RuPaul's Drag Race Serves Beverly Hills, 90210
Some of the Queens are Shannen Doherty, but there are several Zierings in there, too.
Even more than the Snatch Game, this episode separates the winners from the chicken dinners. One of my early favorites crashes and burns, two girls get even further ahead of the pack, and Peppermint once again has the perfect read for a nasty ho. So let's get to it!
Wipe That Mirror, Gurl
This is the most entertaining mirror wipe in recent memory. Possibly ever. And it's all thanks to Trinity, whose naked, cutthroat ambition I find incredibly charming. It's got something to do with how up front she is about it, and something to do with how the editing and score gleefully present her as Cruella de Vil. Everybody knows that a campy villain is the best character in the story, and if you don't believe me, then consider how boring Hannibal Lecter would be if Anthony Hopkins hadn't been a headscarf away from turning that fava bean bitch into a Dynasty heiress.
To be fair, Trinity seems like a pretty cool person, and she's clearly playing the part of the icepick princess more than she's living it for real. But that's fine by me! A drag queen in control of her mess is a drag queen for me.
Her slash-and-burn approach begins immediately this week. While the other girls are praising Cynthia's big heart and inspiring life, Trinity calmly says, "I love her, but bye bitch!" And THANK YOU GURL. This is not, in fact, RuPaul's Best Friend Race, and this tender moment was is in need of some shade.
Then this happens: when Aja says, "Trinity is the new official messy queen of Season 9," Trinity responds by walking to the front of the room, moving Alexis's arms out of the way in the process, and saying, "I am the new official cucu."
Come through, bitch! You've blessed me today.
But the blessings don't stop there! A few moments later, we see Valentina getting out of her Madonna drag from last week's runway, and Trinity "helps" her by yanking her cardboard wardrobe off her chest. Valentina squeals and screams...
...while Trinity looks darkly amused by her pain. And then we hear an ominous crash of drums and see yet another shot of Trinity's cucu. IT IS GLORIOUS.
Plus, the other girls laugh about it all, which makes it even more fun. The fact that they're delighted by Trinity's antics means this section feels like a performance we can celebrate instead of a tiresome, desperate display of reality show fighting. This is one more example of how Drag Race maintains its place in the cultural pantheon by constantly subverting the expected tone of its genre.
Was Gabrielle Carteris Unavailable?
Once again, we get no mini-challenge, and once again, it bums me out. The random side games add a wonderful flavor to the show, and I'm sorry that they're being usurped by our weekly lesson in important feelings.
But at least the maxi-challenge is a winner: for this season's acting exercise, the girls will star in Beverly Hills 9021-Ho, a parody of...well, you can guess. And naturally, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling will be on hand to co-direct the project and serve as guest judges. (Big ups to Tori, by the way, for appearing on this show way back in Season 1. She showed up before this was the hot show to guest on, and she endured some terrible interviews by Shannel and Nina Flowers with aplomb.)
Because she survived the lip sync, Peppermint is told to assign everyone's parts, and she makes a point of asking people which roles they prefer. She notably gives Nina exactly the role she requests, but don't worry: there's still a queen who will complain. This time, Aja pitches a big snotty fit about being cast as Grandrea, the pregnant grandma who's there to mock Gabrielle Carteris for playing a high school student on the original show when she was like forty-four years old. Aja wanted to be the Tiffani-Amber Thiessen character that went to Shea, and she gets so loud about it that Peppermint decides to swap their roles. Pep's visibly irritated -- she's only doing this to silence the toddler -- and Aja quickly backtracks, saying she'll be fine as her original character. But nope! Too late! She pitched a fit, and now she has to live with the embarrassment. Aja at least has the sense to say she IS embarrassed for showing her ass.
Pep interviews about her response to Aja's foolishness, and she has a predictably definitive facial expression:
She also utters this timeless line.
A Little Slap Fight Never Hurt Nobody
When it's time to record the segment, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling welcome the girls with a catfight, which is how all good hostesses launch a party.
Then we see the cream rising to the top. Trinity is hilarious as a sad old Jackie Taylor-esque mom/drug addict who desperately wants to be like her daughter. Unsurprisingly, Shea turns Grandrea into a standout role, while Aja is wooden and unconvincing as a bitch. WHO'S SORRY NOW?!?!
And then there's Nina, who's in the Shannen Doherty/Brenda role. Poor Nina. She's racing through her lines so quickly that no one can understand her, and when Jennie and Tori give her notes, she gets visibly angry. Despite her prodigious talents, she clearly isn't ready for the crown, and this segment is where I give up on her. Because even when she's handed the exact task she wants, she can't get out of her own way. Sigh.
