RuPauls Drag Race: “RuPaul’s Big Opening: Part Two”
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RuPauls Drag Race: “RuPaul’s Big Opening: Part Two”

A new strategy pays off big time.

Do not doubt RuPaul. The goddess has a plan. While I stand by my opinion that splitting the queens into two groups led to a lackluster first half of the sixth-season premiere, that decision pays off big time in “RuPaul’s Big Opening: Part Two,” which uses the events of last week’s episode to turn up the pressure for a group of queens that is simply more memorable than what showed up last week. Nobody in part one was as shady as Bianca Del Rio, as fishy as Courtney Act, as ballsy as Milk, or as large as Darienne Lake. And there was definitely nobody that was a hotter mess than Magnolia Crawford, who is incredibly easy to hate thanks to her busted appearance and disastrous attitude. The personalities are bigger, the looks are bolder, and the noses are way thinner, making this episode a triumphant return to form for TV’s best reality competition.

“RuPaul’s Big Opening: Part Two” begins by checking in with the queens from last week after Kelly Mantle’s elimination, who walk into the workroom to discover a party set up to celebrate their safety. While everyone is drinking champagne and eating cupcakes, Gia scrawls “Beware Bitchez” in lipstick on the mirror, an ominous message that encapsulates why the two-group dynamic ends up working so well. Six of the contestants have already made it through the first challenge before this week’s queens even debut, and one of them has already gone home. When tonight’s group learns what happened last week, the stakes raise dramatically, because not only are they immediately reminded of how real the risk of elimination is, but they also now know that there are six queens that have a head start on them. The new faces have to step up their game if they’re going to catch up, and that leads to a considerable increase in energy for the second part of the season premiere.

The girls are having a great time celebrating victory and building sisterly bonds, but the party’s over when Mama Ru comes down in her curlers, face mask, and pink bathrobe and orders her girls to go to bed because she’s expecting company in the morning, Her first guest to arrive is Bianca Del Rio, 37, an insult comic queen who immediately establishes herself as the person to beat this season, bringing a fiercely hilarious personality, beautifully polished clothes, and a wildly exaggerated paint job that emphasizes her huge expressions. She initially describes herself as something like Don Rickles, but in a dress, prettier, and not as old, showing off the wit that allows her to completely dominate this episode’s cutaway interviews. She’s also always prepared to read a bitch, making her invaluable during Untucked. Bianca is currently my frontrunner to win it all, because she rocks this episode and has a killer 10-minute reel on YouTube:

The next queen to arrive doesn’t have Bianca’s personality, but Trinity K. Bonet (the K is for Kardashian), 23, serves up some slick video fish when she walks into the workroom. She’s cut from the same cloth as season 2 winner Tyra, looking great on the surface but not offering much in the way of character. Like Tyra, Trinity can bring the attitude when it’s called for, but she needs to turn up the charisma if she’s going to be a true threat to the other queens. Of course, there’s always the risk of turning the volume too high, as in the case of Joslyn Fox, 27, a fishy queen who is a huge fan of the show and super happy to be there, but totally obnoxious in her expression of those feelings. She comes across as extremely vapid, a dim lightbulb in a competition where the goal is to shine as bright as possible. Her taste is also highly questionable; Bianca says it looks like Joslyn fell on a sales rack at Claire’s, and that observation is 100 percent correct.

Set to become one of this season’s most provocative queens, Milk, 25, arrives with a look that puts Janice the Muppet’s face on a sexy female matador body. It’s androgynous, makes a strong statement regarding her club-kid/conceptual-performer aesthetic, and is easily the most unconventional of the opening looks this week. Milk makes some crazy decisions in this episode, but she does them with total confidence so they end up working. Milk represents a style of drag that a lot of the fishier queens aren’t comfortable with, and it’s a lot of fun to see how someone like Trinity reacts to Milk’s genderfuck approach. (Also: Milk is damn fine out of drag.)

Magnolia Crawford, 27, shows up after Milk. I could just stop there, but there’s so much wrong here that Magnolia is begging for ridicule. Her nose looks like she’s been compulsively pinching her sinuses with shoe polish on her fingers, and while Trinity assumes Magnolia’s inspiration is Peg Bundy, even Peg Bundy knew how to do hair and makeup better than that. She looks horrible and has an even worse attitude, but then again, she doesn’t want to be there in the first place. In her “Meet The Queens” video, Magnolia talks about how she was peer pressured into coming on the show, and she gives off the impression that this entire competition is one big hassle that someone is forcing her to do. It’s a toxic attitude that is entirely unwelcome on this show, and thankfully Magnolia is the queen that gets sent home tonight.

