There’s a lot to talk about in tonight’s delightful episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I wanted to start by taking a moment to talk about the bravest struggle of all: not wearing hip pads. It’s, like, really hard to be out in the world without that posterior armor, and Kimora Blac is taking a huge risk showing everyone such a vulnerable side of herself. Let’s all give her a round of applause for her courage as she sashays away.

Kimora is the kind of queen that is no fun to watch on Drag Race. Proudly vain and terminally ignorant, she thinks this is a competition solely about looks, so she fails when she’s asked to do anything that demands creativity or personality. Drag Race has had some stupid queens, but Kimora needing a crash course on what an adjective is may be a new low for intelligence on this show. Ignorance is not a strength in this competition, and the best queens know what the show has in store for them and are prepared for all the basics because there’s eventually going to be some crazy shit thrown their way.

“Draggily Ever After” features a main challenge that highlights all of Kimora’s weaknesses. The queens have to create an original princess character and cartoon sidekick, sew an outfit for the former, paint dramatic makeup for the latter, and write a backstory for both. Kimora doesn’t know what an adjective is so writing clearly isn’t her strong suit, but she also doesn’t sew and can’t act. Why is she even here at all? Her performance in this episode makes me wish Jaymes Mansfield wasn’t the first to go home, because at least Jaymes could sew and was trying to give us a character, even though her insecurity kept her from breaking out of a very thick shell.

I don’t know if Jaymes would have found her confidence before getting eliminated, but I think she would have fared much better with this challenge than Kimora, whose Banana Lady and Funky Monkey are boring on every level. The look and the concept are uninspired, and the line delivery sounds like a five-year-old reading Mad Libs for the first time. Kimora can’t even get her sob story right, and the judges’ faces are hilariously unimpressed after she tells them about the profound discomfort of not being padded. Everything about her screams bland, and she gets destroyed by Aja in the lip sync to Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero.”

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Both of the Vegas queen fare poorly this week, and Farrah Moan should have ended up in the bottom over Aja. At this point in Drag Race’s run, there’s no excuse for not being able to sew. It shows a lack of preparation that tells the judges you’re not taking this competition seriously, and if a queen doesn’t have basic sewing knowledge, they’ll probably disappoint in other areas too. Farrah performs better than Kimora, but there’s still a noticeable lack of imagination in both her look and her story. Farrah looks better than Aja, whose Disastra reads as Heat Miser more than Volcano Princess, but there’s more skill on display from Aja, even though a lot of it needs fine-tuning.

Aja’s outfit is ugly and the makeup is too dark and sloppily contoured, but I see a lot more potential in her. It’s really interesting seeing how social media helps and hurts different queens, and Aja’s use of selfie-editing apps like FaceTune has kept her makeup from being as sharp as it should be. Having her lip sync is a good thing because it will force her to step up her game, and it shows the judges that Aja can turn it out when she’s put in a sink or swim position. She goes all out in that lip sync, and she does really great work channeling the heightened emotion of the song while Kimora strolls around the strange. Aja is connecting to the music while Kimora is cycling through her random tricks, and it’s no surprise when RuPaul tells Aja she’s sticking around.

Most of the queens do really solid work this week. Charlie Hides shows a lot more personality and wit with Princess Climaxica and her lady-in-waiting, Isabella Snatchcracker, and Sasha Velour has the most thought out fairy tale, although it’s not especially drag queen-y. Right now, there’s a group of queens that are consistently safe but aren’t doing enough to really grab the judges’ attention: Alexis, Cynthia, Eureka, Nina, and Sasha. They haven’t been in the bottom but they haven’t been in the top, and I don’t think any of them are particularly happy with just being “safe”, especially Cynthia, who has a lot more expected from her being a returning queen. They all have the potential to wow the judges, and this is one of those multi-disciplinary challenges that tests a lot of different skills to show us who has what it takes to make it far.

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The top three is almost the same as last week, with Peppermint replacing Shea while Valentina and Trinity continue to assert their dominance. Peppermint comes prepared with a personal story to explain Princess Carcinogenetta and Petey the Pilot Light, and looking to past tragedy to inform your work is a smart idea that gives her something extra to present to the judges (RuPaul eats it up). Tragedy is a major aspect of this episode, and we learn about how the Pulse nightclub shooting affected the queens, specifically Trinity, a former Miss Pulse, and Cynthia, who was supposed to perform that night and lost a friend who had gone to see her. I’m glad the show is engaging with the Pulse tragedy and the impact it has had on LGBTQ people. When community plays such a big role in how people watch this show via viewing parties at bars and clubs, it’s nice to have a reminder that we are stronger together and can’t let tragedy pull us apart.

The editing sets up Trinity to win this week, and I knew she had it in the bag when RuPaul spends so much time laughing when she’s talking to Trinity in the workroom. On the surface, Trinity looks like a standard pageant queen, but she understands that drag also needs to have a lot of comedy behind it. She sets herself apart a couple ways this week: She’s the only queen that does a 2-in-1 look on the runway, and she’s the only one that makes an entire look for the sidekick rather than relying on the cartoon body added later. This makes Princess Corella Aquapussy and Stanky the Starfish the most cohesive pair, and it looks like the two of them are actually on stage together because Trinity creates such distinct characters. She really sells the entire concept, and she deserves the win for going above and beyond. She’s going to be a very formidable queen this season, but I’m happy to see that there’s a lot of talent behind what looks like generically bitchy personality on the surface.

Valentina has another great week, but I was notified on Twitter that Valentina was in drag at DragCon in 2015, which casts some doubt on the claim that she’s only been doing drag for 10 months. It’s very possible that she’s talking about doing drag professionally, though, and honestly I don’t really care about the specifics because she’s still a relative newbie compared to a lot of these queens and killing the game. Her makeup and body are always on point, and Princess Nira’s shady godmother shows us a different side of Valentina as she plays a rougher character. Valentina comes across as a drag savant, and she hasn’t had a single misstep in the entire competition. She’s also very sweet and humble, and there have been plenty of opportunities for her to be a snob about how well she’s doing with so little professional experience. It’s very possible that inflated ego will show up in the future, but for now, Valentina is as likable as she is talented.

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Stray observations

  • A knitting challenge sounds like it could actually be very fun. Maybe not actually knitting, but queens wearing knitted garments.
  • RuPaul brings up a hidden camera in the wax statue of her, but the camera isn’t hidden if you tell people it’s there, and these queens are already on a reality show so there are cameras everywhere. (Remember when the show tried and failed to make a confessional work last season?)
  • RuPaul’s conversation with Trinity takes a weird turn as they start talking about kids enjoying chocolate starfish. Let’s keep the kids out of this one.
  • I like it when the queens help each other out, but Eureka is way too nice helping Farrah figure out how to hot glue fabric to a bra.
  • If you were ever wondering about the origin of cucu, Cynthia has you covered this week.
  • Eureka’s dog sidekick for her princess has a perfect name: Roof Trade.
  • Shea walks past Trinity with her face wrapped in plastic: “Oh my god Trinity you’ve never looked more beautiful than you do right now!”
  • “Come on, English lessons!”
  • “Don’t be afraid of hot glue, bitch. You a drag queen.”
  • “My name is Petey the Pilot Light and I’m FLAMING!”
  • “Oh, she just loves foreign tongues. She’s a cunnilinguist, y’know.”
  • “Why don’t you come up and seaweed me sometime. (Pause.) No? No?”
  • “My advice is simple: Hate. Everyone.”
  • “Only you can prevent grease fires.”
  • “She’s so friggin’ beautiful, we all just want to go up and lick her face.”
  • “The judges were not a fan-uh of your banana.”

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