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Competitive drama and sisterly support are in a constant conflict on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and even though these queens are part of the show’s drag sisterhood, they’re still fighting for $100,000 and the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. “Tap That App” is an episode that highlights this shifting emotional dynamic, and while there’s some serious squabbling, there are also some very tender moments when the contestants bond over their struggles and take strength from each other. This is quickly becoming a very tight-knit group, and the interactions between the queens in the workroom are as engaging as their work in drag, which continues to be very impressive, especially on the runway.

This episode begins with a very weird mini-challenge where the girls are auditioning to be in a commercial for RuPaul’s chocolate bar, and most of the queens get only a few seconds of screen time. Cracker compares the challenge to an episode of Twin Peaks, and it does have share an awkward, uncomfortable quality with David Lynch’s TV show. There are some high points, like Blair saying that she dances for money at home, and then frantically tap-dancing when Ru tells her to show some of her moves. Monét bounces her breasts for an Irish jig, and sings “Erin go Bragh” over and over again when she’s asked to sing something Irish. Yuhua and Monique also bring some international flavor to the commercial, with Yuhua saying her lines in Chinese and Monique taking on a British accent.

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Blair, Monét, and Monique are the winners, which makes them team leaders for a maxi-challenge that has them creating a commercial for three new dating apps. This is an excellent maxi-challenge that tests the queens’ ability to write and perform comedy, and they need to create a clear concept for their ads with distinct characters. It demands a lot from them, and only one group fully delivers: Team Blair St. Clair, who find love during the apocalypse with their app, End Of Days. Every member of this team does well, and even though we don’t see much of Blair as leader, she does a great job picking a group and making sure everyone has their shit together. Blair has really grown on me in the last two episodes, and even though she’s still pretty boring as a boy, she blossoms when she’s in drag and becomes an effervescent performer.

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The filming of these commercials is very strange, and you get almost no concept of each team’s story. The editing isn’t as deceptive as last week, though, and the two teams that perform poorly during filming are also the weakest when the final product is aired on the runway. Monique’s team is the biggest disaster, with Kameron and Mayhem both giving tepid performances that land them in the bottom. Fibstr is an app for pathological liars, but this team doesn’t go far enough with the concept and totally fails when it comes to setting up jokes. Mayhem is off her game this week, and during the preparation, she’s silent and sullen. Maybe it’s because she’s one of the last picked again, but nobody is going to choose her if she doesn’t contribute. Monique gets some points for being entertaining as hell during the filming as she takes on the role of director and calls “action” and “cut” when she’s in front of the camera, but it’s obvious that this entire group’s concept is flawed at the most basic level. Dusty is the only one who actually fares well, but we don’t see any of her during the filming.

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Lady Buttrface is an app for people with rockin’ bods and fugly faces, and while Monét’s group isn’t awful, it’s very inconsistent. The team has the episode’s winning queen in Asia, but it also has the loser in Yuhua, who doesn’t understand how to make a genuinely ugly makeup. Instead, she gives herself a Dusty-esque paint job that reads more club kid than truly hideous, and that makeup is representative of her general reluctance to go over-the-top. I’ve been enjoying Asia this season, but she’s my favorite to win after tonight’s episode. The world will be using her Lady Buttrface look as an online reaction shot for years to come, and she looks like the monstrous love child of Hoggle and a Firey from Labyrinth. She creates an unforgettable character almost entirely with her facial expressions, but she also kills it when she needs to deliver lines, contrasting her face with sexy, confident movement.

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The Aquaria/Vixen drama heats up this week, and Aquaria goes after The Vixen because she wore Monique’s wig for her “best drag” look. Aquaria should know better than to provoke the queen who walked into the show declaring that she came to fight, and The Vixen claps back with ruthless ferocity. The Vixen has no chill, and once she gets started, she doesn’t stop. Aquaria is saved by a spider that sends the queens into panic mode and distracts from the drama, but it all comes bubbling back to the surface in a fascinating Untucked that has the rest of the queens trying to impose politeness on both Aquaria and The Vixen. The show openly engages with the racial optics of this conflict, with The Vixen being presented as the angry black woman who has scared off the white girl.

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When Cracker asks Vixen if she can respond to people at a 5 instead of a 10, The Vixen counters that being at a 10 is what got her on the show in the first place, and she’s not going to soften her emotions just so she can be more palatable to the rest of the queens. The Vixen does come across as overbearing in the workroom, but her behavior is doing exactly what she wants it to do. It’s creating drama that will make the producers happy, and it’s throwing off Aquaria, who has come in with a cocky attitude because she has such a high profile already. That said, The Vixen runs the risk of alienating the Drag Race fan base, but that’s also a fan base that has consistently undervalued black queens. There are a lot of complicated dynamics here, and the other queens don’t let Aquaria play the victim. Dusty calls her out on the standoffish attitude she’s received from her working together in New York City, and I’m getting flashbacks to Violet Chachki, who dealt with similar critiques from the other girls.her

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The workroom is very emotional this week, and there’s a powerful discussion about religion that gives Dusty a lot of depth. Blair comes from a religious family that is completely supportive of her homosexuality and drag lifestyle, but Dusty had the opposite experience, being ambushed by her parents after they found gay content on the computer. She was forced to tell her parents about all of her sexual relations with men and had to endure an exorcism of her “gay demon,” and it’s a tragic story that will resonate with a lot of gay viewers from religious families. But life did get better for Dusty, and once she got away from her family, she was able to be her true self and find love with her current fiance. At the same time, this episode doesn’t denounce religion, and Monét talks about how she goes to church every Sunday and even leads choir practice in drag. She invites the other queens to get in drag and come to church with her because the congregation would gag, and I would love for this to actually happen, ideally with some kind of accompanying WoW Presents video crew.

