RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Sissy That Walk”
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RuPaul’s Drag Race: “Sissy That Walk”

An overstuffed performance finale disappoints

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RuPaul's Drag Race

"Sissy That Walk"

Season 6, Episode 12

Never underestimate the value of a good villain. Phi Phi O’Hara and Roxxxy Andrews may have been insufferable in their seasons, but they gave the audience someone to really despise, and there’s a certain pleasure in having someone to direct all those negative feelings toward. This season doesn’t have that villain. It has insult comic extraordinaire Bianca Del Rio, but her storyline is all about softening up her abrasive personality and showing a compassionate person beneath all the bitching. Adore can definitely be sassy, but she’s so good-natured and lovable that it’s easy to root for her.

Courtney has a condescending attitude that she tries (and fails) to disguise as honest critique, but she’s putting in so much effort that her performance feels canned and ultimately doesn’t get the same kind of passionate reaction from the viewer. The closest thing this season has had to a villain is Darienne Lake, who regularly attacks her competitors without being constructive in any way. Like Phi Phi and Roxxxy, Darienne’s behavior stems from insecurity, but unlike those two, Darienne’s “always on” personality makes her comments feel like they’re coming from her drag character rather than the person underneath. With those past villains, there is the sense that this how they always carry themselves and it makes their actions even more deplorable, but Darienne is reading from a script in her head and it shows on camera.

This season has been playing with the format a bit too much for my liking, and going straight from the top four episode to the reunion finale is a change that kills a lot of investment in the finale. In the past, the final three would compete in this week’s music video and acting challenges, but because there was an episode that kept two queens without an episode that eliminated two queens, the schedule was pushed up this season. Splitting time between four queens in the performance finale gives each contestant less time in the spotlight, and the four-person lip sync free-for-all doesn’t give a clear idea of who actually delivers a strong performance.

Going straight from the final four to the reunion does a disservice to the three queens who make it to the top, and takes away an extra opportunity for them to prove themselves before the finale. With each cut, the dynamic of the workroom also changes significantly, and that relationship between the final three will sadly go unexplored this season. As far as performance finales on this show go, “Sissy That Walk” isn’t particularly memorable, largely because it’s lacking conflict. The opening scene tries to build up some drama between the girls, but it’s fairly shallow and not the focus of this episode at all.

Darienne and Courtney are coming after Bianca because she’s the biggest threat while Adore is mad at Courtney for reading her on the runway last week, but once the challenge begins, the feuds disappear as the queens focus on impressing the judges. They’re filming a music video for RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk,” and need to learn a choreographed dance, freestyle lip sync on a treadmill, and perform two improvised scenes with RuPaul. The scenes trace the growth of each queen’s interpretation of Sissy, the supermodel of the world who starts as an ingénue forced to take photographs in humiliating positions and later becomes a diva who sacrifices her relationship for her art.

While Bianca has given a stronger overall performance this season, Adore has the It Factor that will likely make her the biggest star of this season. She consistently impresses when she’s asked to read lines on camera, and she gives the most relaxed, confident performances of any of the queens this week. The other contestants have impressive moments on camera, but there’s a totally natural charisma to Adore that blossoms when she’s put in front of a lens. That shit can’t be taught. With the ingénue, Adore is able to be funny without taking it way over the top like her other competitors, and there’s a specificity to her choices that makes her stand out.

Bianca shines during the second acting scene, where she gets the opportunity to indulge her violent side by throwing a champagne bottle at RuPaul. It’s a bold choice at the end of a solid scene that actually develops a relationship between Sissy and Good Times Ru, and the judges are impressed by Bianca’s energy and wit during the scene. Because Courtney has been getting called out for being too pretty and put together, she decides to go wacky and messy for her second scene with lots of props and exaggerated costuming that doesn’t make sense for the character, and the broadness of her performance makes it far less funny than Bianca or Adore’s. Darienne struggles at the beginning of the second scene and doesn’t really kick up her energy until she throws a temper tantrum to win back her man, and while the judges applaud her commitment in those final moment, it’s not enough to save her from going home this week.

