RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 7 Episode 5: “The DESPY Awards”

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After The MASSACRE: To be honest, any reaction to Trixie Mattel’s elimination is going to seem pretty tame after seeing the entire internet collapse into a sobbing heap to the extent that you might think Zayn had just rejoined One Direction and then immediately left again, but there were still some very sore nerves backstage when everyone headed back into the workroom after Trixie’s ouster. Pearl sighed that she thought she was giving the judges what she wanted, and she’s just over them at this point – and I can get why people immediately wrote her off as a brat upon hearing that, but haven’t we all been snotty and dismissive in the heat of the moment when things aren’t working out the way we want them to? Pearl admitted in a confessional that it’s been a bit of a jarring transition because everyone loves her at home and she assumed it would work the same way here, so she’s finding all the criticism a little hard to bear. Regular Ru-watchers will find this all very familiar because Laganja made very similar comments last season, but Laganja was never particularly interested in tailoring her material for a different audience (see: her disastrous performance for the crowd of senior citizens in the stand-up challenge) whereas I think Pearl isn’t necessarily averse to switching things up – I think her problem is that she thinks she’s making an effort but the judges disagree. I realise that I sound like a Pearl rupaulogist here, but I guess I’m just saying that I’ve been that brat at various points in my life, and I don’t think it’s about her thinking that she’s the business, it’s about her feeling like she genuinely doesn’t know what the judges want her to do. Conversely, I have little patience for Mrs Kasha Davis over in the corner snotting that she’s been trying to get on this show for seven seasons (with the subtext that Pearl apparently got cast on her first attempt – or, at the very least, that Pearl almost certainly wasn’t even doing drag when Mrs K first applied for this show), largely because Pearl is not responsible the decisions made by the RuPaul’s Drag Race casting team, and also because I’m so sure that Mrs Kasha Davis never said anything in the heat of the moment that she later regretted when she discovered she’d been overlooked for the likes of Serena ChaCha or Venus D-Lite. Anyway, TL;DR: the Olds are desperate to avenge Trixie, Pearl’s so over this, let’s see what’s happening this week.

Paper Chains: Inspired by the @paperdragrace Instagram account, where someone ludicrously talented makes replicas of iconic Drag Race looks out of paper and posts them online so we can all gag on their eleganzA4 (that pun doesn’t work at all but I’m sticking with it because it made me laugh, so there), the queens were challenged to make quick imitations of classic red-carpet looks out of paper for this week’s mini-challenge. Interestingly, they were instructed to work as a pair with whoever they were (randomly?) standing next to at the time, so the pairs were: Ginger and Kandy (Li’l Kim’s purple boob-flashing catsuit), Jaidynn and Kennedy (Lady Gaga’s meat dress), Pearl and Max (Cher’s Oscar outfit as modelled by Chad Michaels during the S4 Snatch Game), Mrs Kasha Davis and Katya (Björk’s swan dress), and Violet and Miss Fame (Jennifer Lopez’s cleavage-revealing sludge-green kaftan thing). Essentially one person had to be the model while the other stuck the outfit together, and everyone made a creditable effort in this challenge – I particularly liked the brown paper hair extensions that Miss Fame stuck on Violet. Katya’s red carpet walk was accompanied by Mrs Kasha Davis doing a pretty terrible Joan Rivers impression that sounded more like Babs Bunny doing Katharine Hepburn. Let’s just say that (spoilers) I don’t feel too cheated that she won’t be here for Snatch Game. (Given the weak shade she threw at Pearl in the process, I’m not sad she went before the reading challenge either.) Mrs K and Katya win, despite (because of?) the Joan Rivers bit.

Trophy Wives: The queens stayed in those pairs for the main challenge, where they were to be the presenters and nominees of spoof ceremony The DESPY Awards. (I have no idea why “DESPY” is capitalised, by the way, so if anyone can make sense of that I’d be thrilled if you could enlighten me.) The brief was to have good, natural banter, some digs at their rivals, and have a good speech prepared in case they win. As challenge winners, Mrs K and Katya got to open the show and be the ostensible hosts of the whole proceedings (although, at least in the edit that we saw, they essentially disappeared as soon as the awards got going), Jaidynn and Kennedy were to present Sexy, Sexy Drag Queen, Max and Pearl had Most Busted Queen, Ginger and Kandy got Shadiest Queen, and Violet and Miss Fame would close with Meatiest Tuck. (Phrasing!)

