Photo: VH1

Pardon me while I catch my breath, because this is the most intense reunion ever held on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I was expecting fireworks when all the queens got back together, particularly with The Vixen in the mix, but I couldn’t have foreseen just how incendiary this episode would get. The elimination of The Vixen resulted in a major dip in drama for the rest of the season, but all of that conflict comes rushing back to the surface when RuPaul runs down all of The Vixen’s most contentious moments, reigniting important discussions about race and decorum that are left unresolved by the end of the episode.

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The Vixen material takes up a good quarter of this episode, but before jumping into the heavy stuff, Ru starts the reunion by recapping some of this season’s big eliminations, kicking it off with this season’s most iconic moment. Miss...Vaaaaaaanjieeeeeee gets an entire montage dedicated to how her last words became a bonafide pop culture sensation over the past few months, and her response to the meme is absolutely delightful. This episode reveals what a mistake it was to get rid of her so early because she’s overflowing with charisma, and I’ll be mad if she doesn’t end up on the show next season because I want to see more of her on my TV. I think RuPaul does, too, so I expect to hear a lot more “Vanjie” chants next year.

The Ru-cap of eliminations is sadly missing my favorite lip sync assassination of the season, when Mayhem absolutely destroyed Yuhua when they performed “Celebrity Skin.” Mayhem and Yuhua are two queens who don’t say much in this episode, although they both have more significant moments later in the episode: Mayhem calls out Aquaria and Asia for saying her drag doesn’t have a wow factor, and Yuhua talks about how her family reacts to her lifestyle. Most of the queens who are quiet are the ones who were eliminated in the first half, including Vanjie, Khloe, and Blair, but then there’s Aquaria, who is probably going to win the competition and really only engages when someone is calling her out.

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That first call-out comes when Ru shifts focus to The Vixen, asking her why she decided to bring up Aquaria’s feelings about Cracker stealing her look. The queens joke about “The Vixen” becoming a verb for when someone is about to stir shit up, but things get serious when Ru gets into The Vixen’s quarrel with Eureka. The two of them are speechless after watching footage from their Untucked fight, but The Vixen ultimately stands by everything she said while Eureka walks back her comments because she’s playing the game and knows that is going to make her look better.

The Vixen isn’t interested in looking good for the cameras. If she’s mad, she’s going to stay mad. She may not have remembered Eureka’s exact language—she says that Eureka explicitly said she wanted to “attack” her when she said she wanted to “test” her—but everyone glosses over the fact that Eureka instigated this fight because she wanted to poke the bear. Multiple queens, including Ru, all come after The Vixen for giving in when she’s goaded, but The Vixen rightfully points out that everyone is dictating how she should react and no one is telling Eureka how to act.

The Vixen is tired of people telling her how she should behave when Eureka, a white queen who walked into this competition with a major advantage, gets a free pass even though she’s the one who caused the problem. The racial dynamics of Drag Race were brought up in those early Untucked episodes of the season, and while this reunion doesn’t address them head-on, they are definitely still in play. The Vixen is very outspoken about racial inequality in this country, and she’s been dedicated to bolstering the voices of black queens in Chicago. (She’s bringing back her Black Girl Magic show later this month, now with extra star power thanks to fellow season 10 queens like Asia, Monét, and Monique, as well as Drag Race veterans Shea Coulée and Dida Ritz.)

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Photo: VH1

The Vixen has been vocal about racism within the Drag Race community, and we see a lot more tone policing in this episode, a lot of it coming directly from Ru. She tells The Vixen that sometimes she can choose not to say anything at all if her words are going to create tension, and while I understand that Ru has had to deal with plenty of bigotry in her life, this opinion feels very regressive considering the current state of our country. There’s a lot for The Vixen to be mad about, and she has a national platform to speak up on Drag Race. She’s not going to be disrespected by other contestants, and she also understands that her clapbacks make for great TV.

This season would have been dry as hell without The Vixen creating drama, and Ru should be thanking her instead of being offended by The Vixen’s behavior. As more and more people tell her how she should act, The Vixen announces that she only came here to show love for her fans’ support and then she leaves for the rest of the episode, her last gift to this season. The Vixen is gone, but she’s still the main topic of conversation, with Asia breaking down in tears as she becomes The Vixen’s only advocate. Asia has had a lot of empathy for The Vixen this season, and seeing her outpouring of emotion toward The Vixen’s mistreatment is heartbreaking.

