If you thought ‘Can I Get An Amen?’ from last season was an incurable earworm, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.
There aren’t many parts of this format that I criticise, but even I will admit that sometimes the mini-challenges feel like filler: they’re just there to occupy five minutes of airtime and possibly help decide the team captains for the main challenge. That’s why I always look forward to the Reading mini-challenge, because it’s quite the opposite – in fact, it’s positively vital. One of the keenest tools in a queen’s armoury is her quick wit, and this is one of the greatest opportunities in the entire show for the girls to demonstrate just how cutting they can be.
There weren’t a lot of surprises springing from the mini-challenge – essentially, those you’d expect to do well did well, and those you’d expect to tank tanked. The only one who may have surprised some people was Joslyn Fox, who has – perhaps deliberately – portrayed herself as a bit of a bubblehead in the workroom, even though she’s turned it out in challenges on several occasions now, so a lot of viewers might not have had big expectations for her when it came to scathing put-downs. However, she absolutely slayed with some of her reads including “you know you’re from the West Coast because it’s a three-hour delay before you finally get a joke” (to Adore) and “this is a girl who probably sits reverse cowgirl on the toilet just so she has a flat surface to eat off” (to Darienne). Bianca took no prisoners either, with some of her finest moments including “seeing you in drag, I realise now why Seattle has such a high suicide rate” (to Ben), “she’s so gay, even her asshole has a lisp” (to Joslyn), and “I know what you got on your SATs. Ketchup” (to Adore). Despite being the victim of a great many “you are SO dumb” reads, Adore improvised a great put-down for Laganja (“Next time you death-drop, reverse that and drop dead”). Milk’s and Courtney’s attempts at reading were fairly poor, Trinity deliberately avoided the challenge by reading herself instead (and that went about as well as you’d expect), while Laganja was completely over-the-top and awful, to the extent that she actually brought out her own goggle glasses just to emphasise her own awfulness. Darienne was declared the overall winner, even though I felt she was a B+ competitor at best. Frankly, the best read of the episode wasn’t even in this challenge: it was Adore, during a talking head, saying admiringly of Bianca: “I hope I’m just like her when I’m 57.” Although to be fair a large part of the effectiveness of that one was the way she cracked up afterwards and shrieked that Bianca was going to kill her when she saw it.
As the challenge winner, Darienne got to pick the teams for this week’s ’90s rap battle challenge, and chose Laganja (because Laganja likes to think she’s ghetto), Bianca (because her scattergun delivery is a perfect fit for this challenge) and Adore and Courtney (because Idol). What was interesting here wasn’t so much who got chosen as who didn’t get chosen: Ben was surprised and not a little bit hurt to be left on the LOSER team with Trinity, Milk and Joslyn, and spent pretty much the whole rest of the episode talking about it, either in talking heads or in the workroom. This is the first sign of a negative edit all season for Ben – she seems convinced that Darienne can’t possibly have had a good reason not to pick her, and won’t let it go. She even makes the mistake of flat-out asking why she wasn’t picked, in front of everyone, which Bianca points out is pretty offensive to those who were picked, since it implies that they somehow weren’t worthy. It’s fairly ugly behaviour from Ben, and Darienne – who has established at this point that she doesn’t think a lot of Ben, inspired at least in part by Ben “nonchalantly” asking the rest of the room if she’s the only one who’s won two challenges so far – doesn’t come out of it brilliantly either, as she basically tells Ben to fuck off and get over it while at the same time sort of lording it over her in a way that makes it difficult for her to fuck off and get over it. It ends up with Darienne slinging mud at Ben any chance she gets, and Ben resorting to the tired old “she’s just jealous of my obvious awesomeness” defence, and by the end of it I wanted to bang both of their heads together. (Interestingly, the fan reaction I’ve seen so far seems to lay most of the blame at Darienne’s door while entirely absolving Ben of responsibility, so I suspect Ben’s picked up a lot of the woobie-loving fans who championed the likes of Jinkx and Pandora and always overlooked their more obnoxious moments.)
The main challenge involved the queens making up their own lyrics for the rap song ‘Oh No She Betta Don’t!’, with guest judges Eve and Trina directing the video. For the most part, writing the raps wasn’t a problem, but actually delivering them on set when they were only given three takes to get it right (apparently) was the tricky part. While most of the queens had a few flubs, Laganja, Trinity and Darienne struggled the most, with Darienne even falling over the set in the process. Bianca took the whole thing in her stride and completely charmed Trina and Eve (Treve?), as did Milk, even though her rhymes didn’t really make any sense (“you’re in the preggers mood”? Really?) Courtney and Joslyn were the only ones not shown actually recording their parts, which is interesting considering the outcome.
