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After spending a lot of time last week writing about how badly this season needs Snatch Game, I’m happy to say that the annual event has finally arrived and continues to be a turning point in the competition. There’s now a firm line drawn between the frontrunners and those that are starting to fizzle out, with some of the queens seizing this opportunity to rise to new heights while others drop the ball with questionable celebrity picks and uninspired performances.

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The reason Snatch Game is so important is because Snatch Game is hard. Impersonating a specific person is a skill that needs to be cultivated, and a lot of these queens just don’t have very much practice. And this is impersonation that involves interaction, which makes it even harder. Not only do the queens have to come up with answers that reflect the distinct personalities of their characters, they have to do it while also playing off of RuPaul, the judges (Michael Urie and Tamar Braxton), and the other contestants. In order to succeed in Snatch Game, a queen needs to be able to stay in character, think cleverly on the fly, and interact comfortably with others, and the best contestants keep the spotlight on them by excelling in all three respects.

What makes season seven’s Snatch Game different from past games is one especially risky choice by an unlikely queen: Kennedy Davenport as Little Richard. Kennedy is a pageant queen that has shown glimpses of comic talent in the past, but her decision in this week’s episode casts her in a very different light by showcasing her bolder side. Ginj and Katya try to sway Kennedy away from her choice, suggesting she play the far less intriguing Sweet Brown instead, but Kennedy knows that Sweet Brown doesn’t have the fullness of personality that Little Richard does. Sweet Brown has a few catchphrases, but catchphrases don’t equal a personality that can be sustained throughout the game show.

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Playing a man in Snatch Game is a huge risk, but Little Richard and drag are so closely associated that it’s not a doomed choice. With the right queen, Little Richard on the Snatch Game panel could be hilarious, and Kennedy proves that she is the right queen for the job. She makes a smart decision with the appearance, getting into drag but painting on a thin mustache, a stark reminder of masculinity in the midst of a face made up to accentuate feminine features. It’s a visual that blurs gender lines in a way that spotlights Kennedy’s intelligence and willingness to think outside the box, delivering the heightened aesthetic that the judges want to see from their female impersonators, but while playing a man.

Look is just a part of it, though, and Kennedy ends up as one of the winners of the challenge by cracking the judges up with Little Richard’s hilariously horny personality. When asked what Dorothy does to the Tin Man in Quentin Tarantino’s hypothetical remake of The Wizard Of Oz, Kennedy answers that Dorothy tightens his screws because everyone likes a nice, tight screw. When asked what a gay Batman and Robin convert the Batcave into, Kennedy says “a bathhouse with a dark room and gloryholes,” then expertly deploys Little Richard’s signature howl. That howl is used consistently to heighten the impact of Kennedy’s punchlines, but unlike Jaidynn’s repetitive visions as Raven-Symoné, that howl never stops being funny because it is part of a larger character rather than the sole defining action.

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I never would have pinned Kennedy as the Snatch Game standout, and her strength in this episode establishes her as one of this season’s sharpest competitors. Because of her Snatch Game decision, Kennedy pushes the femininity when she takes to the runway with a revealing leather and lace floor-length dress, serving up Diana Ross realness as she walks the stage like a true diva. She knows exactly what she’s doing in this episode, and her confidence and preparation pay off big time, making her a major threat at a time in the competition when many of the queens think she’s dead weight.

For the first time in herstory, there’s a tie for the winner of the Snatch Game, and I call bullshit. Ginj certainly looks like Adele, but her performance is very basic. Because Adele is a bigger woman, Ginj has a plate of food that she’s constantly returning to, and she falls into the trap of making her celebrity dumb because she doesn’t have a large personality. She’s going for a characterization that isn’t that far off from Chad Michaels’ Cher, who proudly announced her past successes and acted like she was above all of this Snatch Game crap, but her Adele comes off as more clueless than superior.

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She’s not so much channeling Adele as she is making up a personality that will entertain the judges, but that’s also the best thing you can do when performing a character like Adele that doesn’t have that many distinguishing features. I just don’t think that she should win the challenge with that strategy, although it’s very possible the tie is RuPaul’s way of countering any criticism of a queen winning the Snatch Game for playing a man. (Ginj also looks fantastic on the runway with her “Elvis Prisc-ley” leather and lace look, which likely factors into her win.) Kennedy takes a big risk, and it would have been nice to see her rewarded accordingly for moving in a direction that none of the queens even considered.