This Week In Special Messages
In this week's manipulated moment of sadness and sisterhood, everybody talks about the people they've lost to cancer, and we learn that Sasha is a bald queen as a tribute to her mother, who lost her hair during chemo. We also learn that Trinity's mother died of AIDS complications when Trinity was only eight. Later, Trinity dropped out of high school to take care of his ailing grandmother, who raised him after his mother passed.
Look, I still think the contestants are being sincere about their stories, but the show is making me resent them. So do yourself a favor and breeze through this, lest you start blaming the queens for what the editing room is doing to their suffering.
Stomp The Runway
This week's runway theme is Big Hair Everywhere, which really ought to be the name of a RuPaul single. All the looks are good -- I wouldn't grade anyone below a B -- but top marks go to Valentina's disco fantasy...
...Trinity's classy-trashy explosion...
...Shea's mallrat hooker (and hilarious walk)...
...Peppermint's perfect Chaka Khan tribute...
...Aja's Tim Burton-esque creation (which is easily her best look of the season)...
...and Sasha's clever decision...
...to rock a punk mohawk instead of a bouffant.
After the runway stomp, we see Beverly Hills 9021-Ho. Since I've only seen, at most, five episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 in my entire life, I'm not the best person to savor all the references in this parody, but fortunately, there's a special episode of the Again With This podcast to break it all down. Give it a listen!
But as a relative outsider, I still enjoy what's going on. I mean, even I know that Shannen Doherty was hard to deal with, and you'd better believe there are reads about that.
Trinity makes good on her earlier promise and delivers a hilarious performance, particularly when she's pounding speed so that she can be just as drug-addled as her daughter.
Shea is also fantastic, and Valentina kills it as a the oh-so-virginal Donna Martin parody. (I got that reference, too! Donna protected her gift!)
This is the moment we should acknowledge Shea and Valentina as the season's clear frontrunners. They will definitely be top three, and one of them is going to win. They're consistently smart, charming, and innovative. The other strong queens have also had low points, but these two bring it every time.
Speaking of low points: Sasha goes too realistic in her portrayal of a drunk diner waitress, and when she gets read for it on the runway, she acknowledges that "it didn't need the Meryl Streep" treatment. I love Sasha for her seriousness and bookish intelligence, but I do hope she can get freaky before it's all said and done. Or at least find the same balance of comedy and brains that she brought to Marlene Dietrich.
And while Aja is pretty bad, too...
...she at least has one funny scene where she decides to make out with Peppermint at the prom.
Judging And Kvetching
Jennie and Tori bring SO MUCH SHADE to the judge's panel. Did you know they hate Tiffani Thiessen? If you didn't, just watch them describe her as "she who must not be named." SPILL THAT TEA!
My husband is also convinced that Jennie reads Tori when she compliments her knack for physical comedy in the 90210 days. Because that wasn't a slapstick show, you know? So maybe Jennie is calling Tori a clown. Delicious.
Anyway, the top three are Shea, Valentina, and Trinity, which is exactly right. The bottom three are also correct, with Nina, Sasha, and Aja in trouble. (Please note that Farrah is safe for the first time in weeks. She was perfectly acceptable as Trinity's daughter, and her runway look was fine. This may be the best it ever gets for her.)
The judges have a lengthy conversation about Nina's anger issues, and Carson tells Jennie and Tori that Nina is probably gonna key their cars. Unsurprisingly, she ends up lip syncing. Sasha's runway look saves her, which means Aja is lip syncing, too. It's the battle of the bad attitude bitches!
Before that, though: Trinity wins, which I fully support. Though I also would've supported a victory for Shea or Valentina.
Lip Sync For Your Life
The girls perform to CeCe Peniston's "Finally," which is one of the best songs of the '90s. It's a dance classic that transcends its era, thanks to a great lyric and a brilliant vocal. It also has a vibrant history in the world of drag.
At first, the lip sync is pretty wan, but by the time they reach the bridge, the ladies kick into gear. They give us face-face-face, and they contort their bodies in exciting ways.
Aja also does a cartwheel into a split. If you ask me, she's slightly more committed to this performance than Nina.
But Ru sees more overall potential in Nina, I'd guess. Thus, Aja goes home to Brooklyn. She wasn't the strongest contestant, but she's funny and scrappy. I'll be glad to see her at the reunion.
Most Watchable Moment
This week's finest moment came first. Let's all do another close read of Trinity's madness during the mirror wipe.