Once Again, Snatch Game Gives Us RuPaul's Drag Race At Its Best
Plus, we get the season's first legendary lip sync!
Praise the lord! We FINALLY get a legendary lip sync in this episode, and on top of THAT, we get Snatch Game! As in Season 7, this is once again the episode that pulls a weaker group of queens out of their doldrums.
And about that: while I'm not as mad-sad-Gladlock about this season as some people, I am certainly not loving it the way I loved last year's gift of glory. However, this episode proves there's a deep bench of solid queens remaining to delight us. Blame VH1 or the age of the series or whatever else for making this year feel a bit wonky; I'm still happy to be showing up.
Wipe That Mirror, Gurl
Oooh, gurl! Alexis has really decided to be a bitch, hasn't she? From last week's "why didn't you tell me I looked stupid" bullshit on Untucked to this week's giddily shady criticism of other girls, she seems to have decided that she's got to be hankty to get noticed. However, the fact that she's simultaneously upping her game in the challenges means I can't be too mad. If you're gonna come for people, then do it during your strongest weeks.
The reading begins in earnest during the mirror wipe, when Alexis interviews that she wants to weed out Farrah (too bland), Nina (too whiny), and Cynthia (too one-note). And I'm not saying she's WRONG, but damn!
Oh, and Farrah takes out her sadness over her poor performance on Nina, saying that Nina doesn't even act like she wants to be there. Nina starts to get all offended -- NATURALLY -- but then they settle down and take each other's nerves into account. It ends up being a nice moment.
SNATCH GAME, BITCH
Let me jump ahead and tell you that Michelle correctly reads the girls who play people from previous seasons. It's not only unimaginative for a drag queen to play another drag queen, but it's also tired. Remember when Sharon Needles seemed really bold for playing Michelle Visage? Well, that was SEASON 4 OH MY GOD SO LONG AGO GET A NEW IDEA.
Aja doesn't get this memo and decides to play Alyssa Edwards. Which Violet Chachki also did in Season 7. And the only thing more busted-ass than playing a previous contestant is being the second person to do it.
But get ready for me to contradict everything I just said...because I'm nevertheless on board with Nina playing Jasmine Masters. Nina, you see, has been playing Jasmine in YouTube videos for some time. This is a character she really knows, and while I still wish she'd chosen a different celebrity, I respect her for going with what works in a challenge this important. (By the way, the reason Jasmine is worthy of mocking is because she herself posts tiresome YouTube videos in which she loudly complains about everything, including how RuPaul and this show have ruined drag. Whatever, gurl. Next.)
Among the other girls, Trinity opts to play Amanda LePore, and that's shrewd because, comparatively, LePore makes Trinity look like she's never had plastic surgery. Peppermint chooses Nene Leakes; Farrah opts for Gigi Gorgeous; Shea selects Naomi Campbell; and Valentina brilliantly chooses Miss Colombia, who thought she won Miss Universe when Steve Harvey screwed up his hosting gig. I love how conceptual this choice is and that Valentina doesn't even pretend to know Miss Colombia's real name. Instead, she's embodying a very particular type of contemporary fame, where everyone knows you anecdotally. Valentina even thinking that way is impressive, and it gives her free rein to do whatever she wants. Because how will we know if she's being true to this woman whom we only sort of remember? But we all get the concept of embarrassed semi-failure she represents. So Valentina still has plenty to play, but no one's going to clock her if her eyebrows aren't right or something. Very, very smart.
Meanwhile, Sasha wins my heart forever for considering Judith Butler, the gender theorist, as her character. Ru is hilariously unimpressed, though, so Sasha opts for Marlene Dietrich instead. They're both severe, so it makes sense, though Sasha hopes she can figure out how to be funny.
Over in the Gay Icons Arena, Alexis chooses Liza Minnelli, and RuPaul falls out over this news. Apparently, he's been waiting forever to see Liza in the Snatch Game, which I fully believe. Alexis gives him pause, though, when she says that she's going to do a "loving tribute." Because we're not here to celebrate these people, hunty. We're here to parody them. If you get too reverential, then you get Morgan McMichaels as Pink, and nobody wants that.
From the jump, it's also clear that nobody wants Cynthia as Sofia Vergara. I suspected this would happen if Ms. Cucu got to the Snatch Game: she's just not able to play anyone other than herself. And even as herself she doesn't have a distinct persona. She's mostly just manic energy, loud talking, and pouty faces. She has the charisma to make that work, of course, but this is the place where one also needs specificity as a performer.
OH! AND! Before we see the game, we learn that this week's runway is the Night of 1,000 Madonnas, Pt. 2. This is great news, because as you'll recall, last year was a missed opportunity. SO MANY of the girls rocked the red kimono look from the "Nothing Really Matters" video that I started to feel sad. As RuPaul says this time, the key phrase today is "kimo-no she better don't!"
Teutonic Bisexuals LOVE Snatch Game!
This week's guest judges -- and Snatch Game participants -- are Denis O'Hare and Candis Cayne, and I'm digging it.
