Anyone else having a wicked sense of déjà vu right now? It feels like just yesterday Carmen Carrera was strutting back in the workroom to fail at making over a straight man and sashay away again. The fish-lovers Michelle and Santino bring back Kenya Michaels to the competition, and the Latin spitfire has difficulty rising to the occasion, even though the show’s producers really try to make her seem like a threat. She wins the mini-challenge making over a papa teddy bear into a fierce mama bear, but her teddy looks like shit. (Chad Michaels’ Jiggly bear totally should’ve won.) Kenya should enjoy her brief time in the spotlight, because as Carmen taught us, it’s oh so fleeting.
This season’s makeover challenge is the most difficult yet, forcing the girls to put straight DILFs in drag and perform a striptease, then take to the runway in maternity clothes. RuPaul is reaching new levels of maniacal genius this season, and Sharon rightly describes the challenge as “insane.” As the winner of the challenge, Kenya gets to assign the girls their men, and with some Phi Phi manipulation, Kenya saddles Sharon with boxy grandpa Mike while she and Phi Phi land lean young dads.
Kenya's choice to go with the cutest of the bunch ends up biting her in her tiny toned ass, though, and her man wears a sourpuss the entire episode that makes it seem like his agent forced him to come on the show. Rick's main frame of reference for cross-dressing seems to be Buffalo Bill in Silence Of The Lambs, so maybe RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t the best reality show for him to appear on. Still, his indifference is better than Mike’s creepy obnoxiousness.
Poor Sharon, she knows there’s no way to turn her man into a glamorous queen, but she has no idea how difficult he is out of drag. Tactless and crude, Mike makes jokes to RuPaul like, “I think I’m having a baby elephant; wanna see it’s trunk?” He’s a stereotypical pervy senior, and this episode gives him prosthetics to play with. Mike also confuses being a diva with being an asshole, and picks fights in the workroom because he thinks that’s what a drag queen is supposed to do. This awakens the cougar rage of Chad Michaels, who leaps into action to protect her cub from the creepy old man.
Last week, Sharon eloquently described the spirit of compassion and professionalism that makes Chad Michaels an asset to this competition, and this week she reveals the natural fire that Michelle has been asking for on the runway. When Mike puts on his “diva bitch” attitude and starts to get aggressive with Chad, she shuts him down by cussing up a storm. When Mike asks for Sharon’s help dealing with the “bitch,” Sharon walks away and tells Mike not to call her sister a bitch. It’s rare to have a guest contestant be so collectively despised, but congratulations, Mike, you did it.
Chad’s professionalism is a huge boon this episode, and she gets along great with her DILF, an enthusiastic guy who looks surprisingly good in drag. The same goes for Phi Phi’s man, who prepared for his appearance on Drag Race by learning how to tuck at home and showing it to his grossed-out wife. Latrice doesn’t stand out as particularly good or bad, but at this point in the competition, low-key is just low, and she gets penalized for coasting.
With straight dads on the show, family issues are the topic of conversation in the workroom. The queens ask their DILFs how they would react if one of their children came out as gay, and teach them about the rights denied to gay couples that married couples have, like being able to see a partner in the event of a medical emergency. Phi Phi bonds with her partner by talking about her father in Texas, whom she hasn’t seen since her 18th birthday and who doesn’t approve of her lifestyle. Phi Phi’s soft spot is her dad, and bringing a bunch of fathers on the show is a good way of humanizing the season’s big villain, and this is most tolerable she’s been all season.
RuPaul takes to the runway looking like a candied apple, joined by guest judges Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jennifer Love Hewitt along with Michelle and Santino. I love Jesse Tyler Ferguson and think he should be a judge on every reality show (he was amazing on So You Think You Can Dance last season), and he really flames on for Drag Race. When RuPaul asks Jesse if he’s ready for her men, Jesse gives Ru bedroom eyes and says, “Bring ‘em on. All of ‘em.” Oh, Jesse, you cheeky ginger.
