Last week’s surprise double shantay has injected the RuPaul’s Drag Race workroom with well earned self-condragulation. Eureka O’Hara is feeling her oats. So what if it sounds like bragging? She earned this. Aquaria, clearly the frontrunner in her own mind, is over it. As the Scheana of the group, she needs attention every 17 minutes or she gets faint so she ignites World War AquariaVsEureka. But our country queen is no dummy. Eureka lets Aquaria talk herself into trouble. In the silent room, Aquaria starts a verbal journey (“your choreo is basic”) that travels three times around the world before arriving at, “I hope you die in a fire.” If you squint really hard, she has a point. If you focus on the words she actually says? Boom! Eureka wins the opening gambit. Now she has to prevent an all-NYC top 3. With new gal pal Kameron in tow, Team Tennessee plots. Team Texas wants no part of the drama. She’s just here to Drag Race.
After a good night’s sleep, Aquaria gives an apology as rambling as the rant that engendered it. I’m so used to reality TV, it takes me a moment to notice that Aquaria is being serious. When she says she wishes she could have made her point without the fire and brimstone, I believe her. Her charm shines all that much brighter without the artifice.
The mini-challenge asks the queens to dress butch for a Trade Body Spray photoshoot. It seems strange to play this with Kameron. He might as well be a Pit Cub walking around the workroom. Naturally, his lumberjack is manly. Monét is your goofy Uncle who has bodies in the woods. Asia is very “Why hello, Hot Felon.” Aquaria is Cate Blanchett playing a man in a 90’s Calvin Klein ad. Miz Cracker is Liza Minnelli as the Situation (Jersey Shore). On quaaludes. And suddenly my worlds collide. Eureka is Eugene from The Walking Dead! She even makes lame dad jokes. She obviously wins the manliest man contest on merit (not because she’s sure to cause drama all episode).
The workroom fills with social media stars, ready for their maxi-challenge close up. If only they had a fairy dragmother to bring it all together… Monét somehow escapes Eureka’s wrath in partner selection. Tyler Oakley (the only Youtubie I recognize because I’m an old) is able to do all the heavy lifting. He’s charming, comfortable on camera, and gung-ho to bring Short Change (or Shor’ Change, as Ru rechristens her) to life. They have no similarities other that special je ne sais quoi that brings all the boys to the yard. RuPaul’s concern, as he mentions every week, is hair. Monét is baffled with the obsession. She likes her pussycat wigs. Well, this isn’t Monét X Change’s Drag Race. “You save that for Sunday service,” Mama Ru warns.
Miz Cracker and Kameron Michaels are paired with Social Media stars that immediately announce their cisgender, heteronormative lifestyles. Cracker uses humor to reassure her partner. “Don’t worry about it. This is an accepting environment…” Wound as tight as Cracker herself, Chester See nervously laughs. I guess it’s true. No one gets her jokes but me. Chester looks like the last person who should do drag. Straight, bearded, shy. Nothing about him screams, “Tuck me!” Instead of whining, Miz Cracker is excited by the challenge. She names herself ambassador to the other side and slowly but surely, drag wins Chester’s heart. RuPaul points out that Miz Cracker and Chester share a weakness. Their star power is obstructed by carefully constructed image. Hopefully she’ll listen. I don’t know how many more times he’ll warn her.
Kameron and Anthony Padilla have a decidedly different journey. Kameron looks butch with his muscles and tattoos but that doesn’t mean he’s avoided bullying and beatdowns. As a result, he has an actual, physical fear of straight men. The minute Anthony mentions a girlfriend, Kameron freezes (think Han Solo in carbonite). I’ve transcribed an actual conversation for your edification. Kameron: “Yeah.” Anthony: “Yeah.” Kameron: “Cool.” Anthony: “Yeah.” Luckily, Anthony isn’t as repressed as Chester. His breezy air (think Monica’s phone message to Richard) and real interest in the project lessen Kam’s anxiety. RuPaul’s visit turns into cheerleading. He gets Anthony excited. He gets Kameron excited. Before he knows what’s happening, Kameron is smiling. Kelly Michaels is a real bitch, and Kameron is good with that.
Some of Eureka’s couplings bring unexpected rewards. Asia is nervous about Raymond Braun until he mentions his favorite queen is Latrice Royale. This she can work with. Raymond is the biggest fan in the room. He needs to get in geish, immediately. He whips out a sparkly coat, slings it over his back and struts. Asia is on cloud nine. They are Team Dynomite and they’re ready to blow. Aquaria is fully aware of Eureka’s machinations. She knows she’s paired with Kingsley in hopes she can’t paint African American faces. Big mistake. Huge. Aquaria is the makeup queen of Season 10. She created Miz Cracker’s face, for crying out loud. And Kingsley is the total package. He’s adorable, a seasoned performer (although never in drag) and vibes well with Aquaria. No wonder RuPaul was inspired to create poetry. “Life is a banquet / And most poor suckers are starving to death. / Get in there / And put some heels on. / Put some false eyelashes on.” – RuPaul Charles.
The runway theme is Drag Family Values. Asia and America O’Hara stilt both dress and performance to give Raymond top billing. I understand Asia’s reasoning but it’s a risky move. Aquaria and Capricia Corn have the opposite issue. Beautifully painted, Kingsley wears Cinderella rags next to Aquaria’s Stepmother finery. As soon as the lights go up, Aquaria solos. Kingsley is alone and forgotten. Miz Cracker and Miz Cookie bring us pink and blonde. So. Much. pink and blonde. Chester is on a drag high. He twerks. He shimmies. When guest judge Lizzo calls him Marilyn Mon-hoe, he croons Happy Birthday. Monét X Change and Short Change have big hair and not much more. A bodysuit and sad reveal do not a drag queen make. They’re the most memorable couple in the low budget, Youtube reminiscent Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent video but it’s probably not enough to save them. The big revelation of the night is Kameron Michaels. He seems lighter, like he’s freed ghosts. Facing his fear led to breakthroughs, both personal and in drag. The judges complain his looks are too simple but his smile is everything.
Winner: Miz Cracker
Both Kameron Michaels and Monét X Change have been in the bottom two before. They know the repercussions. There are no more saves. They perform Good As Hell by Lizzo . For. Their. Life. Kameron is a good performer. She keeps her spirits high. She dances her heart out. Monét is Goliath. She’s an actress. She lives inside the song. By the time she pulls out her dance moves, she holds Lizzo in the palm of her hands. Extra credit for breaking a stage light. But this isn’t The Lady Cocotte’s Drag Race. Kameron Michaels, shantay you stay. Monét X Change, sashay away.
Next week: Evil twins, Cheyenne Jackson, and Lena Dunham. What could go wrong?