Frankly if Daytime Drag doesn’t become a Loose Women-style talk show, then I don’t even see the point of television any more.
1. There are some reality shows that absolutely suit being taken out to face the public sometimes – America’s Next Top Model and Top Chef are two that I can think of which regularly take the contestants out of the studio and into the real world to interact with real people. On the other hand, there are others where any attempt to do this just feels weird – and RuPaul’s Drag Race definitely falls into that category. Perhaps because it doesn’t use the reality TV trope of “everyone lives in the same house with cameras everywhere, getting hammered and having fights at 3am” – pretty much every scene on this show is either in the workroom or on the runway (or, in the case of Untucked, in the lounge getting hammered on product-placed vodka, which isn’t quite the same thing even though it’s close) – it feels really odd when this show breaks its hermetically-sealed bubble and ventures out into the real world. I wasn’t a big fan of the “sell gift certificates on the street” challenge from season two either, and this week’s main challenge didn’t really sit well with me either, for reasons we shall get to presently.
2. Before all that, though, let’s address this week’s Mini Challenge. I feel like the show’s been reading my mind as I’ve been mulling over recently which All Star queen is the hottest as a boy (I think it’s between Yara Sofia and Manila Luzon, personally, though I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments), and this week Ru gave them all digital cameras and told them to take their best sexy butch photos of themselves as men. It was interesting how the instruction to look like butch men still sent several queens scurrying to the make-up counter, but those were frequently the most successful – Shannel and Chad did a fantastic bit of gender-bending to make themselves look like drag kings (at least, I hope that was their intention), but Yara and Alexis scooped the overall victory. The less said about Jujubee’s blurry, confused-looking shot and Raven’s MySpace self-portrait the better.
3. As I mentioned earlier, the main challenge sent the queens out into the street for a sort of Just For Laughs-style mission, where they had to convince members of the public to do weird things for them – the more outlandish the request, the more points they go. Each queen had an earpiece linked to a booth where their teammate sat with Ru, directing them – though on several occasions this was more of a hindrance than a help. It will no doubt shock you to your core to learn that this was a challenge that played right into the hands of the fishier queens – Jujubee in particular managed to seem completely approachable and unthreatening, and as a result probably had the highest hit rate of anyone, even convincing a guy to let her squeeze whipped cream down his pants. (Ru, at judging: “What was the hardest part of this challenge?” Jujubee: “His penis when I squirted the cream.”) That said, it wasn’t just the most feminine queens who were successful – a surprisingly gregarious Manila also got good results with a wonderfully inviting all-girls-together air about her that made it very easy to coerce passers-by into wearing a diaper and crying like a baby (demonstrated by Manila with her trademark cross-eyes), and both members of Team Shad (with Shannel as Sharon Osbourne and Chad as Kathy Griffin, apparently) managed to tap into that special brand of desperation that comes across as endearing rather than offputting. Shannel in particularly got quite lucky by happening about a nice young man who seemed as though he wouldn’t mind her cougaring his ass but good. Special mention also goes to Alexis, not for performing particularly well in the task, but for yelling “Hi, Manila!” at a short Asian woman walking past.
4. It’s equally shocking that certain queens had a natural disadvantage in this task – in broad daylight, it’s hard to escape the fact that Latrice is a very large and rather mannish-looking queen, so she found it a lot harder to get anyone to come anywhere near her (though admittedly the fact that she seemed to spend half the task diving into the bottom of the props bin looking for things probably didn’t help her cause either), and Yara had the equally distracting issue of the language barrier – though again she didn’t exactly do herself many favours by just yelling “HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!” at everyone rather than actually telling them what she wanted, giving them all ample opportunity to scarper before she moved on to the next syllable. Overall there were some funny moments in the challenge, but it felt to me like something that would’ve been better suited as the Mini Challenge rather than the main one – it was all a bit fast and scrappy and I really don’t think it showed many of the queens at their best.
5. One interesting twist this week was that after the challenge, as the queens were getting made up for the runway, we got a rather frank discussion on sexuality. This was prompted in the main part by Latrice’s distaste for this week’s Mini Challenge, specifically the requirement that they had to be “sexy”, since Latrice explained that he doesn’t generally feel sexy as a man, and that it’s easier for most of the others who have the sort of physiques that are likely to get them attention. From many other contestants in this show’s history (I’m looking at you, Delta Work) this could have come across as self-pitying or even self-hating, but the joy of Latrice’s relatively even temper is that this statement felt matter-of-fact – he was a bit aggrieved about what he felt was a personal disadvantage in the Mini Challenge, but he wasn’t expecting people to start making excuses for him. This segued into a fascinating discussion on the nature of drag and sexiness – for Manila, for example, feels sexier in drag but thinks it’s important to keep hold of that feeling when she’s dressed as a boy, while Raven feels completely comfortable as a man and looks upon drag more as an art form and a way to make a living. Oh, and Chad’s completely comfortable with being bald – whether Santino feels the same way remains to be seen. He was wearing a hoodie pulled right up to his forehead this week, so I wouldn’t count on it.
