I’ve seen gayer
1. If you were inclined to think that Shea’s constant early season pep talks to Nina were more for the cameras’ benefit than for Nina’s, then you got some more evideence in your column to start this week, as Shea continued to address the queen of paper masks as she wiped down the mirror, even though Nina herself was presumably half way to a Popeyes for a post elimination snack. Rest assured Shea loves Nina and believes in her and knows she will overcome her inner saboteur one day. (Motion : we start referring to “Inner Saboteurs” as “Inner Ninas” from here on out, as she EMBODIED THE CONCEPT like Kennedy Davenport embodies pageantry, Willam Belli embodies shade, and Vivienne Pinay EMBODYS ALWAYS BEING THE FISHIEST QUEEN). This grandstanding was followed by another playful back and forth between Trinity and Shea about their respective records, further cementing them as the Final 2 this season is hurtling towards. Sasha, Peppermint, and Alexis were all left to putter around the edges with two solo wins (neither of which were really deserved) between them, wondering if they could scrape through another episode.
2. The Final 5 has now apparently become the traditional home of the Puppet Challenge, which you’d be forgiven for forgetting because nothing memorable has happened in it since Series 6. It’s still preferable to the ghost town of humour that is the Library Challenge though, as we still get memorable puppet lewks like these
The show really is missing the mini challenges where queens have to throw something crafty together in 10 minutes. They’re always quick fun, and additionally serve to throw into relief and make more admirable the more polished and considered (most of the time) looks of the main challenge. In terms of overall performance Sasha was probably the best and the tidiest (and also shaded Nina Bo’Nina Brown more often and harder than she shaded Trinity, showing just how missed Nina was in this challenge, at least as a target), but nobody hit a better gag than Peppermint having Puppet Alexis disappear back into the stall and then re-emerge indifferently spray-painted green, and if the win hadn’t turned out to be a poison chalice, I would have wished it on her.
3. The win was of course a poison chalice because it meant the queen who received it (Sasha) was nominally in charge of the group performance portion of the annual Drag Race ball, the yearly challenge wherein the queens compete to construct the best three themed ensembles(/shill the best for Sanrio or Absolut Cocktails). Which this year was themed around the GAYEST things the production staff could think of – rainbows, unicorns, and
THE VILLAGE PEOPLE (except the soldier, sorry bbz, maybe Ross Matthews was sucking off a marine backstage to represent, who can say?). The group performance part meanwhile was themed around the second most lesbian sport of them all (thanks for the heads up Margaret Court!)
Rhythmic gymnastics! It goes without saying that Ru here is doing much better at it than any of the queen did on the actual night, where the aim was more avoid anyone getting poked in the eye and also stave off Alexis trying to turn the whole thing into a musical about the New York Subway (WHICH SHE USES TO GET TO HER GIGS, SOMETHING NO OTHER DRAG QUEEN DOES, SHE IS THE ETERNAL SUBWAY QUEEN) (NOT THE SANDWICHES HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT WHEN YOU KNOW SHE’S STRUGGLED WITH DISORDERED EATING, YOU’RE A MONSTER!). Rehearsals for this pointless extravanganza did however result in that rare beast – a disagreement between Sasha and Shea! In it, Sasha said that she believed that Shea was overshadowing her and getting in the way of her shining in her own right. Which…yes, and it’s a bit late to be noticing that now if you want to win Sasha, but here we are. The final performance was, of course, dull and pointless, with Peppermint and Trinity standing out the most for me. The judges then of course told us that it had in fact been Sasha and Shea who stood out the most because why not?
4. The construction part of the challenge went off fairly simply and without much drama. Probably this was down to the lack of a Jinkx, Adore or Derrick, the queen without any real garment construction experience who’s trying their best to bluff through as best they can. Alexis was probably the biggest standout in terms of futzing around the workroom, but even there she’s experienced enough, it’s just that she was facing the philosophical question of the series – is it possible to polish an Alexis? Unsurprisingly, when these are the craft materials on offer to work with
the answer is no. Rest assured though, that Alexis sprinted towards the tackiest stones on offer
then paraded them around in front of Ru like she was offering them up as a prize on Wheel Of Fortune. What a tastemaker. Although even this moment paled into insignificance compared to her proudly telling us that her look inspired by the Native American Village Person was going to be “ready to wear”. IT’S THE RUPAULS’ DRAG RACE BALL ELEGANZA EXTRAVAGANZA CHALLENGE ALEXIS, NOT DESIGNING A DRESS FOR BANANA REPUBLIC ON PROJECT RUNWAY. NOBODY IS HERE FOR READY TO WEAR CLOTHING.
5. Fortunately there was no Learning Growing moment yet again this episode, unless you count Trinity revealing via a talking head interview, her intense lifelong phobia of
Executive Producer Mindy Salanglang. Oh, no, wait, midges. Trinity is afraid of midges.
