Trump Ruins Everything, Even ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS]

Yikes. After last week’s lip sync bloodbath, the pressure was high to deliver this week on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The gals tried their best to step it up, but some truly lackluster creative left us with one of the limpest episodes in the series’ 11-season stretch.

With a field of competitors that still feels bloated three eliminations later, it’s more important than ever to shine under the spotlights.

Unfortunately, with challenges like these, it’s even tougher to put on a good showing.

Take last night’s mini challenge. The queens had to get in Rachel Maddow drag (am I a bad feminist for initially thinking it was a Hannah Gadsby-inspired challenge from last week’s preview?) and then deliver breaking news from a teleprompter.

Few queens even tried to approximate Rachel’s Maddowisms, with only Nina, Brooke, Yvie and Ariel registering any Rachel at all. Scarlet, whom I would slot in fifth, was awarded the win somehow. I don’t know if anyone really knocked it out of the park, including Maddow whose own read was interspersed. The copy was bad, the drag was bad and watching the queens struggle with the language wasn’t nearly as funny as they intended.

Her prize included the power to assign roles in this week’s big lip sync performance, TRUMP: The Rusical. Ugh. This is my escapism, can we just not? Everything is such a mess in the world, and the sharpest comedic minds have already wrung every drop of humor from this. After seeing the queens’ simply reading the news in the mini-challenge, I don’t need to see them *finger wag* reeeeeeaadd the news, ya know?

Scarlet wielded her power mostly responsibly, sincerely attempting to pair girls with parts that suit them. Mercedes attempted to throw herself at the largest role, which caused everyone a bit of alarm. I understand her thinking here, trying to take a big swing, but, gurl, know your limits.

Silky also wasn’t thrilled with her assigned role: Oprah. Which, huh? What are we doing here? How is Oprah involved?

Whatever.

There was minimal squabbling over parts before the group went to choreo with famed Deadpool ballet dancer, Yanis Marshall. In addition to being a ballet assassin, Yanis is not afraid to cut a bitch with his words. Brooke impressed Mr. Marshall with years of professional ballet training, while Ra’Jah chimed in to share she’s trained various styles. O RLY, GURL?

Turns out, that training was some 15 years ago. Ra’Jah is 33, so that basically means she was a child when she was taking dance training. It’s not the same as Brooke, not by a longshot.

Ra’Jah struggled to keep up, Scarlet looked awkward, but it was Ariel who really seemed the most shooketh. Saddled with the largest role, the Instagram queen was already feeling a little insecure. At one point during rehearsal, she completely froze.

Luckily, she did better in the performance itself. The entire thing was structured as a sort of parody of Grease, except it followed all the women in Trump’s orbit. (The less anyone tries to discern a cohesive plot or narrative arc, the better.) Even in the canon of Rusicals, this was one of the weaker entries. It was saved by some real stand-out performances from Yvie (as Kellyanne Conway), Nina (Sarah Huckabee Sanders), Brooke (Ivana Trump) and Silky (Oprah).

Oddly enough, it’s Silky that picked up the win, despite the other three queens named above outshining her (in my opinion, at least). Vanjie, Ra’Jah and, of course, Merceds fail to make an impression impersonating Rosie O’Donnell, Omarosa and Ivanka, respectively.

Most of the girls werked the runway for an Orange Alert theme, as guest judges Tiffany “New York” Pollard and The Soup‘s Joel McHale whooped and hollered. McHale irked Michelle Visage with his shouting, treating the runway more like March Madness than Mystery Science Theater.

It came down to Ra’Jah and Mercedes in the lip sync, and, really, the writing was on the wall before the track “Living In America” even began. Ra’Jah gave a lot of energy, and, even though she lost her wig during the performance, it was Mercedes’ time to go.

Let’s dive deeper into the individual performances in our rankings below.

