“Float Your Boat” is the episode where I’ve officially become addicted to RuPaul’s Drag Race, season four, anxiously awaiting the next episode before Untucked has even begun. Seven days seems too long to wait for this show’s Absolut cocktail of catty drama, cartoonish comedy, and gay pride, and the idea that there will be 10 months of waiting for the next season is truly frightening.
From the very start, “Float Your Boat” is Willam’s show, starting with her comment about Milan getting rid of both Puerto Rican queens: “You ain’t never gonna be in West Side Story again. Not even a touring production, bitch.” Willam is giving a master class in Reality TV performance this episode, playing for the camera at all times and navigating RuPaul’s game with ease. Willam throws shade at the weakest girls in the competition, has read RuPaul’s book, and is not afraid to proclaim her brilliance until the rest of the queens can’t stand it anymore. That last one is a page out of the Tyra Sanchez book, but Willam has the wit to back up her pride. When she’s attacked, like in the ridiculous letter from Kenya Michaels in Untucked, she turns an insult into a positive, embracing her handsomeness when Kenya accuses her of having a man’s face.
This week’s mini-challenge puts the girls in over-sized tits and skin-tight Glamazon t-shirts for a wet T-shirt contest, which means this episode starts with the drag queen wet T-shirt contest. The girl that gets the biggest response from the crowd wins, and Willam is her usual confident self at the start of the challenge. She’s a dirty girl when she gets on stage, shooting a tube of suntan lotion on herself before writhing on the floor with her mouth agape as water gets poured into it. The only queen that comes close is Latrice, who relies on a big-girl-splits to get her applause, but her super-absorbent padding cut into the sex appeal. Phi Phi is immediately a hot mess, violently slapping her breasts until they fly off her chest. At only six minutes in, Phi Phi’s boobs and wig have fallen off, quickly establishing this as an amazing episode.
This week’s challenge has the queens decorating Gay Pride floats that they wear down the runway, and RuPaul gives a brief history of the Stonewall riots to keep the queens aware of what others had to sacrifice so that they could be on television. Thus, this episode is all about pride, and Willam is somehow able to make the challenge all about herself while also paying tribute to the people that have paved the way for her. She’s a crazy, cocky son of a bitch that decorates her float with star stickers of herself, but she’s also able to give RuPaul a heartfelt (and completely calculated) response to what the float represents: “In your book, you had a quote that said, ‘Even when I was down, I treated myself as a star, and eventually, the rest of the world would catch up.’ And I wrote that in my little binder. In 8th grade, I adopted that, too. I treated myself as a star and just knew it was going to happen.”
When RuPaul tells Willam that is a very vulnerable story, it’s as if she’s rewarding a puppy for not peeing on the carpet. There’s more than a little condescension in her voice, but also pleasure that Willam is getting the hint, even if she can’t express it very naturally. It’s a much better theme for a float than Jiggly’s: “Dreams… are… possible?” She ends up settling on “It Gets Better,” maybe as a way to convince the judges that her performance can be better than the elementary school craft project she sends down the runway.
“It is very hard to create an outfit from scratch in a day and decorate a boat. It’s damn near impossible.” That is the line I will be using from now on to explain the craziness of this show to others, and the divide between the amateurs and professionals is becoming more defined as the challenges get more intense. Chad, Sharon, Latrice, and Willam are the clear top four, producing consistently polished looks and exhibiting imagination and versatility throughout the competition. They’ve each won at least one challenge and have never been in the bottom, and while Phi Phi has been consistently safe, she’s still getting make-up and padding critiques. With some more experience and a slice of humble pie, Phi Phi could get to their level.
Dida is full of potential, but she needs some more training before she can truly tap into it. She has charisma, uniqueness, and nerve, now she just needs to develop the talent. Jiggly isn’t a lost cause either, although her apparent stupidity puts her at a disadvantage. Her competitors are well-versed in the history of drag, and their knowledge has helped them create the sharp looks that she doesn’t have. Jiggly does show a desire to learn more, though, and Drag Race is a great opportunity for her to learn about the history of her craft from the best in the field. Milan doesn’t have the excuse of youth that Dida and Jiggly have, and there’s no reason for her to be so messy all the time. She overthinks things and loses focus in the process, which probably leads to her scattered personality. She’s always pushing so hard, and her face looks like its actively trying to keep the smile from dropping.
There’s so much drag education going down this episode, and the queens discuss the punishment their drag ancestors had to face in the past along with lighter subjects like the different types of New York City drag queens. My favorite lesson is Sharon’s explanation of the difference between her “dignity” and “paycheck” looks: “Dignity is when I will not bend for anyone, and I don’t care if I make a dollar, I’m doing what I’m doing. And then there’s times, the electric’s about to shut off, so I dress up like Lady Gaga.” Phi Phi’s face is priceless, and she shoots Sharon a mad stink-eye that goes unnoticed.
