She tried to tell us. She let us know well in advance. Facts are facts. Silky told us already.
This “Rudemption Lip-Sync Smackdown” may end on a cliffhanger, but no matter who wins, we all know who won.
The much-teased, long-anticipated game-within-a-game has arrived, and it almost makes it possible to forget the endless, repetitive reminders of its future existence. There are nits to pick here (and believe me, they’ll be picked) but it’s hard to do anything but enjoy the ride. At long last, we’ve all experienced what it would be like if a Ms. Mojo video were also the Olympics.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the results are so exhilarating. In a mothership Drag Race season, the lip-sync is essentially the equivalent of the last two minutes in a tight basketball game, the bottom of the ninth inning in baseball, or other sports things I am ill-equipped to describe. An entire episode of lip-syncs? That’s nuts. If I asked any of you to name one iconic Drag Race moment, one of two things would come out of your mouth: “back rolls,” or a lip-sync. Probably the latter.
And possibly even from this episode.
So congratulations to the Reverend Doctor Silky Nutmeg Ganache who, no matter what happens next week*, will walk away a winner this season. And her victories are as different as the lip-syncs themselves. But as good as they are (and they are, perhaps with one exception, excellent), the thing that makes this episode so thrilling is the sports movie hiding within it. It’s as if before making her entrance, week after week, Silky raised her hand and tapped the BELIEVE sign hanging above the werkroom door.
Don’t misunderstand me: there are no inspirational speeches lurking within this episode, unless you consider Silky’s pre-lip-sync banter to be inspirational. (If so, you’re not wrong.) It might be just a little bit moving, but the emotional stuff isn’t the point. Turning the motherfucking party is the point. And all the queens do, but Silky really, really does.
Let’s briefly address the quibbles, then return to
preparing our petition to have this day, August 19, be forevermore known as Silky Nutmeg Ganache Day the good stuff.
The single biggest issue with this otherwise excellent episode doesn’t actually even occur within the episode. It’s the build-up. I find myself jealous of the experience the final-four-for-now queens are having. Imagine how marvelous this reveal would have been had we also been given the chance to forget it was coming. Imagine getting the chance to watch the exiting queens say their goodbyes, then see them return**. But the shift wouldn’t have to be that extreme; even something slightly less repetitive would have left more room for anticipation.
Luckily, we get to experience that just a bit through Ginger, Trinity, Kylie, and Ra’Jah’s eyes. Other than the Unsinkable Silky Ganache, the episode’s best storyline has to be Trinity’s begrudging —and then not-so-begrudging — enjoyment of a situation that has rightly pissed her the hell off. Watching her gradually begin to enjoy watching the good drag (and it’s good drag!) is a delight.
There’s also the props issue. To my eyes, all of Silky’s props look to be things she MacGyvered together herself, like she had to strip her hotel room for parts to put on a show. But because we’re not given any insight into Silky’s off-screen experience, it’s possible to read their presence as rigga morris. (More on that in the strays.) That makes the closer calls, particularly Jan vs. Silky, feel more suspect than they might otherwise (and gives buttholes a chance to dismiss Silky’s leave-it-all-on-the-floor performances as “just props,” a la those who dismiss the Sasha Velour lip-sync as “just rose petals.”)
Silky obviously takes this process very seriously (while never taking herself seriously) and it’s a shame that the show doesn’t match her in that. Give us real play-by-play, Carson! Tell us the rules!
Still, it’s hard to get too worked up about any of that, because it’s all just such goddamn fun. The Jan lip-sync is the most competitive (until the guitar, Silky was toast), the Eureka lip-sync the most fraught, the Pandora one the most pleasantly surprising, and so on and so on. But there’s only one best lip-sync, and it’s somehow the one in which the stakes were lowest. Your favorite sports movie could never.***
Silky’s “Barbie Girl” lip-sync is destined to wind up on Ms. Mojo lists for years to come. It’s the most that Drag Race has ever felt like the experience of actually going to see drag live. It’s messy and stupid and audacious and so, so joyful. Everyone, everyone is having a motherfucking excellent time, the person on stage most of all, and that’s what makes it so magical. I can count the lip-syncs like that in Drag Race herstory on one hand.
It’s not about polish, or the intellectual or storytelling aspects (though until that last one, Silky gets all As there as well). It’s about lip-syncing for your life as though you are ready to do so, and knowing while you’re doing it that you’re exactly where you belong.
Any queen will tell you that being great at drag doesn’t make you good at Drag Race, and even the reverse is sometimes true. But win or lose, Silky gets her rudemption here, and she does it, sports-movie style, by believing in herself.
* – ::shakes fist at sky and shouts to unfeeling god:: DRAAAAAG RAAAAAAACE!
** – This would also solve the problem with this week’s underwhelming Untucked: they could have included the queens’ reactions to the reveal there.
*** – Unless your favorite sports movie is Rudy.
- Kate’s Corner: “Finally! While it did not benefit from a season’s worth of build-up, the Game Within A Game delivered. I have some quibbles about Silky’s access to props—it smacks of rigga morris—but she performed so well that it’s hard to begrudge her her Rudemption narrative. Jan is the only queen who gave her a run for her money, arguably besting her. The most disappointing lip-sync was the last one, with Silky getting tangled in her reveal and Eureka pivoting to a Trixie mid-way through. I have a feeling Ru will pick Eureka to return, but Silky’s one-episode leap to lip-sync assassin status makes this one for the books.”
- Untucked: This week, Silky makes a lot of small talk and Yara tells her she’s carrying the souls of all the queens she’s eliminated on her shoulders. It’s epic. Last week Trinity, and I cannot stress this enough, WROTE DOWN HER OWN NAME AND THEN FORGOT.
- The Eureka lip-sync, while compelling, feels considerably less important than those that precede it. If Silky wins, she’ll have won for all the lip-syncs that came before. If she loses, it’ll be because she lost, not because Eureka won.
- They really didn’t skimp on the music budget, huh?