“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: Mistakes, Missteps, and Miss Spelling

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Of all the shocks and upsets offered in all of Drag Race herstory, none is as unbelievable as the first moments of this episode: as they enter the workroom, Bebe greets Shannel with a cordial, “Good morning. How are you?” Holy Grover’s Corners, Batgirl! Am I… is that… were those… manners?! Nowadays, the editors wouldn’t even allow that sort of social grace into a DVD extra.

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Speaking of things that should exist but don’t, the girls surmise from the vague SheMail hints that they’ll be doing impersonations this week, not realizing that the Snatch Game won’t be invented for another season. It’s probably just as well, though: Shannel seems like the only contestant who’s even halfway prepared to serve celebrity smackdown, and no one wants to watch Rebecca and Jade fill in the blanks with more blankness.

Speaking of filling in the blanks, Ru quizzes her girls with some fairly simple trivia questions whose answers point to the week’s theme. Look under your chairs, it’s OPRAH! In a sort of diva triathlon, the ladies will read news from a teleprompter, give a sales pitch for a product, and interview celebrity guests. Unfortunately, these perfectly reasonable hurdles prove all but insurmountable for some.

s1e3 02Speaking of being reasonable, I’ve got news for you, Jade: blackface is never the answer. I feel bad that she got shade from the other contestants for misunderstanding the challenge, but seriously: blackface is never the answer. Once she learns that this week’s presentation is all about your personal Winfrey-like qualities, she makes the baffling choice that her inner Oprah likes to show off her abs.

Speaking of baffling (now I’m just seeing how long I can keep this up), Rebecca uses much of the three hours allotted for preparation to sew a brand new dress. I’d have been more impressed if the final look weren’t so dull. When she’s all done up, her hair, clothes, and skin match each other unnervingly. If the focus got any softer, she’d disappear completely.

Speaking of focus (this is getting to be a stretch, huh?), reading the teleprompter uniformly stymies the media mogul wannabes. Everyone trips when speaking about Iranian President Mahmoud Shalabalabatuna, though Akashia (speaking of tr… oh, we’re not there yet) doesn’t even get that far before her pronunciation train jumps the track.

s1e3 04Speaking of tracks, like when you get a weave, which is hair, so… OK, we’re not doing that anymore. But yeah, hairdryers. The task is: sell hairdryers. Ten bucks says next week’s winner gets hairdryers as their prize. Though it turns out these machines are sci-fi future contraptions to some of the contestants, who scramble to list even one of the device’s best features. Rebecca gets as far as hot blow and cold blow; Ongina uses hers to dry her armpits, ears, and head, forgetting its primary application among the non-bald population. (Big hint, honey: it’s in the name itself.) From Jade and Bebe’s attempts to schill Andrew Christian underwear, I’m going to assume that they usually go commando.

The interview is where things get really interesting. Tori Spelling and her husband Dean McNobodycares submit to seven sit-down chats ranging in quality from charming (Ongina and Bebe) to cringe-worthy (Jade and Shannel). But Akashia lives up to her demonic namesake and sets the standard for guest abuse with her decision to remain seated when they enter and then leave afterward without saying goodbye. You wanna take this one, Jonte? Even the HIV joke during Nina’s turn seemed forgivable by comparison.

After ending the day with a walk-off featuring Dean and his inexplicably black-lacquered toenails, the girls return for their own runway presentations. Since this is the first time they’ve been allowed to wear their own drag, the heat gets turned way up. That temperature is matched, if not exceeded, by guest judge Debra Wilson’s blazing running commentary. Before this, the panel had offered fairly bland observations, and the presence of a legitimate comedian probably directly contributed to the installation of Ru’s one-liner-delivering earpiece.

s1e3 06Much is made of Jade’s stocking stuffer, but I have to say that her tuck looked fine from where I was sitting. Maybe it wasn’t perfectly flat, but from the vociferous critique, you’d think she took to the stage pushing her pendulous testicles in front of her in a wheelbarrow. She is nonetheless safe, along with feathery Ongina and retro-jumpsuited Nina. The win goes to Bebe Zahara Benet, who serves quality and quantity with a wig so massive that half of it gets removed during the commercial break, likely at the request of the on-set medic. Her underwhelming prize is a stereo system. Is that a regift, Ru?

s1e3 08Though she makes like Madonna and serves “Gorgon Wild” (is that not what that song says?), Shannel still lands in the bottom two for talking more than she listens. It’s telling that her response to this feedback is to explain. Like, for a while. But Akashia’s figurative descent became literal when she served QWOP realness in her brown gown takedown, and the ass-print she left on the runway sealed her fate. Though she’s a better lip-syncer than she is a walker (or interviewer), she can’t compete with her opponent’s wardrobe malfunction, which somehow gets interpreted as vulnerability, which is the meaningless buzzword nonsense that Ru arbitrarily wanted to see this week. Whatever, like we even need an excuse to make Akashia sashay away.

And just like that, we’re at the top six! I’ve had bouts of the hiccups that lasted longer than this season.

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