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?

The post One Less Queen Everywhere as ‘Drag Race’ Picks Its Final Four [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

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?

The post A Rough Night for Silky (and a Rougher Episode for Us) on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

It’s All a Bunch of Hocus Pocus on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS]

We all know are queer people are magic, right? I don’t mean to generalize, but having heightened empathy, creative aptitude, connection to nature and enduring spirit does make me believe that queer people are basically witches. (Every time we take our PrEP with vodka-soda we grow stronger!)

That’s why I’m surprised it’s taken RuPaul’s Drag Race so long to do a straight-up magic show. Really, the line between a magic show and a drag show is already razor thin. It’s a great medium to test the gals’ showmanship, humor and discipline. Although last night’s ep wasn’t one of the series’ strongest, the challenge was a perfect framework for the show.

Gather round top hats and bottom hats alike, and let’s abra cadabra ourselves back to the beginning of the episode for our recap. 

Fresh off last week’s runway (lol remember Plastique?), Nina is a little salty that she was such a generous partner for Brooke, but Brooke didn’t even attempt to share the glory. It’s not a story that goes particularly anywhere. #fakenews

For this week’s mini-challenge, the queens had to do a dirty Double Dare-esque physical challenge pressing balls between themselves and the Pit Crew to drop in a basket. The highlight for me was Silky picking up Shawn Morales in a fireman’s carry, but it’s Vanjie that snags a much-needed win and the ability to split the queens into two teams. 

This is where things go south. Vanjie puts herself alongside big personalities Silky, Yvie and A’Keria. I get the thinking here, but this is a team of charming entertainers whose oversized presences carry them through most of the time. These are not joke writers, and, unlike last week, this isn’t technically an improv challenge. 

Conversely, the team of Nina, Brooke and Shuga immediately click in and obviously understand the challenge. They quickly get to work strategizing, almost to a fault. 

Rehearsals with an actual magician somehow demonstrate both how involved this challenge is and also how easily executable magic is? Maybe they edited A LOT of rehearsal out, or maybe I too could swallow a whole super long balloon if I just BELIEVED. 

(Though, just between us squirrels, I have a sneaking suspicion I’d do just fine at that particular trick, athankyouverymuch.)

Team Nina comes prepared with bits, and they seem totally ready to slay. The other team though is hoping to improv their way through it. Y’all. Come on. You gotta know by now that “winging it” is not gonna fly-fly-fly-fly, uh oh, uh uh oh. 

There’s a sort of unclear development overnight where Team Vanjie had to last minute change their show, because it was too hot for VH1. Weird.

Regardless, it would be tough to best Nina, Brooke and Shuga as The Mighty Tucks. From start to finish, this is a delight. It feels like a real magic show and a real drag show and a real comedy show. Nina is 100 percent the star, and she gives her strongest performance yet. Brooke is once again excellent. She’s silly and sexy, and she lights up the stage. Shuga is fine! There isn’t a moment during their whole act when all three ladies aren’t giving us SOMETHING. They’re even mugging and dancing in the background. Tour this show, please! I’d order two ticket today. 

Team Black Magic isn’t a disaster by any stretch. It’s just a lot of Silky being Silky, A’Keria being A’Keria, Yvie being Yvie and especially Vanjie being Vanjie. Everything feels half a beat off, and it feels much more like four separate performance happening in sequence rather than a cohesive team performance. 

The runway theme calls for caftans-tans-tans across the board, and the ladies mostly nail it. A’Keria’s pantsuit with butterfly wings is not a caftan, per se, and Shuga’s overly-ambitious double reveal merely uncovered increasingly disappointing lewks, like some kind of Russian doll from T.J. Maxx. 

The judges clearly favored The Mighty Tucks over the Team Black Magic. Silky gets dinged for some unflattering choices for her body, and Ross is unrelenting in his disapproval of A’Keria’s non-caftan. Although the judges (and Michelle in particular) love Vanjie’s caftan, all they got in the challenge was more Miss Vanjie. They want more character development. 

The Mighty Tucks receive nearly universal praise, save for Shuga. The judges feel Shuga didn’t rise to meet Nina and Brooke at their level, and her second and third caftans were misses. 

Nina rightfully earns the win here. Vanjie lands in the bottom two, as does Shuga. It’s a surprise, because she was not one of the two weakest players in this challenge, but she is the remaining queen with the most middling performances overall for the season. 

The lip sync is to the classic Mary J. Blige anthem, “No More Drama.” Numbers like this are tough for a sync, because they don’t lend themselves to stunts, tricks, deathdrops, shablams, etc. It’s all about emotion, and, boy does Vanjie deliver. She removes jewelry piece by dramatic piece. She tosses her head around with abandon. She sells every single beat. Shuga is no slouch, but the judges and cameras can’t take their eyes off Vanjie. Shantay she stays, and Shuga sashays away. 

Where does that leave us? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments. 

1. Standing strong again this week is Brooke. She is really just crushing this competition to such an extent, it is shocking she came so unprepapred for Snatch Game, one of the few challenges you always know is coming. Her runways are flawless, and she’s so far ahead, I can’t imagine how she could fumble it this close to the net, or whatever. (Look, I recap Drag Race for a living, go get your sports metaphors from Bleacher Report if you need them right.)

2. Yvie was a real stinker in the main challenge this week. While the rest of her team compensated for a lack of preparation with an abundance of confidence, Yvie seemed the most tentative in her every moment. Luckily, the ripped-up yellow caftan gave me sort of Grizabella glam, which I am incredibly here for. Her runway story put a spiritual spin on the theme, and her backward prayer hands were quite memorable. 

3. A’Keria got the best trick of the night, and she sold it well. I’m afraid she squandered whatever goodwill she got from the judges last week when she ignored this week’s runway requirements. Anyone would agree that was NOT a caftan. She should know better. 

4. Silky is very good at what she does … and she doesn’t care to try anything else. Personally, I love her big, loud presence, but I do NOT love her dismissive attitude toward anything outside her comfort zone. Her hair-ball wig was a refreshing, artsy edge to her typical pageant glam, but the whole lewk just felt slightly off. In the magic show, Silky commanded the stage and kept the crowd on her side, even when she didn’t have much content to offer. Compared to beautiful Brooke, innovative Yvie and A’Keria’s edge, though, Silky needs to serve more to prove she’s a superstar. 

5. Man, I love Nina West. She’s adorable, hilarious and seems genuinely sweet. This was her week to shine, and she was incredible. I could watch her magic show for hours. I sincerely hope she integrates some of this into her regular routine. Her caftan was also her best runway thus far. Unfortunately, I don’t think her best is going to be enough to best the frontrunners. 

6. Watching Vanjie has been heartbreaking. She knows she’s beat. She only has swimsuits in that workroom, and she knows it. She only has Vanjie inside her, and she knows it. She’s on borrowed time, and she knows it. The good news is she’s primed to be a breakout on All Stars 5, and regardless of ever snatching a crown, she’s got legions of new Fanjies (?) all over the world. 

7. It’s a little bittersweet to see Shuga go this week. Not because she wasn’t the least likely winner remaining (she was), but because she really wasn’t bad in this challenge. I’d even go so far as to say this was her BEST week in terms of challenge performances. I think the runway really hurt her, but, regardless, if it wasn’t this week, it’d be next week or the week after, let’s be honest. 

How would you rank the queens?

The post It’s All a Bunch of Hocus Pocus on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.