From the bottom of my heart….what a dud. This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season twelve had a lot to live up to after two solid premiere episodes and unfortunately, it did not deliver. It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the episode went wrong – perhaps it was the comedy improv challenge that garnered few laugh-out-loud moments, or maybe it was just the fact that the wrong contestant was named the top queen of the week. Either way, it is a bit of a letdown.
And then there were still thirteen…
The episode begins with a mini-challenge: the winning queens from episodes one and two must assess the other queens from the opposite episode, and rank them from biggest competition to weakest link. Widow, who won episode one, goes first and lines up the episode two girls with Sherry as the strongest, then Jan, Dahlia, Rock, and then Aiden as the weakest competition. In her talking head, Aiden says that she’s not bothered and after her unexpected positive critiques last week, she might be right not to worry. Her edit so far has shown her to be underestimated at every turn, so why be worried?
Jaida gets to line up the others, and she immediately puts Gigi to the front, then Brita, Nicky, Jackie, Crystal, and Heidi last. Heidi is not happy at all with the queens’ perspective of her until it’s revealed that Heidi and Aiden – because they were picked last – would be team leaders (along with Widow and Jaida) for the Maxi Challenge. A twist! Due to so many queens in the competition, teams are inevitable and Drag Race goes by dodgeball rules – yes, some poor soul is picked last and that poor soul is reigning MVQ, Rock M. Sakura.
The teams are picked (more on that later) and the Maxi Challenge is revealed – each team must do an improv comedy act as they audition for an American Idol parody called “World’s Worst”. Each team is given a list of characters and a basic outline for their skits, but the twist is that they’re not trying to be the best at the audition, but rather try to create moments reminiscent of William Hung’s infamous audition (remember that??) or the “American Otaku Girl”, AKA, the only part of American Idol worth watching. All are ridiculous, and barely any bring a big laugh.
First we have Heidi’s team of the Del Rio Trio, with Gigi and Jackie. They’re octogenarian triplets who sing acapella…and play instruments. Their whole shtick is that they’re old and Gigi’s character dies right before the audition, causing the other triplets to pull a Weekend at Bernie’s. They all do a good job and theirs is by far the best, despite garnering only a few LOLs, the majority going to their fearless leader, Heidi.
Second up is Widow’s Squirrel Scout troop with Crystal and Nicky, where they each must take on the persona of a scout (smart, sexy, and drunk). They don’t really have a real talent to showcase besides their need to earn merit badges and sell Nut Butter. Crystal and Nicky fizzle in the challenge but Widow makes up for their skit with her slurred delivery of the line “I had to use sticks as tampons” – something that I will probably quote every day for the rest of my life.
Next is Jaida’s group with Rock, Dahlia, and Jan, and they are the Fruity Patooties – literal fruits and a vegetable who serve as a sloppy allegory for the LGBT+ community, with Dahlia’s broccoli being a broc-ally. Their talent is fruit puns and accepting the gays(?) but hey, they’re wearing food costumes so it’s comedy. The actual storyline they go with is confusing and weird but most of them do their best with what they’re given, and by most of them I mean everyone but Dahlia who is too low energy and has no idea how to work a camera.
Last is Aiden’s group with Sherry and Brita. They’re known simply as 3 girls, 1 brain and they basically were all electrocuted together and all share one brain between the three of them so they speak in unison (badly, by the way, but that’s the point I suppose). They don’t do much for their talent besides looking at each other and try to speak at the same time. It turns out they’re fakes and Sherry gives up and walks out on the audition. On paper, it may seem funny but….no. It’s not funny at all. It’s a bit infuriating how unfunny it is. But more on that later.
The challenge is over and as the queens are getting ready for the runway, Brita and Sherry (whose talking heads are pretty much completely edited out) confront Aiden and tell her that they don’t think she stepped up as a leader in their group. The episode spends a good amount of time focusing on Aiden’s perceived ineptitude, which spells either good or bad fortune for Aiden.
Another queen who gets a bit of focus is Dahlia and the fact that she has a twin brother who is also gay AND wants to start doing drag, and it’s a nice piece of background on Dahlia but it doesn’t go anywhere past skin deep – much like Dahlia in two episodes. All we know of her is that she is gorgeous, has great fashion, and has no problem being a bitch, though we don’t really see her being a bitch. We’re three episodes in and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive villain for season twelve, besides the obvious predator who has been disqualified. Time will tell who it will be, if they even get to make it far enough.
Category Is: Mother Goose Eleganza?
Moving on to the mainstage and RuPaul is joined by the judging panel of Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Ross Matthews. The guest judge for the week is actress Olivia Munn ( X-Men: Apocalypse, The Newsroom ) and the category is “Buttons and Bows” which unfortunately means a lot of references to fairy tales and children’s stories. From Alice in Wonderland to Pinnochio to Barbie, the references never end. Standouts from the runway are Widow’s clown, Jan’s voodoo doll, and Nicky Doll’s Cinderelly, complete with Gus-Gus the mouse. None of the runway looks are terrible but it’s interesting how many of them went with turn-of-the-20th century doll looks.
