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The reunion episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race have a tendency to be a bit of a mixed bag. Some have prompted memorable, emotional moments, but they frequently act as filler, a season highlight clip show to promote the finale. They can be an opportunity for particularly divisive or controversial queens to plead their case to the viewers at home or start rehabbing their image, but unless queens come into the reunions with something to say, they tend to be very skippable. Season 11’s reunion is no exception. It’s significantly hampered by the mini-reunion in “Bring Back My Queens!,” only two episodes ago, and by the cordial tone the final queens brought to “Queens Everywhere.” Most of the season’s drama has been examined and aired out, and the beefs have been squashed. What’s left to discuss?

It’s telling that so much of the reunion episode centers on Vanjie, who may not be in the finale but remains the most reliably entertaining queen of season 11. Ru goes to her first, asking about her experience just missing the finale, then pivots right to discussion of Branjie, who despite dating for several months after filming have since broken up. Between these two segments, the episode is nearly a quarter of the way over before the conversation moves away from Vanjie. She may not have made the top four, but she makes for good TV, and Ru knows it. Not one of the top four gets the focus she does, and that doesn’t bode particularly well for the finale.

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The next segment focuses on Ra’Jah, the closest season 11 has to a villain. Between her spats with Yvie, Scarlet, and Plastique, there’s plenty of material for the producers to work with. Ra’Jah may not apologize in a meaningful way to Yvie and Scarlet, but she’s open about the experience of watching herself on TV, and how it felt to see herself lashing out. This is the most thoughtful part of the episode, and it directly contrasts the next section, which sees A’keria repeat what she said earlier this season in regards to Plastique and Ra’Jah. Whereas Ra’Jah has returned with a slightly different perspective, A’keria’s has not changed, and her reiterations stop the emotional momentum built by Ra’Jah in its tracks. Ru quickly interrupts her and keeps the episode moving.

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The Yvie and Silky drama gets its time center stage next. This is the closest the queens and Ru get to reading Silky, and viewers who feel she got too much of a pass on the runway this season will appreciate a few of the queens gently calling her out. While Silky gets nudged by Nina, Yvie’s frustrations with queens she thought were coasting is validated by Ru. Given the sheer volume of arguments Yvie was involved in during season 11, it’s a bit surprising so few of the queens have any words for her. However, her main sparring partner was Silky, and they made up in the previous episode. Once again, there’s not much to see here.

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Next up are Nina and Scarlet, whose narratives in the reunion pair nicely. Nina’s moments are a lovefest, with a shout-out from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a mention of support from Rihanna. She quickly reflects that praise back to Ru, emphasizing how much Ru meant to hear growing up, and how humbling it is to impact those she’s reached through Drag Race. Scarlet isn’t so lucky. Her time in the reunion centers on Brooke’s comments at a viewing party that everyone hated Scarlet during filming. Brooke tempers her language, but stands by what she said, at least for herself. Only Ra’Jah fesses up to agreeing with her, but no one rushes to Scarlet’s defense, and that can’t feel great.

Plastique, Soju, and Ariel’s statuses as social media queens, versus more seasoned performers, comes up next, which all too quickly leads to yet another rehash of wig-gate. This wasn’t interesting the first time or the second, and it certainly isn’t interesting now, even with Ru invoking the great Jessica Fletcher. It takes too long, but Ru does eventually move the conversation on to Mercedes, who shares her experience coming out to her family as a drag queen. This is another highlight of the reunion. Mercedes’ palpable joy at her sisters’ acceptance is beautiful to see, and the return of “oppalance” is absolutely delightful.

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Less successful is Kahanna’s beef with Mercedes, which might have played better had it come before Mercedes’ sweet story about coming out to her sisters. Kahanna being so hung up on one of Mercedes’ social media posts—a video of their lip-sync with, “Shantay you stay”—feels disproportionate. Ru does turn this into a teachable moment, however, leading the queens in a lesson everyone on social media would do well to internalize: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Of course, they then immediately undercut that by having Ru host around of Toot or Boot on some of the season’s more memorable looks. It’s toots all around for Scarlet’s monster look, toots for Plastique’s farm-to-runway, and toots and a shoot for Nina’s facekini. Not to be outdone, there are boots all around for Shuga’s troll, A’keria’s caftan, and Soju’s knotted tulle design, though A’keria and Soju stand by their looks.

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The fun continues as Ru opens the library back up for another quick round. While there are a few quality reads from Ariel, Honey, and Nina, it’s on the whole just as underwhelming as the first go-around. Ru then cleanses the palate with a montage of previously unseen guest judge moments—which are fine, but were mostly cut for a reason—and then asks the queens to say a few kind words about the finalists to send them off to the finale. It’s sweet, but not as interesting as when Ru used to quiz the eliminated queens on who they predicted would win. That’s a fair assessment of the reunion overall. Sweet, but lacking in substance. The viewers’ appetites have been whetted, we’ve had a little bit of a break, it’s time to bring on the finale and hopefully end the season with a bang.

Stray observations

  • With three lip-syncs and plenty of pomp and circumstance, the finale should bring much more to the table. If not, season 11 has the potential to have one of the least eventful final stretches in Drag Race herstory.
  • Even in the reunion, Shuga can’t get any airtime. The same is true of Honey, who barely gets a word in.
  • Most of the queens brought interesting and fun looks for the reunion. I’m particularly fond of Yvie’s bath look and Soju’s sleek, stylish look. She definitely came with something to prove, and she looks great.

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