It’s fitting that the season’s most janky contestant is followed by the season’s most stunning, and the prettiness of Courtney Act, 31, is amplified when compared to Magnolia’s trash. A finalist on the first season of Australian Idol who signed with Sony BMG and has performed on tour across Australia, Courtney is a self-proclaimed “household name” in her home continent, and while she’s utterly gorgeous, her big head could hold her back in the competition. Or maybe it won’t. She walks in with one hell of a group read when she asks, “Is this America’s Next Top Model?”, and after assessing the competition, apologizes and turns around. She’s beautiful and knows that’s what is going to keep her in this competition, but she also has the personality to back up her looks.

The last queen to arrive is Miss Darienne Lake, 41, the season’s sole plus-size contestant and the fan favorite who got voted onto the show. Comments about her size are the majority of Darienne’s schtick, and she’s always performing, whether she’s in or out of drag. That kind of character is hard to keep up for a few hours every night, but playing it at all times must be down right exhausting; Darienne is having trouble maintaining that intense level of energy, so she pushes harder to make her comedy land and goes too far, delivering jokes that feel excessively rehearsed.

After all the queens are introduced, She-Mail arrives to drop the bomb about the other group of contestants, turning up the tension as the queens head into a sexy pillow fight photo shoot with the four studs of the pit crew. It’s an even easier mini-challenge than last week’s, suggesting that this series is doing away with the physical humiliation theme for the initial photo shoot, which is a bit sad. None of the queens do a horrible job on set, but Courtney and Trinity are easily the most comfortable in front of the camera. Courtney is charming and goofy during her shoot, but RuPaul wisely chooses Trinity as the challenge winner, bolstering one of the passionate young competitors instead of puffing up the already large ego of an established talent.

The main construction challenge for the queens this week forces them to make outfits out of materials left over from different themed parties, and as her reward for winning the mini-challenge, Trinity gets to assign each queen with a theme: Toga (Milk), Luau (Bianca), Princess (Trinity), Quinceañera (Joslyn), St. Patrick’s Day (Darienne), Republican (Courtney), and Hoedown (Magnolia). Like last week’s episode, the judges don’t evaluate how well the ensembles tie in to the themes, but are instead looking for well-constructed garments that have drama and flair.

While Adam Lambert was adorable but too nice as a guest judge last week, Khloe Kardashian is wildly enthusiastic about being on the judges’ panel tonight and she’s prepared to throw down plenty of catty criticism and sexual innuendoes. She’s cultivated an uninhibited, over-the-top personality after years of being in front of reality TV cameras, and that type of character fits perfectly on the panel. Khloe is the kind of person that loves to shout “Shake your tits!” and has no qualms talking about her big pussy and prominent cameltoe, and like Kristen Johnston and Kelly Osborne in seasons past, she understands what her criticisms mean for these queens and takes her responsibility seriously.

The workroom is fairly light on drama as the queens work, with most of the attention focused on Milk, who is planning on going down the runway wearing pants with an exposed chest and a beard. Yes. A beard. It’s certainly a gutsy move on her part, and her staunch dedication to her plan and her individual style impresses the judges. They think the facial hair is a bit too much but love the garment, which serves up “Express Yourself” realness with a pair of flowing high-waisted pants. Much to the surprise of the other queens, Milk isn’t just safe, she’s in the top.

Having worked for a Broadway costume company, Bianca has the greatest advantage over the other queens in this challenge, and Luau is the perfect theme for her bright, clownish aesthetic. She walks down the runway in a vibrant form-fitting dress that Ru says she would wear herself, earning Bianca some of the highest praise available on this show. The judges love her look and her sense of humor, although they agree that Bianca’s makeup could use work, particularly around the eyes. That’s a small criticism for a look that completely embodies the assigned theme, and Bianca is named the winner of this week’s challenge for her remarkable work. It’s likely the first of many wins for this queen.

For her Princess theme, Trinity wants to find a middle ground between Princess Leia and Princess Kate Middleton, ultimately settling on Princess Amidala from the Star Wars prequels for her final inspiration. She comes out in a shimmering silver number wearing geisha make-up and a cardboard satellite dish around her neck, a look that the judges like at first, but enjoy even more once she removes the unnecessary cardboard. Representing a Republican Party by walking down the runway in a Democratic blue swimsuit, Courtney botches her theme, but it’s fine because she has the body and the personality to pull it off. Michelle expects more from someone with Courtney’s reputation, but both she and Trinity sashay to safety.

