The girls are quite shocked after the first elimination, but there are still so many of them that I can barely clock the loss. But the writing is on the mirror and people are beginning to feel their fifteen minutes of fame counting down. That is, unless they’re blinded by an oversized dose of self-confidence. Kandy, for instance, was so sure of her ability to win the lip sync that she completely blocked out the critiques about her bizarre, slapdash paint job. On the other hand, Violet dwells exclusively on the negative, choosing to whine about what Michelle didn’t like under the mistaken assumption that the other girls might have pity to spare for the person who won the fucking challenge.
There’s a lot of middle school mentality happening this week, perhaps because so many of these ladies were so recently in middle school. The convoluted Sasha/Pearl feud, for example, is too basic to be allowed. “Like I’m sorry that I said you were the weakest it totally didn’t mean anything but it was actually strategy because I’m intimidated by you but it was nothing so let’s be friends even though we don’t like each other because I need to be validated by you.” “Whatever it couldn’t mean less to me except that I’m inwardly seething about it but it’s fine let’s not discuss it at all just whatever.” JUST TALK LIKE GROWN UPS. The subtext couldn’t be clearer if it was tattooed on their foreheads.
Then again, even friendliness can cause tension in the workroom: the next morning, when Fame and Trixie get snuggly, Ginger is not having it. To save her (and any Republicans accidentally tuning in) from the harrowing image of two good-looking men holding each other, Ru interrupts with a video message and then some in-person instructions on this week’s mini-challenge. It might be the most entertaining assignment the show has ever thought up: the ladies have fifteen minutes to get into a look, followed by an insane photo shoot while being blasted in the face with leaf blowers.
It’s tough to pick a favorite, though my top three of Katya, Jasmine, and Fame are overlooked in favor or Ru’s choices: Ginger and Trixie. They’ll be captains this week for a two-part lip sync runway challenge, though as usual the teams end up meaning nothing by the time judging comes around. Still, it’s nice to create drama by forcing two leaders to unofficially rank the remaining contestants. Of all people, Sasha gets picked first. She must give amazing head back at the hotel or something. While I wasn’t surprised to see Kandy picked last after nearly being sent home, I wasn’t expecting to see Violet similarly overlooked.
As if to prove exactly why no one would want her around, Miss Chachki spends the rest of the day being a huge pain in the ass to everyone she interacts with. Specifically, she’s mouthy to team leader Trixie and then even mouthier to Pearl during rehearsal for not cinching her waist tight enough. Luckily, neither of her targets is exactly weak-willed, and they put a stop to her kindergarten cattiness right quick. Speaking of kindergarten, Sasha is now pouting because her part in the musical is too small and she wanted Kasha’s lines. Boo hoo. Is it nap time? Should the Pit Crew be replaced with a Babysitters Club? Does the production team only serve bitchberries for breakfast?
Dance rehearsal goes exactly how you’d expect a reality show dance rehearsal to go. There are a lot of dramatic sound effects and concerned reaction shots when people don’t get every step exactly right on the first try. Because usually the choreographer shows everyone the steps and then they just repeat exactly what he did once, and then they wake up in the morning knowing all their lines and lyrics and that’s why it only takes a day to mount a Broadway-quality show! If you make even one mistake at any point while practicing, it means the entire thing is doomed to failure and you should just go home and hang yourself. Facts, people.
Before the performance, we get a huge helping of Fame-centric drama. It starts with Ginger, who points out that this season’s resident supermodel isn’t much of a stage performer. Honestly, I don’t think the glamour toad was going for shade. She also struggled with the choreography, and is probably hoping for someone else to admit that it was hard. Instead, it turns into a pile-on, with the established lip syncers questioning whether a fabulous face should even be here if she doesn’t have the stage presence to back it up. Then Fame reveals that her mother was a struggling addict and the grandfather who raised her was murdered when she was 15, and suddenly picking on her about her two left feet seems like less of a fun thing.
(Also, I love that Violet thinks that “it must be hard to go through a lot.” Yes, honey. Difficulty is difficult. Maybe in addition to a babysitter, we should get her a tutor.)
The airline-themed production number is a fantastic choice from a judging standpoint. In previous seasons, we’ve gone months without seeing some of the queens lip sync. This time, everyone has to show us what they can do right off the bat. Unfortunately, the shady edit that Katya got earlier ends up being justified, because she watermelons her way through the opening monologue. It’s a straight-up mess. She at least recovers later, and everyone else mostly nails it; Trixie in particular steals the spotlight with her drunken refreshment cart antics.
Team Minj slays, with the notable exception of Sasha. Her movement is awkward, her wig is a mess, and the fact that she’s surrounded by such outsized talent makes it crystal clear that Ms. Belle is going belly up. It’s a good thing she didn’t get the part she wanted, because Kasha’s scat don’t stink. I’m sorry I said I wanted Mrs. Davis to go home last week. I’ve gotten reader feedback that it was a mean thing to say (though really, those of you expecting me to be nice all the time are deeply misunderstanding how this whole recap thing works), but I can admit when I’m wrong: she puts on a damn good show and she should stick around. #stillkindofTeamTempest
At judging, the panel is oddly specific about what a drag queen would wear on a plane. But even without meeting these elusive criteria, GINGER WINJ! Good for her. Sasha, on the other hand, looks like she’s in drag because she lost a frat house dare, and is rightfully thrown into the bottom two. Even though her outfit is on point, Katya must also run the gauntlet because Ru has no patience for shalabalaba tuna. Even before the music starts, the winner is obvious. Sasha could murder Katya outright and I’d still rather have the dismembered corpse stick around. Lady Belle claims that she can barely move in her dress, which is isn’t particularly tight or restrictive; she must be allergic to synthetic fabrics. Russia’s pride and joy slow splits her way to an easy victory. The crowd goes wild. And by the crowd, I mean me screaming like a school bus fire.
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.