1. So yes, in a surprise to precisely nobody, the returning queen was…
PAT BENATA…CYNTHIA LEE FONTAINE! Last season’s Miss Congeniality, Austin Texas finest yawl, and Queen Of The Cucu (this episode’s “cucu” count? 12. It felt like more. A lot more), Cynthia is back to…well she won’t win, clearly, but she’s here to expand her legend, like Tatiana in All Stars 2, or Milan on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. When I first saw Cynthia, yowling and pointing and pulling faces as soon as the episode started, my initial impression was that I easily could have gone a couple of more years before seeing her again, but then she pulled out video evidence of why she was cast yet again, and my heart softened.
What an uncanny Michael Jackson, Snatch Game is going to be lit! Also you may infer from the word “chemotherapy” there another reason she’s back – she was in the early stages of liver cancer during Series 8, and as such was only competing at 50%. I know, that was Cynthia at only 50% strength. Let’s all get ready for the undiluted version! But enough of my reaction, what of the original cast-members of Series 9? Well Shea was worried that Cynthia’s previous experience would give her an advantage over the field (bitch, she did three episodes, calm down), Sasha thinks that having cancer has made Cynthia a stronger more focused queen (I’d say it sounded less awkward the way Sasha chose to phrase it but, well, it didn’t), Peppermint also admitted to being intimidated and Kimora? Well, Kimora used it as an opportunity to take about how much better her “cucu” is than Cynthia’s. God bless.
2. Can we talk about what Lisa Kudrow did in this episode?
In that she turned up, looked awkward, got repeatedly prodded into saying the more forgettable catchphrase she had on a show that nobody watched, and then left. Apparently this was because she really wanted to be on the show, but didn’t want to be in a position to judge anyone. Which…you were the second best actor on an old sitcom with the fourth best post show career, if you’re going on, youu should do the full job, don’t act above it. Even when Moby pulled the same stunt he still participated in a Mini Challenge where they forced the hose from a vacuum cleaner down his throat (or at least that’s how I remember it). I like you Kudrow, you were a delightful highlight of Bojack Horseman Series 2, but don’t push it.
3. This week’s challenge, as introduced by Ru? Cheerleading. I liked that my first vision of Ru in full drag this season was of her waving a giant foam finger about, it felt like coming home. The queens were to split into two teams of rival cheerleaders, one representing RuPaul and one representing guest judge,, the B52s. I know, right? I wouldn’t have thought the B52s would go on RuPaul’s Drag Race, y’know, because it’s so campy, and the B52s don’t do camp. (*wink to camera*) Anyway, we all know what a team challenge means right? A PLAYGROUND PICK! And regular readers will know I love a Playground Pick. Chiefly because I don’t remember them ever being done at my school, so I have no attendant trauma. Nina, as the winner of the Lady Gaga Pageant And Anecdote Apocalypse was one team captain, and picked first, and Cynthia, as the Prodigal Queen, was the other, and picked second. One by one Shea, Kimora, Alexis, Eureka, Aja, Farrah, Sasha and Peppermint got picked, leaving our remaining slim pickings to be Charlie (OLD!), VALENTINA (ROOKIE ONLY BEING DOING DRAG 10 MONTHS VIRGIN CAN’T EVEN DRIVE!), Trinity (idk she seems quite an annoying person?) and Jaymes (JAYMES!) as the unpopular kids at the back. Of the four, Jaymes got chosen first, with Nina saying she loves an underdog, and Cynthia cackling that she was doing community service. A proper queen would have clapped back at this point. Jaymes
Just…kind of…looked sad? And a bit resentful? So glad she seized the opportunity to come back roaring from last week’s implied Bottom 2. At any rate we than ran through Trinity and Charlie, leaving Valentina as the dead last loser nobody wanted. You could have crowned her this week’s winner there and then right?
