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Being helpful to other contestants on a reality TV competition is a smart way to build alliances and ingratiate viewers to your character, but you have to put yourself first. Asia O’Hara learns this the hard way on tonight’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has the queens serving three looks on the runway for “The Last Ball On Earth”: Alaskan Winter Realness, Miami Summer Realness, and Martian Eleganza Extravaganza. The queens need to create their Martian looks, and this puts Asia’s sewing skills in extreme demand.

A designer and seamstress who has created outfits for a number of Drag Race queens, worked on a dress for Gladys Knight, and hemmed a skirt for Dolly Parton, Asia knows her way around a sewing machine and the other queens are constantly turning to her when they need help. I tried to learn how to use a sewing machine this past summer and it was really hard, and there are a lot of issues that can come up depending on the state of the equipment. The queens go to Asia when they need to thread a needle or fix a bobbin, and she offers her assistance because she likes being in a motherly role where she gets to help queens realize their full potential.

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The downside is that Asia spends so much time with the others that she isn’t able to give her own looks her full attention, and she ends up disappointing the judges, who have very high expectations given her history. She does a lackluster nude illusion for her Alaskan summer, and goes way overboard for the Miami winter with neon fur and animal print that bring her taste level into question. Her Martian garment looks unfinished; the separate parts don’t go together and the proportions look especially strange when she’s in profile. The judges expect so much more from Asia after her winning Tweety look last week, but Asia is safe this week because the other queens quickly jump to her defense and tell the judges about the help she gave them. It’s a great moment of sisterhood, and I love seeing the other girls pay back Asia’s generosity by letting the judges know how much weight she was carrying on her shoulders this week.

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The Aquaria/Cracker rivalry took a backseat in the last couple episodes, but it’s about to come back into play after tonight. In the workroom, Cracker asks Aquaria about rumors that she has sugar daddies who finance her drag, but it’s actually a civil conversation that doesn’t get too bitchy or offensive. Aquaria uses this as an opportunity to talk up her work ethic, and the reason she can afford her drag is because she jam-packs her schedule with gigs. That said, as an established social media personality she’s probably gained fans who are patrons of her art, and gotten the attention of companies that want to use her reach for publicity.

Where this rivalry heats up is on the runway, and both Aquaria and Cracker deliver three striking looks that give them the chance to show different aspects of their personality. They both have very distinct inspirations for their Alaskan summer looks: Aquaria wears a lucha libre swimsuit with a long blonde braid that she swings around her head, and Cracker channels a dashboard hula girl with her two-piece swimsuit made entirely of braided blonde hair. The two looks share similar elements but are very different, and they represent the general dynamic between these two queens, who have definite cosmetic similarities but don’t feel like clones.

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For their wintry Miami looks, Aquaria and Cracker successfully incorporate the city’s breezy, bright style into outfits that read as cold-weather-appropriate, and they take their drag personas in different direction to match their garments. The swagger of Aquaria’s lucha libre is replaced by snow bunny sultriness, and Cracker goes for Bond Girl intensity as she presents a survivalist assassin in pastel pink. Cracker’s looks are much more retro than Aquaria’s, and for her Martian eleganza, she’s a spunky ’50s space girl with a bedazzled helmet and a pipe jetpack.

Cracker calls Aquaria out for simply gluing pieces to a bra for her Martian look, but she makes it look fantastic as a scantily-clad supervillain with lightning bolts over her private parts, which occasionally need to be blurred because she doesn’t achieve complete coverage. It’s a minimalist outfit that hits with maximum impact, and Aquaria’s confidence needs to be sky-high to successfully execute this look. She ends up being the winner because she took that extra risk, and Cracker is obviously annoyed that she gets this close to winning and ends up losing to the queen who she’s already compared to all the time.

The Vixen doesn’t start any drama during the episode, but she does let her ego fly free when Ru asks her about her reputation in the Chicago drag community. She describes herself as a “very influential” firestarter who isn’t afraid to shake things up with political drag, and she specifically cites the Black Girl Magic show she produces, which celebrates the power, strength, and struggle of being a black woman. I’m always interested in hearing more about where queens fit into their hometown drag communities, and this gives The Vixen the opportunity to show the audience why Ru brought her onto the show in the first place. It also shows aspiring Drag Race queens what they could be doing to stand out in their cities, and putting together a show like Black Girl Magic is an ambitious endeavor that requires a deeper set of skills beyond painting and performing.

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Untucked continues to be riveting, and much of that is thanks to The Vixen. She’s not actively trying to start shit this week, but when Eureka makes a comment about The Vixen understanding Monique’s drag better because they are both “crafty queens,” The Vixen responds with confusion about what exactly that means. Eureka sees that confusion as negativity, and when The Vixen asks her not to use the word “negative,” Eureka pushes back by telling her to stop acting that way if she doesn’t want to hear it. When it looks like the conversation has moved on without a big blow-up, Eureka makes a very catty comment about going out for a smoke so she won’t have to hear The Vixen speak, and Eureka clearly has issues with The Vixen that we haven’t seen much of this season.

The Vixen is not going to let her say that and just walk away, and this friction leads to a full-on shouting match. Eureka wasn’t around for the Untucked conversation last week, and she doesn’t realize just how sensitive The Vixen is to attacks from the other queens, and how ruthless she is willing to be if she feels threatened. Some people are going to be annoyed at The Vixen’s tendency to escalate conflicts, but she’s only escalating when queens come after her first. Eureka tries to justify her behavior by saying The Vixen made judgments about her before they even met, but of course The Vixen made judgments about her. Everyone did because Eureka was on the show last season, and once you’re in the national spotlight, people are going to start having opinions about you. Eureka is playing the victim just like Aquaria was last week, but after the frank discussion of the previous Untucked, Eureka’s actions come across as intentionally targeting a queen who she knows will start drama if provoked.

