IT’S SNATCH GAME!
Sorry, did I surprise you? I was trying to emulate the tone of this episode, which could best be described as “in-your-face.” It starts with the absolute breakneck pace of the opening, in which Ru forfeits his usual RuMail message and doesn’t bother with any banter when he enters the workroom. No mini-challenge, either; the game of the day is Snatch Game, and that’s it!
The contestants look genuinely taken aback at this quick announcement, and I understand why. As this show’s signature challenge, Snatch Game is usually introduced with a fair bit of pageantry. There often isn’t a mini-challenge (which I actually like as it gives more time for the feature presentation), but there is usually a speech about the significance of hitting this point in the competition. At a minimum, Ru typically amps up his ordinary challenge announcement enthusiasm to 100. But no, there’s no time for bits this season: We are charging full steam ahead into Drag Race’s celebrity impersonation challenge.
With 10 queens left (a somewhat, if not historically, high number for Snatch Game), every queen will need to knock every ball they’re pitched out of the park in the challenge. There isn’t a ton of time for them to get multiple chances with Ru—getting a sense of the theme this week?—so every joke matters. And some of the queens choose particularly risky characters, which means they’re walking even thinner tightropes in this challenge. Can Widow Von’Du execute two characters in limited time? Can Crystal Methyd introduce Ru and the audience to Poppy while still making the strange YouTube sensation funny? Can Gigi Goode pull off a knock-off Sophia the Robot with delayed, robotic comic timing?
In the latter case, Ru’s concern for Gigi’s character choice is unfounded. The frontrunner from Los Angeles continues to dominate this week, turning out an inspired “Maria the Robot” that ably mixes verbal and physical humour. She milks Maria’s deficiencies as not a real person, like her inability to pick the Snatch Game card up with her stiff hands, but gets the most laughs when she makes Maria as filthy as any other human. (Upon pronouncing “vagina” with a hard G, Ru says she meant the normal pronunciation. “I meant what I said,” Gigi-as-Maria replies, snarling.)
It’s a pretty decisive victory for Gigi this week, although I’d like to tip my wine glass to Jackie Cox’s Lisa Rinna. I knew this would be her choice since I’ve seen her do Rinna plenty of times on Watch What Happens Live, but I had no idea just how great she would be. Jackie knows Rinna, inside and out, and throws out a million jokes a minute. Any Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fan can tell you just how great this impersonation is (loved the “Don’t talk about my husband!” bit), and while it’s not quite as sharp as Gigi’s, it occupies a special place in my heart.
Beyond those two (and Sherry Pie, as the disqualified queen once again takes a high-scoring spot), everyone else is pretty mediocre. Jaida Essence Hall and Heidi N. Closet manage to be entertaining as Cardi B and Leslie Jones, because they’re funny people and they pick entertaining characters. It’s a smart formula to stay safe, not smart for taking the win. It is better than Widow’s Ike-and-Tina Turner act, which is proof positive that two characters on Snatch Game is not the best idea.
Crystal’s Poppy fails to make Ru laugh, which is a classic Snatch Game mistake, but it never really feels like she’s in trouble. That’s because Aiden Zhane and Brita have both fucked up this week. They are the clear bottom two, giving us a seemingly inevitable lip-sync battle.
Aiden does an odd, inaccurate take on Patricia Quinn—Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show—because she’s had lunch with Patricia and she wants to do someone she knows. (Brita saying “I hang out with my mom, doesn’t mean she’s funny” is simultaneously a good knock on Aiden and an absolutely brutal read of her own mother.) She includes no real references to Rocky Horror, which is a major unforced error. Ru doesn’t care what Patricia Quinn is like now! Give him some damn Rocky Horror references!
Brita looks the part as Jennifer Holliday, but that’s about it. She seems to have prepared exactly one joke: That the Dreamgirls actress has a loose jaw. None of her riffs on that joke land, to the point where even her beloved New York sisters are shitting on her work in their confessional. As Jan says, Jennifer’s just a louder version of Brita—which is truly saying something, when you think about it. A louder Brita! Who knew such a thing was possible!
If you can’t tell, I’m thoroughly over these two queens, and I’m enthusiastic about them both falling into the lip sync. Their feud storyline had gotten repetitive—Aiden herself can’t believe Brita is once again dragging her in the cold open—but unfortunately, with whatever was happening with Sherry taken out of the edit, there wasn’t much other story to rely on. This feud plotline ending means we’re onto whatever’s next for the show, and I’m very glad to see it.