The final standout of the Snatch Game is Katya’s Suze Orman, who hits on the panelists (except for Donatella) and throws shade in the form of financial advice. It’s a performance that highlights Katya’s comic instincts, and I don’t understand the judges’ critique that she doesn’t go far enough with the character. If she went much further, she would have turned into one of those spotlight hogs that ruins the Snatch Game for everyone, and I think her performance has just the right intensity to stay captivating while pulling attention her way. Katya also rocks the leather and lace runway with a look inspired by the scantily clad women of hair metal music videos, but her big moment this week doesn’t happen when she’s in drag.

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This episode dives deep into Katya’s internal struggle in the competition, exploring her overwhelming anxiety and the stress she’s under as she tries to stay sober in this high-pressure environment. RuPaul suggests that Katya is addicted to anxiety when she expresses her worries about her Snatch Game performance and her general feelings of inferiority since entering the competition, and making this kind of connection with RuPaul is great for Katya’s standing in the competition. But I don’t think any of this is put on. I believe Katya when she says that she never thought about her ongoing anxiety as an addiction, and RuPaul puts Katya’s problem in terms that she can easily understand because she’s currently battling other addictions.

It sounds like Katya just has an addictive personality in general, and it has to be incredibly difficult to stay sober in the Drag Race environment, which is away from her support network and extremely taxing. She’s having a lot of trouble with this, and turns to Fame for comfort because she’s the only other person in the cast that is sober (nine years and counting). It’s a great moment for both queens, and shows how this competition poses different challenges for different queens. Some queens can’t sew. Some queens can’t act. And some queens are trying to make sure that they always grab the glass of water when they untuck. It can’t be easy to confront these issues while on national television, and Katya and Fame exposing this part of themselves goes a long way to fulfilling the “vulnerability” requirement.

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A queen can nail the appearance of a celebrity, but if she doesn’t channel the spirit, she’s going to fail in the Snatch Game. Jaidynn, Fame, and Max all have the looks down, but fail to grasp what makes their characters engaging. Each of these queens represents a different danger for Snatch Game contestants. Jaidynn is the danger of doing a celebrity because of personal resemblance. She chooses Raven-Symoné because she thinks that they would be friends in real life, and I have the feeling that she’s probably been told often that she looks like Raven. But Raven doesn’t have that strong a personality, which is why Jaidynn’s performance focuses on Raven being a psychic like her character on the Disney Channel series That’s So Raven, which has been off the air for years. It’s a performance that bores the judges, and lands Jaidynn in the bottom two for the second week in a row.

Miss Fame represents the danger of picking a celebrity that is already associated with a specific impression, and her Donatella Versace doesn’t hold a candle to Maya Rudolph’s. Both Fame and Violet want to be Donatella, but they should both realize that the performance is going to be compared to that more popular impersonation, so unless it outdoes Rudolph or goes in a dramatically different direction, it’s going to be underwhelming. Violet switches to Alyssa Edwards, but Fame sticks with her original choice. The accent is wrong (more Russian than Italian), her answers don’t have any wit, and there’s a lack of energy that has been consistent across all of Fame’s performances. She always talks about how she’s in her head, and she’s not finding her way out. The intensity of her persona as a model doesn’t come through when she’s acting, and unless she can find a way to make this happen fast, she won’t last much longer in this competition.

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With Max, we learn the danger of playing past Drag Race contestants. The judges have spent considerable time with past queens, so if the performance doesn’t have a firm handle on the character, they are going to know just how wrong it is. Violet knows Alyssa Edwards’ hand gestures and facial expressions and vocal cadence, so she’s able to embody her whereas Max is just wearing a Sharon costume. Max finally dons a different color wig for her “Disney Sharon Needles,” but the fact that she chooses a Disney-fied direction for her impersonation is an immediate red flag. Her Sharon laughs a lot, mentions basic “spooky” things, and explains her jokes when they fall flat, but she doesn’t have any of the edge or spunk that helped the real Sharon win her season.

