DRAG STRIP

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: A Queen-Eat-Queen World

It’s refreshing to see the queens actually missing one of their fallen sisters after an elimination, and Katya’s absence is as palpable to the audience as it is to the contestants. I’m of the opinion that she is better than Ginger at everything except singing and being fat, and the second one is what got her booted because Ru wants a big girl to win. It’s not right, but it’s OK. After erasing the latest lipstick love letter, the ladies split themselves into a junior/senior war that will last the entire episode (and get old about 20 minutes in).

rpdrs7e12 01As is customary on the day of the music video challenge, Ru is not present to explain the rules. Rather, she sends Michelle Visage into the workroom. It’s a nice reminder that she’s literally never seen these people out of make-up before. She tells them that, for a change of pace, they’ll be learning choreography and acting out a scene. Why even bother with a clip show next week when all the episodes already blend together?

Candis Cayne arrives to give the girls a lesson in serving an ‘80s power pussy stompdown, effortlessly breezing through the moves without skipping a beat to blithely dismiss Violet’s assertion that she ought not be expected to know about things that happened before she was born. I’m not generally a fan of the forced feud between the seasoned queens and the upstarts, but they got one thing right: the two new girls need to fill those pretty little heads with some history. Maybe they can start from Shakespeare and work their way forward?

rpdrs7e12 02Interspersed with all the video prep is the venerated tradition of the Tic Tac luncheon. Consummate pro that she is, Ru still manages to milk a laugh out of this one by adding a blender to the mix. She also manages to milk genuine emotion out of most of the girls, though her pointed focus on digging up people’s most painful memories gets a little more shameless every year. (I’m not going to make jokes about anyone’s past hurt, by the by; I may be a bad recapper, but I’m not a monster.) The only one who refuses to crack is Violet: if that confidence is a façade, then it’s tough as nail glue.

Speaking of glue, were the queens not provided with any before the video shoot? In addition to abandoning any mention of the choreography they supposedly learned, they abandon the ability to keep their drag on their bodies. Both Ginger and Pearl send tresses flying, while Violet escapes with only an earring mishap. Say what you will about Kennedy, at least she’s intact. She’s also a better dancer than anyone else here, serving improvised kicks, dips, and twirls that far outprance the other three’s attempts. I mean, if we knew they couldn’t do this, wouldn’t it have been better to hire someone to teach them some… oh, right. Never mind.

rpdrs7e12 03The acting portion of the episode is basically the direct-to-Vimeo sequel to The Nutty Professor that nobody asked for. We’re already well aware of who can perform (Ginger) and who can’t (everyone else), so this montage isn’t exactly revelatory. The lone surprise is Pearl’s delightfully deranged matriarch, though even that brief glimpse of mania just makes me wish that we had Katya back to really amp up the oddity.

And then suddenly, it’s the last day in the workroom. Ever. What a journey it’s been. Nothing sums up this growth better than Violet’s poised reaction to Kennedy’s assertion that a girl so young could never wear such a heavy crown. Inwardly, I’m thinking, “well yeah, she’d snap at the waist and be paralyzed for life,” but also, good for her for just being all, “uh-huh.”

rpdrs7e12 04She’s similarly unshakeable on the runway. Ru wrings the other ladies for tears like wet rags, and Violet smirks. Michelle says her outfit looks like she ran out of clothes, and Violet’s #toounderdressedtobestressed about it. By contrast, Pearl can barely hold it together while talking to a picture of her younger self, but again: she has experienced legitimate trauma and there’s no punchline there. What we can mock: that sad, cheap-looking getup! It’s unclear to me how she didn’t get excoriated for serving up a lazy lingerie look. And the time she devoted to mocking the pageant girls for hefting up their hair should have been spent maintaining her own. It looks like she salvaged that mess out of whatever was left in Katya’s brushes. (Just kidding, we all know Katya doesn’t brush her wigs.)

Ginger is doing fine on the runway. Advice to herself? Fine. Look? Fine. Defense of her drag? Fine. It’s all perfectly acceptable, and it’s clear that she’s being positioned to win even though she would have been eaten alive on any other season. And Kennedy is doing Kennedy, which means being equal parts great and confusing. Like, the dress has a stylish silhouette and no one is saying no to rainbows and rhinestones, and yet somehow it doesn’t all meld. Public speaking was never her strongest suit, and the bits of her speeches we’re shown seem well intentioned and poorly structured.

rpdrs7e12 05After a quick deliberation where the panel restates everything they just said to the contestants five minutes ago, Ru calls her gals back one last time for a crowded four-way lip sync, followed by Kennedy’s abrupt elimination from the contest. It’s a seemingly arbitrary choice, given that Kennedy earned few critiques overall. Perhaps it’s comeuppance for all the undeserved wins she received earlier in the season. Perhaps it’s punishment for not knowing how to use “condone” in a sentence. Perhaps it’s a reminder that the search for meaning is futile and we’re all just howling into the abyss until it swallows us and at last we can rest.

Either way, buckle up for next week’s clip show. If we’ve been watching the good footage all season, then whatever they cut must have been excruciatingly dull.

 

Chris J. Kelly performs under the drag name Ariel Italic; in addition to this recap, he hosts weekly Drag Race viewings at the 9th Avenue Saloon in New York City.