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

A friend sent me a message Friday night, to text him once I saw this week’s episode so we could exchange thoughts. My response, before watching, was “I need this anguish to end!!” It was a joke. Unfortunately, the episode only made my personal gay TV hell much worse.

This was a great episode. It was a terrible episode. This episode, of all, was the most emblematic of the season. It was so good! It was truly foul. If this season were a train, we had a great, bumpy ride that we thought was going to head into the sunset but dropped off a cliff, committing to being bad. I’m not mad: I’m furious.

In short, this end-of-the-season, faux finale committed to mediocrity by building up drama only to say “Well…everyone’s a winner!” All the stakes of the season were removed, solidifying how fucked up it all got by really, really, really shitty production decisions (No initial elimination, bringing back Cynthia, no double eliminations when needed for people like Cynthia and Farrah, letting Eureka go early, no design challenges, too big of a cast, too many episodes, shorter episodes, moving to VH1, missing Mathieu Anderson among many, many other errors.) that doomed the season. This is divisive to say but this final (“final”) episode confirmed that this season was worse than season seven. Unlike seven, this season had potential: it had star power, both in the cast and judging; it had fun, both in the episode and off; and—most importantly—it had a magnifying glass over it, via VH1 and via Logo. What did it do with it? Water everything down in a desert, offering no substance when you need it most. I am fuming, dust of this season all over my hands.

I have so many thoughts that this post will barely be able to contain as I type with clenched fists. I’m sorry to be so critical but, again, this is our (LGBTQ people’s) one cultural export and we blew it. We sold out. Here are four (FOUR. BECAUSE THERE ARE STILL FOUR QUEENS.) thoughts on this week’s episode based on all the queens still in competition. God help us.

4. Todrick, The New Lucian.
One flash of good news that the show should have addressed on air or on Twitter or something sooner, to clear confusion: Todrick Hall is the new Luciane Piane. Yes, we were all wondering what would happen to the former music consultant cum lost cause (Who, honestly, needs help: just peruse his Insta. Shit has gotten a lot worse, where he’s begging fans for money and calling his blood sisters “cunts.” It’s sad.) because he was once an integral part of the show. This season did not answer the question and, instead, used Todrick—Who was a judge on All Stars—as a recurring person whose role was somewhere in between guest, mentor, and judge, It was confusing. But now? We get it. It was necessary and he did an excellent job fulfilling the role, now that it was finally given. He can teach singing and dancing and has some ace commentary, like telling Sasha that her rapping was like “Saying lines into a voicemail.” and that Trinity’s taking choreography was like “Watching her on Skype.” He has earned his keep—and then some. Unfortunately, it took twelve episodes to specify his purpose.

3. Entertain Us, Queens.
This episode was interesting because we actually got some real queen entertainment. They had to write and sing and dance and lip sync, which was a nice surprise given how “nice” everything has been for them over the past few weeks. The funny thing with this challenge was that fake drama was created around whether the queens wanted to sing, rap, or “do spoken word” when the song ultimately seemed like a rap to begin with: just tell them they have to rap and be done with it. Anyway. Shea could actually rap, which was impressive while Peppermint brought her same old performative strength while both Trinity and Sasha seemed to do terribly but well. The choreography was frightening as both Trinity and Sasha looked like messes—and you were expecting the two of them to go against each other in a lip sync as a result. It was produced to be that way! But, nope, they got a pat on the back. Sweet. The biggest note was that Sasha’s rap and performance was just “CLAT: The Prequel” and seemingly exposed her as one trick, only able to talk about how “weird” she is, how “artsy” she is, how gender is a “construct,” and all her other bullshit. Over her.

2. The Biggest Loser? Talent.
One of the more infuriating aspects of the episode was that you realized during the choreography session that this entire season has been on training wheels: there has never been a competition. No one ever really had to sweat and, if they did, we didn’t see it. Like season seven, this season was composed of way too many acting challenges which serve as excuses and shields for queens who cannot sew, who cannot sing, who cannot dance, and who cannot do much of anything else but be themselves. Think about it: why would their introductory Gaga challenge be completely composed of outfits that were pre-made? Why did they do a morning show and a TV show and a roast and a TV pilot? The Kardashian musical and the makeovers were most challenging while the cheerleading was an inventive, more basic answer to doing actual choreography. There was only one instance of quick drag and nary an element of surprise: these queens weren’t cut out for anything else but being themselves and it very, very much is showing, particularly when someone like Shea got up and aced her choreography and the others visibly shuddered because, for the first time, you saw that someone had talent and was a threat. It should be like that every episode. The drama shouldn’t come from fake out moments like sending Eureka home or botched lip syncs: it should happen throughout the episode. Similarly, to end by giving everyone a pass to finale—instead of calling Sasha out for wearing a fucking thrift store dress and the same make up in both performance and runway, telling Shea she has worn the same form for the past five challenges, and Peppermint that the hoop on her dress was too short—was just bad form. It sucked out the competition and made the episode pointless. Yeah, sure, their speeches were fine but only Trinity looked like she was dressed for the finale runway. Pair this with the fact that we will have to sit through two weeks of bloated bullshit before the malnourished finale on June 22? Stupid. I’m tired of the show getting by on mediocrity. It’s better than this but it’s playing to an audience who is newly joined instead of people who have seen the show do better, in simpler and gayer TV times.

