The remaining thirteen queens return to June’s mirror message thanking them for giving her a drag family. As she erases the message, Maddy muses about the guilt of sending someone home as the rest of the cast reassures her that she deserves to be there and that this is part of the process. On the couches, Willow’s win is celebrated before Orion, probably prompted by producers, asks a provocative question: Does anyone think they should have won the ball?
Angeria, clearly the runner-up to Willow, is clever enough not to answer. Jasmine, on the other hand, quickly takes the bait with a lengthy monologue that alienates and bores her fellow contestants. Kornbread even yawns. Jasmine’s emotional soliloquy is finally interrupted by a reality check from Alyssa, who argues that it’s acceptable to be safe at this point in the competition.
Jasmine’s loquaciousness continues to be an issue the next day in the workroom. Kerri attempts to diffuse the palpable tension with a joke, but Jasmine, who is curiously self-aware about the issue, is unable or unwilling to stop herself. The whole scene feels like an intervention that can’t get started because the intervene-ee won’t shut up. Kornbread finally breaks through, and gives voice to the cohort’s frustrations. While awkwardly being interrupted by Jasmine, Kornbread attempts to create a teachable moment about the difference between talking at someone and talking with someone.
Beyond the usual Drag Race feud, the divide between Jasmine and Kornbread is actually a fascinating window into the games(wo)manship of the show. Both queens are hyperfocused. Jasmine on the immediate and minute; Kornbread on the bigger picture. Whereas Jasmine is distraught over not winning the ball, Kornbread is focused on winning the entire competition. Their differing mindsets to this game illustrate how some people flounder and how some people flourish in this competition.
The idea of the moment versus the whole dovetails nicely with this week’s main competition. RuPaul enters the workroom and informs the queens that this week they need to create a “supertease” for the upcoming season. Essentially a trailer for the show, the “supertease” is constructed by editors who piece together extraordinary moments, often out of context, from the season to entice viewers to tune in each week. While RuPaul’s Drag Race has never shied away from a self-referential moment, this episode promises one of its most meta moments by putting its own machinations under the microscope.
Willow and Maddy, as last week’s winner and survivor, serve as team captains. If you couldn’t tell from the beginning of the episode, Jasmine is going to be picked last. She does manage to surprise when she decides to join Willow’s team, which just so happens to include Kornbread. Perhaps Jasmine really understands that the key of a supertease is to create as much unnecessary drama as possible.
If this was Jasmine’s master plan, it worked. Lady Camden seems particularly worried that the social dynamics of this feud will derail the team. It is obvious that Jasmine is trying to be less Jasmine in a very Jasmine way, but everything she does seems to get on Kornbread’s nerves. Their interactions produce many cringe-worthy moments not conducive to teamwork. Willow, as the team leader, reveals a background in sketch comedy and cites the wonderful cult classic mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous as inspiration. Despite this lofty goal, Willow never really seems to get her team on her ambitious wavelength. Kerri seems more concerned with looking pretty than with being funny and Jorgeous seems completely consumed by nerves. This combined with Willow saying that the biggest challenge is that this is a very unique kind of comedy tailored to “short video” does not bode well for the team.
On the other side of the room, Maddy’s team also has a strange social dynamic to deal with. Alyssa’s comedic vision does not seem to gel with her team and she feels that her ideas are not getting through. The other members appear perplexed by her ideas. Alyssa, unlike Kerri, is more worried about only being seen as a beauty queen. Despite a slow start, Maddy proves to be an insightful leader and has a good knowledge of Drag Race lore when she provides a hilarious update to Shangela’s “Sugar Daddy” monologue from season three.
Carson and Michelle join the queens on set, which, due to COVID restrictions, is limited to the workroom. The queens act out brief and frenetic skits one after the other. Despite Kornbread and Jasmine’s tension, they seem to work well together. Willow and Angeria appear to do very well. Kerri flubs a few of her lines and lacks energy. Alyssa’s over-the-top style doesn’t read well on set. Surprisingly, Kornbread, who is usually so effortlessly funny, comes off as flat and labored. Overall, I didn’t find much of the production funny. Even Willow is confused, saying that she doesn’t really have any idea what the final product will look like. It’s a flaw in the premise. It is the editing of a supertease, not the performance, that makes it compelling. The acting challenge that we see is almost pointless. It would be more informative to watch the queens working in an editing booth, but that might make for less than compelling television.