I worked with Denis O'Hare once, and he was just incredibly cool. As we'll later learn, he also knows enough about Jasmine Masters's online presence to call her "the poster child for discontent." And now I'm imagining him watching videos on his laptop, reading Ms. Jasmine for FILTH before running off to film another scene of American Horror Story. I'd watch that!
Let's get the disasters out of the way. First off, I don't know how Aja avoids the bottom three this week, since her Alyssa Edwards is completely boring, and her Madonna look -- though cleverly inspired by the Mexican accents of the Who's That Girl Tour -- seems cheaply made. Worse, though, are Cynthia (just as rambling and non-specific as you'd expect) and Peppermint (who doesn't seem to know anything about Nene at all). And Farrah proves yet again that she lacks personality, which doesn't help me remember anything about Gigi Gorgeous.
But on the plus side, Nina is really funny as Jasmine.
She takes the attitude that every question is stupid and somehow offensive, so her answers are always these loony tunes tirades. It's awesome.
I'm also feeling Alexis Michelle's Liza.
Her musical theatre training shines through here, because she's focused and energetic at all times. Watch her when she's not the center of attention, and you'll still see some great character work.
Sasha's great in that respect, too.
She decides to make Marlene Dietrich a predatory sex beast with a Nazi war criminal's German accent. Her humorless delivery makes everything awesome, like when she tries to seduce Candis Cayne by saying, "I promise that Teutonic bisexuals make the most forceful, unforgettable lovers." Those particular words in that particular order are just perfect. Much love to Sasha for choosing a character that lets her demonstrate her own intelligence.
Similarly, Valentina makes smart, funny choices as Miss Colombia, including a bit where she mistakes RuPaul for Steve Harvey.
RuPaul deadpans, "It's because we all look the same!" And you can feel in your bones that this is what the Snatch Game is for.
I also want to give love to Shea.
She doesn't get much screen time as Naomi Campbell, but she has my favorite bit of the night when she says she borrowed a pre-paid Cricket phone from Jasmine.
This Week In Special Messages
Oh my god. AGAIN with the forced insertion of "deep talk." This week, Peppermint comes out to the other girls as trans (though she was out to us from the moment she mentioned it in her preview video). Everyone's very supportive, which is great, but good lord, I would like these things to seem organic. On with the Madonnathon!
Stomp The Runway
Since I love Madonna, let's do a close read of all the runway looks.
First of all, I can't believe we get TWO SETS of repeated looks. Did nobody learn from last year's fiasco?!?!?
Peppermint gives us Material Girl...
And so does Shea, though with less success.
Then we get two iterations of a Met Ball look that I'd never seen before -- one from Trinity...
...and one from Nina.
Clearly I'm a bad homosexual for not keeping the Met Ball in my bank of references. But I'll learn to live with that shame.
Oh, and here's Aja's previously mentioned, basic bitch look...
But then we get the flawlessness. Like Sasha serving a perfect "Erotica" video fantasy...
And Valentina showing conceptual brilliance yet again by recreating a famous photo from the Sex book...
Farrah finally comes through with a spot-on recreation of the Super Bowl goddess get-up...
And even Cynthia pulls it together in the outfit department with her "Living For Love" video realness:
Though the judges will later read her for her makeup, which makes her look like she has a beard.
Alexis owns the entire damn room with her glamor goddess recreation of Breathless Mahoney's nightclub couture:
Judging And Kvetching
Word up to Ru for looking especially good tonight.
Nina, Alexis, and Sasha are the top three, though Nina learns that her Met Ball look was less successful than Shea's. Her performance as Jasmine, however, was too good to be beat.
Ultimately, it's Alexis who takes the prize. I'm happy with that, and I would've been equally happy with Sasha. They were both great.
On the bottom, Peppermint gets read for wearing her third pink outfit in as many weeks and giving a terrible performance. Farrah, again, is told she's boring.
That leaves Cynthia. During deliberations, the judges discuss her last, with RuPaul saying, "We must discuss the elephant in the room." To which Michelle responds: "I'm on a diet." Hey-ohhh! All the judges agree that Cynthia has hit the limit of her capabilities on this show.
Lip Sync For Your Life
Farrah's runway look saves her, which leaves Peppermint and Cynthia to lip sync to Madonna's "Music." Or rather, it leaves Peppermint to lip sync and Cynthia to get scorched alive.
Because Peppermint? PEPPERMINT? She crushes it, y'all. She does the robot. She does something that can only be described as a standing crab walk. In the breakdown, when Madonna goes "Uh! Uh! Uh!" Peppermint pretends to cock, load, and fire a shotgun, timing one movement to each of Madonna's grunts. It's funny and fierce and quite literally made me scream "GET IT BITCH" in my living room. It's hands down the best lip sync of the season and will certainly be something I want to watch again.
Do I even need to tell you that Peppermint stays? But we can't feel too bad for Cynthia. She's had two good runs on the show, and even though she's not a great actress, she's still cool as hell.
Most Watchable Moment
That lip sync, y'all. It makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel.