This episode of RuPaul's Drag Race may have been all about commercial parodies as far as the challenges went, but let's cut to the chase: This will go down in Drag Race lore as the episode where the sh-t between The Vixen and Aquaria hits the fan…unless every single episode of this season is the episode where sh-t between The Vixen and Aquaria hits the fan. Which, at this point, seems like it could very well be the case, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Last we checked in, we were still gearing up for a full-season feud between Miz Cracker and Aquaria centered on the case of the supposedly stolen makeup. Sure, last episode The Vixen decided to charge right into the middle of it, but we thought maybe she was just deciding to play the role of reality TV's most aggressive conflict mediator as an interesting bid for screen time (and perhaps as an audience savior, making sure the whole matter wasn't dragged out for too much longer). As it turns out, the simmering tension between Vixen and Aquaria seems to be something much deeper.
They're both young (Aquaria is the youngest of the season, The Vixen the is the third-youngest left), fashion-forward, crafty queens representing the honor of two proud drag scenes, but their personalities mesh like oil and water. Aquaria has a tendency to be passive-aggressive, while Vixen is just aggressive aggressive.
The Vixen is coming off a win last night for leading the victorious team, but the fact that the runway theme was "best drag" and The Vixen had borrowed her wig was brought up as a point of amusement around the workroom. Borrowing and bartering of pieces among queens is a time-honored tradition both on and off the show, to be fair. It's not really that big of a deal. The Vixen gladly took a bit of gentle shade over the matter from other queens, but, near the midpoint of the episode, when Aquaria makes a passive-aggressive comment on the matter, The Vixen is not here for it. She attacks like, well, a vixen, and doesn't let go until a spider temporarily upends the workroom (don't worry, resident butch queen Kameron Michaels takes care of it). It is beyond messed up to describe a passage where Dusty Ray Bottoms tearfully and touchingly discusses leaving home to avoid having to go to a conversion therapy camp as a bit of a reprieve from the drama, and yet, in retrospect, that's what it is. The Vixen finds a chance to start the bickering back up again until Aquaria exits the workroom in tears.
Aquaria can't quite take what she so casually dishes out. The Vixen, though, says she won't tolerate queens coming for her. Mind you, this is the same queen who spent the other half of the episode taking several unprovoked shots at Eureka behind her back, but, then again, we have to remember that we're seeing an edited sliver of the whole workroom dynamic.
There are a lot of layers to the conflict. More, as should be no surprise, will be added latter on tonight on Untucked. Let's just say there is the possibility this feud could bring long-simmering issues within the Drag Race fandom to light on the show. It doesn't happen in an easy-to-digest way, but these kinds of discussions rarely are in real life.
Yet you can't avoid the top layer of it all: These were two young (read: not quite fully mature) queens who realized they didn't do particularly great in this challenge and were perturbed because of it. Competition-wise, both can count out any hope of winning Miss Congeniality, and it's not exactly promising for either's chance at winning. These two have their claws firmly in each other and may end up dragging themselves both down into hell in the process (no pun intended).
In the meantime, Miz Cracker seems like she can probably just continue using whatever makeup patterns she wants.
Now, on to the actual challenges! The episode gives us another mini-challenge where Ru instructs the queens to do Screen Tests, which, for five blissful seconds, we thought would end up as a homage to Andy Warhol's Screen Test (blissful, because we have a long-running video series that is also a homage to Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, and this would make an exactly opportunity to promote it). Turns out, however, the inspiration is a homage to something else completely: a very controversial set of Calvin Klein Jeans advertisements from the '90s that caused quite a bit of moral outrage at the time. In a setup re-created by the show note-for-note, young models were asked a series of provocative questions.
Here's Kate Moss's for reference:
Monét X. Change, Blair St. Clair, and Monique Heart are chosen as the winners, and are asked to lead teams for a challenge almost as strange as last week's. The girls have to write and act in commercials for fake dating apps. The only guidance they have is the names. Let's get into these team-by-team.
Let's address the elephant in the room, one so big I'm surprised it wasn't addressed on screen, but the entire concept of their joke is the same one Jinkx Monsoon used for her perfume commercial back in Season 5, but with a much tighter execution.
Which is strange, because the obvious opportunity here is to take the piss out of the fact that everybody lies just a little bit on their dating apps. Clearly, though, comedy was an afterthought here.
End of Day
Is it a surprise that a team with Miz Cracker and Eureka did the best here (though Blair pulled her weight as well)? This was also the only team that caught on to the obvious joke: parodying Christian Mingle.
Monét may be funny as hell on her own, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the commercial. Monét gets overshadowed during her own featured parts, and once again they missed the obvious joke of poking fun at all the headless torsos on Grindr.