Laugh Riot: The queens had to script their own jokes, but were all given some time with Kathy Griffin to help punch up their material. Crickets surrounded Violet and Fame, neither of whom are comedy queens, and who don’t even seem to have the same taste in material. Kennedy is confident, buoyed by last week’s comedic success, and takes full advantage of the opportunity to micromanage everything that Jaidynn does. Mrs K and Katya were aiming for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in their comedic approach. Ginger hosts several shows in her local area (and doubtless DOESN’T GET THE RESPECT SHE’S DUE FOR IT, eh Ginge?) while Kandy apparently only jokes unintentionally when she’s drunk (Kandy Who ♥). Shit got super-real when Ru came round to talk to Pearl and Max, and suggested that Pearl doesn’t have “the biggest personality”. Furious at being lumped into the same character-bracket as Courtney Act, Pearl went on the defensive and stated that she didn’t feel like this was useful criticism because all it was doing was shattering her confidence. Ru replied that he hoped it would “light a fire under your ass”, and then they glared at each other until Pearl asked if she had something on her face. Poor, poor Max was basically trying to gouge her own eyes out at this point to make the situation less painful. I know they often edit these scenes to try to make it look like someone’s in more trouble than they actually are, just to build up a bit of drama, but judging by all of the reactions (Max’s more than anyone), Ru was clearly deeply unimpressed with Pearl right here. We’ve seen from previous tasks that Max is pretty much the best person to have around when things are looking impossible because she’s so relentlessly optimistic, but even her “we’re going to get through this, we’re going to be great, we’re going to write great jokes for Kathy” pep talk wasn’t enough to stop Pearl from walking out in a huff. (For quite some time, according to Untucked.) And just to prove I’m not going to defend Pearl in every scenario, I do think that was a dick move. When you’re on a deadline and you’ve got a teammate who needs you to turn up, you don’t do that.

Fighting The Griffin: Kathy Griffin made her second appearance of the season as the comedy coach, and like any good former Celebrity Mole: Hawaii winner, she was not here to make friends. She criticised Katya and Mrs K’s references for being tired and not gay enough, told Jaidynn and Kennedy to stop punctuating every sentence with the word “girl” (“Okay, girl” replied Kennedy), warned Fame and Violet not to make their material too blue (and neither of them knew what “blue” meant – kids today, amirite), advised Max and Pearl not to be so shady that they alienate the audience entirely, and instructed Ginger and Kandy to stop rehashing other comedians’ old gags. Can Kathy be a permanent judge please?

Frock The Vote: Remember on Survivor when they used to do those “answer these questions about your fellow castaways” challenges? (Not the boring ones where they asked things like “who’s an astronaut in real life?”, the ones where they made everyone say who the biggest slut on the island was and then made them guess who got the most votes in front of everyone.) That sort of happened here with the votes, and I feel like you could have made a decent mini-challenge out of this all by itself, but it kind of got brushed under the carpet here because there were so many other elements to the challenge that there wasn’t really the time to focus on it, but between rehearsing with Kathy and going out on stage, the queens all voted in each of the four categories, meaning that they’d get a bit of an inkling as to how they were viewed by their peers. Some categories were less surprising than others: everybody was calling Shadiest Queen for Violet before the votes were even in the box.

Chicken Queen: So last week I said that Miss Fame was starting to step forward and make a name for herself by being stubborn and catty? This week we got to see a WHOLE ‘NOTHER SIDE side to Miss Fame, and that side was…chickens? It turns out she loves chickens because she grew up on a farm and used to breed them and train them for chicken pageants or whatever. Basically anything that Miss Fame does not know about raising a flawless chicken is not worth knowing, and discovering all of this makes her wonderful to me. I think maybe the problem I’m having with this year’s cast is that they’re all seeming a bit one-dimensional so far – they’re reality TV contestants rather than people, but getting the whole farm-and-chickens backstory for Miss Fame has fleshed her out so much, and it’s brilliant. There is so much you can take from “imagine me, 30 pounds heavier, a big nerd, and loving chickens” to inform on Miss Fame as a character. I think Miss Fame might actually be my favourite now? (Also Violet likes Miss Fame, so that’s humanising Violet by association.)

