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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Visitors prompt reflection and revelations on RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue

RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1
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The season is almost over, but RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue still has a lot of plates spinning. The Asia-Naomi-Derrick drama is far from over, Derrick’s relationship with her mom remains unresolved, and Yvie still hasn’t made that doctor’s appointment. COVID-19 looms on the horizon and with so little time left, it’s surprising that so few of the arcs teased in the first episodes look like they’ll pay off. “Love Is In The Air” found firm footing by centering difficult, but relatable conflicts. “Family Affair” takes this a step further, zooming in perhaps too close on Asia’s relationship with her fiancé Brett and the much-teased Kameron and Vanjie love connection. While it’s admirable that the show gives Asia’s struggles with communication a realistic timetable, opting not to skip past her and Brett’s hard work, the lack of movement on the backstage drama robs the season of the momentum it had just started to build. It also forces Kameron and Vanjie to carry the bulk of the episode. Fortunately, the queens are charming enough to pull it off, making for a subdued, but entertaining episode.

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“Family Affair” begins with the introduction of Mama Vanjie, Anabell. Vanjie is incredibly close with her mom, and it’s easy to see why. Anabell is every bit as warm as Vanjie and the safety net that Anabell cast for young José is life-altering. As Vanjie says, she never had to come out of the closet, because her mom helped her be herself from the jump. The editing is jarring as Vanjie and Anabell sit down for lunch—Anabell keeps moving seats, the drinks keep changing—but the conversation about Vanjie’s love life, or lack thereof, feels genuine. Vanjie’s having a tough time, really craving a connection and the stability of a committed relationship.

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Across town, Asia picks Brett up from the airport. Asia is practically giggling telling the story of how they met three years ago. After the stress she’s felt all season, it’s wonderful to see Asia happy. Brett asks about the show and the other queens and Asia side-steps, which Brett notes. He doesn’t push, though, and they head to Caesar’s Palace, where Asia has booked them a suite. They have wedding planning to do and only a couple days together, so Asia decided they should treat themselves to a romantic, luxurious setting. Alas, tension creeps in as they start wedding planning. Asia wants a minister to officiate, but that requires marriage counseling classes that will be challenging at best long-distance. Brett wants a first look photo, but Asia wants their first look to be at the ceremony itself. These are familiar conversations, arguments they’ve clearly circled around several times. With little resolved, they head out to go look for rings.

The episode cuts back to Vanjie and Anabell, who are joined by Derrick, Kameron, and Yvie. They start sharing stories, kicking off with Anabell’s Vegas wedding: She got married by Dracula, potentially in her Catwoman costume. The conversation moves to what Vanjie’s looking for in a partner, and Vanjie’s list is endearing: commitment, communication, and a connection to family. It’s teeth-achingly sweet and coming from someone less earnest, it might seem disingenuous. But while Vanjie can be boisterous, she has shown herself to be dedicated and focused, and a valuable teammate. This more wholesome side feels like a natural extension of the Vanjie who’s been lifting spirits and managing egos all season. Kameron takes note, even before Anabell asks after Kameron’s relationship status, playing matchmaker to Vanjie’s chagrin and Derrick and Yvie’s utter delight.

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Back across town, Asia and Brett head out to shop for wedding bands. They’re excited and in the moment, enjoying the process. The woman helping them at David Yurman has been married 41 years, so Asia asks if she has any tips for sustaining a relationship. She gives pretty standard, but solid advice: laugh together, don’t take yourself too seriously, and communicate. Don’t hold things in. The camera closes in on Asia, a hilarious touch, and the editors cut right to a talking head of Asia talking about her need to open up and communicate. Given how closed-off she’s been this episode, her self-awareness is refreshing.

RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1
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At the Flamingo, Naomi and Derrick are still frustrated with Asia’s decision to seclude herself. They consider her behavior unprofessional, while Kameron refuses to take sides. Kameron’s worried that if Asia isn’t actively invited back to the dressing room, she’ll stay away, but Naomi doesn’t want to extend that olive branch. Vanjie doesn’t join in with Naomi and Derrick’s complaining, but she’s over Asia’s behavior too. It’s Asia’s turn for a featured montage, a number from the show with several costume changes and plenty of production fun, and the episode wisely pairs it with Asia questioning where she’s at with her castmates. She’s thrilled to have Brett at the show, but it highlights for her how unhappy she has been. Something needs to give.

