There are few things worse on RuPaul’s Drag Race than a queen giving up when she’s asked to lip sync for her life. The lip sync is the most sacred aspect of this series, and resigning yourself to elimination is an act of disrespect. If a queen is asked to lip sync, she better put some effort into it or she runs the risk of destroying any goodwill built up over the course of the season. Nerves can often get in the way of a lip sync being a true reflection of a queen’s talent, but that’s not what happens with Charlie Hides this week. She completely stops trying when she ends up on the bottom, making for an extremely unpleasant lip sync.

Charlie enters the lip sync with a lot of emotional baggage, but that doesn’t excuse her abysmal performance. Before going on the runway, Charlie breaks down talking about the AIDS crisis and how she lost many of her best friends during that time, and I’m sure it’s hard to climb out of that mindset in order to work it for the judges. But damn, girl. When RuPaul tells you to lip sync for your life, you need to shake off whatever is holding you back and show her that she didn’t make a giant mistake in picking you to compete this season. Charlie stands in one place and haphazardly mouths the words to Britney Spears’ “I Wanna Go” while occasionally moving her hands up and down, and it’s so low energy that the queens in the background start screaming at her to put some effort into it.

I can’t remember any other times when the queens have yelled at someone to get their shit together during the lip sync, and Charlie Hides gives one of, if not the, worst lip sync performance ever on this show. Her cutaway interview makes it even worse as she uses the excuse that British queens sing live instead of lip syncing, so she’s just waiting for RuPaul to tell her to sashay away. Charlie has been very insecure this entire season, mostly because of her age, and fumbling a challenge that she expected to do very well in completely destroys her confidence.

Charlie Hides is the most disastrous part of a disappointing episode this week. “Good Morning Bitches” gives the queens a fun challenge as they break into teams to put on two live morning shows, but the pacing is very rough. Like “She Done Already Done Brought It On,” the episode focuses on a single team during the planning process for the challenge, which strips a lot of the tension from the storytelling. It’s clear that the Good Morning Bitches crew performs better than Not On Today, but with the latter getting all the attention before filming, it becomes even more obvious who the winners and losers are.

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Trinity and Eureka’s rivalry was teased at the start of the season, and it comes back into play when Trinity picks Eureka to be on the Not On Today team. Eureka is very obnoxious in this episode as she constantly questions Trinity’s authority, but there’s also the issue of Trinity not listening to the rest of her team when she makes decisions. I like that Trinity takes charge in assigning roles, but creating an environment where everyone feels involved is important for building a strong group dynamic. Her team doesn’t have that, and the result is a very underwhelming show that feels like a rehearsal (and not a very good one).

Giving the hosts a storyline where Peppermint is sleeping with Trinity’s husband is a bad decision that is especially harmful to Trinity’s character, who comes across as cold and mean and not at all engaging. Peppermint fumbles her lines, but there’s a warmth there that makes her inviting, an essential quality for a morning show host that is trying to pull viewers in before they’ve started their day. Charlie is very aggressive during rehearsals with Cynthia to make sure she doesn’t change the dialogue and pronounces words correctly, but once they’re in front of the camera, Cynthia is the only one that brings any life to their bit. Charlie has consistently had charisma problems, and she’s so focused on the script and policing Cynthia’s performance that she doesn’t give the camera anything compelling.

Charlie thinks that her experience makes her the expert, which drives her to overstep boundaries. The team’s interview with Naya Rivera has a lot of dead air in it, but it completely falls apart at the end when Charlie decides to deliver the goodbye line because she thinks the hosts have forgotten about it. Trinity and Peppermint don’t know what happened and Naya Rivera is obviously annoyed that she didn’t get a proper goodbye, and Charlie ends up throwing everything out of whack. Charlie doesn’t get the blame when the judges bring this up later, and Trinity and Peppermint end up sharing responsibility for not taking charge and making sure their guest gets a graceful exit.

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Eureka and Nina end up being the most successful pair of Not On Today because they know their lines and have great chemistry. I’m fascinated by Nina’s storyline this season, and when she’s not performing in drag, she’s extremely vulnerable and withdraws into herself. This was established early on in Untucked, and Nina is fighting through a lot of insecurity on this series. She’s succeeding and consistently doing impressive work, but it leaves her emotionally raw afterward. She immediately starts crying when the judges talk to her, and even though they are tears of joy, they show that Nina needs to toughen up if she’s going to make it far in the competition.

Crying doesn’t automatically indicate weakness and there are plenty of people that cry as a response to adrenaline, but that swell of emotion can be detrimental in a situation where you need to be focused and have a lot of energy. I think that moment with the judges will be valuable for Nina, and hopefully she’ll be reassured that she has what it takes to be a major competitor on this series. The judges always want to see some vulnerability, but Nina is giving them so much that it makes them worried about her longevity in the competition. At the same time, she’s become one of the season’s most reliable queens, which makes her drag feel even more like a suit of armor that gives her strength.

