The game has officially changed.
This is the kind of moment that we live for as viewers of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This is Tatianna getting eliminated when it should’ve been Roxxxy. This is Sharon and Phi Phi screaming at each other. This was RuPaul revealing that the All Stars would be eliminating each other. This is truly, jaw-droppingly gag-worthy. This is RuPaul’s Drag Race.
We seem to be miles past last week’s elimination of Farrah Moan because the remaining seven queens—Sasha, Shea, Trinity, Valentina, Nina, Alexis and Peppermint—are all viable contenders for the final three. All have won challenges; and ~almost~ all have had missteps. At this point, it’s down to a random stumbling block that’ll knock a bitch out of her momentum.
This week’s challenge is to pair up and create, write and produce television sitcoms. Acting challenges have been a recurring thing this season—the musical, 9021-Ho, the roast—but this strikes less at the queen’s acting chops and more at their overall creativity and scrappiness.
Shea and Sasha pair up for “Teets and Asky”, an ‘80s buddy-comedy about two lady-cops. Shea is serving a very Rosie Carver/What Honey Mahogany Wishes She Looked Like look and Sasha is pulling out her Russian roots for the accompanying Bond Villain to Shea’s Bond Girl. Like SNL’s “Dyke and Fats,” this pilot totally works. They were definitely the most prepared.
Nina and Valentina are “Nina and Tina,” two cross-dressing prostitutes who land in jail and use drag to get back on their feet (?). I don’t know why I’m expected to know the plot when Valentina and Nina didn’t know the plot. In the immortal words of Sasha Belle, “I didn’t understand the assignment.” V and Nina were relying on their charisma to pull it off, and only planned on ad-libbing. When has that ever gone well?
Trinity, Peppermint and Alexis Michelle were the trio that produced, “Mary, Mother of Gays” about two well-to-do church ladies whose sons come out as gay, and the stern nun who attemps to fix the (anal) fissures. Points for creativity and production, but largely lackluster performances in a thin plot.
The runway is Club Kid Couture, which also serves as our History Lesson/Mirror Talk. Club kids (your Vivacious from Season 6) weren’t attempting to impersonate women as much as they were trying to engage in a dialogue about what art is.
Sasha: Sad Sexy Clown. Ironically enough, moments before Nina hit the stage and declared she was the first queen to walk backwards on the runway, Sasha did it. Eeks. A great look but, honestly, I was expecting more from Sasha. For our resident art queen, I thought she would take this opportunity and run with it.
Shea: Literally hot-glued shit to a mask while it was on her face, so I can only applaud.
Trinity: Trix are for (Club) kids, and Trinity looked like that Trix Rabbit fucked the Froot Loops toucan. Not the most Club-Kiddy look (not that I’m an expert) but my personal favorite because it was so out of the box. Trinity is restoring the name, and the astigmatism, of pageant queens everywhere with her versatility.
Nina: The epicness of her face makeup was undercut by everything else. If she didn’t have the chance to paint on a massive rib network, I would’ve rather she left it blank.
Peppermint: The most thought-out and conceptual of all the looks. Total artistry.
Alexis: I fucking hate this. I hate the make-up, the weird tumor-like hair lump, the tumescent green contacts. Hate.
Valentina: Michelle said this was too high-fashion (which it is) but there was something about her wet, long lashes flipping over her bedazzled mouth mask that gave me creepy jungle-insect.
Sasha and Shea win the challenge, and Trinity and Peppermint are declared safe (but not until after Alexis tries to throw her teammates under the bus. Even if she was right about the level of effort she put into the production—which she wasn’t—impacting her performance, being a traitor does nothing for your image. I hope Alexis stays a little longer for the drama but she’s not doing herself any favors). Alexis, Nina and Valentina are in the bottom three, with Alexis eventually being declared safe.
Right to this moment, I felt that it was completely undeserved that Alexis would be safe—as Valentina has consistently outperformed both Alexis and Nina—but a small part of me relished the opportunity, basically handed to her, for Valentina to prove that she had the fire to stay in the competition. She started out strong but quickly moved to the middle-of-the-pack, and I really thought that Ru was giving her a chance to scorch the earth.
That’s not what happened.
Ariana Grande’s “Greedy” begins playing and Nina starts lip-syncing. Valentina keeps her mask on and the judges begin whispering amongst themselves. It’s a lip-sync, so seeing one’s lips is kind of the whole point. Eventually RuPaul stops the lip-sync and scolds Valentina for not taking off the mask.
“Take off the mask,” she says and Valentina meekly refuses. Ru literally cracks and says it again. With her hooked nails, Valentina drags off the mask to reveal an uncontoured nose and a sloppy red lip. She had the mask on, it becomes clear as the music starts again, because she did not know the words.
And this is where Aja’s “Linda Evangelista” rant comes into a ring of truth. Aja was trying to tell us that Valentina was coasting on good looks, good outfits and charisma. We were too blinded by Valentina’s dazzling smile to believe it. But for someone to go out there, knowing that there is a good chance she’s in the bottom three, without having memorized the words is unforgivable. Valentina fell to the middle of the pack because beneath the glamour and glitz, she’s still unpolished. She is still a baby drag queen.
So I was mad as Valentina essentially threw away the chance Ru had given her to impress Ru and keep her spot. She didn’t know the words. She hadn’t prepared for the main challenge. She was expecting to get by. And in the final seven, you don’t get to just “get by.”
So Nina stays and Ru looks at Valentina. “I thought you had the stuff to go all the way. Now sashay away.” We all had Valentina as an easy pick for the top three, so it’s disappointing to see her go. But I can’t help but feel frustrated that she wasn’t more prepared. See you on All Stars 3, Valentina.
The game has been changed, irreparably, for the rest of the season. One of the strongest players has been unceremoniously eliminated, and that kind of shock reverberates and shakes up power dynamics. With one of the top three spots suddenly open, who will rise to the occasion, and who will crumble?
The game has changed, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.