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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A catchy track and strong social game sends RuPaul’s Drag Race into its finale in style

Illustration for article titled A catchy track and strong social game sends RuPaul’s Drag Race into its finale in style
Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)

Season 13 has been airing for what feels like an age, with most of the producers’ preferred finalists readily apparent for much of the season. The show’s momentum dragged considerably through the season’s middle run, stuck in a holding pattern as eliminated queens were shuttled off without any real sense that they ever had a fighting chance. With that phase of the season over, the top four queens can relax a bit and show RuPaul and the viewers what they have to offer. Which is quite a lot. All four remaining queens are charismatic, driven, and entertaining. All four know themselves and know how to deliver compelling reality TV. And unlike “Henny, I Shrunk The Drag Queens!,” this episode gives them a final challenge worthy of their abilities.

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“Gettin’ Lucky” opens with the queens returning to the workroom after Olivia’s elimination. They’re buzzing, excited to be in the top four and to be part of this top four in particular. The conversation quickly turns to their report cards. Kandy has one win, the roast, and is the clear dark horse of the top four. Gottmik only has two wins, but they’re the show’s most high-profile challenges, the ball and Snatch Game. Rosé has three wins—the Rusical, the branding challenge, and the second acting challenge—and Symone has four, the first lyrics and performance challenge, the first acting challenge, the makeover challenge (with Utica), and the branding challenge. However, while Symone has the most wins, she’s also had to lip-sync for her life twice, whereas Mik and Rosé have been at least safe all season. All four queens are determined to make the finale, but they’re also all confident that they have what it takes to get there, so they don’t waste time tearing each other down. Instead they’re focused on the work and on doing their very best. It’s exciting to see and promises a worthy fight to the end.

After some fun with a truly questionable purple wig of Mik’s, the episode cuts to the next day. The queens skip into the workroom and Kandy asks what they’ll do with the prize money, if they win. Rosé, Symone, and Mik will invest it right back into their careers, and they’re surprised to hear Kandy has other plans. He figures he’ll buy a boat, because well, he wants a boat. Before they can continue on that tangent, the RuMail siren goes off and Ru heads into the workroom, looking fantastic in a bright yellow suit with pink and red flowers. Once again, there’s no mini challenge and Ru announces the maxi challenge: The queens will be writing and recording original verses to Ru’s new song, “Lucky,” then dancing to them in the music video, directed and choreographed by Jamal Sims. They’re all excited, particularly Mik, who had a wonderful experience working with him during the Rusical. The queens will also be doing their top four interviews with Michelle and Ru.

For their “Lucky” verses, the queens will need to talk up their skills and show why they deserve the crown. They get to writing and start piecing together their approaches. Rosé will be singing, of course, but he’s also excited to fold in some rap. When New York locked down, Rosé started writing and performing raps on commission, so he feels confident drawing on that experience and is hoping to surprise the judges. Symone is staying far away from singing, given his disastrous performance in the Rusical, and is instead going for more of a spoken word delivery. Mik is trying something new: positivity. He’s going for a happy, loving vibe, channeling his recent enthusiasm and the support he feels from the judges. As for Kandy, he’s well aware that he’s stumbled in each of the previous group performance challenges and is determined to prove himself this time.

Illustration for article titled A catchy track and strong social game sends RuPaul’s Drag Race into its finale in style
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Over on the main stage, Ru and Michelle are waiting to interview the queens, the Inside The Actor’s Studio rebrand undoubtedly inspired by social distancing requirements. It’s not ideal to have so much physical distance between everyone, but the editors are able to mostly cut around it, conveying the needed intimacy. All four queens crush their interviews. It’s remarkable. Usually at least one queen dips below the rest of the pack, but Mik, Rosé, Kandy, and Symone are all great talking with Ru and Michelle. They’re open and reflective when asked probing questions and quick with the banter as needed. The conversations stay light in general, but they touch on real issues for each of the queens and show them to be relatable and accessible, qualities essential to the eventual winner. If pressed, Mik leaves the interview round slightly ahead thanks to his easy rapport with Ru and Michelle, but all four queens excel here, leaving them neck-and-neck going into the challenge.

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It’s time for the choreography rehearsal. This is Jamal’s second time working with the queens, so he has very specific goals for each of them, to build on what they’ve shown previously. He starts the rehearsal by warning them that he’s going to be demanding, but he’s actually very supportive, throwing out his usual approach to cater to the weaker dancers’ lack of confidence with traditional eight counts. Symone knows this challenge does not play to his strengths, but he’s in a much more centered place this time. He’s able to quiet his Inner SaboteurTM and focus on serving the energy and style Jamal is asking for, rather than stressing out about nailing each count.

Next up is Mik and Jamal tells him not to bother counting, but to instead key into the lyrics for his verse and connect his choreography to that. Mik is immediately relieved and his rehearsal goes well, with Jamal reminding him not to second guess himself. For Kandy, Jamal focuses on honing his rawer energy into something more precise, and Kandy is eager to show that he can. Last is Rosé. As the judges keep remarking, Rosé is a pro, so he easily picks up everything Jamal throws at him. Until the end-of-verse rap, that is. It needs swag, something Rosé most definitely does not have. It’s hilarious to watch him absolutely nail the Dreamgirls-inspired portion of the choreography and then immediately tense up when it’s time to break it down. Jamal does a good job of making sure each queen has something to do that challenges them and will allow them to demonstrate growth, should they nail it. It’s been great having him as a more regular presence this season and hopefully that will continue in future post-COVID seasons.