4. As if to presage explicitly this episode’s Bottom 2, the workroom drama immediately focused on Jaymes on Nina’s team and Kimora on Cynthia’s. And you will be surprised to hear that Jaymes’ drama focused on his being shit, and Kimora’s on her being annnoying. For the challenge, each queen was required to take on one of a number of cheerleader characters (NB : these characters were relevant for one line, and in my cases not even that, god bless the editing on this show and the narcissism on these queens milking 5 minutes of ZOMG WILL THEY PULL IT TOGETHER AND WIN THE CHALLENGE? content out of it). Basically Jaymes wanted to be “Floozy” and Alexis also wanted to be “Floozy” but when Alexis heard what the challenge was going to be she pulled this face
so you could forgive the queens for going out of their way to avoid allowing Alexis to have what she wanted, so they gave Alexis “Snoozy” instead (Another amazing Alexis mome : her reacting to this by saying ironically (but not) that she could of course do ANY of the parts because she’s an ACTRESS) (<3)) but then oops Jaymes literally couldn’t get the line “I’m Jaymes and I’m a Floozy” out of her goddamn mouth without disappearing over the other edge of her tongue, so Alexis got to be Floozy again. I know, exhausting right? Fortunately the drama around Kimora was a lot more fun, because it was her emiting a high-pitched whine that hot-glueing on rhinestones to her cheerleader skirt was making her THIRSTY and was HARD LABOUR and it’s alright for the other girls because they were just RAISED DIFFERENTLY. This was funny partly because Kimora is just naturally funny when she’s doing her showgirl whining, unlike Farrah, who’s just dull (see also : “Who does cartwheels any more? IT’S NOT THE 80S!”) and also partly because Valentina decided to respond like Obnoxio The Clown by
clutching her hands to her chest and sighing to an appreciative Eureka and Peppermint that “stoning feeds my soul”. At this moment it clicked for me that Valentina is a deliberately agrevating high grade nicey-nice phony and also I love her for it. “Stoning feeds my soul” indeed.
5. Get ready for an unusual sight.
IT’S A DOM CHEERLEADER! Yes, outside of the obnoxious sassy chanting and pom pom waving, there was a serious physical element to this challenge, and Dom here (apparently the husband of long time show collaborator Travis Wall, we love you Travis Wall, don’t start doing meth, being racist, getting fired, and showing your hobo dick on twitter like other long time show collaborators we could mention but we won’t!) was brought in to coach the queens how to get thrown around by hot buff men. Like some of them needed lessons.
Look at Valentina’s face, she’s been here before. Chiefly worried during lessons were Charlie (OLD!) and Trinity, who was particularly concerned about being dropped on her face. I know, that would be awful, she might end up damaged and have to get surgery or something. It also became clear during this session why Nina had chosen Shea first. It was because she’s a massive fucking ringer.
6. Are you ready for your first scandal of the series?
YES IT’S VALENTINAGATE! As part of her belongings and general personal effects Valentina has brought a veladora with her from home, which she keeps at her make-up station, and occasionally prays to. The show decided to respect this expression of her Christian faith by playing obnoxious mariachi music over the top and airing a confessional of Trinity hooting that VALENTINA BE CRAZY. And I can see this from both sides – yes drag has an integral streak to its history that’s proudly and actively blasphemous and disrespectful of religion and yes also they could do with being a little more respectful of the faith of their actual contestants and yes Valentina is clearly doing it OTT style on purpose so she can build her brand and probably WANTS it to be something that gets her over as a “kooky latina” and yes on that note also the show could do with presenting its Latin queens as something other than “loca” for a change. It’s a knotty issue : vote in this poll
and then focus on the episode’s more palatable drama.
Alexis’ face swivelling like a goddamn owl as soon as she hears that the high school basketball star that gay-bashed Peppermint was hot.
7. So when the hour came to perform, the point of the challenge became obvious. After last week, when everyone got an equal amount of time to present and explain their two looks, this week the queens had to show their star power by actively clawing and biting their way to the front. It’s kind of hard to judge these challenges, because you know that so much of “sticking out” is about the role the showrunners have given each queen to perform.