  1. After a strong start and a few subsequent middling weeks, Brooke Lynn Hytes is back on top, baby. She took the relatively small role of Ivana, and she spun it into gold. She knew the character she was playing, she made smart choices about how to heighten it and delivered it flawlessly. Add to that Brooke’s futuristic knockout runway, and she is surging. (Plus, her little ‘ho-mance with Vanjie will be a storyline too delicious for producers to pass up any time soon.)
  2. This was a great week for Yvie. She was robbed of that win. Her performance in the Rusical was far and away the strongest. She made a full character out of Kellyanne that elevated the cheesy material to the next level. She didn’t just serve haggard, she served “Bitch, I’ve been on four morning shows, physically wrestled the President’s cell phone away, attended two couples counseling sessions, and it’s not even noon!” I loved it. On the runway, the citrus circus ensemble was a highlight, especially alongside so many similar showgirl looks.
  3. Even though I may be the world’s biggest Silky STAN, I wasn’t nearly as enamored with her performance this week as the judges were. Her Oprah was on-target, but I don’t think she brought anything extra to the part. She also didn’t wow me on the runway. Silky is still a strong (and strange) competitor, but I would only give her a B+ this week.
  4. Vanjie may be down, but she’s not out. Rosie O’Donnell is probably the toughest character to portray. Should she have fired some koosh balls? Maybe put on a fat suit? (No. No, she should not.) It’s a shame, because even her lyrics were strikingly devoid of jokes. It was a little bit of a raw deal. I might feel even more sympathy if Michelle wasn’t spot-on in her critique, calling out the sameness of Vanjie’s runways. I hope this is a wake-up call for Vanjie, and she comes soaring back next week. (Also, it was nice to hear Ru echo my own assertion that there is a direct line from Alyssa Edwards to Vanjie.)
  5. I was surprised to see Plastique overlooked this week as well. Her Milania makeup and mannerisms were spot on. Even her reactions and moments out of the spotlight stayed consistent. Don’t sleep on Plastique.
  6. Another unsung shero this week was Nina West. As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Nina nailed every single moment on stage. Her little solo was perfect, and she imbued every note with appropriate emotion. She gave Sarah tics and mannerisms that both made sense and made fun. I loved her thinking when it comes to the Hello, Dolly runway, but it may have been a bit too literal of an homage to Barbra Streisand.
  7. It finally felt like A’Keria landed herself in the right place at the right time. Stormy Daniels wasn’t the star of the show, but at least she wasn’t stuck in a dead-end like with the Mariah show last week. I was in love with her nude illusion, fringe lewk on the runway with long, long, long, orange wig. A’Keria is exciting in a way that makes me look forward to a time when she’s sharing the screen with less filler queens.
  8. Am I the only one not totally into Scarlet? I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of there there that we haven’t seen yet. Her drag looks expensive and refined. Her aesthetic is classic. Her acting chops are solidly average. I wasn’t crazy about her Betsy DeVos. What was with the martini? Is DeVos a drunk? I thought she was just an idiot. I liked her runway, but the same fabric head-to-toe made it seem like it was created by the absolute most talented person in a freshman fashion design college course.
  9. Shuga is fading into the background for me. So much so, in fact, I forgot to include her when originally working on this post. I enjoyed her Hillary, and I wish we heard the judges’ reactions to her gender-bending runway. Treading water in the middle of the pack is costing Shuga dearly.
  10. Ariel was fine. She was fine in the challenge, she was fine on the runway. She’s fine. I’m waiting for her to go full villain (as opposed to the semi-villain all people who build their brand on Instagram become), which may make her more interesting — and keep her around longer.
  11. When it comes to Ra’Jah, it doesn’t seem like she’s lacking talent. She also doesn’t strike me as inexperienced. It doesn’t appear that her skills don’t translate to this competition. It’s my belief that what’s holding Ra’Jah back is HUBRIS. Oh, the hubris. Her over-singing in the Mariah show and the way she volunteered that dance experience like it was yesterday was almost shocking. Her attitude seems to indicate she has quite the inflated sense of self. That lack of awareness is going to be a huge disadvantage as she makes decisions as a performer under pressure. Her Omarosa was so … small … , and that runway felt truly Junior Varsity next to some of the more exciting ensembles. She needs a more self-critical eye to avoid further pitfalls.
  12. Goodbye, Mercedes. As Drag Race‘s first Muslim queen, I’m glad you were able to share a bit more about your experience as a Muslim person with this audience. She was just way over her head. Granted, Ivanka is almost more about being devoid of personality, but even the wig was bad. (As an aside, if you haven’t seen Comedy Central’s brilliant Jared & Ivanka series starring queer comedians Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, drop everything and do that right now.) Back to Mercedes … if Ra’Jah’s runway was JV, Mercedes’ look was Pee-Wee league. The lip sync was also lacking. It was her time.

