RuPaul's Drag Race: “Sugar Ball”
A

RuPaul's Drag Race: “Sugar Ball”

A

RuPaul's Drag Race

“Sugar Ball”

Season 5, Episode 11

“We’re going to have a good old fashioned bitch fest…with puppets!” There are some quotes that just perfectly encapsulate why I love this show, and RuPaul’s ecstatic introduction to this week’s mini-challenge is one of them. Starting with hilarious puppet reading turns out to be a great omen for this week’s episode, which has the queens creating a candy inspired runway look for a fashion construction challenges. (In true Drag Race fashion, the challenge is ripped off from a Project Runway episode from this past summer.) The last few weeks were buried in Alyssa/Coco mess, but “Sugar Bowl” gets Drag Race back on track for a riveting hour of massively bitchy personalities, last-minute eleganza, and a whole lot of reality TV manipulation.

There were two big conflicts this season, and now that Alyssa and Coco are gone, it’s time for Rolaskatox versus Jinkx to come to the forefront. Fresh off a win and eager to send Jinkx to lip sync for the first time, Roxxxy has her claws out and she wants blood, going after Jinkx at any opportunity she can. That becomes especially easy when Roxxxy pulls a Jinkx puppet from the gloryhole, cutting its teeth, dressing it like shit, and then going for bitchy instead of funny when she’s performing. Whatever demon lived inside Coco apparently escaped and possessed Roxxxy, because not only is she acting flat-out cruel, but her logic is completely nonsensical. Her puppet reads are essentially a list of Jinkx’s talents somehow twisted into being negatives, and she’s obsessed with the idea that Jinkx has gotten lucky with challenges rather than the fact that she’s well-rounded. And while Jinkx may not be on Roxxxy’s level when its comes to the more glamorous elements of drag, she’s clearly shown herself to be the superior queen in a wider range of categories.

While Alaska has distanced herself from her Rolaskatox sisters, Roxxxy and Detox are still feeding off each other and they amplify the other’s cattiness. Detox joins in on the Jinkx hate with another silly argument, saying that Jinkx has been taught by other contestants and the judges instead of being naturally gifted at everything. So Detox and Roxxxy don’t like Jinkx because she’s talented and consistently learning and growing in the competition, which is basically the perfect reality TV contestant. At the core of the Rolaskatox/Jinkx conflict is the separation between comedy and beauty queens. On a spectrum from comedy to beauty, there’s Jinkx on the far end of comedy, then Alaska followed by Detox on the way to Roxxxy at the far beauty side. That doesn’t mean that Jinkx can’t do fashion and Roxxxy can’t be funny, but they definitely have to try harder to make those talents shine. Not surprising, the comedy queens excel during the minichallenge.

Detox rats some blonde hair and makes Sharon cracks at her Alaska doll, which is a step up from Roxxxy but not as good as Jinkx or Alaska. They have a firmer grip on creating a character for their Detox and Roxxxy puppets, respectively, whipping out the catchphrases that both queens have utilized in the past to show that they’ve been taking notes throughout the competition. Alaska is the easy winner, though, outfitting her puppet with not only two wigs, but two tearaway outfits, and capturing all of Roxxxy’s abrasive, inflated sense of self-worth. It’s a puppet performance that deserves a win, and Alaska is awarded a 15-second headstart picking edible material for her Candy Couture look. It’s one of three outfits the queens have to prepare for the runway, including a teenage party girl Super Duper Sweet 16 ensemble and a work-appropriate look that screams executive Sugar Mama realness. The downside of winning is that Alaska has to choreograph a dance number to the newest Lucian Piane masterpiece “Sugar Babes,” and she wisely chooses the most simple choreography possible so that it all looks relatively clean when it goes on the runway.

There’s some heavy editing going on before the runway, building up an Alaska failure when she actually dominates the episode. The dance rehearsal makes her choreography look exceptionally slow and stilted, and she designs a cotton candy dress that starts to fall apart when she puts it on. Yet everything is together when Alaska finally hits the floor, delivering three looks that each have a lot of character. Character is the key word with Alaska, and she puts on a different role for each one of her looks to highlight her versatility. From the teenage rich bitch who can’t get her face out of her phone to the short-haired executive checking a construction site for horseplay, Alaska shows a wide range on the runway, and her cotton candy dress gets the most praise from legendary guest judge Bob Mackie, who was the first guest judge on the very first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Roxxxy delivers three incredibly polished looks, which is even more impressive considering that she completely scraps her first candy look when Ru questions it. Using rainbow licorice strings, Roxxxy immaculately constructs a flirty, swishy dress that shows off her body, but Bob Mackie doesn’t think that it looks enough like candy so she’s denied her second win in a row. Ru was also probably not a fan of Roxxxy’s behavior during the minichallenge, and this is her way of humbling Roxxxy before she dives into the finale. Roxxxy thought she had this challenge in the bag, and she definitely shows a lot of skill and ingenuity as she incorporates candy into each of her runway looks, but ultimately, it’s her attitude that hurts her. Roxxxy represents a bitchy, inflexible, narrow-minded view of drag, so the judges award the win to Alaska instead.