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Asia sees a person in pain crying out for help, and she condemns the rest of the queens for sitting up here during Pride month and reprimanding The Vixen when they are trying to enrich the lives of others. And Ru is included in this group. I’ve said before that Asia has treated Ru like a colleague rather than a superior, and that dynamic really comes through in this episode. Asia refuses to let Ru off the hook for her actions, and I agree with Asia in this situation. Ru feels that she can’t help because The Vixen won’t meet her halfway, and The Vixen needs to learn how to curb her “bad behavior” so she can interact with other people in a civil way. Ru does have a point here, and she’s built an empire by modifying her drag persona so that it is palatable to a mainstream white audience.

But there’s a place for a drag queen defined by her righteous anger in the current socio-political climate, and there is a serious racism problem within the Drag Race fandom that the show needs to take bigger steps to counter. Earlier this week, Asia posted a message on Twitter about the reprehensible treatment she has received from “fans” of the show, detailing how a message threatening to burn her alive brought back trauma that she had buried after receiving the same threat in person when she was 11. The further a black queen gets in the competition, the more intense the vitriol she receives from the fanbase, and that’s a serious problem that the show is feeding by spending so much time forcing The Vixen to defend her anger rather than acknowledging her point of view.

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Ru has dealt with a lot of persecution in her life, but what is she doing to help the queens who are faced with that because of the platform she gave them? She has the opportunity to show empathy to The Vixen that racist fans will not, but instead she just fuels the flames by putting all the blame on The Vixen rather than giving Eureka the same level of scrutiny. Asia’s response to this is one of the most genuinely poignant moments in Drag Race herstory, and while I don’t think she’s going to win this season, she ascends to legendary status after this episode.

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The back half of this episode also deals with more tough topics as Ru talks to various queens about their relationships with their families, and there are some especially touching moments with Dusty and Monique. Religion plays a big part in both of their stories, and Monique’s is particularly effective as she talks about losing faith and rediscovering it through the impact she has on other people with her drag. The most surprising thing about this episode is learning just how many of this season’s queens do not like Kameron, and once The Vixen is gone, they gang up on Kameron for being standoffish during and after the competition.

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There’s a hilarious sequence of reaction shots when Kameron is talking about how she always tried to be nice and supportive to the other girls, and when Ru asks the contestants who should be America’s Next Drag Superstar, nobody says Kameron. It’s probably going to be Aquaria unless she has a massive fail in the lip sync tournament, but this reunion reinforces that this season ultimately belongs to The Vixen, who made a lasting impression by starting discussions that will hopefully keep going as the series continues.

Stray observations

  • I’m really fascinated by how reality TV contestants choose to control their storylines, and Cracker and Aquaria made a joint effort to prevent their supposed rivalry from becoming a bigger narrative this season. And it didn’t! Good job, girls!
  • Monét has an epic face crack when The Vixen says she didn’t start a single fight this season.
  • The Vixen’s nose makeup is really messy.
  • That Monét fake out during “Pound The Alarm” was pure lip sync excellence. And totally unplanned!
  • Dusty gets a lot of screen time in this episode when Ru talks to her about conversion therapy and the pain of having a big Drag Race fanbase but not having the support of the people she cares about the most. It’s very emotional, but the highlight of Dusty’s time on the reunion is her rapid-fire reads when the library is opened, going after Kameron, Eureka, and Blair in quick succession. She came to slay!
  • I didn’t know what joy was until I heard Alex Trebek say, “No tea, no shade, but she was not serving lemonade.”
  • I don’t know if Yuhua was inspired by this legendary drag performance for her undead look in this episode, but if you haven’t seen this yet, watch it now:

  • “It’s like gay ‘aloha’ now. It’s like hello, goodbye, and thank you.”
  • “Take your 15 and act like you was there the whole time.”
  • “Really? Didn’t we watch this already?”
  • “Aquaria and I are like real sisters in that we resent each other.”
  • “Ain’t nobody but me, Jesus, glitter, and rhinestones.”
  • “It’s like the Megazord of being gay. I am a drag queen.”
  • “Does your whole family wear a pussycat wig?”
  • “They still ask me, ‘When are you going to bring back home a Chinese girlfriend?’ But don’t they know that I am the girlfriend already.”
  • “I’m glad I have a catchphrase. Who are you again?”
  • Mayhem: “When you gonna find out how to shut the fuck up sometimes?” Eureka: “When you come put that dick in mouth.”
  • “Wakanda fish is that?”
  • “Came for me, came for me, sent me home, Eureka.”

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