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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Squirrels, a Scot, and a solid “Snatch Game” return RuPaul’s Drag Race to competitive play

Image for article titled Squirrels, a Scot, and a solid “Snatch Game” return RuPaul’s Drag Race to competitive play
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

“Social Media: The Unverified Rusical” ended rather unsatisfyingly with a double shantay, right before Drag Race took a week off to air their COVID special. Season one had nine episodes total and season eight had 10. Season 13 premiered on New Years’ Day and two months later, there are still nine queens remaining. It’s past time for the season to kick into gear, showing fans who has what it takes to stand out and shine. Fortunately, the challenge of all challenges is here: The Snatch Game.

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Though it has lost some of its luster over the years, the Snatch Game remains the most daunting of Drag Race’s many signature challenges. Impersonate a celebrity visually and vocally, bone up on your knowledge of their public persona (or invent your own for them), and be ready to banter with RuPaul, dropping cultural references and above all, making Ru laugh. Be a look queen, a performance queen, a reference queen, and a comedy queen, all at once. And don’t let the audience see you sweat. Season after season, it remains the show’s best litmus test for who has the chops to win and who needs a rude awakening.

“Snatch Game” begins with the queens reacting to Symone and Kandy’s double shantay. Symone and Kandy are relieved, while Denali is salty, frustrated that the first all-Winners Circle bottom three were spared. Rosé finally has his first win and is feeling a bit more secure, while Kandy is feeling the heat. Being spared so distinctly by Ru, rather than having the lip-sync with Symone declared a tie, puts the onus on him to live up to that vote of confidence. Kandy won’t get another chance.

The next day, the queens skip into the workroom and are quickly joined by Ru, wearing a purple, pink, and white suit: Good & Plenty, but make it men’s fashion. For the mini challenge, Ru tasks the queens with channeling his punk days fronting Wee Wee Pole. They’ll have 20 minutes to get into quick punk drag to audition for The Panty Hos, using materials provided by Snag Tights. The queens scramble to get ready, then come in one by one to rock out with a couple masked-up Pit Crew members on drums and guitar. It’s a charming concept for a mini challenge, and a welcome change of pace. It’s great to see the show celebrate the messy side of things. Ru gets in on the fun, taking the mic to close out the segment, and overall the queens do well. Tina stands out the most, though, and Ru gives her the win, and the $2500 cash prize.

With the mini challenge out of the way, Ru announces the next maxi challenge. It’s time for the Snatch Game! The queens are thrilled and raring to go, confident in their characters and preparation. Kandy is playing Patrick Starrr, Denali is going with Jonathan Van Ness, and Utica brought a painter’s palette—yes—and squirrel wig—wait, what?—to help him play Bob Ross. As a white queen, Utica isn’t comfortable wearing an afro, so he chose to go this way instead. The rest of the queens, and likely most of the viewers, are puzzled by this choice. If you’re not comfortable wearing an afro, why pick a character who’s iconic look requires an afro? Mik is going with Paris Hilton, who he knows and has previously painted. He has the voice down and this feels like a slam-dunk choice. Much less expected is Rosé’s pick, Mary Queen of Scots. Kandy is completely at a loss, but this is a creative and canny choice from Rosé. Ru loves a pronounced accent on Snatch Game, so as long as he can land some jokes, Rosé should be set.

Image for article titled Squirrels, a Scot, and a solid “Snatch Game” return RuPaul’s Drag Race to competitive play
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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Ru returns to the workroom and calls the queens over to chat. Elliott is the latest queen to take on Golden Girls legend Rue McClanahan. Ru is a massive Golden Girls fan and Kandy quickly spots the danger in Elliott’s choice. The balance and humor that cast brought to their characters is difficult to replicate. As Kandy warns, if you’re going to do Golden Girls, you’d better not miss, because you’ll miss hard. Elliott isn’t listening to Ru, though, certain that his extensive viewing of the show has prepared him. Next is Symone, who has another bold choice: He’ll be playing Harriet Tubman. Whereas Elliott dismisses the risks of playing McClanahan, Symone seems well aware of the risks of playing Tubman. He’s considered and accepted them, fully aware that some people may be offended.