Kelly Osbourne and NCIS’ resident nerdy girl Pauley Perrette are the guest judges for the runway, and they both prove to be strong judges, offering solid critiques while fitting right in with the dynamic between Michelle, Ru, and Billy B. Chad comes out in a drag cougar showgirl number, complete with striped boat, and as usual, her make-up and presentation are flawless, but it’s a little boring. Dida’s combo of harem pants and a kindergarten drawing top is not remotely fashion forward, and her boat is similarly unspectacular. She does take the judges’ advice from last week and pumps up the volume of her hair, though, and it helps draw attention away from her masculine face. Orange Jigglius takes to the stage wearing a hefty bag, and she’s just another item of refuse floating on the tangerine pile of garbage that is her float. It’s a sad mess of fans, leaves, and anchor-penises, and it guarantees that she’ll be lip-syncing.
Sharon’s float isn’t the prettiest girl at the yacht club, but it has a more cohesive aesthetic than Jiggly’s and works perfectly with Sharon’s snake-handed Poison Ivy look. It’s not a pile of trash, more of a boat that was left in a swamp for 20 years and is now covered with moss and mold. I don’t know how that ties in with the pride theme, but that snake hand sure is fun! Latrice serves up Ursula realness with her shimmering cerulean dress and intricate rhinestone make-up, although Michelle gives her flak for her go-to pair of shoes, which Kelly refers to as “goth lesbian hiking boots.” Her float is clean and chic, hitting the same safe-but-strong territory as Chad, although Latrice’s dramatic look shows that she has more tricks up her sleeve than we know. Phi Phi makes up for her disastrous minichallenge with a purple warrior princess bodysuit, and she puts in Yara Sofia’s blue contact lenses for that extra alien allure. She does a good job matching her outfit to her float, which is one of the cleaner examples sent down the runway.
Milan is frantic enough without props, but she won’t let a float around her waist stop her from flailing. Milan was critiqued for going androgynous last week, so she decides not to wear any breasts on the runway because she’s just that dumb. And while her performance is no good, her float is so much worse, with “The Milan Invasion” written across the front and “I Will Not Forget” scrawled across the back. Billy B is offended that Milan would make the challenge all about herself, but Willam does the same thing and gets away with it. Willam’s float is covered in pictures of herself, but she makes sure the attention is on the queen, not the float. She anchors her boat in the middle of the stage, takes it off along with her Dolce & Gabbana coat—the same one Carrie wore on Sex And The City!—and struts down the catwalk uninhibited. She puts on a show, and the judges eat it up.
When it comes time to talk about what pride and their floats mean to them, Willam talks about being married in California and how Prop 8 took that right away from her, while Milan talks about paying tribute to the history of the drag performers’ invasion of Fire Island. For my response to this, refer to Kelly Osbourne’s “please shut up now, Milan” face. Willam is an entertainer that knows how to work a crowd, and the judges embrace his narcissistic float because he’s keeping them engaged, whereas Milan is drawing attention to nothing special.
Willam wins the challenge, while Jiggly and Milan lip sync to “Born This Way,” continuing this season’s string of impressive elimination song choices. It feels a bit like the song is wasted on them, and neither of them are all that remarkable, although Jiggly easily earns the right to stay when Milan makes a complete fool of herself. Michelle called it during the judges’ deliberation, and surely enough, Milan not only throws off her wig, but strips off the top half of her costume, revealing that she is indeed not a woman. From there, Milan just falls apart, and she’s suddenly performing as a man, posing awkwardly as Jiggly bounces around her. It’s a sad moment of desperation that makes for wonderful television. Jiggly shantes to safety, but Milan leaves her with an ominous message: One of the queens is out to get her. Well no shit, this isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend Race.
- Coincidentally, I just saw The Inconvenience’s Hit The Wall this past Friday, a drama about the Stonewall riots playing at the Steppenwolf Garage. Any readers living near Chicago need to find a way to see this show, which is an intense, inspirational, and very funny look at a group of people that were at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. One of these people bears a striking resemblance to Marsha P. Johnson, the drag queen RuPaul mentions at the end of this episode, a queen that fought back. The original run has sold out, but tickets have just been released for the extension, so if you’re in Chicago April 11-15, you should definitely check it out.
- There is some glorious use of slow motion during that wet T-shirt contest.
- Of course the contestants are given colored handkerchiefs for the Gay Pride challenge. Willam’s decision to hand them out randomly is very wise.
- Guess which dancing seaman is a gay porn star?
- Little known fact: Sharon Needles is Sharon Osbourne’s maiden name.
- Between Sharon’s Michelle Visage cackle, Latrice’s howl, and Willam’s guttural chuckle, this show has some of the best laughs on TV.
- Did Latrice say she baked that hair? If so, can someone explain?
- Michelle’s breasts are absolutely insane tonight, it looks like they’re resting on the table.
- Sharon Needles does Valerie Cherish on Untucked when Latrice’s penis comes up: “I don’t need to see that!” Who else thinks Lisa Kudrow would be a great guest judge for this show?
- “I like spotlights, not sunlight.”
- “You shut your ugly boat mouth!”
- “My hand works great on a snake.”
- “You give very good masthead.”
- “Pay attention. And not only today. That’s life, bitch!”
- How great is Untucked? Kelly Osbourne shows up to get the goss from the contestants, creating tension by asking each queen who among the cast they would like to fuck (most common answers: Latrice and Phi Phi). I have a conspiracy theory that the Kenya Michaels letter was written by the producers as a way to call out each of the queens on their respective weaknesses while putting Phi Phi in a position of control.