The lip sync song is “Let It Go,” but not the Idina Menzel version of “Let It Go” from Frozen the movie! It’s not even the Demi Lovato version that she recorded as a pop single for the first movie’s soundtrack. No, it’s Caissie Levy’s version from Frozen the Musical—as in, the Broadway musical. Levy was the original Elsa (Ciara Renée was most recently playing the role before Broadway shut down), and she sings a much more theatrical arrangement of the song. It is wild.
If you’re wondering why, it’s because there seems to have been some low-key sponsorship deal for this episode. The runway is also Frozen-themed, with several queens explicitly citing characters as their inspirations (Jackie’s look is Elsa-inspired, for instance), and Ru says the inspiration is specifically “the Broadway musical.” They don’t even mention that Frozen the movie exists. And if there were some kind of “this episode is brought to you by” message in the episode, as there was when Vacaya sponsored last season’s “Snatch Game at Sea,” I’d understand it. But as it stands, the sponsorship feels very under-the-table. Granted, I don’t see ads when I screen episodes, so it’s entirely possible that the ad breaks will be full of Frozen advertisements. Still, that doesn’t bode well for how the episode’s “inspiration” will hold up after this initial airing.
Anyway, Brita brings out sparklers during “Let It Go” (Aquaria’s impact) and generally interprets the song much more powerfully than Aiden does. The Georgian queen goes home, while the New York City queen lives, only to inevitably be sent home very soon.
Do I sound annoyed by this episode? I worry I do; it really was a solid installment, with a decent Snatch Game. It’s just that this season is not particularly subtle in its storytelling—you can tell exactly who the frontrunners are, who will go out long before, who’s being situated as Miss Congeniality, and so on. The narrative building is obvious, though I’ll take that over the utter failure to launch a story in Season 11. But the show can’t expect to surprise its audience when every twist and turn is heavily telegraphed. The story editors would do well to take the reigns and…let them go.
✨ Miss Vanjie—not Vanessa Vanjie Mateo anymore, it seems, just Miss Vanjie—comes into the workroom as a guest coach during Snatch Game preparations. And my response to that is: Why? Don’t get me wrong, I love having her here, and she’s easily the funniest part of this episode. But Vanjie, by her own admission, flopped at Snatch Game. The show tries to lean on this by saying she’s there to instruct the queens on what not to do, but that just seems like handwaving. Especially after having Jinkx Monsoon do this coaching last season, Vanjie just seems like the strangest fit.
✨ Vanjie immediately gets to hitting on Jackie, turning around from her sadly failed romance with Brooke Lynn Hytes. “You know I’m known for walking into the workroom and walking out with a piece,” she says. Literally every line in this segment is gold: “I ain’t no sugar mama, but I could give you a Lunchable or something.” When the other queens laugh at Vanjie: “Don’t be jealous! Don’t be mad! The peanut gallery…” When Jackie says she might do Julie Andrews: “I love Julia Roberts. One of my favourite movies is Pretty Woman.” Vanjie really is a comic savant.
✨ In terms of actual advice, the walkthrough is pretty bleak: Ru walks around barking at queens to do other characters, telling Heidi to do Phaedra Parks from Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Crystal do El DeBarge—again. “If I were you, I’d do motherfucking El DeBarge,” Ru says. “Do you need a brick to fall on your head?” It’s just not helpful, when Crystal has made clear she doesn’t really know who El DeBarge is, and Kennedy Davenport proved Phaedra is a bad Snatch Game character back in All Stars 3.
✨RUPAUL: “Is there anything else I need to tell you?”
CRYSTAL: “Um…‘You are the winner of this week’s challenge.’”
✨ Considering how many times we’ve seen white queens sniff that queens of colour don’t know their cultural reference points, there’s some sweet justice in Widow knocking Jackie down a peg for not knowing she was Tina Turner. “Someone’s cultured in this bitch,” she sniffs when Heidi gets it and Jackie doesn’t.
✨ Daniel Franzese and Jonathan Bennett don’t make for great guests, to be frank. They’re too scripted in the Snatch Game banter, and the reliance on them as Mean Girls stars is all the stranger considering the Frozen theming on the runway. Why not get Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell to do this instead? Were they busy?
✨ In terms of actual judging, Daniel is much more technical and observant than Jonathan (who tries to pull focus the entire episode, most egregiously during the lip sync). I wouldn’t mind seeing him come back when he can properly judge on his own.
✨ Interesting to hear the show actually acknowledges what we’ve all known for a while: Copyrighted characters can’t be played in Snatch Game. We’ve heard this from queens off the show, but it’s always good to get a rule declared on the show proper.
✨ Dahlia Sin showing up in the broccoli costume once again to present the Snatch Game logo had me hollering. Keep this up all season, RPDR, and I’ll forgive all the blunt storytelling in the world.