This was not only the best Snatch Game in years, but one that hopefully puts the most cherished of RuPaul’s Drag Race challenges back on track. Originally intended as a homage to the long tradition of drag queens and female impersonators lovingly sending up female icons (see: Jim Bailey and Charles Pierce who appeared on national television impersonating the likes of Liza Minnelli and Bette Davis decades before RuPaul became a household name) through the campy lens of Match Game, the challenge in recent years has bent those rules. Too many queens did self-referential impressions of previous contestants, or even ventured into male drag. On first instance it was exciting, but both trends seem sort of tired now (Aja’s Alyssa Edwards impression was fine on its own, but did we really need another one?). Ru and, to a larger degree, Michelle Visage used their critiques to remind these contestants, future queens and even the audience at home about what this challenge is really supposed to be about.
Of course, even when it’s been lacking in the past, Snatch Game has also come to serve as a clear pivot point in the season. By now the queens’ personalities and dynamics are established, and we get a better sense of who may make it to the end and who is just treading water. It’s also the point when fans usually stop quibbling and comparing a season to previous ones, and accept the new cast on their own terms. It figures well for the rest of the season that this Snatch was so strong, at least in aggregate.
Of course, the strongest benefactor of not only those dynamics but the sudden absence of Eureka O’Hara is undoubtedly Alexis Michelle. The queen has been sneaking past as safe all season, but it bodes well for her that she steps into the position of a queen who isn’t afraid to call it likes she sees it in the talking heads segments. We’re sure the producers were delighted with her no-nonsense assessment of who she thinks should go home next, but perhaps not as much as Ru was by Alexis announcing that she’ll be doing Liza. As one of the most drag queen-impersonated icons of all time, it’s frankly amazing that no one has attempted her on Snatch Game before (then again, we’re still waiting for someone to do Barbra, Bette, Madonna, the list goes on…).
Shea Coulee’s choice of Naomi Campbell also fits into the “Finally!” category (at least as far as W‘s concerned), while Cynthia picking Sofia Vergara, at first at least, seems “Duh, obvious.” Other queens made some riskier choices.
Sasha Velour’s flirtation with doing third-wave feminist Judith Butler was interesting…to the point where we actually really wanted to see it. Maybe not a household name, but Butler certainly is especially relevant at the moment to anyone who spends their time reading online “discourse” (a surprising amount of people) or anyone who reads pop-y think pieces based on serious discourse (basically anyone with an internet connection). That sort of academic-jargon-as-comedy thing can work. Buzzy comedian Kate Berlant has built an entire career out of it. Yet, maybe it was for the best that Velour went with Marlene Dietrich. Familiar, but just an odd and distinct enough choice to work for the artsy queen.
Trinity’s Amanda Lepore was another interesting choice. Amanda is certainly iconic in the right crowds, but surprisingly soft-spoken in real life. That is not exactly someone known for throwing out zingers (read out recent interview with the actual Lepore, for context), but Trinity imbued the impression with enough authenticity and seeming loving appreciation for Lepore that she made it work. Valentina’s choice of Miss Columbia, however, seemed like the choice of someone trying to stay safe without actually bothering to master a real celebrity impression. She had a couple of basic jokes she could make, and she did just that.
Nina’s impression of Jazmine Masters was so good that we really don’t see any reason for anyone to ever attempt picking a former contestant again. That’s it, queens. That’s the high mark. That’s the best you can hope for, though we totally agree with Michelle that it’s not what the challenge is supposed to be about (seriously, it’s never actually worked out that well for anyone else before).
We’ve said what we needed to about Aja’s Alyssa, Peppermint’s Nene is painful to write about, we’ll get to the Cucu mess later, and, hmmm, that leaves us with Farrah’s Gigi Gorgeous, a YouTube figure we’re only somewhat familiar with, and one Farrah has no idea how to make funny. One would think the idea of someone being famous for YouTube is enough grounds to make jokes, but maybe Farrah is a bit too young to actually find that funny rather than a fact of modern life.
Though, it did strike us as significant that two queens chose to lovingly impersonate transgender celebrities on a Snatch Game where Candis Cayne, another transgender celebrity, was a guest judge and in an episode in which Peppermint herself came out to her fellow contestants as trans (the news was well-known to those who follow Pepermint in New York).
Anyway, back to the thought of this season doing things better than the previous once, we also got a redo of “Night of 1000 Madonnas” after last year’s kimono disaster. Of course, repeat looks couldn’t be avoided, but at least this time they only involved two queens for two separate outfits. One was at least iconic, while the other was coincidentally timely. The next Met Gala is on Monday.
Now onto our weekly power rankings, a subjective ranking of where all the queens seem to stand at this point in the competition.
1. Shea Coulee
In our book, that Naomi Campbell was top three material, but Shea is coming off two back-to-back wins and in the grande scheme of things we’re fine with a slight snub here. It’s not like it upsets her momentum.
2. Sasha Velour
Sasha’s storyline seems to be that she’s a queen with a strong point of view who still manages to adapt it successfully and ever so correctly to each challenge, and that’s really all that Ru and the judges ask of a queen. Side note: the Erotica-era mask and whip Madonna is so simple yet so iconic we were left wondering last year why anyone didn’t try to make a last minute change out of their kimono. At least someone finally gave the look a try.
It’s been three entire episodes since the judges told Valentina she looks like Linda Evangelista! Is our immediate frontrunner now lagging? A comedy queen, she is not. It’s not like she’s cringe-worthy when tasked with telling a joke, but it’s certainly not an area she shines in.
4. Nina Bo’nina von Thurn und Taxis Brown
It was hard to tell if she’s really confronted and moved past her “the whole world is against me” moment considering she played another queen with a noted “the whole world is against me” schtick in Snatch Game. We hope so, and that being singled out in the top three puts her back on her track.
5. Alexis Michelle
So, with Eureka gone, it appears Alexis is the queen that’s going to get that shadily divisive edit in the tradition of Darienne Lake and Ginger Minj. In terms of longevity on the competition, that’s good news for her.
6. Trinity Taylor
Trinity keeps swerving our expectations, and that’s exciting. Maybe we would have pegged her as a queen who served up a cringe-y impression of a basic pop star, and instead she gave us nightlife icon Amanda Lepore.
A personal note: I have for some reason known the name Peppermint long before I moved to New York, and yet I’ve never gotten to see her live. I was beginning to wonder why she was such an established entity in the city. In a city so large, why has she climbed to such an elite level? “Well, she seems really nice. Maybe people just like working with her,” I had begun to think. Oh, well, no, honey, she proved why she’s a star tonight with that lip sync. I should have known. Now we all do.
The editors are so shady. Aja proclaiming in a talking head that it’s really her time to step it up and prove herself this challenge only to be completely ignored and fade into the background for the rest of the episode seems to have become a recurring joke.
9. Farrah Moan
Sometimes we think about how Farrah Moan is only 22 and not a single major drag queen before her managed to take “Farrah Moan” as her name.
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Oh, Cucu. It only seems fitting that as this season comes into its own, Season 8’s surprise returnee must depart. Her pick of Sofia Vergara seemed like the obvious choice, but maybe it was a little too on the nose to actually be funny.
Though, over two seasons, Cynthia got to compete on eight episodes. That seems about right, and it’s more than most queens. We look forward to her eventual “Wow Presents” YouTube show.
See What’s Trending in W Video: