Jasmine was nothing if not a strong presence, and her departure leaves a gap much bigger than her bony frame. You wouldn’t assume that her lasting legacy would be intellectual, but she did manage to deliver humor so subtle that poised, prissy Miss Fame couldn’t grasp it. (Or maybe she just missed the pun because she’s never eaten something as mundane as popcorn?) Anyway, the segment ends with Pearl actually in real life falling asleep and then actually in real life getting splashed with water to wake her up because those interview clips are never, ever staged, and this proves it.
The next day is a brand new day. You can tell, because several people inexplicably feel the need to mention that it’s a brand new day. They’re trying so hard to convince me of this newness that, despite all logic, I reverse-psychology the statement and remain suspicious that they simply changed clothes and filmed this on the same day. Ru’s video message and subsequent in-person message reveal that there will be no mini-challenge this week: we’re jumping straight to the main event. The girls will make parody music videos of RuPaul “hits” in three groups that they will choose for themselves.
As usual, the team-building process does as much to divide as it does to unite. Ginger, eager to surround herself with people she enjoys, latches immediately onto Kasha, Kandy, and Kennedy. (For a gal so worried about diversity last time, you’d think she’d want to steer clear of those initials.) Trixie is more strategic, grabbing Fame for her vocal talents, Katya for her sense of humor, and Pearl for… well, and Pearl. Left behind are Max, Jaidynn, and of course Violet, who’s pretty tired of not being everyone’s favorite but in no particular rush to make herself even vaguely more likeable.
Team Ginger immediately comes across as most likely to nail this assignment because the editors are clearly grasping at straws for any hint of drama. There’s some mild concern about Kasha’s character voice (as if she hasn’t sounded that way the whole damn time) and a weird bit where Ru pretends to take offense at a Drag U joke, but mostly they seem pretty solid. They have a unified costuming concept, a totally acceptable set of lyrics about RuPaul’s merchandising empire, and enough collective personality to distract us from their lesser skills.
The struggle is real with Team Trixie, however. Despite her admitted lack of performance experience, Fame seems pretty confident in her managerial skills. Girl has an opinion on everything and doesn’t respond particularly well to disagreement. She’d make a better dictator than a president, though if her group’s disorganized bickering is any indication, I don’t even think she’s qualified to babysit. (She can’t even pop the corns to feed the children!) From staggering toward the overtanning lyrical concept to muddling through a choreographing session to bickering their way through the video shoot, every baby step for this team represents a Herculean effort.
Rounding out the pack is Team Reject. Though they get off to a shaky start because Violet is genetically incapable of being agreeable, they end up rallying behind a smart, silly send-up of last season’s top queens. Jaidynn’s dead-on Bianca recreation is a standout, while Max (as we all did last year) struggles to find something funny about Courtney Act.
Oh, also, there were recording sessions with Lucian Piane that I didn’t bother mentioning because there weren’t enough shots of him taking off his shirt and telling me he loves me wait what were we talking about?
During the next day’s runway prep, Kennedy talks about her sister Sahara. It’s weird to hear a contestant offer up a sob story during a week when she’s definitely not in the bottom two. Usually they save the discussion of a difficult past for one of the lip syncers. (Right, Tempest?)
Since Ru got her fair share of mockery from the main challenge, Michelle gets ribbed on the runway with an all-green assault. No one makes fun of Carson Kressley or Ross Matthews because neither of them is there regularly, which is strange because I can’t imagine that either of them has extensive scheduling conflicts. There aren’t many standouts in terms of fashions, though I appreciated Mrs. Kasha Davis’ monetary investment and Max’s minimalism. The panel fires few shots during the critiquing session, because while no one was that great, no one was that awful, either. After last week’s all-out scream-fest, I can’t help but be let down. Not as let down as Kennedy, of course, whose win earns her a supply of Jessica Alba’s household products. Oof.
The heat gets turned up once the bottom two are announced, however. Doll realness Trixie is pitted against actual RealDoll™ Pearl, and it seems a little early for either of them to go home. But if the criteria for choosing them is haphazard, it at least injects the episode with a shot of adrenaline. I have to say, Ru and I must have been watching different lip syncs, because the version that played on my TV should not have ended with Ms. Mattel sashaying. I’m sad to see her go; while I didn’t think she’d win, I could at least count on her to do something interesting every week, which is more than I can say for some of the remaining queens.
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.