For the first time in RuPaul’s Drag Race her-story, RuPaul is going strictly by the numbers.
Despite season twelve’s insanely tumultuous journey that has brought the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, this is still one of the strongest collectives of queens to make it to the end of this show. No, really.
The number of challenges and runways where so many queens performed so well that the judges, in turn, had to critique every single teeny-tiny detail that would have gone unnoticed in seasons past were too many to count. Fewer and fewer competitors were able to skate by this season and the queens just did not let us breathe – so why would this week’s episode, simply titled “Viva Drag Vegas”, be any different?
Let’s Get To The Meat Of It
There have been many episodes this season where the entire 1st and 2nd Act could be skipped over with little repercussions because there just wasn’t a lot happening – the only actual conflict in the show has been the Aiden-Brita drama, which ended way back in episode six. This can either be due to production really having to bend backward to make a cohesive storyline that doesn’t include Sherry’s talking heads or anything to do with her outside of the challenges and the runway. Last week’s breakdown of each Act was necessary because of the light drama from the One-Queen Show lineup, but it essentially went nowhere and we are left with little in this week’s episode – there’s just very little going on.
We have five queens left and it feels like we’re not really getting anything fruitful from their talking heads or their interactions with each other. There’s a blackout that prolongs the queens musing over Heidi’s elimination (the wound is still fresh; farewell MVQ royalty), a lame mini-challenge including showgirl costumes, and some of the queens pretending like they didn’t essentially do this maxi challenge already in episode one.
And what is the maxi challenge? Why, it’s a crummy commercial dressed up as a fierce performance where the queens must write and record lyrics, learn the choreography, and basically put on a Vegas show-style Ru-sical. I say crummy commercial because this episode is being used to promote “RuPaul’s Drag Race LIVE! Las Vegas”, a live stage production in Vegas featuring Drag Race “Ru-girls” that has been temporarily closed due to the global pandemic. It’s one more “yike” to add onto season twelve’s series of “yikes”.
A SHOWGIRL VIBE
This week’s special guest judge is dance choreographer and Drag Race choreo alum, Jamal Sims, who has also worked on the Drag Race-Vegas stage show. He’s talented, strict, and always makes the girls sweat – he is a great guest judge to wrap up this last competitive episode. The queens have recorded their tracks (with nothing of real substance to mention) and are now struggling with the choreography for what Jamal says is the Drag Race Live, Vegas Ru-sical that needs to be a little Saturday Night Fever and a little Showgirls, AKA the widely-panned 1995 film that is beloved in the world of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The queens seem to be picking it up overall, but there is an endless supply of cuts to one of them screwing up a dance move or three. That’s the way this part of the episode goes – there’s a lot of misdirection and a lot of talking heads. Sometimes gold is struck (think All Stars 2 when Katya did her big split in the rehearsal) and other times it’s just forgettable fluff. This episode gives nothing but fluff outside of Jackie saying that one of Gigi’s dance segments makes her look like the kids from Stranger Things.
Last Day in the Workroom
As Crystal, Gigi, Jackie, Jaida, and Sherry prepare for their final performance, final runway, and final critique, they muse over their place in the competition and their cocktails. They talk about how much they’ve grown close over the last twelve episodes, how hard they need to work it in this Ru-sical, and sexy Jackie is going to be. Jaida talks about how she’s become a better queen and asks the others what their first impressions of each other were.
Gigi says she initially took Jackie for another Fashion Girl, whereas Jackie took her for a Campy Queen due to her pirate entrance look; Gigi’s reaction to this is hilarious and will make for great meme fodder for seasons to come. They talk about Jaida and how well she can paint and how Crystal is undoubtedly the one who has changed the most in the competition, which is a complete understatement. Everything changed about Crystal – from her mug to her attitude to her standing in the competition. She not only gets Best Mullet but also Most Improved. Nobody talks about Sherry.
They all get to the impending elephant in the room and talk about whether or not “report cards” will matter in the end and some of the queens fully believe that it will; this leaves things a little somber because despite being so talented and so improved, Jackie and Crystal have the lowest grades in the class.
Welcome to the Main Stage
In this final runway, it’s all family as special guest judge Jamal Sims and hostess RuPaul are joined by all of the judging panel: Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, and Carson Kressley. The show begins and it is amazing to see all of the queens in their entrance looks – Gigi’s pirate, Crystal’s clown, Sherry’s pie, Jackie’s mouseketeer, and Jaida’s real woman eleganza make it into the opening number and it is wild to see these great looks under the big lights.
