We're down to the home stretch of RuPaul's Drag Race, and while we may have finally thought we had a pretty good idea how the season might end, much like Westworld, the show that provided inspiration for tonight's episode, this show can throw a curve that leaves us questioning everything that came before it. However, instead of little red balls, we get epic double splits.
We open tonight's episode with a rehashing of last week's drama. Aside from a cryptic mirror message left by The Vixen that the queens, for the life of them, can't figure out is meant to be shady or not, Eureka wishes her former rival well and predicts big things for her in the future. Kameron continues her weird struggle with actually winning a challenge, while the queens gently confront Aquaria for acting like she's already won the whole shebang. After the opening credits, a new day begins with the show getting oddly straight for a moment. Asia O'Hara enters the workroom with what may be the show's first-ever-recorded college football reference by exclaiming the University of Texas's "Hook 'em Horns" motto. Aquaria reveals she has no idea what The WB network is (which makes us want to immediately rewatch last week's slapping mini-challenge), and then, suddenly, Mr. Late Show himself, Stephen Colbert, comes on to hint at a main challenge that seems to have nothing to do with late-night television. The sudden detour into straight, mainstream culture is immediately course-corrected with a mini-challenge edition of "Pants Down, Bottom Up"; which is essentially just an excuse to see a bunch of muscley men objectified in the name of padded underwear sponcon.
Aquaria prevails and is awarded the honor of assigning roles for this week's main challenge, which we're told at the time will be acting in a spoof of HBO's Westworld. It's called "Breastworld," which is only surprising in that a porn studio hadn't already trademarked that name. Aquaria decides to confront her icy reputation head on by playing people-pleaser and allowing the girls to chose their own roles, with the odd caveat that she doesn't think they have time to actually read the script for the four-minute segment first.
Ru returns during prep time to essentially remind each and every girl that with only six queens left, any minor slip-up could leave any one of them "going home with one of them tweeter heads back there" (referring, of course, to the silver statuette of Ru herself each queen takes as a parting gift). More than usual, Ru's pep talks seem to reveal where each queen stands in Ru's eyes. Miz Cracker and Kameron are singled out for being stuck in their heads in very different ways, and it seems like if they want to stay in the race they'll really have to go out of their way to prove why. Ru seems to enjoy Monét as much as we all do, but still remains wary of her overall aesthetic presentation and pussycat wigs. Though it's Asia she seems to have taking a particularly liking to, and attempts to gently light a fire under her ass in a way that leaves Asia half shook and half inspired.
Personally, I've been eagerly awaiting the Westworld spoof since last week if only because aside from Drag Race, Westworld is the only other show on television right now I make a point of watching night-of. When the queens get on set, we're not quite sure what the final product will have in store, but it seems to have little to do with the actual HBO show aside from the premise of robots engineered for hospitality. My eager anticipation of drag queen robot delights led to disappointing ends. Or so it seemed. Instead, we're left with random pop culture references to Sarah Palin, drag queen bingo, and The Love Boat.
Eureka, who usually chews the scenery in acting challenges, is left fumbling with prop work. Miz Cracker has an Annette Bening–inspired breakdown ("I will sell this house today"). Kameron struggles with her lines and ability to make her character anything more than one note. Monét, Aquaria, and Asia seem to be doing just fine. Though no one is a complete disaster, the editing makes it clear who will be on the top and the bottom. There are six girls left. There's no room left for safe. The only mystery is what the hell the point of the scene is.
On the main stage, we finally get our answer. The allusion to Westworld seems to be meant to highlight the fact that while Drag Race is a reality competition show that resets each season, its increasing self-referentiality and ever-growing glossary of drag terms may make it a bit confusing for viewers to just randomly drop in at first. How is someone who has watched the show only since its move to VH1 expected to make any sense of that whole "Ivyyyyyyy Wiiiiiiinters" moment?
The actual point of the sketch is something of a sweet love letter to the show's most unexpected straight female fans and its power to change perception. Kameron plays a conservative straight woman who is brought to the sister park of Westworld, the drag queen–themed Breastworld, and is first overwhelmed and offended by the overly gay nature of the park, but, eventually, after the arrival of "Parah Salin," realizes that maybe we're not all that different after all.
