitting next to Michelle?”
- “She coulda gone all the way and blacked out some teeth.”
- “To the other queens, pick up a book and go read.”