One Less Queen Everywhere as ‘Drag Race’ Picks Its Final Four [RECAP and RANKINGS]

You guys, I am tired. Don’t get me wrong, I still love RuPaul’s Drag Race, but mama needs a break. As we head into the upcoming finale, the thing that excites me most is for the whole thing to be over.

It’s not the fault of the queens or the producers or Ru herself, there has just been a crushing cycle of RuPaul’s Drag Race content for so long now. If someone needs to be blamed, I guess it’s VH1. Rolling from season to season of Drag Race and All Stars has left fans fatigued. Plus, now every episode is 90 minutes (and another 30 for Untucked). It’s making viewers cranky, and I think more folks are looking for reasons to justify their crankiness.

We have a real talented crop of queens this season. Unfortunately, they were bogged down with too many starting contestants, adding weeks of mediocre competitors being wiped out one by one. It’s a shame, because by the time the talent was concentrated to our top, let’s say, eight, we were already TWO MONTHS into the season.

So, it’s not that this final challenge before the grand finale left me feeling flat, per se, but I can’t help feeling flat anyway.

As Ru herself said of her own show:

Our final five tuned in strong, if not mind-blowing, performances, which the judges then tried to convince us were not all relatively equal for the sake of drama. Let’s hash out the details in our recap and rankings below.

With the end of the season in sight, after a brief agreement that it looked like a (warranted) double sashay last week, Yvie and Silky finally make nice. Cute.

When Michelle arrives the next day for their final challenge, we know it’s going to be a real gauntlet. They’ll do the obligatory appearance on What’s the Tee? podcast, a rap solo for Ru’s latest single and a choreographed dance number, which we later learn they will need to perform for one uninterrupted take.

Of course, these rehearsal/interview segments are always purposefully misleading to keep viewers on their feet going into the finale. They always bend over backward to make it feel like a real nail-biter. Let’s go gal by gal.

Vanjie feels confident in her rapping skills, but when she’s brought in to work with Todrick Hall, he’s not as impressed with her lyrics as she had hoped. As usual, she excels in the dance rehearsal, but Todrick warns her to make sure she doesn’t lose her face while concentrating. During her podcast appearance, Michelle and Ru grill Vanjie over her relationship with Brooke, but Ms. Mateo plays it pretty coy. (Adorably, during a confessional interview, she says she’d like to see the relationship continue after the show, and Brooke better agree!)

Her bae shows up to record her rap with much more confidence than is probably warranted. Brooke may be many things, but a rapper is not one of them. She’s doing her best, but every gesture is cringe-worthy. Similarly, her dance moves are accurate, but they lack the sort of energy of the hip-hop-tinged track. Of all the gals, Brooke has the most boring conversation with Mama Ru and Michelle. It’s all blahblah I’m a perfectionist, and then they do the whole BUT WE WANT TO SEE YOU LET GO. How many times have we traveled this road? It just always feels like the default story for the season’s frontrunner. When in doubt, make a lack of struggle the struggle.

Yvie, however, has a really nice moment with Michelle on the pod. It’s not particularly deep or profound, but Michelle sees the tenderness beneath Yvie’s hard exterior and encourages the young queen to let more people in. Again, it’s not a revolutionary concept, but it does seem very genuine and poignant. Todrick works to get her to ad some creep to her vocal performance, but she brings it to the dance moves.

Silky too is crushing choreo. In rehearsals like this, she always gives 200 percent. She brings the energy to recording as well, but she struggles with enunciation. Of all the interviews with Michelle and Ru, Silky’s is probably the least compelling. She shares how she first did drag, her education and how she wasn’t well received by the other girls when she first arrived in the competition.

Now, the queen we spend the most time worrying about this week has got to be A’Keria. In her interview with Michelle and Ru, we learn A’Keria is raising her brother’s child for him and what a role reversal it was for A’Keria having always believed she was less worthy than her siblings. In the recording, A’Keria can’t quite get in the pocket. More than any other queen, it appears like A’Keria can’t nail what Todrick wants from her. While dancing, A’Keria seems to be the most lost. Everything is signaling an A’Keria exit … which all but guarantees her a spot in the final four.

On the runway, category is best drag, and all five ladies bring it. The one-take performance feels universally strong. Like “Kitty Girl” and “American” before, this is a lot of fun. No one flat-out flubs the challenge, and everyone shines in their own unique way. On my first viewing, I would’ve clocked A’Keria as just slightly a hair less watchable than the others.