How would you rank the queens?

The post Trump Ruins Everything, Even ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Because Your Cyst Is On My List [RECAP and RANKINGS]

Ooh, gurl, I’ve got EXHAUSTION. We are only a few short weeks removed from the controversial conclusion to RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4, and now we’ve got a fresh crop of queens competing for the Season 11 crown.

And what a crop it is! Not only in quality, but we are suffocating in an avalanche of queens. Fifteen gurlz walked the runway in an indulgent, overly-long premiere that barely earned its 90-minute runtime (120 minutes, if you count Untucked).

If this early episode is any indication, we’ll have a few more weeks of fat trimming before the competition picks up. Fifteen just feels like too many queens. Personally, I feel like 12 should be the limit. This many queens all but guarantees too many big group challenges frontloading what’s going to be a slog of an early season.

The good news is there are also a lot of gems among this crowded field.

(But there are a couple of stinkers, too.)

Let’s dive in to all the glitz (and the cyst) from last night’s episode.

Rather than break down each entrance and runway appearance, I’ll weigh in on all the lewks in the rankings below.

After the customary individual entrances, the ladies were greeted by Ru and brought to their first mini-challenge. Each queen would be the creative director of their own photo shoot alongside a former Drag Race legend or also-ran. Returning queens appearing in the photos included Farrah Moan, Raja, Ginger Minj, Delta Work, Jasmine Masters, Adore Delano, Derrick Barry, Sonique and others.

It was tough to tell exactly who turned it out and who whiffed the challenge, but it was fun to see the returning queens. Luckily, it wasn’t up to us to pick a winner, but Mama Ru chose Silky Nutmeg Ganache, a plus-size queen with a massive personality to match.

(Sidebar: I want to know the story of this drag name. I just imagine her at a Cheesecake Factory perusing the menu, coming across the phrase “Silky Nutmeg Ganache,” maybe topping a special seasonal slice of eggnog cheesecake, and thinking, “yes, this is my brand.”)

For her win, Silky got a major advantage. The queens were tasked with creating an ensemble for the runway using only “scraps” from previous contestants. Silky got the power to assign each gal a trunk, but, despite only knowing most queens for a matter of moments, she tried her damnedest to give each lady a trunk that matched their personal style.

The rest of the work room time painted Silky in a much less generous light. Look, bitch is A LOT. She is the Queen of A-lot-endale. She is not just extra, she is extra extra. But, damn, she is also a drag queen. Extra is implied.

The rest of the competitors don’t seem to agree. They were bothered by all the catchphrases and spin-off aspirations. Silky certainly sucks all the air out of a room, but it also doesn’t seem particularly put on. It’s who she is. She’s Eureka O’Hara, super-sized, but, for now, she hasn’t also displayed an overly earnest side like Ms. O’Hara, so I give Silky an edge. I get why the other queens competing for camera time are frustrated, but as a viewer? I am ENTERTAINED, HUNTY.

This week’s special guest judge, Miley Cyrus, put her own spin on the undercover diva trope we’ve become accustomed to over the last few seasons. This time, the pansexual, gender-fluid popstar donned the boy drag of a boom mic operator and worked among the girls until Silky clocked her. Everyone howled for a sustained 90 seconds, then Miley reminded them to breathe, and we were off to the runway.

