There have been exactly zero seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race that have not, at one point or another, felt at least a smidge over-produced. Sometimes it works out great—Bebe vs. Ongina in season one, for example, when Ru had to “leave” the judges’ panel because the decision was too difficult. That was exactly the right amount of extra, leading to a heartbreaking elimination that didn’t seem completely out of left field. There have been many such moments—Sharon and Phi Phi being forced to team up on their season, some of the RoLaskaTox vs. Jinkx drama, “Wait, Kandy, come back,” etc. They’re an unavoidable element of reality television. The problem with this season of All Stars, particularly in this middle stretch, concerns the justification of such moments.
A season in which six episodes include six different winners—which is what’s happened so far, as the queens acknowledge in Untucked—is potentially great, and with a little finagling, it might even make sense. (For bonus points in the comments: Come up with six different winners for this season without picking anyone who very clearly should have been safe that week.) But is someone at World Of Wonder asleep at the wheel, or what? It’s very satisfying when a fan favorite gets a win, but only if it’s a win that’s earned; being safe isn’t a disaster, unless the safe queen clearly shouldn’t be. In “Rumerican Horror Story: Coven Girls,” the Rigga Morris is undeniable—and so is the laziness of the writing.
So condragulations to Kylie, a standout this season who gets her first win (yay!) in a challenge in which she’s outshone by not one, not two, but three of her competitors (not yay!) That’s not to say she didn’t deserve praise for her performance (fine-to-good, although the look was perfect) and especially for her runway, because good LORD, that was a runway look. But it’s frustrating when a queen who’s been excelling or has long deserved a win secures said win when there’s a clear standout, as was the case with Jan’s win a few weeks back. Trinity clearly won the halftime show challenge, and Ginger clearly won this one. Give the people what they want, and what they want is for the queens they love to actually deserve the wins they get. Not just any win. The right win.
So what gives? It’s as if the producers were so committed to the no-repeat-winners thing that they just said “fuck it,” picked an order, and called it a day. How else do you explain it? Trinity won the side hustles challenge—a reasonable win, though not a decisive one—and so lost a challenge she for sure should have won (halftime show) and another in which she arguably deserved a win (Pink Table Talk). Ginger dominated this week, but because she won Pink Table Talk, (again, a justifiable but far from decisive win), they give the win to Kylie, who could easily have won the variety show—no disrespect to “Jiggle Them Titties” intended. So what happens if Kylie crushes the next challenge? Or Ra’Jah? Or Jan? It sure seems likely that no matter what happens, the winner will be either Eureka or Pandora—and if Pandora can’t get a win on a week in which she gets to play Joan Crawford and Myrtle “BALENCIAGAAAAAAA” Snow and is great as both, when can she?
Kylie has the biggest role in Rumerican Horror Story: Coven, and she takes direction reasonably well, but in any other acting challenge, she’d have been safe, and maybe even in the bottom. One of the biggest Drag Race no-nos is to nab the lead in an acting challenge and then fail to take advantage of the spotlight. In that circumstance, good enough isn’t good enough, and the best role isn’t always the biggest. Not when you’ve got Pandora re-enacting Myrtle Snow’s death scene, Ginger losing her mind when she sprouts facial hair, and Jan finally getting a role to which she is perfectly suited (“The only queen I bow down to is Idina Menzel”).
But Kylie could turn in a much worse performance—any of them could, really—and it would still be better than the writing. The Drag Race acting challenges are never going to be in Pultizer contention, but they land with some regularity firmly in ‘so bad it’s good’ territory. And all the usual ingredients are there: broad strokes comedy, a couple of dirty jokes, some dated cultural references, and nods to earlier seasons, all present and accounted for. But as Ginger says about poor A’Keria, the measurements of the ingredients are all off. It’s not so much a parody of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series as it is a list of the first names of actresses he often casts in things, plus some very stupid superpowers. That’s it. Death by “bend and snap”? What? Why the Valley Of The Dolls reference?
Kylie, Ra’Jah, A’Keria, and Eureka all stumble during the “filming,” but A’Keria and Kylie at least take the direction they’re given. For Eureka and Ra’Jah, it doesn’t seem to compute. The bottom two are revealed to be Ra’Jah and A’Keria, and the reasons are obvious, although were I A’Keria, I’d be a little bit pissed off about it. She’s directed to play Gabby (Gabourey Sidibe) sardonically, to go smaller, to do less, and then she’s criticized for exactly that. Hers is definitely a performance worthy of lipstick-eligibility, but between the bad writing and the bad direction (sorry, Michelle and Ross, but y’all biffed it this time), how much of that is her fault?
Once she’s in the bottom, however, the writing’s on the wall. She may not* have deserved all three of her trips to the bottom, but three strikes is, I’m told, out. The debate about how best to determine eliminations continues to rage in Untucked, but the consensus is clear—Ra’Jah’s track record is better, and when the bottom two competitors perform at about the same level in the challenge, things like track record count. (Unless, of course, someone lent you their shirt.)
But hey, if you’re a fan of satisfying, deserved wins, Kylie still gets one of those this week, thanks to a killer lip-sync to Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty.” The acrobatics are impressive, but so is the rest of the performance.** Ms. Kylie Sonique Love wiped the floor with a Drag Race legend, and that is no small feat. That she managed to do it in that insane look without either of her breasts popping out is just the cherry on top. (The underboob of it all!) “Coven Girls” may have been lackluster, but Kylie’s legacy has been well and truly secured.
* — Definitely did not.
** — My favorite moment: The look on her face on the lyric “And I bet you somebody’s gonna call the cops.”
- Untucked: Boring episode, boring Untucked. But watching poor Trinity and Pandora try to fill time was funny.
- Hi, Angela Bassett! Is a hot dog a sandwich?
- Trinity/Eureka ’shippers, show yourselves.
- Listen, I love both Jessica Lange and Tennessee Williams and even I didn’t know Jessica Lange did a TV movie version of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. On the one hand, thanks for alerting me to that, Drag Race. On the other... what?
- My gif-ts to you for the week: Pandora wuz robbed.