Joslyn is the flimsiest fish in this group, and she has no concept of editing herself. That applies to both her personal interactions, which are very awkward, and her style, which is just plain tacky. She covers her outfit in crap from her box without thinking about how it all looks as a whole, resulting in a sloppy, overly busy ensemble. Rather than taking Quinceañera materials and making them high-fashion, Joslyn just turns herself into a drag queen piñata, and there’s really only one appropriate response to that:

The judges love Darienne’s make-up but hate her boring outfit, especially the coochie ruching across the front of her skirt, and the lack of ambition combined with that poor design choice puts her in the bottom with Magnolia. With a hideous cow print lazily wrapped around her body and horrible hair and makeup, Magnolia is barely giving firefighter fundraiser drag, so she has absolutely no reason to get defensive when the judges tear her to pieces. She’s aggressive and abrasive, and the judges are clearly irritated by her behavior. Darienne destroys Magnolia during a lip sync to “Turn The Beat Around,” and while it’s not an extraordinary face-off, it never was going to be with sourpuss Magnolia on stage. After Darienne sashays to safety, RuPaul tells Magnolia, “You can’t keep a good ho down,” but hopefully Magnolia fixes herself before she pops back up again.

The episode ends with the queens walking back into the workroom where the six contestants from the first group are waiting in full drag, and both groups get the chance to throw shade before the “To Be Continued…” card pops up. It will be interesting to see how long these group dynamics are maintained. It’s easy to see some of the more naïve queens holding on to the idea that they’re part of a team with the other five girls they debuted with, but the smartest contestants are going to make sure everyone is a target, no matter which group they started with. In the end, RuPaul’s strategy worked like a charm, and the format change of this two-part season premiere creates an exciting new dynamic for the sixth season of Drag Race as it moves forward.

Stray observations:

  • Today in Untucked: Exclusive clips of RuPaul forcing all the contestants to twerk it on the runway and the pit crew in a slow motion pillow fight. Bianca reads Magnolia to filth. “Learn how to effing sew.” Everyone reads Magnolia to filth. “Sewing’s not my forte. Everything else is.” Uncomfortable talk from Joslyn about licking Santino’s head. Fascinating discussion started by Courtney about having sex with straight men as a drag queen.
  • RuPaul’s silver runway dress is breathtaking tonight. So much shine.
  • Missed hash-gag opportunities: #RolodexOfHate, #BlackHorse, #PuffyPussy.
  • Joslyn’s laugh is the stuff of nightmares.
  • If Milk decides to make acid wash hot pants his everyday uniform, I will have absolutely no problem with that.
  • I am totally shipping Milk and Courtney. They’re just adorable.
  • Ru mentions Sister Dimension when Milk hits the runway. Here are some clips to give you an idea of Sister Dimension’s type of drag.
  • They don’t show much of Dela during that last scene, but she looks amazing in black and white stripes and a giant hat.
  • “I feel it’s my duty to show America that some queens have good teeth and good hair.”
  • Bianca: “She’s a pirate. One of those legs is wooden.” Joslyn: “I do like to eat at IHOP.” Joslyn is just horrible.
  • “Milk. She does a body good, girl.”
  • “We’re all just a bunch of clowns, aren’t we?”
  • “I thought she was a swordfish. You could flip pages in a book.”
  • Milk: “I’m Milk.” Darienne: “I’m heavy cream.” The best of Darienne’s many, many fat jokes.
  • “You might think you were tardy for the party. But it’s not about who comes first, it’s about who can last the longest.” That’s some damn good wordplay!
  • “I’m clown realness.”
  • “I don’t normally do dairy, but for Milk I’ll make an exception.” (Hair flip.)
  • RuPaul: “Bianca Del Rio.” Bianca: “You can call me Jiggly.”
  • “I call it my Rolodex Of Hate.”
  • Darienne: “They wanted some local-celebrity-type people?” Bianca: “And none of them were available and that’s why you took the job.”
  • “Hawaii-5-Oh no she betta don’t.”
  • Santino: “Where the party at?” Michelle: “Everywhere apparently! Sandbags!”
  • RuPaul: “Very Sister Dimension!” Michelle: “Or Father Time depending how you look at it.”
  • Michelle: “Those dimples are amazing.” Bianca: “I didn’t know you could see my ass.”
  • “I have a very big camel toe. My pussy is very large and in charge.”
  • “I honestly want to skin you alive and wear your body.”
  • “Your bovine design was not divine. Where’s the beef?” Brilliant.
  • “Your couture reminds of a wedding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, yellow, pink, red, chartreuse.” RuPaul and the Technicolor Read Coat. 

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