by Todd O'Dowd
Welcome to The (Drag) Hunger Games, hunty!
Okay friends, as always, with any episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and especially with an All Star cast such as this, there is a lot to unpack. So, let’s grab a buddy, check our makeup (and our tuck), and be prepared as we find “what bitches lurk behind the door…”
•First up, I loved the opening montage of the queens walking through Los Angeles in full drag. And I have to say that all the girls, across the board, looked good. But that didn’t stop anyone from throwing shade to go along with the hugs and kisses.
•And then Ru enters the work room to reveal the big twist of the season: the queens will be competing in teams of two – from challenge, to runway, to lip synch. And if one queen goes, the other queen in the team goes. Needless to say, the queens are not amused by this turn of events. Not even the arrival of the pit crew (in their de rigeur briefs) can console our ladies in their time of grief (though Latrice is quick to point out that if the notorious Shangela is in the box that the crew brought out, then she’s “gonna jump on top of the box and we ain’t gonna have to worry about it no more”).
•But inside the box are smaller boxes in which the queens have to chose their partner. If there’s a match, then there’s a team. The teams shake out thus; Raven and Jujubee (Team Rujubee), Chad Michaels and Shanell (Team Shad), Tammie Brown and Nina Flowers (Team Brown Flowers – eww!), Latrice Royale and Manilla Luzon (Team Latrilla), Alexis Mateo and Yara Sofia (Team Yarlexis), and (left at the end) Pandora Boxx and Mimi Imfurst (Team Mandora). With the exception of the last team, everyone is thrilled with their choices.
•Now that the teams are assigned, Ru announces the challenge: the twosomes must do each other’s make up and do a two-part photo shoot. The first is “Half Baked” in which the queens must be halfway through their drag transformation. The second is “Opposites Attract,” a high-fashion photo shoot with contrasting archtypes (in the black rain, no less). Should be fun, right?
•Well, no. Already we’re seeing the team dynamics emerge and while some teams are clicking right away (Rujubee, Shad, and pretty much every other team), Team Mandora is having troubles. And sad to say, it’s Pandora’s fault. Yes, in the grand scheme of things Mimi is the weaker queen but to Mimi’s credit, she did everything possible to make sure the team was working. Pandora, on the other hand, sulked her way through it not really reacting to anything that Mimi was giving. I really hate to say this, but Pandora’s poor attitude squandered away the goodwill she had earned for herself over the years.
•All of the teams showed their various levels of chemistry in both photo shoots and on the runway, where they faced Ru, returning judges Michelle Visage and Santino Rice, and guest judges Ross Matthews (who, as much as I can’t stand him, gave some of the best critiques that night) and Rachel Hunter (who looked slightly confused but was game). And now, on to the runway…
•Team Yarlexis served up “Romey and Michelle’s High School Reunion: San Juan,” but their “Half Baked” look was fully cooked and their concept for the “Opposites Attract” photo (Yara in Alexis’s drag, Alexis in Yara’s drag) didn’t take it far enough. They deserved to be in the bottom but luckily were spared the bottom two.
•Also in the bottom was Team Brown Flowers (ew!), who surprisingly worked very well together. Their runway look was a fun homage to Joan and Jackie Collins, and their half-baked look was fabulous. Where they lost me was their naughty/nice “Opposites Attract” shoot: Tammie pulled it together in spite of losing her wig, but we kept losing Nina’s face. I think that’s what cost them being in the top two.
•Team Shad deserved to be in the bottom two, and that’s saying something considering how poised and professional those two queens are. While their costumes were jaw-dropping (and every time I see Shanel, I hear the voice of Season 1 winner – and former Minneapolis queen – Bebe Zahara Benet saying that Shanel is wearing “something very over the top, very CAH-stumed”), their “Half Baked” look was just a bad idea with the neck scars showing that they were on the chopping block. But even worse was the Opposites Attract look: they just stood and posed. There was no interaction, no chemistry, and I’m sorry Miss Chad, there was nothing high fashion about it. Sadly they earned their spot in the bottom two.
•Joining them on the bottom was (not surprisingly) Team Mandora. Where do we begin with this trainwreck? From the bad makeup to the absolute lack of chemistry in every facet of the challenge (look at the “Half Baked” photo: Pandora is giving nothing to Mimi to work with) to the odd runway looks (and I agree with Michelle Visage on this: putting the boa around Mimi’s hips made her look wider than she is) this team fell apart. They were in the bottom two.
•On a happier note, Team Latrilla won the challenge! They worked surprisingly well together and were able to mesh very well in every part of the challenge, from the half baked looks and the “Opposites Attract” photo (which you could tell were heavily influenced by Latrice – both girls looked glamorous) to the brilliant Teletubbies homage on the runway (which I credit to Manilla – camp looks are up her alley), it was a great pairing from start to finish (And of course, to simulate Tinky Winky’s video tummy Manilla played her video for “Hot Couture.”) I have a feeling this will be one of the last teams standing, facing off on the team I think should have won this challenge…
•Team Rujubee. When Ru said she’s looking for the usual Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent this season, she also added an S to that acronym: Synergy. Raven and Jujubee have it in spades. Every element of their presentation, from the photos to the runway, was flawlessly done. Even better they took a ballsy (pun intended) risk with their clothed/naked “Opposites Attract” photo. Mark my words, unless they ignore Ru’s advice and fuck it up, they will be one of, if not *the,* last queens standing.
•And then comes the de rigeur Lip Synch For Your Life… excuse me, LIVES. And here Ru serves up an interesting twist; one queen from each team will do the lip synch, but if she’s in trouble her team mate may tag her out and finish only once in the entire contest. And Mimi actually would survive if she wasn’t going up against the drag assassin Chad Michaels. So it’s no surprise that Chad and Shanel sashay onto another day, while Mimi and (sadly) Pandora sashay away. And while I agree with Pandora that she could have won by herself, her inability to (wo)man up and work through it cost her what many people thought was her contest to win.
Next Week: Awkward game show homages, and the legendary Vicki Lawrence resurrecting her most famous creation!
Big Side Note: A hearty shout out to The Gay 90s who is hosting a weekly viewing party every Monday at 8 pm. Be there, or be Ru-tarded!
Image Credits: Logo