RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE S13E13 “Henny, I Shrunk The Drag Queens!”: Tears & Panic Attacks Of A Drag Queen

There are two takeaways from this week’s above-average episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: every single editing choice pointed towards the 4th alternate to the crown (i.e., the queen booted from this episode) and, after 13 weeks of episodes, it should be obvious to these queens that the judges want to see more versatility and not the same old thing. As soon as queens started typecasting themselves in this week’s maxi challenge, their fates were sealed.

This episode determines who the Top Four will be and, as some recent seasons have shown, anyone in the Top Four can be the winner of the entire season. Last season literally went by scorecards when determining who stayed and who left, something that had never happened before in the show. You have to do well in the competition with a win or two under your garter belt, but you also have to have a worthwhile narrative, to have shown some vulnerability (as RuPaul says, that’s the moment the audience truly falls in love with you) and your edit must keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds. With this Top Five, almost everyone has these boxes check-marked.

The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Guilty

RuPaul enters the workroom (wearing a fabulous fake mustache) and wastes no time with mini-challenges or pleasantries because this is the Top Five and they must do some major greenscreen acting for this week’s maxi-challenged. Based on 1989’s Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Rosé, Kandy, Symone, Gottmik, and Olivia must star in “Henny, I Shrunk the Drag Queens!” where they are put in a scenario of being contestants on Drag Race that have been shrunk to a tiny size by a bitter, shady queen. It’s a pretty funny and campy premise and these kinds of challenges are always a good-time watch.

As they begin to go over the script and deciding who gets what part, Olivia zeros in on the role of Ginger Ale, “the dumb one” who’s really sweet. Olivia wants Ginger Ale really bad but, as Gottmik says in the confessional, Olivia has been read by the judges for putting on this “apologetic, shy girl thing” in the past (cut to flashbacks of her little child-like shuffle walk during her soda commercial and her roast) and it’s probably not a good idea to keep playing up those characteristics. Rosé was Brandy and Gottmik wants Chardonnay but both Kandy and Symone want the villain, Dominique Perignon. Kandy insists that Symone should Margarita since she is most like Margarita (a smart leader) and that Kandy should be Dominique as she is the closest thing to a villain on the show (out of the Top Five). Symone begrudgingly takes the Margarita role and, when the queens realize that they don’t have a lot of clothes left that work against a greenscreen, she becomes a little overwhelmed.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S13E13 "Henny, I Shrunk The Drag Queens!": Tears & Panic Attacks Of A Drag Queen
source: VH1

Symone talks about how much pressure she feels, especially from not wanting to disappoint her drag and art family of the House of Avalon, of which season 12’s Gigi Goode is also a member. In earlier episodes, Symone has talked about feeling pressured to be perfect and do well and, as hinted at in last week’s teaser, Symone is in tears or close to tears throughout the episode as she realizes that her four challenge wins aren’t going to save her if she does poorly in a challenge, ends up in the bottom, and doesn’t survive the lip sync. It’s tough to have such high highs and low lows, especially for Symone as she’s been the frontrunner for almost the entire season.

The queens get a video call-in from none other than Black Widow herself Scarlett Johansson, who gives the queens advice on acting against something that isn’t there (something she has more than enough experience with). The scene is sweet and Johansson is really gorgeous and generous with her acting advice but it’s nearly as exciting as when Anne Hathaway made her Zoom-style call-in a few weeks ago. The queens take her advice to heart and are ready to act.

Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. Kressley

With Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley as their directors, the cameras and lights go up, and Symone is immediately given notes from Michelle and Carson who seem to not be too happy with her performance. Oh no! Before there’s any time to react to it, however, the attention is put on Kandy who has to act as if she’s shrinking in the climactic scene, and the judges keep making her repeat her lines for accuracy and for laughs. From here, we see the queens shooting a scene reminiscent of Batman and Robin climbing up buildings in the 1960’s Batman TV show (always a fun gag) and this is the moment where we see where Olivia is going to be placed at the end of the episode: in the bottom. Kandy talks about Olivia’s performance being “one-note” and there’s – yikes- a compilation of Olivia stopping everything to ask ridiculous questions. We quickly skip to Rosé doing an amazing job, even when she forgets her lines. Gottmik talks about how Rosé is the one to watch and Carson says to Michelle that Rosé is a really good technical actress, a sidebar that spells good things for the pink and talented queen.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S13E13 "Henny, I Shrunk The Drag Queens!": Tears & Panic Attacks Of A Drag Queen
source: VH1

The best scene that we see during the filming is all about Gottmik as Chardonnay, whose allergies get her caught by a giant black cat that’s been released into the workroom. Gottmik does a fantastic job as a whiny, sneezing mess and it’s worth mentioning that Gottmik really is one of, if not the, funniest queens of this season and, ahh, I love to see it.

As the queens get ready for the runway, they all talk about representation in media and there’s a spotlight on Gottmik who may have had male transgender role models to look up to, like Chaz Bono, but didn’t quite see anyone that was more feminine like Gottmik is. Media representation is an immensely important aspect of our culture as it shapes young people into who they believe it is possible to be. The queens talk about how it used to be that the only transgender people on television were hookers or how gay people were always cast as the Sassy Gay Best Friend™ to the cis-het female lead. It’s incredible to see how LGBTQ+ representation has come, and it’s amazing to think of how far that will go in the future.

