RuPaul's Drag Race: “Reunited!” 
C+

RuPaul's Drag Race: “Reunited!” 

C+

RuPaul's Drag Race

“Reunited!” 

Season 5, Episode 14

“Get ready bitches, ‘cause it’s Monsoon Season!”

With those words, Jinkx Monsoon begins her reign as America’s Drag Superstar, completing the underdog narrative that has been the major plot thread of this season. An excessively long amount of time was spent on the Alyssa and Coco drama, but in the end, this season was about Jinkx Monsoon vs. Rolaskatox, the oddball loner vs. the polished clique. Jinkx became an early favorite thanks to her comedic chops and extensive knowledge of drag and theater culture, but she may have peaked a bit too early with her Little Edie Beale for the Snatch Game. She got lucky that Roxxxy stayed for the finale instead of Detox, because Roxxxy’s mainlining of haterade kept Jinkx’s underdog story strong even as Alaska rose up to give her some major competition.

Eventually, Jinkx and Roxxxy became as ubiquitous as Alyssa and Coco, which made it very easy to root for Alaska by the finale. There’s a smoothness to Alaska’s performance while Jinkx can sometimes come across as trying too hard, suffering from that high school theater girl problem of eagerly trying to pull the attention toward you rather than letting it come your way on its own. Even tonight, there’s something more put upon in Jinkx’s character work while Alaska’s feels organic. And Alaska shows a broad spectrum of personalities in this episode, from the trashy, bone-thin swimwear model on a bender to the classy drag superstar wearing a mix of her Executive Realness and Candy Couture looks from the Sugar Ball.

By comparison, Roxxxy isn’t really playing any sort of character when she’s in drag. She doesn’t try to sound any different than when she’s out of drag, which can read as very bland when put up against big personalities like Alaska and Jinkx. Roxxxy spends a lot of this episode doing damage control for being the bad guy in the last few episodes, talking about how she made mistakes on the show and loves Jinkx and only wants the best for her. After experiencing a major loss in her drag family, Roxxxy seems to have come to realize how important sisterhood is right now, although I don’t see her getting all buddy buddy with Jinkx now that she’s officially snatched the crown from her. Jinkx seems to accept the apology, and now everyone’s a big happy drag family.

While Drag Race spends most of the time poking fun at the conventions of reality television competitions, this season has begun to embrace reality TV manipulation in a way that diminishes some of the satirical elements. Beginning each episode with a post-elimination workroom segment that sets up each episode’s narrative threads was one of the big indicators that this season would move in that direction. And like last season’s reunion-finale, tonight’s episode has to really try to keep it consistently tongue-in-cheek as it goes through the motions of a reunion episode. The best thing Ru can do is turn it into a reunion/variety show, beginning with a choreographed group number to “The Beginning” and a lip sync to “Can I Get An Amen?” By the time the half-naked Andrew Christian models run out and start dancing to “Peanut Butter,” enough random shit has happened that it seems like a completely logical escalation of the evening. But good lord there’s a ton of filler in this 90-minute program.

The bad queens this season were really bad, from incompetent Penny Tration to aggressively horrible Serena Cha Cha (remember “soft sculpture,” guys?), the utterly forgettable Vivienne Pinay and Honey Mahogany, and the pretty but characterless Lineysha Sparks. RuPaul checks in with these queens in small groups because she needs to fill an hour and a half however she can, and they continue to be largely useless. Monica Beverly Hillz and Jade Jolie were two of this season’s fishiest queens, and while they didn’t light up the competition, they weren’t poison for the cameras either. Thanks to Jade Jolie’s shade throwing skills, we’ll always have “Back rolls?” to brighten our days whenever we get sad. Monica talks about being trans and a drag queen, and Ru talks about how the only criteria for being on this show is that a contestant be fierce in drag. Could we potentially see a drag king on the next season of Drag Race?

