What’s that sound in the workroom? It’s the soothing silence that follows after eliminating Bitter Betty. While everyone was impressed by her ability to weave beautiful outfits out of complaints alone, the positive impact of her absence on their mood is palpable. Besides, the girls have their own game to focus on. Naomi and Thorgy are both frustrated because they don’t see their hard work being rewarded, and Bob knows that her string of wins leaves her with a target painted on her back. Her purse is full of tears because she cries herself to sleep at night atop the lavish pile of jewels, gowns, and other assorted trinkets she has earned. Though Robbie predicts that Bob will topple like a Jenga tower, she forgets a key detail: the fallen tower stays in the game and gets rebuilt. It’s the fat-fingered clod who toppled it that loses.
The next day, Derrick is bestowed the honor of entering purse first, alerting me to the fact that I actually like her less than Bob’s clutch. Seriously, if the bottom two were Not-Britney and the handbag, I’d be #TeamPocketbook all the way. And an inanimate object would really struggle in this competition; how’s Purse Purse gonna participate in the reading mini-challenge when she doesn’t even have eyes? Where do the silly glasses go? We’re only shown a couple quips from each queen for this segment, which makes the time taken to introduce Marc Snetiker feel like an even bigger waste, but it was kind of a foregone conclusion that Bob would take this one. Sure, Kim Chi’s mild-mannered façade covers some shady depths, but the Notorious B.O.B. probably delivered a 30-minute set that had to be edited down. (Also, if we’re putting recappers on TV now, can someone put me in touch with Ru’s people?)
Since this is a shorter season than the past two, we’re getting all our favorite show traditions packed together right quick. Can you believe that we’re already at the makeover challenge? In earlier years, Bob’s victory would likely have earned her the right to match contestants with the people they’d be refurbishing, but there were probably backstage concerns about the optics of ranking seven women from best to worst. “You, small person of color, could be difficult to make pretty, and I will laugh about that as I assign you to someone I hate!” It’s a minefield best avoided, so the producers give the illusion of free will by telling the cast of Little Women L.A. who they’ll be paired with and then having them pretend like they made that choice themselves.
Side note: I’ve never watched Little Women L.A., but I’m sure that it is a smart, sophisticated program, and I apologize for missing the subtle intertextual clues that have no doubt been peppered throughout this week’s episode. Please leave a close reading of your favorite narrative parallel in a comment below.
This time around, the makeover is based on The Wizard of Oz, partially because everyone loves it, but mainly because it’s in the public domain so World of Wonder doesn’t have to pay anyone for it as long as the shoes aren’t red and the witch isn’t green. After being called out for her monotonous runway presentations, Naomi is thrilled that she can apply her design talents to transform herself from figurative to literal Fashion Scarecrow. The only thing scaring Bob is the fact that the rest of the queens don’t want her to succeed. She bonds with her partner Elena over how people like them less because they’re so much better at everything. Their Glinda interpretation is based off of Wicked I guess? Fucking drag queens cannot let that musical go.
Derrick and Terra are on the same wavelength because they’ve met previously and both impersonate Britney Spears. Which is great, because “more of the same” is always what the judges are looking for on the runway. Past harsh panel critiques initially have Chi Chi worried about creating a new look, but after a pep talk from Tonya, she realizes that she can make another ugly outfit or two. In fact, the encouragement gives her such a boost that she has time left over to sit and stare at her confusingly heinous, strangely Dorothy-free creations and decide, moment after moment, that no, she will not improve them even though the opportunity to do so exists.
Since Robbie and her gal Christy both love a good vintage piece, they really wish that they could just go out and commission a recreation of someone else’s garment. Left to think independently, they’re like, “can we just cover ourselves in glue, roll in the materials we were given, and see what happens?” This decision is also partially motivated by Ms. Turner’s conviction that her Cowardly Lion fabric cannot be sewn, because it is a known fact that you can’t stitch cloth to cloth. (A friend on Facebook assures me that she threaded the sewing machine wrong, but why make a dress when you can make an excuse?)
At the last minute, Ru announces that the challenge will also include an interpretive dance. This addition particularly rattles Kim, who struggles with coordinated movement because she operates her human-like android avatar from a remote location via satellite. She has no need to worry, however: like most of the show’s surprise assignments, this one has everything to do with manufacturing drama and nothing to do with deciding who wins or loses.
Besides, there’s no need to fake intensity when shit gets real all on its own. On the day of the runway, Bob’s outfit falls apart, forcing her to remake the garment while everyone else is getting dressed. Though it’s kind of her to prioritize her partner’s appearance over her own, she’s not in a position to be rushing her make-up. Like, Miss Fame probably knows how to cut a corner or two and still look alright. You, Ms. The Drag Queen, need to take your sweet time.
Not that I want her to go home for looking like a former WNBA player celebrating her 40th birthday with floor seats to a Lady Gaga concert. I’m as relieved as she is when it’s announced that she’s safe. Kim and Thorgy both deliver on the main stage, but they can’t hold a candle to Naomi, who’s been consumed by the fire that Michelle lit under her last week. I don’t remember what her actual prize is, but the true reward for this win comes when Marc Jacobs calls her outfit “perfection.” Like, have that engraved on a tombstone now, girl.
On the side of the Yellow Brick Road with significantly less ease, Chi Chi is ultimately pardoned for her crimes against fashion. Derrick and Robbie are read, essentially, for continuing to be Derrick and Robbie. I get that it’s too late for them to have new clothes or new wigs, but a short supply of new ideas remains unacceptable. Naomi’s successes (making something different since all her clothes look the same; hiding her harsh hairline with bangs) are their failures, and if you stink, you sync.
Luckily for Derrick, the décor for the interpretive dance wasn’t the only poppy selection this week. The upbeat, produced-to-death top 40 track is ideally suited to her “strengths.” Robbie, by comparison, looks utterly lost. It’s not immediately evident to me how she came to think that those body movements are called “dancing,” but somewhere in her past our educational system clearly failed her. And then she takes her wig off? What we’re left with is “spastic, hairy-shouldered man in an ugly outfit who only sort-of knows the lyrics to the song,” aka your uncle at weddings. She’s sent to pack her charmingly retro luggage so she can board a propeller plane back to Seattle. But for the record: while I agree that Not-Britney should have won this sync, I’m still #TeamPocketbook.
Chris J. 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.