RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 Episode 9: “Drag Queens Of Talk”

More than anything I now want Bianca, Joslyn and Adore to host LOGO’s version of The View.

I realise that nobody needs my contribution to the controversy over Drag Race’s use of the word “she-male” and the subsequent removal of the “you’ve got she-mail!” sting from the rest of the series, for a great many reasons: one, because I’m ridiculously behind on my blog schedule 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 his privilege all over the matter, so let’s just say I’m with Willam on this one and leave it at that.

One of the things that interested me about this episode was the sudden and unexpected revival of a challenge from the vaults known as “season one”. We’ve got the challenges that are rolled out every year, like Snatch Game, and the variations on a theme that pop up pretty much annually (do a live performance! Do stand-up comedy! Make a dress out of a pile of random shit!), but this is the first time I can think of that the show has reached back so far into its own history to resurrect something. The challenge in question is the “host a chat show” challenge, which during the show’s infancy provided such memorable moments as Nina Flowers accidentally stating that Tori Spelling had HIV, and Shannel telling Tori that Tori was a big fan of Shannel. (I hesitate to use the word “accidentally” in that second one, because I’m sure Shannel thinks everyone is a big fan of Shannel.)

Before that, however, we had another task that’s become a regular feature: the horndog mini-challenge that’s an amusingly transparent excuse to make a load of men pose in tight underwear. This time it was for a game of “Hungman”, where they would turn around to reveal letters stuck to their asses, and the contestant had to guess the word from as few letters as possible. The gag was that most of the words had “ass” in them somewhere, and on a more subtle level, the gag was that Trinity and Joslyn didn’t get any of the answers right. Bless ’em. Bianca, Adore and Courtney all managed to get points, but Ben managed to get two questions right and ended up winning the challenge overall, which meant she got a lifetime’s supply of eyelashes or something similarly marginally disappointing.

The real meat here, of course, was not the sort concealed in those briefs, but the challenge of guest-hosting The RuPaul Show and interviewing Chaz Bono and Georgia Holt. It’s a tricky assignment in many ways: both of them were clearly booked because they were primarily of interest due to their Cher-adjacency, but the obvious pitfall here was to upset them by spending too long talking about Cher and not actually engaging with them as people in their own right. At this stage in the competition, the queens were all too canny to make that mistake, but there were a lot of other traps they weren’t quite so lucky with.

In the workroom, Joslyn spent a lot of time thinking about what she might wear for the show, having been criticised for her outfit choices repeatedly over the last couple of weeks. That’s fair enough – it is obviously an area she needs to work on, but as several of the other queens pointed out, this was really a challenge where your look wasn’t going to be nearly as important as having prepared yourself thoroughly for “live” television. Ru dropped by to warn Joslyn that there are fewer queens now, which means there’s less room for everyone else to make mistakes. Ru phrased it along the lines of “the gumbo is getting thicker”. Joslyn’s response? “I love gumbo.” And that’s why I love Joslyn Fox. Ru did have some reservations about her opening line, which was about Georgia possessing the vagina that produced Cher and Chaz coming out of Cher’s own vagina; Ru worried whether they might be offended by that. I mean, it’s not the most tactful start, but if that’s the sort of thing you’re going to take umbrage over, you probably shouldn’t be on a talk show hosted by a drag queen in the first place. Elsewhere, Ben spoke extensively about finding it difficult to be gregarious in real life and using Dela as a way of getting past that as well as dealing with her depression (pay attention to that, it’ll be important later), and now he’s hoping that Dela would be able to learn some heart from him after everything that she’s given him, or some old bollocks like that. I lost interest at that point, sorry. Adore was worrying about being able to get her prep done, because the words “Adore Delano” and “suitably-prepared” have not gone hand-in-hand this season.