Oh look, it’s the end pose and oh look, all of the eventual top 3 (Shea, Trinity, Valentina) have featured roles, what do you know? I remember Nina from the challenge, and I don’t remember, say, Charlie, but how much of that is because Nina got to do the booming deep-voiced intro and Charlie got to…I don’t know, have a Stephanie Beacham style nice sit down a minute in? Anyway, as such, I have to give bonus points to Alexis, for actively pushing incessantly for the plum role of “Floozy”, and thus getting to live out her
“I’M. STILL. BIG. RED” fantasies, and also to Eureka for, well
managing to do this. Not that I’m saying the cheertators of this week’s cheerocracy didn’t deserve to reach the peak (or that Valentina didn’t deserve her eventual win), as they were adept muggers all. For example, compare Shea’s face here
Jaymes as soon as she thought the camera was off her. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to return to a challenge where everything felt a little less on rails.
8. Well it worked last time, so here’s another selection of my favourites and least favourites from the runway, the theme of which this week was “White Party”. (A theme otherwise known as “Reddit’s Favoured Drag Race Winner’s Circle”)
Shea Coulee : Now this is more like it from Shea. The Barbarella strapping, the Barbarella wig, the Barbara Windsor tits.
Alexis Michelle : …is there supposed to be a face under there? Somewhere? I know Easter is coming but I’m not sure the Painted Egg look was part of the assignment. Also those cheapo depot nails good lord.
Farrah Moan : Yet again, she’s a showgirl. Yet again, I’m in love. Girl knows how to wear a garment, and you can fill in the spoiler here for next week, when she has to make one, herself.
Sasha Velore : Pre-empting Michelle’s future criticism to stop doing “arty” and start doing “glamour”, Sasha here lands directly on “matronly”
Charlie Hides : This being the outfit that saved her from the Bottom 2 lip-sync, after her advanced age held her back in the challenge. Personally I would have had it elevate her out of the Bottom 3 entirely, as I’m in love with the whole “Krystal Carrington at a Narnia themed Winter Ball” vibe here, certainly more than I was with Aja, who also barely featured in the challenge and also turned up for the runway wearing…hr face.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine : Hello Dolly as overstuffed Pepperami Stick encrusted with TOO MANY RHINESTONES.
Valentina : Remember when they had a whole bridal challenge in Series 2? Combined the dresses wouldn’t come to the level of this. Yet again Valentina gets it exactly right. She’s going to be very hard to beat coming down the runway this year.
Eureka : I kind of like that her boobs are so ridiculous and borderline grotesque here, but there’s succesful Statement Wigs and then there’s that. It looks like she’s balancing a restaurant size basket of breadsticks on her head.
Yes, where Charlie’s runway outfit saved her from the Bottom 2 and lip-sync’ing for her life, Kimora’s, combined with some truly ropey cartwheels, dumped her there. I didn’t include it in my round-up of hits and misses just because it so wantonly misses the point to turn up to a “Whites Only” theme
dressed like a Streets Of Rage 2 mid-level boss, replete with gold and blue, and with your tits hanging round your waist. The lip-sync between her and Jaymes was to “Love Shack” and, whilst it wasn’t the worst lip sync I’ve ever seen (I think the calls for a double elimination here were a little over the top) it was hardly for the ages. Neither Kimora nor Jaymes seemed to have the words tight, which is ridiculous because Love Shack is a song that you yell out far more than you listen to it but for my money Kimora was the worthy winner for two reasons : firstly she occasionally managed to succesfully pull off 80s style vamp, and secondly because the moment Jaymes saw that Kimora had hit the deck, and then promptly copied her, was just sad. If Jaymes takes any message home from this show it should be not to let any other queen make you her bitch, and least of all Kimora Blac.
10. This Week’s Untucked Highlight : Charlie Hides telling Eureka to stop fucking talking.