In some way, it’s impressive how the editing team on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 has made so many eliminations of would-be cannon fodder this season feel painful. First, there was Honey Davenport, a martyr made to bear the sins of her entire group after the fabled six-way lip sync. Then there was Ariel Versace, a would-be villain-turned-sympathetic underdog who went home on remarkably harsh critiques and an embarrassing edit of a lip sync mistake.
Now, the victim of the whiplash edit is Scarlet Envy. I have been hard on Scarlet all season long; I previously found her drag unpolished and her attitude unpleasant. But I felt she was robbed of a top spot last week, which in retrospect should’ve been a warning sign. Despite her win in week two, the judges never truly warmed to Scarlet, just as I didn’t.
But this? This is truly crap. Scarlet Envy goes home this week on an edit designed to make her look incompetent, a round of her fellow queens throwing her under the bus, and a lip sync result that seems blatantly unfair.
This week’s main challenge recalls one of the scariest in Drag Race herstory: the cheerleading challenge that took Eureka O’Hara’s knee out in Season 9. This one is slightly less concerning, if only for its lack of aerial stunts. The queens are tasked with executing dance routines in the Draglympics. They’re critiqued on their performance as a group in three categories: voguing, fan work and “shablams.” This seems to be how the show has decided to refer to mid-level death drops, which, sure.
Yvie Oddly walks into the challenge with two big anchors. One is shared with her fellow queens, as Yvie has gained a reputation for starting drama. As a massive Yvie fan, I’ve mostly defended her as a truth teller in the past. The problem, however, is that while Yvie is often correct, she is also quite loud about it. (Been there.)
Take the opening segment in this week’s episode. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is disappointed she was just safe during the ball, and Yvie notes that Vanjie turned out multiple looks in the same silhouette that the judges have critiqued her for in the past. Vanjie reveals later in the episode that she’s deeply insecure about her standing in the competition, which leads her to fight back against Yvie at the moment. A’keria Chanel Davenport attempts to cover for Vanjie by pointing out that these outfits are what Vanjie brought from home, and she can’t fix those. In confessional, Yvie — once again, correctly — points out that there’s a fabric wall and plenty of scissors and she can adjust.
What makes the situation worse is that the other queens’ attempts to read Yvie back are weak. They clock her for not serving glamour, only spooky, but the judges just told her last week to not try for glamour and stay in her lane. “You’ll never be glamour” is a Shangela circa Season 3 line. It’s Season 11. The judges like when queens have a specific brand. It’s a new world, and of this crop, I’d say only Yvie and Brooke Lynn Hytes are really living there.
I would like to see Yvie challenged or taken down a peg, but I don’t think her fellow queens will be the ones to do it. Yvie is a strong competitor, and until she’s knocked down by the competition, she’ll continue sitting on her high horse.
Unfortunately, Yvie’s second anchor is a much heavier one. The medical condition Yvie first mentioned in the Trump: The Rusical episode is far more threatening than she initially made it sound. It’s likely that Yvie’s condition will deteriorate rapidly over the next several years, and will eventually take her out of drag entirely. That’s why Drag Race matters so much to her, and why she pushes through the pain even when it’s irresponsible. The result is that Yvie turns in one of the better performances this episode, but rolls her ankle in the process. She seems to think she’ll be all right but considering what happened to Eureka previously, it’s worrying.
Luckily for her, Yvie gets to spend abbreviated time on the runway this week, as her team sweeps the challenge. A’keria as team leader wins — and while I don’t love “team captain” wins, she really earns hers. Not only was the casting on point, but A’keria works hard to keep her group on task, and kills her individual performance in the challenge. It’s a deserved victory, even in the face of Brooke Lynn once again killing a challenge on the back of her dance strength. Silky Nutmeg Ganache and Shuga Cain round out this team and mostly acquit themselves well.
Silky’s funniest moment this episode comes when choreographer Travis Wall and coach Adam Rippon enthuse that all of Team A’keria has rhythm. Through gales of laughter, Silky warns them to prepare for the next team — and hoo boy, was she right.
Team Plastique Tiara is every bit as rhythmless as Team A’keria is rhythm-blessed. Vanjie makes out the best, but she gets read hard for her basic runway. This is a tough episode for Vanjie, who is clearly in her head about not performing well this season. Listening to her voice at such a subdued and serious tone in her confessional when she’s emotional — you can tell she’s really shaken up. The foghorn is gone, replaced by a girl who seems really lost in the competition. That’s such a shame because she’s been easily one of the most fun parts of the season. She deserves at least one win by now, if not more.