The Good Morning Bitches team is ultimately pushed to the side despite being superior. We have no idea how Aja functions as a team leader, which is unfortunate because it feels like there’s great potential for drama in putting the queen that survived the bottom last week in that position. We get a good amount of Aja’s rivalry with Valentina before and after, and Valentina shows a lot of maturity in how she reacts to Aja’s negativity. She recognizes that Aja is lashing out because she’s not getting the praise she wants to hear, and respectfully tells her to focus on giving the judges what they ask for rather than attacking her competition. I’m really enjoying Valentina’s general vibe, and it’s refreshing to have an extremely polished and self-assured young queen that isn’t cocky about her talent. She’s genuinely interested in using this experience to grow as a drag queen, and she views the other queens as sisters that can teach her rather than enemies that need to be taken out.

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Aja and Valentina are bland as a pair on camera, but I do like that Aja chose her for her team in hopes that she could pick up on some of the things the judges admire about her. She lashed out right after last week’s elimination, but after having time to process, Aja becomes more reasonable and realizes that there are things she has to improve. We have no idea how Aja’s team worked together before filming, but judging by the quality of the show, it’s safe to say it went smoother than their competitor’s process. Alexis nails the demeanor of a morning show host, and even though Farrah is still pretty bland, she looks good, knows her lines, and has the right personality (it just needs to be bigger).

Shea and Sasha are the big winners this week, and they do an amazing job with their DIY segment showing how to incorporate RuPaul’s chocolate bar into healthier meals. Unlike Trinity and Peppermint, they come up with a bit that enriches their characters rather than taking away from them, and Shea and Sasha’s attraction to each other amplifies their chemistry. It’s nice to see Sasha lean into her silly side with this challenge, and she has a really great partner in Shea, who is shaping up to be one of the frontrunners of this season. Both of them commit completely to the material, and that makes moments like the two of them eating a stalk of broccoli Lady And The Tramp-style especially hilarious.

I really dislike when Drag Race does an abbreviated runway, and it’s very hard to get a good impression of the “naughty nighties” when they’re only shown on screen for a few seconds. It also robs the audience of the judges’ pun-filled reactions, and it makes the runway section feel very hollow. That said, it’s not an especially exciting runway category. Aja’s team does more traditional lingerie looks, but Sasha sticks out with her nipple tassels (and unnecessary candle prop). You get more ambition from Trinity’s team, specifically the three queens that Michelle constantly refers to as “whores,” and I appreciate that Ross Matthews sticks up for Cynthia, Eureka, and Nina by saying those three are still bedtime appropriate, they’re just doing something different in the bedroom.

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Trinity ends up in the bottom with Charlie because she was the leader of the losing team, and it’s a gruesome slaying when the lip sync begins. This is essentially a solo performance from Trinity, and while she’s doing all the right moves on the runway, Charlie’s complete lack of enthusiasm casts a shadow on the entire moment. A big part of the fun of the lip sync is seeing queens react to each other and feed on each other’s energy, and by refusing to engage, Charlie ends up delivering a major blow to the episode. It’s rare for me to be upset after an episode of Drag Race when I completely agree with the elimination, but Charlie’s lip sync feels like a slight to the audience. We’re here to see drag queens compete and the lip sync is the moment when they can really go all out, and by refusing to put in any effort, Charlie Hides lets down herself, the judges, and the viewers.

Stray observations

  • Shea is so good on camera. I hope she ends up being a regular on WOW Presents YouTube shows after this season.
  • What is Valentina’s disability? Eureka cuts her off before she can share.
  • Between her belligerent attitude with Trinity and her cattiness toward Sasha after making an eating disorder joke, Eureka is showing a lot of villainous potential this week.
  • Sasha’s talking head after the AIDS discussion is very, very similar to her talking head after the Pulse discussion last week. She’s good at intelligently talking about how these events impact the community.
  • Nina’s looks are comic-booky in the best way, especially this week’s. She gives her character ’90s comic bad girl proportions, and the body combined with the makeup makes Nina look like she stepped out a Chaos! comic.
  • Naya Rivera is a very serious judge and I like that a lot.
  • “They have chemistry all right. But sometimes things can combust in the chemistry lab. Know what I’m sayin’?”
  • Charlie: “My makeup is gonna be fuckin’ ruined on the runway.” Alexis: “Do a smokey eye, girl.”
  • Ru: “Would you wake up with my girls?” Ross: “Morning would I?”
  • “She’s reminding me to always use by night cream.”
  • “It looks like she’s telling children to get off her lawn.”

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