RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 Episode 4: “Shade: The Rusical”

There wasn’t a dry snatch in the house.

As much as it pains me to ever admit that this show has goofed, I would just like to request that we all agree to pretend that this week’s mini-challenge never happened. It wasn’t just the presence of some smug nobody from Us Weekly who really did not need to be there (but let’s be real here, any time that a challenge on a reality show features someone from a tabloid coming in to tell the contestants anything, the whole thing is automatically a bust), the idea of a game called “Female or She-Male” made me feel uncomfortable in a way I don’t expect to feel when I’m watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Even though the whole thing was obviously intended to be tongue-in-cheek, even though the only people featured were all cisgendered, even though the whole thing was basically a lengthy excuse to make fun of Michelle Visage, even though this show has a history of reclaiming negative words within the queer community, it still felt strangely mean-spirited for a show that is usually so positive and nurturing, and it just felt far too close to being one big awkward transphobic incident for my personal taste, so I hope that’s the first and last time we see it.

*closes down Tumblr, reopens WordPress*

So this week it was the singing challenge week, which is always good because it means LUCIAN. HIIIII LUCIAN! CALL ME! Ahem. So the winners of the mini-challenge-that-dare-not-speak-its-name were Adore (again) and Ben, so they got to be Team Captains/casting directors for this week’s production of Shade: The Rusical. Team Adore consisted of April, Joslyn, Laganja and Milk, while Team Ben was Bianca, Courtney, Darienne, Gia and Trinity. The more observant amongst you will notice that Adore and Courtney are on different teams, making this officially a BATTLE OF THE IDOLS! (I’m sure Ben got first pick for that very reason.) It’s interesting, because this was actually a singing challenge where your ability to hold a note was less important than your ability to create a character and hold an audience’s attention, but it suited the narrative to make the whole thing about Adore vs Courtney – that is, once they’d finished swapping Idol stories, including Adore’s rather sad tale of being told by his mother back when he was plain old Danny Noriega to butch it up a bit for the cameras because America wouldn’t like him too queeny. (Especially when arguably the people who loved him on Idol loved him precisely for that reason.)

There were roles to be handed out, and once again Trinity was reluctant to spread her wings as a performer and asked to play one of the pageant queens. Bianca was cast as the other one, because she had no such problem with playing against type. Darienne and Gia were cast as the comedy queens, while Courtney was the obvious choice for Penny, the ingenue. That just left Team Captain Ben to play the role of Shady Lady, and the cast list for Act One was complete. In Act Two, Adore cast herself in the lead role of Bad Penny (*face of surprise*), while April begged not to be asked to play butch again but for some reason was more than happy to take on the role of Big Bertha the showgirl, which seemed to be a part with just as many potential pitfalls. The role of butch showgirl therefore went to Joslyn (lol), while Laganja was asked to play Other Showgirl With No Discernible Personality (the role she was born to play!) and Milk was the narrator.

Then they all went in to rehearse with Hot Lucian, who’d brought his sister along to do the choreography. Well, I guess it’s nice to get an advance look at one of my future in-laws. One of my favourite things about Lucian (apart from TEH HOTT, obviously) is that while he is clearly very proud to work with RuPaul and be a part of the show, he always looks kind of hilariously bored when he has to rehearse with the contestants, and kind of offended when some of them turn out not to be classically-trained in music. The main interesting moments of this segment were Courtney trying a little too hard and ending up struggling with her high notes, Gia not understanding a really obvious fart joke and needing Lucian to explain it to her in minute detail (one of the few times in rehearsals when Lucian seemed genuinely tickled), Trinity seemingly not understanding the very concept of choreography, and Adore’s eyes being out on stalks the whole time she was around Lucian. I feel you there, girl. (After the episode, Adore flirted shamelessly with Lucian on Twitter, and Lucian seemed to enjoy it. Is it wrong to ship it? Adocian? Luciore? Hmm, needs work.)

When the time came to hit the stage, it was so obvious that Courtney would be winning this challenge that we almost didn’t need to bother with the formality of actually performing it. Not only was she a very good vocalist, but she totally nailed the mannerisms for her part and was just generally the most interesting thing happening on the stage whenever she was on it. Gia couldn’t sing for shit, but worked surprisingly hard and kind of overshadowed Darienne in the process, while Trinity overcame her rehearsal struggles to deliver a solid performance and Bianca was a pro, as usual. The only one who even came close to matching Courtney was Ben, who knew exactly what sort of musical theatre trope she was playing and delivered everything that was expected of her. In Act 2, Adore was kind of a hot mess vocally and kind of a chaotic performer to boot, but she had enough presence and charisma to get away with it all. We’ve heard this all before, of course, and sooner or later Adore’s going to learn that “you were shit, but you were so charming” is only going to get you so far. I only hope she can actually come back from that moment when it happens, because she really is an engaging performer and that makes me root for her above some of the more-polished-but-duller queens. In other news, Joslyn does butch surprisingly funnily, Laganja and April…were also there, and Milk can’t really sing but totally worked as the benevolent narrator type.

