For the second season in a row, RuPaul’s Drag Race is theoretically giving the fans the power to choose America’s Next Drag Superstar by making their voices heard on social media, but this week’s episode justifies a temporary stalemate by showing how Roxxxy Andrews, Jinkx Monsoon, and Alaska are evenly matched. Each queen excels in a different part of the episode, and with two wins each, the competition is almost completely balanced. Well, it would be if Alaska ever had to lip sync, so she’s got a little bit of an edge. And after this week’s episode, that might be a lot of an edge. While the conflict between Roxxxy and Jinkx has gotten the majority of the screen time, Alaska has become a stronger, more confident queen, and she shows an understanding of the reality show medium that makes her my pick to take home the Fierce! Drag Jewels crown.
The final challenge is filming a music video to RuPaul’s “The Beginning,” and this season the queens have to learn hair- and chiffonography from Candis Cayne and play three different roles in a horribly written courthouse scene. The final product is probably the worst music video this show has produced, with some particularly horrible camera work from director Mathu Anderson. It is fun to watch the queens try to lip sync the song at an enhanced speed for the slow motion parts of the video, but when it’s actually cut together, it all looks like crap. I’m not sure how the courtroom scenes connect to “The Beginning,” but it does give Roxxxy to opportunity to fail, which is nice to see because she’s turned into a giant bitch at the end of the season.
Roxxxy and Jinkx have gotten this far in the competition because they came prepared to play the game, making sure they found ways to get as much screen time as possible. Roxxxy walked in playing the “I just lost a lot of weight” card while Jinkx rocked the narcoleptic outcast angle, and they both revealed tragic childhoods over the course of the season, bringing up the information whenever it was beneficial to their standing in the competition. Roxxxy accuses Jinkx of putting up an innocent, insecure front to hide her cutthroat nature, but even if that’s the case, it’s a better strategy than Roxxxy’s aggressive personal attacks to emotionally destroy her opponents.
When Alaska makes a mistake, she owns it and doesn’t let that affect her performance. Sometimes she just makes dumb decisions, like the little boy drag in the children’s show or an afro for this week’s hairography, but she’s very good at course correction. She can’t dance, but she scrapes by as best as she can, then steadily gets stronger as Roxxxy falls apart and Jinkx becomes the target of Roxxxy’s growing frustration. Alaska has been an ideal contestant this season, coming to the show with a memorable backstory that also stacked the odds against her, ultimately proving her talent while also creating drama in totally fair ways. Whenever she won a minichallenge and had to assign things to people, Alaska left things to chance and reaped the rewards of not being malicious. Roxxxy can’t say the same.
Roxxxy has some major insecurities about her comedic talents, so she lashes out at Alaska and Jinkx by saying that what they do is unprofessional and making fun of drag. Roxxxy has trouble cutting down her absurdly long courtroom spit take, and once they’re back in the work room, she says that’s because she was trying to bring as much reality to the scene as possible. “Didn’t know a courtroom scene was supposed to be comedic,” Roxxxy says, and Alaska responds that this is a humor scene, not NCIS. When Roxxxy counters with, “All of our characters are not supposed to be funny,” Alaska shut her down with three syllables: “Yes, they are.”
Roxxxy just doesn’t understand what the courtroom challenge is supposed to be. She’s good at looking beautiful as Roxxxy Andrews, but she struggles when it comes to creating other characters. That’s not going to fly when up against engaging performers like Alaska and Jinkx. The latter queen dominates the courtroom challenge by bringing three distinct characters to life, including an aging Southern attorney who talks like Foghorn Leghorn. They aren’t given very good material, so it’s all about committing to the silly lines, and in order to commit, you have to be in on the joke. Roxxxy is reciting lines while Alaska and Jinkx are living in their characters, and the more exaggerated the personality, the better.