Closer to the Elliott side of the spectrum is Utica, who doesn’t seem to hear Ru when he warns Utica away from choosing such a sedate character for Snatch Game, and doing so with a squirrel wig. Ru similarly warned Gigi away from Maria the Robot in season 12 and she won, so maybe Utica will be okay? Tina has two options for his Snatch Game: Richard Simmons or Jennifer Coolidge. Based on Ru’s reaction, Tina sticks with Simmons, and that seems like the right call. Last is Olivia, who is playing Tabitha Brown, a vegan chef popular on Instagram. She’s a good choice for Olivia, but Ru has no idea who she is, which means Olivia is in for an uphill climb.

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The queens finish getting ready, then head over to the set. Ru is joined by celebrity guests Raven and Victoria “Porkchop” Parker and they dive right in. The introductions go pretty smoothly and the queens are off to a strong start. The first question trips up Olivia, who references ASMR but doesn’t have a follow-up ready when Ru asks what it stands for. She gets out of the exchange, but barely. Similarly floundering is Elliott, whose Rue McClanahan doesn’t have a second beat beyond talking about her love of gentlemen. Mik, Rosé, and Kandy do great, though, and Tina’s solid, showing off some new jogging techniques.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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Ru throws the second question over to Denali and she nails it, bringing the Fab Five references and capturing Van Ness’s inflections and energy throughout. Elliott tries to banter with Denali, playing off her Antoni answer, but gets left in the dust. Symone makes a rather notable misstep, confusing Jenifer Lewis for Jennifer Lawrence, but she gets out of it with grace, staying in character while acknowledging her confusion. That’s nothing next to Utica’s decision to pivot her Bob Ross in a decidedly less family-friendly direction, pondering Ross Mathew’s underwear and awkwardly staring at Ru while spraying green paint onto her card, then licking it up. It’s unsettling and undoubtedly effective, but not funny.

For the final question, Ru tosses back to Mik, who continues to crush her Paris Hilton, cracking up the panel and Ru. Olivia tries to play off of Ru’s idea during the walkthrough that maybe Tabitha is secretly cheating on her vegan diet, but she isn’t able to stick the landing. Symone and Rosé close out their performances with on-point answers, while Utica sticks with her memorable, but not particularly funny approach, escalating by painting on her face. To Raven’s dismay, Ru names Porkchop the winner and the season 13 queens have officially made it through Snatch Game, with a pretty solid showing.

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The next day, the queens excitedly break down the challenge—as Rosé notes, some of the queens are perhaps over-confident about their performances—and prep for the runway. Elliott asks the queens about their families and several share heart-warming stories of their families supporting their drag. Symone’s mom, Elliott’s grandfather, and Rosé’s parents all sound lovely, and Denali shares that his parents don’t really understand drag, with his mom specifically connecting it to the kink world, rather than an art form. Kandy closes the conversation by celebrating chosen family, and the importance and strength of the connections people build for themselves. It’s a nice note to end on, and one that connects the entire cast.

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Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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On the main stage, Ru walks out in a lovely pink and blue vertical striped dress, with platinum blonde hair. Michelle is in an armor-inspired black dress, a style she always slays with, Carson is in a black and floral suit, and guest judge Ts Madison is back, looking fabulous in a blue wig, a statement necklace and hoops, and a blue dress. For the runway, category is: Fascinating Fascinators. First out is Olivia, who goes mad scientist in a white patent leather lab coat, white thigh-high boots, and a white leotard. She has dark purple gloves, a cute auburn wig, and a silver headpiece, evoking a splash of mercury. Rosé took inspiration from her name for her look, with a massive red rose on her head and a petal-inspired dress. Like so many of her runways, there’s more volume than she perhaps needs, but this category is about the headpiece, and hers is the scale the queens should be shooting for. Utica’s look is much more stripped down, with a red gingham body suit, blue gingham garters, and stocking boots. Her fascinator is a picnic basket, complete with button ants crawling up her leg and bees flying out of the basket. There’s also some volume at play with one of her sleeves, and the look is playful and chic.

Just as stylish a look from the front, and far more powerful from the back, is Symone’s. She’s in all white with a papal-inspired headpiece, tilted askance. She’s going for an angelic look, without the wings, and she nails it. When she turns around, her message is clear: “Say Their Names” is stoned on the back of the headpiece, dripping glittering blood, and there are two bullet wounds in her back. Symone completes the look by walking back down the runway with her hands up. She’s making a clear statement on police violence, and this is a potent example of Symone taking advantage of her platform on Drag Race. Symone names Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Brayla Stone, Trayvon Martin, Tony McDade, Nina Pope, and Monika Diamond, and would undoubtedly have gone on, had the runway been longer.