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Illustration for article titled A catchy track and strong social game sends RuPaul’s Drag Race into its finale in style
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The episode thankfully skips right past the queens’ recording sessions and jumps to the workroom, with the queens getting ready to film. They share their first impressions of each other and Mik, Symone, and Kandy read Rosé for filth, calling him unseasoned, bland chicken. Fortunately he’s loosened up since then and let his personality shine through, and the other queens now consider him a formidable competitor. Symone says he initially pegged Kandy as the loud queen of the season, but commends him for opening up and showing his sensitive side. Mik remarks on their growth over the season. He’s still amazed at his transformation from look queen to comedy and performance queen. Before this season, he was terrified of comedy and singing challenges—which Symone is shocked by—and now he can’t get enough of them. Symone and Mik bond over the tremendous pressure they felt coming into the season to represent their communities. Both have learned that the best way they can do this is by just being themselves. It’s lovely to see the top four cheerlead for each other so much, while still staying laser-focused on the crown. They want to win, but they want to beat the best.

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On the main stage, Ru comes out in a cute silver and gold mini dress with pink lining and a round white wig. The dress and hair don’t work particularly well together, but as she has been all season, Ru is beat for the gods and she looks fantastic. Michelle is in a black dress with white beaded accents and a wavy bob, Carson is in a sequined black suit, and Ross is in a metallic patterned suit, with clip-on statement earrings. Alas, Jamal is not on the judges’ panel this time. Ru introduces “Lucky” and the episode dives right in. With a ’60s pop feel and catchy hook, this is one of RuPaul’s best singles in a while. The video is bright and candy-colored, with fun framing and plenty of movement, and is immediately among the top tier of Drag Race music videos.

Mik’s verse is up first and she sounds and looks great, cinched in tight in blue lingerie. She’s confident and clear in her messaging, preaching positivity while declaring herself as the queen to crown. Kandy also comes through with her verse, delivering easily her best performance in a group challenge. Her lyrics are a bit more typical of the Drag Race end-of-season brag tracks, but she sells them and looks terrific doing so, practically glowing in yellow. Rosé, in her element in frilly pink, sings her way through her verse, showing off her vocal chops without overdoing it and making her much more complicated choreography look easy. She spits out her closing rap and even manages to sell at least a little swag at the end. Symone looks gorgeous in orange and commits to her verse, but the lyrics aren’t great, disappointingly reminiscent of Kahmora’s “Phenomenon” verse. Fans would be forgiven for not noticing, though, thanks to her strong performance.

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Illustration for article titled A catchy track and strong social game sends RuPaul’s Drag Race into its finale in style
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

On the runway, Category is: Drag Excellence. Mik is out first in a white halter dress with black polka dots that continue into her white wig and clown paint. Her wig is a bit poodle, but as always, her face is looks great. Kandy’s look is a massive step up from her previous runway, an orange, blue, and sheer top with a red leotard, clear corset, flared sleeves, and yellow accents. Rosé goes back to her Scottish roots for her look, a tartan gown half pleated and half draped, with lace gloves, a leather belt, and a white bag. It’s a terrific way to reimagine a kilt into a drag gown and it’s smart of Rosé to avoid pink for her penultimate runway. Symone is last and once again looks fantastic, wearing a deep purple gown with massive, floor-length sleeves and a terrific short cornrow wig, accented with jewelry between each row. The proportions are just right, serving up drama while keeping the audience’s eyes on her face.

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Ru begins by acknowledging just how tough this season in particular has been and thanking the queens for their work. As always, Ru reminds the queens to pay their taxes and to stay out of the comment sections. The final judges’ critiques have gotten gentler and gentler over the seasons and this episode is no exception. It’s a love-fest for all four queens. Thankfully, this episode, the praise feels warranted. The last hurdle for the queens is the now expected message to their young selves, but just as in the interviews, all four queens handle the moment with aplomb. The photos are adorable and the advice is honest and emotional. It’s everything RuPaul is looking for. Kandy still lags behind the other queens, but that’s based on her performance over the season, not this episode. With their closing comments, the judges take turns pitching each of these queens as the worthy winner of the season and the producers will likely be watching social media closely as they decide who to crown in the finale.

The episode ends with a four-way lip-sync to Whitney Houston’s “I Learned From The Best,” but the producers side-step the issue of an over-crowded stage by having each queen lip-sync independently, editing their performances together. It’s not a perfect solution—the energy is nowhere near as potent as it would be if they were lip-syncing together—but it’s better than the chaotic mess most Drag Race lip-syncs with three or more queens have been. Until the lip-sync, Mik seemed like the queen to beat, but Symone walks away with the lip-sync, with Rosé just behind her. All four queens do well, though, and Ru’s decision to put everyone through to the finale feels appropriate. After several questionable recent episodes, it’s exciting to have such a compelling and satisfying final challenge and runway. Bring on the reunion and the finale. If they’re anything like “Gettin’ Lucky,” fans have a lot to look forward to.

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Stray observations

  • When he announces the maxi challenge, Ru confirms that the winner will be crowned in two weeks. Given the early season twists, it’s reassuring to have an official date for the finale.
  • Symone’s gone on quite a journey over the past few episodes. His talking head as the queens paint for the challenge, acknowledging how long it has taken to truly love and believe in himself is incredibly powerful.
  • My money is still on Symone to win this season, based on her lip-sync skills, but after this episode I could see it going to Mik if she can step up her lip-sync game in the finale. Rosé could similarly pull off an upset, but based on the edit, that feels less likely.
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