Ahh, the inner saboteur. We all have one, and she’s a bitch.
The inner saboteur is a concept RuPaul has discussed time and again on RuPaul’s Drag Race when speaking with queens plagued with doubt and insecurity. It’s his name for the self-destructive devil on one’s shoulder, the sabotaging instinct towards fear and surrender one must overcome to find confidence and fulfillment in life. Given Ru’s affinity for the concept, and its narrative potential, it’s surprising it’s taken 10 seasons for the show to center an episode on it. Unfortunately, while a couple of the contestants embraced the prompt and dug deep for personal, thoughtful responses, as a whole the queens failed to live up to the towering level of vulnerability and honesty this challenge asked of them.
“Evil Twins” may move to some darker places, but it begins with the usual loving tribute to the departing queen (farewell, Monét- how I would have loved to see your take on this challenge!). With so few queens left, it’s hard to hide and Kameron has relaxed his strategy of not giving the producers material to work with. It’s nice to see some of his personality shine through, and this episode is by far the best glimpse viewers have gotten of Kameron. There’s ego and some snark, and more than a little pride for surviving two lip syncs; Kameron can’t fully suppress a smile when talking about feeling bad about being the reason Monét is gone. Asia may not have time for Kameron’s likely partially honest and partially performative guilt, but it’s a welcome change from the closed-off Kameron of most of the rest of the season.
Miz Cracker on the other hand is still spinning from her win. Asia is looking for more enthusiasm and joy, but above all else, Cracker seems relieved. The intensity of her desire for a win, and some validation, is palpable, but one gets the sense that even as the queens sit in the work room, fresh from the makeover challenge, the words of Cracker’s father are ringing in her ears: one win is meaningless without a second to back it up.
The next day, the queens dance into the work room, basking in their top five status and drinking it in, enjoying their few moments of respite before the competition starts back up. RuPaul brings out Cheyenne Jackson to judge the mini challenge, which tasks the queens with creating a pancake persona out of popular (drag) brunch foods. Eureka is right. The food looks absolutely delicious- hopefully the crew got to chow down on the leftovers. The queens get creative with the materials, but the clear winner is Asia, whose pancake, Panquisha (àla Jinkx, sp?), has a full backstory and a lot of personality. It’s surprising how much of a difference moving Panquisha’s pupils over to the side makes, compared to the other queens’ perfectly centered, round whites and irises. It’s a silly challenge and all five queens come up with something interesting, but the episode moves swiftly on, awarding Asia a gift card but no advantage in the maxi challenge to come.
And what a maxi challenge it is! The queens need to mine their wardrobes and the fabric and jewel walls to create two looks: One for them at their best and one for their inner saboteur. They must pair each look with a monologue, exploring how they want the world to see them and how they’re afraid the world actually does. It’s a tall order, and one we finally get a sense the queens were not warned about ahead of time. Asia and Aquaria seem prepared for the challenge, with Aquaria in particular pulling out two looks with similar silhouettes but completely different aesthetics, but Miz Cracker and Kameron are somewhat thrown, and they’re both planners. If they could have sewed their looks ahead, they would have.
Finding two connected, yet contrasting looks is no small feat, but the real stretch for the queens is their monologues. These require self-awareness and authenticity, and that’s what makes this such a smart challenge for so late in the season. Any of the queens should be able to pull together two looks and paint to match. But can they reach deep and draw from their experiences to create full personas and connect with the audience? Are they willing to open themselves up to the criticisms and critiques they most fear? It’s enlightening to watch the queens process the challenge, talking to each other and giving their perspectives on everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. The conversation is mostly very open and supportive, and draws the audience closer to queens, getting us on board with whoever winds up as the top four and eventually, top three finalists.
Most of the feedback is expected, but it’s notable that Cracker’s reads from everyone boil down to introversion. Much of what is said about Cracker, particularly by Asia, could just as easily apply to the Kameron viewers have seen most of the season. While Cracker has been by the mirrors painting with everyone else, Kameron has stayed off to the side to paint all season, and though Kameron has finally been opening up and letting some personality shine through in this episode, several queens gave her a hard time for refusing to acknowledge positive feedback in the challenge she eventually won, essentially the same criticism Asia lobs at Cracker here for not effusing more openly after her win. Yes, Cracker and Kameron share some personality traits, but either the queens could have done a better job verbalizing exactly what distinguishes Kameron and Cracker and makes Cracker’s introversion more crippling than Kameron’s, or the editors needed to find more clips to demonstrate what the queens have been seeing from Kameron, and not seeing from Cracker, that prompted Cracker to be labeled withdrawn and robotic when Kameron was not.
