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

Here we are, eight episodes into the season with seemingly no end in sight. But you know what? At least the episodes we’re dealing with now are actually quality television.

It took six—Six.—episodes for this season to finally start hitting the mark. Why did that happen? A bloated cast, unwise eliminations (Eureka over a Farrah and Cynthia double elimination??), and a generally softer approach to reality programming fused with morality tales. With eight queens in this episode, we’re finally at a manageable but still hefty cast. This is strange considering seasons for television shows are typically ten to twelve episodes: last season was ten episodes and seasons before were a bloated fourteen or sixteen. When will the other shoe drop as it relates to editing down these girls?

Anyway, back to it! Here are seven thoughts about this week’s episode in honor of the seven girls continuing onward in the competition.

7.What A Sleepy Book
This reading challenge was so remarkably boring, no? The only queen who actually hit the mark was Valentina followed by Shea and Nina—but even Nina lost steam after her first good jab. Besides that? Peppermint was too slow, Sasha was a glitter snooze, Farrah was stupidly unfiltered, and Alexis and Trinity were equally boring. This failure of an iconic challenge seems to best sum up the casting pool that is now available for this show: a lot of boring fluff with maybe two sparklers of note.

6. Alexis Potato
Can you believe Alexis’ getting all butt hurt about being called out for being fat? During the reading challenge? Are you kidding me? It was the most emblematic of her idiocy that just barely rivaled her “Why didn’t you tell me I look busted?” moment in Untucked a few weeks ago. From Nina to Trinity to RuPaul herself, everyone called her out for being a moron. Who knew one of the older queens in the cast would also be the biggest snowflake? Hashtag flush that subway fish.

5. I Love Ross.
Can we take a moment to appreciate Ross Matthews? From his sweet workroom visit to his sharp challenge critiques, he keeps proving himself again and again to be an adorable teacher for these frequently aloof queens. Fortune and Tamar were great too but I want more and more Ross, guys. I want him to be my gay older brother!

4. A Strange Twist On The Very Special Episode
This week’s Very Special Episode was all about transphobia and queerphobia in Russia. That’s a serious problem! As gay men are supposedly being tortured in Chechnya, the area has a very dark cloud above it for LGBT persons. The strange thing about this VSE was that it was very much something Peppermint had an intimate, direct tie too since she was detained but the story…shifted to Sasha, a non-transgender female impersonator queer person, talking about how difficult it was to live in Russia and trying to not be as Sasha as she is. Huh? Just let Peppermint have her legitimate moment. Once it was followed up with a confessional of Sasha talking about herself, the power of the moment vanished. Stupid.

3. Roast Beef
Ahh: the Roast. A great reprise of a new classic, no? I thought this was a great challenge despite feeling bad that the queens for having to stand up there for the duration of the show—in heels. First things first: Valentina’s order was simultaneously so shady and so great, stacking the smart and talented queens early—Shea, Sasha, herself—toward a fatty finish with Farrah and Alexis. The show came to an uncomfortable end and had so many scenes of sheer secondhand embarrassment as a result of unpolished performers having no idea how to read someone. Isn’t that a right of passage for queens? Is the lack of proper drag mothers in the scene killing reading culture? Jesus. Anyway, beyond the bad—and Alexis and Farrah were bad—Shea and Sasha and Peppermint were quite great, Sasha being a particular standout. Trinity was literally shitty and Nina and Valentina were both kooky bits of fun. It only made sense that Peppermint won too given the opening of the episode decrying the battle from the bottom. More on this in a minute.

3.5. Shea-dy
Who else watched Untucked and was mildly shocked by how Shea LOST IT with Nina? I mean, it was inevitable but, damn, did not see that coming. Nina, like my little brother, is the type of person who pushes people until they break in the way Shea did. It’s not a cute look. Also: Shea giving the quick, “When I get angry, my nose sweats.” before returning to the runway was fabulous.

2 .Battle From The Bottom
From the start of the episode, the map was given to us: Farrah and Peppermint have not won a challenge yet and it is now or never for them. Peppermint rightfully rose and—although Sasha and Shea were better—it was Pep’s time and she was given the win. Farrah? She couldn’t rise to the occasion and appropriately sank. Same with the floundering Alexis who finally found her place as a bottom bitch since finally getting a win. More on this later too. The result was a great lip synch by both parties, particularly Farrah whose previous lip synch was fucking awful. Farrah also had a great note in Untucked that I feel should be tattooed on any queen before being admitted onto the show: take a fucking sewing class and improv class, dummy.

1. Half Lives
From Alexis to Peppermint, you can tell that their wins were gifts representative of their half-lives: once received, they are ready to be shipped off. It happened already to Alexis now two episodes after Snatch Game and she is obviously on the bottom. Now that Peppermint has hers, she has one or two episodes left in her before going. She got her drama and joy out of the way and now is an accessory to the top. The show has more and more predictable math in how it’s produced and this is a new symbol of gauging where the season/cast is going: the half life win, where someone earns a prize only to get cut a week or two later.

Now. Onto the power ranking! I’ve actually been pretty good at this this season. Hurray for me! Or something!

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
9. Aja
8. Farrah Moan (Maintained—and out. Duh. Bye.)
7. Alexis Michelle (Maintained. If she isn’t out next week, I’ll fume with anger.)
6. Peppermint (Maintained. This seems like an appropriate ending place for her. Miss Congeniality!)
5. Trinity Taylor (Down one. I had her higher up but her poor showing this week and general lack of personality [or chemistry] is docking her.)
4. Nina Bo’Nina Brown (Down one. It breaks my heart but I don’t think Nina is going to make it to the top three. She is probably going to be our Chi Chi, getting cut right before the finish.)
3. Sasha Velour (Up two. I’m going to regret this. I know I’m going to regret putting her here. She has clawed her way up after two solid weeks but she…isn’t going to win. If she does win, I will rage. She just isn’t the total package, really, and has all the problematic quirks of an art queen. Is she talented? Yes. Is she deserving of being crowned the Next Drag Superstar? PSSSSSSh. Don’t make me piss myself laughing.)
2. / 1. Shea Coulee & Valentina (Maintained. These two are so evenly neck and neck. But, as Valentina noted at the start of Untucked, she neeeeeeeeeds to win soon or she’ll just be relegated to safe and then kicked out. She has got to rise again or Shea is going to take her crown.)

What did you guys think? Are you all as exhausted by Alexis as I am? She’s not even a villain but just insufferable and deeply unlikable. Is that the new villain in reality television? You’re just unlikable and therefore are terrible? Discuss.

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