Exit, pursued by a bear. (Or maybe a twink. Or an otter.)
Character Building: Is it just me, or is there a certain…indeterminability about the queens this year? I realise that we’re still early in the season, but I feel that by this point I’ve normally got a bit of a better handle on who’s who than I have right now. There are some distinctive standouts, obviously (Ginger, Katya, Max, Pearl, Trixie etc), but there are frequently moments where a large group of queens is on screen and I have trouble working out who everyone is. Two out of three challenges so far have also been performance-based, meaning that each queen has three identities per episode (regular boy, drag alter ego, costumed performance role), so it’s hard to glimpse any one of them for long enough to get a proper handle on it. I actually spent a large portion of this week’s challenge wondering who that other black queen was that I didn’t think I’d seen before, only to realise it was actually just Ginger with some rather over-enthusiastic make-up. I don’t think this is a poor reflection on the queens themselves – by and large I think this is a good cast – but I wonder if it’s just a symptom of a few of them getting lost in the edit. As much as I wasn’t a huge fan of last season’s two-part opener where only half the queens were introduced at a time, it did at least give us a chance to get to know everyone properly in a thinner herd before things got going properly. Maybe Ru and his team can work out some sort of acceptable medium for the recently-announced season eight.
Blue Jasmine: So remember the opening episode when Jasmine Masters was a beacon of positivity who was just so thrilled to be here? Well, apparently Jasmine doesn’t. She doesn’t like all these younger queens, apparently. She doesn’t want to be around them any more. She wants them gone. So it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise that this episode turned out to be an exposé of Jasmine’s many failings (apart from the transphobia, which you needed to go to Reddit to find out about in more detail) that ultimately ended in her dismissal. Sneering at everyone else on this show as though their style of drag is beneath you is rarely a good idea: the best queens are those who not only accept that other styles of drag are valid, but draw on them and learn from them.
Help The Aged: This week’s mini-challenge is “Sissy That Walker”, announced by Ru who arrives on a mobility scooter, and looking iller than I thought it possible to ever appear in that scenario. It’s a pretty straightforward task: dress up as an old woman and work it down an imaginary runway. By far my favourite past of this segment was the sight of Hot Ginger Pit Crew guy kind of bopping around awkwardly in the background because he has NO rhythm whatsoever, thereby eliminating any doubt as to which team he might be on. Max and Kennedy were chosen as the winners, and I have my suspicion that the decision was largely arbitrary because Ru wanted them to be team captains. That’s probably always the case in these early episodes, to be fair.
The Play’s The Thing: Once again the teams were decided by schoolyard pick (which is my favourite way of doing this, incidentally, because it’s so deliciously juvenile and brutal). Max picks Ginger, Jaidynn, Miss Fame, Mrs Kasha Davis and Trixie (with Max later admitting in Untucked that she was picking very strategically to get as many theatre queens as she could, and that when the final pick came down to a choice between Miss Fame or Violet, that she went with Fame because at least there was a good chance she’d be a member of the team with an optimistic outlook who made a positive contribution, whereas Violet would just drag everyone down, so basically what I’m taking from this is that Max is very astute and should not be underestimated), and Kennedy picks Kandy, Katya, Pearl, and gets lumbered with Violet. Violet wonders why she keeps getting picked last. Yes, that sure is a dilly of a pickle. The task is ShakesQueer: one theatrical production of Romy and Juliet (for Team Max), and one of MacBitch (for Team Kennedy). With a decent handle on her teammates’ skills, Max is able to dole out the parts without too much trouble, but things don’t go smoothly for Kennedy, who originally planns to cast against type by getting Jasmine to play the regal Lady MacBitch and getting Violet to play the ghetto LaQuisha Kiana MacBitch. It’s clearly a terrible idea from minute one, because neither Violet nor Jasmine are particularly skilled actors, and there isn’t nearly enough time to rehearse either of them through a part they’re so ill-suited to), so at the last minute Kennedy swaps their roles around, and Violet’s request for a quick read-through in their new parts is denied. Also, Pearl is not familiar with Macbeth at all, so I suspect that both the education system and popular culture have failed her, big time.