Sure, maybe we were hoping for a spocon Thandie Newton impersonation or an explanation of why there seem to be no gays in Westworld (where are the cowboy twinks, folks? Isn't it the age of the twink, after all?), but what we got was cute on its own terms. Though, to paraphrase the immortal Stacey Layne Matthews, "I just wanna know. Who the f*ck is Randy Rainbow?"
Asia gets the win for prevailing with her Sarah Palin–inspired character while still maintaining her own personality. We also suspect she gets the win to set up a possible top three where all have at least two wins apiece.
In a surely tough but still surprising decision, Kameron is placed in the bottom two alongside Eureka, of all people. Was this the producers angling to send Kameron home and figuring that Eureka had a better chance of doing it than Cracker? We're not sure, but we bet there's no way they could have predicted exactly what came next.
The song is Patti LaBelle's "New Attitude," and there's no better way to explain what Patti's music can do to a drag queen and audience than this excerpt from our pre-season interview with Monét:
"Patti’s music transcends races and ages and creeds. You can play Patti LaBelle ‘I Think About You’ to a room full of 21-year-old millennials and they fall in love with it even though they’ve never heard of it before. You can do that same number for a room full of old black and white ladies and they’re like, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s such great music to lip sync to because Patti LaBelle is so expressive—and that’s how you get to an audience, by making the choice with the things that she’s expressing that they didn’t think you would do."
In her Episode 2 lip sync, Eureka showed a performance style that we can only describe as if the music charged her body like electricity and she shoots it back at the audience for maximum effect. She repeats it here and it's still transfixing, but queens have been sent home for relying on the same tricks in lip sync after lip sync before.
Meanwhile, Kameron is surprising us all by essentially lip syncing like Tammie Brown if Tammie Brown actually gave a sh*t about lip synching. It's equally transfixing, especially as Eureka's energy slips into first gear, even if it appears the Elephant Queen is just taking her time (and taking off her robe) to prepare for something major. She struts away from the judge's focuses and then positions herself for a sequence of high kicks (that editing rudely interrupted) that ends in a spin into a split, which she lands in a "look back at it" position. If this wasn't insane, at the same time, Kameron propels herself across the stage with a cartwheel. Eureka responds by bouncing her split around the stage 180 degrees.
After a brief moment in which the queens catch their breath, with some pointing out they both wind up back on front of the stage, and for only the second time in Drag Race history they both hit the splits at the same damn moment. While Laganja and Joslyn Fox's Season 6 double split remains the original, there's something about seeing a proud and plus-size queen and a bodybuilder-proportioned queen doing it that takes it to another level.
Considering this season's previous lip sync highlight was that three-second segment where Monét faked us all out with a split, we can safely assume that we now have our lip sync of the season and one for the Drag Race history books.
As if the damn drama wasn't high enough, Ru pulls a fast one and nearly gives poor Eureka a damn heart attack. You know, this show already broke her leg. Be easy.
Now, on to our power rankings, which take the entire season so far into account:
Aquaria-stans will say she deserved to win this challenge, and, you know what? Maybe they're correct. Prop, too, for getting a Michèle Lamy reference in on Drag Race (and props to Michelle Visage for catching it), but this is Michèle Lamy.
2. Eureka O'Hara
For those who like to bring math into the situation, Eureka's two appearances in the lip sync will be all the evidence they need to argue that she doesn't deserve the crown, but as podcast listeners know, RuPaul doesn't like to bring math into anything, and as far as we're concerned, Eureka remains a strong contender.
3. Asia O'Hara
It's clear that Asia has RuPaul's favor, and she could very well ride it into the top three.
4. Monét X. Change
Once again, Monét delivered but just not enough. At this point, it's getting near impossible to see her winding up the winner, but it's been a fun ride.
5. Kameron Michaels
After last week's triumph in the Cher challenge, we thought perhaps Kameron was now a true late-in-the-game dark-horse contender for at least the top three. Tonight's performance brings her back down to earth, though her lip syncing skills prove we shouldn't necessarily count her out totally.
6. Miz Cracker
Cracker remains in the same boat as Monét but seems to be having a rougher go of it. It's kind of almost painful at this point to watch her continue without winning or lip syncing. It's like she's stuck in drag purgatory.