Land, ho! We have arrived on shore, fresh from our trip on the rocky waters of Snatch Game At Sea — which, it must be noted, is just normal Snatch Game sponsored by a gay travel agency that isn’t disgraced former RuPaul’s Drag Race sponsor Al And Chuck Travel. And what have we found on shore after disembarking? A truly terrific episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race!
I am, for the first time this season, truly ecstatic to talk about this episode with you gays, girls, straight men who enjoy the show (and for that we salute you) and all other persons. “Snatch Game at Sea” is, despite its dubious nautical theme, the best episode of Drag Race this season.
To quote Stefon, it has everything. There’s a solid rendition of Snatch Game that features a couple of standout celebrity impressions, but is mostly filled with entertaining flops. There was the best runway of the season, with a few knockout looks and one incredible reveal. There was drama to spare, complete with different interactions and a fairly complex understanding that not all fights resolve the same way. There was a master class workroom session with a former winner that had me cheering at the computer.
And then there was that lip sync.
Sorry, can we start at the end? Is that uncouth? I know we generally follow a format here, but I just can’t help myself. That lip sync was one of the most incredible feats I have ever seen on the Drag Race stage. Every time Yvie Oddly or Brooke Lynn Hytes one-upped her opponent, they came back with something even more gag-worthy. Set to the strains of “Sorry Not Sorry” — one of Demi Lovato’s best songs, it must be said — the two frontrunning queens gave everything they had to stay. It was the most deserving double shantay since Alyssa Edwards and Roxxxy Andrews’ “Whip My Hair” smackdown in Season 5.
Double saves have become something of a joke on Drag Race, largely because they’ve felt compulsory to fill out a certain number of episodes in the last two seasons. Did Eureka and Kameron Michaels really need to both stick around after “New Attitude”? Was there really a purpose beyond story for the Latrice Royale/Monique Heart double shantay? Of course not. So when one happens, there’s a fair tendency to greet it with an eye-roll or a shrug.
Not this one, though. These are two queens want to stay in more than anything, after truly and totally flopping at the challenge. Because hoo boy, they were bad in Snatch Game. Yvie’s Whoopi Goldberg is particularly tragic, with none of the iconic catchphrases that really work in Snatch Game. She opts to take on a more laid-back approach to Whoopi, which is not necessarily inaccurate, but just bad strategy. It’s not going to be the kind of thing that works in this quippy, hog-the-spotlight environment.
Meanwhile, Brooke Lynn’s Celine Dion seems like it should be a home run, what with how much quirkiness there is to parody about Celine and their Canadian connection. Unfortunately, she misses just about every mark along the way. The voice is wrong, everything except a gesture or two is off-base and none of her jokes land. It’s a major fall from grace for someone who hasn’t really missed a beat this whole competition.
Where Brooke Lynn succeeds — besides the lip sync — is on the runway. She comes out in a hippie-style cloak, albeit in hot pink, and big, dark hair. In one fluid motion, she removes both, revealing a sexy bodysuit and long blonde wig underneath. The presentation is jaw-dropping, the best reveal the Drag Race runway has seen since Violet Chachki’s tartan jumpsuit. She even adds a death drop to her runway walk for good measure. In comparison, Yvie’s runway just can’t measure up; it’s cute, but Michelle Visage rightfully clocks that it’s a little bit of a mishmash of different styles.
This is a remarkably strong runway overall, though, with the entire top three turning out strong sequin looks. My personal favorite is Shuga Cain’s — yes, Shuga’s in the top! Her gown is a dream; Ru even calls it one of her favorite dresses to ever hit the Drag Race main stage. During Snatch Game, Shuga performs as Charo, and she’s a blast.
It’s pretty wild that this is actually the first Charo in Snatch Game (though Yara Sofia did her for All Stars 1’s ill-conceived impersonation challenge, Gaff-In). Charo is a bullseye on RuPaul’s pop cultural preferences, and she’s such a big personality that she’s pretty easy to do. The energy she brings to Snatch Game, plus her gorgeous eggplant gown, earns Shuga a solid top three spot.
Nina West and Silky Nutmeg Ganache join her in the top echelon, both placing above her. Nina pulls a card from Bob the Drag Queen’s winning deck and does two characters in Snatch Game: Harvey Fierstein and Jo Anne Worley. Neither is super recognizable for a young audience, but they’re in Ru’s wheelhouse, and she scores plenty of laughs. She’s outgunned by Silky, though, who looks fantastic on the runway in a gown and absolutely dominates Snatch Game as TS Madison. Ru notes during deliberations that Silky nails the banter of the game that she loves so much, and it’s clear that’s what gets the queen her second main challenge win of the season. (She also wins the mini-challenge, making this a clean sweep week for Silky.)