At the end though, the bottom two seemed obvious, and Mayhem and Yuhua end up lip-syncing for their life to Hole's "Celebrity Skin." (Note to producers: I wouldn't mind at least one straight-up punk rock lip sync a season, please. Reintroduce the kids to some Riot Grrrl in Season 11.) Mayhem reveals herself as a possible lip sync assassin, and while she's somewhat constricted by the dress, she really goes for and make a statement that she's willing to do whatever it takes to stay here by literally tearing up her dress to sell it.
Now, on to our weekly power rankings:
1. Blair St. Clair
Consider this more of an ode to the jam-packed bevy of talent this season and the unpredictable nature of the season so far than a total endorsement of Blair. There's clearly no real front-runner at this point, and while looking at the statistics, we realized Blair was the only queen so far who made it into the top in all three episodes. In such an unpredictable season, that's not a bad place to be even if she hasn't wrapped up an outright win.
Still, while many of the rest of the younger queens are caught up in feuds uglier than Michael Rapaport vs. Kenya Moore, Blair is remaining as wholesome as the Yodeling Kid she parodied online this week. Her confession to Eureka this week that she just hadn't found anyone to connect to in the cast and missed her mother was on a level of pure innocence we just hadn't seen before on this show.
She showed promises of handling comedy ably this week in the performance, but we'll have to wait until Snatch Game to see if she truly has what it takes to make a surprise case for the crown. If not (save for the meme-able wildcard of Miss Vangie), she's certainly frontrunner for Miss Congeniality.
2. Asia O'Hara
Last week the judges noted that it seemed Asia was holding back just a bit, and this week she broke through with just an expert ugly face. Yeah, her win seemed a little flip-of-the-coin, but the judges, particularly Michelle, love a good growth narrative, and this week showed she'd not afraid to go with the flow and try new things.
Her Tweety Bird fantasy on the runway was one of those things that I absolutely looooooove on a drag queen, and would hate in almost any context.
3. Miz Cracker
With the narrative all the sudden dramatically shifting away from her "feud" with Aquaria, Cracker faded into the background just a bit more here. Still, you could have made the case she deserved top three tonight and she surely remains a fan favorite.
4. Monét X. Change
Monét is in a bit of a weird place to judge. She's clearly become something of a mother hen in the workroom, and she's killing the talking-head commentary game. Her confidence and personality scream "I already won and you know I have," and, yet, she hasn't won an actual challenge, and had been tops only once thanks to last week's group judging. Still, we'd be gagged if she was gone anytime soon, and we suspect a first main-challenge win is right around the corner. Let's just hope that she can translate her natural comedy better into challenges where she's flying solo. Mark her down as another queen whose entire season may hinge on her performance in Snatch Game.
5. Mayhem Miller
Mayhem, why you here trying to make drag queen friends? Your entire backstory is that you have way too many of them already. After a promising start, Mayhem falters here by realizing she's getting screwed by her character assignment, but not sticking up for herself. You mean to tell me someone who has been BFFs with Raven for decades can't handle these queens and tell them what's what? Tonight's failure doesn't necessarily erase what else she accomplished so far (and she could probably survive another lip sync or three), but she better get her redemption soon.
6. Eureka O'Hara
We can exhale. The Eureka that seemed so promising last season is now back. Does she seem a little hard to be around for long periods of time in the workroom? Maybe, but we can deal with her for two hours a week.
7. Dusty Ray Bottoms
Dusty, like the next two queens below, seems like a talented, promising queen who just hasn't found her light or angles in the competition yet. She clearly was one of the better performers on her team, but the judges just aren't giving her props yet.
Of course, we should mention tonight's moment concerning her backstory, but we don't want to burst into tears again.
8. Kameron Michaels
Kameron's look on the runway tonight was clearly the most intricate of the season so far, and that should be applauded. Yet she had a major part in writing a sketch that fell so flat and didn't even give what she had written justice.
9. Monique Heart
Leading a team was not a good look for Ms. Heart, and while we had her pegged as an early underdog favorite, she's continuing to slip.
10/11 (tie). The Vixen and Aquaria
We talked about these two enough above. Consider this a time out. It's not that we expect either of these two to go anywhere soon. In fact, the drama could ensure they stay for weeks to come. It's just that this behavior is not befitting a crowned queen, and more than anyone else left, it's making it very difficult for us to imagine either actually winning (even if one or both make it to the top three).
12. Yuhua Hamasaki
RuPaul always talks about listening when the universe gives you stage directions in a very cosmic and spiritual way, but sometimes those stage directions come from every single person in the work room agreeing that whatever you're doing for this particular challenge, it just isn't working. The problem, from the judges' perspective anyway, was that she just wasn't very open to listening much anyway and always had a clapback to any critique or suggestion. It wasn't that she was necessarily bitter (her exit was pleasant), but you have to be open to new things in this series to succeed.
Until next time, kids, remember that if you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love Miss Vangiiiiiiiie!?