We had four tops and four bottoms this week. The judges loved Plastique Tiara’s elegant presentation inspired by Sasha Velour’s aesthetic. They called Brooke Lynn Hytes’ outfit a “mic drop,” and we agree. It was like Detox designed a costume for an ’90s X-Men spin-off team (specifically for my fellow geeks, X-Factor’s Polaris). RuPaul herself was impressed with the sheer volume of wiggery A’Keria C. Davenport stacked upon her head (five wigs!), but it was Miss … Vanjie we really were happy to see succeed. Having made her memorable exit in the first episode of last season, this was her chance at redemption, and she killed it.

Mercedes Iman Diamond was less fortunate. Based on fabric inspired by Bianca del Rio, she crafted an outfit Michelle Visage described as off-the-rack, and Carson compared to a slutty Sea World employee. Michelle also clocked the — admittedly very bad — make-up. Not a strong first showing.

Likewise, veteran performer Nina West found herself in tears facing the judges. After nine years of auditions, she finally made it, only to piece together a ho-hum dress with questionable embellishments. Kahanna Montrese, of the Coco Montreses, sent down an ensemble that looked like it was salvaged from a riot at a joint estate sale for Selena and Aaliyah.

And then there’s Soju. Oh, honey, Soju. Her mess of a runway was the equivalent of a no-bake dessert. It was just yards of tulle tied into knots to create a bell shape. It wasn’t designed as much as it was assembled. Under pressure from the judges, Soju popped. Literally. First she started a sob story about tendonitis that quickly transitioned into an epic about a cyst that burst on the plane. It was definitely gross, but also a little charming. (The story took another turn on Untucked, where Soju revealed the cyst was located on her perineum, which adds another layer of depth to this whole — hole? — journey.)

The judges gave the win to Brooke, and set up Kahanna and Soju for the lip sync. Instead of opting for a Miley hit like “Wrecking Ball” (which could be epic), “Party in the U.S.A.” or new single “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” the producers chose the old Hannah Montana classic “Best of Both Worlds,” which is truly a gag.

Kahanna had tons of energy and (a few repetitive) dance moves, but compared to Soju, she was a superstar. Soju did a mostly sloppy lip sync in a dress she could barely walk in, let alone dance. It felt like watching myself in the mirror. Ninety percent of gays could have done an equivalent performance. Her big reveal moment during the breakdown was the removal of a single glove. She spun, spun, spun, and just barely ripped off a glove. That’s it. Meanwhile, Kahanna did a backflip. It was no contest. So long, Soju.

That brings us to the first installment of our weekly rankings. Remember, these are wholly subjective and change week-to-week based on challenge performance, likelihood of winning the crown, star power and my own personal whims. Disagree? (Of course you do.) Leave your rankings in the comments.