The queens are gathered on the stage and Aiden, Brita, Gigi, Jan, Jaida, Rock, and Widow are declared safe and are allowed to leave the stage to go “untuck” in the back, which means that the remaining queens are to stay on the stage because they are either in the Top or the Bottom. Dahlia’s critiques are mostly negative, with Ru warning her about her blocking of the camera, something Ru definitely hates. Heidi’s critiques are light-hearted at first about her ridiculous drag name and then they get serious about how great she was in the improv as well as how much they love her Pinocchio-inspired outfit, nose included. Jaida said that Heidi was the weakest, but look at who’s safe and who’s getting good critiques.
The judges give high praise to Jackie and critiques to Crystal, with Michelle going in on her makeup style and Ross making a note that she’s hiding. These critiques cause Crystal to cry and try to explain her makeup choices, with Ru and Olivia retorting with strong words of encouragement. It’s a touching moment that could possibly save Crystal from the Bottom Two.
Nicky’s critique is next and hers hits a special place for me – Nicky is originally from France and English is her second language. I know what it’s like to live in a new country and try to be funny in a language that I don’t fully understand. It’s been a running storyline for Nicky that the language barrier is holding her back and it honestly bums me out because I feel her pain. Nicky talks about her struggle with being witty in a second language and Carson offers some sound advice – just use French when she needs to to help make the joke land. It has worked for Spanish-speaking queens in past seasons and it could definitely help Nicky if she wields it properly – but will she stay on the show long enough to put this good advice to use?
Last and sincerely least is Sherry who receives great critiques that I truly do not understand; they say she was amazing in the challenge and she was not, she was average. They say that her runway is so camp but also so fashion, but it is not. The only thing she gets to say in response is a thank you and things quickly move along as they should.
Who’s going home?
Unfortunately, Ru loves Sherry’s performance and runway so much that she decides to overlook Heidi’s superior performance and runway, and declares Sherry the episode’s winner and top queen. As a viewer, I really can’t understand the decision but hey, it’s not my show. Ru also awards Sherry with a $5,000 cash prize for her win, which – due to her disqualification – is now being instead donated to The Trevor Project , an organization for LGBT+ youths. This is the right move for the show since Sherry should be stripped of any winnings she receives from the show, but it does kind of cast a shadow over how the next few weeks will be – is this something we should expect each week? Is Sherry going to keep on winning and make it all the way to the Top 4? How the hell is this season going to feel to the fans? It’s going to be tricky to navigate since Sherry has officially established herself as the frontrunner.
Heidi, Jackie and Crystal are ultimately declared safe, which puts Nicky and Dahlia at the bottom. The song is “Problem“ by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea and…Dahlia does not know the words…or where to look because she only looks dead-eye into the camera, which is a bold choice. She may have been taking Ru ’s advice about blocking the camera but it was in vain; Dahlia doesn’t survive the lip-sync and Nicky is declared safe. Dahlia sashays away and is clearly upset with the outcome because she does not stop walking. It is customary for the queens to have a sign-off as they leave the stage and if you watched season ten, then you know that the right sign-off can even get you a second chance on the show – don’t throw that opportunity away, Dahlia! No matter how upset you may be! Ah well, the cannon fires off for Miss Dahlia Sin, the first eliminated queen of season twelve.
Along with Drag Race, there’s a special half-hour companion show called RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked where the cameras go behind the scenes and show what happens when the queens who are declared safe leave the stage to “untuck”. It also shows the other queens when they join the backstage during the judges’ deliberations, and when the eliminated queen leaves the show. Untucked is where a good percentage of the show’s fights and arguments are birthed or fermented since the queens are usually at their most frustrated after dealing with each other in the challenges or from receiving negative critiques from the judges.
The first two Untucked episodes of the season were all gumdrops and rainbows with little to no drama so the small bit that we’re given this week should sustain us until next week. Basically, everyone talks about Heidi’s star quality and how she will probably win, and Sherry’s possible win is quickly glossed over (thanks, editors! Truly!) It’s clear throughout the episode that Heidi is the week’s MVQ and Untucked fully cements it; Heidi is once again the week’s Most Valuable Queen and she should have won the challenge. The only good thing that came from her robbery is that the money is going to a good charity and that is that.
As for the rest of the episode, which tops off the entire week, Dahlia gets angry and a bit bitchy over the attention the other girls give Crystal, who is upset over the critique of her makeup. It’s only a small amount of drama though because the majority of Dahlia’s venting and anger is in her talking head and with the other girls. There’s no confrontation and no argument but Dahlia’s attitude is enough to shift the show into what is sure to come.
Overall it was a less-than-average episode with subpar performances in the improv challenge and a poor choice for a winner. Heidi should have won this battle but at least we know that Sherry won’t be the one to win the war.
What did you think of the episode? Did the eliminated queen deserve to go home?
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