It’s been one week since the last episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race aired, and yet not a day has gone by when we (collectively) didn’t take a deep breath, look inward, and calmly chant “Miss Vanjie … Miss Vanjie …. Miss … Vanjie” to ourselves. It was a moment that has been described by one Twitter user as “like the end of a Tennessee Williams play” and has provided us all with a new way to exit any room. The show itself kicks off episode two just as obsessed with the moment as its fan base. We even get a peek into Michelle and Ru’s own immediate reaction to the moment, and as they hinted on their podcast a few weeks back, the phrase becomes a running gag of the season. Apparently Ru is only stifling her laughter so her wig tape doesn’t pop off or the elaborate faux face-lift system she has in place in drag doesn’t come undone. So, there are still plenty of “Miss Vanjie” moments to come, and we can only assume this will culminate at the finale with a theater of 2,000 people saying it in unison like it’s the pledge of allegiance. I will never tire of it.
Though, in the opening minutes, the show also revisited something from last episode that I may or may not already be tiring of: the Miz Cracker vs Aquaria feud. Ms. Aquaria is still convinced that Miz Cracker has a long-running habit of copying her looks, up to and including their makeup, during the first runway (even though, by that point, their makeup actually looks completely different). This is playing out almost exactly like Season 5’s Coco vs. Alyssa drama, in that we’re forced to ride out every development that occurs in a simmering frenemy situation that predates the show. As the Vixen shouts, “No! Too vague!” That Coco/Alyssa plot dragged on and on, and only really gave us one truly iconic moment. So, unless we get a climax where Aquaria starts painting her face completely orange, and looks over at Miz Cracker who has also dipped her whole head in a vat of tang powder, and we get “Girl, look how fucking orange you look, too!” will this be worth it?
Then again, the early drama assures us that we won’t be getting yet another season of “RuPaul’s Best Friends Race.” In more recent seasons the queens have been a bit too careful about steering clear of drama lest they face the Twitter backlash of certain oversensitive segments of the fan base. Aquaria, Cracker, and an instigating Vixen certainly don’t seem to care. Heck, if they did, Aquaria and Cracker would probably lean into their similarities and form something of a unit. Two young, skinny queens who played BFFs on TV? You know younger fans would eat that up like they were Mystique and it was a two-piece and a biscuit. No, they’ve chosen the path of drama. Which is very promising for a season where Untucked is finally back on television (but not so much for some of these queens’ mentions).
So, here’s to more drama, but hopefully not all about vaguely similar makeup looks.
As for the actual business at hand, the episode kicks off with Ru bringing out Andy Cohen in western masc drag to judge a ho-down dance off. It’s fun, and the girls’ drag looks are quite impressive for just 20 minutes of preparation time. Asia O’Hara and— despite the fact that she looked more like ’80s Whitney Houston than a country queen—Vixen win. Thus they become our team leaders for what may be one of the show’s most bizarre challenges ever.
I’ll go on record to say that the “Lip Sync Extravaganzas” are hit-or-miss for me, and even those that “hit” aren’t really my favorite challenges of the season. On one hand, yes, the art of lip-syncing on stage really does get to the heart of what most drag queens do in their night-to-night careers. It’s important those skills are tested in an actual challenge. On the other, these choreographed challenges usually move so quickly and have so much going on in them that it’s hard to consider each queen’s individual performance. That goes even more so for installments, like this one, where the queens aren’t given identifiable characters to play.
Adding to the confusing is the season’s theme for the challenge: “RuCo Labs: The Rusical.” Yes, an original musical based on pharmaceutical advertisements for a bunch of fictional drugs (but apparently not the one whoever came up with this was on). Don’t get me wrong, there were some cute moments. A stand against “drag mouth” was much needed, and I might need to see if my health insurance covers Trollvada (apologies to Lady Gaga) but, honestly, what was all of that? Even the queens didn’t quite figure it out. Mayhem describes it as “a musical about medicine and stuff.”
Though we’d take a lip-sync musical based on the phone book if it means that Alyssa Edwards herself (sans Coco) comes back to choreograph. Her mix of confidence and quirkiness when she’s in her element is truly something else, even if most of her advice boils down to “Okay…but make it bigger!” But she speaks the language of the queens and they get it. Hopefully she comes back as a guest choreographer for many seasons to come.
On the runway the theme is supposed to be “best drag,” but really it just reads as “sparkliest drag,” as the standout feature of all but a few of these looks is copious amounts of sequins or Swarovskis. Was this really anyone’s best drag? Or were their ambitions downgraded by the probability that they already had their makeup done for the musical challenge and weren’t given the time to go full out with a full look? That’s not to say it was necessarily a bad runway, but nothing on here jumped into the cannon of all time best Drag Race looks. Best drag? For our sake, this better not even be anyone’s best look of the season.
Though Asia’s team seems to be far ahead in the planning stages in the workroom (even with Eureka’s issues), it’s the Vixen’s team that ultimately prevails here. Turns out the fable of “The Turtle and the Hare” even applies to drag queens.
