The Eye Of The Storm: It’s always interesting to see how people handle the first elimination of any reality TV season: are they going to be emotional about it? Are they going to see it as a symbol of their own figurative mortality? Are they going to brush it off because they never felt vulnerable at any point? To their credit, most of this year’s queens had enough empathy to spend a moment or two mourning Tempest’s departure, and make the appropriate remarks about how lovely she was and how this means the competition is really on now etc. Of course, on Drag Race each elimination gives you a chance to assess the domestic skills of the contestant who narrowly escaped expulsion the previous week, and I regret to announce that Kandy Ho’s mirror-wiping skills definitely tend towards the slatternly. Use some spray, Kandy Ho. That lone tissue ain’t cutting it.
Blow Me: After missing out on the obligatory hazing challenge designed to rid the queens of their last shreds of dignity last week, Ru threw us a bone (and I don’t mean by bringing in the Pit Crew) with this week’s mini-challenge, where the queens had to give their best fierce face while the Pit Crew blasted leaf-blowers directly in their visages. By far the best part of this challenge was the random, unexplained and completely unnecessary appearance of Moby as the guest judge for this segment. Considering that we didn’t actually get to see or hear any of his opinions on the individual queens, his only contribution to the entire episode was to have a quick cameo at the end of the montage, getting his own face blown. Still, one of the joys of this show is the amount of celebrity fans who seem more than happy to drop by just for a spit and a cough. (Also, it was a vast improvement on his last reality TV guest-judging role, when he turned up on King Of The Nerds and was so obnoxious that the contestants were still complaining about him a week later.)
Sync Or Swim: After putting in the best shows in the mini-challenge, Ginger and Trixie were declared the winners and earned themselves the roles of team captains for the week. It went down with a schoolyard pick, with Pearl, Miss Fame, Katya, Violet and Max being selected for Team Trixie, while Sasha, Kasha, Jaidynn, Jasmine, Kennedy and Kandy ended up on Team Ginger. (Violet and Kandy were the two dregs left at the end, for obvious reasons, and Kandy was the one who Ginger got lumbered with rather than actually picking.) The task was to take part in a complicated lip-sync that would blend singing and spoken-word sections, as well as a fair lump of choreography. The division of parts was the cause of some consternation, as Violet claimed to be “not not a dancer, but not a dancer” (to which Trixie responded with a flawlessly-timed “so are you a dancer?”), while Sasha pouted over not getting the part she wanted, and both team captains fretted a little bit about the queens who clearly lacked either the acting or dancing chops that were required for the task, and Ginger and Trixie suddenly realised that it’s never a great idea to win the mini-challenge in the second episode because it always makes you take charge of a group of people you don’t really know that well and attempt to assess their skills based on…well, mostly, your subordinates’ own assessment of how good they are at stuff, which can often be misleading. The choreography sessions with Jamal Sims exposed a lot of the queens’ limitations – in addition to Violet not-not-not-not-not being a dancer, Miss Fame and Pearl couldn’t even do a fairly simple sequence in sync with each other, and it turns out Jaidynn has a dodgy knee. Jamal did not seem brimming with confidence about anyone’s ability to not fall flat on their ass.
In The Workroom: One key component of reality TV that Drag Race hasn’t managed to incorporate so far is the showmance: so far, the closest we’ve come is Tyra pressing herself up against Tatianna back at the hotel, Raja and Carmen lezzing it up in a lip sync, and Jinkx’s unrequited crush on the world’s most boring human being Ivy Winters. Could this finally be the year that somebody kai kais? Well, Trixie Mattel is hoping so, because she is clearly warm for Miss Fame’s form. Warm, and a little bit moist. To what extent this is reciprocated by Miss Fame is to be determined, but she doesn’t exactly seem appalled by all the attention. And on the subject of Miss Fame, it appears that she didn’t get that stage name by accident, considering her lecture to the other queens that some of us don’t want to be working in the clubs forever. (We also learned in this episode that Miss Fame hasn’t had any direct acting experience, but has some experience that could possibly transition into acting. Telesales? Working front-of-house? Pornography? I’m not entirely sure I want to find out.)
