Having two episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race in a row is exciting, but it’s definitely not something this show should do very often. To start, Untucked becomes a more necessary part of the viewing experience later in the season, so it becomes four episodes of TV over the course of three hours, which is just daunting. That’s a Godfather amount of time devoted to drag queens, reality TV drama, and HIV awareness commercials, and while these two episodes are certainly a thrill ride, I ended up a bit light headed by the sensory overload of it all.
Actually, I was light headed because of all the cheering and dancing I did after seeing Laganja chassé away. She’s been the most abrasive aspect of this season, and suffering through so much of her forced character is one of the only down sides of this extended chunk of Drag Race. The only reason she wins the commercial challenge is because she’s paired with Adore, and after bombing in the stand-up comedy set, breaking down on the runway, and barely surviving a catastrophic Untucked, Laganja Estranja is finally sent home. Her manic hushed muttering doesn’t save her when Joslyn steals her thunder during the lip sync, and word vomit and awkward dance choreography combine to give Laganja a hilariously clueless runway exit. In the workroom, she delivers some more of her scripted bullshit before heading out into the cold, hard world, where she’ll finally be able to roll a joint and chill the fuck out.
Laganja’s elimination comes at the end of what is essentially a two-part episode because there’s no elimination at the end of “Glamazon By Colorevolution,” which explains why Logo chose to go the double-header route. (I also suspect this is Logo’s way of gauging how ratings numbers will look when the show moves to a new timeslot an hour later next week.) The major theme of the two episodes is the relationship between the drag persona and the man underneath it, and the two queens that suffer the most are the two that don’t let their human side show when they’re all dolled up. Laganja and Dela function as masks that these men put on, separate characters that hide male identities when they should be outlets for uninhibited expression of those identities.
Tonight’s first episode is a brilliant example of the explicit reality TV manipulation and shameless product placement that are a big part of this show’s charm, and naming the episode after the make-up that contestants will be forced to create commercials for is a genius way for RuPaul to use her queens to expand her empire. After a hand modeling mini-challenge that Laganja wins for some arbitrary, undisclosed reason, the queens are broken into pairs of two chosen by mommy Ru, and she sets up the teams for maximum drama: Darienne is with her chief rival Dela, Adore is with frenemy Laganja, Courtney is with her superfan Joslyn, and Bianca is with Trinity and her defeated attitude.
In the grand scheme of Drag Race rivalries, Darienne/Dela doesn’t leave much impact, especially because they’re such similar queens. They’re both comedy queens that play exaggerated characters, and Darienne goes after Dela because she’s threatened. There’s some truth to Darienne’s accusations that Dela has a big head, but Darienne doesn’t do herself any favors by creating this rivalry that gives Dela even more spotlight and a stronger narrative through line for the rest of the series. The pair’s cougar-targeted commercial is a big fail with the judges because there’s almost no interaction between the queens and they both play the same spacey Jennifer Coolidge-type character, so they end up having to lip sync against each other to “Point Of No Return” by Expose. This show really needs to find some new sponsors, because “Point Of No Return” is really scratching the bottom of the barrel when it comes to lip sync music, and a lackluster song means the two performers never reach their full performance potential.
It’s interesting that, of the two, Dela is getting the “we need to see the real you” criticism when Darienne is the one who never drops her character, but the judges don’t get to see Dela’s workroom behavior when she drops the mask. Darienne is able to make her character appear natural onstage while Dela puts on this fake voice that hides her true self, and in order to be the best queen she can be, Dela needs to let more reality shine through in her drag persona. She also needs to spend less time worrying about the competition and focus on giving her strongest performance, because there are a couple times in the lip sync where its obvious Dela is watching and rating Darienne’s performance instead of sending all her energy toward the judges.
Darienne is declared the winner of the lip sync, but it’s all just a fake-out to pop Dela’s slightly inflated ego and she ends up staying. I was legitimately fooled into thinking Dela would be going home, but I’m thankful she’s staying, now with a storyline that makes her the former golden girl who has to get back in the judge’s good graces. Darienne does much better than Dela in the stand-up comedy challenge, but Dela is becoming more likeable as she shows more vulnerability while Darienne is coming across as a petty mean girl. I’d be shocked if Dela didn’t end up in the final three after the narrative she’s been handed this week, and now that the season’s first queen to win two challenges has been humbled by two failures in a row, she’s all set to rise from the ashes and soar to the finale.