By the way, that Padma Lakshmi was a wonderfully engaged and thoughtful judge. I wouldn’t peg her a drag enthusiast, but maybe it’s a relief to apply all that reality TV experience she’s accumulated to something other than food.
Now, on to our weekly power rankings, which, as always, are neither scientific nor that serious, but do take into account everything we’ve seen in the season so far.
1. Mayhem Miller
Mayhem is a top queen in Los Angeles, a city that has both given us some of our most beloved alums and where almost everyone who works on the show is based. The producing powers that be had assuredly been aware of her for quite some time, and many fans of the show were too. So we figured there must be some dirty little reason she had never been cast before. Perhaps bad blood, a bad attitude, or maybe she just didn’t have talents that fit the show. Well, the more that we actually get to know Mayhem as a drag queen and not just some L.A. legend whose name is whispered in the dark corners of the RPDR rumor-mill section of the internet, the more we get to like her. She’s kind, confident, polished, and talented. Perhaps the only reason producers hadn’t cast her before is because they like her so much too and wanted to save her for a season where she had a strong shot at the top three if not the crown.
2. Miz Cracker
It’s possible your timelines are different than mine, but Cracker seems to be one of the biggest breakout queens of the season on social media. She’s got a quick wit and is placed in an underdog situation thanks to this ongoing feud. It’s a recipe for fan-favorite status if there ever was one.
Though, it is kind of wild Aquaria thinks Cracker is jacking her looks when, between tonight’s runway look and her entrance look, it’s clear Cracker has settled on a trademark look of her own: structured cocktail dress with a voluminous skirt and a geometrical sculpture of hair up top.
3. The Vixen
The Vixen isn’t just the spokeswoman for Conflama, she’s also the number one costumer. Her tendency to jump into drama has already led to a divisive response, but it’s not like she’s stirring things up out of nowhere. She’s just taking the opportunity to bring things out into the open, you know? Why not just get into it? You can bet producers don’t mind. That, combined with her win tonight, makes us think she’s likely not going anywhere soon.
4. Monet X. Change
Monet is quickly becoming one of the editors’ favorite queens to go to for talking-head commentary, and that’s always a good sign for a queen’s longevity. If you don’t see her sticking around for a long time then you might need to put some actual lenses in your purple glasses.
However, her runway look tonight was nicely fit and certainly eye catching for a club, but best drag? Hmmm. Even by the standards of the rest of the runway, it’s still a hmmmmmm. If anything trips her up this season, it may be her wardrobe.
5. Blair Saint Clair
Blair, a little girl’s doll who came to life one night after she was visited by a fairy godmother, continues to be a wild card here. She’s kind of floating under the radar, but we’d love to see her in a little bit of Conflama of her own to see if she’s really, truly an innocent ingenue or if there’s a little bit of Patti LuPone under there.
6. Asia O’Hara
Asia herself gave a solid performance, but leading her team into a losing performance doesn’t exactly reflect well. Ross’s judgment that we’re not really getting the full picture of who she is and what she can offer reads correct.
Ironically, like Miz Cracker, she’s also settling into a favored look that doesn’t resemble her rival at all. She’s really going strong on the androgynous neon punk top, and frankly we’re into it.
Also, ironically, Aquaria gets compared to Linda Evangelista by the judges but, this time, in a bad way because her character was supposed to come off as elderly. Though the fact she didn’t totally sell old women seemed like a minor quibble to highlight considering she did a twirl-into-a-split during the performance.
8. Dusty Ray Bottoms
Dusty seems like a talented queen, and she could go either way right now. Though she’s not reading like a winner just yet. She doesn’t have the room-commanding confidence of so many other past crowned queens, nor does she quite have the same quirky underdog vibe as Jinkx or Sharon. Then again, Jinkx didn’t even have that vibe yet by her second episode. We’ll see.
9. Monique Heart
I guess Monique didn’t necessarily stand out during the challenge, but placing her in the bottom three seems like another random choice that had to be made when the bottom two was pretty clear. We do agree, however, that her runway reveal really didn’t make sense and read a bit more like overcompensation.
10. Yuhua Hamasaki
How shook does Michelle have these queens that they’re now too afraid to even repeat the same colors one week after another?
11. Kameron Michaels
Kameron actually gave a good performance in the challenge, I thought, but she’s the definition of fading into the background so far.
12. Eureka O’Hara
Yikes! On Season 9’s second episode, Eureka was second in our power rankings. Flash-foward a year, and now she’s second from the bottom. To quote Raven, “I could not believe!”
The reason, though, is clear. Eureka can’t seem to believe either, in herself that is. It’s a difficult watch, and that’s all we’ll say about it.
That being said, she handily won the lip sync by doing that thing some queens do so well by just letting the emotion of a song flow through them and selling it without really doing anything over the top.
13. Kalorie Karbdashian Williams
When a queen’s backstory is drawn out in the second episode, it’s never a good sign. Especially for a queen who was in the bottom two the week before. Of course, if you wind up there in the first episode, the mandate for episode two is clear: Either step your pussy way up or hope that at least three other queens notably and undeniably screw it up, or else you’re probably going home.
Until next week, Miss Vangie.
Miss … Vangie.