It is surprisingly easy to get drag queens out of their comfort zones when they’re given a challenge like creating a children’s television show. After five seasons, the writers of RuPaul’s Drag Race are still turning out delightfully goofy obstacles for the contestants, and while it’s all incredibly silly, there’s a lot of talent needed to not fuck it up. The queens have to create lovable but eccentric characters in the vein o Pee-wee’s Playhouse and produce content that is both entertaining and educational, which means this is one of those dreaded acting/writing challenges. These tend to be horribly awkward, but also do a great job of separating the wheat from the chaff, and it’s a predictable mix of winners and losers standing on the runway waiting to be judged. Guest judges Paulina Porizkova and Coco are forced to suffer through some rough drag queen edutainment, but they’re rewarded with a fantastic lip sync at the end of it all.
This season has seen some small changes to the format that have helped the narrative structure of the show. Each episode now begins with a sequence before the title where the queens react to the elimination immediately after the sashay, and the reactions to the previous episode’s events feel more spontaneous and genuine. The queens know that the next round of clips starts getting recorded right after the elimination, and shit gets started right away as Vivienne begins the episode by asking Alyssa what’s the story with her and Coco. Knowing that Alyssa and Coco used to be friends, the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the two didn’t orchestrate this rivalry before coming on the show to make sure they get ample screen time. They can use natural shit-stirrers like Vivienne and Jade to give their conflict even more momentum, and then they just have to act like their stories are intertwined in order to help them through the competition together. When it makes sense for their story, they can make amends and then they’re both closer to winning than before.
There could be a legitimate rivalry between Alyssa and Coco, although they’re both irritatingly tight-lipped about what exactly Alyssa did to lose her Miss Gay America crown to her friend. The producers are eating up the drama between those two, and the mini challenge is tailor-made for Coco and Alyssa, asking the queens to pair up and decorate mannequins for the Junior Drag Superstar Pageant. The two enemies flee from each other to create less than impressive mannequin children with their partners, and it’s Alaska and Lineysha who win the challenge with Lil’ Pound Cake, whose catchphrase is “You’re not my real dad and you never will be.” Roxxxy and Detox’s Vaxeline Androxxx Zoe, Rachel Zoe’s daughter, is a close second, but they’ll pull ahead of the third member of Ro-Laska-Tox after filming the children’s show.
Ro-Laska-Tox was cute for about half a second, but the fact that the three queens yell their group name whenever they walk into a room makes them super obnoxious. Alaska is one of the team leaders because she won the mini-challenge, and she recruits Roxxxy, Detox, Vivienne, Monica, and Alyssa to help her create “Buffalo Bill’s Barnyard Buddies.” Alaska gives the team a solid concept to work from, but there are some major missteps in execution, beginning with Alaska showing up to taping in boy drag. She’s playing a mix of Pee-wee Herman and Howdy Doody, but she’s not a drag queen; Vivienne and Monica might be serving convenience-store fish sticks, but at least they’re dressed as women. Vivienne’s Anita Bump is a bad impression of Jessica Simpson, and she’s a stiff performer that doesn’t have any connection with the camera. Monica is the biggest flop, consistently forgetting her lines although she has them written down in the book she’s holding and is wearing sunglasses so no one would notice she’s reading. There’s some fantastic editing as RuPaul and Michelle watch Monica struggle through her lines, which have something to do with sunlah on her skee and Vitamin D and throwing shade. Poor Alyssa just stands to the right in her busted cross-dressing uncle look, and she’s a scene stealer by comparison.
Roxxxy and Detox are the stand-outs of Team Alaska, with the former applying a lateral lisp to give Tasha Salad a vocal energy that outshines her teammates and the latter being surprisingly good at playing a chicken. This week’s Untucked reveals a romance plot brewing between these two, and their mutual attraction seems to be pushing them to try harder in the competition. They want to be impressive, and then shower the other with praise when she does well, too. There are rumors that two of the queens kai kai this season, and that definitely looks like it could be in the cards for Roxxxy and Detox. Or Alyssa and Coco might jump each other for a wicked hatefuck.
Lineysha’s team lacks a clear concept for “The Magic Bush,” and Lineysha’s sole successful leadership decision is making Jinkx the host, which is the only thing that ends up working. Jinkx has a strong presence on Funny Or Die, so she’s used to being in front of the camera and has no problem straddling the lines of this challenge. Jinkx also has a great backstory: Her mom wasn’t very supportive of her drag lifestyle, but her grandma loved it and would help her get ready for club gigs. That explains a lot of her style, and while Alyssa may look down at Jinkx’s DIY craft fashion sense, she has a charming presence that makes her stand out from the utter mediocrity surrounding her. Jade is serviceable although she has some jacked Joker makeup, and Ivy and Honey would have more opportunity to shine if they had stronger scene partners.
