It’s back, squirrelfriends! After a hit-or-miss All Star season, RuPaul’s Drag Race returns with a fresh batch of 14 queens that are hungry for that lifetime supply of Color Evolution Cosmetics and $100,000. With the show more popular than ever before, the queens are even more desperate for camera time, which means more cattiness, more glamour, and more gut-busting comedy. There isn’t any reality show on television funnier than Drag Race, and I can confidently say that there aren’t very many shows period that pack in as many laughs as this one does in an hour (two this week). The first episode of the season is always the physical humiliation challenge, and this week, the girls have to pose in a tank for an underwater photoshoot then dig through dumpsters to turn trash into runway couture, and it’s goddamn brilliant.
Before all the degradation goes down, we’re introduced to this season’s group of queens, and it’s a fishy bunch. There’s lots of big hair and overblown personalities in the introductions, and it’s great that the initial challenge always ruins the looks they show up with and knocks them down a peg or two. Detox is the first to show up, wearing a hot bumblebee-inspired dress that unfortunately makes her torso look a little manly. I wish that bodice fit better around the chest, because she looks great otherwise. (And as part of the trio that has brought us “Chow Down (at Chik-Fil-A)” and “Boy Is A Bottom,” she’s established herself as a queen to watch.)
We have one plus-sized queen in Penny Tration, who is on this show thanks to an aggressive online voting campaign, and one thick/juicy girl, Roxxxy Andrews, who is giving off some serious Shannell vibes with her lotsa-hair, lotsa-bronzer look. Honey Mahogany is an Amazonian RuPaul lookalike, and she’s joined in the big hair club by Alyssa Edwards, who has the first beef of this season when her pageant friend-turned-rival Coco Montrese walks into the room. We’ll see how long the producers stretch out that feud, because it’s already extremely annoying. Watching these two bitches is like watching Phi Phi O’Hara fight with herself, and it’s not great reality TV, just grating.
In the personality department, Jinkx Monsoon is quickly making a name for herself with her goofy attitude and narcolepsy, which is surely exaggerated to create reality TV magic. There’s always a girl with a disease on these fashion reality shows, and hopefully Jinkx won’t exploit her narcolepsy to the point that it becomes obnoxious. Granted, obnoxious is often the name of the game on Drag Race, so we’ll see what happens. On the sushi platter, Jade Jolie is an adorable, bubbly Carly Rae Jepsen lookalike with a porn past, so that’s bound to lead to some great television down the line. She’s got a lot more character than Vivienne Pinay, who is a less-polished Jujubee in a Bettie Page Halloween costume, and Monica Beverly Hillz, who is going for dayglo ghetto fabulous. Serena Cha Cha is the Shangela (season 2) of this group, the 21-year-old amateur who is trying to fake it until she makes it. Too bad she’s really bad at faking it. Ivy Winters is adorable in her campy handmade caution-tape ensemble, and it works so perfectly with her drowned hooker underwater picture.
One of the most divisive queens this season is bound to be Alaska (sans Thunderfuck), the ladyboyfriend of last season’s winner Sharon Needles. That a tough legacy to live up to, but she’s already started using her relationship with Sharon to get ample screen time, and the other queens have started calling her the bad Sharon Needles behind her back. Alaska looks especially Lady Gaga-esque with her intro look, but the comparison to Sharon doesn’t quite feel right as she’s clearly going for more glamour than genderfuck. There’s one last queen, and while she doesn’t quite shine in terms of personality, she’s so beautiful that it’s excusable at this point. A mix of Beyonce, Rihanna and Nina Flowers, Lineysha Sparks has a Puerto Rican background, flawless makeup, and extremely polished looks, and she’s an early frontrunner for the crown despite being passed over in both challenges. She has the beauty, now if she just brings the character she can be unstoppable.
After the queens all get a chance to mingle, they receive their first piece of She-Mail, hinting at the dunking challenge along with a heavy amount of Beverly Hills talk foreshadowing one of this episode’s guest judges, The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills’ Camille Grammar. RuPaul comes out to massive cheering and applause, but the girls’ enthusiasm takes a drop once she says, “dive in the deep end,” and they all know they’re about to get thrown in the pool wearing their nicest first day of school clothes (or homecoming dress in Serena’s case). In typical Drag Race fashion, this challenge is a straight rip-off of one from America’s Next Top Model, but our queens do considerably worse than those girls.
The spacy Jade Jolie is the first one up to the tank, and she doesn’t notice the giant tank of water as she comes out and asks what’s up. The pit crew (mmm) escorts her to the tank, then she takes a bunch of pictures with her cheeks puffed out like a fish. She does better than Jinkx, though, who can’t swim and loses both of her contacts the instant she gets in the water. The constant splashing is what makes Jinkx’s dunk so fantastic, and it’s very hard not to cackle for the entire time she spends in the tank. Serena also does horribly, but that’s because she’s a fool that didn’t tuck and she can’t move her body so that her dress stays down. That fiasco gives us RuPaul’s best line of the dunk challenge: “I can see your seafood platter! Your paella is showing!” That’s only one of many glorious Ru quotes during this sequence:
- “Oooh, she’s rolling in the deep.”
