When we began covering RuPaul’s Drag Race, Logo’s only worthwhile show, the last thing we expected was to get emotionally involved in the competition. I mean, after all, this is a show that uses the acronym “C.U.N.T” to describe what it’s looking for in its contestants, but here we are, more than halfway through the season and there’s just one thing on our minds:
Ongina was robbed!
We told you last week how we fell hard for pixie, whackadoodle Ongina after her catwalk confession that she was HIV-positive. Truthfully, we liked her a lot before that, but the honesty and bravery she showed made us like her not just as an entertaining diversion, but you know, as an actual human being.
Well, this week, the girls were challenged to makeover a bunch of actual girls, which sound easy, except that the girls in question are terrifying professional fighters. One Russian girl introduces herself by saying, “I’m boxer.” Yes, yes you are.
There’s a whole lot of, “Oh my god, these girls are so butch and the guys are so femme” producer-forced moments early on in the episode, but the one thing we’ve come to expect and love about Drag Race is that the queens always manage to throw some dignity on the crazy challenges they’re given. Maybe that’s the secret lesson drag queens impart on us: If you’re given stupid, demeaning things to do, do them with pride and self-respect and you own them.
Anyway, enough with the ennobling of drag queens. For the challenge, the girls must remake the, um, real girls into their drag queen personae. Or at least, I think that’s what the challenge is; it seems to keep changing over the course of the episode. The ultimate fighting lesbians are game for the challenge and seem genuinely interested in learning from the queens how to walk in high heels and how to smile seductively.
The queens, however, are acutely aware that this is a competition and stay focused on making the ladies look their best and nail the basics of lip-syncing. Most of them do this respectfully, but Rebecca Glasscock, who survived last week for no good reason, is a total bitch to her sport fighter and, while she claims she’s giving “tough love,” it’s obvious she’s just making the poor girl nervous. I hate Rebecca. I hate her mustache and I hate that she’s still on the show.
In any event, in Vaseline Alley, the girls – and the girls – do their runway show and the judges ooh and ahh the transformations, especially Shanelle’s. In the end &nash; God, I fucking hate her – Rebecca Glasscock wins.
I’m going to pause for a second, because to explain what happens next, I have to divulge a dirty secret of mine, which is that I have worked as a reality TV show editor, so I know a lot of the tricks of the trade and the finale of this week’s episode is loaded with them, which makes me think there was probably a few production problems. For starters, the judges keep talking about how this is a “mother-daughter” challenge, which is the first we hear about it. Up until then, the challenge seemed to be about getting the girl to look like your drag persona. But the queen who does that the best, Nina Flowers, who transforms her Russian into, well, Nina Flowers, gets called out by the judges for “making her look like a drag queen” and is told she “just barely” survives.
Then, when the bottom two turn out to be our beloved Ongina and Bebe, Ru gets up and says that she “needs a minute” to make her decision. She gets up from her judges table and we see her mic’d up on her back and she walks off stage, because “this decision is too difficult.”
So, was Ru off mulling the fate of the queens? Hardly. She was backstage, talking to the producers. Watch any reality show and you’ll notice a disclaimer that judges consult with producers on their decisions. Well, my guess is that Ru had a problem with sending Ongina away (which she ultimately does) and wanted to argue the decision with the big, talking heads, who for whatever reason, decided that Bebe was the one to stay.
Unfortunately for us watching the show, the last fifteen minutes make precious little sense and for the first time, Drag Race feels like it’s crashing and burning. Poor editing and obvious producer intervention wouldn’t be such a crime if it didn’t all lead to Ongina on the chopping block, but if you’re going to boot off a fan favorite, the least you could do is not make it so obviously contrived. Producers, we can see your tuck and it isn’t pretty.
Ongina, we’ll miss you. You’re a better queen than many of the remaining Rebecca Glasscock-shaped contestants, and you weren’t even the worst performer in the challenge. That would be Bebe, who uses the same “Oh My God, I lost my wig!” stunt that Shanelle used when she had to “Lip Sync For Your Life.” And, astoundingly, the judges fall for it twice.
Oh, and also: Xena was a judge, which would be really cool if we weren’t furious about the outing of Ongina.