A Drag Queen’s One Weakness: Overhead Lighting

Joining RuPaul, Michelle Visage, and Carson Kressley on the judging panel is two-time Academy Award-nominated actress and singer, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, Widows) who is one of the few guest judges this season to not be a recurring judge due to COVID-19 restrictions. The runway category is “Haute Pockets” and (most of) the queens do not disappoint. Symone comes out in a jean pocket homage to emo kids and Paramore’s Hayley Williams‘ iconic red-and-yellow hair, with a dash of Scene Girl pheasant-striped strand of hair that’s perfectly flat-ironed. Olivia’s outfit is beautiful but barely fits the category, while Rosé’s 1960s Mod look is covered with black-and-white graphic pockets. Unfortunately, Kandy comes out in a badly-designed and badly-made pocket dress with the most unflattering wig for her head – at least her makeup looks cute.

The standout of the night, however, goes to Gottmik who takes the sleazy “Coat Full of Contraband” character and makes it FASHION by revealing, not only a trenchcoat with pockets full of watches but also a gorgeous dress made of actual metal wristwatches. Gottmik says that her inspiration was from Disney’s 1997 animated classic Hercules (“Hey! Wanna buy a sundial?”) which shows just how young the queen is as this trope has been around for close to a century. It’s a super cute moment that fully captures Gottmik’s charm and wicked sense of fashion.

After the runway, everyone watches the final cut of “Henny, I Shrunk the Drag Queens!, a production of “Ru.K.O. Pictures.” The story begins with the characters walking into the workroom after RuPaul asked them who should go home and everyone said Dominique (Kandy’s character). Dominique accuses the other queens of hating her because she’s beautiful though they all have different grievances against her, like that time she put kitty litter in Chardonnay’s makeup or when she stole Ginger Ale’s dress and hot-glued it to a mannequin (a throwback to season 6 when one queen actually did that). When the queens accuse Dominique of doing anything to win, she flips a “Toxic Overheard Lighting” switch which shrinks Ginger Ale, Margarita, Brandy, and Chardonnay into tiny little drag queens. After several cute and hilarious scenes where the queens climb, jump, run, and fight off the aforementioned pussycat, they retaliate against Dominique by reading her until they return to their normal size, and Dominique begins to shrink and whine. It’s silly, it’s camp, and overall a really fun challenge.

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE S13E13 "Henny, I Shrunk The Drag Queens!": Tears & Panic Attacks Of A Drag Queen
source: VH1

The judge’s head right into the critiques and everyone gets good/great critiques except for Olivia and Kandy. Both queens get dinged for their runway looks, as Olivia’s didn’t fit the category and Kandy’s is just bad, and they’re both told that there was little versatility in their performances as the judges had all seen what Olivia and Kandy had done in previous challenges and wanted more. When the critiques get to Kandy, she begins to cry on stage and talks about how disappointed she feels with her outfit. What makes this especially sad is how, later in Untucked, Kandy actually begins to have a panic attack and her blood pressure skyrockets, and the on-set medic requiring her to rest for a little while before returning to the main stage.

Just like in the challenge, Ru asks the queens who they think should go home and why, and just about everyone says Olivia. However, the gag of the episode is that, when Olivia is asked the dreaded question, it takes her a really long time to answer. Olivia says that she’s conflicted because she cannot say herself (Ru HATES when queens do this) and that she cannot say anyone else’s names and then just continues to stand there, wordless. RuPaul asks her again and there are reaction shots from almost everyone in the room as they wait for her to answer. Olivia finally says Kandy but… taking so long to answer Ru‘s question is a bad sign for Olivia. A very bad sign.

RuPaul declares Gottmik and Symone as safe, and Rosé as the winner of this week’s challenge, making this Rosé’s third win of the season. This puts Olivia and Kandy in the bottom two and it’s no competition. With Cher‘s iconic disco-inspired bop “Strong Enough”, Kandy snatches the win at the very beginning as she plays up the comedy and has the dance moves to back them up. Olivia has some moments in the lip sync, but there’s no way she was going to beat Kandy. While it’s hard to see Olivia go, as she was one of the biggest competitors early on, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be season 13’s Miss Congeniality and that she will return for a future season of All-Stars. 

Conclusion

While Symone has the most wins of the season with her four well-deserved challenge wins, Rosé has actually kind of become the frontrunner of the season now that she not only has three wins but she has also never been in the bottom two, and she has only been in the bottom three once. Every other episode has had Rosé doing exceptionally well and if you believe that being in the bottom two knocks you down a few pegs, then yeah, she is the actual frontrunner of the season. But, now that we have Kandy, Gottmik, Rosé, and Symone in the Top Four, I doubt that RuPaul will take a page from what she did last season and look at the scorecards to decide who continues into the Finale (which will be in three weeks). Because of this, I still feel that Symone is the one to beat, with Rosé and Gottmik hot on her heels.

Next week’s challenge will see the return of Jamal Sims as he choreographs the queens for the big penultimate performance before the finale, and then the week after that will be the reunion episode, which will hopefully be extremely juicy and drama-filled, just like this seemingly neverending season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Did Olivia deserve to be in the Top Four or Kandy? Do you think Rosé deserved the win this episode? Let us know in the comments below!

A new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 can be seen every Friday at 8/7c on VH1.


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