Dela may make it to the finals, but it’s becoming clear with each week that Bianca is the only correct choice when it comes to naming America’s Next Drag Superstar. She’s becoming such a force this season that the younger queens are using her as an example of excellence, and Trinity blossom this week by embracing her Inner Bianca. The Inner Bianca is that voice inside all humans that helps us understand weakness and overcome it with strength and confidence, and while some queens are able to hear that voice naturally, the younger contestants don’t feel the spirit until they endure the wrath of Bianca Del Rio.
In this competition, a read from Bianca is an opportunity to address an issue that is holding you back by weakening it with laughter, and the smart queens don’t let their emotions cloud the meaning of what Bianca is saying, taking her advice to become even fiercer competitors. It happened with Adore, and it happens this week with Trinity. So much of the philosophy of drag comes through in this episode, specifically in Trinity’s transformation. When RuPaul visits the workroom and hears Trinity’s defeatist attitude, she gives the queen a breakdown of her drag philosophy so that she can understand where the judges’ criticisms are coming from. Trinity’s problem isn’t with her voice, it’s with projecting her personality, and Ru knows that she can do it because she’s seen Trinity turn it out in a lip sync. Ru is trying to drag (pun intended) that personality out of Trinity, and Bianca takes this opportunity to help Trinity reach the level of confidence she needs so that they can have a stronger ad.
When Bianca takes a contestant under her wing, that queen skyrockets up the rankings, and Trinity establishes herself as a serious competitor this season after Bianca helps her break out of her shell. Trinity’s performance in the commercial isn’t perfect, but it’s leaps ahead of her previous acting attempts, and she’s the biggest surprise of the stand-up challenge, using race humor to her advantage and proving that she has some real skill with setting up and delivering a punchline. (Trinity’s enunciation is greatly helped by her not wearing flippers this week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was something Bianca asked her to do for their commercial.) Trinity is suddenly a mix of Shangela and Tyra, and that’s a combination that makes her dangerous for the rest of these queens.
There was never any doubt that Bianca would absolutely annihilate the stand-up comedy challenge, and she does incredible work poking fun at herself so that she has free reign to go after the audience and the judges. Her jokes hold the same strengthening power as her reads, making guest judge Jamie Presley wish Bianca had told some jokes at her expense so that she could release some insecurity through laughter. The audience of primarily senior citizens loves her jokes, and wearing a red Kathy Griffin wig is a smart way for Bianca to tie herself visually to a pop culture figure her audience may know.
Bianca finally gets her second win thanks to the stand-up challenge, and now that Laganja’s gone and Bianca has started to mold the younger queens that annoyed her, it’s hard to tell what direction her character will go from here. Will she continue to play the bitchy mother hen, or will she take a more offensive stance and start throwing shade to knock people off their game? At the end of the day, she’s still here to win, and whatever strategy she’s planned is working perfectly thus far.
One queen forced to reconsider her strategy is Joslyn Fox, who was finding success with the Miss Congeniality route but not respect. When she’s paired with Courtney for the commercial, Joslyn realizes that this person she idolized doesn’t have anywhere near the same opinion of her, and is in fact an arrogant bitch that loves to use Joslyn’s status as a fan against her. Joslyn is shaken by this revelation, and after a disappointing commercial, she decides that she needs to do something different that her make her more than the low-rent Courtney Act. Unfortunately, she fails. She comes out on the runway wearing a black-and-white variation on the skimpy number she wore last week and a top hat over her boy hair, and it’s a look that the judges hate, especially because its so similar to the outfit they just read Joslyn for wearing.
It seems like Joslyn is falling into the “personal style” trap and not taking the judges’ critiques to heart because they don’t agree with her aesthetic, but that’s a surefire way to go home. Lo and behold, Joslyn ends up in the bottom two for the first time after her directionless stand-up routine. She’s faces off against Laganja in a lip sync to Pink’s “Stupid Girls,” and the two queens give it everything they’ve got to perform the strongest lip sync of the season. In a magical Drag Race moment, Laganja and Joslyn both do the splits at the exact same time, and that’s when Joslyn clinches the win by showing that it’s going to take more than Laganja’s stock dance moves to sashay to safety. Joslyn gives some serious face to capture the attitude of the song while dancing around the space, and after seeing her performance skills, she becomes an even blacker horse.
Adore and Laganja have been drifting apart over the course of the season, but their established relationship outside of the competition helps them win the commercial challenge, even though it’s really Adore’s win featuring Laganja. Adore’s major contribution this evening, beyond showing Laganja what acting looks like, is providing an idea of who Laganja was before she turned on her caricature persona for the cameras, and it’s interesting to hear that her vocal affectation is something that really only appeared during the competition. It’s strange seeing Laganja never drop her character on screen, but it must be even weirder for someone who knows this isn’t what she’s normally like.
