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Illustration for article titled The queens slay their second Rusical as iRuPaul’s Drag Race/i heads into its finale
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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The queens of season 12 have shown time and again they are a force to be reckoned with. Despite a few bobbles in the comedy challenges, the queens have brought a level of creativity, personality, and polish to their work that sets this season apart and has made for some incredibly close eliminations. RuPaul’s Drag Race has evolved over its 12 seasons, making cross-season comparisons tricky, but Crystal Methyd, Gigi Goode, Jackie Cox, and Jaida Essence Hall are easily one of the strongest final foursomes in the show’s history.

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The episode begins with the queens reacting to Heidi’s elimination. Unlike some of the other farewells—Brita’s ode to Aiden comes to mind—the queens’ kind words for Heidi feel genuine. The conversation quick moves on, however, to Crystal’s win and the queens’ report cards. Gigi and Jaida have three wins, while Crystal has one and Jackie has zero. Barring a major blunder from one of the front-runners, it’ll likely come down to Jackie and Crystal for the final spot in the finale.

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The next day, Ru’s video message makes the theme of the episode clear: Vegas, baby, Vegas! The challenges will celebrate RuPaul’s Drag Race Live, a live stage show featuring Drag Race alumni running at Flamingo Las Vegas. In a weaker season, this would feel like blatant self-promotion. With this set of queens, it’s blatant self-promotion and a chance to see whether these competitors can fill the stilettos of some of their most popular predecessors. They’ve more than lived up to the usual standards of Drag Race. Can they match that level doing the kind of work they may be vying for after the show?

For the mini challenge, the queens need to design an over the top headdress and get into quick showgirl drag, then introduce their new persona and work their headdress. They’re given a whopping 30 minutes and the Pit Crew brings in an assortment of accessories and clothes for them to work with. Jaida is up first as Toffee, working the stage in a hot pink and orange leotard and headdress. Gigi goes for more of a flapper look, with a gold fringe and blue feather look. She opts for comedy, ending her bit with a belly flop onto the floor. Sherry is next, in a black leotard and small pink and silver headdress. She goes more minimal, effectively underplaying her delivery. Crystal is unsurprisingly on the other end of the spectrum in a bright multi-toned pink look. She goes all out on her headdress, which has its own pink feather mullet, and she’s delightfully silly as she shows off some of her Phenomenal Phil dances. Last is Jackie as Fuzzy Box, in a sparkly gold leotard and shorts with a white boa, white and purple headpiece, and hot pink merkin. After complementing the group, Ru gives the win to Gigi, who receives a trip for two to Las Vegas.

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For the maxi challenge, the queens will need to perform a medley of songs from RuPaul’s Drag Race Live. They’ll be recording their vocals with the Vegas show’s composer, Leland, and they’ll again be choreographed by Jamal Sims, who directs the Vegas show. The queens will also need to write and record their own rap verse for the closing number, making this challenge a blend of the now-standard pre-finale performance challenge and a second Rusical. After their striking turns in the Madonna Rusical, expectations will be high.

Illustration for article titled The queens slay their second Rusical as iRuPaul’s Drag Race/i heads into its finale
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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The queens settle in to study their music and write their lyrics, but several hit a wall. They seem at a loss, trying to find more memorable and personal things to say than they did in the double premiere. Soon it’s time record. The queens head over to the main stage to work with Leland and Freddy Scott. Gigi is up first, pushed by Leland to up her energy and by Freddy to bring the theatricality that served her well in the premiere. Jackie is next and while she has a good verse, she’s struggling with flow and personality. Crystal is up third, and while she doesn’t have a great voice, her lyric is fun. If she commits to it, she may be able to turn her tone from a detriment to a draw. Last is Jaida, who’s nervous about her voice. It’s strange to see her hesitant. If the editing is to be believed, this could be a real stumbling block for her, the kind of issue that could knock her from contention.

After recording, it’s time for the choreography rehearsal. Jamal Sims doesn’t seem to be pulling his punches with the queens and in their group rehearsal, things look rough. Jackie is up first for individual rehearsal. After her stiff performance in the Madonna Rusical, she has a lot to prove. She picks up the choreography pretty quickly, but it’s far from the smooth, sexy movement Jamal is looking for. Crystal has some trouble, but she gives herself pep talks the entire way, saying with each stumble, “I am an amazing dancer.” This helps her ward off negative thinking and she manages to keep her head in the game. Gigi’s choreography has some slow-motion running moves that are a ways from elegant, but she seems confident. As for Jaida, after a quick fake-out, her rehearsal goes well, with Jamal encouraging the other queens to match her confidence and execution.

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The next day, the queens enjoy a celebratory drink and talk a little smack before getting ready for the runway. They reflect on their time in the competition as they paint, sharing their first impressions of each other. These exchanges are warm and friendly, and it’s a sign of these queens’ confidence that there’s so little drama. They’re all secure in themselves and what they need to do, and they know they can rely on their fellow queens to be reliable scene partners. It’s shaping up to be a good show.