There are a lot of montages in this episode, but the best comes when Ru talks to Lineysha about not knowing who Diana Ross is and schools her on the herstory of drag divas. What follows is an incredibly comprehensive list of divas from the early 20th century to the present day: Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Lena Horne, Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, Etta James (“Thass right, a sista can have blonde hair too”), The Supremes, Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Farrah Fawcett, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Faye Dunaway, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Cher above all. (Fun challenge: Try to get through that list of divas in one breath.)

Ivy Winters is crowned this season’s Miss Congeniality, and while she may not have been bursting with personality, she was always a peppy queen with a great attitude and polished looks. Who cares if she can’t act? The bitch can sew and she’s making sure everyone knows that. RuPaul devotes a big chunk of this episode to why she says Ivy’s name in that particularly nasal tone, and she invites Latoya Jackson to give everyone the T. The big story is that Latoya had a pay-per-view concert in 1989 (she only sort of remembers it), and when she introduced Edgar Winters her extreme nasality made it sound like “Ivy Winters.” The end. Ru then leads the audience in a call-and-response session with Latoya Jackson that goes on for way too long. In general, this episode goes on for way too long. It should have capped out at an hour tops.

Enough has been said about Alyssa and Coco that I’m not going to rehash any of it, although I will say that by the time she went home, I was a pretty big fan of Alyssa Edwards. She was immensely entertaining and so blissfully unaware of her flaws that it made for great television. She was infinitely .gif-able with a talent for throwing shade, but she started to break ground too late in the competition. I just wish she could have sent Coco home because that bitch was around for too long.

Jinkx may have won the competition, but one queen soars above the rest on tonight’s episode: Detox. She shows up in a gorgeous monochromatic look that makes her seem like she just walked out of a black-and-white crime noir, and it’s easily the evening’s most high impact look. She’s clearly unhappy that she didn’t make it to the top three, and she has an icy demeanor when she’s sitting with the rest of the contestants, refusing to give in to the forced enthusiasm of her fellow competitors. When she has her one-on-one with Ru, though, she makes sure to talk about how grateful she is for this experience while reinforcing that Ru made a mistake in sending her home. With the way the season developed, I have the feeling that Ru had Jinkx pegged for the winner early on so there’s no way Detox would have stayed after that Yma Sumac lip sync, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be bitter. In a perfect world, Detox would have beaten out Roxxxy for the final three and this reunion/crowning would have been a half hour shorter. Yet even with some of this season’s misfires, RuPaul’s Drag Race remains one of the most entertaining shows on TV, reality competition or otherwise.   

Stray observations:

  • What were some of your favorite moments/quotes from this season? Kristen Johnston waving a tiny invisible flag is up there for me, along with Jinkx’s Little Edie in the Snatch Game and Alaska’s Red for Filth perfume commercial. Also: Alyssa’s faces.  
  • Alaska and Roxxxy get messages from the real people that they impersonated in the Snatch Game, but because Little Edie is dead, Jinkx gets the little girl from The New Normal. I hope the producers at least reached out to Christine Ebersole, who won a Tony Award for playing Edie in the Grey Gardens musical.
  • The worst dress montage gives me life, especially once Jiggly’s baked potato couture hits the screen. Easily one of my favorite looks ever on this series because of just how massive a shitshow it is.
  • “I would read you, but it appears life already has.” Penny Tration almost justifies her presence in the competition.
  • “Do you think I’d look good in makeup? No, I’m serious. I want to try it.”
  • “TrimSpa, bay-bee!”
  • “Uh…immigration?”
  • “Keep that sewing machine humming away, girl.”
  • “I think y’all need to hook up and make this bitch happen. Y’all need to go and fuck, know what I’m sayin’?”
  • “We were just like friends and we needed a prescription drug for gagging, so we called it Rolaskatox.”
  • RuPaul: “Have you figured out what Alyssa’s secret is?” Alyssa: “It’s nine inches and fully functional.” (Audience member shakes head.)
  • “They throw it so hard it casts more of a shadow than Alyssa Edwards’ overbite on her nonexistent chin.”
  • “Alaska is a THUNDERFUCKIN’ STAR!”
  • “If for any reason, our queen in unable to perform her duties, Coco Montrese has graciously volunteered to finish out your reign.”