As the queens get ready, we learn that Jorgeous once won a competition impersonating J.Lo and that Jasmine is really trying to change her behavior around the other girls. The dramatic revelation of the episode goes to Alyssa, which often doesn’t bode well for that queen. Alyssa tells her coming-out story which involved her father finding gay porn on her computer. While this is probably a standard coming-out story for a good part of the queer population, Alyssa’s has a suspiring twist in which her father uses it as an opportunity to come out himself. She reveals that she has a non-conventional, yet happy family life, something that also doesn’t bode well for staying in the competition. An alarm sounds and confuses all the queens who are halfway in their makeup. They get a prerecorded message from J.Lo, who they will be referencing with their runway looks. (These video messages, caused by COVID, are hopefully more exciting for the queens than for the spectator.)
RuPaul stomps down the runway in a gold and aqua fringe gown. It’s from the forehead up that steals the show: a golden headband across the forehead with one of her best wigs in recent memory. RuPaul welcomes Michelle and Ross, who reveals that his engagement with J.Lo didn’t work out since they are both tops. As guest judge, the returning and delightful Loni Love really proves that she could be permanent by always being hilarious, honest, and helpful in her critiques.
The runway category is “A Night Of A Thousand J.Los” as each contestant parades down in their best interpretation of Jenny from the Block. I may be alone here, but when I close my eyes and think of iconic J.Lo looks, only one or two come to mind. She is a true fashion star, yet I don’t know if many of her looks, besides that green Versace, have been imprinted on the cultural imagination. I would argue that this runway only works with the reference photos provided. Willow’s vintage ’90s JLo is spot-on and a wonderful callback. Kornbread’s interpretation of a Met Gala look is terrific, as is Angeria’s own Met Gala-inspired look. Both Daya and Jorgeous channeled J.Lo’s memorable Super Bowl Performance. Jorgeous won that battle, especially with her dance moves down the runway. DeJa’s look was lacking a lot of the detail from the original, but she did look good. Bosco, Lady Camden, Orion, and Jasmine all met the assignment when placed next to the reference photos, but without those images, I wouldn’t have known they were doing a J.Lo look.
Kerri presents the most iconic of all J.Lo looks. J.Lo first wore the look to the 2000 Grammy Awards, and it even inspired the development of Google image search. J.Lo even referenced that iconic look 19 years later as she walked down the Versace runway. Kerri’s look is the most authentic, but that becomes a little less impressive when it is revealed that it is, in fact, the same exact dress that J.Lo wore on that runway. In this late stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it asks the question: Are the runways testing a queen’s connections or a queen’s resourcefulness? While few queens make their own looks nowadays and the program has become a wonderful showcase for the work of up-and-coming designers, pulling full looks from high-end designer runways and showrooms feels removed from the intended spirit of the runway on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
After the runway, we finally get to see the superteases along with the queens and judges. Both versions are, in fact, too chaotic to actually recap. What stands out is how much additional footage was filmed and added to the superteasers. It feels like 75% of the footage was not shown earlier in the episode. I’m particularly interested in the cutaway shots of RuPaul in different looks, because I think we all know she didn’t change into different outfits for this episode. I didn’t laugh as much as the judges, who seemed particularly pleased. In the end, I’d say Maddy’s team was the best, but the quality of each production is dismissed when RuPaul informs them that they will be judged individually rather than by teams. This makes Lady Camden, Bosco, Jasmine, Maddy, Daya, Orion, and Jorgeous, much to her relief, safe. Those seven queens move backstage as Willow, Kornbread, Kerri, DeJa, Angeria, and Alyssa stay for critiques.
The tops and bottoms are pretty clear before the judges even start. They love both Willow’s look and acting abilities. Likewise, Angeria is celebrated for both her performance and runway. But perhaps the best asset of both Willow and Angeria is that they are always making the judges laugh during critiques. This talent will take them both far in the competition. Angeria gets her second win. Perhaps the hidden star of the superteases is DeJa. Loni is particularly taken by the variety and commitment offered by DeJa. While her look lacked some of the details from the J.Lo inspiration image, the judges agreed that she looks great.