Drag Race has some inspired guests this season, and having the queens receive courtroom training from Gloria Allred puts them in a room with someone who will call them out on their bullshit and give them the tools to defend themselves before the judges. Allred helps Alaska put into words the qualities that have brought her this far in the competition, and calls out Roxxxy for her “pageant babble” when she starts being her usual haughty self. The sessions with Gloria aren’t preparing the queens for the courtroom scene, but for their closing arguments on the runway, and that’s when the Jinkx/Roxxxy rivalry proves most detrimental.
Roxxxy immediately starts her closing arguments by saying she has what the other girls don’t, going straight into attack mode and making herself look really petty in front of the judges. Roxxxy looks her usual polished self while Jinkx has her typical styling issues, but once Jinkx starts her tortured outcast story, Roxxxy realizes that she probably looks like a total ass and tries to do damage control by bitchily pulling the focus back to herself after Jinkx’s speech. Roxxxy apologizes for the mean things she said to Jinkx in the work room and tells Jinkx she loves her, and it all reads as very disingenuous. We’ve already seen Roxxxy whip out the last minute runway attention-grab before, and after reading her online apology after last week’s episode, I wonder if Roxxxy is a person that thinks saying “sorry” completely negates any past nastiness.
While Roxxxy talks to the judges like a catty pageant queen and Jinkx tries to appeal to them by spotlighting vulnerability and growth, Alaska is the only contestant who actually delivers a closing statement in which she explicitly outlines the reasons why the other contestants shouldn’t win and why she should. Part of the challenge is to read the other girls, and Alaska has the skill to point out Roxxxy and Jinkx’s flaws without appearing flat-out mean. She’s playing a character that thinks she’s the fiercest bitch around and has the zero lip syncs to prove it, and she delivers her statement with such exaggerated intensity that it’s hard to argue with her final assessment.
With Roxxxy winning the video portion, Jinkx winning the courtroom, and Alaska winning the runway, Ru can’t make up her mind and has the three engage in a triple lip-sync to “The Beginning.” We’ve never seen Alaska lip sync before, and she has a very Gaga-esque energy that takes the passion of her closing statement and translates it for musical performance. Jinkx continues to show off the skills that were on display last week, making great use of the stage and whipping out her musical theater training for a charismatic showing. It might just be the editing, but Roxxxy isn’t as heated as the other two, spending a lot of time at the top of the catwalk and using her scarf as a prop.
It’s still a very close lip-sync, so Ru asks that fans make their opinions known on Twitter. Then on Facebook. Then on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, World of Wonder, and GetGlue. The social media onslaught is the episode’s best joke, closing with a hilarious example of how this show plays with reality TV tropes. In this case, RuPaul isn’t saying that the queen with the most votes will be crowned, because how are they going to count up all the different endorsements across all these social media services? It does give RuPaul a better idea of where fans stand on certain queens, though, and it’s free publicity for the show, so why not? The shamelessness of this series is a major part of its appeal.
- Roxxxy Andrews looks like a grown-up latino Bobby Hill. Also, she can’t brag about losing a bunch of weight and also say she’s representing the big girls. She can’t have it both ways.
- Janelle Monáe released her funky new single today, “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu, and it has a whole lot of drag slang like “throwing shade” and “serving face.” I’d love to see Janelle Monáe guest judge on this show.
- I was not feeling this week’s hashgags, especially the lazy –ography ones.
- Alaska just wants to be immortal. Deal with it.
- Roxxxy has trouble spitting. I’ll let you all make the jokes for that one.
- “Oooh an even playing ground, exceptIneverhadtolipsync.”
- “Lasky, you’re fucking terrible, I love you so much.”
- “As the kids would say: keep it real.”
- “I would rule the drag world with dignity and grace. And lots of lace front wigs.”
- “Order in the courtroom, hunties!”
- “Roxxxy, what’s the motivation for your character?” “Uh, actually just a…bitch.”
- Roxxxy totally killed “Where my people at?” during the courtroom scene and then RuPaul brought it back from the dead for “Where my paisley at?” on the runway. That’s skill.
- If you saw Carol Burnett as a hot mess on the red carpet, would you even care?
- “And then, turn off your goddamn computer and go walk children in nature!”