The judges disagree. Todrick lauds A’Keria’s turnaround from the most struggling to a standout. They heap praise on Yvie as well. She undoubtedly turned in the most memorable performance in the video, doing a backward crab walk that made me both horny and terrified. Her final “best drag” runway was also a highlight, combining glamour with her signature, three-eyed, three-fingered, three-boobed weirdness. Silky was bit of a mess in the video, but what she lacked in poise, she compensated for with enthusiasm.

That leaves Brooke and Vanjie. The former has been dominating this competition. Brooke’s final runway was full ballerina eleganza, once again walked en pointe. I’m surprised to see her end the season on this. By now, we’ve seen it. We know her ballet background. Considering the exciting fashions she’s served in previous weeks, this was a (gorgeous) letdown. Likewise, in the video, she was technically perfect, but devoid of the sort of attitude that radiates off the screen.

Vanjie, whose greatest export is attitude, failed to deliver in the video. I didn’t notice on first watch through, but as the judges spoke and the edit replayed, you could see her acting real tentative. Her final runway was a breathtaking emerald gown that gave serious Gone With the Wind fabulous vibes.

Ru also took this opportunity to pull out the childhood photos, and, y’all, I just can’t. You know how this works. Everyone cries.

After deliberations, Yvie is the first queen sent to the final four, followed by A’Keria and Silky. Here we have it: Brooke v. Vanjie, a lovers’ lip sync battle. Surely the producers couldn’t resist pitting the two boos one-on-one in a lip sync for their lives. It’s too perfect.

Both gals give it their all to Aretha Franklin’s “Pride: A Deeper Love,” but Vanjie seems just a bit defeated. Could you blame her? She’s been to the bottom multiple times, and Brooke has been this season’s frontrunner. She knows she’s toast.

And she’s right. Vanjie once again shantays away, and we have our final four.

Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!

  1. Yvie picked a great week to surge. She excelled at every aspect of this challenge. Her rap was creative and delivered well. Her choreography was truly one of a kind. Her best drag stayed true to her while still giving the judges something visually engaging to gag over. It feels very much neck-and-neck between Yvie and Brooke for the crown.
  2. Even if I disagreed with the judges’ interpretation of Brooke‘s performance in the video, she slipped for me this week due to that runway. When I think of Brooke’s “best drag” I see something way more exciting than Swan Lake. I thought her video performance was strong — not legendary — but enough to secure her spot in the final four. Producers just could not resist putting her up against Vanjie.
  3. A’Keria has been a dark horse this whole competition, but I have to admit I think SHE had the weakest performance this week. If we were only focusing on this week, she would’ve been the one I sent home. I’m glad that’s not how it went down, because she’s worked hard enough all season to warrant a spot in the finale. I don’t think she’s a frontrunner, but her polished runways and endearing humor make her a star.
  4. It’s sad Vanjie got so close only to fail to make the finale. She may have started this season as a meme, but she is leaving as one of the most hilarious, genuine, lovable queens to every grace the workroom. Yes, she’s struggled, but I think she worked hard enough to make that top four. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
  5. I started this season firmly in Silky‘s corner. She coasted through the early weeks as filler queens fell off one by one. When they turned up the heat, she sort of rejected the call to action. She got defensive and dismissive when it came to stepping out her comfort zone. She pushed herself this week, and I appreciated that, but I still didn’t it find it nearly as exciting as what Vanjie or Brooke did. (Plus, I cannot forgive last week’s lip sync.) This was the best she’s ever looked on the runway, though. I just think surveying the entire season’s worth of work, she’s given us the least to gag over.

BONUS:
I don’t usually recap reunion episodes, so my pick for Miss Congeniality would be Nina West! I think there’s a case for Vanjie as well, but Nina’s my choice. What’s yours?

How would you rank the queens last night?

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A Crushing, Crazy Penultimate Installment of ‘Game of Thrones’ [RECAP]

Well, that was something. As has become a bit of a tradition, the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones was an action-packed, narratively dizzying affair that’s sure to leave fans divided.

There was so much wanton destruction and dramatic character choices, we’ve got a ton to unpack in our recap below.

Meanwhile, in Dragonstone …

Tyrion finds Daenerys to let her know that Varys is totally talking behind her back about how she’s not the rightful heir to the throne. Oh, she knows. It’s a real betrayal, not just by Varys but by Tyrion (for telling Varys) and Jon (for telling Sansa, who then told Tyrion). It’s not long before Dany calls the Spider out to the beach to be like, “Heard you were talkin’ sh*t.” Varys seems at ease — maybe he was able to get some express delivery ravens to spread the news before he was busted — and the eunuch and Tyrion share a tender farewell before Dany just gives him the dracarys. R.I.P., Varys.