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Gottmik comes out next in full ’70s Brit punk rocker mode, wearing her first Pierrot paint since her entrance look. She looks great, with a giant silver safety pin stuck through her head and a glittering, massive drop of blood hanging from the pin. Mik isn’t the only fashion throw-back, Denali rollerblades out as a ’50s carhop, with a red and white striped mini dress uniform, tray of food, and a pot of diner coffee splashing into a coffee cup for her headpiece. It’s cute and campy, and a fun pick for her. Elliott is the first miss. She comes out with a massive pink feather headpiece, which looks terrific, a white blonde wig with vibrant pink accents, and a delicate pink body suit, with one arm and one sleeve made of flowy fabric that matches her skin tone. She wanted to evoke a flamingo, but the pink reads more petal than feather, so it doesn’t track.

Image for article titled Squirrels, a Scot, and a solid “Snatch Game” return RuPaul’s Drag Race to competitive play
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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Tina also takes animal inspiration for her look, with a horse and saddle headpiece, brown suit, and black riding boots and crop. She has a red flower wreath across her shoulders and at her wrists and she’s holding her giant blue ribbon: First in show. It’s a solid look, but it doesn’t compare with best on the runway. The same is true of Kandy, who flounces down the runway in black and white houndstooth. She’s wearing ruffles on ruffles and has her name spelled out in black and white feathers as her headpiece. It’s a fun idea, but again, it doesn’t stand up to the best looks on the runway.

Ru starts the critiques with Symone, Tina, and Kandy. The bottom three from the Rusical are now safe. Declaring Symone safe after her strong Snatch Game and that spectacular runway is puzzling, but Tina and Kandy were both securely middle of the pack. Ru specifically commends Symone on her runway look and its powerful message, then sends the trio back to Untucked. That leaves Rosé, Denali, and Mik as the top three queens and Olivia, Utica, and Elliott in the bottom. Rosé is complimented for her look, with a mild read from Michelle about her past runways, and the judges commend her for going so big with Mary Queen of Scots. Denali’s look is similarly praised with some light shade, but the judges loved her Snatch Game. She nailed Jonathan Van Ness and kept the jokes coming, and that’s what Snatch Game is all about. Ru loves Mik’s look and the judges rave over her spot-on Paris Hilton. As for the rest, Olivia missed the mark with Tabitha Brown, needing more specifics to capture her personality. The judges love Utica’s look, but she couldn’t find Ross’s voice or energy and the laughs weren’t there. Elliott’s runway critiques are the harshest, but she’s also in danger for her Rue McClanahan. Ts Madison better embodies Blanche with one hand motion and a little bit of shoulders than Elliott did through the entire Snatch Game.

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After deliberations, Ru declares Mik the winner, awarding her the $5000 tip, and Rosé and Denali are safe. Olivia squeaks by as well, leaving Utica and Elliott up for elimination. Their lip-sync song, Company B’s “Fascinated,” is a good choice for both of these queens, but Elliott, who crushed her previous lip-syncs, is off her game here, while Utica is in her element. Going into the lip-sync, Elliott seemed the clear favorite, but between Utica’s strong performance and Elliott being in her head, Utica gets the shantay and Elliott is eliminated. Elliott had a rough time on Drag Race, faux eliminated twice before the season even began, but she showed some serious sewing skills in the ball challenge, danced her way to the top in the disco-mentary, and gave the season one of its best lip-syncs so far. That’s more than many can say about their time on Drag Race. Mostly, it’s a relief to get back to eliminations. Buckle in, fans. Eight queens remain, so there’s still a long way to go.

Stray observations

  • Points to the editors and composer for the timing and scoring of Rosé’s, “Bitches beware” and the cuts to the other queens, culminating with her fantastic Maleficent collar-pop and mirror stare.
  • I loved Kandy’s shout-out to Adore Delano during the quick punk drag.
  • I’m going to need audio of Rosé saying all of the queen’s names in his Scottish accent.
  • Mik being viscerally offended by Utica’s Bob Ross, particularly the voice, was hilarious, and relatable. “No!”
  • Symone’s Harriet isn’t the only one hurrying along the delayed Tubman $20s.
  • Ru and Michelle’s Yogi Bear impressions were absolutely delightful.
  • Ru asks the panel which celebrities they’d pick for Snatch Game, and I love their picks: Carson would do Michelle, Michelle would do Rosie Perez, Ru would do Pearl Bailey, and Ts Madison would do Ursula the Sea Witch.
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