Episode eight of RuPaul’s Drag Race is all tears, with a few laughs thrown in. Certain queens feel low in the competition because they either started off strong and have tapered off, have tried their hardest with little to nothing to show, or their best friend from New York City just went home – the last two are specifically in reference to Jan, but there are plenty of other queens too who are feeling the emotions this episode, and not just because they didn’t win a prize that has to do with FabFitFun (the sponsor for this week’s boring mini-challenge that requires no further elaboration).
Either way, we are just in the beginning of the home stretch for season twelve and the pressure is mounting. The queens have handled every acting challenge, sewing challenge, and dance challenge that’s been thrown their way, but can they bring it to a…marketing challenge??
A Golden Egg Between Me Down There
This week’s challenge is about creating a useless product for Droop, a drag knock-off of a celebrity lifestyle empire, like Goop and its many imitators – however, the challenge is less about selling a useless product and more about selling yourself and your brand. RuPaul is no stranger to branding (candy bars, Party City wigs, and “If you can’t love somebody else, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else, can I get an amen?”) and it is a valuable skill to have when one is in the running to be America’s Next Drag Superstar. There have been challenges like this in the past, like season one’s MAC Viva-Glam ad, season five’s perfume ad, and the Shark Tank-inspired pitch from All Stars 2 (too name a few), but it usually takes the most savvy of queens to fully rise to occasion. Just like Snatch Game, this kind of challenge has a real way of dividing and conquering even the strongest girls in the competition.
All of the queens seem to have their basic concepts down, but only few can fully deliver their product – and themselves – in their commercials. The portion of the episode dedicated to the queens filming their commercials is all but useless because it’s red herring after red herring – there are so many mis-directions and shady audio clips put in to make you believe that each and every queen will just flat out fail, when in reality, only half of them fail. To accompany this real Pass/Fail of an episode, the queens’ runway category is “Black Wedding” and…it is a very, very boring runway. Black is a big part of my everyday wardrobe, but my GOD does it make for a less-than runway experience – add a bridal element and I am bored to tears.
And the Bride Wore Black
Jackie’s look is simple, with a lot of black lace to go with her veil and bouquet, but nothing exciting; Jan’s look is a bit better due to some glitter and feathers but still…there’s not a whole lot to look at; Jaida is next and her accessories and wig help her simple black gown stand out in a way that makes it look like an actual bride might wear it; Gigi’s Dior-inspired vintage style gown is chic and different, as it gives off a Black Swan vibe; Sherry’s Victorian era, The Innocents-meets-Crimson Peak look is well done but the makeup is overkill; Heidi’s gown has an interesting silhouette that is betrayed by the black materiel and a headband/tiara combination that feels out of place with her other jewelry; Widow’s sequined gown is lovely and works for her; and last is Crystal, who has gone full Corpse Bride with grey, spooky makeup, long fingernails, and a lot of dust – and it completely works! Out of all the girls on the runway, she actually sells the nightmarish fantasy and the garment.
What is a Merkin, Anwyay?
The runway is over and each contestant’s Droop commercial is watched and then critiqued by the judges, one at a time. First is Jackie, selling her “Jackie’s Magic Carpet Merkins” which is a “wig for your very own cave of wonders”. Jackie is playing up her Persian heritage by way of Barbara Eden in the 1960’s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, she’s dressed as a beautiful genie and using all of the classic sight gags. Her ad is funny and a true delight (especially for classic sitcom fans like myself). The judges loved her commercial, gave high praise to her runway, and Chaka Khan learned what a merkin is.
Jan’s ad brings the “JANtasy” and sells a spray bottle called “Sure, Jan” which makes you go from frumpy, forgotten sister to gorgeous popular sister (oh look, another classic sitcom reference). It also turns you into a go-getting rich girl that can sing. The judges like the concept but feel that there was too much high energy and too much stuff crammed in. They also really love her runway.
Jaida’s is next and we come to find that her product is a high-quality tucking panty called “The Luxura-tuck”. She does everything right in the ad – from the jokes to the product to just selling IT. Michelle even says that it’s a product that she would buy and all of the judges really love her runway.
Next is Gigi, whose ad starts off on a really infuriating, aggrandizing foot – she literally brags about all of the challenges and money that she’s won so far in the competition and…it is not a good look. Her tone is dead and her jokes don’t really get a laugh, prompting Ross to say that it’s clunky and Michelle to say “meh”. It is not a good ad – but at least her runway is fierce.
Sherry’s is next and it doesn’t make much sense. It’s “Sherry Pie’s Aura Pie” and, while it does follow the Droop rules of being something completely useless and over-priced, it brings few laughs. The judges are underwhelmed but they really love her runway – what is with all of this runway love? I guess it could have something to do with black clothing not translating well on screen as opposed to in person, but unfortunately, I have to watch it through a screen.
