RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 6 Episode 11: “Glitter Ball”

Guess the crème doesn’t always rise to the top.

There seems to be a higher level of shade than usual running through the competition this week, as the queens are coming for each other in their confessionals even more than usual. In particular, we get to see the shady side of Ben, who’s had a fairly benign edit up to now but all of a sudden is noting that Bianca seems to be getting cocky now, and the last time that Ben himself got cocky, he ended up in the bottom two. This proves to be portentous, though perhaps not quite in the way that you’d expect.

The first challenge is a reprise of last year’s “make up a puppet to look like one of your rivals and then do an impression of them” mini-task. It went down really well last year, so it’s not really a huge surprise to see it back – I wonder if it’s going to be like Snatch Game and become a regular feature every year. As before, they have to reach into a hole (HURR) and randomly draw out a puppet to see who they get: Adore gets Ben, Ben gets Bianca, Bianca gets Adore, Courtney gets Darienne and Darienne gets Courtney. To summarise: Adore does a frankly uncanny impression of Ben’s voice and lands a good joke about Ben covering his eyebrows in oatmeal (you sort of had to be there); Ben’s Bianca absolutely tears the place down, swearing and doing Judge Judy impressions, although the impact is lessened slightly by Ben doing the exact same “whoops, the end” face that Jinkx did last year; Bianca does a fairly superficial Adore impression which mostly just involves saying “fuck” and “party” a lot; Courtney’s Darienne dies a death because Courtney is not funny, though she just about claws it back at the end by claiming that the reason she can’t make this funny is because Darienne isn’t funny; and finally Darienne’s Courtney is surprisingly amusing, although her best gag actually comes before the performance (“have you made Courtney’s gown?” “Actually, I thought I’d get someone else to make it for me.”) Ben wins the mini-challenge, and it’s hard to argue with that, although it all felt a bit softballed compared to last year: not only did everyone pick from the low-hanging fruit, but also nobody used it as an excuse to be flat-out rude about someone like Roxxxy did, and certainly nobody’s impersonation was as inspired as Alaska’s Puppet Roxxxy from last year.

*goes to watch that again, laughs uproariously*

As is customary at this stage in the competition (even if we usually have four contestants left at this point rather than five), it’s time for a drag ball. This year it’s the Glitter Ball, and the three themes are Banjee Girl Bling, Platinum Card Executive Realness, and Dripping In Jewels Eleganza. For the third round, each queen had to theme their outfit around a particularly colour of jewels that Ben, as mini-challenge winner, got to assign. It ultimately had no impact on anything, so let’s not discuss it any further. As the queens got to work, everyone fretted about Bianca’s reams and reams of sewing experience, and Ben gave a few more confessionals about how comfortable Bianca’s getting and how it’s clearly going to end in tears. When Ru comes in to chat, Adore has a bit of a sob about how she came here to win, but after her recent challenge performances she’s worried that she’s losing her way. Ru counsels her, and Adore ultimately resolves to be the best version of herself that she can possibly be. Darienne is similarly nervous because she’s the queen who’s gone the longest without winning a challenge at this point, so she thinks there’s clearly something that she isn’t doing right, and she isn’t quite sure what that is. She too declares that she must rise above all this and start to deliver, but unfortunately this challenge doesn’t give her much of an opportunity for that, because she loathes her half-finished Dripping in Jewels outfit, so she rips it up and starts again.

Ru appears halfway through to tell them that there’s one more thing: they have to choreograph and perform a musical number to open the show, and Ben’s in charge of that as well. Much like Ben getting to assign the jewels, this has absolutely no impact on the results and the song-and-dance number is not very good, but it wastes five minutes or so of screentime as everyone bickers about it.

Now let’s consider each round individually:

Banjee Girl Bling: Ben decides to go full Visage, wearing black and cracking gum. Adore comes out in thigh-high boots, cut-off denim and enormous Amy Winehouse hair, which is absolutely perfect. Bianca brings a little bit of Mary J. Blige, which stretches the theme to its limits but she pulls it off very well. Darienne – dear god – comes wearing an all-over bodysuit that glows all sorts of neon colours under the lights, and I think I had a seizure just looking at it. Finally, Courtney comes as Gwen Stefani, which is cute but not really the brief.

Platinum Card Executive Realness: Ben comes out looking like Karen Walker, assuming that at some point Karen got so drunk that she stopped caring what she looked like. Adore goes very basic but severe as a “lesbian CEO who still sleeps with men on the weekends”. It’s a little unrefined both as a concept and in the execution, but it works. Bianca serves realtor realness and looks damn good doing it. Darienne stumbles again, claiming that she’s trying to be a music executive, but really it’s just some ill-fitting vaguely formal clothes. Courtney wears a power suit and properly hams up the executive angle.

