In the workroom, Raja and The Vivienne celebrate their wins. Jaida enters pouting about being blocked, and keeps up the illusion that there is some sort of secret advantage associated with the plunger. This is only for the benefit of Raja, who is the only queen to not be blocked. The queens do their standard star count with Jaida in the lead with three and Monét and Shea behind with just one star each. The remaining queens are all tied for second place. The pressure seems to be getting to the contestants as a manic montage shows them acting crazy. It is a frenzied start to a very hollow episode. After the near perfection of last week, this episode feels like empty filler. The laziness of the episode is even in the title “Dance Like Drag Queen,” with the assumption that someone just forgot to add the ‘a’ before Drag Queen.
RuPaul quickly enters the workroom to announce the maxi challenge, which is billed as a “master class in branding” utilizing “humor, personality, and dance. Each queen must create a “signature social media dance” to one of RuPaul’s songs that has the potential to go viral. In an effort to court the a TikTok generation, you quickly get the sense that the producers of the show, as well as the contestants, are not very adept at the platform. Furthermore, the connection between branding and a viral dance video feels strained. It is a faulty foundation for a rather boring episode.
As the queens get to work, they meditate on their “brand.” It’s all quite shallow. To be fair, part of branding is about boiling something down to its most simple form so that it is instantly recognizable. However, Monét calling herself funny and urban feels like an oversimplification of her talents as a performer. The same could be said for Trinity and her tuck. While they are shown storyboarding, the editors seem to have a hard time actually showing the creative process for this challenge. Even Monét remarks that this is an extremely simple challenge. But maybe simple is the wrong word. The challenge just feels pointless. Yvie feels lost, not being a connoisseur of instructional dance videos, and she’s one of the youngest contestants. Raja summarizes this episode best when she watches Jinkx shove a whole peanut butter sandwich in her mouth, “What the fuck are you doing?” What is this episode doing?
You can feel that this episode lacks substance and direction during the walkthroughs. It feels like RuPaul is working really hard to make this assignment entertaining. The Vivienne has the idea to create the word “Viveo,” which enthralls RuPaul. Shea explains her brand as bougie meets vangie or rather Claire Huxtable meets Samuel L. Jackson. Trinity and RuPaul seem on the same page that her brand is “the Tuck.” Likewise, RuPaul advises Yvie to build off her “odd” brand. You have to start wondering if Jinkx will be instructed to do an interpretive dance to inclement weather. Instead, Jinkx decides to build her dance around her “mom” character by making a peanut butter sandwich. Back to building brands and personas off a name, Monét is instructed to ditch her initial overcomplicated concept in favor of a dance revolving around money. The walkthroughs play like a bad Marketing 101 class. Early on there is a sense that maybe everyone involved in the show is exhausted this week. It would have been nice if producers had just given the queens and the audience a break.
Just as it was difficult to convey the creative process, the editors cannot find a way to show the filming process. Instead of seeing the making of the video, they offer a strange montage of the queens against a white abyss. It feels like someone snuck in a humorless blooper reel into the middle of the episode. This is capped with a conversation about how everyone is doing so well that it is difficult to know who is doing the best.
RuPaul enters the runway in perhaps the most platinum platinum blonde hair ever seen and a silver sequined fringed mini dress. On the judging panel are Michelle, Carson, and special guest judge Ben Platt. After the perfect placement of Janicza Bravo as a director and an acting challenge, it has to be asked why Ben Platt was not invited to a Rusical challenge. While he seemed to be knowledgeable about each queen, he didn’t exactly have a strong point of view about the instructional dance videos, but then again, who does? RuPaul announces the runway category as “What Lies Beneath,” in which the queens must “serve several many reveals.”
Inspired by Old Hollywood, Shea presented three looks united by the color blue. She started with a luxe Marabou cloak that she dropped to reveal a transparent ruffled robe. The final look, a deep blue silky ass-less gown, added a sensual touch. Jaida had one of the most cleverly constructed garments with each reveal representing one of the four seasons. Whereas Shea removed articles of clothing, Jaida’s was even more impressive as they were all part of the same outfit. She also managed to incorporated headwear with most of the looks. As if mirroring Jaida’s final look, The Vivienne arrived in an autumn cloak that revealed into a royal look. The presentation evoked Into the Woods. The final reveal involved removing the skirt showcasing pants and sequined boots. Raja’s look was a fluorescent psychedelic cloak into a dress into a Venus flytrap jumpsuit. The real star of the outfits was the flamingo hat and the ruffled gloves. As if referencing Shea’s three-in-one look from All Stars 5, Yvie used her reveals to tell the life cycle of an insect. Jinkx took the judges through artistic movements from cubism to impressionism to pop art to symbolism. Using social justice as a theme, Monét transformed from Harriet Tubman to a Black Panther before paying tribute to the current generation of activism. Taking Burlesque as inspiration, Trinity did a slow and sensual striptease down the runway, starting with a pink floral gown and ending in a thong. The looks overall were well done, but there is something anticlimactic about mandatory reveals. Instead of surprise and joy, most of the runway walks felt labored.
The finished products did not really produce anything memorable. Shea blended bougie with vanjie as she said she would. Jaida went more comedic, presenting a delusional diva character transformed into a dance. The Vivienne leaned into her lack of dancing skill while branding “Viveo” over and over again. Trading in on her spiritual persona, Raja created a dance around the power of positive thinking. Her branding went next level by making the dance spell out her name. Yvie perpetuated her alternative pseudo rebel brand into a dance she called “The Odd Bod.” Jinkx’s dance, if it can be called a dance, consisted of a comedic character study in the guise of making a sandwich. Monét’s video revolved around money and getting paid following the direction of RuPaul. Finally, Trinity, still performing her ditzy character from last week, created a dance centered on tucking. Overall, everyone kept to their brand with rather bland results.
Something was lost in translation when the branding wasn’t associated with a commercial or associated with a product. Branding a dance felt confusing, and no one seemed enthusiastic about their concepts. This episode felt much more like the soup can branding of All Stars 3 than the infomercial branding of All Stars 2. The judging also lacked any meaningful perspective. Even the structure of the judging felt overlong. Watching each video followed by the “critiques” only highlighted the vapidity of judging this season. It often felt like Michelle was simply summarizing the video that had just been shown. This challenge felt like a bad idea from inception and was clearly communicated to the contestants. It seems that they each did the best they could with a poor challenge. They declared Jinkx and Monét the winners for this week. It was an interesting choice as they both sort of deviated the most from the idea of an instructional dance video. Jinkx’s video felt much more like an infomercial and acting performance. Monét’s felt really impactful, but partly because her final dance was padded with a lot more than the steps she listed in the video. Ultimately, none of these videos are viral, they aren’t even memorable.
All this leads to a bizarre lip sync when RuPaul revealed for the first time in Drag Race herstory, the winners would perform to a spoken word number. Theoretically this sounds interesting, but in practice it was failure. Jinkx and Monét performed a monologue from Designing Women. It’s a great and memorable scene from the series and shows the tremendous gravitas of actress Dixie Carter. The issue came in the editing. The power of the monologue comes in its uninterrupted duration. Cutting back and forth between Jinkx and Monét destroys what makes the monologue great. It was a strange experiment that hopefully will not be repeated in the future. Though it would seem like this lip sync would be heavily weighted toward Jinkx, Monét is declared the winner. Suddenly Monét is back in the mix with two stars and two challenges to go. Raja, the last to be blocked, finally gets the plunger and will learn that it, like this episode, has no special meaning.