This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race brings with it one of the most Sisyphean tasks ever devised on reality TV: the queens have to somehow learn and perform an entire ballet in the space of two days. I repeat: they had to condense a lifetime of dance training into two days. Let’s take a look at the shit that worked and the shit that sous sous’ed . . .
The queens return to the workroom immediately after Monica Beverly Hillz sashays away, and . . . wait, Monica who? No one has time for that when we could all be focusing on Vivienne Pinay and her imaginary beef with Roxxxy Andrews! Yes, for some reason, Vivienne feels that Roxxxy sabotaged her last week by actually creating a character and being funny, while Vivienne just played for pretty. Vivienne decides then and there that she will somehow sink Roxxxy’s natural talent and charm with her lack thereof!
The next day, the queens get a brand new shemail, with the underlying message being that the queens are going to have to prove they can be as light on their feet as they are in the loafers. The Dance Dance Revolution will be televised, as will any missteps, and Alaska isn’t too thrilled with it. When the queens are given their mini-challenge, to throw on some Afros and get onboard the soul train, Alaska’s dance moves look like a marionette as piloted by a drunk.
The rest of the queens fare better(ish), with all of them doing varying degrees of twerking and disco. Coco Montrese nabs herself a win, as the only queen who can pull off a convincing disco diva, and Jinkx Monsoon scores herself a victory thanks to a pretty decent split. With the winners picked, Ru drops the challenge on them: the queens will be splitting into teams (again) to act out a ballet based on RuPaul’s life, called No RuPaulogies. Yes, ballet. A form of dance that takes years upon years to be able to perform, and they’re going to put one together in two days. Come back next week, when the queens will have to squeeze a diamond out of a lump of coal in the amount of time it takes to reheat pad thai.
The division of teams kicks off with a twist when Coco immediately picks Alyssa Edwards, her sworn rival and the only trained dancer in the group. Literally a day after she tried to blame her hot boo-boo mess of a performance on her rivalry with Alyssa, Coco’s already shackling herself to her for another round? Smart. Either way, Coco also recruits Roxxxy, Vivienne, Honey Mahogany and Detox, while Jinkx grabs hold of Alaska, Lineysha Sparx, Ivy Winters and a whiny, passive-aggressive Jade Jolie, who’s going to spend the rest of this week bitching and moaning that her best friend Coco didn’t pick her for her team.
Subjecting the queens to a task this gloriously impossible is a trainwreck waiting to happen, as each queen is done in one by one in a clusterfuck of failure. Some queens have no idea how to dance, some are paired up with deadweight partners, and in the oddly specific case of Honey and Lineysha, both are tasked with playing Diana Ross, though neither one of them knows anything about her. The entire challenge is best summed up in this exchange between Lineysha and one of the producers:
Producer: Do you know who Diana Ross is?
Lineysha: *DEAD-EYED STARE*
So this is going to end well.
The queens do, however, have help in the form of the choreographers from Shaping Sound. To say that the queens eye-fuck the new man-candy is an understatement: their hearts beat out of their chests and their eyes burst out of their sockets like they’re in a Tex Avery cartoon. If it were possible to get pregnant from a look, these poor dancers would be dilating by day’s end.
Unfortunately, they also represent what’s wrong with this challenge as a whole: it takes away a lot of the creativity that the queens have at their disposal in favour of making them hit the right steps. The best challenges on Drag Race give the queens a template and let them colour it in on their own. But this challenge mostly involves laying a path and seeing how closely the queens can adhere to it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give them much room to fuck with convention.
Which isn’t to say that camp queens Alaska and Jinkx don’t get to chew the scenery. Alaska, despite having the grace of a Boston terrier, manages to hide her lack of choreographic ability by creating a fully formed character, portraying Ru’s sass-mouthed mother brilliantly. Jade and Lineysha’s act, involving a young Ru idolizing Diana Ross, is wholly unremarkable and easily eclipsed by Jinkx’s portrayal of an early-era RuPaul, gallavanting around Manhattan with Ivy’s Lady Bunny. Not only does Jinkx hit all the right marks, but she integrates snapping party favours and plenty of confetti into her set to put it over the top.
Team Coco takes the stage for Act 2 and starts things off with a bang by portraying Ru’s dark days, with Coco as good Ru and Alyssa as Dark Ru, fighting to the death. Alyssa is clearly the single best dancer of the group, channelling the dance through every inch of her body, and the two nemeses create an enthralling number. Detox and Honey’s pairing ends with a whimper, as Detox tries everything she can to save a floundering number but is hampered by Honey’s limp, lifeless caricature of Miss Ross. Act 2 finally limps to the finish line, with Roxxxy and Vivienne like a pair of little girls at a ballet recital, where the parents leave as soon as their kids’ number is done.
The mainstage runway, normally the highlight of the show, is condensed into about 10 seconds as each queen is basically marched out in front of the firing squad instead of being given the opportunity to pose and vamp while the judges snipe at them with pithy wit. As quickly as they came, Alaska, Jade, Lineysha, Coco and Detox are given their safe cards and are allowed to grab a cocktail while the rest of the girls get read.
Top spots go to Alyssa, Jinkx and Ivy, who all danced with proficiency and hit the choreography with precision. But since Alyssa hit the most steps correctly, she wins. For the bottom three, Roxxxy is given her warning shot over her loose choreography, but it’s Vivienne and Honey who are clearly in the bottom this week, as the two of them consistently bore the judges. Honey has underperformed in every challenge, and her love of shiftless caftans has the judges clawing at their own eyes. But Vivienne, on the other hand, sticks out as a queen who should have been gone long ago. Vivienne, by and large, represents the worst kind of drag: the idea that drag queens are meant to be pretty and fishy, and nothing else. Honey may be bland, but Vivienne is fundamentally toxic, and her bitchy attitude and lack of talent marks her as an easy out.
But then things go from bad to unlawfully ass-tastic. After dumping such an insurmountable challenge on them, RuPaul decides to lob a softball at Honey and Vivienne by making them lip-sync to Britney Spears’ “Oops! . . . I Did It Again,” which I’m assuming is like the drag equivalent of a thumb war. And they completely blow it. They’re given one of the easiest songs to sing and dance to, and the two of them do nothing but walk and talk, walk and talk, walk and talk. It’s like the fucking West Wing. To her credit, Honey at least has the wherewithal to touch her collarbone, presumably to check to see that it didn’t mysteriously snap since she touched it five seconds ago.
When it’s over, the room is dead silent. I’m not saying it was about as lively as a funeral, but the CEO of Logo sent the cast and crew a floral arrangement and their sympathies. Ru, who has clearly had enough of this shit, decides to do something different: she sends them both home. I can’t say I’m all that sad to see Ru cutting the fat faster than usual. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, Vivienne Pinay is a lot like fish: they start to stink after a while.