Anyway, next is Heidi’s and her product is called “Heidi’s Hydrates Multipurpose Lotion”, made from tears of a drag queen (among other things). It’s cute, brings the laughs, and she even manages to sneak in a fart joke that doesn’t make Michelle see red (R.I.P. Rock M. Sakura). The judges love the look and they love the ad for its humor and for showing her charisma. RuPaul (the one who came up with the name “Heidi’s Hydrates”) gives her extra praise for taking notes and owning what she has – Ru loves a queen who listens and learns, and it shows here.
Next up is Widow’s ad and she doesn’t seem excited for it – for good reason. Subdued, slow, and just not really funny, Widow’s “ThroatÉ” spray for your throat, for cleaning your floors, and even for spraying mace on creepy strangers. It’s an on-brand idea but there are literally no laughs – the only praise that Widow receives is for her runway and little else. They ask Widow what is wrong and she begins to tear up, saying that she doesn’t know what is going on, but she feels down. What it comes down to is Widow has made it far in the competition, but she has had only one win from episode one to show for and she was also nervous to mess up in front of her idol, Chaka Khan, who encourages her to learn from her mistakes and to not give up. It is so sweet but it’s hard not to see what is coming for Widow Von’Du.
Saving the best for last, we have Crystal’s ad for her product “The Magic Mullet” and it is perfect. While Jackie and Jan kept things in the ’60s and ’70s, Crystal brought her ad into the slick 1980s as she sold her hilarious product – a squirrel-and-raccoon-fur mullet headband “infused with hormones to give you strength and sex drive”. Not only is her ad fun and kooky (like her) but it is also hilarious: “don’t waste years of your life waiting to grow long and beautiful hair like mine – because you can die at any minute!” Crystal says as she flips her glorious mullet that she knows RuPaul loves and adores. The judges praise her for playing it smart and silly and for showing up in her amazing runway – as a dead bride, Crystal totally kills it.
Who Should Go Home Tonight?
The light atmosphere from Crystal’s ad is quickly snuffed out though as Ru asks the queens that dreaded question: “Who should go home tonight?” Almost across the board, Widow’s name is said and it is a really sad moment. Widow knows she’s in the bottom but does the smart thing and picks Jan. It’s a haunting omen – Widow is definitely lip-syncing but will Jan also join her? Will this be production karma for crying too much over Brita going home/not winning the challenge last week? Will it be Gigi, whose ad gave zero laughs? Will it be Sherry, who is a predator and whose ad also gave little to no laughs? It’s a tough call.
That’s the thing about these over-the-hump episodes – they shake things up. There were no negative critiques for any of the runway looks so it all comes down to the performances in the challenges. Not only are the two queens who have struggled the most out of the remaining girls – Heidi and Crystal – in the top, but the two queens with 5 wins between them – Gigi and Sherry – are undoubtedly in the bottom with Widow. This episode is a real vessel of chaos that doesn’t know when to stop.
RuPaul praises Crystal, Heidi, Jackie, and Jaida for their ads one last time before she announces the week’s winner and it’s Heidi! In Ru’s mind, it is a definite toss-up between her two favorite queens of the season – Heidi and Crystal – and from her comments, we can glean that Ru made her decision because of how well Heidi’s comedic tone shifted from funny to hilarious. Personally, I would have given it to Crystal but I’m overall just happy that SOMEONE different has won a challenge – it has been five episodes of Gigi and Sherry playing winner-winner-chicken-dinner badminton and I am so happy to see that little birdie dead.
Speaking of Gigi and Sherry, Ru decides to spare both of them for reasons unknown and to put Jan in the bottom two with Widow. Earlier in Untucked, Jan essentially says that she will be in the bottom because she has been too much of a try-hard in the competition, which is a really sad thing to hear – especially after last week’s challenge and the fact that she is going to have to lip-sync against Widow with a Chaka Khan song right in front of Widow’s idol, Chaka Khan. You can kind of tell right away that Jan isn’t meant to survive this lip sync.
And she doesn’t. Despite her last lip sync (for your legacy) being in the first episode, Widow’s sickening lip-syncing skills are fresh in everyone’s minds as she destroys Chaka Khan’s “This Is My Night”. Jan brings the high energy and the talent but she just isn’t enough against Widow – it just isn’t Jan’s night on top of not being Jan’s season. RuPaul tells her to sashay away and Jan can’t help but cry. It’s a sad departure but there is no doubt in my mind that Jan will return for a season of All Stars or another spin-off show – she is just so talented.
And that’s the thing – they are all so talented and it is a problem for this season. Only the most pristinely detailed queens are getting into the top while many undeserving queens get put into the bottom. I don’t think that Jan should have been in the bottom this week with Widow but that is just how it is going to go. We need to steel ourselves for the weeks to come – the queens that we love have a high chance of being sent home and there will be more nit-picking from the judges and fans alike.
The one thing I will say is that I’m glad that Widow is still here, that Heidi got her first win, and that Crystal has earned her first Most Valuable Queen because she was a true star this week – maybe next episode will be hers or maybe it will go back to Gigi or, ugh, Sherry. Who’s to say? I just hope that more of these talented queens get their time to shine.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you think that Jan should have been in the bottom? Who do you think will be in the Top Four?
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