With the top five secure, the competition is coming to a close. It is make or break for the queens as the finale, historically, consists of three to five queens. So now that we’re near the end, anything can happen and any mistake can cost someone the crown. Despite the high stakes, this episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race feels like filler—that is, preordained, orchestrated, and redundant.
After the drama of last week sparked by the “who should go home and why” question, hurt feelings linger when the queens discover Salina’s salty mirror message. The same beats of Loosey disagreeing with critiques coupled with side-eye from Mistress and Luxx reveal the episode’s central conflict. This all continues on the couch as Mistress explains she gave a pageant answer, but those who caught the other half of the story in Untucked know that she also named Loosey. More direct, Luxx stands by her choice of Loosey, and Loosey respectfully disagrees. Beyond the mental warfare of Loosey, Luxx, and Mistress, it is highly amusing to see how chill Anetra and Sasha are about everything.
The next day starts with a rather unnecessary summation of the competition before RuPaul enters, sans video message, eager to play a game of “Spill The Tea.” This mini challenge consists of the queens voting on who is the funniest, shadiest, and hairiest, among others. The start is superfluous, but RuPaul, ever the drama drag queen, ends with a variation of last week’s dreaded question, “Who will go home next?” Loosey, proving her games(wo)manship, votes along with everyone else that she will go home this episode. Say what they will about Loosey, she is clever, strategic, and plays to win at all costs. The theoretical self-sacrifice earns Loosey the win and secures a substantial advantage in the main challenge.
RuPaul announces the makeover challenge, which returns after a brief hiatus last season. This year the queens are making over educators. Following last episodes focus on drag bans, this also engages politically in reference to Flordia’s Parental Rights in Education, a.k.a. Don’t Say Gay Bill, which aims to erase queerness from schools. As the mini-challenge winner, Loosey assigns partners. It’s fairly straightforward, although Luxx is convinced she is the victim of sabotage.
The queens get to know their partners. Anetra and Ms. Mahoney discuss their insecurities and reservedness. The judges main critique of Anetra is about translating her fierceness on the runway into all the challenges. Now, she must impart that lesson to her teacher through the challenge. During the walkthrough with RuPaul, they discuss these themes which relate perfectly to the host’s personal obsession with inner saboteurs. As the queens apply makeup on their teachers, Anetra and Ms. Mahoney dominate the edit with familiar discussions about prejudice and overcoming hate.
Loosey selects Ms. Wallace for her “open and smiley” demeanor, which feels like an inversion of the criticism Loosey faces from her competitors. They focus on Loosey’s signature curves and delight in discovering that they share a similar bra size. In the conference with RuPaul, they discuss a character and narrative for their team, but it all comes off, as Luxx might say, as “generic.”
Mistress and Ms. Tang have the greatest rapport, bonding over the shared heritage and queerness. They have the night’s most heartfelt talk about the importance of queer students having queer teachers as examples and mentors.
Sasha and Ms. March-Banks get into family and Drag Race, and decide to pad for the first time together. Not unlike Loosey, Sasha and her teammate present a character and narrative based on a sexy beach vacation, but it feels more authentic to Sasha’s background. Perhaps more than of the other competitors, Sasha realizes the importance of branding in a makeover challenge.
Luxx, in contrast to the others, lacks a connection with Ms. Reyes. Luxx appears to be overly concerned with looks and aesthetics, which is both her strength and weakness in the competition. Luxx is forgetting that the unarticulated aspect of this challenge is about forming an emotional and familial bond with the partner. The lack of a link is palpable when they meet with RuPaul, and it feels like Luxx is focused on style over substance. The disconnect between Luxx and Ms. Reyes continues on the mainstage as they attempt to choreograph a walk and lip sync. Interestingly, the two finally start to learn about each other in the makeup chair. But even this moment is spurred by Ms. Reyes, not Luxx.
As the queens and teachers prepare for the runway, there are some funny moments. Anetra expresses that confidence is about having good credit. Mistress challenges Loosey to a proxy-battle in the form of a walk off between their teachers, which slightly backfires on Mistress. In the best beats of the night, Mistress tests the commitment of Ms. Tang by asking her to shave her eyebrows. They go over drag lingo and shade one another, hash out track records, and comment on everyone’s makeup.