1. End Of A God Damned Era.
What really burned me was that the iconic one-on-one final interview via a lunch of Tic Tacs™ had officially been replaced by podcast appearances that are ultimately promos for RuPaul’s third party content. No one was even given a god damned Tic Tac but instead—in a symbolic movement of ???—Shea and Sasha were give fucking Squatty Pottys™. The first time it happened, funny. The second time? Disgusting. It was like my soul and your soul and the show’s soul was being given away for literal shit product money. It felt cheap and was extremely disappointing. Those interviews were all nice albeit predictable (Pep on being trans; Shea on being bullied; Sasha on her mom) save for Trinity’s very real breakdown about life being hard. Pair this with a messy four way lip sync where you couldn’t see what the fuck was going on and you have a very flat, safe, boring something. Of all shows, Drag Race should never be boring and this was boring through and through. There was no bite but instead a lot of clear strings on the puppets: Pep has to stay as to not seem offensive or anti-trans, Sasha has to stay because she’s the fan favorite, and Shea and Trinity deserve their spots and should be the only two moving forward because they brought it every week. If the show is a metaphor for the gay experience, I want off the fucking ship because it’s sailing toward some It Gets Better bullshit of everyone getting a pat on the back because hashtag love wins. I get positivity, I do. But this is a reality competition with drag queens: it should be a dog-eat-dog environment. Instead, everything is too nice and everything is boring. I want to be rid of this suffering: my own personal Doomsday Clock for this show is nearing midnight.

Maybe I’m being hyperbolic but this episode really fucking burned me. I’m mad.

Here’s my updated ranking.

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
9. Aja
8. Farrah Moan
7. Valentina (I still miss you.)
6. Nina Bo’Nina Brown
5. Alexis Michelle
4. Peppermint (Maintained. She won’t win but good she made it here since she is indeed legendary.)
3. Sasha Velour (Maintained. Fuck Sasha. This episode made it clear that she is an extremely watered down Sharon Needles. Moreover, you don’t go around telling people you are weird and artsy: you have to be weird and artsy. She’s the Hot Topic equivalent of interesting. She sucks and is for teens watching this show who didn’t live through the actually gag-worthy looks and talent of Sharon Needles. Sasha sucks.)
2. Shea Coulee (Down one. Despite a very strong performance, her final runway was so underwhelming that I had to dock her.)
1. Trinity Taylor (Up One. The underdog with a tuck of steel! Since we’re in a drought of talent, Trinity actually has something the other’s do not. She would be an unlikely winner—but she is most deserving. She is an actual drag queen instead of a drag performer. I would appreciate if she won.) (Or even Shea.) (Just not Sasha.)

That is what I want to happen. But what will happen?

Let’s investigate since we have some analytics from Facebook.

4. Peppermint: She’s in last place in the official Like count and her finale runway look only has 1.6 thousand Likes from a popular fan group.
3. Shea Coulee: The former top pick has slipped with fans and is officially in third place with her runway look only getting 2.1 thousand Likes.
2. Trinity Taylor: Surprisingly, Trinity is riding close to second with 2.7 thousand Likes for her runway. Which means…
1. Sasha Velour: Sadly, as we’ve discussed, Sasha is the fan favorite and is raking in the love while her very OK albeit dramatic runway look has 4.1 thousand Likes. I hate it all.

That barometer alone—knowing that Sasha is most beloved—will be the marker for me. If she—a queen who never won anything on her own and who wore a thrift store dress in the final runway with a crown that we had seen many times before on her—wins, that will be all I need to know about the state of the show: it will confirm that it is not for me but for teens, that RuPaul has auctioned himself off to the highest bidding Emmy voter.

What do you all think? The fog of hope around me is disappearing fast.

Photo via.

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