RuPaul's Drag Race
7 min

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 11 Episode 5 recap: It was a graveyard smash

The Monster Ball — no, not the Gaga one — shakes out mostly as expected

The cast of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 11. Credit: Courtesy VH1

During Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the production team made a bold decision: instead of hosting the ball at final four or five, when there would be fewer looks to see (just 12 or 15), they would push the ball to the top 11 episode. With three looks per queen, that made for 33 looks walking down the Drag Race main stage. Opinions on this ball were mixed but ultimately positive; such a display of eleganza had not been seen on the Drag Race stage in some time.

This season, I imagine, the praise will be a bit more muted, while the criticisms will be just a bit louder. That’s for a couple of different reasons: first and foremost, the Halloween-themed Monster Ball’s categories aren’t dissimilar enough. There’s a Trampy Trick-or-Treater, a Witch, Please! look, and a MILF: a Monster I’d Like to Freak. Most of the queens interpret the first and the third very similarly, and some render similar silhouettes and colours for the second and third. The result is a monotonous runway show that delivers some dubious top scorers.

Credit: Courtesy VH1

Yvie Oddly once again scores in the top, but does not win. The judges cite her MILF look, which tries to skew glamour and accidentally goes hideous, as the reason why she loses. In fact, RuPaul explicitly says as much during deliberations — an unusual step. Why be so explicit? Well, I’d guess the judges are really trying to talk themselves out of an Yvie win and into a win for someone else. Who knows why, exactly, but considering how great and ballsy Yvie’s other two looks are (a dinosaur made from a kids’ costume and a white-eyed witch), there’s plenty of argument to be made that Yvie deserves the win just as much as she did last week.

Speaking of arguing and Yvie, this season’s resident weird queen gets into it (again) with Ra’Jah Davenport O’Hara during the cool-down from last week’s lip sync. Ra’Jah makes the classic Alyssa Edwards mistake from way back in Season 5 and says she’d be happy lip-syncing every week to keep herself safe because that’s where she feels most energized. (Never mind that she’s not half the lip-syncer Alyssa is, but I digress.) Yvie questions why she’s not bringing that same energy to the challenges, which makes Ra’Jah pop off.

I’m obviously biased, because I love Yvie’s drag and persona, and think Ra’Jah is floating to, at best, a 9th-place finish. But it’s truly hard for me to imagine watching this argument and being on Team Ra’Jah. Does Yvie maybe say what she thinks too freely? Sure. Is this RuPaul’s Drag Race, where that’s happened since the beginning of time? Indeed it is.

Ra’Jah going to 11 on the upset scale every time Yvie says anything to her is a bad look, as are Ra’Jah’s painfully cringe-y reads in her confessional. Every single one sounds laboured, like she spent a good five minutes coming up with it before delivering it in the most stilted, inorganic manner. And keep in mind that all these one-liners — if you can even call them that — are coming in talking heads; Ra’Jah has yet to effectively drag a girl to her face. I can’t root for a villain who isn’t quick with a read. Phi Phi O’Hara spat “Go back to Party City where you belong!” at Sharon Needles with no forethought; that’s a great villain.

Credit: Courtesy VH1

As I said, however, Yvie does not win this week. That honour goes to Canada’s own Brooke Lynn Hytes, who snatches the crown based on three decent, if unspectacular, looks. On the merit of the garments alone, I’d have given Brooke Lynn no better than a safe placement. Where she shines this week is in the presentation. She moves so gracefully on the runway, she can hypnotize you into thinking her fashions are more impressive than they are. That’s exactly what she does in particular with her mummy look, which is remarkably cheap-looking but presented en pointe. The judges are wowed, as they are with her Enchantress witch look. This leads them to wildly overstate how good Brooke Lynn’s actual outfits are, securing her win in the process.

Also securing Brooke Lynn the win: her romance with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo! I kid, I kid. I mean, I do think the two realize the power of their bond and are going to use it to benefit them in the show. But I also think they’re genuinely interested in each other, and it’s fun to watch their flirtation . . . to a point. I do think the producers are forcing this one pretty hard, and somewhat out of nowhere. The queens discussed it last week in Untucked, but we went from one kiss before to half a dozen this week. I really don’t need to see every time they kiss; I get it.

