Once upon a time, I was excited for Snatch Game. It’s a big event of each season, but the last couple rounds—specifically season 9 and All Stars season 3—had bad impersonations outweighing the good, cutting my anticipation with dread. I started to wonder if Snatch Game was ever going to live up to the expectations set for it each season, but if anyone could save this Drag Race staple, it’s the queens of season 10. And they do it! Five of the eight impersonations are funny enough to be considered successes, and the failures all have important lessons to teach about the challenge: If you pick a great Snatch Game celebrity, make sure you do your homework so you can be funny. Don’t impersonate a celebrity whose personality is defined by memes. And if you have an option that is not Beyonce, you should always go with it.

It’s a double helping of Drag Race standards this week with the Reading Is Fundamental mini-challenge, and these queens are ready to throw some shade. Eureka is the winner, but the New York City queens also do especially well. Aquaria has a quick, sharp attack on The Vixen when she accidentally addresses her as “The Villain,” and you can sense the history in Miz Cracker’s remark toward Aquaria about needing to buy makeup to cover two faces. Monét shuts the door on the library with a vicious comment about Cracker, but their close friendship means she’s allowed to say Cracker is bitter that she’s a “New York City queen who had to fuck Bob The Drag Queen to get to the top.” Here’s a collection of my favorite reads:

  • “Miss Monét X Change. Ru, just an exchange? I would’ve asked for a full refund.”
  • “Monique Heart: You’ve got a heart of gold, the voice of an angel, and a hairline that looks like it’s been fucked with a weed whacker.”
  • “Kameron Michaels: I don’t have a read for you, please just fuck me. PLEASE! JUST FUCK ME!”
  • “The Vixen: Do you have a housekeeper, girl? Your kitchen is a mess!”
  • “Thank you all so much. I can’t wait to hear your reads about me being fat.”
  • “Kameron Michaels: I think I speak for all the girls here when I say, ‘We’re really going to miss you next week.’”
  • “Eureka O’Hara: Stop relying on that body faaaaat!”
  • “Monét X Change: Girl, you know better to be black using hotel lotion.”

Vixen’s read saying goodbye to Kameron is especially vicious at the top of an episode that I’m expecting Kameron to do very poorly in, but the queens don’t know that they’re doing Snatch Game yet (unless they’ve figured it out based on the number of contestants left). This read suggests that the other queens don’t consider Kameron to be real competition, but they don’t realize that being quiet and focused can make you a really good player. Sure, Drag Race favors the louder, bolder queens, but if Kameron can do well enough to be safe in every challenge and avoid the bottom 2, she could potentially make it to the finals.

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Kameron’s had some phenomenal runway looks, and with the exception of the app challenge, she’s been a solid, professional performer that plays well with others and gets the job done. I assumed that Snatch Game was going to be a big challenge for her because I didn’t have a grasp on Kameron’s comedic voice, but the late wrestler Chyna is an inspired choice that Kameron has clearly devoted a lot of time and energy to perfecting. Kameron takes advantage of her muscular body, and she nails Chyna’s high-pitched voice, which really completes the illusion and transforms Kameron in a way we haven’t seen.

Kameron is safe with Miz Cracker, who makes a very unconventional choice in Dorothy Parker, who will probably be a new name for younger Drag Race fans. I was really hoping she would do Barbra Streisand, but a writer famous for her one-liners is a smart choice for Cracker. She does a fine job with the character, but not as good a job as her NYC bestie Monét does with her dead celebrity writer: Maya Angelou. She gives an Academy Award-winning performance compared to Chi Chi’s disastrous impersonation in All Stars, and Monét immediately establishes how much better she is than Chi Chi by spelling Maya Angelou correctly and setting up a “Why does the caged bird sing?” joke before Ru can test her with one. (The answer: “Because Mariah Carey lost the key.”) Monét comes prepared with full-on bits, and she knows that a good Maya Angelou voice can get a lot of really good laughs. Hence this hilarious soliloquy:

If these hos try to come for me
I surely will cut thee
I will not hesitate to put thou in a ditch
‘Cuz Maya Angelou ain’t no punk bitch

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We lost two NYC queens in quick succession, but I think the final three are going to be sticking around for a while longer. Monét could use a win, but she’s been in the top for the last two challenges, which is a big improvement after being in the bottom twice in a row, and Cracker has been safe or in the top for most of the competition.

I never would have guessed that Aquaria would win the Snatch Game, but she reveals a sharp comedic talent as Melania Trump, delivering witty answers and smooth interjections that don’t come across as shoehorning herself into the conversation. Melania gets laughs before she’s introduced because Aquaria wrote Michelle Obama on her name card, and when the game begins, she hands RuPaul a “HELP ME!” note inside a robin’s egg blue box from “Trinity’s.” You can see Aquaria’s process at work when she answers what Snoop Dogg puts in his brownies, crossing out “his Trump card” and instead writing hooker urine because she figures out a way to make that a longer joke when Ru asks her about it.

