Toronto Diary
4 min

Drag Race Rutrospective: I have to go now — my planet needs me

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? A brand new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race: The Lost Season aired last night, and this is the question it unintentionally answers. Let’s go back in time and look at the shit that werked and the shat that didn’t.

After the show’s maiden voyage last week, Victoria Porkchop Parker has been thrown back in the oven to cook a little more, and no one is particularly pleased with the outcome because that means another week of Akashia. Since Season 1 took place before Drag Race established the departing lipstick message on the mirror, the queens have little time to mull over the loss of Porkchop, which means plenty more time for their mini-challenge.

Digital cameras are doled out to the queens, dating the show even harder than it already was, and the girls are given the opportunity to serve face through a series of selfies. Although they’re not actually called selfies because filming took place in 2008, a magical time before Instagram was a thing. Since most of the queens’ faces have been stuffed with more filler than an episode of Family Guy, thus making facial expressions all but impossible, they decide to give the win to Ongina and Akashia.

As their prize, they get to be team leaders for the main challenge: creating Destiny’s Child–style girl groups. Ongina picks Shannel, Nina Flowers and Rebecca Glasscock, while Akashia picks Jade, Bebe Zahara Benet and Tammie Brown. Each team has to assign someone to do hair, makeup, choreography and costumes, because pop music is a soulless factory production line and this challenge will reflect that, goddammit!

Team Ongina may have some friction between members — Ongina’s choreography is too complex! Shannel is overbearing! Rebecca is TERRIBLE! — but it pales in comparison to Team Akashia. While Akashia is more than willing to play the game, she plays it a bit too hard. She angles to be this season’s bitch, but her attempts are so aggressive and transparent that everything she does can’t really be taken seriously. Combined with shoddy execution, this turns her into an unstoppable force, barrelling through her teammates.

If Akashia’s problem is that she plays too hard, Tammie’s problem is that she doesn’t play enough. Tammie does Tammie, plain and simple. She’s an absolute master at what she does, but it comes at the cost of versatility. She has a comfort zone, and she’ll stay firmly within it, naysayers be damned. Tammie can’t adapt to the task at hand, and the moment her costuming ideas are shut out by Bebe and Akashia, she shuts down. Tammie is our immovable object. Our quirky, lovable, immovable object. And it’s time for the showdown.

The blurry, Gaussian ghost of RuPaul is joined by Santino, Merle, Michelle Williams (not that one, the other one) and Frank Gatson on the judging panel, and Team Ongina is up first. Ongina has dumbed down the choreography so that everyone can keep up while still looking impressive, and while Nina misses a few steps, their day-glow costumes and pageant hair at least coalesce into unified presentation. 

Team Akashia, on the other hand, is a veritable Vegas-style buffet of failure, and every step is a marvellous new flavour of mediocrity. Tammie, having checked out long ago, never really commits to the act, and even the top she sewed herself can’t hold it together through the performance. Akashia also puts herself directly in the line of critical fire by combining terrible makeup, a barely there costume and messy choreography. Bebe and Jade try to salvage a flailing team, but unfortunately, they just can’t save this sinking ship.

When it comes time for the judgment, Team Ongina puts on a united front, praising one another’s talents and covering each other’s asses as best they can. Even when Ru asks which one of them should go home, they all find a way to weasel out of it. They win, but it’s sort of like beating Natalie Woods in a swim meet: the victory just feels a touch empty.

Team Akashia’s heads are on the chopping block, but it’s obvious who’s going to be lip-synching for their lives. Akashia gets quite possibly some of the harshest criticisms in the show’s history, as the judges call her out on her stank attitude and stanker execution. As a performer, Akashia is constantly grasping for the spotlight, but when put front and centre, she can’t follow it up with anything of substance, and the judges ream her for it. She’s joined in the bottom two by Tammie, whose lack of commitment may not be as bad as Akashia’s performance but still warrants a low grade. And so, the unstoppable force must take on the immovable object in a lip-sync to a song by the third member of Destiny’s Child.

How climactic. Now you’re probably thinking that Tammie Brown could do literally anything and she’d still beat out Akashia, right? Well, technically you’d be right. Tammie could have done anything and won. But here’s the thing: Tammie does nothing. Nothing. Tammie gives up and allows Akashia’s comparatively adequate performance to keep her in the running another week. Michelle Williams even sheds a tear, presumably because she has to pretend a halfway decent performance is a show-stopping musical number.

And just like that, Tammie goes home. Not because she wasn’t talented or funny or beautiful, but because she just wouldn’t play the game. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Simple: the immovable object gets left behind.