It’s probably not convenient to have narcolepsy in the middle of a challenge where you have to create fashion with food, and while in a sleepy haze, Jinkx completely fucks up the hoop skirt of her candy couture. Jinkx begins to fall apart with Roxxxy constantly reminding her of how inadequate she is, and she isn’t that strong to begin with. “Christmas in July Candy Cane Reindeer Monster” sounds like too much because it is, and once she ditches the hoop skirt, Jinkx ends up wearing a corset with some minimal candy decoration and a hideous reindeer headpiece. Combined with a 47-year-old Sweet 16 look and a too-campy executive look, Jinkx’s constructed piece earns her a place in the bottom two for the first time, but this time it looks like luck really is on her side. The lip sync song is Yma Sumac’s “Malambo No. 1,” a retro number that allows for maximum theatricality; in other words: exactly what Jinkx needs.

Jinkx is joined in the bottom by Detox, who finds herself lip syncing for the third time thanks to the acid green outfit that she struggles to walk with on the runway. It’s unfortunate because her other two looks are great, channeling Glenn Close and Molly Ringwald as she turns to her signature ’80s fashions. But somebody has to be in the bottom, and Detox is simply outclassed by her Rolaskatox partners. She’s immediately handicapped by her dress, and she just can’t compete with Jinkx’s gyroscopic pelvis and general ferocity. For some insane reason, Roxxxy and Detox think that because Jinkx is a singing comedian she won’t give an awesome lip sync, and Jinkx goes out there aiming to prove them all wrong. It’s a fantastic conclusion that shows how much fun can be had with unconventional song choice, and even though Detox gets sent home, this is an ideal point to leave the competition. Being in the final three of RuPaul’s Drag Race is great, but going home in the top four is a better send-off than being a runner-up in the finale, giving the eliminated contestant some extra screentime at the end of the episode and the fans a full week to mourn the fallen queen. Detox may be gone, but as RuPaul says, it will be hard to get her out of our systems.

Stray observations:

  • This week in Untucked: After 90 minutes of NewNowNext Awards, Untucked finally hits for more of Roxxxy and Detox’s extremely illogical thinking that Jinkx being talented and growing in the competition somehow makes her unworthy. Then the queens get puppets of the judges’ panel and everyone laughs a lot. Also: Alaska gets messy when they say goodbye.
  • My favorite thing about Alaska’s runway look is that I could see the 16-year-old cutting off her hair in her 40s and becoming that executive.
  • What does Detox yell before she walks off the runway? The closed captioning says “Masch!”
  • My major reference point for Yma Sumac is Spike’s line in “Once More With Feeling,” so this week’s lip sync was a good little history lesson for me.
  • Ever wonder what the “SuperModel” video would look like with Drag Race alum instead of RuPaul? Marco Ovando has the answer:

  • Roxxxy is saying on Twitter that the editing of this episode makes her look worse than she actually was, which seems to be the go-to excuse for reality TV mean girls.
  • “I would prefer to go to the top without ever doing it like Tyra Sanchez style.” And by god, she just might do it!
  • “I want you to reach deep inside, and I don’t mean the pit crew’s Andrew Christian underwear.”
  • “It’s like a fist called Wanda.”
  • “Feed that hole, girl.”
  • “My Black and Decker Pecker Wreckers.”
  • “Ewwwwww.”
  • For the commenter who mentioned Santino looks like a creepy pedophile: RuPaul: “You want some candy, little boy?” Santino: “Yes, please.”
  • “Cher was born naked and the rest is Bob Mackie.”
  • “Where my peeps at?”
  • “She’s 16 going on sickening.”
  • “But from the crotch down, she’s a star.”
  • "She was kinda thrown under the bus by Rolodex."
  • “Detox, you had me hooked from day one, and I can’t get you out of my system.”
  • #WhereMyPeopleAt, #NarcolepticDragQueen, #IveHadIt

More TV Club