Ru gives the queens pre-Snatch Game advice with the help of Bianca Del Rio, and I’m really enjoying how much more time we get to spend with Ru now that the episodes are 90 minutes. She’s very honest with the queens, and she tests their impersonations on the spot to see if they can be funny. If they aren’t, Ru tells them. And Bianca Del Rio says it meaner, loosening Ru up so that she’s even more frank with the next queen. When Asia considers playing Beyoncé, Ru tries to convince her to be one of the other members of Destiny’s Child, and it’s a classic example of a queen crashing and burning because she doesn’t listen to Ru’s advice.

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Asia goes with Beyoncé, marking the third time a queen has tried to impersonate Beyoncé and failed. She thinks the key to making Beyonce funny is to make her mean, which is already misguided, and then she hitches her wagon to The Vixen’s Blue Ivy because the two of them working together turned out so well for the Bossy Rossy challenge. It’s all bad, and they should have never considered working together in Snatch Game. As Aquaria says to Monique, “It’s not my job to make your Snatch Game good.” By teaming up, Asia and The Vixen end up relying on each other when neither one has their shit together, and it results in catastrophe.

The Vixen wants to project an image of unflappable confidence, but the pressure of the competition is taking a toll on her. She’s shaken after being in the bottom two last week, and she’s becoming even more antagonistic and defensive. She channels that energy into a strong showing in the Reading Is Fundamental challenge, but she makes a disastrous mistake by impersonating Blue Ivy in the Snatch Game, and none of the queens are going to question that decision and risk The Vixen’s wrath. A distinct voice is a huge part of capturing a celebrity, so picking some whose voice is mostly unknown to the world is really dumb. The Vixen really only knows Blue Ivy from memes, and she fails at creating a convincing child character.

The rivalry between The Vixen and Eureka reaches new levels of tension this week because Eureka does so much better with her child celebrity, Honey Boo Boo, while sitting right next to The Vixen’s awful Blue Ivy. Eureka focuses on the silly things about being a child while The Vixen goes in a spoiled rotten direction, and Eureka’s approach is much more endearing while also being rooted in a reality that viewers will recognize because Honey Boo Boo talks. Eureka makes a brilliant decision in having all of her answers be drawings that she can then explain to the judges whether or not they have a connection to the question, and it’s a gimmick that helps her stand out while also reinforcing her character’s youth.

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Monique Heart has a good instinct in picking Congresswoman Maxine Waters for Snatch Game, but Ru warns her that she needs to know more than “reclaiming my time” if she’s going to be funny. The judges joke that Monique skimmed Maxine’s Wikipedia page before the challenge, and she doesn’t know how to take that information and turn it into humor. She tries to insert Maxine into the Beyonce/Blue Ivy dynamic, which isn’t good for anybody involved, and she struggles to deliver banter in character. Preparation is essential for Snatch Game, and as we see by the end of the episode, preparation is not Monique’s strong suit.

The runway challenge is a salute to Bette Midler’s mermaid character, Dolores DeLago, and the queens have full mermaid tails and are brought out in wheelchairs. It’s a tough runway challenge that puts the queens in the same silhouette and forces them to find other ways to stand out. The strongest queens in the Snatch Game also have the best mermaid concepts, with Aquaria rising to the top as a slicked down mermaid in oil spill couture. It’s a sleek, minimalist, dramatic look that she models the hell out of, both in and out of the chair, and it’s the thing that clinches a big win for Aquaria after a very close Snatch Game.

Monét’s warrior mermaid and Eureka’s Ursula-inspired look also provide more conceptual takes on the challenge, and there’s one queen on the bottom who takes a risk that saves her from elimination. Michelle criticizes Asia for wearing a monstrous neon fish mask for a mermaid fantasy, but both guests judges, Audra McDonald and Kate Upton, disagree with Michelle and applaud Asia’s willingness to give them something different. Ru probably agrees with them, which is why Asia is able to sashay to safety after her Beyoncé mess.

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The mermaid runway isn’t all that exciting, but we get some major drama when Ru asks the queens who they would send home, igniting a fight between The Vixen and Eureka. Eureka says she would eliminate Asia because she’s her biggest competition (a safe answer), but The Vixen goes all in when she names Eureka, saying she’s never seen such unprofessionalism and can’t believe the judges are such big fans. It’s all so unnecessarily spiteful, and it gives the judges their first look at The Vixen we’ve seen all season.