For this week’s runway, the girls were asked to present their best Tony Awards drag. The efforts were mostly solid, except Ben overaccessorised with a giant bow on her shoulder (I have my suspicions that her stylist is Chinelo), Adore’s outfit was kind of a mess yet again (seriously girl, CINCH THAT WAIST, Michelle will only give you so many chances), and Darienne either didn’t get the “Michelle doesn’t like large queens in green” memo, or simply doesn’t care. Also, Milk came out with a pregnancy bump, because…people who are pregnant go to the Tony Awards? I mean, I’m not really a Broadway kid so maybe this was a hilarious reference to that time that Sutton Foster or Cristin Milioti or Adele Dazeem went to the Tonys pregnant and everyone apart from me totally remembers it, but to me it felt like yet another example of Milk having another Wacky Idea that didn’t seem 100 per cent thought through. To be honest, I’m kind of over Milk at this point – her drag doesn’t excite me, her confessionals are dull, and she may be hot as a boy, but I had Lucian for that in this episode so zero fucks were given.

This week’s guest judges were original Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph, and of course Lucian. (Author’s shamelessly objectifying note: Lucian scrubbed up extremely nicely in a suit at panel. WOOF WOOF.) Trinity’s diction was criticised, and Sheryl told her to put a cork in it – literally, because apparently talking with a cork between your teeth is a good way to cure mushmouth. Who knew? All I know is that the combination of constructive criticism and all-round theatrical flair made Sheryl shoot straight to the top of my shortlist for a permanent role on the judging panel should one become available. (Other people may want Kelly Osbourne or Kristen Johnston, but they are wrong.) Joslyn, Gia, Milk, Laganja and Bianca were all declared safe and sent off to go and film something interesting to put on Untucked. Darienne tried to blame her problems on Gia, saying how hard it was to focus with Gia’s nails-on-chalkboard voice in your area, but Ru pointed out that Gia was safe and Darienne was standing in front of them, and why might that be? “I thought I was in the top three!” chirped Darienne nervously, giving me one of my biggest laughs of the episode. The delivery was absolutely flawless, and if she’d been able to sell a line like that in the show itself, she probably would have been in the actual top three, which turned out to be Courtney, Adore and Ben. Santino spoke a lot about Courtney and Adore having wonderful tone to their voices, which is some real through-the-looking-glass shit. I mean, I just assumed Santino was tone-deaf, because why else would he sound like that? Lucian told Courtney that she was great, but that he’d been worried about her in rehearsals because she kept missing her cues, at which point Courtney snapped that she’d missed MAYBE TWO OF THEM, THAT’S IT, and that ego doesn’t stay in the wig cupboard for long, does it? April’s poor timing and forehead-shading were commented on (although she was given some points for attempting another difficult part after what happened last week).

After some nicely-edited awards show schtick, Courtney won the challenge (duh) and Trinity and April were told that they’d be lip-syncing for their lives. The song was ‘I’m Every Woman’, and Trinity came instantly alive and made me see why she was cast in the first place. She’s clearly a queen who’s very good at what she does, but doesn’t yet have the confidence in many other areas. April put up a valiant fight against her, and I think if this same lip-synch had happened in maybe three or four episodes time they could’ve justified it as a non-elimination, but since we’re only four episodes in and April has been bottom two for two weeks in a row, it was time for her to sashay away.

Over on Untucked: Gia attempted to come at Milk because she didn’t understand what her aesthetic was supposed to be, which ought to have been awesome but because this was Gia it ended up being the 78th round of “you don’t look like a woman so this isn’t drag” in the show’s history. Seriously, Gia, the problem with Milk’s drag is that it’s never as daring as she thinks it is, not that it isn’t feminine. Joslyn, bless her, called Gia “ignorant” because of this, so of course Gia turned right round and came for Joslyn instead. Then later the Gold Bar presented a message from Laganja’s parents, who have clearly had their issues with the gay thing and the drag thing in the past, but who want to get past those problems and be as loving and supportive as possible, which is great. The others respond in the expected way by asking Laganja some questions about her family and sharing their own coming out stories, but it all suddenly kicks off when Bianca makes a joke about how the only think Laganja’s parents got wrong was when they said she was going to win, at which point Laganja melts the fuck down, sobbing and yelling that this was HER MOMENT and it should be JUST ABOUT HER and not EVERYBODY ELSE and how no one takes her seriously and none of them APPRECIATE JUST WHAT A SPECIAL BIRDY SHE IS. Like, how much of a 30-minute episode did she want to be all about her? There’s a lot to pack in to an episode of Untucked, Laganja – if you want more screentime, then be more interesting.

Next week: Snatch Game! With Bianca as Judge Judy and Darienne as Paula Deen. Oh, this gon’ be good.

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One thought on “RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 Episode 4: “Shade: The Rusical”

  1. […] as usual and this post is over a week late; two, because I think I made my feelings pretty clear at the time; and three, lord knows the last thing the internet needs is another classless cisperson trampling […]

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