Tonight’s runway is unspectacular: Adore comes out in a short glitzy number with her usual disappointing wig, Bianca wear another one-shoulder dress (although it’s in a gorgeous color), Courtney rests on pretty, and Darienne goes for floor-length fringed elegance. Nobody delivers anything that’s jaw-dropping, but it’s clear after the judges’ critiques that Adore and Bianca fare better this week than Darienne and Courtney. Darienne is called out for her one-note performance in the second scene while Courtney gets read for her manic treadmill lip-syncing and overly exaggerated second scene, but these comments are balanced with enough positive critiques that it’s hard to guess who is going home when all four queens are asked to lip sync to “Sissy That Walk.”

It’s difficult to gauge the quality of the performances when the camera is split between four people and rarely shows the entire stage, but the short glimpses we see show that Adore is the leading competition when it comes to lip syncing this season. She knows how to use her body, move around the space, and connect with the music, and the glimpses of her are the most captivating of the lip sync free-for-all. This is the first time Courtney and Bianca have had to lip sync, and while they’re definitely serviceable, they don’t have the same raw passion as Adore.

Darienne is a strong performer, but it’s her attitude that sends her home this week. On the runway, the queens are asked to tell the judges why they should be America’s Next Drag Superstar, and while the other contestants talk about their individual strengths, Darienne goes out of her way to point out their weaknesses without giving a strong defense for herself. Courtney also does poorly with the question and answer section, talking about how she’s already Australia’s Drag Superstar, so she should be America’s, too. Adore gives a fun, immature response, but if the winner of this season is going to crowned based on the most eloquent, thoughtful answer, Bianca Del Rio easily rises to the top. She breaks down her season-long narrative of revealing the soft mushy center hidden by an icy shell to let the judges know how much this experience has meant to her and how much it’s changed her, and showing the judges that she’s grown while still consistently succeeding is the best possible strategy at this point.

While the ultimate decision is #RuPaulsToMake, this episode ends with the host telling viewers to go on Facebook and Twitter and let her know who they want to win. I’ve been predicting Bianca’s place in the finale based on the activity of her Twitter feed, which favorites and retweets with such frequency that it’s almost like she’s trying to get social media followers to really like her just in case her fate is left in their hands. There’s pretty much no way that RuPaul is giving the crown to Courtney and making her a superstar on two sides of the Pacific, but the race between Bianca and Adore is very close. That said, Adore’s success has been largely reliant on the support she’s received from Bianca, so it’s pretty clear who the winner of this season should be.

Stray observations:

  • This week on Untucked: “Tell ya fuckin story about ya toothpaste.” Pretty much the same old shit except for that great Bianca line.
  • It’s always uncomfortable when Michelle Visage talks to the queens in the workroom instead of RuPaul. She tries to mimic his energy and it’s weird.
    The fierceness of Adore’s treadmill lip sync is a great reason to cheer for her. If this is what she’s capable of without the crown, imagine what she could do when she’s America’s Next Drag Superstar.
  • I love the Tic-Tac Takeout for this season’s sit-down chat with Ru.
  • Michelle Visage looks so pretty and natural on the runway this week, it’s a little unsettling. I’m not used to not seeing her boobs on display.
  • No Drag Race write-up next week because it’s a recap episode, but I’ll be back the following week for the finale, which will hopefully be better than the last few reunion/finale mash-ups.
  • “You’ve been filming me?”
  • “We’re gonna die.”
  • “I’m having Hurricane Katrina flashbacks.”
  • “Who wrote this shit?”
  • “Yeah. I’m fucking cool.”
  • “Had you been Laganja, you’d have been fat the whole time. I wouldn’t have given it to her.”
  • Courtney: “I want Bianca to finish a sentence without a joke.” Bianca: “OK. Courtney is an asshole.”

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