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

Remember last week, when I said episode five was the first good episode? I was wrong. I was grasping. I was parched, dryly searching for premium content. I realize I misspoke after watching this week’s episode. Now I am pleasantly sated.

Here are nine thoughts on this week’s episode based on the nine queens still in the competition.

9. Reality Bites
The opening scene of recent episodes has been a slog of pettiness but this week was the breakthrough we needed: there was legitimate drama, when Farrah fucking snapped at Nina, asking her if she wanted to be in the competition. It was a genuine reality bitch moment that you rarely see on this show anymore. Yes, there was an almost immediate apology love fest but there was a delightful tension of Farrah and Nina going at each other, suggesting actual frustration and realness over performance for the camera. It was truly fantastic.

8. RuPaul Visits The Workroom?
RuPaul visited the workroom! That still happens? It’s hard to remember the original tropes of the show—mini challenges, RuPaul visiting the workroom, constructing runway looks, etc.—because they’ve all been edited out for fans to search for on various Logo social media. It’s annoying. Anyway, it was nice to see him stop by to give quick reads and critiques of the queens and to hammer something in: the ghosts of Snatch Games past lurk low and will snatch you up if you aren’t careful. Ru’s talk with Cynthia and Sasha was most revealing, the latter of which was an LOL lesson in timing (because Judith Butler would have been so fabulously queer insider if Sasha had better pace). Surprisingly, no queen had a last minute change of character after speaking to Ru and, if they did, we have no idea since all the actual reality of the show has been cut out.

7. Wig? Mostly Snatched.
Leading up to this episode I Tweeted some concern about the episode after seeing photos leak of who the queens would be imitating. I was scared! Usually this is all a surprise and this seemed like an error of TMI made in the desperation of a failing effort. Wrong: this Snatch Game was not the best but there were some very strong moments. Alexis obviously did Liza because she is your out-of-touch stepmother. Shea’s Naomi Campbell should have been a flat retread of various supermodels past but, once the Cricket™ phone entered, you knew Shea did indeed come to slay. Same can be said for Valentina’s genius and simple Miss Colombia. That should have flopped! But it was a rich, textured character that just involved self-deprecation and erratic tears. Reminded of Raja’s Tyra, really. Sasha’s Marlene should have been bad but was a little beam of lesbian light. And Nina’s Jasmine Masters was a perfect, perfect, perfect choice. The segment itself did feel flat—Was it Ru’s over-presence in it? The switched-up closing line? The awkward Sofia and Nene? The lack of witty comebacks in general? The near absent interaction between imitated characters?—but we can extract some goodness from good queens.

6. The Death Of Canon
This episode also did something very surprising in a show that loves to glorify this otherwise: it killed its own canon. Drag Race as a show and fandom love to memorialize this small cultural moment, making tiny moments into monumental feats of pop culture. They’re hungry for content. Accordingly, so are the queens: they are fans themselves and are cannibalizing content in the name of canon. Nina did this by choosing Jasmine and Aja did this to a worse degree by choosing Alyssa, which was previously chosen by Violet Chachki. If you recall, the canon cannibalizing happened immediately as Jessica Wild did RuPaul in the first Snatch in season two leading to Sharon Needles’ Michelle Visage in season four. It was at this point that Beyoncé, Cher, and Lady Gaga had been done twice already. A canon had formed. Fast forward to season nine where Lady Bunny, Sharon Needles, and Alaska Thunderfuck had been imitated. Unfortunately, the fun masturbation of self-love for the show came to a crashing halt as Michelle Visage ripped the wigs off all the queens by saying she is over queens playing other queens. What does this mean for the future of the show? Surely it is the end of an era and, in some ways, part of the canon has been smothered. This seems like a side-effect of the VH1 butterfly effect, where everyone is needlessly taking everything too seriously for no reason. It’s a queer reality show where men dress up as women: have some fucking fun. Sheesh. Let them live, as the children say.

5. Judges Rule
Michelle’s canon killing aside, let’s take a moment to applaud both Denis O’Hare and Candis Cayne who were ace judges. O’Hare in particular had great notes on acting and could see through certain queens’ intentional choices or intentional mistakes. He was a ray of light. They did a great job and were a reminder that the judges are worth your time when they both care about their job and care about the show. When you have, say, Chanel Iman and Gigi Hadid participating in Snatch to giggle along with, the element of competition or judging is removed in exchange for sweet Instas with queers? It don’t work. Do you hear that, Meghan Trainor?

