The usual post-elimination trauma is dulled somewhat by the fact that the girls had already sent Naysha home once and knew not to get too attached. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the tension levels are any lower. When Naomi expresses surprise that Derrick hadn’t lip synced (she’s 21, she doesn’t know to keep those comments to her damn self), she trips the Derrick impersonator’s hair-trigger ego implosion mechanism. This chick has been on the verge of tears during every critique, you can’t just confront her with things like reality. Her manic need to reassure herself (and the rest of the room) that she is indeed a perfect angel sets off Bob’s bullshit detector, leading to the “memorable drag” confrontation we’ve been waiting for since the trailer got released. Things actually escalate to the point where Bob basically promises to make Derrick cry before one of them goes home. (I’m telling you, B: just one mention of the hairline.)
Unfortunately, the theme song plays before we can watch Lady Vegas get emotionally curb stomped, and by the next morning, Ms. The Drag Queen has slept off all the rage. In fact, she’s so aggressively chipper that I almost expect that to spark another fight all on its own, but Robbie and Acid are more interested in maintaining a low, pervasive level of negativity than inciting individual incidents. They’re like the hum of an appliance in the background that you don’t even notice after a while. Oh, is that refrigerator still trying to read everyone? I only realized once it lost the mini-challenge.
Just kidding: there’s no mini-challenge this episode because it’s the Snatch Game! We don’t want to see who can drink the most bottles of RuPaul’s fragrance in 30 seconds, we want to see people argue over who they’re portraying. Not that there’s much overlap. Bob and Naomi both came with a Whoopi Goldberg impersonation, but both came with somewhere between one and 37 other options, so it’s not much of an issue. I mean, there’s an issue in the sense that Robbie is a little snippy about BTDQ’s celeb menagerie, but she’s just feeling insecure because nobody likes her Diana Vreeland idea. And this is before anyone has seen her try to execute it.
Already teetering on thin ice with social justice types for her mountain of dreadlocks, Thorgy goes for broke and decides to channel black man Michael Jackson. (At least she didn’t pick Jesse?) The ground is pretty shaky under Chi Chi as well: when she tells Ru that her main preparation for embodying Eartha Kitt is “I have two cats,” I worry that the peroxide has seeped right into her brain. Kim Chi is torn between two strange options: Pearl, who would be difficult to sell given that we just spent an entire season talking about how she has no personality, and fictional kid sister to the North Korean dictator, “Kimmy Jong-Un.” (As a horrible pedant, I can’t restrain myself from pointing out that Kim is his last name, so this modification doesn’t work. I have no joke, I’m just deeply bothered by it and needed you all to know that.) Last and probably least, Derrick is hard at work on proving that she’s blacker than Bob with her retrograde Shocantelle Brown presentation. Baby, we all saw how hard you fell during the Empire skit. No one’s asking you to bring potato salad to the cookout, if you catch my drift.
By the time the markers and notecards have been passed out, my excitement has built to the point that I am physically vibrating. I want humor! I want insanity! I want lewdness! I want epic failure! Thank goodness the lovely ladies of Season 8 are here to provide all four. From a comedy standpoint, Chi Chi serves as a surprise standout. Laughing all the way to the bank, she follows through on her promise of literal cat inspiration by playing with fuzzy toys and licking her own nether regions. (The voice is a little “Maya Rudolph as Maya Angelou,” but I’ll allow it.) Thorgy’s King of Pop is creepy and borderline disrespectful, but her unrelenting emphasis on his sweetness keeps the audience rooting for her. While I worried that poor, simple Derrick wouldn’t know how to make Britney funny (because I have no previous evidence of her ability to make anything funny), she comes through with a saucy, lively Spears that doesn’t even need to match the woman’s real personality because the look is so on point. But there’s no getting around the runaway train named Bob the Drag Queen: after a solid turn as Uzo “Crazy Eyes” Aduba, she goes deep into fever dream territory with a batty, chatty Carol Channing that sets Ru (and me) into a fit of hysterics.
Of course, every string of lights has a few dim bulbs. Kim Chi’s one joke is pretty funny. The first time. But for an awkward lady, she’s at least playing to her strengths. Poor Robbie has saddled herself with a character that demands excess and then can’t hit the high target she established. (The only worthwhile contribution of the supermodel guest judges is their reveal that Ms. Turner is mispronouncing Diana Vreeland’s first name.) Naomi is in a similar boat, offering up a nearly mute Tiffany Pollard when the exact opposite is required of her. But no one struggles quite as much as Acid Betty, who fails to capture her celebrity so completely that I’m shocked she even remembered to write “Nancy Grace” on the nameplate. It’s OK: Charo will make it all better. Don’t ask why she’s here, just bask in her incomprehensible radiance.
There’s some “these people are real people” discussion in the workroom (short version: Acid feels excluded, Thorgy plays string instruments, Naomi was adopted into an enormous and accepting family, Bob is not into your Grindr racism), and then we get to the Madonna runway debacle. Fully half of the girls showed up with “Nothing Really Matters” kimonos, and even though each is individually pretty great, it’s kind of hard not to be underwhelmed by them collectively. Between her GLAAD-to-be-here Boy Scout swag and her split personality Snatch Game showing, Bob is the undeniable champion again this week. She wins $7,000 worth of handbags, but she done already done had purses. (I stole that joke from Reddit and I’m not sorry about it.)
But just as Desperately Seeking Susan eventually led to The Next Best Thing and Swept Away, so too must we follow this achievement with some duds. Robbie Turner’s undying commitment to bad excuses and worse eyebrows clearly bothers me more than it does the judges, because she is safe yet again. The battle this time is between Acid (who misjudged how to be funny and where a pregnant woman’s belly is) and Naomi (who needs to stop dyeing that one outfit a different color every week and pretending like we don’t notice). What follows is the sexiest assassination you’ll ever see: Miss Smalls is a woman of few words, fewer clothes, and many talents. Plus, that lip sync was a little flaccid, Betty. Team New York suffers its first loss, learning the hard lesson that not all blanks can be filled in.