Standing On Ceremony: With Special Guest Judge Isaac Mizrahi in place, the queens came out to present their awards. Mrs K and Katya didn’t quite hit Fey/Poehler levels of chemistry, but they weren’t James Franco and Anne Hathaway either – Mrs Kasha Davis stumbled over her opening lines and I think that threw them both off ever so slightly, but the banter was decent, even if Katya kept in a line that Kathy told them to drop (it got a laugh, anyway). Kennedy and Jaidynn worked well as bitch and foil respectively, and gave the Sexy Drag Queen award to Miss Fame, who thanked the tapeworm in Mexico for making her thin, and the man upstairs – for the lighting that made her look so good. A good turn from all three there, I felt. Pearl and Max had excellent chemistry together, and Pearl did a great Ginger Minj impression as well as calling Katya “the Brooke Hogan of drag” (which Katya found hilarious), while Max introduced Mrs Kasha Davis as “last but certainly not youngest”. Jaidynn won the award and told everyone to burn in hell. Not the funniest or most original of speeches, but her open mouth crying face sold it well.

Ginger and Kandy was a one-sided pairing – it might have worked well if Kandy was the straight man, but Kandy was given actual jokes and her coming timing was hopeless. Violet won Shadiest Queen and did a Sally Field spoof, while quickly throwing in “lastbutnotleastgodthanks” before running away from the podium. The Sally Field bit was too obvious, but the thrown-in God reference just about saved it for me. Miss Fame and Violet had some slightly laboured gags, but they bounced off each other nicely, and Katya’s surreal acceptance speech was a nice cap to the segment.

Query: Didn’t Katya have a Russian accent at one point? Was that just too difficult to sustain over a whole series?

Pearl’s Before Swine: After Ru made sure we all knew that she won a Television Critics’ Association award, she declared Max and Pearl the winners, and I think they deserved it overall – other people might have been stronger players individually, but they were definitely the strongest partnership. Pearl thanked RuPaul for the smackdown, because it worked. Kennedy and Jaidynn were also declared safe and dismissed. Isaac thought Mrs K was too mundane, while Michelle wanted more volume in Katya’s hair in future. Ginger’s performance got raves, but her runway appearance fell flat. Kandy was overshadowed by Ginger, and her dress split the judges. Isaac loved Violet’s look, while Michelle warned her not to rush her speech. Michelle loved Miss Fame’s outfit, while Ross didn’t like her awards performance but Isaac did. Miss Fame replied that she was caught up in her head, so Ru of course responded “how is your head?” and Miss Fame, God love her, completely missed one of the most standard set-ups in comedy, and everyone laughed at her under their breath for being such a doofus. Poor Miss Fame. So caught up in her head that she can’t even spot an obvious “head” joke. I think this might be why I love her: she’s basically Alyssa Edwards, but with a more polished aesthetic.

Query #2: Max wore a grey wig this week. Didn’t Michelle explicitly say last week she wanted Max to wear any other colour at all? No one commented on it, anyway.

K-Hole: Ginger, Miss Fame, Katya and Violet were all safe, leaving Mrs Kasha Davis and Kandy to lip sync against each other to Teena Marie’s ‘Lovergirl’. Mrs K started with a burst of energy and I thought it was going to be a total walkover, but as the song went on you could see Kandy starting to get into her groove and really command the stage. Also, towards the end Kandy’s lip-synching was clearly much tighter than Mrs K’s, so in the end Kandy got to stay while Mrs Kasha Davis was dismissed. I ran out of uses for Kandy Ho about two episodes ago, but based on that lip-sync, it’s a sound decision.

Untucked: We started to veer back towards the old standards this week when Ginger Minj’s husband sent a video message to tell her how much he loved her, and while that was all very moving, the best part was Miss Fame (of course) and how it all made her have an ugly-crying fit and stamp her feet and giggle because she couldn’t stop crying but didn’t want to ruin her make-up. Yep, she’s my favourite. Miss Fame to win, please, with Max for Miss Congeniality. Also, in the extended sadness montage, Mrs Kasha Davis tried very, very hard to make “there’s always time for a cocktail” happen. I liked her, but I think maybe her schtick is best in limited doses.

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One thought on “RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 7 Episode 5: “The DESPY Awards”

  1. ddtftw says:

    I also wondered where Katya’s accent disappeared to, and very disappointed in Max’s grey wig – but I’m sure had she not been challenge winner and safe that Michelle would have called her out for it.
    I’m not sure why Kathy wasn’t on the final judging panel though? maybe you only get to do ti once a season 😦
    I wish Ru would air all the audition videos after a season starts to help us get to know the queens a bit more, or show some performance footage in the premiere episodes.

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