6. I can only assume that this week’s guest judges were a special present to me for being such a loyal and enthusiastic viewer, because what other explanation could there be for Janice Dickinson and Rachel Dratch guesting on the same episode? Rachel even did Debbie Downer face right into the camera. Rachel was a bit subdued, but Janice was her usual joyously incoherent self, treating the whole thing like a giant fashion show and not being afraid to read the contestants to filth for not meeting her exacting standards. Sadly, she didn’t tell anyone it looked like they had a penis, but you can’t have everything. The theme for this week’s runway was Bad Girl Chic, and the standouts were Yara’s completely mad hair which had two marionette handles running through it, Latrice painting her face as Divine (a reference which she assumed the judges hadn’t got, but it turned out they got it fine, they just didn’t like it) and Raven and Jujubee serving Harajuku Hooker realness – though Raven’s granny panties did not sit well with Michelle Visage at all.
7. In terms of results, team Shad were declared the winners on points in the Queens Behaving Badly Challenge, and the judges were also appreciative of their rock mutha (or possibly rock mother, with those two it could go either way) looks, so they were the overall winners of the week, earning themselves a sort of spa treatment from the Pit Crew backstage. Ru decides to stir up some drama by asking everyone who most deserves to be sent home this week, and while there are some well-intentioned answers (Chad says it should be Rujubee because they’re the biggest threat to him winning, and Jujubee says Yarlexis because he thinks they’re stuck in a bit of a rut), Alexis ends up taking it all very personally, saying that she’d send Latrice home for being fat (prompting Latrice to say that she’d send both Yara and Alexis home for not speaking English properly), having a bit of a runway meltdown and saying that she’s working hard with Yara to send everyone else home. It’s the kind of uncomfortable moment that you can’t quite believe it doesn’t feature PhiPhi O’Hara anywhere. Interestingly, Yarlexis got the fewest points overall in the challenge, but they’re still safe because the judges loved their runway look – though further problems are created when Yara immediately leaps in to take credit for Alexis’s outfit, which suggests that the other contestants claims throughout the episode that Yara is completely carrying Alexis’s ass in this competition aren’t entirely without merit. Depending on how long the team gimmick continues, I’m pegging Team Yarlexis as the one most likely to implode, because Alexis is looking increasingly fed-up with constantly being told what to do. Actually, that’s a quite enticing prospect, because I’m pretty much imagining the entire fight consisting of the words “BAM!” and “ECHA PA’LANTE!” and involving someone getting sequins in their eye.
8. You’ve probably worked out by now that this means we had the most heartbreaking of all possible outcomes – a Rujubee vs Latrila Lip Sync For Your Life, meaning that a fan favourite team is going out whatever happens. Jujubee and Manila volunteer to perform, which is probably the right choice – and of course gives viewers the maximum potential for drama. While the song they’re given is an absolute CHOON (‘Nasty’ by Janet Jackson), it’s a surprisingly subdued lip sync: Jujubee’s probably the best lip syncher in the show’s history (lord knows she’s had enough practice) and it’s no great surprise that she embraces the song’s sheer sexiness with a dominatrix-style performance that suits it perfectly, while Manila goes for her usual balls-out insanity – which worked well with something as high-camp as ‘MacArthur Park’ but seems out of place here. Once again, the Shemergency Button remains unpressed, leaving me wondering if anyone’s ever going to use it. I’m inclined to say yes, because surely otherwise the editors would have just removed all mentions of it from the show entirely? Given though that we’re already halfway through the series, and the team gimmick can’t last much longer, they’d better get a move on.
9. In the end, Rujubee are invited to stay while Latrila are regrettably told to sashay away. It’s an incredibly emotional scene, and you can tell that Ru doesn’t really want to let any of them go, but then the stakes always were going to be higher in an All Stars season, I suppose. In many ways, I feel this bottom two and this elimination in particular are my karmic retribution for finding it so hilarious when Pandora Boxx got kicked off in the first week, and while Latrice tries to be philosophical about it all, Manila’s clearly a little bit pissed off. As a nice closing touch, Manila knocks Jujubee’s picture off the wall when removing her own, though whether this is accidental or deliberate, I wouldn’t like to say. Potentially interesting point of note: there’s only one space next to Ru on the Wall of Fame, so presumably that means that we are only getting one winner. Sorry, WINN-AH!
10. This week’s Untucked is a rather tense affair – which is hardly surprising considering they’ve all just been asked to say which rival team they think is the crappest, but it did really make me long for Tammie Brown to walk in with a bright non-sequitur just to puncture the atmosphere every now and then. Line of the night goes to Raven, who wasn’t impressed to be criticised by Janice: “Janice Dickinson wants to come for my face? The way I did my make up? This comes off, honey.” Yara and Alexis are pretty defensive throughout whenever they’re tackled, which is fairly established behaviour from both of them from their original season. There’s some delicious unseen footage of just how far Shannel went to win the challenge, and a great scene of everyone making truck-reversing noises as Yara struggles to get her hairpiece through the door. This week’s special guest via videolink is Tatianna, who apparently is no longer BFFs with Jujubee after watching their seasons, for reasons of drama that seem to mostly exist in Tati’s head. The segment is called T With Tati, but her attempts to insult the others are so lukewarm that it’s more like Remedial Reading – the only one that gets much of a reaction at all is her telling Alexis Mateo that “you are usually the first to throw shade, maybe you should go hide in it” – and even that’s more baffled surprise than anything. Chad’s dismissive shout of “bar queen!” at the screen when she’s finished says it all really. Having said all that, it’s totally worth it for the flashbacks to Tati’s performance as Britney Spears in Snatch Game, which is still the best celebrity impersonation on this show BAR NONE, and I will brook no argument. I still have my fingers crossed for Mystique Summers Madison being tied to the Furry Pink Box before the season’s out. BITCH SHE AM FROM CHICAGO!