RuPaul comes out in a yellow school girl plaid outfit that has one too many elements and greets judges Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, and former Secret Celebrity Drag Race contestant and singer Hayley Kiyoko. Announcing that it is Teacher Appreciation Week, the queens and their teachers take to the runway. Walking the runway in pairs, the queens showcase their family resemblance as well as the bond they formed with their partners.
Sasha and Ferorcity Colby coordinate in pink palm print dresses that pay homage to Sasha’s Hawaiian roots. Their floral accented high ponytails and amplified curves perfectly represented Sasha’s brand of sex appeal. From the neck up, Loosey and Lala LaDuca are twins. From the neck down, their complimentary outfits, to borrow a term from Luxx, feel “generic.” Mistress and Madame Tang come off like they cloned Mae West in velvet gowns and extravagant boas. They smartly leave the runway with a lasting final impression as they simultaneously hug the wall. Luxx and Asia Azul look great, but should have added some disco moves on the runway to match their Halston-Studio 54 ensembles. More than any other team, they have a disconnect visually and in attitude. Antera and Electra follow in matching pink and black body suits enhanced by their size discrepancy. They feel like some kind of acrobatic performers in a circus or a double sister cabaret act like the Kelly sisters. Anetra should have done one of her flying somersaults over Electra to seal the win. The runway closes with an unneeded lip sync between the teachers.
Judging during makeover challenges can be suspect. They are looking for a family resemblance and connection, and Michelle even remarks that sometimes it’s more about “synergy” than “looking like one another.” This dichotomy of surface and depth allows the judges a lot of leeway in determining who is in the top and bottom. It often feels like the make over challenges come later in the season as a way for producers to secure the final contestants they desire. The judging alternates between minute superficial details and unquantifiable elements like personal connections and vibes between partners.
In terms of the looks, it feels as if Sasha, Mistress, or Anetra could win. Even with the “synergy” with their partners, all three did well. However, the edit suggests Anetra and Electra edge out a victory based on their narrative of overcoming insecurities and hate. With Sasha and Mistress safe, Loosey and Luxx land in the bottom thanks to minor issues such as a shoe and a lack of blue fabric in a garment. More importantly—a lesson for future competitors—Loosey and Luxx place bottom two because there is a palpable disconnect between themselves and their drag sisters.
The lip sync
A lip sync for your life between Loosey and Luxx has been building for a while. Mistress even punctuates the face-off saying, “We’re going to see a show, bitch.” But it is not much of a show. There is promise as Luxx stretches before “For The Girls” by guest judge Hayley Kiyoko starts to play, but it is not one of the season’s better lip syncs.
Luxx takes a high energy approach to the somewhat mid-tempo song. It feels offbeat, as if Luxx is performing to a different track in her head. Perhaps the greater sin is that Loosey’s performance is not energetic enough. It gets a little more uncomfortable when Luxx, seemingly intentionally, gets in front of Loosey and flips her hair in her competitor’s face. Depending on your perspective, this move is fierce bravado or unnecessarily rude. Neither queen feels particularly confident in the lip sync—more frenzied and desperate.
Overall, the lip sync is underwhelming, considering the narrative build up. If a winner must be picked, and they must, Luxx is clearly the one to have an eye on not knowing what she might do next. Loosey’s cartwheel does not do her any favors either. And Loosey’s exit feels unresolved—but producers might be saving it for the reunion.
- After Sasha’s kind words to Salina, you have to wonder if she could be the first queen to win Miss Congeniality and the crown in a single season.
- Mistress talks about Loosey revealing her true self a lot. The thing is that Loosey is being her true self. Maybe Mistress just doesn’t like Loosey, and that’s fine. I think it’s a mistake to read Loosey as disingenuous. It feels more like she just is a little uptight in a competitive setting.
- The final mini-challenge question being worth five points gave me flashbacks to the All Stars 7 talent show when a challenge was suddenly worth extra stars.
- Loosey gets another mini challenge win. This brings Loosey’s total wins to a record setting five for the season (if mini challenges really counted in that way).
- It might have been more impactful to have focused solely on queer educators for the challenge.
- Mistress saying she’s been crying all season? Play back the tape.
- Best lines: “Yes, I do have a high cred score.” “What did that do to your psyche?” “Can you split?” “Best little schoolhouse in Texas.”
- Ross’ shirt was glittering to the point of distraction. The episode almost needs a seizure warning.
- I can’t remember if there has been a final four that RuPaul has so clearly favored.