The Snatch Game is the biggest challenge of the RuPaul’s Drag Race season, and the high expectations surrounding the event have forced queens to take bigger risks to stake out their own spot in Snatch Game herstory. Last season had the most unconventional Snatch Game win yet when Kennedy Davenport’s Little Richard tied with Ginger Minj’s Adele, and the contestants venture even further outside the box in season 8, with queens playing men (Thorgy), gender-bent versions of men (Kim), multiple characters (Bob), and celebrities from other races (Thorgy and Bob).
These three queens, along with Chi Chi as an especially feline Eartha Kitt, are the highlights of the game, but even with all the ambition on display, this season’s Snatch Game feels like a pale imitation of what has come before. The big winner of the episode is Bob, who comes prepared with multiple options for the game and ultimately decides to play both Uzo Aduba (as her Orange Is The New Black character) and Carol Channing. Her impersonations of both celebrities are spot-on, but doing two characters ends up hurting the momentum of her performance, particularly because Channing is so heavily associated with Pandora Boxx in the first Snatch Game. That said, playing multiple characters is a great strategy for a number of reasons: It’s a bold move that gives Bob extra screen time; it shows off her versatility as a performer; and it throws off the rest of the panelists, who don’t quite know how to react to this change in the game.
Bob’s willingness to go above and beyond while still delivering distinct characters makes her the big winner of the Snatch Game, and her pristine runway look as 2013 GLAAD Media Awards Madonna makes her the big winner of the episode. Michelle does warn Bob to be careful of showboating, but when you’re one of the top contestants on your favorite television show, why wouldn’t you show off? The show is building up a narrative where Bob’s enthusiasm grates on the other queens, but she’s enthusiastic because she knows she has the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to win this competition. Depending on how the episodes are cut, that enthusiasm can become a bit overbearing, but her excitement is also very endearing and reveals just how much she loves this show.
Like Bob’s Carol Channing, Thorgy’s performance also strongly evokes comparisons to a past queen, and while I admire the guts it takes to be a white man playing Michael Jackson (this was filmed before the whole Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson debacle earlier this year), the performance just made me think of how much richer Kennedy’s impersonation of Little Richard was last season. Thorgy has the Michael Jackson gestures and movements down, but the character is built on obvious jokes about Jackson’s troubled personal life that give him a creepy hollowness. Some may say that’s appropriate for later Michael Jackson, but it makes for a less engaging character in the Snatch Game. Thorgy goes for the low-hanging fruit with her impersonation, and while it’s entertaining, it’s not especially clever or creative.
Derrick Barry is the last queen in the top 3, and she also has some very strong connections to past Snatch Game looks. After an absolutely disastrous try out of a Laura Bell Bundy character who is a black woman trapped in a white woman’s body (easily one of the most painful scenes of the season thus far), Derrick does the obvious choice and plays Britney Spears, which looks phenomenal, but isn’t funny and has a strong air of desperation around it. As her fight with Bob at the top of the episode revealed, Derrick doesn’t have a very sharp sense of humor, and while her bits make RuPaul and Snatch Game contests Gigi Hadid and Chanel Iman laugh, they’re not strong enough to make me forget Tatiana’s Britney Spears, which won the very first Snatch Game. She’s also nowhere near as strong as season 4’s Snatch Game winner, Chad Michaels, who similarly built her career on a specific celebrity impersonation.
Like Thorgy’s Michael Jackson, there’s a shallowness to Derrick’s Britney that makes her less appealing than Bob, Kim, or Chi Chi, who make much bolder choices. Kim’s female version of Kim Jong-un could have been a mess, but she ends up being hilarious because Kim commits to the character and comes up with witty answers to Ru’s questions. Kim is definitely limited in her performance skills, but in the last two episodes she’s proven that she can deliver when she has an especially cartoonish character. Chi Chi’s Eartha Kitt is also very exaggerated, but she manages to make the “Eartha Kitt thinks she’s a cat” concept work by tying her behavior to her answers. Her Kitt voice could still use some work, but in general she’s a lot of fun to watch, selling the ridiculous characterization in a way that spotlights her savvy as a performer.
It felt like it took way too long to get to Snatch Game last season, but with fewer queens at the start of season 8 (12 instead of 14), the show has gotten to this key point in the competition much sooner. This has been a very strong group of queens thus far, but Snatch Game is when a line is drawn between the frontrunners and the stragglers, and there are some big surprises regarding where queens fall in this division. After winning last week’s challenge, Robbie has a big misstep with her Diana Vreeland in the Snatch Game, failing to capture the Vogue editor’s iconic style and personality. Vreeland is a more obscure choice for the Snatch Game, but a perfect one for a Snatch Game featuring two supermodels as judges, and Robbie misses the mark with her impersonation. On the plus side, she has one of the best runway looks as A League Of Their Own Madonna, and this look saves her from being in the bottom two again.