6. So let’s take these categories down one by one starting with the rainbow looks.
Shockingly, Sasha is my favourite here, closely followed by Trinity. I always love colour blocking and it’s done very boldly here, and even though it’s a little frumpy and matronly, it’s a very Rosa Klebb art school substitute teacher/international assassin style of frumpy and matronly and the wee tiny wooden house under hat is adorable and apropos for a Wizard Of Oz theme. Trinity I just love because her brain clearly went straight to bondage and she looks good doing it. Alexis and Peppermint meanwhile are just different manifestations of the same type of tacky (Alexis’ in particular looks so cheap I’d not be surprised to see it on sale in Skegness next to the banana boats and wacky novelty giant sunglasses) and Shea doesn’t even fit the assignment. I’m not a huge fan of rules as they are applied to Drag Race, because if there’s one thing I don’t think drag needs its restrictions, but this is still a competition and you have to meet a goal. Alexis Mateo’s butch Alicia Keys was a work of genius but if she’s done it in the middle of the sci fi challenge, it wouldn’t have been a win (…or would it?)
First of all, Alexis was SO channelling “Katie Price launches her riding school” the entire time here that I had to give it the full whack points wise on my scorecard. The gold, the curves, the swerves, the wanton horsey sexuality… Otherwise nothing here was too inspiring – Shea gave a good presentation, but a lot of her look was made out of bits that she cobbled together from other runways (I feel like of all the queens Shea brought the smallest suitcases with her), Trinity gave a great presentation but her outfit from the neck down was an absolute STATE, and Sasha had a great, novel, idea with her tapestry throwback unicorn but the execution was off (is that a cape or…) and frankly it looked like she’d stuck a giant used tampon to her forehead. Worst of all though was Peppermint, who decided to go for a space theme for her unicorn which…aren’t we all bored of the queens just sticking “space” on the front of everything as an excuse to use up 7 or 8 bits of clear fabric they brought with them that didn’t really suit any other theme? Also…it didn’t fit.
Now this is more like it. First of all both Shea and Trinity’s looks are ball presentations for the ages. The chic Vivienne Westwoood aping flannel caped construction worker (what is it with construction site themed ball looks, why do they ALWAYS work?) and the futuristic Judge Dredd style law-giver were the easy top 2 in this category, as you might expect from both queens history knocking up garments from rough and ready materials. Sasha’s firema…I mean cowboy was ok but you could tell this sort of low camp isn’t really her gig. If she can’t work in a reference to 18th century gothica or Klaus Nomi in there she’s not interested okurrr. I’d even say I preferred Peppermint’s leather dominatrix look even if her eye make-up was applied via wrecking ball and, as she later revealed, it was made out of pleather. But it was Alexis who stood out most on the other end of the scale with a wig and make-up job that looked like someone trying to Single White Female Manila Luzon, an actual literal bow and arrow superglued awkwardly to the side of her forehead and a corset, the stoning of which sent her ACTUALLY BLIND MICHELLE. I’ve seen a lot of discussion of who deserved to win and why (Shea having two strong rounds but ignoring the brief in Round 1, Sasha with by far the strongest outfits conceptually but falling down on technical construction skills, Trinity delivering consistantly but not winning any round in particular) but after this round, I’ve seen no dissent regarding who the bottom 2 were.
9. And said bottom 2 was endorsed by the other queens, with Shea and Sasha selecting, when asked, Alexis for the boot, and Alexis and Trinity selecting Peppermint (Peppermint then selected Trinity out of pure spite <3). Those two then faced off in a lip sync to "Macho Men" which saw the show probably reach the PEAK of its gender bending, firstly because it featured a transwoman, dressed as a deliberately androgynous dominatrix (complete with gender switch reveal of wigs from "feminine" to "masculine") lip-syncing to a song performed by men, about ironic hypermasculinity, and using the lyrics of the song to call her opponent, a cisgender man dressed as a woman, out for being too masculine to carry off a convincing feminine illusion. So much to unpack there it's practically Joan Collins' weekend luggage for a trip to St Tropez. Secondly because
this. Peppermint won, deservedly so, as she just danced better and was more playful with the tone of the song, but part of me will always love a little Alexis just getting up there and wedding dancing. There were points when she was actually channelling my favourite performance of Macho Man – that of Joan Cusack in Addams Family Values. So she left, in 5th, somehow, for which I am truly grateful and which I still don’t quite understand as a happening. And she left as she lived – scrawling Sondheim lyrics on the mirror. Theatre queen to the last.
10. Untucked Moment Of The Week : Trinity audibly and grandiloquently snorting when Alexis claimed that Shea and Sasha had picked her out for the boot because she’s such a threat.