Dany is not having a great time as of late, what with losing another dragon, most of her army, her best friend and most trusted advisors. Now, her hair’s a mess, she’s not eating (what some believe may have been poison from Varys, if you believe what’s out in the blogs … ), she can’t meet her deadlines, she always wants to go to Krispy Kreme. In short, she’s depressed.

She even tries to hook-up with her ex that’s totally bad for her (because he’s her NEPHEW!), and Jon is still not having it. She makes it clear that Varys had to die because Jon let out the secret which Sansa then used to undermine her. Sansa killed Varys just as much as Dany did. (Ok, I guess slightly less.) The message is clear: This is what happens when her rule is not respected.

Tyrion tries for what feels like the millionth time to convince Dany not to slaughter all the innocents in King’s Landing, but, come on, you know she really wants to. He gets her to begrudgingly agree (or at least not outwardly disagree) to call off her attack if the bells of surrender ring.

That piece of the puzzle sort of locked, Tyrion finds his brother imprisoned. He frees Jaime so that he can make his way into King’s Landing, ring the surrender bell and make a hasty escape with Cersei down to Essos via everyone’s favorite whore-smuggling tunnel.

Meanwhile, in Blackwater Bay …

Euron’s ships are all ready with their dragon-slaying scorpions locked and loaded until … what’s this? Dany is flying in from behind and taking out the entire fleet in quick, fiery succession? Turns out those scorpions are less effective without the element of surprise.

For good measure, Dany does a loop around and takes out all the scorpions atop the walls. Then she fries the the entire Golden Company.

Did someone stop by Staples? Because that was easy.

In all the fracas, Jaime wasn’t able to get to the bell, and instead he finds himself in a slugfest with Euron Greyjoy. It’s a hard-hitting affair that results in Jaime getting stabbed a few times in the midsection before driving his sword through Euron’s guts and giving it a good twist. Euron smiles up at the sky feeling satisfied that he just dealt Jaime the blow that will eventually kill him. R.I.P. Euron. (But not Jaime. Yet.)

Meanwhile, at Kings’ Landing …

OK, so Dany just flambéed all of Cersei’s forces; Tyrion, Jon and Grey Worm are awaiting her command. She perches on Drogon atop the wall when the bells ring out. The city is surrendering. The remaining Lannister forces throw down their swords before Jon and Grey Worm. They’ve won. It’s over.

Not so fast. Daenerys takes off, burning every single thing down around her. Buildings, soldiers, innocents, all of them. If she can’t be loved, she will be feared, and she is pulling some seriously scary stuff.

Qyburn comes to tell Cersei that the time for glowering on the balcony is over, and they should head to stronger shelter. The Greyjoy fleet is burning, the scorpions are all gone, the Golden Company really should’ve brought the elephants, etc. Even Cersei realizes it’s over.

Elsewhere in the castle, Arya and the Hound arrive in the maproom. It’s clear that this is not going to end well for the Lion Queen, so Sandor convinces Arya to let go of her vengeance. The queen will die today regardless. If Arya stays, she will die too. Arya leaves, but not before thanking the Hound and calling him “Sandor,” in a nice nod to the humanity he’s grown to display.

She bails, while Sandor meets Cersei, Qyburn and the Mountain on the shambling steps. Clegane Bowl is here!!!! Qyburn tries to intervene, but the Mountain just tosses him aside, leaving him in a big, dead heap. R.I.P., Qyburn! You were very weird, and literally everyone saw your monster destroying you coming but you!

With Qyburn gone, Cersei hilariously slinks by so the brothers can go at it. The Mountain loses his helmet, and he’s immediately 50 percent less scary. I mean, he’s still impossible to kill, which is pretty scary, but the makeup … well, let’s just say he looks like a bottom two finish after a makeover challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. After trying everything he can to destroy him, the Hound tackles his brother off the side of the tower and into the flames below, killing them both. R.I.P., Mountain, you were a weird zombie hulk. R.I.P., the Hound, one of the purest (and surliest) characters we’ve met in Westeros.

Cersei makes her way down to the maproom, and that’s where she meets up with her brother-lover, Jaime. They try to make a hasty escape to the tunnels as planned, but everything is blocked by rubble. Finally, Cersei breaks. She doesn’t want to die, but Jaime reminds her “Nothing else matters … Only us.” And that’s when everything collapses, the ultimate symbol of power in Westeros crushing them to death. R.I.P. Cersei and Jaime, it’s weird that I was oddly touched by your romantic farewell.