The biggest disappointment in this episode is the Madonna-themed runway, which could have been great if half of the queens didn’t replicate Madonna’s kimono looks. Thorgy has the benefit of coming out first in a kimono that maintains her personal style while still channeling the look from the “Nothing Really Matters” video, and while there are some striking kimonos on the runway, each one after Thorgy has diminishing returns. Naomi Smalls has the least memorable of the kimono-inspired fashion, and her predictable runway look and abysmal Snatch Game performance as Tiffani “New York” Pollard land her in the bottom. Naomi’s story is especially sad because she came prepared with Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple but was intimidated out of that choice by Bob considering Sister Act Whoopi, and she should have trusted her gut and gone with her first choice instead of a backup that she can’t do convincingly.
Joining Naomi in the bottom is Acid Betty, who has one of the best runway looks but one of the worst Snatch Game impersonations, and she’s completely off the mark with both the appearance and personality of her Nancy Grace. When Betty says that she had difficulty making such a serious character funny, Carson Kressley schools her by whipping out an impromptu Nancy Grace impression that makes her look especially bad by comparison, and there’s no excuse for a horrendous Nancy Grace wig that is completely wrong for the character. It’s a huge fail, and Betty brushes it off by saying that she thinks Snatch Game sucks anyway, highlighting the negative attitude that makes it easy to see Betty go at the end of the episode.
Ru’s initial message to the queens channels “Vogue,” so it makes sense to assume that the Madonna classic will be the lip sync song. That’s sadly not the case, and Betty and Naomi face off to “Causing A Commotion,” the second single off the Who’s That Girl soundtrack and a forgettable tune that does the queens no favors on the runway. The “Bedtime Story”-inspired ensemble that made Betty stand out on the runway is a huge handicap in the lip sync, and Betty doesn’t know how to work her pregnant belly on stage, which gets in the way of her connecting to the music. As mentioned earlier in the episode, Betty focuses more on looks than performance, and unfortunately the thing that makes her look memorable this week is also what hurts her performance the most.
Betty wanders around the runway while Naomi takes the power position front and center, and Naomi ends up dominating the performance. Naomi isn’t even that good, but you can sense a hunger from her that is absent in Betty’s performance, and it looks like Betty has already resigned herself to losing when the music starts. As much as I’d like to see more of Betty’s outrageous fashions, I can’t deny that her attitude made it hard to root for her as anything other than this season’s main villain (I’m assuming Derrick will pick up the torch now that Betty’s gone). The lip sync is an underwhelming ending to an underwhelming episode, and while there are strong moments in the Snatch Game, the stars could shine even brighter this week.
- After watching last week’s Untucked, I have to amend my thoughts on Michelle Visage’s speech to Chi Chi, which had a lot of extra context that was cut from the episode. She actually makes some very good points when she clarifies what she means by money not being an excuse for shitty drag. It’s moments like this when I wish Untucked was still on after the show.
- I really, really hope Ru’s joke #CreatureCouture challenge ends up being a real challenge. Maybe with stuffed animals instead of real roadkill?
- Robbie blaming her poor Diana Vreeland on her sore throat is a bad move and I love that the judges see right through it.
- Both of Ru’s looks this week are to die for. The rainbow zigzag striped suit is incredible, and her glistening gown must look amazing in person under bright studio lights.
- Of this week’s supermodel guests, Gigi Hidad is definitely the one who looks most thrilled to be on the show.
- I’m so sad that Cynthia Lee Fontaine, who I’m almost positive was planning on doing Charo for the Snatch Game, isn’t there for Charo’s random appearance at the end of the game.
- I groan so loudly whenever Derrick mentions a Britney Spears lyric.
- Want more of Bob’s Uzo Aduba? Check out this video of her hilarious “Crazy” lip sync routine:
- “If I wanted to hurt you, you’d be crying right now, bitch.”
- “I’m on my favorite fucking TV show, and that bothers some people. Sorry, girl.”
- “I sho’ is ugly.”
- “Sometimes the most obvious thing is the thing to do.”
- “I just know my emails are gonna get hacked after this show airs.”
- RuPaul: “You’re not wearing any panties, are you?” Eartha: “Who wears panties? What are those?”
- “Weapons of ass destruction.”
- “I was about to say ‘they gonna hang you’ but I ain’t gonna say that.”
- “If you stay ready you ain’t got to get ready!”
- “But back to the matter of hand, I just wrote ‘corn.’”
- RuPaul: “Nothing really matters.” Michelle: “No, sure doesn’t.” Way to be a buzzkill, Michelle.
- “And I’m not in a kimono!”
- “And she earned a badge for walking children in nature.”
- “We could hear you perfectly, we just weren’t impressed with what was said.”
- “I once asked Iman what is on her mind on the runway, and she looked at me dead in the eyes and said, ‘Africa.’ BEST STORY EVER.