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The runway theme is feathers, and many of the queens come out in looks that put their best drag from last week to shame. Asia destroys the competition with her Tweety bird ensemble, and she embodies the character with her cute, carefree disposition. I love how she blows air up to fluff her bangs, and her orange gloves creating Tweety’s beak are a genius design touch that made me gasp when I made the connection. It would have been a travesty if Asia didn’t win this episode, and the judges are equally enthusiastic about her.

Blair has a classic aesthetic reminiscent of Mae West that is surprising for such a young queen, and even though Michelle thinks her dress looks too “arts and crafts,” I’m with Carson and find this look to be very chic and elegant. Cracker has an emotional story to go with her bluebird-inspired dress, and she’s thinking about the bird that built a nest on her fire escape on the day one of her friends died. Eureka’s look is Maleficent meets Ursula with the return of her signature hair loaf, and Kameron has a similarly dark, striking garment that reminds me of Selita Ebanks in Kanye West’s Runaway short film. Monique and Monét are competent but boring, and Dusty has the sloppiest look of the bunch, with feathers that mess up the proportions of her showgirl outfit. Mayhem and Yuhua end up in the bottom two, and while Mayhem looks good on the runway, she gives the worst performance of any queen, so bad that she barely even shows up in her commercial.

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It’s been a while since we’ve have a truly monumental lip sync, and we are witnesses to a slaughter tonight when Mayhem faces off against Yuhua to Hole’s “Celebrity Skin.” It’s a fantastic lip sync song, and Mayhem fully embodies the spirit of the music without resorting to the cheap choices that Yuhua turns to. Yuhua’s air guitar is straight-up pitiful, and she resorts to gymnastics that don’t match the tone of the song and make her look desperate. I didn’t care for Mayhem’s white contacts on the runway, but they work perfectly in the lip sync, giving her a demonic energy that immediately grabs the viewer’s attention and keeps it on her. Ru’s eyes are saying “damn, girl!” as she watches Mayhem glide across the stage while living every word of the song, but her performance rises to a new level of brilliance when Mayhem points to Yuhua on the ground during the line, “Have you ever felt so used up as this?” It’s a hall of fame Lip Sync For Your Life moment, and Mayhem never stops slaying, ripping off her feathers at the end of the song to close out with a triumphant sense of release. She wants the other queens to be afraid of her, and after tonight, these girls should be terrified of facing off against Mayhem.

Stray observations

  • Courtney Love and Nico Tortorella are underwhelming guest judges after Padma Lakshmi and Halsey, but it’s cool that Courtney gets to be there for such an epic lip sync to one of her songs.
  • Monique needs to throw those awful fake boobs in a trash and light them on fire. They are awful and I hate them.
  • Monét mentions Vanjie and everyone in the workroom starts yelling “Vanjie! Vanjie! Vanjie!”
  • Asaf Goren is the hot new member of the pit crew, and fans of So You Think You Can Dance will recognize him from the show’s “stage vs. street” season 12. He’s a solid dancer, but his biggest asset has always been his dreamy looks. That body! That smile!
  • Props to Aquaria for referencing Alyssa Edwards’ “Doo-wah” mess from All Stars 2’s “Drag Movie Shequels” when talking about Yuhua. And Yuhua rhymes with “Doo-wah”!
  • Was there a “cunt” that didn’t get bleeped in Untucked or did I mishear something?
  • “It wasn’t no sponge, though.” I love that Monét carries a supply of sponges with her at all times.
  • Ru: “Where you from Monét?” Monét: “I’m an Irish girl.” Ru: “What part of Ireland?” Monét: “Northern...Ireland.”
  • “That’s the worst Jamaican accent I’ve ever heard.”
  • “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
  • “Oh nose she betta don’t.”
  • “We need you to serve Monét after she’s twirled like three numbers, four high kicks, and one platypus death drop.”
  • Eureka: “We’re method acting!” Michelle: “No, that’s actually called hitting.” Carson: “Miz Cracker, are you O.K.?” Cracker: “Drag is a contact sport.”
  • “Call her mother...goose.”
  • “She’s terrif-Icarus.”
  • “This is what it sounds like...when doves cry.”
  • “Armageddon laid tonight.”
  • Baywatch body even though she got a hurricane face.”
  • “Meh-hem” both clever and a palindrome!
  • “Kameron Michaels, your runway look slayed. But in the challenge, you laid an egg.”

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