That leaves Arya racing through the streets trying to make her escape as Dany and Drogon rain down fire all over King’s Landing. It’s a brutal, stressful flight, but Arya manages to survive. She comes to, covered in ash and blood. She finds a white horse (Bran? Is that you?!), and she heads out of the city.

So now Daenerys has won, the Lannisters are wiped out (save for Tyrion), but there’s still 80 minutes left. Surely Dany must be stopped, but how? And how many more folks will meet Drogon’s flames before she meets her end? How does Sansa factor in? Who else won’t make it to the final credits?

Sound off in the comments!

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A Rough Night for Silky (and a Rougher Episode for Us) on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS]

Woof. That certainly was one stinker of a RuPaul’s Drag Race episode. Full of fan-favorite, dependable challenges and a head-to-head lip sync between two queens who have yet to appear in the bottom two, all the ingredients were there for a barn burner.

And yet? In the words of Mama Ru herself, “Meh.”

Instead, all this season’s shortcomings were on full display in an overly dramatic, over-stuffed episode. Let’s hunker down and power through, because this was a slog.

After the typical, obligatory sadness over Shuga’s departure, Vanjie and Silky express their shookness over harsh critiques and that’s about it. We pick up the following day with a fave mini-challenge: The gals have to sell a fake slap.

Last season, Ru “accidentally” actually slapped (allegedly!) Asia O’Hara, so he’s sitting this one out. Instead, the ladies will egg each other on. The instigation is the weakest part of the challenge, and it harkens back to this year’s incredibly disappointing reading mini-challenge. Fortunately, the gals’ physical comedy is much better than their joke writing, so there’s still a lot of fun to be had.

Brooke takes yet another win, and the prize is a good one. Ru brings back some of the eliminated ladies (Honey, Scarlet, Shuga, Ariel, Plastique and … ugh … Soju), and Brooke has the advantage of pairing the queens for this season’s makeover challenge.

Now, as far as makeover challenges go, this is one of the absolute easiest. They’re making over existing drag queens, AND there is no additional performance element like in previous iterations. Brooke does her best to keep it pretty fair, pairing A’Keria/Honey, Nina/Shuga, herself/Plastique, Vanjie/Ariel, Yvie/Scarlet … Silky/Soju.

Alright, alright, I could see how someone might interpret the Silky/Soju pairing as slightly shady, but whom could’ve Brooke paired with Soju to NOT seem shady? There is no good option. And it does seem like all the other pairings are best case scenarios, so, technically, this would be the least overall shady option.

But, ooh, gurl, is it a struggle for Miss Silky. Soju is already the greenest in the room, but — prepare to be gagged — she don’t walk in heels. Let me repeat that, season ELEVEN RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant once in the running to be crowned America’s Next Drag SUPERSTAR, CAN. NOT. WALK. IN. HEELS.

Unacceptable! Vanjie gets it:

It’s a rough episode for Silky all around. When Ru shows up in the workroom, she lays into Dr. Ganache for that wack padding last week. Silky still doesn’t seem to fully grasp what she did wrong, and the exchange ends awkwardly. This does not bode well.

There’s more pile on later. Scarlet, ever the beautiful snake emoji, sounded off about the gals she thought would be gone by now, so of course A’Keria has to bring it to the full group while they do makeup. Scarlet was surprised to see Vanjie and Silky still in the competition. Obviously this news is not well-received by our two most boisterous queens.

Matters aren’t helped any when Yvie — once again, fully correct in her opinion, but way off-base in her timing — throws herself into the mix. She’s backing up Scarlet’s assertion that Silky has struggled the most of the remaining gals, and she takes criticism too personally. (Both accurate statements.) There’s a lot of screaming and carrying on, but it all amounts to mostly nothing.

Another non-drama playing out is the Mysterious Case of Ariel’s Wigs and the Crimes of Grindelwald, or whatever. Ariel seemed real salty about her wigs when she first arrived back int he workroom, but when A’Keria (bless her) brings the matter to the full room, Ariel retreats. It seems that Ariel only meant to leave one wig behind for Silky, and the rest were all left accidentally. Now, she’s mostly mad at Ra’Jah for taking most of the wigs and disappearing. Sure. Yawn.