The Vixen talks about how she profits off of white fragility and guilt with her political drag, and there are financial benefits in making other people uncomfortable. Confrontation has become part of her brand, but picking fights isn’t a great strategy for winning Drag Race. For one thing, conflict creates stress, and the competition is already incredibly stressful on its own. That’s bad energy to bring to the workroom, and when the queens are asked who Ru should send home, they’re going to say The Vixen, which 4 out of the other 5 do in this episode. She looks like a brat when she reveals this attitude to the judges, and her eagerness to use this simple question as an attack on Eureka backfires.

The Vixen came to fight, but Eureka came to slay, and she walks out of this conflict the winner as she steps up and refuses to let The Vixen talk about her that way in front of the judges. What’s especially frustrating about all this is that The Vixen dislikes Eureka for qualities they share. She hates that Eureka always has to get the last word in, and when Eureka defends herself by saying she lets everyone knows she’s loud and aggressive, The Vixen is angry that she doesn’t try to be less loud and aggressive. This is exactly what The Vixen has gotten angry about on multiple occasions when her fellow contestants have tried to get her to cool down, and she refuses to change her personality to be more palatable to the people around her. The Vixen is at her lowest point this week, and if she really wants to stay in the game, she’ll want to consider her own critiques of Eureka and apply them to her own behavior.

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VH1 money has resulted in some awesome lip sync songs this season, and The Vixen and Monique face off to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut To The Feeling,” a song that, like last week’s “I’m Coming Out,” is a very good fit for The Vixen’s aerobic style of lip sync. That said, she could just stand in one spot and mouth the words and still do better than Monique, who doesn’t know the lyrics so she basically gives up without a fight. Even if you don’t have the money to buy your garments and are forced to sew outfits 30 minutes before walking down the runway, you can stay on Drag Race by learning the words to a song and turning it out in a lip sync. Monique is a formidable drag queen, but she should be prepared for the challenges this week given that nothing is a surprise. She knows the Snatch Game is coming and she knows the lip sync song ahead of time, and it’s hard to feel bad about a queen’s elimination when she doesn’t do the minimum amount of work needed to accomplish the task that could save her padded ass.

Stray observations

  • Blair’s goodbye message is, “Let me be your STAR!” Going out on a Smash reference is a true mark of a Broadway queen.
  • Alex Trebek makes two cameo appearances in this episode, because apparently he’s a fan of the show. Ru recently appeared on Jeopardy to introduce the category “A RuView of Movies,” and that footage was filmed on the same day as this episode based on Ru’s look.
  • Emmy, Grammy, and six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald is a guest judge this week with supermodel Kate Upton, and they are both really excited to be there. Audra a little more so, and she lets her inner theater kid shine through in her gleefully enthusiastic reaction to the entire experience.
  • Kate Upton’s answers in the Snatch Game really surprise me. A new smart for drag queens recognizes your Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. In drag queen Jeopardy, queens don’t answer in the form of a question, they answer with a deathdrop. These are very clever!
  • The in-joke of “Miss Vanjie” continues with Ru and Michelle this week, and we learn about their obsession with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s exit. Ru loves the slow walk backwards with the “Miss Vanjie!” goodbye. I wonder if the guest judges have any idea what they’re talking about when they start laughing about Vanjie.
  • There’s a move The Vixen does in the lip sync that I’m calling “The Stop, Drop, And Roll” and I watched it over and over again.
  • “OK. Now do Divine.”
  • “Most people try not to look at me.”
  • Ru: “Do you have any workout tips for us?” Chyna: “Eating all the beef, Ru.”
  • “Hello, Ru. I love spending an evening making jokes with smart and beautiful people, so you can imagine how disappointed I am.”
  • Maxine: “Hey, ain’t you dead?” Maya: “Like dust, still I rise.”
  • “It’s alright, Barack. No worries.”
  • “Lady Bunny is: A wonderful entertainer. A humble queen. And she keeps the show going. And is a handsome and smart gentleman.”
  • “Any hole, is a goal.”
  • “No wonder my husband’s complaining about China all the time!”
  • “Not even a meditation in a zen garden with Buddha would have prepared me for the Snatch Game.”
  • “From Maxine Waters to salty waters.”
  • Ru: “Yes, honey. Work that Omega-3.” Michelle: “She got a fatty acid.”
  • “I’m serving fresh out of the box. Happy to be there, confused about why.”
  • Kate(?): “What do you call them?” Michelle: “Tits.” Carson: Those thingamabobs?” Michelle: “Yes! I got 20!”
  • Audra: “Having fish and tits for dinner.” Ru: “Oh yes. I think Jason’s making the tartar sauce now.”
  • “Battlestar Gill-actica.”
  • “Bring back my gills.”

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