With that out of the way, the queens prepared for the runway, where the theme was CrazySexyCool realness. I assumed this meant “dress with the aesthetic of a ’90s rapper”, but it appears that it basically meant “wear whatever the fuck you like”. I feel bad for Joslyn, who actually did appear to try to embody the theme, wearing a kind of skanked-up flapper dress with beads everywhere, and totally looked like she could’ve walked off the set of a hip-hop video in 1995 right down to the white lipstick – although if I were feeling generous, I could also argue that Trinity’s flower-child inspired outfit, while not being technically ’90s rap-styled, definitely seemed like a look I could imagine Lisa Lopes wearing back in the day. Elsewhere, Bianca managed her fishiest look yet, Courtney went for a reveal gag where she came out on the runway wrapped in a duvet and pulled it all off to reveal lingerie, and Milk finally attempted to do “runway glamour”, except she also ended up looking like she’d come out wrapped in her bedcovers.
When it came to evaluation, Courtney, Laganja and Ben were informed that they were safe, with Courtney getting singled out for “resting on pretty”. This seems a bit odd to me, as just last week Courtney was Fran Drescher for Snatch Game, which – regardless of how successful you found her impersonation to be – doesn’t seem to be a decision I’d expect from someone “resting on pretty”. After those three had set off to film one of the most boring episodes of Untucked, the judges gushed about how much they’d enjoyed Joslyn’s rap, but criticised her for overaccessorising. It’s great to see Joslyn finally getting some appreciation, but I feel it’s a bit late in the game for this to be happening, so she’s probably still going home within the next few weeks either way. (If I had to pick a boot order at this point, I’d say Trinity and Darienne are probably circling the drain, with Joslyn and Laganja at some point after that, with Adore/Ben/Bianca/Courtney as the most likely top four, though I’d love Joslyn to somehow miraculously survive that far at the expense of either Ben or Courtney.) Trinity was criticised for her inaudible rapping, and Trinity pleaded that she was not a queen who makes excuses (LOLOLOLOLOL) – at which point Ru just shut her right down, because even Ru is clearly tired of that shit at this point. (Actually, Ru seemed kind of minty throughout the judging this week, because she cut Michelle off mid-rant at one point as well. Although to be fair, I doubt there’s a single person in the land who thinks Ru was wrong to do either of these things.) Bianca was praised for her rapping too, although Style Guru Santino claimed she looked like Urkel in the video – but Michelle leapt to Bianca’s defence and assured him that that was the b-girl look at the time. I’m with Michelle on that one, but not so much on her attack of Adore’s dress-length, because she’s fed up of seeing the same hem-length every week, even though these are presumably all outfits that Adore brought with her, so she probably hasn’t really had much time/opportunity to alter them, even if she had the aptitude in the first place, which also seems somewhat doubtful. Still, Adore’s fantastic rapping and impressively butch-but-feminine presentation in the video were enough to propel her to the top at long last. Darienne just scraped by into safety, leaving Trinity to lip-sync it out against Milk.
There’s probably room for a little aside about Milk here: I did think that last week’s comments on her samey presentation were likely to go one of two ways – either it was going to be the kick up the ass she needed to suddenly up her game and join the top tier of queens, or she was going to attempt something else, fail miserably, and end up going home. As I mentioned above, her raps weren’t particularly impressive (although her Watch With Mother-style dancing in the video was sort of endearing, even if it wasn’t at all appropriate) and while her attempt at a glamorous frock was valiant, it was just too scrappy and generic. Queens like Sharon or Jinkx earned their victory by being able to turn out a glamour look that was still true to their core identity, but Milk just seemed to get lost in a poorly-made prom gown. She didn’t really stand much of a chance in the lip-sync either, as even though she turned out an entirely competent performance to ‘Whatta Man’ that really was much better than I expected it to be, she couldn’t compete with Trinity’s effortlessly flawless inhabiting of the song, and thus Milk sashayed away. And honestly, I can’t get too upset about it – she had some interesting ideas, but she just came across as half-finished overall, and while she was super-hot out of drag, she was never interesting enough to make herself indispensable, especially on a season where an unusually high number of queens are pretty cute as boys.
As I mentioned above, Untucked was pretty dull during the Courtney/Laganja/Ben section, even when they played “guess which queen is on this card”. That game was a lot more fun when it involved Icy Wieners showing exactly why she shouldn’t have won Miss Congeniality. What we did get out of it was Courtney fuming some more about how she was allegedly “resting on pretty” and suggesting that she and Milk should swap faces (BURN!), Laganja wittering on some more about how she’s just not used to not succeeding, and Ben continuing to humblebrag her way through the competition by claiming not to know how the Big Pink Box works, with Courtney offering up a pointed “welcome to mediocrity!” in response. Meanwhile in the other room, Joslyn had a taste of life in the top tier for once, Trinity soaked in self-pity while Bianca brusquely (but fairly) asked her exactly what it is that she *can* do, and they got a bitchy letter from Gia from BEYOND THE GRAVE, which benefitted hugely from being read aloud by Bianca, who is actually capable of landing a joke and gave lines like “you are all dudes” more comic heft than they deserved.
Next week: double episode! All t, all shade.