Both queens struggle with the stand-up comedy challenge, but Adore is at least able to get some laughs while Laganja’s comments about receding hairlines and dry vaginas are met with total silence. From her opening line—“Hey hey hey hey! Putcha lightas up! Ganjas in the house! NYAAAAAH!”—Laganja is completely clueless about how to approach her audience and how to portray herself, and she deserves to go home after that painful routine. She breaks down when the judges criticize her on the runway and then breaks down again when Bianca and the girls comes after her in Untucked, so by the time she finds out in the bottom two, she’s already resigned herself to loss.
During her lip sync, Laganja tries all the tricks in the book—splits, death drops, double wigs—but none of those things can make up for her distinct lack of personality. She doesn’t know when to just cut the crap and be a real, and that need to embellish everything results in her uncomfortable exit as she misinteprets “sashay” to chassé down the runway. If Laganja applies the advice that the queens on this season were trying to get through her thick skull, she could be a totally badass bitch, but the insufferable persona she put in front of the cameras makes her exit an incredibly cathartic moment.
- Tonight in Untucked: Two excellent episodes get all the queens together after high drama challenges and let the sparks fly. Joslyn stops being Courtney’s fan after she calls her unpolished. The queens read Laganja to filth over and over again. Trinity shows her nurturing side. Alyssa Edwards offers Untucked tips and Joslyn gets a video message from her fiancée. Bianca’s laugh cuts through everything. “I was raised by wolves.” “Are you gonna cut your ass out of your wedding dress.” “It’s just like the human race. We all are just…fucking evil.”
- Tonight’s guest judges: Lainie Kazan, Leah Remini, Bruce Villanch, and Jamie Presley. Everyone does a great job, although Leah is either incredibly hyper or on something because her enthusiasm was reaching scary levels. Also, it was a bad idea to sit her next to Michelle.
- Adore (!!!), Bianca, Trinity, and Courtney rock the black-and-white runway. Darienne’s puffy sleeves are a horrible idea.
- Does anyone know the origin of the term “kiki” to describe Laganja’s voice?
- This week’s variations on realness: “dead doll realness” and “skunk Cinderella realness.”
- The camera movement during the reveal of Laganja sitting under the table is so perfect.
- Courtney act is becoming the definition of “resting on pretty.” That song during the stand-up routine was rough.
- Who else was shocked by Michelle’s conservative look for the first episode’s runway?
- Whether she’s serving neon colors or floral patterns, Ru looks flawless on the runway this week.
- “Poor leche.”
- “One skin, two skin, three skin, four skin.”
- “Ooh, that’s some rough nut work, girl.”
- “Thanks, Ru. You shady bitch.”
- Laganja: “My Rachel Zoe voice.” Michelle: “No.”
- “I’m learning patience, bitch.”
- “Don’t call me collect, and if you go to jail, I know somebody who can get you out.”
- “I can’t believe I let you sit next to Michelle Visage.” (Honk)
- “That is quite an impressive tulle, I might add.”
- “She will deliver in 30 minutes or your pizza is free.”
- “Domi-no she betta do.”
- “Klaus Nomi Malone”
- “I don’t know what it is around her neck, but if it snows tonight, it’s going on my tires.”
- “I thought it was about either surgery or drugs. I thought you were definitely stoned.”
- “I’m not yo mama. My name is Bianca.”
- RuPaul: “Who’s helping you out?” Bianca: “Well they’re all helping me out by being horrible and making me look better.”
- “This challenge is really a shit or get off the pot moment. So let’s hope I can deliver a nice big turd.”
- “My worst nightmare is sitting next to you right now.”
- “I’m gonna come over and pollinate you.”
- “Honey, you have to be held to be dropped.”
- “At the gym, I’m like a ninja. You will never see me there.”
- “But a really unfortunate thing happened, my sister caught an ear infection so she starved to death.”
- “My grandma’s a whore.” When in doubt, call grandma a whore.
- “I am so excited to see the cast of Cocoon is here.”
- “My mother is from Cuba. My father is from Honduras. Which basically means I have a large dick, no credit, and a tendency to take things that don’t belong to me.”
- “My mother insisted we stay true to our Hispanic heritage. So my first words were (knock knock knock) ‘Housekeeping!’”
- “I will show you versatility when Santino wins a sewing competition and Visage wears a fucking turtleneck! Ain’t gonna happen!”
- “But, and it’s quite an impressive butt.”