Lineysha and Ivy give bilingual instructions on how to make a banana split, but Lineysha doesn’t bring any Latin spice to her reading and just delivers flat translations. That’s better than the horrifying puppet act put on by Honey and Coco, and Coco has absolutely no idea what she is doing dressed as Chucky in a skirt. She appears to have been heavily sedated, and while she blames her failure on not knowing what to do with her character, she could have at least tried to learn what she was supposed to say. RuPaul and Michelle are not impressed, and during the actual screening of the shows, Michelle is the only judge who claps for “The Magic Bush,” and it’s an open-palmed pity clap at that.
The queens hit the runway in their prettiest pink outfits (or full-body fishnets in Detox’s case), and it’s becoming clear who excels on the runway and who struggles. Alaska brings high-impact looks that may not be the most polished, but there’s definite energy behind them, and her runway appearance is what saves her after a disastrous showing on camera. Roxxxy and Detox are both highlights on the runway, with Roxxxy going a little more conservative while Detox shows off her body, and they both nail the look that they’re trying to achieve. They also both represent the very different opinions of the guest judges this week. Paulina represents class while Coco is on the trashier side, and it’s fun to see the two women go after each other in defense of their fashion sense. A lot of this week’s runway looks just don’t have a very distinct voice, but that’s what Jinkx brings to the table. Her “Marie Aquanet” couture is fun and sexy and goes for more than just glamour, which is ultimately what the judges want. Detox ends up winning the challenge, but Jinkx is steadily gaining momentum, especially because she saves her team from total failure.
Honey, Alyssa, Ivy, Jade, and Lineysha are all safe, but that’s really another word for boring on this show. Honey in particular needs some help, storming around the stage at a quick pace so that the judges won’t notice she’s wearing a bed sheet. She’s lucky she was paired with Coco in the video, because she looks like Meryl Streep next to her. The bottom three are Coco, Monica, and Vivienne, and they all deserve to be there, although the first two more than the last. Vivienne is guilty of being boring, but that will stop her from getting too far in this competition. Coco Montrese has the talent, but she needs to be taught a lesson, especially after she tries to blame her poor performance on the presence of Alyssa throwing her off her game. Her monologue guarantees her a spot in the bottom two, joined by Monica because she was easily the worst of all the on-camera performance.
We already got a preview of this week’s lip sync last episode when Coco and Monica faced off as LaShawn and Jiggly, and Coco kicked her ass then and does it again now. Coco’s Shirley Temple outfit turns out to be the perfect ensemble for a lip sync to The Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up,” and she pulls it off to reveal a baseball T-shirt that is a great way of capturing the spirit of the song in the costume. Coco knew she was going to be in the bottom, so she came prepared for the lip sync, and it’s nice to see someone just bring raw talent and skip the splits and other desperate last-minute moves. Coco is a pageant queen and a Vegas showgirl, and she is going to fight to the very last minute, dominating that stage with the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that she should have been bringing the entire time. Monica is asked to sashay away, but it’s the best kind of exit where she seems genuinely happy to have gotten some time on this show. There’s still some more fat to be cut before this season can really take off, but as long as the challenges remain this fun, Drag Race should continue to be a thrilling ride.
- This week on Untucked: More Alyssa and Coco drama (yawn), Jade Jolie gets a message from her boyfriend (yawn), Monica whines about not being categorized as ghetto (yawn), and Roxxxy and Detox flirt shamelessly (ooh!). Best quote: “Untuck and just start pulling each other’s dicks.”
- Last week, RuPaul reminded all of us why she is the queenwith the release of her music video for “Peanut Butter,” featuring an assortment of booty-shakers with packed bulges and some major padding on Ru’s thighs.
- There is a noticeable lack of hashtag punchlines in this episode. I’m disappointed.
- I cannot handle Detox’s shirtless overalls and big red hat look. How is that something someone wears?
- Jinkx looks like a member of the Fire Gang from Labyrinth when she’s mid-paint.
- RuPaul has a total Tyra moment when she shows how easily she could improve on Vivienne’s character Anita Bump.
- The theme to “Buffalo Bill’s Barnyard Buddies” is going to be the next single to come out of Drag Race.
- Major snaps to whoever managed to frame the camera so that it could catch Alyssa’s reaction when Coco is asked to shantay to safety.
- Final thoughts on Serena Cha Cha: “Came a mess, left a mess.”
- “Ready, set, drag the children!”
- “Lil’ Pound Cake enjoys riding dirty, and being a straight-up motherfuckin’ dick pig.”
- “I don’t get cute, I get drop dead gorgeous.”
- “You look like Willam.”
- “I’m not a drug addict, I’m not an alcoholic. I’m a teacher, I’m a mentor, I’m a leader.”
- “Coco, think more Pinocchio, and less the puppet from Saw.”
- “She’s a hot mesh.”
- Michelle: “This is RuPaul’s Drag Race.” RuPaul: “Not RuPaul’s Best Friend Out-Of-Drag Race.”
- “And you know, Santino, playing the dummy can be a real scene-stealing role, right Michelle?”
- “Roxxxy Andrews, your portrayal of Tasha Salad was, in a world: shenshashional.” I love that this is the kind of line we hear all the time on this show.