The 100th episode of the greatest television show of all time starts off with a victory lap in the form of a minute-long rundown of the past 99 episodes. Remember how cheap everything looked during the first season? Remember how everyone had catch phrases? Remember how Season 7 was kind of bad? You can wipe that last memory from your mind, because judging by this premiere, Season 8 is going to be more fun than doing poppers on a trampoline with the whole Pit Crew. (To avoid any legal issues: don’t do poppers on a trampoline.)
The first glamazon to march into our hearts is Naomi Smalls, who is young, tiny, leggy, and beautiful. While those might be her only qualities, they’ll be enough. She’s followed by Cynthia Lee Fontaine, who is what would happen if Tammie Brown and Alyssa Edwards had raised a child in San Juan. Sin-Tee-Ah starts the day by talking about her cu-cu and doesn’t stop for the rest of the episode. It is her favorite subject. Next up: Violet’s drag mom, Dax ExclamationPoint. She’s like Jeb! for the liberal set: three letters and a piece of punctuation, related to a former winner, and prone to disappearing into the background.
Speaking of which: Naysha Lopez proudly asserts that “the beauty is here” during her entrance, without mentioning that the personality is still at home in bed. It’s OK: she’s trailed by Acid Betty, who has enough presence for at least four people. Her drag is so dangerous I need something to hold onto whenever the camera pans to her. Robbie Turner is up next, and she’s dangerous for a whole different reason. It’s too bad she didn’t know this was happening today, because I bet if she had planned in advance she could have gotten someone to teach her how to paint her face.
You know who could help with that? Kim Chi. I have no shade to throw at Kim: her mug is beat to death, her lisp is adorable, and she delivers donut puns without shame. She makes me want to hug my television. Speaking of joy: Brooklyn royalty Thorgy Thor is here to brighten the mood, serving up what can only be described as pizzazz. (Full disclosure: I have met Thorgy on several occasions, though she thinks it’s the first time every time.)
And then Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen stomps through the door. Bye, everybody else. (I have no inside information, but I do know Bob and I sure am biased. But also: come on, she’s wonderful.) She, Thorgy, and Acid slip into some of the greatest shenanigans I have ever seen. Robbie Turner isn’t into it, but she’s an enemy of fun. The next couple entrances really cement that as her brand.
Exhibit A: Laila McQueen, a teeny, spooky little charmer who skipped the stilettos in favor of that goth staple, the shoe made for someone whose legs are two different lengths. Though Team NYC has a light quip or two about the choice, Miss Turner bottles up the bitter so that she can unleash it behind closed doors in a confessional. Exhibit B: Chi Chi DeVayne, a country-fried trash bag wearing a country-fried trash bag. Sure, we could all enjoy her aesthetic, but that would deprive a certain someone of the chance to make another smart remark. I think she thinks she’s being Bianca, but like, we’ve already got one of those and she’s perfect, so sit down, Seattle: we’re good.
The 100th queen, which is apparently important for some reason, is Derrick Barry, a Britney impersonator who cut carbs out of her diet to make room for even more confidence. It’s OK. I’m sure a single comment about her receding hairline would send her plummeting into the abyss like Wile E. Coyote when he realizes there’s no ground beneath him. I’m excited to see how that particular game of emotional Jenga plays out.
After the obligatory video and applause-fueled staircase descent, Ru and the hat-shaped alien parasite that now controls her announce the season’s first challenge: a photo shoot with all the past winners (excluding Bianca, who is apparently already too good for this show). The man behind the camera is Mathu Andersen, I guess because Mike Ruiz was also unavailable. Just kidding! I’m sure he’s always available. All of the contestants do at least acceptable work. Positioning yourself among so many people seems to be a problem for several girls: Kim and Acid handle it by adjusting, while Robbie prefers to stay planted and make a salty comment. Girl, Betty self-identifies as a bitch and even she watched her mouth. RuPaul is RIGHT THERE. Oh, and again I’m biased, but Bob killed it.
The dedragging montage is our yearly exploration of who’s cruising who. This year, Laila McQueen is the one turning everyone’s tucks to stone. Nothing comes of that for now, but I’m holding out hope that this season finally gives us a budding romance. Or at least a little making out.
For the main challenge, the queens will each be assigned a design challenge from a previous season, selected for them by whoever’s name shoots out of Morgan McMichaels’ vagina. I wish I had made that last part up. Robbie wins this dubious honor, though her telling mispronunciation of “Thorgy” makes me think she’s reading the names from a list somewhere off-camera. (I watch this show with the paranoid focus of a lizard truther checking YouTube videos for flashes of Obama’s reptilian inner eyelid.) Regardless, everything gets divided up with apparent fairness; the fact that Ms. Turner ends up with the short end of the stick herself only furthers my suspicion that she didn’t make her decisions entirely independently here.
The reality of having to make an outfit to survive sets in, and the ladies get down to business. While Naomi tries to lift a boat that probably outweighs her and Derrick dithers over the best way to remind people YET AGAIN that she’s a Britney impersonator, Bob chats Ru up about how #notbothered she is. The “Laila is shy” agenda is pushed pretty heavily, but I don’t know if I buy it: she wears underwear with her own name across the ass, she makes a sick jacket from scratch, and everyone wants to fuck her. How insecure could she be? And thus ends day one.
Though they were allowed to sleep, the ladies seem no calmer the following morning. Pageant queen Naysha waxes poetic about the importance of that background while Chi Chi flat irons her hair into Lisa Simpson spikes for some reason. Kim explains that she keeps her drag a secret from her parents, and I immediately worry about her, both because that’s sad and because people who speak about bummer family issues usually get sent home immediately. Bob’s chatty sense of humor isn’t resting well with Betty, who prefers to get ready alone. Did they not tell you that there would be other contestants this season, babe? Did you and Robbie think “the library is open” meant that everyone would sit quietly the whole time? If we’re this sour in the first week, then this workroom is gonna get oops-I-forgot-that-was-in-the-back-of-the-fridge rotten real quick.
On the runway, Acid’s Money Ball gown gathers high interest, but Kim Chi’s Wookiee couture gives her a new hope. (That joke was for Dax, since the editors ejected all the workroom footage of her into space.) Kim’s win earns her the accidentally racist prize of $3,000 from a company that makes selfie sticks, but she laughs about it, so we can, too. Though much was made of Chi Chi’s last-minute wardrobe malfunction, she delivers an inexplicably complete garment and marches off to safety.
The first girl up for elimination is obviously Naysha, who naively thought that her face would save her in challenges that have nothing to do with her face. Robbie Turner doesn’t think she deserves to be in the bottom even though her outfit is a legitimate disaster, her beat is amateurish, and the hairline on that wig could probably cut glass. Maybe she needs contact lenses? Whatever, the judges give her a free pass, choosing to sacrifice Laila instead. (Which, by the way, makes zero sense: Laila looks great and, let me repeat, made a whole god damned jacket from scratch.) Justice is eventually served, though: The Little Beetlejuice That Could wriggles and writhes her way back to safety, while Ms. Lopez does awkward high school talent show moves that just can’t compete. Her ugly cry encapsulates how much it sucks to go home first, and I feel genuinely bad about it, but let’s be real: she should have learned to sew one thing before she got on the plane.
Chris Kelly performs under the drag name Ariel Italic and can be seen as one of the cohosts of Nobodies Hosting Drag Race every Monday night at Eastlands in Brooklyn, NY.