Michelle starts to say this to Max when she has a sudden need to loosen her corset, a shameless attempt to deflect criticism that becomes something even worse when Max decides to serenade the judges on the steps of the runway. “I took advantage of the moment,” Max says smugly, expecting praise for this awkward moment that she needlessly created when she was supposed to be listening attentively to a negative critique. In that moment of self-absorption and disrespect, Max sends herself home.

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Max plays one character and commits so fully to that character that she keeps the voice when she’s out of drag, but she has a lot of trouble getting out of that comfort zone. She wears a different colored wig on the runway because Michelle told her to, but the rest of Max’s look is more of the same: clean lines, retro styling, minimal padding, and a white face with a big dot. It’s not busted or anything, but it’s also not especially interesting. She certainly looks better than Jaidynn, but ultimately Max’s commitment to her singular character is her downfall.

Max keeps playing her black widow character during the lip sync, but it’s just not the right persona for “No More Lies” by Michel’le. Jaidynn is feeling the spirit of the music, strutting around the stage like a woman that wants the world to know that she is tired to putting up with her man’s bullshit, but Max is sauntering around, casually dancing without making any connection to the lyrics. That underwhelming lip sync performance combined with an unwillingness to listen to criticism leads to Max sashaying away, revealing the power of the Snatch Game as one of the season’s leading queens is knocked out of the competition.

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Stray observations:

  • Pearl’s Big Ang finally shows me the potential that the judges see in her. Her make-up and padding are absurdly over-the-top, and she has the personality to match. Like Violet’s Alyssa, it’s not a classic Snatch Game impersonation by any means, but it shows that she truly is growing in this competition and becoming more comfortable with the performance aspect of this competition.
  • Now that Kennedy has opened the door for male Snatch Game impersonations, how long until we see a queen play Prince?
  • Of all the celebrity impersonations this week, Ross Matthews’ one-line impression of Morgan Freeman may be my favorite. I also watched an episode of House Hunters that he appeared on this past weekend, and found him totally delightful as he looked for a second home with his partner.
  • Miss Fame wears a backward baseball with “FAME” written on it so you can tell it’s her when the camera is filming from behind. That is a queen thinking about her brand.
  • I love hearing Violet Chachki flaunt her fashion knowledge when she describes her runway look as “John Willie vintage slut for your nerves.” She knows her shit.
  • Can anyone explain Tamar Braxton’s answer to the Ellen Degeneres question during Snatch Game? Something about peeing pennies?
  • “Bitch, if they gave me specifics, I would fucking do it.”
  • “You’re a drag queen! Be funny!” Welcome back, Bianca! I miss you!
  • “Snatch Game is the challenge that every fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been waiting for: We put on these giant latex frog costumes, and we go through a fiery obstacle course.” Please make this a minichallenge in a future Drag Race episode.
  • “Being kind is one thing, but being the winner is a completely different thing.”
  • “Yes, gawd!”
  • “She bangs him, which is exactly what I want to do to most of the women here on this panel. Except for this one down here. Miss Donatella, she looks like a skeleton made of beef jerky.”
  • “Honey, that wig—was a bad—investment.”
  • “Ooh Jaidynn, I just got a vision! You might be lip syncing for your life tomorrow, baby.”
  • “I had a rough childhood, I wasn’t watchin’ fuckin’ Batman and Robin.”
  • “Hi-eeee, Miss Daisy! Hi-eeeeeeeee! You wanna take a ride?”
  • “I’m trying to just serve sexy and confident whore. Slutty cougar on the prowl. Third-rate Faith Hill impersonator. 80 percent sex, 20 percent disgusting.”
  • “So she’s wearing pink and I’m wearing pink. I think that’s two in the pink!”
  • “Gag-me and Lacey.”
  • “It feels like a convention of ex Prince protégés.”
  • “I was like, ‘Who let MeetRatchetPeople.com in here?’” Tamar Braxton certainly has a way with words.
  • Michael: “I would climb you.” Kennedy: “Can we go to break?”
  • “Cue the dramatics. You can tell she’s an actress.”

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