RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE (S12E4) “The Ball Ball”: Ru’s Choices Deflate The Competition

As Drag Race Legend Alyssa Edwards once put it, “Rigga morris, girl. It was rigga morris, girl.” To put it in layman’s terms, something is not right about the final outcome of this week’s episode.

In the first big upset of the season (outside of the obvious), an undeserving queen was declared safe, causing confusion and questioning of production’s motives and how they translate so transparently in RuPaul ’s judgment.

I Call Shade

As mentioned last week, Dahlia Sin was the first queen to be sent home, which means that there’s room for a new possible villain to emerge. Few queens have stepped up to the proverbial plate though; Brita’s over-confidence reads more as actual insecurity as opposed to antagonism and the one true villain, Sherry is being edited into oblivion – so what is production to do? Create tension, of course.

Four episodes in, it appears that the route that production has taken is leaning into having the queens turn on each other. Last week’s improvisation comedy challenge gave an opening for this when Brita and Sherry told Aiden that they didn’t think she had stepped up as a leader and that the two of them carried her in the challenge. Aiden’s reaction was one of indifference and she ended up ranking well, even with her basic runway look.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE (S12E4) "The Ball Ball": Ru's Choices Deflate the Competition
source: VH1

This week, the Maxi Challenge is a Ball, which means a design challenge where the queens have to dress for three categories within a given theme. For this episode, it’s “The Ball Ball”, with “ Lady Baller”, “Basketball Wife Realness”, and “Balls to the Wall Eleganza” as the categories. The queens are allowed to wear two outfits they brought from home, but they must design and make the outfit themselves for Balls to the Wall Eleganza.

While queens are deconstructing soccer balls (Jackie) and creating a bubble bath look with wiffle balls (Jaida), Aiden has gone the simple and easy route by hot-glueing small white and black pom-pom/cotton balls to a corset and calling it a day. This causes a lot of side-eye and questioning from the other queens, who nudge her to add more to her look but Aiden insists that she’s keeping her eleganza simple. It’s clear that Aiden’s approach rubs the girls the wrong way, especially Brita who calls her out in the confessionals and to her face, especially after Aiden has the audacity to sleep in the workroom. The tension is building but is it too transparent for Drag Race fans at this point?

The Ball Ball

The simmering drama is put on hold as we get to the runway with RuPaul and our regular judges Michelle Visage and Ross Matthews. They are joined by special guest judge and Drag Race superfan Leslie Jones ( Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters) whose joy and energy are the only saving grace for the episode; she live tweets Ru ’s entrance, gives incredible feedback, and pumps up all the girls as they do their walk. Leslie Jones loves the show and I don’t believe anyone would complain if she became a permanent judge.

Her exuberance shines through as she cheers on each queen as they walk the runway in the three categories. First up is “Lady Baller”, where each queen gives a sporty look that coincides with a ball of some kind and there are thankfully few repeats; of the represented sports, there’s Jackie is lacrosse, Nicky is American football, Aiden is baseball by way of A League of Their Own, Rock is tetherball, Jaida is basketball, Brita is baseball, Crystal is bowling, Jan is soccer, Heidi is golf, Widow is polo, Gigi is croquet by way of Heathers, and Sherry is the hammer throw à la Miss Trunchbull in Matilda. Some looks are referential, some are whimsical and thematic, and others are dragged up versions of the various sports uniforms. Most looks are fairly well done, and only a few miss the fashion mark, namely Aiden’s super simple plain uniform and Rock’s basic unitard.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE (S12E4) "The Ball Ball": Ru's Choices Deflate the Competition
RuPaul’s Drag Race (2020) source: VH1

The second category is “Basketball Wife Realness”, where they must dress like they’re regulars on the VH1 reality show Basketball Wives . Most looks are really clean, safe, and basic. Only Jaida and Nicky are the standouts, by bringing actual fashion and arm-candy realness, two things that the women of Basketball Wives bring. Again, Aiden misses the mark with leopard-print and Brita disappoints in yellow.

For the final category, “Balls to the Wall Eleganza”, where the queens bring not only sports ball materials but also any other materials with a round shape. Most of the looks are good, some are bad, and a select few are out-of-this-world amazing, particularly, Jaida, Nicky, Gigi, Crystal, and Widow, whose silhouette, textures and colors remind me of a deconstructed take on artist Nick Cave’s Soundsuits series. The two worst are most definitely Aiden’s too-simple striped corset, and Brita’s misshapen attempt at a pineapple dress.

In the end, it comes down to Gigi, Jaida, and Nicky, the three major fashion queens of the season. Despite her sensational runway looks, Nicky was dinged by the judges for not fully showcasing her personality so she is safe. Gigi and Jaida are essentially neck-and-neck, but Gigi opening up about her mother being her seamstress and teaching her how to sew seems to give her the backstory edge that RuPaul loves, because Gigi is declared the winner. It’s a fair outcome for the runway, and now Gigi is tied with Sherry for most challenge wins (so far).

Aiden, Brita, and Rock are in the Bottom Three, but only Aiden is safe. The queens can’t believe it, and it seems that Aiden can’t believe it either; the camera cuts to her a lot throughout the end of the episode and the look on her face is not one of relief, and maybe one of guilt. It doesn’t matter though because Brita and Rock are in the Bottom Two and they must Lip Sync For Your Life to S&M by Rihanna.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE (S12E4) "The Ball Ball": Ru's Choices Deflate the Competition
RuPaul’s Drag Race (2020) source: VH1

As far as lip syncs go, this season is not delivering. Despite a great song, the performance was bogged down by Rock struggling to free herself from the bottom of her dress, by Brita doing her best to block Rock’s body from the judges, and Rock doing way too many splits. It’s overall just a mess.

Ru declares Brita safe and Rock is the one to sashay away, which she does tearfully. It is now down to eleven queens and it begs the question – who will be the next one to go? Episode five involves an acting challenge, which may spell trouble for Nicky, who didn’t do so well in the improv comedy challenge in episode three; if she can let her French flag fly she may be able to pull it out, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Jusque là.

Conclusion

At one point in the workroom, Rock talks about her makeup style and how it stems from people in the past telling her that “Asian queens don’t have to try as hard” when it comes to makeup since they “already look like women”. She says that because of these comments, she wanted to prove that she does try hard for her craft. The words are bittersweet when we learn that Ru decides to put Rock, a queen that tries, in the bottom over Aiden, a queen who takes a nap in the workroom because she put the bare minimum into her final look. It’s rigga morris, girl. Rigga morris.

In a season already blemished with scandal, it’s disappointing to see one queen stay safe over another queen just so a certain storyline can be pushed. The show is no stranger to this, and it is in no way the actual queen’s fault (PSA: do not send hate to any queens from the show. Or anyone for that matter) but it can still be a bummer. We just have to take it all in stride. Hopefully, next week’s episode will be better and we can see if this setup will mold itself into a satisfying arc.

What did you think of episode four? Did you think that Aiden should have been in the Bottom Two?

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