- “Now it’s time to sink for your life.”
- “Your legs look like calamari when you do that.”
- “Deeper, Penny Tration!”
- “Serving Wettie Page.”
- “The filet of Vivienne Pinay.”
- “Serving Tuna Turner.”
This show needs to get a special achievement Emmy for pun writing, because that shit is genius. Two queens do phenomenally underwater, and it’s truly impressive that Detox and Lineysha can fully control their bodies and work the camera when they’re submerged in full drag. Detox wins the challenge (despite having man chest) because her photo is perfectly posed and her face is spot-on, and RuPaul also picks a less-than-impressive picture for Lineysha. But the one contestant who really sinks in this challenge is Alaska, who whines, “I can’t get deep enough, I don’t know how to do it.” It could just be wily editing to make her look like she completely gives up, but when Alaska is offered another dunk to get a picture, she chooses to exit the tank instead. All the other girls are already going straight for Alaska’s throat, and forfeiting the photo challenge is the worst possible thing that Alaska could have done. It’s a decision that makes it seem like she’s using her connection to Sharon to slide through the competition, and she’s going to have to step it up if she’s going to get as far as her ladyboy.
After the underwater challenge, the girls get out of drag and are told by Ru that they’re going to be going on a shopping spree, and Jinkx wisely realizes that this is probably not going to be the glamorous experience they were expecting. There’s a wonderfully cheesy sequence featuring the girls driving off to Marco Marco in Beverly Hills, performing choreography and lip syncing to RuPaul’s “Hollywood U.S.A.” as they wave to this season’s judges, who have been cheaply green-screened into the episode. La Toya Jackson’s on her way back, joined by new faces like Chaz Bono, Marg Helgenberger, and Bob frickin’ Mackie, who I cannot wait to see on this show. It’s a silly sequence, and the exact kind of campy fun that separates Drag Race from other reality shows.
When the queens arrive at the boutique, they’re greeted by Camille Grammar, who tells them they have to go to the VIP entrance, where someone is wearing a neon pink biohazard suit in front of a bunch of dumpsters. I was so hoping that it would be Shangela for the fourth season premiere in a row, but it’s just RuPaul, who tells them that they have one minute to go dumpster diving for materials that they will have to turn into red carpet-ready ensembles. When the girls go back to the workroom, that’s when things get really silly and the queens get really bitchy. Alaska strips naked and swings his horse cock around while everyone gets suspicious of Alyssa’s sudden friendship with Jade, suspecting that she’s after her new friend’s shiny red fabric.
Ru shows up to stir some shit when she comes in to critique everyone’s works in progress, and she brings up the Coco/Alyssa conflict along with Alaska’s constant attempts to get on this series. She discusses Roxxxy’s 70-pound weight loss and is super condescending when she talks to Penny about her “enterprising” voting campaign, likely because her garment is fugly. Ru’s chat with Serena results in the 21-year-old talking about her art school background and something called “soft sculpture,” and it will make you hate her. Serena is generally horrible, screech-singing at the top of her lungs and trying to read people when she’s drag-illiterate. Compared to Serena’s obnoxious everything, Alaska talking about her relationship drama with Sharon is a welcome diversion, even though that’s plenty annoying too.
At the runway show, RuPaul shows up in her finest Christmas tinsel couture, joined by regulars Michelle Visage and Santino Rice along with guests Camille Grammar and Mike Ruiz. Roxxxy is the first queen down the runway with a goth- stripper-rocker-chick look that the judges adore, and while she works it on the runway, the ruffled ribbon down the front looks sloppy. She gets extra points for showing off her ass after getting the “I used to be fat” boost, and she ends up winning the challenge. It’s a shame because Lineysha’s look actually looks like something that could walk down a Hollywood red carpet that isn’t for an Absolut-sponsored event, spraypainting and manipulating wallpaper to turn it into a gorgeous high-fashion garment. Add a shoe headpiece on top and she has a look that is striking with just the right amount of quirk. The reason she probably didn’t win this challenge is because when she’s talking to the judges, she said that the giant ruffle is so that she can hide her face in face in case she had to lip sync. It’s a cute response, but she probably shouldn’t have shown any lack of confidence because that look is amazing and there’s no way it’s ending up in the bottom.