Silky is also a part of the main drama of the episode, which mostly extends from last week’s Untucked. I hadn’t seen the episode at the time I wrote last week’s recap, but suffice to say it was an electric half-hour of television. Yvie was the main character, fighting with both Silky and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
By my estimation, Silky has the more valid issue with Yvie, as the spooky queen said that Silky has no talent in Untucked. Silky proves her wrong this week, of course, and Yvie does admit her fault and apologizes, but the damage is done. I imagine Silky will get some flack for being stubborn and not forgiving Yvie, but I think she’s well within her right to harbour the grudge for a bit.
Vanjie, meanwhile, really took it from zero to 60 in 3.5 in Untucked, and I don’t think her argument has quite as much merit. She tries to say Yvie is fake for being kind to her one second and critical the next, but that’s just what being a person is. Sometimes you’re in a good mood, sometimes you’re in a bad one. Now, if Vanjie’s argument was that Yvie goes too far when she’s critical, I’d have agreed. But that’s not really what she says. And she seems to realize her point isn’t that solid, because she brings Yvie over to apologize during preparation for the runway.
I like that we see two different resolutions for different problems in this episode. Silky isn’t at the point where she can heal with Yvie; Vanjie is. It’s a nice, nuanced reminder that not all reality TV conflict is created equal.
Honestly, it’s really impressive how many levels this episode works on. Every story is given adequate time. All the queens get plenty of focus. Even though not all of their Snatch Game performances are great, we get at least a couple of answers from each queen, and the scene still moves at a nice pace. And we get an incredibly satisfying conclusion in the lip sync. If this is the new normal for Season 11, I think we’re in for an amazing second half of the season.
💋 I didn’t even get into one of my favourite parts of the episode! Jinkx Monsoon, Season 5 winner and theatre drag icon, returns to act as an advisor to the queens for Snatch Game. Her clinic is masterful, full of a ton of important advice for the contestants. She aptly notes the obscurity of Nina’s characters and tells her how she made the similarly obscure (to a certain audience) Little Edie from Grey Gardens more digestible. She brings up Detox’s disastrous Kesha as a warning for Vanjie to not go for lowest-common-denominator humour as Danielle “Bhad Bhabie” Bregoli. And she gives Brooke Lynn great advice that the Canadian queen ignores: to go for over-exaggeration. Every bit of this segment is amazing, and I would love to see more queens brought in to advise on the challenges they’re best known for. Bring Violet in for a ball! Bring Adore Delano in for a singing challenge! We deserve their wisdom.
💋 Less effective among the cameos is Season 2’s Morgan McMichaels, on set to shill for Postmates. Aw, poor Morgan deserves better than sponcon.
💋 A lot of sponcon this episode, actually, what with Snatch Game also now promoted by a brand. I vastly prefer the winking self-promotion of Ru selling her own book to the more craven promotional plays like these.
💋 This week’s mini-challenge is actually an adaptation of a Season 2 main challenge: come up with a name and description for your self-help book, and take a photo for the cover. It’s fun to see a little throwback like that. As I mentioned, Silky wins, though I take issue with her claiming “Eat It” as her title. That’s Latrice’s line, girl.
💋 The queens do not even take a second to read Ra’Jah Davenport O’Hara’s mirror message. Karma for her not wanting to read Scarlet Envy’s, perhaps?
💋 I do like having Ross Mathews for Snatch Game, but it’s yet another episode without Carson Kressley. But hark! I got an answer from Drag Race PR on this. Apparently, scheduling conflicts kept Carson away from Drag Race for the first half of the season. He’ll judge episodes in the back half. In the meantime, we get Ross’ delightfully gay impersonations of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
💋 Vanjie comes out on the runway in yet another bodysuit, and I have never in my life yelled at a girl like this. She even notes as she’s walking down the runway that she shouldn’t be wearing it! I’ll have a lot more to say about The Lady Vanjie in the power ranking tomorrow.
💋 Maybe my favourite critique of the episode is Michelle calling Brooke Lynn’s Celine “a confused realtor maybe from Toronto.”
💋 Clea Duvall is a ton of fun as a guest judge. She gets in a great line about Silky’s 22-inch wig as TS Madison, and what she thought 22 inches was referring to. Tony Hale is disappointing, making him the third underwhelming straight male guest judge this season. Gee, I wonder why?
💋 Just one final note on this: I know I’ve been very hard on this season. I feel like Drag Race has been in a slump for several years now, and watching this one get off to such a rough start was disheartening. In truth, 15 queens were just never going to be sensible for a coherent first few episodes; it’s too many players on the field, even for 90-minute episodes. But this top eight is well-matched, and we’ve got plenty of active, interesting storylines at work. I’m so excited to see what else this season has in store; it has the potential to be a real return to form for my favourite show.