“Evil Twins” has a lot of potential and ticks along nicely to this point, but once RuPaul walks through the work room and touches base with each of the queens, the episode locks in and never regains the episode’s early energy and sense of introspective discovery. Most of the runway looks deliver, guest judges Ashanti and Lena Dunham are fun and game, and the critiques from the entire judging panel are interesting. However, the queens’ journeys don’t progress beyond their initial conversations with Ru. Asia shows awareness and maturity, centering her looks on a dramatic black ensemble she’s made and brought to the competition. Aquaria is very look-focused and doesn’t have much to say beyond that, but while Ru initially says he’ll need more, all it takes is Aquaria paraphrasing Ru’s read back to her in her saboteur’s monologue to clinch the win. Eureka’s looks are in process when Ru comes by, but he knows exactly what Ru’s looking for in this challenge, repeating back advice Ru gave earlier in the season about drawing strength from vulnerability and committing to a dark, bullying antagonist. Cracker has one fully thought-out look and a good sense of what her monologues need, but no second look, and Kameron’s saboteur monologue is mostly a reworded compliment. Alas, neither recovers, and it’s no surprise when they’re announced as the bottom two.
Only a handful of queens have ever survived three lip syncs for their lives, but with Cracker still somewhat trapped in her head, Kameron manages to join their company. Both queens have the words and expression down and nail impressive cartwheels (in those heels!) and splits, but Kameron wisely busts out a new move, her leg choreo, and doing so, rather than relying solely on the same splits she’s deployed in the two previous lip syncs, likely secures her the shantay. Cracker offered up terrific looks and memorable moments this season, and walks away with one well-deserved win, but she never managed to break through and really show off her funny, charming personality (see Review With A Jew on Miz Cracker’s YouTube channel to get a sense of what might have been). Hopefully she’ll be back soon on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, having learned from this experience and ready to get out of her head, and out of her own way.
For now, we head into the penultimate (non-reunion) episode with a clear delineation between the top three and Kameron, who lags behind her competitors. The next episode has its work cut out for it establishing drama and stakes when of the final four, three queens each have two wins and have gotten potential-winner edits and one queen is coming off of lip syncing three times in a row. Regardless, this has been a dramatic and entertaining season, with some of the most creative and interesting challenges in quite a while. Hopefully the producers have a card up their sleeves and the last three episodes will be as challenging and exciting as the rest of the season has been.
- I’m glad to have been able to sub in again this season for Oliver, but never fear, he’ll be back for the next episode.
- Of course Aquaria has a weird, neurotic food thing. Kameron may be finally peeking out from the corners of his shell, but Aquaria has burst completely out of his own insecure early-season shell. Cheer when you pee clear? You do you, Aquaria.
- Speaking of Aquaria, while I wasn’t big on her saboteur look, I’m far from an expert on fashion. I was underwhelmed by Aquaria’s monologues, but she destroyed the runway with her first look. It’s absolutely gorgeous and eye-catching and while I may have given the win to Asia, the strength of that first runway walk was such that even without connecting to the animal print ensemble, I cannot fault giving Aquaria the win.
- I’m a fan of both Asia and Cracker, so it was particularly disappointing to see Asia come down so hard on Cracker and add further insult by making the kicker of her saboteur’s monologue the idea that Cracker would be the one to beat her. That’s just harsh.
- It’s a shame Cracker got flustered and gave up on her initial bad twin concept of a vampire with a similar silhouette to her French courtier. That would have been a much more dramatic and appropriate counterpart than what she ended up going with, which looked good, but was too disconnected from her first look.
- Props to Carson for spotting the Clueless connection to Eureka’s good twin look.
- I run hot and cold with Lena Dunham, but her interactions with the queens in Untucked were fun. Also, Kameron’s frustration and intensity was great to see as he processed his critiques and prepared to lip sync. If he brings that fight to the next episode, he may be more of a contender than the rest of the episode makes it appear.
- I was only middling on this episode, but I loved the maxi challenge and hope we’ll see it again in future seasons. As I said above, I’m very curious what Monét’s take on this challenge would have been. Which eliminated queen would you most have liked to see tackle this one? Sound off in the comments.