We then have a change of scenery and costumes as the queens appear at their vanities in soft robes and softer mugs – they sing about putting on their mothers’ clothes for the first time, and being closeted gay kids who grow into drag queens. The talent is unstoppable and it really feels like a real, true-blue musical and not just a Ru-sical (sorry). Everyone (yeah, even Sherry) kills this main stage Vegas show and it is nearly impossible to parse through who’s the best of the best, even with the queens’ own lyrics and personal dance skills.
We then transition into the final runway and the category is “Eleganza Extravaganza”, which essentially means your best drag. Crystal is first and WOW she has draped herself in velvet and blue face paint. It’s glamorous, unique and absolutely delicious. Next is Gigi in a look that is so campy but so fashion and so funny but so real; she is essentially an 80’s nerdy girl at prom, headgear and ruffles included. It’s so unexpected for the main stage and a total winner.
Next is Jackie in gorgeous primary colors with this season’s favorite silhouette – the 50’s Dior dress. It’s adorable, vintage and very Jackie Cox. Sherry is next in an all-blue Mae West-inspired ensemble, complete with parasol. It’s elegant and the designer did a great job.
Last but certainly not least is the powerhouse of fashion, Jaida Essense Hall. Jamal makes a Coming To America reference to the gown and it is just as gorgeous and classical as Jaida herself. There’s not a bad look on this runway and it just makes the inevitable even harder – this would all be so much easier if there was an obvious weak link (or if Sherry was disqualified much, much sooner or, better yet, not there at all).
THE FINAL, FINAL CRITIQUES
Down the line, each queen gets her final critiques and they are majority good; Crystal is told that she was breathtaking and fun, Michelle did not like her orange fringe dress in the performance, while Carson gushes over how over-the-top her final runway is and RuPaul seals it with a kiss by way of “I am such a huge fan of yours.”
Gigi is told that she’s great at acting and singing in the performance, how she on fire, how her runway is so smart and fashionable, with a sense of humor and a real sense of cohesive fun. Jackie is told that she looks delicate and whimsical, and how they loved her emotions in the performance.
We then have Jaida where they reference Dynasty for her fashion and Jamal tells her what a star she is and Carson says how much she shines throughout every challenge. They leave Sherry for last and she has earned the high praise she receives for her drag but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a damn shame to see a sexual predator get praised so ardently on a beloved TV show.
The judges have deliberated and the consensus has been made – everyone has done great. RuPaul declares Gigi the winner of this final challenge thus securing her a place in the Top 4 and a place in RuPaul’s Drag Race her-story as the third queen to ever receive four challenge wins (in a regular season). Because of this, RuPaul does the unimaginable and goes by the numbers. She puts the two queens with the lowest amounts of wins into the bottom two, which means that Jaida and Sherry are safe, while Crystal and Jackie battle it out to get to the Top 4.
The song is “On The Floor” by Jennifer Lopez with Pitbull and it is a close one. Both queens bring humor and charisma but I do believe that Crystal whipping out her Phenomenal Phill exotic dance moves from last week helps her snatch that shantay, thus sending Jackie Cox home. It’s sad to see Jackie make it so far and not make it to the Top 4 and she gives a wonderful speech as she exits the stage. This departure will be hard to reckon with since the Top 4 spot could have been hers if Sherry wasn’t there. However, there is speculation that she may be brought back to the Finale to take Sherry’s place due to her shameful disqualification. One can only hope.
This penultimate episode (next week’s Reunion episode won’t result in any wins except for maybe this season’s Miss Congeniality award) has marked a new reset in how the show does things. There have been two enormous and essential changes to RuPaul’s Drag Race over the years that have been felt in every season since; the leaking of season three’s winner caused every Finale since season four to be taped a week before it airs, and season nine’s insanely talented Top 4 performed so well in the eleventh hour that RuPaul just could not decide who to eliminate, thus bringing us into the new normal – the Lip Sync For The Crown.
With RuPaul explicitly choosing queens based on their report cards, the show has dipped its heel into new territory. Will this also be how she chooses the ultimate winner? What will this shift, plus the harsh realities of the global pandemic, do to the outcome of this season’s Finale? Will there be a Lip Sync For The Crown? Will it still remain a Top 4? Who will be America’s Next Drag Superstar? Will it be Gigi, Jaida, or Crystal? We’ll find out in two weeks.
Which queen do you want to win season twelve? Are you Team Crystal, Team Gigi, or Team Jaida?
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