  1. Once again, it’s tradition to start every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race asking ourselves if this is the season a big girl finally wins the crown. If this is it, you could do worse than Silky Nutmeg Ganache, a queen who really might be America’s Next Drag Superstar. Her entrance was memorable for all the right reasons: She had personality, she looked great and she ate a cookie out of her bra. She slayed the first mini-challenge, and her look on the runway signaled she’s not just all bluster. Right now, I can only assume she is equally charismatic as a performer. Unless that’s wildly off, Silky could go far.
  2. I wasn’t wowed by Brooke Lynn Hytes‘ entrance, but she made up for it later. Brooke celebrated being the first Canadian queen by arriving in an homage to the iconic Canadian Mountie uniform. The jacket, wig and boots were great, but those pants gave me pause. She rightfully won the main challenge with her perfectly tailored superhero-meets-aerobic instructor couture. I was gagged for the draping that ran from her shoulder, across her back and attached to her opposite hip. This gurl knows what she’s doing. Definitely a contender.
  3. If you’re good enough for Alyssa Edwards, you’re good enough for me. We didn’t get a whole lot of Plastique Tiara in last night’s episode, but what we saw was exciting. She entered the work room looking gorgeous, and she was stunning on the runway. I agree with Michelle when she wondered if Plastique can be more than just pretty, but, for now, it’s enough.
  4. The viral sensation, Miss Vanessa Vanjie Mateo has returned. She’s already off to a much stronger start than last season, and her notoriety all but guarantees she’ll be sticking around for at least a little while. She made a statement in her entrance, arriving first in a dramatic red, Grecian wrap dress with bright red fishnets and garters. Then, on the runway, she masterfully interpreted her Valentina-inspired box to create something special. I just want to know how she got all that glitter off her chest later, because it was an impressive amount. Vanjie is a font of meme-ability, from her arrival and subsequent hiding to her kooky confessionals. What I love most about the returning gal is, unlike previous comeback kids (like Shangela, Cynthia Lee Fontaine and even to an extent Monique Heart), Vanjie isn’t beating us over the head with her catchphrase. (Everyone else is already doing that heavy lifting.) Already she’s more than just that moment. It’s hard NOT to root for her.
  5. How many wigs is too many wigs? Certainly not five. That’s my big take away from A’Keria Chanel Davenport. She arrived serving sexy, showing off some body, but her hair left something to be desired. Guess she was saving all the wigs for the runway. There was drama and vision there that piques my interest. The judges may have thought her accessories were a lot, but this is drag. I’m here for a lot. While this week’s accessories may have just toed the line, I’ll be keeping an eye on A’Keria’s taste level going forward.
  6. Even though she is primarily known as an Instagram queen, Ariel Versace (one of my least favorite drag names since Derrick Barry) came to prove she’s more than a filter. We didn’t get much from her this week, but what we got was good. I didn’t love her massive white hoop skirt entrance, but she was going for SOMETHING, and I appreciate that. I was a much bigger fan of her Poison Ivy-meets-Broad City body suit. (Sorry, Michelle.) She assures us she’s a PERFORMER, and I hope she’s right.
  7. They all but told us Shuga Cain‘s relative inexperience is going to be her downfall this season, but I’m here for the ride. She’s an “older queen” (sorry, people, I’m not saying 40 is old, but among the 20-year-old Instagrammers we’ve been getting lately on this show, it’s certainly on the upper end), but she’s only been doing drag for less than two years. I wasn’t wowed by her entrance bodysuit, though I did find the detailing interesting. And on the runway, I didn’t love the vintage camp flair she took from the Sharon box. (The Ouija hair accessory was nice, though.) Taken together, the two looks didn’t tell me who Shuga is in a cohesive way. I love her personality, and there’s definitely great ideas there. Let’s just hope she can avoid making rookie mistakes along the way.
  8. This year’s avant garde gal, Yvie Oddly, isn’t afraid to mix things up. Her entrance look was memorable for the remote-controlled toy car that made her improvised train make an entrance ahead of her, but the rest of the gown was a little lackluster. On the runway, she served Alaska by way of Hobby Lobby. I was not gooped, but I am intrigued.
  9. Scarlet Envy may have gotten Violet Chachki’s trunk, but she struck me much more like Ivy Winters. Something(s) felt off about her entrance. The corset was cut too low, and her chest wasn’t contoured properly. What I can only describes as the “vagina chain” struck me as bizarre. Everything just felt slightly “off.” On the runway, she served a simple (some might say stale) slice of classic camp. It didn’t feel special. It wasn’t a disaster, but I would put it on the lower end of safe.
  10. I liked Ra’Jah O’Hara‘s wacky, tacky, but joyful runway much more than her entrance. First off, those earrings were not worth the trouble. Cut your losses, honey. The newsprint dress was good, but the semi-sheer sleeve cheapened the whole look.
  11. There’s room for improvement from Honey Davenport as well. Her entrance was a fun play on her name, and it gave me serious Gladys Knight on The Masked Singer vibes, but it didn’t make a huge impact. Her runway ode to Bendelacreme felt a little too Limited Too. I liked the big hat and the peplum, but it was too simple considering how important it is to break away from the pack.
  12. Nina West arrived ready to play. I loved her bright yellow, vintage jet-setter arrival which perfectly showcased her aesthetic and successfully demonstrated a good understanding of how to dress for her frame. All of us — Nina included — knew that runway was a tragedy. Let’s hope it’s a one-off case of nerves and she bounces back.
  13. I am much more concerned with Mercedes Iman Diamond. Her makeup and runway look feel like they were her at her best, which isn’t a great sign. Then again, she looked nearly note-perfect for her entrance, with gorgeous makeup, dramatic white gown and dripping in jewels. More of that, please.
  14. Sorry, but Kahanna Montrese feels dead on arrival. How is she going to say that her Katya look was not representative of her drag when her entrance look was eerily similar? Same black sparkle bra, similarly oddly stoned tights, arms and abs out. For someone who really leans into her identity as a dancer, the lip sync was good, but still not GREAT. I think Nina had a wake-up call on the runway this week, but I think it’s the judges’ eyes that were opened to Kahanna for all the wrong reasons.
  15. Oh, Soju. There have been plenty of very talented queens who have not succeeded on this show due to the format. They’re great at what they do, they just don’t do THIS particularly well. However, Soju is not one of those queens. She’s a vlogger, she’s a fan, she’s maybe a make-up artist, but she is not a performer. It was a very, very advanced take on drag queen cosplay. Not like how Dax Exclamation Point does drag cosplay, but rather someone cosplaying AS a drag queen. It was immediately clear Soju was out of her depth. She is so sweet, and being a host is a skill you could build a whole career on (just ask Ross Mathews). It’s not that she needs to work harder to be better at this game; she’s just in the wrong game. I want to support any aspiring artist to follow their passion, but at the same time it feels unfair to put Soju on that runway next to any number of Drag Race queens past and present.