The next day, Kameron, Derrick, and Naomi go out wig shopping and Kameron lays out what she’s been thinking about: Should she ask out Vanjie? As Kameron says, it takes a lot to shock these two into silence, but this does the trick. They’re stunned, and worried about messing up the work dynamic. Derrick gets on board pretty quickly and while Naomi is skeptical, she wishes Kameron well. Kameron is excited and surprisingly adorable, but as she says, she doesn’t take rejection well, so this could go horribly wrong.

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At Caesar’s, Asia and Brett start the day talking wedding guest lists, which leads to the conversation Asia’s been putting off about her father’s death. She’s insecure about her family and Brett can see how much this weighs on her. While she’d rather not talk about it, Asia can tell it’s important to Brett that she try, so she opens up. She shares some difficult revelations, including that her last interaction with her father was him blaming her for her mom’s death. That is a hell of a lot for a person to carry, and as Brett reminds her, Asia doesn’t need to carry this all on her own. As Asia says, there’s a long road to go, but she knows she can rely on Brett and she’s working on letting him help her. And she knows she needs to work on her relationships with her castmates too.

At the casino, Yvie invites the dancers from the burlesque show to get some drinks with Derrick, Kameron, Naomi, Vanjie, and Drag Race season five’s Coco Montrese, who’s understudying for Derrick. Kameron, Derrick, and Coco start talking about Asia, who opted not to come out. Poor Yvie can’t escape the backstage drama, even when Asia’s not there. Coco asks the burlesque cast about their experience working together and their warm, supportive answer throws into relief how dysfunctional the queens’ cast energy has gotten.

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RPDR: Vegas Revue
RPDR: Vegas Revue
Screenshot: VH1

More on that in the finale, though, because when Vanjie arrives, all attention goes rightfully to Kameron’s decision to ask her out, and her total awkwardness and complete lack of game in attempting to do so. Naomi and Derrick enjoy watching Kameron squirm as she tries to work up the nerve and when she fails to do so—after the dancers head to their show—Derrick takes the lead, going back to the Truth or Dare well. She dares Kameron to kiss Vanjie, who pulls out some Altoids with perfect comedic timing, and they get to it.

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The other queens enjoy the show and Vanjie seems on board, at least in the talking heads, so when Kameron takes Vanjie aside to talk, it’s hard not to root for her. Vanjie is completely blindsided, surprised that Kameron would be interested in her considering how frequently they’ve worked together without anything developing. Kameron points to seeing a new side of Vanjie at lunch with her mom, and the two try kissing again, without the other queens gawping at them—cameras only, please. They decide to give it a shot and see if there’s something there, both flustered and awkward, communicating loads in their stilted conversation. The episode ends as the two return to the table. Viewers will need to wait until the finale to see if anything comes of this flirtation, or if things will fizzle when they actually try for an honest to goodness date.

Regardless of what happens with Kameron and Vanjie, the finale has a lot on its shoulders. It seems increasingly likely the early season threads will be dropped, but the producers will at least need to give a satisfying resolution to the Asia-Naomi-Derrick drama. Hopefully they’ll also capture some compelling moments from both the cast and crew as they face the impending shutdown of their industry. Vegas Revue has certainly been hit-or-miss, but if it can deliver on the storylines it’s highlighted over the past two episodes, it has potential to end strong, and perhaps justify a more enduring docusoap extension of the Drag Race brand.

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Stray observations

  • The queens wig shopping is delightful, particularly Naomi earmuffing that gossipy mannequin head.
  • Kameron may be on the rebound, but it’s hard not to hope these two crazy kids will work it out. Kameron seems to be looking for the same things as Vanjie, and she certainly ticks the commitment item on Vanjie’s list. Given how inscrutable she can be, though, communication is more of a question mark.
  • Of course Asia wants spectacle at her wedding. I have no doubt she’ll put on one hell of a show.
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