Dripping in Jewels Eleganza: Ben brings out her ninetieth variation on the theme of tired-ass showgirl. Adore comes out in a white wig that’s the same shape as her tutu dress, which lends her a nice symmetry. (That said, I call bullshit on Adore making that entire outfit without help, because we’ve seen her in the sewing room and this seems well out of her reach. I like Adore a lot, but come on.) Darienne – oh, Darienne – wears a saggy brown bodystocking with jewels bedazzled all over it, and the heavy jewels on her crotch make the whole outfit sag. Finally, Courtney gives BODY-ODY-ODY in red.

This week’s returning guest judges are Khloe Kardashian (yay!) and Bob Mackie (YAY!). The panel are a little bit bored of Ben by this point: Michelle in particular is unimpressed with the executive outfit which she insists looks nothing like a CEO and more like something you’d wear to a cocktail party. However, Bob and Santino quite liked her third ensemble. (It’s quite funny to hear Santino trying to give style critiques this week when BOB MACKIE IS RIGHT THERE.) Everyone pretty much loves everything that Adore brought out, and much like Alaska last year, she gets credit for seeming like three distinct characters rather than just wearing three different outfits. As Santino puts it, anyone can wear a dress, but Adore sold them. (Santino’s actually on reasonable form this week, but it’s really hard to take him seriously for the above reason.) Bianca’s crafts(wo)manship is admired as usual, but Khloe remembers that she saw the same silhouette last time she was on the show, and she’s a bit disappointed because she wants more variation from Bianca. Everyone agrees that Darienne is a mess, including Darienne. Courtney’s Banjee Girl look was a bit of a womp-womp, but her last two looks get good reviews, although the judges seem concerned that she might be veering back to resting on pretty again.

In another regular feature for this point in the competition, Ru asks all of the queens which of them should go home. Everyone says Darienne, including Darienne herself, but Courtney makes sure to ding Adore on the way along saying that she thought Adore would’ve been going home that night before she saw what she was wearing. This is nothing, however, compared to Ben who takes the opportunity to make a super-shady sideswipe of a comment about how Bianca has been coasting through the competition. Bianca calls her a cunt, and Ben disingenuously claims it was intended as a compliment.

Ru’s results are thus: Bianca is safe, Adore wins the challenge, and Courtney is safe, which means Ben and Darienne are lip-syncing again, making this the first time two queens have had to lip-sync against each other twice. They’re given ‘What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)’ by Kelly Clarkson as their song, and while Ben’s routine is more energetic, Darienne is really channeling Kelly Clarkson in her performance. I’d assumed Darienne was going home all episode because a) it felt due at this point and b) she failed every single round of the challenge, and I was all set to get outraged because I thought she’d given the much-stronger lip-sync of the two, just like the last time she and Ben went head to head, and frankly if she’d ended up beating Ben twice and still going home before her, I was going to call shenanigans on the entire competition. Then Ru declares Darienne safe and tells Ben to sashay away. WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUU–

Best result ever. Ben’s bored me for weeks now, I didn’t particularly care for her “who? me?” schtick every time she said something catty, and like I said, Darienne beat her in a lip-sync twice, so while vast portions of the fandom seem to view this like the end of days (I’ve already had to read the words “Pandora Boxx” far more times than I ever cared to), I think it was absolutely the right choice. Good work, RuPaul. Really, the only downside is that I suspect this means curtains for poor Joslyn’s chance of Miss Congeniality, because if Ivy Winters’ victory last year is anything to go by, the voters love a pandering bore, and that’s what Ben’s been serving for weeks.

In Untucked: Ben apologises for what she said and Bianca admits that maybe she overreacted. To be honest, I think Ben’s more sorry that she actually got caught for once. Darienne freely admits that she fucked up this week. As a distraction, everyone looks at baby pictures of Magnolia (remember her?), Darienne, Courtney, Adore, Bianca, Ben, Laganja and Vivacious. Then Bianca reads out a letter from her friend’s daughter, who calls her “Lady-Roy”, and it’s adorable, albeit a little heavy-handed in its message about how a little girl can be friends with a drag queen without having her mind warped. Also, Bianca spends the whole time making pointed comments about how it doesn’t matter what she thinks because she’s just SAILING through the competition just to really needle Ben, who stops finding it funny remarkably quickly. I don’t. I’m still finding it funny nearly two weeks later, because Ben sucked.

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