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Monét has been a very entertaining queen in the workroom and talking heads, but her actual drag performance has been mediocre this season. She gets read for wearing the same pussycat wig, and the other New York queens point out that Monét historically doesn’t do very much with her looks and relies on her personality to wow a crowd. All of her ball garments are underwhelming, starting with a basic neon green swimsuit, then continuing with a bland white dress and fur jacket and closing with a shoddily constructed Martian look. Each of these leaves me wanting more, and while I think Monét is going to be safe for a while because she has such great performance chops, she needs to step up her fashion game if she doesn’t want to end up back in the bottom.

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Dusty isn’t much of a fashion queen, but she’s been able to make up for her runway weakness with fun, energetic performances. There’s no big performance element this week, though, and she’s not able to step up her looks to compensate. Her Ice Queen look for Miami winter is menacing and pretty, but her Alaskan summer outfit is a disappointment from the neck down and her Martian eleganza has an awful wig and reads more fairy fantasy than alien sci-fi. Dusty looks terrified when she ends up in the bottom two against her NYC friend, Monét, and I think Dusty knows that Monét is about to slay her in a lip sync to Nicki Minaj’s “Pound The Alarm.”

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This song has a high level of difficulty, and you can tell that Dusty is focusing on making sure she has the right words whereas Monét is past that point and has internalized the lyrics. It starts off strong but goes to another level when Monét delivers an A-grade fake-out, building up to a jump-splits and then deciding not to do it at the very last minute. The judges erupt in laughter and Monét has them under her spell for the rest of the performance, which includes a full-throttle dance break and the jump-splits that Monét promised them earlier, which is all the more satisfying because she made the judges wait for it.

Dusty has a hard time embodying this song’s attitude, and it reminds me a lot of BenDeLaCreme’s “Anaconda” without the clearly defined character who makes a joke out of how ill-suited she is for the music. Dusty’s running man is about one step up from the desperation of Yuaha’s air guitar, and there’s a point where she gives up and just starts spasming to the beat. As goofy as Dusty’s looks, she doesn’t give up and tries to keep her energy high even though she can’t compete with Monét. RuPaul applauds the both of them for their performances, but Dusty is the one to sashay away, the second NYC elimination in two weeks. That hometown connection makes this the most emotional elimination yet, but it was inevitable that friends would be put in a position where they have to send each other home if it means getting one step closer to the Drag Race crown and $100,000.

Stray observations

  • RuPaul goes way outside of her usual style for her drag look this week, wearing a brightly colored Lee Bowery-esque face sock and a large visor that covers her eyes. It’s a striking look, but I wish the visor wasn’t there so I could get a better look at the design on the sock.
  • I love that Tisha Campbell-Martin aggressively grabs her breasts at the end of the runway. She’s so excited to be here! Logan Browning also looks fantastic in her Diana Ross-inspired get-up, and has some fun commentary on the panel. I’m impressed by the guest judges this season.
  • The celebrity photobombing mini-challenge is the exact kind of dumb mini-challenge I like to see. Put the queens in quick drag and throw them into a situation where they have to act stupid to get laughs. Aquaria is the winner, making her the second queen this season to win both a mini- and maxi-challenge in a single episode.
  • “Vanjie” continues to be an inside joke inside the workroom, and I hope bars around the country are joining the queens when they break out into their “Vanjie!” chant.
  • I really enjoy small, silly moments like Eureka and Monét goofing off doing donkey kicks and Asia and Monique making fun of Monét’s claim that the British accent used to sound like the standard American accent. These bits make the group feel like a tighter unit, and having 90-minute episodes means we get more of them.
  • I love hearing queens talk about their drag families, like when Asia gives Ru the rundown on the House of O’Hara.
  • Excellent editing when Aquaria talks about seeing the twinkle in Ru’s eye and the camera cuts to Ru, whose eyes are completely covered by her visor.
  • Blair St. Clair is growing on me so much this season. Her drag always looks very polished, and she has a very clear vision for what she does. She’s also breaking out of her shell when she’s out of drag and showing more of her adorable personality.
  • Kameron Michaels consistently delivers on the runway, but I feel like I have no idea who she is as person out of drag. That’s a problem.
  • Monét: “I can model anything, honey.” Monique: “Model? You mean waddle?”
  • “Taylor can’t come to the phone ‘cause Mayhem just killed her.”
  • “Come on, Tweety!/“Yes, come on, Postmates!”/“Come on, stretchy shoulder!”/“Oh, come on, Buzz Lightyear!”
  • “Holy spirit, we ask for flexibility, durability, and elasticity in this zipper. MAY THE CHURCH SAY!” Queens: “Amen.”
  • Aquaria: “Some girls in the workroom chose to read books. I chose to turn looks!” Ru: “That, my friend, will be in the promo!” And then she makes Aquaria say it again, and she can’t.
  • “She would write my name on a napkin and make me trace it with needle and thread.” Ru: “Really? Now that’s a great skill to teach a kid...to make them gay.”
  • “Lies and fairy tales, who told you this?”
  • “And I thought I was her biggest fan.”
  • “Cotton candy, sweet and go, let me see that icy ho.”
  • “Why isn’t she in Boca Raton with the other blue hairs?”
  • “Houston, we have a peplum.”
  • “I love when people surprise you. I did not expect her to have white balls.”
  • Aquaria: “I must say, I’m living for this look.” Ru: “I’m actually not serving a look.”
  • “Wow, Miz Cracker! I’ve never gotten away with saying that before, so...thank you.”
  • “Would you says she’s a Kameron-Kameron-Kameron-Kameron-Kameron-Chameleon?”
  • “Miz Cracker, tonight you had the judges ga-lactating.”

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