DRAG STRIP

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: The Bitch Is Back

rpdr s7e08 01Season 7 has been plagued (perhaps rightly) with criticism since before it started. From the delayed premiere to the boring contestants to the illogical eliminations, the show’s evident struggles have caused some to dub this the Worst Season Ever. Well, Mama Ru isn’t about to let that happen, and tonight’s hoe-down is a barn burner, packing in more shock, scandal, and downright silliness than we’ve seen in all seven previous episodes combined.

The surprises start early with Kennedy openly lamenting the loss of “my Max.” Seriously? Her Max? Where was that storyline earlier? Whichever editor left a Max/Kennedy friendship arc on the cutting room floor needs to have their toenails pulled out, because that’s a crime against gay humanity. But Max’s departure isn’t the big story: everyone’s main concern is which Ghost of Bitchmas Past will sashay back up the runway to rejoin their ranks.

Having worked so hard to stay in the game, the ladies return to the workroom the next day somewhat resistant to the idea of letting someone back into the club. Ru, agitator that she is, teases her brood by bringing back one of her other girls first: the thunderous, wonderous Latrice Royale. The chunky yet funky warden will preside over a prison-themed mini challenge, helping Ru provide color commentary on an orange jumpsuit fashion show. To me, there’s no clear winner, but Ru picks Kennedy for, as usual, completely opaque reasons.

rpdr s7e08 02And then the bomb drops. The workroom door opens and in walks… Trixie! I scream. But then… Tempest follows her! I wet myself. Suddenly: Kandy! I hide behind the couch. One by one, all of the eliminated contestants emerge. By the time Max traipses in under her tiny parasol, I am on a conference call with my therapist, my AA sponsor, my exterminator, and Dell tech support, because I can tell that I’m going to need help getting through the next 45 minutes.

In a twist no one saw coming, Ru announces that today will be this season’s makeover challenge: each queen still in the game will be paired with one of her sashayed sisters to portray conjoined twins on the runway. The ex-contestant on the winning team will be returned to the competition. My heart is racing! I add my vet to the conference call.

As the randomly-chosen winner of the jailhouse jigglefest, Kennedy will do the conjoining. She scoops up Jasmine Masters for herself, since the two got along so well. The rest of her choices seem calculated, and the other girls notice immediately. Pearl connects with Trixie, who she sent home. Similarly, Katya works with Kasha, who went home after their last pairing. Violet is joined by Max, with whom she has clashed several times (not that she hasn’t rubbed pretty much everyone the wrong way at some point). Tiny, round Jaidynn gets alabaster monolith Tempest as her partner. The other two matches aren’t as overtly shady, but really putting anyone on a team with Sasha or Kandy is a shady move.

rpdr s7e08 04Having received their respective death sentences, the gals convene with each other about what sort of blood kinship and flesh bridge they’d like to share. (Spoiler alert: no one goes Human Centipede with it and I’m mildly disappointed.) Team BelleMinj encounters the most obvious struggle: though they eventually settle on a linked-at-the-nipple concept, Ginger feels like Sasha isn’t carrying her share of the weight. If anyone else has partner drama, the producers decide not to show it.

During runway prep the next day, the eliminated contestants all take a moment to air the dirty laundry they didn’t have a chance to put out there before they got the ax. Tempest bonds with Jaidynn over their shared struggle with conservative parents: Miss Dujour’s Mormon mom put her through legit reparative therapy, hoping that she could pray the gay away. Kandy, who did not stumble across a personality during her absence, was raised by her mom and stepdad and I guess had a nice childhood. Who knows? If she had been raiding Egyptian tombs since birth, she’d still find a way to make it sound dull. At least her story provides a jumping-off point for Trixie to share about her abusive background, including the tragically triumphant reveal that her drag name is actually her way of reclaiming a slur hurled at her by her stepfather.

rpdr s7e08 06The runway features a lot of great nightmare fodder, starting with Ru’s choice to make her conjoined twin out of a big, thirsty bargain wig. Team Fandy feels the surgical fantasy, though the judges do not. There’s a similarly tepid reception for Jasmennedy: their double-vision purple presentation feels like something we’ve all seen before. The panel calls Viomax out for not making their corseted conjoinment funny enough, though I don’t remember humor being explicitly set as an expectation. Michelle backhandedly compliments Max for bringing absolutely no Max to the stage.

It looks for a second like Kashtya’s transcendently trashy transient will take home the win, but their signature brand of ugly can’t outdo Pearxie’s pageantry. Ms. Mattel feels the burn to prove her comedy chops and sells her demented Toddlers and Tiaras reject so hard that the judges have no choice but to buy it. Her team wins, earning her another shot at the crown. (Pearl wins a weekend in New York, where she spends every weekend because it is where she lives.)

Tempest DuJaidynn have a fantastic backstory about a sexually liberated disco mom to explain their dissimilar appearance and disjointed wardrobe, but no amount of explaining can mask their mediocre performance. They land in the bottom with GingerBelle, who were hoping to look a little trashy and accidentally succeed extra hard.

rpdr s7e08 07As we near the final showdown, I begin to wonder: can Ru possibly expect all four queens to perform this song together? She sure can, and it’s glorious. Tempest and Jaidynn are at a disadvantage from the outset, since they essentially look like a Pokemon whose special power is losing lip syncs. They still give it their mismatched all. But even without Ms. Fierce’s track record of previous close calls, this is a clear victory for Team Minj. Taking the feedback about their shitty costume to heart, they snip it to pieces right there on the runway and prance their way to bare-titted victory.

I’m sad to see Jaidynn go, but at least she’s sharing the bus home with six friends. If it’s crowded, she can sit on Tempest’s lap.

 

Chris J. Kelly performs under the drag name Ariel Italic; in addition to this recap, he hosts weeklyDrag Race viewings at the 9th Avenue Saloon in New York City.