At this point in any good Drag Race season, the momentum picks up considerably. The pressure mounts on the queens, exhaustion often intensifying already intense emotions and the tightening playing field making it much less obvious who’s safe and who’s going home. That’s true of this season as well — with a playing field of competitors this determined, it couldn’t be otherwise — but it doesn’t feel like the momentum is building. The reason, in this writer’s opinion, is pretty simple: We all know this isn’t actually the top four, at least not officially. Stop talking about how twisty you are and actually twist, show! I am begging you! Please, for the love of Beyoncé*, bring on the game within a game already!
“Drag Tots” is, for the most part, a pretty solid episode of All Stars, challenging the queens to call on several skill sets while basically also daring them to get peeved at each other. (They don’t, mostly. Way to go, queens!) But what once seemed like a promising idea has turned into more of a leak in the show’s innertube, slowly releasing pressure in a manner not so noticeable at first but impossible to ignore as time goes by. All five of the final queens turn in solid performances and looks, but while they turn it, the show itself is running out of air.
The episode opens with the usual post-runway chat, with Trinity understandably pleased to discover that the decision to send Pandora home was unanimous (minus Pandora, who of course declined to Dela-Whiteout herself). But the status quo hasn’t shifted much, even with Pandora’s exit — Eureka is still winless, Kylie still ascendant, Ginger doing very well (and dominating the cash game), Trinity thriving but with some big stumbles, and Ra’Jah staying consistent but overdue for a second win.
In another season, that would be a real pressure-cooker of a situation. It’s no longer possible to rely on the track-record analysis (despite the unanimous-minus-Eureka decision) because it’s no longer as easy as counting up wins or times in the bottom. But because we’ve been teased (relentlessly and repetitively) on the game-within-a-game all season, the tension just isn’t there.
Luckily, the episode gives the queens a fun mini-challenge and a sincerely cool maxi challenge (even if it is just another ploy from everyone’s favorite
oil baron marketing genius). The AS6 class superlatives are pretty delightful, particularly given the big pay-off in Untucked. As the game is played, it’s fun and lively — these queens have great chemistry, the rapport is delightful — but the only real drama to emerge from it is Trinity getting in her feelings about being named moodiest (thus proving everyone’s point) and most likely to go home.
But the only reason she got most likely to go home is that she wrote down her own name, then forgot she did that. Trinity spends the whole episode and part of Untucked feeling hard done by even though it wouldn’t have happened at all if she’d written down literally any other person’s name. She could have written “the ghost of Heidi N Closet’s lip-sync assassin wig” or “all these other bitches” or “Eureka’s Adidas slides” and the winner of tht superlative would have been Eureka. The moment she realizes it in Untucked is GOOD FUCKING TV. I laughed, I cried, it was brilliant.
The maxi challenge is successful for less unusual reasons. RuPaul loves a branding challenge, a cross-promotional opportunity, and the chance to push the queens to think about their own drag in a new way. The Drag Tots challenge checks all those boxes. In a sense, it’s the ultimate expression of the “sell me something” challenges the queens face every year, because it distills it down to its essence: no matter what the “product” is, the real sales pitch is the one they’re giving for themselves.
Salesmanship and performance aren’t that different. Here, they’re one and the same. And all of the queens succeed, which isn’t often the case in these challenges. They all listen to their notes and adjust. They lean on what they do best, and both Eureka and Ra’Jah take some negative emotions they’re experiencing and turn them into actual superpowers.
Ra’Jah’s win is well-deserved—anyone who can turn the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth into a character for a kids’ show deserves only praise, we have no choice but to stan, etc.
But all five of the queens do well. Eureka’s villain is a clever choice and the design is spot-on: Maleficent by way of Divine. Ginger plays up her southern roots, a choice that’s a little safe but is greatly enhanced by her runway performance (the best of the bunch in that respect). Kylie ends up running behind, but tells the camera that she’s a showgirl who knows how to make it happen at the last moment, and she is absolutely correct. Her
bitch witch look is terrific, with her broom and Hocus Pocus-inspired book really making it all sing. And Trinity successfully pivots from a dour-sounding character whose philosophy is ‘don’t let the haters get you down and by haters I mean me, as I wrote my own damn name down on the whiteboard and then forgot about it’ to the very clever feline catwalk instructor.
But because none of those four come out on top, they’re all in the bottom. And that means it’s time for Eureka to say goodbye.
But she doesn’t! Because the game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a game within a gamewithinagamewithinagame still hasn’t happened.
But at long last, the time has arrived. Perhaps if this lip-sync-athon hadn’t been so relentlessly teased, there’d be some surprise and excitement here, but instead, it’s just a relief. By the time these queens reach the top four, all they should have to focus on is the finale. Whatever happens next week, it’ll be a nice change of pace, but it’s also an unnecessary speed-bump in an already lackadaisical season. If after all the shouting’s done we’re left with the exact same top four, it’ll be a misstep that will go down in herstory.
* — A reminder: Beyoncé Jesus.
- Kate’s Corner: “What a fun
ad for Drag Totschallenge! Given Drag Race’s popularity with young viewers, an animated children’s show is a natural fit and tasking the All Stars with adapting their brand to fit that world is a canny choice. Like Michelle, I really connected with Ra’Jah’s concept and character and thought she was a worthy winner. No one did poorly—Ginger has stepped up her runways, helping to level that playing field—so sending home the win-less Eureka makes sense. Mostly, though, we’re finally to the GWaG, a lip-sync battle (quite the anticlimax). After this build-up, it had better deliver!”
- Untucked: Trinity, and I cannot stress this enough, WROTE DOWN HER OWN NAME AND THEN FORGOT.
- “I don’t really think it’s that hard!”
- My gif-t to you: