DRAG STRIP

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Recap Realness: The Blah-scars

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Trixie’s elimination was as shocking to the other contestants as it was to us, apparently. They enter the workroom looking as though they’ve just witnessed a beheading. Maybe Ru got power-hungry and upped the stakes on the whole “lip sync for your life” thing? Has anyone seen Trixie lately? Speaking of the recently deceased, Pearl is a bitter betty about her critique. Back home, everybody loves her! That line ranks right up there with “I’m not here to make friends” in terms of its brazen obviousness. I’d love for one of the contestants so tell the off-screen interviewer, “back home, I’m known as one of the worst drag queens in the city, and yet somehow I still got picked to be on this show!” Kasha, who has lived a thousand lifetimes and accumulated the wisdom of the rocks themselves, thinks that Night of the Living-for-Herself Dead over there should pull up her Pull-Ups and take it like a big girl, and I couldn’t agree more.

But tomorrow is a new day (as the interview segments continually remind us). Ginger whimsically wheelbarrows Katya into the workroom, which is either an active choice to display their intention that joy will outweigh fear, or a sign that they’re not getting enough sleep. Ru throws down a video message that places even further weight on those damn collectible statuettes. There must be a warehouse full of them somewhere with a supplier breathing down her neck. Of course, she’s not just here to hock merch; her main job is to make the contestants jump through hoops like bedazzled monkeys for our collective amusement. Today, that means wrapping themselves in paper to show us what it looks like when celebrities have nightmares about turning into grotesque pinatas.

rpdr s7e05 03The creations are overall pretty enjoyable. Ginger sells her addled Lil Kim harder than Ru sells all the random crap she’s been selling us (remember that fragrance last year?), and Violet gets points for using extra material for make-up and boob contour. But one team takes an extra lap on the step-and-repeat: Katya’s ululating Björk gets color commentary from Kasha’s version of Joan Rivers. If the Queen of the Red Carpet is in Hell right now, I guarantee that part of her punishment is watching drag queens do lackluster impersonations of her. Still, it’s enough to pull down a win for the demented duo.

Their prize is to serve as hosts for the Despy Awards, this week’s main challenge. The remaining teams are presenters. Everyone needs to write banter and prepare a speech in case they win something. But anyone who has watched this season (hell, anyone who accidentally left an episode of this season on in the living room while making a snack in the kitchen) could tell you that these queens take to comedy like a fish to calculus.

Fame and Violet immediately struggle (though Fame’s description of her teammate as “dark-sided” is the funniest thing she’s said in her whole life up to this point), but it’s Max and Pearl who teeter closest to the brink. During their critique with our glorious hostess, Pearl takes umbrage at the suggestion that she comes across as lifeless. At least, I think that’s umbrage; her face and voice remain expressionless throughout, but she gets up and leaves afterward, so either she was mad or she had to shit. And Kasha and Katya are done writing by the time she returns, so either she was really mad or she had to take a massive shit.

rpdr s7e05 04Since these girls are collectively as funny as Carrot Top’s opening act, Kathy Griffin has been enlisted to write the jokes for them. I mean: to critique their performances. She tells everyone “no” as vociferously as she can, and then goes backstage to write new jokes for them. I mean: and then leaves. She just goes home and that’s it, and everyone gets magically better at comedy writing by the time the mainstage presentation comes around.

The following day, we get our usual montage of runway prep and backstory. Pearl starts to tell us a sad tale about how she was an angry teen with abandonment issues, but never reaches the end, presumably because she has fallen asleep again. The direct counterpoint to this downer is Fame. Whatever Sleeping Beauty was about to say, it couldn’t possibly compare to this lady’s history of drug-addicted mother figures and murdered grandparents. And she’s still singing to the hens! If her imitation of a clucking chicken doesn’t win you over, then you have a cheap RuPaul figurine where your heart should be.

Also, Fame and Violet seem to be forming a friendship, and it’s nice that their programming allows for that.

The awards get underway and progress pretty much as expected. Ginger and Katya sparkle on the stage, and everyone else sure does try. Fame is named Sexy, Sexy Drag Queen, Jaidynn is Busted, and Violet is Shadiest. The judges are particularly impressed with Max and Pearl, whose joint win has everything to do with their edited-out-so-we-can’t-see-how-bad-it-was opening banter and dead-on impersonation of Ms. Minj, and nothing to do with this week’s drama. Nothing at all.

rpdr s7e05 06But for every winner, there are several empty-handed nominees. In this case, the bottom two are Kasha (who the judges think should have excelled in a comedy challenge) and Kandy (who I keep forgetting is still here). That Ho over there starts small, and though she eventually builds in intensity, I don’t think she ever reaches the delicious heights that Mrs. Davis does. But I’m not the one making the decisions here, and Ru continues carrying out her vendetta against camp queens by eliminating Our Lady of Boxed Wine. Because let’s face it: this season really needs to hold onto the precious resource of vaguely pretty, personality-free queens. At this rate, America’s Next Drag Superstar is going to be one of the work room dress forms.

 

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.