The moment that makes me laugh the hardest for how obvious it is is the scene of the two of them discussing their looks shirtless. Seriously, Brooke Lynn’s got no shirt under her overalls, while Vanjie is wearing nothing but a neckerchief. There’s literally no reason for this! Later in the episode, we see Brooke Lynn wearing her overalls with a shirt under it. Now, I know there are plenty of viewers who won’t complain, and I certainly get it. But considering how deeply averse to any kind of on-screen romance most queens have been in the past, the shift is quite jarring. (Also: Branjie is a terrible couple name. Work on that, y’all.)

Credit: Courtesy VH1

Plastique Tiara joins Yvie and Brooke Lynn at the top but seems like a non-factor for the win because of her personality. Michelle Visage clocks that she’s resting on pretty; I’d add that she’s resting on the same silhouette every time. Her MILF look is her best, largely because she presents an outré makeup look with it. It’s not at Yvie’s level or anything, but it’s something new, and I appreciate that.

Shuga Cain and Silky Nutmeg Ganache hit the bottom three, but both mostly avoid harsh criticism. Shuga gets highlighted as having too many complicated backstories, but also has one of the best looks of the night for her Witch, Please! category, so I think her landing in the bottom two is kind of bullshit.

Silky deserves to be there more than Shuga does, but the judges treat her with such kid gloves. Michelle treats her critique session as just a chance to remind her of the challenge, not read her for fully missing the mark and constructing a messy, off-prompt MILF look. Silky justifies it by saying she only knows how to do pageant, and Michelle somehow doesn’t tear her apart for that. I don’t know why she’s been chosen as the golden child of the season, but she absolutely is; even a trip to the bottom feels like a chance to lift her up.

The queen who must bear the brunt of the criticism this week is Ariel Versace. I’ve made no secret how much I don’t like Ariel, and I think her bottom two placement this week is totally justified. She keeps serving the same big-hair silhouette, and her clothes aren’t impressive enough to distract from that. (To be fair, other queens have done the same thing and gone far on the show, but Ariel doesn’t have the charisma to back that up.)

The issue isn’t with the substance of the judges’ critiques of Ariel; honestly, each one is correct. It’s that the judges are being so harsh on her, practically indicting her for her performance, while letting other queens off with slaps on the wrist. It gets worse in the lip sync, to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” when Ariel trips at one point and RuPaul looks at her like she’s just seen a pig in mud.

Ariel goes home covered not in glory, but a remarkably harsh edit. I can’t say I’m quite sorry for her, but I do pity her. The show makes her the fool when there are plenty of other fools left in that top 10.

💋 The mini-challenge asks the queens to design themselves as life-size dolls, complete with full backstory. The challenge is cute, and it’s nice to see All Stars 3 champion Trixie Mattel back to guest host. Trixie, hosting a doll challenge? Match made in heaven.

💋 I heard from a source in production a while ago that All Stars 4 was supposed to air after Season 11, but the former season was pushed up to winter somewhat suddenly. Considering the show introduces the RuPaul doll this episode in the mini-challenge, but referred to it as if we knew what it was already in an All Stars 4 episode, I’d say my source was right.

💋 Elvira and Cara Delevingne is a great combo of guest judges for a Halloween-themed ball. Elvira handles all the monster movie references delightfully, while Cara ably talks about the looks as fashion. Cara gets a particularly good note in when Shuga Cain keeps offering backstories for her looks: the ideas can be great, but the execution has to match. Also, massive props to Elvira for reading Plastique’s lack of personality in the face of Ru’s blind stanning. Season 11’s guest judges are really on fire so far.

💋 Speaking of judges: WHERE. IS. CARSON. KRESSLEY? This is getting absurd. Again, I love Ross Mathews more than life itself, and I want him there for 90 percent of episodes. But a ball is Carson’s wheelhouse, and I think he would have clocked how basic some of the top looks were.

💋 On this delusional edit that Scarlet Envy is getting: I’m no Scarlet fan, but it seems pretty obviously made up to me. Sure, maybe she feels her oats a little too hard about Ru praising her casting. But it’s one line as the group reflects on the previous week’s critiques. I think she’s fine.

💋 Ra’Jah picking up another mini-challenge win indicates to me that RuPaul really likes her personally, even if he can’t quite justify giving her a pass in the main challenges.

💋 “Spring rolls?” Yes, Plastique, more of this! I know from your Twitter that you’ve got a great sense of humour. Show us that!

💋 With “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” Whitney Houston ties Britney Spears’ record for most lip sync songs by any artist other than RuPaul, with five. Truly, there was one Whitney, and there’s one Britney.

💋 Ru, we didn’t love when you said “lurks” instead of “looks” during Season 10’s ball, and we don’t like it now. Please stop.