Four Thoughts On RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season Nine, Episode Eleven

This season is ending soon, right? It doesn’t really feel like that but we all know it must be true.

Ironically, it took this long to finally get an actual, fully formed episode. It’s a triumph of…reality television? It felt like entertainment instead of queer ambassadorship for the first time in a long time. Better late than never? I don’t know and I only borderline care.

4. “Remember Me? I’m RuPaul!”
What was most striking about this episode was that RuPaul herself was actually in the episode as RuPaul instead of the strange, bizarre, Emmy winning doppelgänger who thinks her presence on the show is only to usher one moment to another moment without any personality. That’s not what we got this week! We saw Ru introduce a mini-challenge, Ru show off her a fantastic little sex ribbon dance, Ru visit the work room to talk to contestants in an off-the-cuff manner, Ru joke back to celebrities on the runway, Ru making borderline insensitive jokes about native Americans, and Ru giving honest critiques and reactions to the runway. It took eleven episodes to realize yet another thing this season has been missing: RuPaul herself.

3. Great Challenge, Great Runway, Great Lip Sync, Great Episode.
The fact that Ru existed for this forty minutes of content was aided this episode’s actually being good. It was an actual reality television entry! The rest have felt very after school special or like a borderline shitty documentary with a dwindling cast but you actually saw the contestants be reality stars on this episode. It started off with a delightfully bitchy puppet challenge leading to real work being done in the work room to a very gay runway and quite wonderful lip sync. It was a back-to-basics moment, where people make looks and show them off. Sometimes, life is best when it’s simple—and the results walked the runway: everyone—save for Alexis—actually looked quite nice. Yes, they were all individually predictable per a queen’s aesthetic but they were fun in that regard. Imagine if this were episode two or three? That would have been great but, nope, the bloated cast and equally as bloated “challenges” provided less-is-more in terms of actually getting to see what people can do. Such a challenge earlier would have gotten Alexis axed earlier, if the show was still true to its roots.

2. Sasha, Worst Best Student.
Here’s the thing: Sasha was kind of the best this week, through and through. She killed the puppet challenge and pulled through with the all-too-taxing choreography and even was fun on the runway, in her own, predictable Sasha way. What bothers me about her is that she is the student in high school who goes out of her way to be the best and most creative student. She’s nice and lovely and in no way bad but she is a bit of the queer, straight A art kid type (which I know because I was her in high school—many of us were): she does the homework exactly right, with flair and intrigue, but is ultimately somewhat boring because there is no life behind the eyes. It’s all intentional brushstrokes seeking an A+ instead of drag intrigue. There is no improvisation or naturalness and, for whatever reason, that really bugs me as she simultaneously seems brimming with life while completely devoid of it. It’s no wonder all the new fans love her. If the season wants to sell its soul to the gods that crafted this season so poorly, Sasha will win because they “listened to the fans.” If the show wants to retain any ounce of dignity or respect or even Ru’s point of view, the win will be shaken up by Trinity or go right to Shea, which we are all predicting. (Also, if Pep wins then…surprised? Not displeased but a bit shocked.)

1. Alexis Wears No Clothes.
God. How lucky are we that this plague has ended? The thing about Alexis is, like Sasha, she is a high school type: the desperate, delusional theatre kid who thinks they deserve constant praise via A+ approvals but is realistically barely a B- student. She also kept killing herself and getting killed repeatedly this episode, serving as a fitting metaphor for her seasonal arc. She got skewered by Peppermint as a puppet, failed her puppet presentation comparatively, bombed every runway, failed “stoning” her own dress (which she tried to use as an excuse), outed herself as a rich kid via her parents in Untucked (Also: who made the painting on her parents’ wall? I loved it.), and was served on a platter for elimination at the hands of the extra wig Peppermint threw off. She was so suburbia boring and, in the top five, that should never happen. At least Roxxxy Andrews had some charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Alexis? Some talent—and that’s it. As Ru said, summing it all up, she always “left [the] judges with reservations.”

One more episode? Or two? Or three? I assume two since the reunion is airing on June 16, which better not be “live” because that will kill so much of the drama but, hey, everything died this season and I’m fully expecting to get no explanations for anything but instead being served stupid musical numbers by a sub-par top three.

Here’s the ranking, which is unadjusted and has a little Valentina note.

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
9. Aja
8. Farrah Moan
7. Valentina (Wouldn’t she have killed it this week? I mean, so Valentina but also…so much better than a lot of what we saw this week, sheesh.)
6. Nina Bo’Nina Brown
5. Alexis Michelle (Maintained—and out. Finally. This cast is clean.)
4. Peppermint (Maintained. She was great this week! Still, someone had to lip sync.)
3. Sasha Velour (Maintained. Fine.)
2. Trinity Taylor (Maintained. More and more impressed with her. Moreover, she was a shining bitch with a personality this week. I kind of want her to take it? But…)
1. Shea Coulee (Maintained. She’s still most on top. I guess you really did come here to slay, Shea.)

What did you think? Do you think Sasha is going to slide in as the win at the hands of fans and then, subsequently, kill you and the show? That’s how I feel.

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