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The worst thing “Snatch Game” can be is bland. This annual tradition of drag queens impersonating celebrities on The Match Game is the challenge that draws a clear line between the best and worst competitors of each season, and I’d rather watch a total trainwreck (**cough**season 4**cough**) than be bored. We get the worst kind of “Snatch Game” this season, and the tepid showing from this group suggests that we might just be stuck with an underwhelming line-up of queens. There are definitely some stars this season (Shea and Valentina have stood out thus far), but in general the personalities are cooler, the style isn’t as dramatic, and there’s much less drama in the workroom.

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The actual “Snatch Game” itself is underwhelming, but then there are two repeated Madonna looks on the runway to make the episode even more forgettable. After the success of the Gaga pageant, I was hoping that the producers would have vetted Madonna choices or the queens would bring two Madonna looks so they avoid what happened with last year’s Night Of 1,000 Madonnas. The pink dress from “Material Girl” and Madonna’s plaid ensemble from the 2013 Met Gala are both repeated, and it’s frustrating that none of the queens went for a different look. A big reason for picking celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga for runway themes is they have so many looks that there shouldn’t be any repetition, and while I understand that it’s a hassle to change your garment after finding out someone else is doing the same thing, there’s also no way of winning the challenge if you’re one of the copies.

Icons are the best celebrities to impersonate in “Snatch Game,” and the queens in the top two this week choose people that aren’t popular nowadays. I’m shocked that it’s taken nine seasons for someone to do Liza Minnelli because there is so much to play with there, and musical theater queen Alexis Michelle has an appreciation and understanding of Minnelli that makes her performance shine. Alexis’ Liza is manic, which works for the character and sets her apart from the otherwise demure line-up. She also looks incredible on the runway as Madonna’s Dick Tracy character Breathless Mahoney, and even though it’s a very familiar silhouette for Alexis, the way the sequined dress tightly hugs her curves is stunning.

Alexis finally gets the win she’s been desperate for (she is so thirsty), and winning “Snatch Game” is a good indicator that a queen is going to be around for the long haul. I’m not particularly excited about that after last week’s Untucked, in which Alexis had a hissy fit because none of the other queens told her that her outfit was basic. The queens this season are embracing the sisterhood aspect of the competition too tightly, and while I think it’s great when queens get along, the series is more entertaining when it’s not RuPaul’s Best Friend Race. It’s not up to the queens to help each other do their best work, it’s up to each queen to make sure she does what she needs to do to proceed in the competition, and giving advice to competitors is dangerous. Not just because that advice might give them the help they need to surpass you, but because the cameras might edit that advice so it looks like you’re butting into other people’s business or trying to sabotage them (as Phi Phi O’Hara learned in All Stars 2).

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Marlene Dietrich is a name that might be unknown to younger Drag Race viewers, but Sasha Velour makes her a lot of fun by capturing her smooth, sultry charm. She has wonderful banter with RuPaul and celebrity guests Candis Cayne and Denis O’Hare, and there’s a confidence behind the performance that makes the character feel bigger than what Sasha’s cool performance initially suggests. Sasha’s “Erotica” runway look is brilliant because of how it connects to Dietrich, and she delivers two distinct takes on androgyny from very different time periods. Sasha’s personality is still on the quieter side, but it makes sense than an artist would be more introverted. That’s not all that compelling on reality TV, but if Sasha continues to show new facets of her talent, she could make it very far this season.

Farrah Moan is boring, and she makes a boring choice for “Snatch Game” by playing YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous. It’s a niche pick that doesn’t give her much to work with, but the bigger problem is Farrah’s explanation to the judges that she was expecting to get more questions to show off her character. RuPaul points out that you need to make every question count like it’s your only question, and Farrah always waits for the camera to come to her instead of taking charge and creating opportunities to stand out. She’s a talented queen but she’s lacking charisma, uniqueness, and nerve, and even when she does something more remarkable like her Madonna runway look, you never get much energy from her. The garment is wearing her, and a stronger queen would be able to keep eyes on her rather than having them focus entirely on what she’s wearing.

Valentina’s pick of Ariadna Gutiérrez, the Miss Columbia that was crowned and then uncrowned Miss Universe in 2015, is another impersonation that doesn’t offer the queen enough material to give a more substantial performance. Valentina has one note for this character, but she plays that note loud and never lets it stop. The camera is constantly checking in on her unwavering expression of pure suffering, and even though the bit is repetitive, Valentina’s commitment to it is admirable. Even if the “Snatch Game” performance was complete trash, Valentina would be saved by her clever runway look pulled from Madonna’s Sex book. Naked except for two black rectangles covering her chest and crotch, Valentina does astonishing work creating a feminine illusion without many of the tools drag queens need to make that happen. She has the body to make this possible, but she also knows how to carry herself so that naked body reads as feminine and glamorous and powerful.