How would you rank the queens?

The post RuPaul’s Drag Race: Because Your Cyst Is On My List [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

Tops and Bottoms: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Finds Diamonds In Clubs — RECAP and RANKINGS

It’s certainly a high bar to top last week’s GAG-worthy lip sync Thunderdome, but there was a lot to like about last night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, even if it was one of the more predictable installments.

Our most recent ep, “Club Queens,” felt like a real throwback to Drag Race greatness. It featured an old-school challenge that called on the gals to conjure all their creativity and DIY skills to create and present a unique nightlife experience for the ages.

Inspired by Mama Ru’s own time spent hosting a variety of clubs for impresarios like this week’s guest judge Susanne Bartsch, (joined on the panel by, ugh, Rita Ora, a “non-American singer” I have very strong feelings about), the queens are charged with creating a unique club set, complete with decor, signature cocktails and entertainment.

As the victoriously returning queen, Latrice gets to pick the teams. She generously pairs up besties Monet and Monique, then it’s the leading queens Trinity and Manila, leaving Naomi to work with Valentina. Latrice smartly joins her pal Manila with Trinity.

Monet and Monique are strong out the gate. Even sketching on what looks like errant sheets of printer paper and working with Crayola markers, their ideas shined. They landed on a sort of broad outer-space/science theme. Leaning into camp (always a good choice in this competition), they created The Black Hole, an intergalactic escape for anyone looking for someone to “probe your little booty hole.”

What their space lacked in scientific accuracy, it made up for it with full commitment. Monet and Monique both rocked great looks while presenting to the judges, including Monique’s green-alien stunning tentacle fingers. The decor was a little arts & crafts, but the addition of a fake, conjoined alien baby (or maybe it wasn’t conjoined? I’m not an alien anatomy expert!) in an incubator was a twisted, inspired choice. Even the bartender, “Scotty,” was serving up “Beam Me Ups.” For their entertainment, patrons walked Orion’s Belt for a chance at cash and prizes. It was a simple, but effective feature that made perfect sense for their vision. My only small complaint is that I wish they made a few more “Black Hole” puns during their taxi-TV-esque tour of the club. I know it’s a low-hanging, cheap joke, but this show is powered almost exclusively by low-hanging, cheap jokes.