Plastique does decent, both as a team leader and as a performer, but the others are different varieties of mess. Nina West does well in the performance despite her limited dance skills but comes out on the gold-themed runway in astonishingly cheap-looking Viking drag. Michelle Visage gives her a good note on how to better proportion her body, but frankly, the look was just far too homemade no matter what the shape. She lands in the bottom three for it — harsh, but understandable considering the team challenge judging.
Ra’Jah Davenport O’Hara has as many excuses as she does famous drag family names, doesn’t she! She does better with the choreography than she did during the Rusical, but she turns that into an opportunity to monologue in front of the judges about how her interaction with choreographer Yanis Marshall was so hard for her. To which I say: good God, girl, get a grip. Ra’Jah cannot get out of her own head long enough to just focus on the task in front of her. This one-sided feud with Yanis makes her look petty and difficult. I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s what actually lands her in the bottom two this week.
Ra’Jah is hardly the biggest victim this week, though. That honour goes to Scarlet, who has positively pummeled all episode. The other queens make jokes ad nauseum this week about how Scarlet can’t dance — which would be meaner if, ahem, she actually could dance — and choreographer Travis Wall seems flummoxed by her. He even jokes that she could surprise and win the challenge, that’s how unpredictable she is. Oops.
It’s not until the runway that Scarlet really comes in for a beating, though. Travis says she was the hardest person to work with his entire career, which seems like a big statement not backed up by the footage. When asked who should go home, all of her teammates name her. You can tell by how quiet she is on the runway that she’s devastated. She confesses her confidence is totally shaken this week. Despite this, she still gets one of the funniest moments of the episode, as she says Ra’Jah should be in the bottom because she already has been, “A lot.” It’s the way she says the last part that truly sends me.
Unfortunately for Scarlet, RuPaul prefers what Ra’Jah does in the lip sync to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” more, and saves her a third time. I don’t totally get why; I thought Scarlet did a nice job making up for her lack of dance skills with all kinds of fun tricks, and still moved pretty well. If someone’s going to survive three trips to the bottom, I think their third lip-sync has to be irrefutable. Jujubee’s “Something He Can Feel.” Coco Montrese’s “Cold Hearted.” This is not at that level. Alas, Ra’Jah stays, and Scarlet vanishes from the competition.
💋 It’s small, but one of my favourite moments in this episode is Yvie teaching her team how to “shablam.” She goes step-by-step, and it’s cool to see something we’ve seen so many times on this show broken down so simply. I love these kinds of technical bits on Drag Race.
💋 The DJ Shyboy songs used during the routines are amazing! I especially love the “Shade” song that A’keria’s team performs to. It’s so fun to hear Drag Race herstory looped into a challenge that doesn’t even include alumni. The show used to do a lot more of this in the Golden Age (Seasons 4 to 6), so it’s a nice throwback.
💋 I’m not entirely sure why this main challenge is judged in teams. Shuga deserves bottom three over Nina; this feels like an arbitrary time to not judge the individuals.
💋 The mini-challenge stars Love Connie, a drag queen (the rare non-Ru/non-RuGirl drag queen as a guest!) with a specialty in workout video bits, and it’s a ton of fun. I like when mini-challenges are this silly and simple; the high-concept ones recently have felt a bit too time-consuming for the payoff.
💋 “I want whatever she’s on.” A’keria has Love Connie’s number.
💋 Adam Rippon and Travis Wall are both strong guest judges, the latter perhaps a bit more technical in his critiques (though he’s done this before, so that makes sense). Mirai Nagasu, I’m sorry to say, is out of her depth. I don’t need the judges’ panel to all agree, but Mirai’s critiques are off-base in a way that goes beyond a difference of opinion. Vanjie’s look is bad no matter what you know about her past looks, for example. Mirai is proof that simply being a fan of the show doesn’t automatically make you a good guest judge, though it can help.
💋 Speaking of the guest judges: do we think Travis and Adam went out together after rehearsals? Because . . . I certainly hope they did.
💋 So no Carson Kressley this episode, but also no Ross Mathews? Was Carson OK during filming? I’m officially worried in retrospect.
💋 “There’s still way too many of us here!” Truer words never spoken, Brooke Lynn.
💋 We really need Snatch Game, y’all. I know we’re down to top nine, but there’s still some major chaff among this wheat. Either the queens who can’t hang will reveal themselves in Snatch Game, or they’ll all step up to the plate à la Season 7. Either way: t’s time.