The Show Must Go On: Team Max’s performance is pretty slick and well-rehearsed, with the only real setback being Jaidynn getting an attack of the jitters, bursting into tears and sobbing about how much she wants this, and how she just keeps getting inside her head. Max impressed me again with her handling of this: she went straight up to Jaidynn and gave her a pep talk about how awesome she is and how they all love her and believe in her, but with just enough of a “now don’t you dare fuck this up for the rest of us” subtext underpinning it all. It’s enough for Jaidynn to get it together and deliver a great performance as a weave-patting Mercutio, complementing the other great turns from Trixie as the narrator, Kasha as an enjoyably butch Lady Capulet, Miss Fame as “Tybalta” and Max and Ginger as the star-crossed lovers.
Team Kennedy, however, is a hot, hot, HOT mess. The whole performance is languid, and almost nobody knows their lines (honourable exceptions go to Katya and, surprisingly, Kandy, who are the only two in the company who understand their characters and know their lines and how to deliver them, and generally deserve to be in a far better scene than the one they got stuck with). Jasmine is easily the worst of everyone, with absolutely no sense of who she’s playing or delivering the colloquial verse she’s been given. Pearl keeps missing her cues as the narrator, and while Violet and Kennedy are fractionally better, they’re still painfully amateurish. A furious Ru informs them that this is the biggest trainwreck she’s witnessed in seven seasons of this show, and it doesn’t actually feel like hyperbole. This performance makes Alyssa Edwards at the RuPaul Roast look like…well, Alaska at the RuPaul Roast.
Hair Apparent: There is still a chance for Team Kennedy to make up for their disastrous showing in the challenge by rocking it on the runway, of course, and this week’s them is Bearded Ladies. (Cue the wails of a million outraged Milk stans convinced she was just so ahead of her time and the judges never understood.) Bizarrely, almost everyone ends up looking kind of amazing: Trixie looks absolutely beautiful, going for softer face make-up under all the hair and looking like a sexy lioness as a result. Pearl serves some awesome Silvia Night realness, Kandy rocks a kung-fu movie villain beard and a GIANT BOX OF HAIR on her head, and Katya gives a lesson in how to do butch drag while still looking feminine by coming as Babe-raham Lincoln. The only one who really missteps is Jasmine who, despite wearing a great crystalled dress that she claims will be enough to save her from elimination all by itself, has basically drawn a beard on her chin with a Sharpie. Asked what gives by the judges, Jasmine says that using glue on her chin would make her break out, and she’s not prepared to do that – and I think Jasmine lost the competition right there and then.
The Reviews Are In: This week’s guest judges are Mel B and Kat Dennings, who both make a virtue of not drawing attention to themselves and actually acting like proper judges, which is awesome. The guest judge casting has been spot-on so far this season. Unsurprisingly, Team Max glides to an easy victory, with Jaidynn getting praised for overcoming her nerves and Max deservedly getting the individual prize (latex outfits). Team Kennedy, alternatively, gets royally reamed, and Ru is so furious with them all that she puts the entire team up for elimination. (It’s more of a gesture than a real threat – Kandy and Katya are given good feedback and there’s never any hint that either of them was in any real danger of going home.) Kennedy’s leadership is criticised, and she accepts that – but she doesn’t accept Violet’s assertion that the failure to have an extra rehearsal contributed to their shitshow of a performance. Ru and Michelle are furious at this point and tell them that no further excuses will be considered or excepted. Violet is declared safe, as is Pearl (who is told that this should be a very loud wake-up call), and Kennedy and Jasmine and left to lip-sync to Kylie’s ‘I Was Gonna Cancel’. It’s a lacklustre lip-sync both musically and performance-wise, with solid but unspectacular efforts from both parties, but Jasmine runs out of steam halfway through and therefore Kennedy’s dull but controlled performance grants her at least one more week in the competition. Jasmine leaves, happy that she at least got to go out to someone she respects, because Jasmine has learned nothing.
Untucked: There’s a feud between Miss Fame and Kennedy for some reason, which wasn’t particularly compelling. Also, several sources reveal that Jasmine had declared she would just stand there and do nothing if she was lip-syncing against Kennedy. The only really interesting revelation is that Max and Trixie went to school together, and that’s a plotline I definitely want more detail on.