However, cheap jokes alone do not a successful club make. Just ask the brains behind Club 96. Naomi and Valentina quickly settled on a fashion-forward vibe, which fit both their aesthetics. Aiming for a modern-day Studio 54, they went from Club 69 to Club 96, an allusion to a hypothetical sex act for people so bougie, they can’t bear to even look at each other. There’s an idea there, but Valentina’s zaniness and Naomi’s timidity kept them from fully exploring it.

Their entire presentation just felt so half-baked. Their decor — silvers, mirrors, palms — was the most conventionally pleasing design, but it seemed very generic. Sure, it could work for a real life club, but that’s not the assignment. We want a DRAG QUEEN reality competition club. Amp it up! It was a huge missed opportunity to not take the fashion cue and run with it. Put mannequins everywhere! Scatter the tables with soft tape measures and pin cushions! Cover the walls in floor-to-ceiling stilettos! Give me the severed head of Law Roach! I want to feel like I’m in Cody Fern’s closet!

Instead of forcing Valentina to be anything less than Valentina, Naomi took it upon herself to drive the presentation. Now, we all know Naomi is not to be slept on, but, make no mistake, she is still no comedy queen. Her promo copy is … fine … but the repetition of a whispered “Club 96 … ” was the closest to funny we got. (Valentina inexplicably delivered only mostly her lines in rhyme, which was so much more distracting than it ever was funny.) For entertainment, there was an ill-defined walk-off that involved werking tacky fashions. Their placement in the bottom two seemed all but guaranteed.

Finally, we buzzed over to The Hive with Latrice, Manila and Trinity. Manila’s graphic design background (which explains so much about her consistently kooky, but always perfectly polished ensembles) helped the team create a space that masterfully married chic decor with kitschy fun. The bee-themed club delivered on fabulous hosting, a strip spelling bee for entertainment and enough puns to make even Shakespeare say, “YAS, KWEEN!”

All three looked great, but Latrice really showed her skills as hostess, while Trinity slayed hosting the spelling bee. The only weak spot was surprisingly Manila, whose manic energy felt at odds with the easy, breezy vibe of The Hive. In the evenings greatest gag, their evening ended by hilariously “RELEASING THE [CGI] BEES!”

The runway theme this week is Plastique Fantastisque, and it mostly yields the season’s most underwhelming lewks. We’ll discuss individual outfits in our rankings, but special attention should be paid to Latrice’s avant garde latex suit with a massive braid made of plastic balls that just gives me all of the life.

That outfit, coupled with a strong performance on the most successful team, earns Latrice a top spot along with Trinity. Naomi and Valentina are predictably in the bottom two. Backstage, Latrice and Trinity’s affinity for Valentina caused them both to get emotional. Despite everyone’s love for Valentina (including mine!), the choice here is clear. Valentina was destined to go home two weeks ago, and Naomi’s report card is obviously stronger. The writing is on the wall, and even Latrice and Trinity seemed more mournful than conflicted.

The lip sync was to “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” which is already an odd choice. I know gender is a construct, but there’s something about the queens lip syncing to male vocals that just never sits right with me. Compounding the dissonance, Trinity chose to perform in full old lady drag, wearing flats and a tear-away hospital gown that (very obviously) revealed swinging, floppy breasts. (Remember Monet’s old lady drag with the IV? Very that.) It just makes no sense in this context.

Latrice continued to show why she is and always be an All Star with a commanding lip sync performance. (Reminder: You don’t need stunts to be good!) She was serving lip quivers, face-ography and floor rolls — ooh! The floor rolls! It was the most fun to be wrung from the track.

With a $10,000 tip tucked in her … well, tuck … Latrice made the emotional decision to send Valentina home.

So where does that leave us? Let’s assess with a ranking of the queens.