In terms of actually doing the challenge: Adore goes first, and is very nervous and scattershot. She asks Georgia about starting out as a child performer, and whether she had pushy stage parents. Georgia politely explains that it wasn’t really like that, because it was the Depression and they had no money (also she was born in the wagon of a travellin’ show and her mama used to dance for the money they’d throw). I think Adore panics a little bit at that, because it was far more serious a subject than she wanted to talk about, so she just ends up going round in circles and saying “cool!” and “party!” in response to Georgia talking out her extremely impoverished childhood. Conversely, Bianca is extremely professional and very well-prepared, but just seems to have no grasp of how long she has to conduct the interview, so she ends up directing all of her questions to Chaz and ignoring Georgia entirely, even when Chaz attempted to throw the question in her grandma’s general direction, before being told she has to wind it up. (Apparently she had lots of questions prepared for Georgia but never got to them, so maybe mixing her questions together in the first place rather than separating them between her guests might have been a better idea.) Trinity is also nervous, and has probably the biggest goof so far by referring to Chaz as “Chad” throughout the entire interview. It’s kind of hard to tell how she fared as a talk show hostess beyond that, because getting your guest’s name wrong is one of the worst things you can do in that position. The first person to come out and nail it was Courtney, who was cool and professional and had good chemistry with them both – but then I’d argue that Courtney, in her real-life existence as a D-list celebrity, probably has a lot more real world experience of talk shows than any of the other queens.

Darienne’s effort is a strange one – it seems to fail through no apparent fault of Darienne’s. She’s got a pleasingly breezy manner about her, she asks some decent questions, but for some reason neither Chaz nor Georgia seem to particularly want to play when it comes to her slot (OOOH PARDON). As a result, Darienne gets a bit flustered by all the one-word answers and keeps losing her thread. Obviously a good talk-show host needs to be able to deal with a poor guest, but it’s odd that both of them just seemed to shut down for Darienne when other queens got much better responses despite not really approaching the task any differently. Maybe it just wasn’t Darienne’s day. Ben’s the only one apart from Courtney who makes any headway with them, possibly because her alter-ego has always seemed like a bit of a suburban gossipy housewife type, so she sort of invites confidences for that very reason. Georgia talks about growing up in the Depression, and Ben cracks a joke about having experience of a different sort of depression, and you pretty much know as soon as it happens that that will be the cue for Michelle Visage saying that she finally feels like she knows who Ben really is. Last and hopefully not least is Joslyn. She’s come super-prepared because she’s a big fan of both Georgia and Chaz in their own right (of course she is, this is Joslyn we’re talking about, she loves EVERYBODY). She does an altered version of the intro that she previewed for Ru earlier, which doesn’t exactly go down a storm but doesn’t prompt either of them to flounce off the set either. Joslyn’s mannerisms are perfect and she seems to have the chat side of things down, but then she makes an ill-advised detour into discussing the fact that Cher owes her existence to Georgia having a last-minute change of heart on the way to the abortion clinic, and asks Georgia if she’s pro-life now. (In Untucked Joslyn explained that she actually discovered that Georgia is quite vocally pro-life during her research, so she really did do her homework on this one.) Again, it’s not so much offensive, but it’s super-super awkward, and Joslyn doesn’t seem to realise quite how awkward it is.

The theme for the runway this week is basically “come as an animal, or some shit”, so Adore wears a leather catsuit with a muzzle over her face, Bianca has a leopardprint gown with matching paint on her body. Joslyn is wearing a shimmery coat with some feathers in her hair and regrettably shows off what the judges call a “meaty tuck”. Ben has a full-on fly costume and comes crawling down the runway like fucking Gregor Samsa. Darlene is in a grey smock with elephant tusk earrings. Courtney basically has some massive fuck-off wings that unfold when she reaches the judges (although the whole thing clearly reads more “angel” than “eagle”, so it feels like a slight cheat). It’s an impressive visual, but the mechanics of it are disappointingly fumbly. I think it’s pretty telling that she abandons that part of her costume when they return to the runway later, not that she needed to worry about having to lip-sync this week, but still. Finally, Trinity is resplendent in fur.