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I completely agree with Michelle and think that doing past Drag Race competitors for “Snatch Game” is an extremely lazy move. Candis Cayne points out that this challenge is about channeling a person whose experience is beyond your understanding, and doing a previous contestant usually results in a superficial performance. Mannerisms and voices change, but there’s not the deeper transformation that happens with the best “Snatch Game” impersonations. Aja makes an especially foolish choice with Alyssa Edwards because it invites comparisons to both the original and Violet Chachki’s impersonation in the season 7 “Snatch Game,” and while it’s good enough to keep her out of the bottom, it’s still completely uninspired.

Nina fares better with her Jasmine Masters impersonation, and while the judges get a kick out of it, the level of difficulty is extremely low. All she has to do is lower her voice and give as few fucks as possible, and the judges enjoy that this role is an outlet for Nina to channel some of her frustrations in the competition and play someone that doesn’t let anything get to her. I think the judges just want to talk to Nina and not have her get defensive and cry, which is what they get this week. Shea should be the queen that joins Alexis and Sasha in the top three, but being one of the repeat dresses hurts her more than it does Nina (although Shea has the superior “Material Girl” look and Nina has the inferior Met Gala look). Shea’s Naomi Campbell is hilarious and looks phenomenal. She has jokes, effortless banter, and a supermodel intensity that is perfect for the character. But Nina needs the boost more than Shea does right now, and given RuPaul’s investment in Nina’s story, it’s not a surprise that she rewards the queen that needs that recognition to combat her insecurity.

Peppermint’s Nene Leakes plays like she was assigned a character she didn’t know anything about, watched some YouTube videos to get some basic knowledge, and then was thrown on stage without time to prep. The only personality that comes through is that of a very nervous Peppermint. She does get a more positive spotlight afterward when she tells the other queens that she’s a trans woman, and I wonder if Peppermint’s nerves during the “Snatch Game” might be tied to her decision to share this information with the other contestants. Peppermint isn’t going home after having this big moment, and when she ends up in the bottom two, she shows the judges that she can put on a hell of a show.

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Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s Sofia Vergara is the big disaster of this “Snatch Game,” and even without the largely incomprehensible dialogue, it’s a failure on a visual level. Doing Sofia Vergara and not giving yourself gigantic breasts is an immediate indicator that you have not thought this through, and Cynthia draws attention to the chest that she didn’t give herself. The entire performance is based on them both having accents, and Cynthia continues to show that she can really only do Cynthia as a character. The combination of a runway fall and sloppy makeup guarantees Cynthia is in the bottom, and Ross Matthews makes the very good point that as the returning queen, Cynthia should be twice as good as the other girls.

“I’m worried for Cynthia,” Peppermint says going into the lip sync, and that confidence drives her entire performance. She knows that she’s going to slay this, and she has an arsenal of crowd-pleasing dance moves that set her apart from Cynthia, who is doing a more basic lip sync. Cynthia’s jump into a splits gets no reaction from the judges, but every time Peppermint whips out one of her In Living Color Fly Girl moves, the panel goes ballistic. Cynthia just looks frazzled, and when the judges start reacting to Peppermint, Cynthia starts to mimic her moves, which makes her look even more desperate. Cynthia had a good run on two seasons of Drag Race, but as we spend more time with her, we see the limits of her talent. There’s a reason she relies so heavily on her cucu, and she needed to give the judges much more to justify keeping her around after giving her a second chance.

Stray observations

  • I wish Untucked wasn’t stuck on YouTube because I want every Drag Race viewer to see Shea’s speech to Nina last week telling her to give her all if she ends up lip syncing for her life. It’s a pep talk, but it’s also a reminder of the responsibility they have as queens of color to be strong, proud, and push through whatever obstacles stand in their way instead of giving up.
  • Farrah is such a crybaby. I do not think she will last much longer.
  • Did RuPaul’s makeup on the runway look weird to anyone else? I think maybe the contouring is off?
  • Trinity does well this week. She has some solid jokes on “Snatch Game,” and her runway look is on point.
  • “First grade overbite realness.”
  • “I’m glad you’re doing Marlene Dietrich.”
  • “So when are you going to start doing Sophia?”
  • “When I wear a suit, people say: ‘Marlene, are you a lesbian?’ And I look at them and I say: ‘Yes.’”
  • “I don’t taste a day over 15.”
  • “She’s smiling so I know she just told a joke.”
  • “When I got here to set, your crew confiscated my phone. But luckily, my good friend back here had a little prepaid Cricket phone that she let me borrow for the afternoon. Chris Rock, thank you so much for letting me borrow your phone.”
  • “I guarantee that teutonic bisexuals make the most forceful and unforgettable lovers.”
  • “As you know, I rarely know these new things. I rarely leave my house, and I died many decades ago.”
  • “I’m sure Eureka is pissed somewhere right now. She gon’ be like, ‘I went home for this?’”
  • “I’ll walk out the way I walked in: naked.”
  • “Your Nene was a no-no. You needed better material, girl.”

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