  1. Despite Manila‘s admonishment from the judges for being a little too extra, she’s still breaking out of the pack as this season’s most likely winner. Her fruity Fantastique fantasy was very her, and it carried her requisite polish and point of view. Although it was her partners’ personalities that really sold The Hive, it felt overwhelmingly like Manila’s vision. Sure, Trinity first suggested the bee theme, but all those little wink-wink details felt very Luzon. Could this all be heading to a bestie v. bestie finale with Manila and Latrice battling it out? …
  2. … Not if Trinity has anything to say about it. I mean, yes, that lip sync was BIZARRE, but you can’t say she didn’t go for it. It was a big swing (and a big miss), but it was definitely memorable. Trinity’s Plastique runway was one of my absolute favorites — a pop-art splat of bubblegum pink with matching wig. It was a season highlight, for sure. Just watching Trinity host the strip spelling bee in this fake, weird club diorama made me want to buy tickets to one of her shows. Her fashion is incredible, her lip syncing is sharp and she’s got a great gregarious energy that most local drag bingo hosts would trade their last lash for. It would qualify as a shocker if Trinity isn’t in the finale.
  3. Narratively speaking, Latrice is on the path to victory. Bringing back eliminated contestants is a reality TV trope, but rarely do these second-chancers manage to get the win. Drag Race loves to subvert expectations, so it stands to reason they could break that paradigm. There’s also been SO MUCH said about what a legend/veteran/strong-competitor she is (even when it wasn’t totally evidenced on camera). Watching her claw her way not only back to the competition but also to the crown (and potentially having to battle bestie Manila as the final hurdle) is almost too delicious to pass up. This was certainly one of her best runways, and the lip sync was confident. I’m still not entirely clear what her big contributions were to The Hive, but I’ll take the judges’ word for it.
  4. Monique, Monet and Naomi are neck-and-neck for (presumably) the fourth slot in the finale. A good case can be made for any of them to be there, but I’d give the slightest edge to Monique. She is BELOVED by wide swaths of Drag Race fandom. This week, Monique had some ups (her Club Kid from Outer Space lewk in “The Black Hole”) and downs (that “Josephine Baker” craft project she walked down the runway), but out of Monique, Monet and Naomi, it feels like Monique is the biggest STAR. (She’s certainly the best branded. #FactsAreFacts, #OohAhAhSensation, #BrownCowStunningNowAvailableOniTunes
  5. This was Monet‘s best runway ever, hands down. Gorgeous. Stunning. I also loved her look at the club. Where I was a bit disappointed was her performance at “The Black Hole.” It’s not that she wasn’t funny — she was! — it’s just that funny comes naturally to her. It didn’t feel like she was challenging herself to really go for it. It was just one-liners tossed off like she was at any other kiki. You want things to LOOK effortless, not BE effortless.
  6. Such a shame to see Naomi struggle after such an impactful performance last week. Being saddled with Valentina didn’t help matters, but that just meant we clearly got to see Naomi’s vision (or lack thereof). It’s unfortunate this was the Plastique Fantastique she packed for this week when she really could’ve used a knockout to compensate for the performance. (Though I don’t know if any fashion would have made up the difference.) It was a good look, but not her best. At this point, Naomi’s creative weaknesses have been laid bare, and it’s possible lewks and lip syncs won’t be enough to save her.
  7. Valentina is a star. Full stop. I will miss her presence on the show, but it was her time. I’m looking forward to seeing Valentina flourish in roles like Angel in tomorrow’s Rent: Live on Fox, but as I’ve been saying for weeks, we’ve seen all she’s got to give. I’m glad she redeemed herself lip syncing, and she will leave in much greater graces than how she ended her initial season. None of her choices tonight seemed coherent to me, from the choice to go by “Vivi” to the sometimes rhyming to the Miss Venezuela Barbie runway, I feel like I was missing a crucial piece of information each time to understand her motivations. Watching her is like watching The Masked Singer, which is to say I LOVE it, even if I have no idea what’s going on.

How would you rank the remaining queens?

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