If DeJa was a comedic chameleon, Kornbread, Kerri, and Alyssa are guilty of being one-note, according to the judges. Loni encourages Kornbread to move past food and fat jokes. It’s good advice as Kornbread was naturally much funnier in every moment before the acting challenge. They also appreciate the accuracy of Kornbread’s look. It is pretty clear from the start that the bottom two will be Kerri and Alyssa. There is a sort of symmetry to their weaknesses in this particular challenge. Kerri was too worried about looking pretty and Alyssa was too worried about only being seen as pretty. As a result, Kerri’s performance lacked energy and abandon. On the flip side, Alyssa’s performance came off as unhinged and lacking in restraint. As Michelle wonderfully sums up, Kerri is missing vulnerability and Alyssa is missing versatility. Ironically, I think they personified J.Lo best in their looks, makeup, and attitude. But often it seems like the runways on RuPaul’s Drag Race are more for spectacle than substance.
Kerri and Alyssa are relegated to the dreaded lip-sync for your life. This week it is fittingly to Jennifer Lopez’s “Play.” I recognize that what I may say is controversial, but I think Alyssa won this lip-sync. Kerri was very good and I am glad that she remains in the competition, but I think Alyssa is objectively the winner of this face-off. Surely, Kerri was hindered. She was in a borrowed garment that needed to remain pristine resulting in a restrained and canned performance. I will also contend that Alyssa’s fumble with the money gun hurt her. It was an especially poor decision to try and make the gag work as she wasted more time and energy. The monumentality of this was shown in a strange camera angle from behind the stage, which is rarely, if ever, seen. However, I think the overall performance Alyssa gave greatly outweighs that brief moment.
It is interesting that such a meta-episode would expose the hand of producers. From the start of the show, they had no interest in Alyssa or couldn’t figure out how she fit into the overall narrative of the season. Her tension with Willow in the first episode was quickly resolved in the first Untucked. While a rivalry between a polished pageant queen and a crafty alt queen could fuel a past season, it sputtered this year. Alyssa was all but absent in the ball challenge and rarely seen on camera interacting with the other queens. This episode, she was critiqued for lacking versatility, but in the premiere, the problem was that she was too versatile. Perhaps, as she said, there were language issues that hindered her, but it feels like the show just didn’t know what to do with her. Alyssa seems like a talented queen that was made to be a filler queen by production.
As Alyssa exits the stage, she pulls out a Puerto Rican flag. I couldn’t help but think about the legacy of PR queens on the series. It often feels like they are placed at a disadvantage, sometimes by a language barrier but also by production decisions. Alyssa’s early exit suggests that maybe it is time for RuPaul’s Drag Race: Puerto Rico.
- Just want to stress again that I love Kerri Colby and am glad she is still in the competition.
- Speaking of loquacious, that would be a great drag name.
- As a queen from NYC, Jasmine seems to fit into the archetype of the neurotic New York queen. I’m thinking of Alexis Michelle, Miz Cracker, and Thorgy Thor who sometimes were undone by overthinking.
- With such a meta episode, I keep thinking about the evolution of the series and how RuPaul’s Drag Race entered its postmodern era in season eight. Bob The Drag Queen revealed that she was inspired to start drag by watching season one and Naomi Smalls recreating a near-exact look first presented by Raven in season two.
- Don’t worry Lady Camden, I too just learned what “birdwatching” means.
- Between Alyssa speaking English as her second language and Lady Camden not always understanding American slang, I wonder how Maddy is doing as a heterosexual man. Do you think she is constantly lost or faking her way through queer conversations?
- I really wish someone had recreated that sheer Chanel look that JLo wore to the Oscars and the telecast had to avoid showing her breasts on national television.
- Pitch for a better runway: All of the queens have to present their own interpretation of that one Green JLo Versace look.
- Still thinking of all the great PR queens that didn’t always feel like they got a fair shake on the show: Nina Flowers, Jessica Wild, Alexis Mateo, Yara Sofia, Madame LaQueer, Kenya Michaels, Lineysah Sparx, April Carrión, Kandy Ho, Naysha Lopez, Cynthia Lee Fontaine. And now with Alyssa Hunter, it’s more than enough to make a special edition season of Drag Race.
- Still keeping my top four of Willow, Angeria, Kornbread, and Bosco. But I do think Bosco needs to do something to stand out soon.