The runway begins with the striptease, and I’ve never been happier to see a montage. I fully believe all the performances were cut together because they were so bad that they would have been excruciating to watch individually. Chad and Phi Phi do best, and Kenya would have stood a chance if her partner didn’t look like he was being forced at gunpoint to perform. Latrice and Sharon’s DILFs are the most difficult transformations, and they look exactly like what a burly straight man would look like in women’s clothing. I thought the montage was the end of the pain, but I completely forgot about the maternity couture part of the challenge, a sad realization if ever there was one. There are few things more awkward than the annual Drag Race episode where the queens makeover straight dudes, and the absurd criteria of this season's challenge make this the most uncomfortable yet. That's not a bad thing, though, and part of this show's appeal is its ability to elicit a visceral reaction from the viewer.
Surprisingly, proportions save the day for Phi Phi, as Team Chad’s bizarrely vertical bellies mar an otherwise polished look. Well, proportions and tears. When the judges ask about the challenges of working with her DILF, Phi Phi praises him for being a genuinely caring person, prompting tears when she thinks about her own situation with her father. We give Phi Phi a lot of hate, but her crying is a lot more realistic than Willam’s a few weeks ago. Jesse tells Sharon that Mike looks like Al Pacino in drag, but Sharon’s wit saves her from the bottom. She elaborates that Robin Mansions repels beauty and “nothing makes a woman feel prettier than standing next to this one over here.” Ru’s response is priceless: “Well that’s I why I hang out with Michele Visage.”
The first time Kenya’s partner smiles this episode is when Jennifer Love Hewitt tells him that they could be twins if she straightened her hair, and the judges attack his low energy and Kenya’s fuggo costumes. The best runway revelation is that Kenya glued Rick’s high heels to his feet, leading to raucous laughs from the judges, but it’s not enough to keep her out of the bottom two. She’s joined by Latrice, who is called out for not sharing a family resemblance with her sister Shirelle, with Jesse saying they look like “two friends in a Tyler Perry movie.” Latrice is fabulous, but she’s shown more charisma than versatility this season, and she consistently falls in the middle unless she’s putting on a scripted performance. I’d love to see her break out of her comfort zone, but as this week’s lip sync shows, when Latrice is in her comfort zone she’s damn near unstoppable.
If you had to estimate, how many times do you think Latrice Royale has performed “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” in her life? It’s probably the song she performs at the end of an exhausting night and she needs to cool down. She doesn’t need to move a foot, she grabs your eye and makes you mad when the camera cuts to the imp dancing around her. In a genius move, Latrice addresses the song to her baby bump, adding an emotional depth to the song that Kenya’s flailing fails to grasp. When Kenya rips off her wig halfway through the number, it’s clear that Latrice is shantaying to safety. Surprising no one, a contestant that was eliminated 4 weeks ago gets cut when she comes back during a much more intense part of the competition. We’re back to the final four, and next week they all dress like dogs to be judged by Wynona Judd and Rose McGowan. Why would anyone ever want to miss that?
- Realness watch: “Baby bump realness.” “Carnivale pregnancy realness.”
- Sharon Needles made an appearance on Julie Klausner’s “How Was Your Week?” podcast last week, where she showed off her amazing RuPaul impression. Check it out.
- I love the way Chad corrects his DILF when he calls RuPaul “sir.”
- The audio was cutting out at random times during my broadcast, so I may have missed some awesome one-liners. I’m counting on you guys to fill me in on what I missed.
- The makeup on Latrice’s DILF makes him look like Janice from The Muppets.
- “You’ve been to a strip joint, though. Lap dance? Tipping? Poles? All of it.”
- “Just tuck it back, it don’t feel that bad.”
- “I’m working with a DILK. Dad I’d Like to Kill.”
- “Will you be our drag whisperer?”
- “It’s like dancing with Leslie Nielsen in Airplane!”
- “Lil’ Mama, was this an unwanted pregnancy? Because it was the most somber, macabre friggin’ death walk I’ve ever seen.”