RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 7 Episode 6: “Ru Hollywood Stories”

Working Merles.

A Load Of Pants: There’s no time for a cocktail in the workroom this week as the remaining queens gather together to mourn the passing of Mrs Kasha Davis. Her lipstick message on the mirror is more benevolent than you might have expected considering her face when she was eliminated, but I note with interest that she’s included a “Ginger to win” post-script that feels a little pointed (right now). As usual, there’s a touch of grousing about the queens who remain, but oddly enough this is quickly forgotten when the mini challenge turns out to involve a load of guys with bulging briefs. An extra-large pit crew (oh calm down) is brought in for a game of ‘Monster In Your Pants’. Essentially, each queen has to pick Pit Crew guys at random and hope they pull a number out of their pants (phrasing) and not a monster, because if they pull a monster out of their pants before the queen freezes their game, they’re out of the running.

I don’t know whether the rules weren’t explained clearly, or whether everyone is just so horny at this point that they weren’t listening (Katya gives a thirsty as hell confessional asking when she gets to blow them all, and is then exasperated to be told that “blow” is on the long list of things she’s not supposed to say on camera), but everyone is really bad at this. For some it’s just a case of plain bad luck as they draw a monster on their very first go, but some get a bit greedy and push their luck too far. In fact, Ginger Minj turns out to be the only queen who actually succeeds at the game at all, so she wins by default – the two sweetest words in the English language.

Three’s Company: As the challenge winner, Ginger gets to pick her own team for the “maxi-challenge” (I love that terminology, it makes me think of Tampax) – and everyone else’s, as it happens. Since Ginger is a savvy sort, she puts herself with her right-hand woman Kennedy and with Katya, who’s generally been a reliable contributor to group challenges (spoken-word lipsyncs notwithstanding). Equally savvy, however, is her teaming up Kandy, Max and Violet, because she knows that Kandy’s a dead weight and Max and Violet are basically the madonna-whore complex made flesh. For similar reasons, she leaves Jaidynn, Miss Fame and Pearl as the third and final team, because Fame and Pearl hate each other, and Jaidynn…was also there. Look, every plan has a part that doesn’t quite fit, okay? Ask anybody who’s ever attempted to assemble some flat-pack furniture. Their challenge is to tell the Ru Hollywood Story of Whatever Happened To Merle Ginsberg? As usual, there’s some initial grumbling in the workroom over how to approach the task – having been lambasted in the past for being too passive, Pearl is full of ideas this time and Miss Fame doesn’t like that either. Meanwhile, Jaidynn is fretting about them not spending enough time going over their lines.

Putting The “Scripted” Into Unscripted: I don’t want to be the next person to pile on how this season feels a little underwhelming so far, but I was a little disappointed that this week challenge was another “play a character in a script written by somebody else” variation. It’s solid as a concept, and a good way of working out which queens can work together well and come across naturally on camera in the early stages, but between this, ShakesQueer, and elements of Glamazonian Airways and The DESPY Awards, I feel like the show’s been over-reliant on this particular element so far this season. The main problem is that the queens who are good at it will always be good at it, and vice versa. It’s not really an approach that’s going to prompt many revelations, and it’s exactly why Ginger (who we already know to be good at these challenges) was able to game the system this week by teaming herself with another strong player in Katya and matching up other people who’d struggled with this set-up before. Come on, Ru, switch it up a bit.

Ross Equals Boss: In happier news, I would like to say that this episode did a lot to endear Ross Mathews to me. I still don’t always enjoy him on the panel (his assessments of the queens are decent, but his jokes are pretty laboured and not especially funny), but as the director of the three videos, he was both funny and observant. I particularly liked his deadpan “who’s playing Ru?” to group one, which he sold so well that Kennedy completely fell for it and stuck her hand up (although Kennedy’s not exactly the tightest tuck in the pants, if you know what I mean), and his responding to Miss Fame’s latest “getting in my head” monologue with “I feel like I’m dating you!” I’m still not entirely convinced that having two part-time judges is a better idea than having one full-time judge though, even if that judge is Santino.

The Ginsberg Games: So let’s break those groups down. In group one, which is telling the story from Merle’s perspective, the main problem is Kennedy as Ru – she doesn’t know her lines, and even when she does, she delivers them as though she doesn’t have a clue what they mean. Merle is the hardest part in all of the films because her personality isn’t as easily lampoonable as Ru or Michelle’s, but Katya does a good job by playing her as a kind of spirited ingenue type. Ginger’s Michelle is a grotesque, all cleavage and grimacing, but she’s very funny, and it makes sense for a story that’s meant to be told from Merle’s perspective.