Illustration for article titled The queens slay their second Rusical as iRuPaul’s Drag Race/i heads into its finale
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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It’s time for the maxi challenge. Ru walks the runway in a lovely, if understated gown, before introducing the judges and welcoming back Jamal. The Rusical opens with the queens in their entrance looks, lip-syncing to “We Made It.” The number is bright and earnest, and the queens are convincing leads. It’s high energy, though with minimal choreography, and they nail their interactions and timing. Next is the end of act one ballad, “The Mirror.” Each of the queens gets a vocal moment and they sound better than expected, particularly after the edit of the recording session. They sell the emotion of the piece and the song is a nice contrast before the disco finale.

The closing number, “Losing Is The New Winning,” suffers a bit without the context of the show, but the queens’ performances are strong. Each of their verses has personality and energy, and they deliver them well. Jackie’s has the most specificity, but Gigi and Crystal’s are solid too and after all her worries, Jaida sells hers with her confidence and attitude. Jaida edges out the others as the best dancer, but Gigi keeps up with her and both Jackie and Crystal do a good job with their choreography. All in all, it’s an excellent performance. This is undoubtedly one of the best Rusicals in Drag Race herstory, making these queens two for two.

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Straight off the cheers of the judges, the queens head to the runway. Category is: Eleganza Extravaganza. Crystal is up first, coming out in an unusual blue velvet look. Her legs are ruched and puffy, as is one of her sleeves, while her other sleeve and bodice are fitted. Rather than big hair, she opts for a blue turban, and that’s paired with Crystal’s signature chunky necklaces, black gloves, and blue paint. This is a complete departure from the kind of drag that RuPaul typically celebrates, and committing so fully to this kind of a look is a risk. Gigi goes for an ’80s-inspired prom look, with a powder blue skirt, tux-inspired jacket, and train, a blue and pink ruffled bodice, a pink bowtie and corsage, and pink accents. She’s also rocking frizzy hair and headgear, giving the look a sense of humor and fun. It’s terrific. Jackie is next in a bright red and yellow Dior-inspired hoop dress, with blue hair, lips, gloves, and shoes. She looks great, putting her Andy Warhol twist on a ’50s-style look. Sherry comes out next in a light blue Mae West-meets-Hello Dolly dress, all sparkles and feathers and walking with a parasol. Last is Jaida, who looks gorgeous in a sheer metallic sheath dress with a black cape and metallic sleeves. Her body work is excellent and she looks stunning, as always.

Illustration for article titled The queens slay their second Rusical as iRuPaul’s Drag Race/i heads into its finale
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race
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The judges are glowing in their critiques. They love Crystal’s unique perspective and personality. They love Gigi’s polish and performance. Michelle is a little uncertain about Jackie’s dress, but they love Jackie’s emotions and delivery. Jaida is both that bitch and a star, according to Carson and Jamal, and the judges love her stage presence. As for Sherry, they love her sense of history and attention to detail. It’s going to be incredibly close. Thankfully, Ru doesn’t ask everyone to talk to their younger selves or ask who should be eliminated. Instead, after deliberations, Ru declares Gigi the winner of the challenge and both Jaida and Sherry safe. That leaves Crystal and Jackie in the bottom.

They take their positions, determined to fight for their spot in the finale. They’ll be lip-syncing to Jennifer Lopez’s “On The Floor,” and both Crystal and Jackie are prepared, confident with their words. Crystal returns to her Phenomenal Phil moves once again, to the judges’ cackles, while Jackie kicks off her heels and takes full advantage of her hoop skirt, playing with its volume. Both queens do well, but Jackie edges out Crystal, if only because Crystal’s deep blue outfit makes her difficult to see against the black and purple background. What Ru does see impresses her, though, because she gives the win to Crystal, sending her into the finale and sending Jackie home. Based on the lip-sync, it’s the wrong move. Based on their track records and who has a better chance to take on Gigi and Jaida in the finale, it’s the right call. As terrific as Jackie is, Ru can’t crown a queen who hasn’t won a single challenge while overlooking a queen with four wins and another with three wins. But Crystal could contend, so she continues on.

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Jackie, like so many of her season 12 sisters, has done wonderful work this season. She’s shown personality, creativity, style, and humor, and she is the latest in a long line who will be a very welcome presence on a future All Stars season. This is one of the toughest eliminations of the season, and while it’s undoubtedly crushing for Jackie and her fans, this is only the beginning of a new phase of her career. Jackie is smart, talented, and driven. It will be interesting to see what she does next.

Stray observations

  • It will be a while, but I do not envy the queens of season 13. The season 12 queens cast a long shadow, and I would not want to have to follow their Rusicals.
  • I haven’t always been a fan of Carson Kressley, but he’s grown on me this season and I appreciated his critiques in the finale.
  • I mentioned it above, but I’ll say it again. I’m very glad they cut the younger-self pep talks. I can’t imagine how that would have gone with Sherry, but even separate from that, we’re on season 12 and there are only so many inspirational missives.
  • VH1 has announced that due to COVID-19 restrictions, both the reunion and finale episodes for season 12 were filmed remotely. Without a live audience and with queens likely filming themselves, there will been some adjustments made to the format, but the finale will still be a lip-sync battle. I’m intrigued to see what the producers and VH1 put together, and I’m hopeful that these restrictions will push the queens to be even more creative in their lip-syncs.
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