Rise And Fall: The performance was a lengthy affair, as we had to sit through the two groups performing entirely separate pieces. On the whole, Team Ginger’s presentation was much slicker and funnier than Team Trixie’s – it probably didn’t help Trixie that Ginger’s team probably had a slightly funnier script to work with, but even so, there just seemed to be a much better cohesion on Ginger’s team, and I think she had a much better sense of how to best deploy her assets for maximum effect, if you’ll pardon the expression. In terms of obvious sandbags, Katya totally bombed her spoken-word lip sync and made no secret of it, while Sasha got all tangled up in her hairpiece and spent more time trying to remove it than was probably wise. Ginger and Max had some impressively tight lip-syncs, Violet redeemed herself somewhat, Pearl showed her funny side and Mrs Kasha Davis was wonderfully broad (and I mean “broad” in every sense of the word).
Queen Of Jordin: After the performance, the queens brought out their best jet-set eleganza runway looks (well, everyone except Ginger and Sasha did. If the backstage scuttlebut is to be believed, Sasha’s original outfit was nixed because the pattern would’ve caused strobing on camera, and Ginger’s broke at the last minute, so both of them had to go out in substitute ensembles – and unsurprisingly, both of them got read for pisspoor efforts). Katya’s floral look was my favourite outfit of the season so far, and she earned a few points with me for being bluntly honest with the judges and admitting her lip-sync flat-out sucked. In a move that will have almost certainly caused howls of disbelief from Ben Delacreme stans everywhere, Michelle Visage actually told Violet to show more of her campy side (which means they now probably have to retire their favourite “Michelle always wants the comedy queens to be more glamorous, but she NEVER SAYS THE OPPOSITE TO THE GLAMOUR QUEENS!” argument, except they probably won’t, because Ben Delacreme stans are the worst. Except for maybe Pandora Boxx stans. Or Jinkx Monsoon stans. God, this show has some terrible fandoms.) Our guest judges for the week were Olivia Newton-John and Drag Race superfan Jordin Sparks, both of whom were delightful – Jordin’s glee at just being there was infectious. Also good: Olivia Newton-John’s brief look of sheer terror when Ginger asked her if she could do something that she’s always wanted to do. (It turned out that Ginger just wanted to do a John Travolta-as-Danny Zuko impression, but you can see why Olivia would have been momentarily concerned for her own safety.)
Belle End: Ginger was declared the challenge winner, and Katya and Sasha had to lip-sync against each other to Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Twist Of Fate’, a song that I was not previously familiar with, but turned out to be an excellent choice. To Sasha’s credit, she really gave Katya a run for her money, turning out a tighter performance than I would have anticipated, and the camera time seemed to be divided fairly equally between the two of them. It was interesting to see both of them taking very different but equally valid approaches to the song: Sasha went for schticky comedy, while Katya went for Manila-doing-‘MacArthur Park’ terrifying intensity. There were the usual gymnastic tricks, but I think what clinched it for Katya (other than having far more promise than Sasha overall) was the slow-motion splits. So Katya got to stay in the competition, while Sasha joined the long ranks of contestants who realised that being a superfan doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make much of a contestant.
Untucked: The claws started to come out this week as Team Ginger talked extensively about SOMEONE on Team Trixie who apparently was talking smack about them behind their backs, and Jasmine targeted Trixie in particular, saying that she didn’t like or get her look. Jasmine didn’t come out of this particularly well, not least because she kept using the same two or three pre-rehearsed lines and expecting the same reaction every time. Also, Trixie continued her quest to get inside Miss Fame’s pants, Ginger either got one hell of a winner’s edit or basically clinched Miss Congeniality there and then by having a heartfelt conversation with Pearl about how she didn’t think she’d get on with her when they first met, but after seeing her as an artist she totally gets and appreciates what she brings to the competition, and Max displayed some unexpected tenderness by giving Sasha a little pep talk. I’m so pleased Max might actually give us an idea of what Milk would have been like if Milk was any good at all.