In group two, Kandy as RuPaul is fairly disastrous because her wig doesn’t meet her hairline and the beard-shading is well and truly back. She’d been doing so well with her make-up over the last few weeks, so I’m not sure quite what prompted this disastrous regression. Max makes the bold decision to play Merle like some sort of Richard III type figure, on the basis that it’s Michelle’s perception of Merle – I completely get the thinking there, and it’s certainly an idea with merit, but I think she might’ve done well to dial it back just a smidge. Meanwhile, Violet as Michelle huffs and puffs because she’s expected to hold a cake in one hand AND a drink in the other. #thestruggleisreal

The final group is meant to be telling Ru’s story, and Jaidynn has a bit of trouble with her lines, but that pales in comparison to Miss Fame, as Merle, having a classic “what’s my motivation?” meltdown and spending ages asking rhetorical questions about her own performance that leave everyone else completely baffled. As Pearl puts it: “Just. Say. The fucking. Line.”

Life As We Know It: One aspect of the show that felt like a real step in the right direction this week came during the getting-ready-for-the-runway section, where we actually saw the queens *gasp* talking to each other about their lives. Jaidynn came into particular focus as she talked about how she isn’t officially out to her family – it sounds like a complicated situation that I think essentially boils down to it being an open secret that nobody really discusses, since her mum sends her hugely passive-aggressive messages like “I’m so happy you’re going to marry a lovely woman one day”. It might just be because there are fewer people around to draw focus now so there’s a bit more time to spend with everybody, but whatever the reason, this is a good thing: these stories help to humanise the queens beyond their stage personas, so more of them would not go amiss.

Corpse We Can: With that out of the way, the theme for this week’s runway is ‘Death Becomes Her’, as the queens put together an outfit styled around how they imagine they’ll meet their maker. Guest judges this week are Merle Ginsberg (duh) and Ariana Grande, who is pleasant and clearly a BIG FAN with lots of opinions, but also not that exciting and maybe it’s just me but she also just looked really TIRED. Girl clearly needs a day off. Standouts include Katya, whose look is deliberately “Tara Reid being eaten by a shark in Sharknado“, Ginger getting eaten by a bear (nudge nudge wink wink), Max as a Miss Havisham-esque tragic ghost bride, and Violet wearing a corset that cinches her waist to Barbie-esque levels. She must have been very confident this week because I don’t know how the heck she expected to lipsync in that. Question marks hang over Pearl, whose outfit is good but is a literal interpretation of the movie Death Becomes Her (Pearl explains in Untucked that the outfit she packed for this was “death by tanning” but she already used it in the music video challenge and had to improvise) and Kennedy, who literally turns up dressed like a chicken and offers a bullshit explanation of how this fits the theme.

Bodies Of Evidence: Kennedy is extraordinarily lucky that she was on Ginger and Katya’s team, because they win as a group and she escapes the absolute reaming she deserved for that abomination of an outfit. Katya gets the individual win, and is very happy about it. Max’s look is well-received, but Michelle is angry at her for wearing yet another grey wig (even though it’s really the only appropriately-coloured wig for that concept) and her interpretation of Merle raises a few eyebrows. Violet’s deadly corset gets raves, even if her challenge performance doesn’t, and Pearl’s costume ends up being a favourite with the judges. Kandy’s vampire outfit is misjudged, however, and Jaidynn’s “died escaping from prison” look is criticised as being a little sloppy, so they end up lipsyncing to Ariana Grande’s ‘Break Free’. Kandy turns out another tight performance, but Jaidynn’s no slouch either. I think Kandy probably just edges it on that performance alone, but this is her third strike and Ru’s clearly fed up of saving her just for her skill at lipsyncing (and next week is Snatch Game and I think we all know how disastrous that was going to be), so Jaidynn gets to stay while Kandy Ho goes Kandy Home.

Untucked: Ginger’s attitude is really starting to turn nasty, as she spends most of her time complaining that she and Kennedy should win every challenge (KENNEDY. Yes really) while dragging Pearl, Max and anyone else she considers to be unworthy. There’s a discussion between Ginger, Kennedy and Katya about how Max is a big fake, and the minute the cameras aren’t pointing at her she switches off the affable faux-Brit attitude and starts shading everyone in her sightline. Personally that just makes me like Max more. When the rest of the queens arrive, however, it becomes clear that Ginger’s stank attitude isn’t entirely going unnoticed either. Still, it’s nice for someone other than Violet to get all of the heat for being shady.

Next week: Snatch Game! And if the character spoilers are accurate, it sounds like a fucking trainwreck.


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