The guest judges are Georgia and Chaz, of course, and Paula Abdul, who’s reunited with Adore/Danny Noriega after their initial encounter on season seven of American Idol, and it’s sweet that people think Paula will remember that far back when most of the time she was still on that show she could barely remember what had happened five minutes previously. (Remember that time she critiqued a performance that hadn’t actually happened yet? Oh, Paula.) Also, for trivia fans: we learn that Paula has the honour of being the artist with the most Drag Race lip-syncs to her name. Two, to be precise: Raja and Carmen to ‘Straight Up’ in season three, and Chad and Mimi to ‘Opposites Attract’ in All-Stars. And of course there’ll be a third by the end of the night, but we’ll get to that in due course. As far as critiques go, Adore is told she looked lost and underprepared, while Bianca was professional but is warned that the difference between hosting a talk show and hosting in a night club is that on a talk show, you have to actually listen to what people are saying. Courtney is told she was a joy to watch (although Michelle thinks her energy dipped near the end), Ben is congratulated for having shown us “true Dela” at last, whatever that means. Darienne is told she looked nervous, Trinity is advised that forgetting someone’s name is about as bad as it gets, and Joslyn is horrified when the judges explain how tactless her questions seemed. Mortified, she offers a full and frank apology to both Georgia and Chaz, which appears to be entirely from the heart and is accepted by both of them: Georgia even goes as far as to say she wasn’t offended, just thrown, and she was really enjoying the conversation until it took that turn.

When the results come in, Bianca and Ben are safe, and Courtney is the winner of this week’s challenge, landing herself some wigs and hair treatments. Darienne is safe, and to the surprise of pretty much everyone watching, so is Joslyn. I think two things saved her: the apology, and Georgia voluntarily saying how good the rest of the interview had been. (Or possibly Ru realising that she’d made Joslyn lip sync last week when it really should have been Ben, and giving her a bye as a sort of unspoken apology.) That leaves Adore lip-syncing against Trinity – to ‘Vibeology’. YASSSSSSSSSSS. It’s a great effort from both of them, they really go for it – in every sense of the word, because it ends up in some hot girl-on-girl action. What is it about Paula Abdul songs that has that effect on these queens? Adore gets to stay, while Trinity’s time is finally up, but Trinity makes one of the classiest exits I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching reality TV: she thanks Ru for believing in her, says that she’s learned SO much from her time on the show, and that she doesn’t view her dismissal as failure, just that her time was up. And I guess that’s kind of true: I liked Trinity a lot, and I will miss her, but I never really expected her to make it this far in the first place, and I like that she at least got to go out having had a chance to really show us what she’s capable of over the last couple of weeks.

Points of interest from Untucked: all the queens think Adore and Trinity will be bottom two, and no one even seems to suggest that Joslyn might replace one of them, which is interesting. Joslyn cries about fucking up this challenge because she’s worried that Georgia and/or Chaz might tell Cher that she’s an asshole. Darienne throws some moderately incomprehensible shade at Ben, and Ben has a whole confessional about how he knows that Darienne is coming for him a lot but doesn’t want to call her out on it because it would totally destroy her woobie edit to fight back, so she’s waiting for Bianca to do it for her. (I may have paraphrased slightly, but god, what a fucking bore. If she wins this competition over Bianca, I’ll be so cross. Actually, if she wins Miss Congeniality over Joslyn, I’ll be furious. I just don’t see the appeal of Dela at all – it’s not that I dislike her, per se, I just can’t find anything there to get excited about beyond that admittedly stellar performance as the Dowager Countess on Snatch Game.) There’s also a game of “guess which queen said this?” in which Milk claims to be really good at make-up and everyone laughs uproariously, and we’re reminded that there was someone called Magnolia Crawford on this show once.

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