Alaska is also in the top with her saran wrap dress, which creates a great shimmer effect with the lights on the runway. She also comes out carrying a giant garbage bag prop that helps differentiate her from the other queens. For most of the episode it seems like Alaska is getting the loser’s edit, so it’s a surprise to see how much praise she gets from the judges, but it’s a simple yet eye-catching look that embraces the trash element of the challenge. The judges really like the craftsmanship of Ivy Winters’ garment, but they wanted to see more use of unconventional materials in its construction. Jinkx, Detox, Honey, Monica, Vivienne, Alyssa, and Coco are all safe, but safe is not a great thing on this show (although it does get you extra Untucked screen time), and RuPaul reminds them all that she expects more, adding, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” for an extra burn as they make their way out.
Jade, Penny, and Serena are in the bottom, and they all deserve it. As evidenced by the very first outfit she showed up in, Jade has a problem editing down her rainbow-unicorn-Lisa Frank aesthetic, and if she had lost the NBC peacock on her chest and the loofahs on her head, she probably would have been safe. But her look is nowhere near as bad as the other two, who are complete messes from head to toe. Penny has a lopsided silhouette, which is Drag 101, and make-up that is way too dark, creating a sideburn effect where there should be cheekbones. Her outfit is completely unflattering, but it still gives off the impression of a woman whereas Serena looks like a little boy in lederhosen with a bad wig on. Serena is such a busted mess that it’s embarrassing. She appears to have dishrags around her waist and colored foil attached to an oiled bare chest that travels up to a collar that highlights her completely jacked make-up and hair. Santino says it looks someone pulled the head off a doll and stuck it in a G.I. Joe, but he forgot to mention that the doll’s head was put in the microwave first.
Serena and Penny end up in the bottom two and lip sync to Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A,” and it’s a fairly pathetic final bout between the two queens. I wish that Jade had been in the bottom because you know that song has to be in her regular repertoire and she probably would have turned it out. Surprising no one, Serena is just as obnoxious when performing as she is doing everything else, but at least she knows the words. Penny was a waste of all those online votes, and she turns away from the judges because she doesn’t know the lyrics. As horrible as Serena is, she puts some effort into the lip sync while Penny traipses around the stage trying to divert attention away from her, and Penny deserves to sashay away. Serena is the hottest of messes, so there’s no way she’s going to last much longer on this competition, even if she brings the drama. If anything, it will be really fun to watch all the other queens gang up on her, because she’s getting on their last nerve and it’s only the first episode.
- This week on Untucked: “Hello, I’m Laura Linney.” The opening montages of Untucked are consistently one of the most entertaining minutes of television every season. Monica gets really self conscious way too early, Coco and Alyssa are incredibly annoying, and Detox shows that she’s learned more than a few shade-throwing tricks from her friend Willam as she shuts down Alyssa with just a glance when she starts bitching about Alaska. The girls call out Alyssa on stealing from their looks so that she could be safe, and it’s hard to argue with the evidence.
- Willam Belli is the host of a series of videos bitching out YouTube makeup tutorials and it will make you laugh until you cry. Gotta love the irony of five-o’clock-shadow Willam calling out other people’s makeup tips. “You’re not doing that right.”
- Detox is fabulous, but she is a few ill-advised trips to Mexico away from being Chad Michaels’ little sister.
- Lineysha is referred to as “the Puerto Rican papi,” and he’s one foxy man out of drag. Woof.
- This year’s Absolut ad features last season’s top four in a Ru-Dunnit as Sharon hires Michelle Visage to find out who stole her crown. Chad is perfection, Phi Phi is still hanging on to that Party City crap, and Latrice gets read for being yellow. It’s pretty awesome. “You can’t handle the T!”
- Jade’s pink Power Ranger t-shirt gets her so many points in my book.
- “Back-stabbing me behind my back.” The perfect redundant sentence from Coco to sum up her irritating rivalry with Alyssa.
- “I was giving Helen Keller drowning realness.”
- “Somebody forgot to tell them that black people don’t swim. Thank god I’m Dominican.”
- “I am Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen.”
- “If you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong.”
- “Little bitty Serena, she’s kinda irritating. And by ‘kinda’ I mean she’s fucking irritating the shit out of me. On a constant.”
- “Cover Girl don’t cover boy, baby.”
- “Well now we know where last season’s backdrop went.”
- “I’m serving Jem and the Holograms acid-punk going to the Met gala.”
- “She’s detoxing from crack by the way.”
- Camille: “Someone took the black swan and mated it with a matador.” Michelle: “And now we’ve got bird flu.” Michelle’s antagonistic relationship with Camille Grammar is fantastic this week.
- “I wonder if she has a twin, then she’d be double Penny Tration.”
- “It’s Saran Palin.”
- “Anyone who says it’s an honor just to be nominated is one lying bitch.”
- RuPaul: “Well Michelle, Alaska is not from New Jersey.” Michelle: “PWAHAHAHA!”