Our mainstage guest judges Lena Waithe and Wanda Sykes deserve much better than what they get tonight. The straightforward presentation is middling at best. Brooke and Plastique excel in matching glamour gown eleganza and a choreographed little exchange that gives the presentation a hint of story. A’Keria and Honey serve pageant the house down. Vanjie wows alongside Ariel, both looking flawless in coordinated stoned, red ensembles.

On the opposite end, Yvie decks out Scarlet in tattered denim that reads more Hobby Lobby than Hermes. Nina thinks her choice for Shuga is inspired by Kinky Boots, but it looks more like Payless Boots. It feels like a Pride costume, and Shuga’s makeup is a big miss.

Worst of the bunch by far is Silky. Michelle notes her pads are still a mess, Soju’s makeup is atrocious and the outfits look like they’re falling apart. This feels like something we’d see on an early episode of season two. Disgraceful.

Ru then asks all the girls, even the eliminated queens, to pick who should go home this week. Party lines are drawn with “Dreamgirls” (A’Keria, Vanjie, Silky) and their sisters picking Yvie, while the rest go with Silky.

The queens get it half right, because Silky is in the bottom, lip syncing up against Nina West. Set to one of the campiest R&B tracks I can think of, TLC’s “No Scrubs,” neither lady has any fun with this. Nina gives a serviceable, but utterly lackluster performance, hitting all the words, but with “cool cousin at a wedding”-level dance skills. Silky’s choices are even more mind-boggling. First, her sash slips down, tripping her up. She uses more of the space, heading to the back and slamming into an awkwardly-timed split. It’s bad. Real bad.

Even RuPaul can’t hide her disappointment, letting out a very loaded “Meh,” before sending Nina sashaying away. It’s a real shame. Nina was nowhere near as bad as Silky this week. Plus, Nina’s coming off a stronger run of performances in weeks prior. I have been a bit of a Silky apologist this whole season, but the bloom is off the rose, folks. Maybe Silky would be a great TV/podcast/bingo host, but she can’t sew, she can’t lip sync, she can’t possibly win this thing. Nina deserved at least another week here, though I think she is a frontrunner for Miss Congeniality.

OK, so where does that leave us? Let’s review our rankings, and leave yours in the comments!

  1. Brooke is so far ahead of everyone else at this point, she’d have to behead Diana Ross in front of Ru Cersei-style to lose her standing. This is feeling like Jinkx, Bob or Bianca’s seasons, where the winner is clear. Her styling for the runway was flawless, and the way she gave a hint of storytelling was perfect.
  2. My love for A’Keria continues to grow. After a sleepy start to the season, she is emerging as a strong contender for the finals. Save for that one disastrous denim frock, her runways have been strong showings. She proved she has some comedy chops, and she gives some of the best confessional interviews of the bunch.
  3. All the digs at Yvie this week didn’t feel justified. Sure, her runway wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster either. It certainly wasn’t enough to send her home. I do think there’s something tentative about Yvie when she has to be ON, like in the slapping challenge and the magic show. She’s better playing a character than holding court as herself when it comes to the stage. Still, she’s got a compelling story and a unique presence that translates to serious star power if she’s allowed to just do what she does best. She’s slipped a bit these last few weeks, but I don’t expect her to miss out on the finale.
  4. Great week for Vanjie. Again, the ask wasn’t all that big, but Vanjie delivered. Both she and Ariel looked gorgeous, the silhouettes were fresh and there was just a touch of humor to their runway. Not sure it solves the bigger problem of Vanjie failing to reach beyond Vanjie, but she earned another week here, for sure.
  5. Ru did wrong by Nina. Shuga’s makeup wasn’t great, and the outfits were a touch too campy to qualify as high-fashion, but she had a vision. It was the wrong vision, but it was all done with intent. That’s more than I can say for the last queen on the list. I still think this show was great for Nina, and it should raise her profile considerably. I would love to see a Nina West live show, and I really admire how she used the platform toward her activism (and not just her own personal branding).
  6. Ooh, how the mighty have fallen. What happened, Silky? Where did it all go wrong? Every single thing Silky did tonight — on and off stage — was bad. Yes, the deck was stacked against her with Soju as her partner, but I feel like Silky would have struggled regardless. Soju didn’t make her wear that ill-fitting outfit. Soju didn’t force her to do that shockingly bad lip sync. She does ONE (beautiful) mug and has a huge personality, but it all sort of ends there. I do think we’ll see Silky sneak into the Top 4, but I wish it were Nina in her place.

How would you rank the queens?

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