4. Madonna Drama
Back to canon, briefly: the redo of the Night Of A Thousand Madonnas was a smart choice and, honestly, they could afford to do it every season. It was still so fun to watch queens interpret and adapt Madonna’s iconic looks. Of course some queens dressed the same—Peppermint and Shea, Trinity and Nina—which we didn’t get any of the surrounding drama because of the show’s being edited down so. Oh well. Annoying. Still, Sasha’s look was a dead ringer for the original while Valentina’s choice was as inventive as it was sexy and fun.

3. Sasha & Valentina Were Robbed
Speaking of those two, I was shocked that Sasha’s win was taken by Alexis. Alexis’ look was a glitter lizard at best while her Liza was less of a performance and more of a facsimile. Sasha? She was a dead ringer and had such a unique performance. She seemed to be both less obvious and more challenged than anything Alexis did or ever will do. Also, Valentina should have been in the top given her twofold inventiveness: no one was as original or as effective or as polished as she was. Valentina was robbed. Then again, think about: Alexis was given this little bone of a win to keep her steam going. Queens like Valentina and Sasha (and Shea and Nina, the latter less so) are corralled toward the middle or top at this point in the season as to shift focus. They’re going to the top. Especially Valentina! Remember Raja in her season? Sharon Needles? Bianca Del Rio? Bob? Alaska on All Stars? The moment they stepped into the work room you knew they were going to win. The same can be said for Valentina and she is thusly being shifted around the show, out of focus, because she’ll be a key player in later episodes. Might as well let the fat sing for a few minutes in the middle of the season.

2 .Drag Race‘s Laughable Transgender Revisionist History
My only problem this episode—which is a huge problem—is the disappointing revisionist history both the show and fans have given Drag Race regarding transgender history. Look at shit like this: this episode and Peppermint’s “revelation” were peeps considering the show’s previously blaspheming the group which RuPaul has been adamant regarding shirking off responsibility. Moreover, every real fan of the show knew that Peppermint is trans. It was a non-surprise. If we, fans, knew this then of course her peers and friends on the show knew this fact very well before episode fucking six. That’s why this moment was so flat and bothersome: it was a forced revelation. The minute Peppermint bombed Snatch Game and they cut to the workroom makeup for the weekly Queer Lesson For Straights, you could feel the vomit of transgender history being forced onto the show. It felt bitter and trite considering the reality of this show. Moreover, if they wanted this moment, what a squandered opportunity given Peppermint being on the bottom with trans icon Candis Cayne on the show. Where was that moment to bond? Paired with Trinity as Amanda Lepore and Farrah as Gigi Gorgeous, there was a huge pastel elephant in the room of transness that the show has yet to properly understand how to articulate: this was their moment and they bombed. What a monumental fail all around. Then again, it fits into the real history of the show appropriately.

1. The First Good Episode
That gripe aside, it took six episodes but we made it: this was the first truly good entry into this season. There wasn’t any fake drama and you weren’t required to watch Untucked to redeem yourself. In fact, this week’s Untucked was fairly tame and unexciting save for Shea and Aja teaching Trinity about edges, Nina’s mom, and Valentina’s omnipresent balls. Every episode should be like this one.

What a relief. I’m so glad things got good! Can it keep it up? Probably not.

Here’s an updated listing which is…surprisingly unchanged.

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine (Maintained—and out. Was it a mistake to bring Cynthia back for this season? I say yes. She exhausted her appeal and I feel like she should be stripped of her Miss Congeniality title. While she was pleasant enough to behold, you saw she doesn’t have anything beyond what we saw. She is in no way America’s Next Drag Superstar and she seems to have had that confirmed for her too.)
9. Farrah Moan (Maintained.)
8. Aja (Maintained.)
7. Alexis Michelle (Maintained. Girl, bye. Get out. The reading of Alexis by the smoking women during Untucked was sage as well. Also: at DragCon this weekend no one wanted to take photos with her. Also also: her booth was lined with the phrase “#subwayfish.” Girl. Nobody cares! Only you call yourself that. No one cares.)
6. Trinity Taylor (Maintained. Talented, sure, but boring. No one was taking photos with her at DragCon either.)
5. Peppermint (Maintained / Down one due to a previous tie. Peppermint will probably be gone before here but she easily has Miss Congeniality in the bag.)
4. Sasha Velour (Maintained / Up one due to a previous tie. This was the first week she actually did something and earned her upper rank. She’s kind of making me exhausted of art queens though. They’re all the same.)
3. Nina Bo’Nina Brown (Maintained. I can see her headed out of her tunnel! She was fabulous looking in person, at Drag Con.)
2. Shea Couleé (Maintained. She looked great at DragCon!)
1. Valentina (Maintained. She looked fabulous at Drag Con too.)

Thoughts? Did you think this episode was as good as I did? I hope it lasts!

Photo via.

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