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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Relationship struggles take center stage as RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue finds its footing

RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1
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RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue has been struggling all season to deliver compelling interpersonal drama, relying on pot-stirring from Derrick, Naomi, and Mack. That changes with “Love Is In The Air.” Rather than retreading old beefs or asking hurtful, leading questions, this episode centers on the difficulties of long-distance relationships and managing friendships and working relationships between people with very different personalities. These are very relatable topics and they’re treated respectfully by the show, if not all of the queens, delivering the kind of affecting conflict the series has been seeking.

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The episode picks up the day after the queens’ pajama party, with the “Previously on…” montage editing Naomi’s “weakest link” question to throw Asia under the bus. Still stinging from the revelation that Naomi has been complaining about her to the other queens, Asia arrives at the Flamingo early to move out of the dressing room. She’s hurt and not ready to interact with the other queens, so she sets herself up in the quick-change area backstage. Asia gets emotional as she talks with her producer. This is not an isolated incident for her. Her reaction is clearly shaped by previous painful experiences, ones she’s not yet ready to share.

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Naomi comes in as Asia is taking out the last of her things. She wants to clear the air and is surprised by Asia’s decision to move out. To her, leaving the dressing room is an overreaction, but it’s not all that different from what Naomi had been doing in recent days, getting ready at home. Asia is clearly upset, but along with that, she doesn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable at their job because of her. She tries to explain her need to remove herself from the situation, but Naomi doesn’t understand and Asia leaves with tensions still simmering.

The episode cuts over to its second main storyline, Kameron’s excitement over her not-boyfriend Andre’s visit. Kameron is practically glowing talking about him, a welcome tonal shift. The glow fades when Kameron heads in to work. She’s disappointed Asia has left the dressing room, but she decides to give her some space and wait for her to reach out. Vanjie has a different approach. She wants Derrick to go talk to Asia and try to smooth things over. Derrick sighs and heads down with the air of one mollifying a temperamental toddler. Of course it doesn’t go well. Asia ignores Derrick entirely—not the most mature of reactions, but not any worse than Derrick blindsiding Asia at the party—and Derrick returns to the dressing room even more frustrated.

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Back in the episode’s center of calm, Kameron picks up Andre from the airport. They’re adorable together when they’re relaxed, but as soon as Kameron starts asking about the future, tension creeps into Andre’s body language and demeanor. It seems the promos have been straightforward this time. Andre’s here to break up with Kameron. Kameron hasn’t seen the promos, however, so she takes Andre over to the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris Las Vegas—or plastic Paris, as Andre calls it. Up on the observation deck, Andre pulls off the Band-Aid. They’ve been doing long-distance for a while but it isn’t working for him and he won’t commit to a long-distance relationship. To his credit, Andre handles this about as maturely as one could, aside from the obvious setup of breaking the news at the Eiffel Tower. And Kameron takes the news about as well as could be expected, though it still clearly hurts.

RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1
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Later that day, Naomi cooks up some eggs for Derrick and Vanjie at her place. Kameron stops by and as they relax in the living room, Naomi brings up the tensions with Asia. Vanjie notes that Asia would likely have taken Naomi’s comments better in a different setting, and if they’d come from Naomi instead of Derrick. Naomi agrees, but thanks Derrick for bringing it up nonetheless. Kameron pushes back on this. There’s a way to talk to a coworker and friend about how their energy is impacting everyone, and it’s not at a cast party in front of the entire ensemble. This is a trend with Derrick, Kameron points out. She’s talented and fun, but she’s messy. Derrick pushes back, finding Kameron’s more reserved approach just as off-putting.

The conflict escalates and it’s incredibly satisfying not only to see someone call out Derrick’s role in their interpersonal tensions, but to see Kameron raise her voice at all. Vanjie calms the situation down, physically intervening and moving herself between the two to help de-escalate, and with a moment to catch their breath, both queens apologize. Kameron tells the others about Andre and they commiserate. Once again, Vanjie saves the conversation, getting Kameron laughing and lightening the mood. She’s shown herself to be incredibly socially adept all season, knowing just what to say to alleviate tension, helping the others acknowledge and process their difficult moments and then lifting their spirits with a joke. Managing these personalities must get exhausting, and Vanjie seems to be the main queen doing the work.

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Back at the Flamingo, Kameron gets her head in the game and the episode treats viewers to a montage of her work in the show. She’s in her element and determined not to let the breakup keep her from making the most of her residency. It’s unclear just how much time has passed—maybe a week?—but with Asia still gone, Naomi decides to move her things and take Asia’s former space in the dressing room. This may not seem like a big deal to some watching, but it’s the backstage equivalent of, “And don’t come back.” Asia responds just as expected when she finds out, clued in by queens’ management assistant Jon. Overwhelmed, she ultimately breaks down in the stairwell. In the talking heads, she opens up about some of the experiences shaping her reaction to Naomi. As an 11-year-old, Asia was sent away from her parents out of the blue, completely destabilizing her. She had thought everything was fine only to discover that a lot had been kept from her. This situation with Naomi takes her right back to that place of betrayal and abandonment.

RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1
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The backstage dynamics are not improving, so RuPaul’s Drag Race Live! executive producer Randy stops by the show to check in. Randy coming in is a statement on its own: The producers are watching. Asia’s new dressing room space is apparently a safety concern, so she can’t stay there. Randy calls the queens to the stage, and they’re immediately chastened by his presence. He lets them know that Asia will need to move, but that they’ve found her another space to use, temporarily. Some of the queens are upset that she’ll have her own private dressing room, while the others read between the lines. They need to fix this, as a show family, and they need to fix it soon. Randy makes sure to compliment their work, but his message is clear. He understands, but there’s a limit to his patience.

In her new dressing room, Asia gets a call from fiancé Brett. He asks after the cast and how the show is going, and Asia is evasive at best. She hints at some tensions, but doesn’t want to worry him. She’s holding in a lot of pain, even from her fiancé, and it blares as a warning sign. All is not well, particularly when contrasted with Kameron of all people finding catharsis by opening up about Andre. Brett will be coming to the show the next week, however, so Asia won’t be able to maintain the façade much longer.

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The episode ends on an ominous note, with Yvie completely over Asia’s behavior. Even Vanjie can do little to lighten the mood. They all know the situation is serious, but with so few of the queens ready to listen, and Asia not ready to talk, it’s hard to see what will happen to turn the tide. Things may not look great for the cast, but if nothing else, this drama has buoyed Vegas Revue. Between teases of Kameron and Vanjie’s upcoming hookup, some sort of resolution to the Naomi, Derrick, and Asia conflict, and the real-world events of March 2020, the final two episodes hold significantly more promise and at last, the show has found its footing.

Stray observations

  • “If someone tells me that they don’t like something about my behavior, then my first reaction is to work on it.” Naomi, your first reaction to Asia saying you were the least team-centered castmate was to get defensive and complain to Derrick.
  • Yvie’s rap project gets some more time this episode, as she films the music video for her new single. These scenes don’t fit as smoothly with the rest of the episode’s narrative, but I’m glad they were included. Yvie feels like she’s in a completely different, but just as interesting show about building a career as a queer black artist.
  • For the first time this season, I can’t wait to watch the next episode! The previous episodes’ interpersonal conflicts screamed of producer shenanigans. These conflicts feel genuine, and that makes a world of difference.
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