Fresh from Sasha’s elimination, the gals saunter in to review her lipstick prestidigitations. She’s apparently Team Ginger, for those keeping score. It seems as though Ms. Belle was neither there to win nor to make friends, because if she hadn’t signed out on the mirror, it’s unclear that the remaining contestants would have noticed she was gone. Probably they’re at least conscious of the extra room now that her relaxed Lady Bunny wig has shipped out. Jasmine and Kennedy actually celebrate the loss; they’re tired of the young, white, generic queens taking up space. (But girl, don’t try to tell me that you can’t tell Trixie and Fame apart; those two animals do not belong in the same zoo.)
But Miss Masters isn’t always nasty. She wakes up all chipper comments and corny jokes (COME ON, META HUMOR) and wins back the hearts of the viewing audience instantly, I’m sure. Before anyone can get too deep into the medical specifics, Ru breaks up the discussion of Jaidynn’s nasty-ass feet with some fun announcements. One: the ladies will be “acting” in “Shakespearian” “plays” this week, and two: they’ll be competing in an elderly dance-off mini-challenge.
I could watch an entire hour devoted just to the nursing home portion of the show. Everyone busts out some really delicious looks. Actually, can we talk about this? Does anyone else have trouble buying the fifteen-minute prep window we’re being sold? It takes me fifteen minutes to find my lipstick, there’s simply no way these ladies have turned out presentations this right in a schedule so wrong. Shit, Jasmine had time to go out and buy bread.
In the end, Kennedy’s architectural achievement in ass padding and Max’s eerily accurate vision of her future self earn them wins, and they are allowed to choose teams. They both say no to segregation, which is a relief because drag queens shouldn’t have to march for their rights. (In those heels?!) They also both say no to Violet, but unfortunately someone has to have her on their team. That’s the thing about a tchotchke (which, PS, is how you spell that, hon): it’s fun to look at, but if your grandma picks one up off her dresser and is like, “do you want to take this home with you, bubuleh?” you’re all, “uh… gee, I don’t know where I’d put that… I mean, I don’t have a bag with me…”
Kennedy, it turns out, is ill-equipped to herd the cats she has selected. Her initial role assignment seems on point, but Jasmine isn’t interested in playing the “ghetto” girl. And I’m not spilling pink lemonade on that choice; if she’s not about representing racial stereotypes, then I’m all about her not doing that. (Again: drag queens take stands, but we’re not marching.) But then Jasmine has Violet’s role and Violet has Jasmine’s role, and then they suck and get switched back, and it’s sort of portrayed like that’s the only option, but aren’t there other people on this team? There’s a cheer coach and a witch… shuffle those cards a little, Miss Davenport, I’m sure you can come up with a solution that doesn’t lead your group down the path toward disaster. (Spoiler alert: my optimism about avoiding disaster is sorely misplaced.)
Max’s team has an easier time in pretty much all respects. Everyone over there is perfectly content being pigeon-holed based on a single character trait, and the overall level of acting ability is a notch higher, though I suspect that judicious editing has helped Fame immensely. The main drama comes from Jaidynn’s unexplained breakdown. She’s feeling a lot of pressure because of her inexperience or her desire to win or maybe just her tight corset, but something’s squeezing out those tears. It’s all good, though: Mother Max is as supportive as a sports bra and her gaggle of gals ends up gliding to an easy victory.
Act Two is considerably rougher. Like, beyond stubble. We’re talking a week of growth at least. Pearl manages to mimic the actors of Shakespeare’s time most closely in that she is dead. Other than Katya, no one knows their lines or their blocking or maybe even their names. It is a fiasco factory. Eventually, Ru has to comment on what an epic shit show she’s witnessing, but by the time she’s weighed in, it’s like asking the Titanic not to sink.
The bearded runway is a chance for the creative kittens to shine. Mama Ru doesn’t have facial hair, perhaps because she rushed straight to the runway from her full-costume screen test for Storm in the next X-Men movie. (That is why she’s wearing that, right? I need this in my life.) There are a great many highlights, from Pearl’s satanic spikes to Trixie’s religious iconography to Katya’s penny dreadful. But the top spot goes to Max, who directed her troupe of starlets to glory and brought us a Mathu-Anderson-meets-Monty-Python masterpiece on the main stage.
But leadership isn’t all glory and free latex couture. Kennedy, dragged down by the weight of her sullen, memory-impaired castmates, sinks to the bottom two. Even the lightness of her patchy, pubescent beard can’t save her. She’ll be duking it out against Jasmine, who’s got a face full of excuses but nary a hair on her chinny chin chin. (The suggestion that she would need to be hospitalized from exposure to spirit gum sends Michelle’s face into the kind of stony glare that could have Violet defensively bitching in the workroom for weeks.)
I expected a no-holds-barred, Coco-versus-Alyssa “release the kraken” moment from this lip sync, but it was actually pretty tame. Jasmine milks her one quick dip for much longer than she should, especially considering how much of the performance has been cut out. Like, she was probably just bobbing up and down like that the whole god damned time. Though Kennedy is known for her spectacular dancing, she’s cinched into a restrictive dress, so her repertoire of moves is limited to disco cheerleader arms. It’s enough to save her, however, and Miss Masters sashays.
She’s happy that, of all people, it was her sister who slayed her. It’s a fittingly Shakespearian end to this episode. Exeunt.
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.