RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Glitter Ball”
A-

RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Glitter Ball”

Adore finally gets it together

Why in the world would BenDeLaCreme actively choose to make an enemy of Bianca Del Rio? That’s just not good strategy. Bianca has been doing well in this competition, so DeLa assumes that everything comes easily to her competitor and tries to make that out to be some sort of huge character flaw. Calling out Bianca for being good at stuff is an ineffective plan of attack, and it makes DeLa come across as bitter and jealous; she directs too much of her energy to the drama and not enough to her wardrobe and performance, and it costs her the crown this week.

DeLa has been one of the season’s top competitors thanks to consistently polished looks and an effervescent personality, but in recent weeks she’s revealed a nasty side of her personality that comes out when she feels threatened by the other queens. Those unflattering qualities flared up when DeLa wasn’t chosen to be on Darienne’s team during the rap challenge and she was left to perform with “the losers,” and they return in this week’s episode when she decides to start a futile feud with Bianca.

Because everyone loves puppet therapy, this week’s mini-challenge involves the queens dragging out puppet versions of their competitors and performing some shady comedy with them. DeLa wins with her manically energetic portrayal of Bianca (that’s because Bianca has established such a strong personality for herself on this series), but Adore is the revelation in this challenge, doing a surprisingly accurate impression of DeLa’s soft-spoken boy voice. Adore also does a much better job of making her puppet look like DeLa while DeLa turns her Bianca puppet into a grotesque caricature that ventures too far into mean-spirited territory.

Courtney’s depiction of Darienne has a similarly mean-spirited approach, without any of the (slight) wit that Darienne brings to her observations of her Courtney puppet. Courtney may be beautiful, but good god is she boring. Her comments in cutaway interviews usually fall flat, and there’s an air of desperation to her in the way she’s constantly promoting herself. So many of her anecdotes ultimately build to the conclusion that Courtney Act is a great person and you should be jealous. With both Courtney and Darienne, there’s a sense that they flip a switch and get into performance mode when they’re on camera, but there’s a much more natural charisma to Bianca and Adore.

This week’s challenge is the annual Drag Race ball, jewelry themed this year. The queens must bring three looks to the runway: Banjee Girl Bling, Platinum Card Executive Realness, and Dripping In Jewels Eleganza. And that last look needs to be sewn by hand using gemstones that DeLa gets to assign because she won the challenge. It’s an exhausting challenge that gets even more difficult when RuPaul asks the queens to prepare and perform a choreographed dance to a horrible new song they will lip sync to, and DeLa’s win backfires when she’s put in charge of the dance routine.

Half of this episode takes place on the runway, and the workroom drama is limited to Adore having her latest freakout about not being able to sew and Darienne changing her dress at the last minute because she’s unhappy with how it turned out. Both of these events have a considerable impact on their runway showings, with Adore’s freakout leading her to a breakthrough regarding her strengths and how to apply them to a given challenge. Also, she gets Bianca’s help in putting together a tutu because she’d be fucked otherwise.

Ru and Michelle finally get the moment they’ve waiting for this week when Adore comes out feeling confident in three distinct looks that may not be the most polished, but definitely have the most swagger behind them of any looks this week. At this point in the competition, swagger goes a long way. As the judges say, anyone can wear an outfit, but not everyone can carry one. Adore doesn’t just deliver three distinct looks, she delivers three distinct characters, and that extra layer of versatility helps put Adore over the top to secure her second win.

Adore is showing new aspects of herself while all of her older competitors are  stagnating in their growth: Bianca delivers three looks that are all very clean, but they all look like Bianca wearing three different costumes rather than three distinct characters, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does make Adore more impressive. Bianca finally gets called out on relying on a similar silhouette in her gowns while Courtney gets another version of the “you’re resting on pretty” criticism and is read for not padding enough when she tries to twerk a booty that isn’t there. Courtney and Bianca don’t do badly, but they also don’t blow the judges away, which is something Adore is capable of doing because she’s set expectations low.

Changing her dress last minute is a horrible decision on Darienne’s part, and she walks down the runway in a mud-colored piece of drooping fabric that is a slightly more upscale, darker version of this Delta Work travesty in the way it draws a bikini outline with gemstones. This appears after Darienne serves mylar balloon banjee realness and prepaid debit card Jiffy Lube manager realness, guaranteeing her a spot in the bottom two well before every queen names her when RuPaul asks which contestant should go home. 

It’s during RuPaul’s question when DeLa makes the grave mistake of going after Bianca by saying that she’s been sailing through the competition, which is a really bad decision after seeing what Bianca can be like in Untucked. DeLa’s “sailing” comment is brought up over and over again by Bianca in the Untucked Lounge to throw DeLa off her game before she lip syncs, payback for trying to besmirch her name in front of the judges. DeLa is never allowed to achieve a sense of calm like Darienne, and when she’s forced to perform to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” she gives a scattered performance that is outshone by the more focused Darienne.

Like Darienne and DeLa’s last lip sync, the conclusion to tonight’s episode is underwhelming. They’re adequate performers, and they both have what the other lacks in terms of performance: DeLa is bursting with energy but Darienne makes a stronger connection to the music. Ultimately that connection is what makes a better lip sync, and DeLa’s frantic performance focuses on being peppy and sassy but loses the lyrics in the process. 

DeLa is a more interesting competitor, but Darienne pulls ahead in the lip sync and sends her home. It’s not the best outcome, but it is a fair one, and hopefully Darienne will listen to all of the criticisms she hears this week and become a more tolerable contestant in the future. It’s more likely that she’ll just be more villainous up until the point she gets sent home, but if that’s the case, then at least we won’t have to deal with her for much longer.

Stray observations:

  • Tonight in Untucked: DeLa tries to heal things with Bianca after butting horns on the runway, she fails. “If I had it all together I wouldn’t be here.” The queens look at pictures of this season’s contestants as little boys/teens. Magnolia Crawford gets shat on. “What is that? Troll II?” “The boat is leaving.” “I see that picture’s sepia, so it must be Darienne.” Bianca gets a note from her friend’s daughter. It’s all relatively uninteresting, and I expected more fireworks from this group after that runway challenge.
  • Ru’s wig on the runway this week is spectacular. Also, that is one very pink dress.
  • Welcome back, guest judges Khloe Kardashian and Bob Mackie! They both give very solid critiques, and are clearly having a great time serving on the panel.
  • DeLa writes a small essay in lipstick on her way out. That’s a lot of lipstick.
  • “I’m the new Trinity!”
  • “I hope the hole’s big enough.”
  • Bianca: “Do you have Courtney’s costume together?” Darienne: “I was hoping I could get somebody else to make it for me.”
  • Adore: “So what do you use to cover your eyebrows.” Dela: “Oatmeal.”
  • “Rose Quartz? I think I went to Hebrew school with her.”
  • “I wanna throw you under the damn ocean.”
  • Adore: “It looks ugly!” Bianca: “Yes it does.”
  • “Blade Runner eleganza!”
  • “Oh my god, are we gonna tongue?”
  • “I wasn’t sure if I would’ve notice Adore in the opening number if she didn’t trip the whole time.”
  • “I should pick your ass just for being a cunt.” 

More TV Club