Six Thoughts About RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season Eight, Episode Seven

Am I ill or was this the best episode of RuPaul in a very long, long time? I think it might have been. This seems like an episode cut from season three it was that good. If anything, it is the needed sequel to the “Frock The Vote” episode from season four.

As always, spoilers ahead. Catch up on previous recapping of this season here.

6. What the fuck was that mini-challenge?
The only low on this episode was this entirely bizarre mini-game where you could not tell if the challenge was to literally decipher if each model was a literal top (“I stick my dick in you!”) or bottom (“You stick your dick in me!”) or if top meant yes and bottom meant no or vice versa. It was extremely confusing and, while a cheeky commercial advertisement, we as viewers and they as contestants were clueless as to which way was up. By the end of challenge, when it was revealed that they were playing around with literal top/bottoming, you felt let down that the show was wasn’t that explicit and was being literal (hence the confusion). It also highlighted a conceptual mess on the show’s behalf: gay men are more diverse. The Pit Crew—who at this point just needs to be gagged with underwear until they die—lack a physical and follicular diversity. Everyone was muscley and hairless and all seemed like a golden shade of tan. Moreover, in the end when the joke was on the men that they were all bottoms save for one made you wish there was a separate bed for the versatile because, really, that’s where they would all be. If anyone knows that gay men have more diverse sex than topping and bottoming, it’s this show and shame on them for being so stereotypical. Derrick also got a mattress, which illustrated that there were no stakes in this game.

5. Political attack campaigns? This is an excellent challenge.
Thankfully, the #ShadyPolitics assignment was the antithesis of the mess of a mini-challenge we were treated to. This was a wonderful means to force enemies together and place the contestants in a position to be fun, be creative, be stylish, and be a cunt. We all saw where this was going too but it all played out so interestingly: Bob and Derrick gritted their teeth to like each other and Derrick did the smartest thing she has ever done and take Bob’s direction which, funny enough, suited her (and of course spoke to Bob’s brilliance); Naomi and Kimberly Chi were adorable, per usual, and were like watching two cute kittens play in a teetering shallow, bedazzled cardboard box that you wish would fall off the table to make it more exciting than its visual appeal; and Chi Chi and Thorgs were the predictable mess of egos on Thorgs behalf. Chi Chi showed up to play but Thorgs fucking floated away full of herself. It was a shame but, as we saw last season in the similar duo challenge “Prancing Queens,” the theatre kids never win in a post-Jinx world.

4. There need to be honest moments like this makeup sesh.
One thing these new seasons are missing, an element that the show was founded on, is love. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Ru always ends the show and for so long that love has been missing within the show, lost to cattiness. This was the first episode in what felt like ages that you felt the love and the pre-runway makeup session exemplified the depth of these queens and the love that they have for each other. First, Bob’s story about campaigning and protesting for marriage equality had an edge that was so much more than Gay Man Talks About Fighting For Marriage Equality Only To Seem Active Political. Instead, we had photos of Bob in action, on the streets, and even getting arrested. Little elements like that, the fact that a producer could land the story visually, speaks to the power of personal anecdote and connection. You saw that Bob is a freedom fighter and a lover beyond being her gregarious “Big Old Bottom” self. This was refreshing. Similarly, Derrick’s doey “Are you from North or South Korea?” question was admittedly ridiculous (And maybe a joke?) (Maybe.) but opened the door for Kimberly Chi to discuss cultural norms in Korea and show the lack of gay/drag culture in Korea. It was more than a flat dream, the “I wish I could do drag in my homeland!” but a learning moment, where you could hear the other queens nod because they—Like the audience.—want to know more. These two moments are singular when paired together because it showed that these queens can be real and that they care to hear each other’s stories. These moments don’t happen anymore and, if they do, they are isolated and out of context, made into a joke a la The Chicken Lady.

3. Also: a runway show inspired by Detox???
Don’t get me wrong: the runway was a conceptual hit despite its relationship to #ShadyPolitics being nonexistent. However, admitting that the runway was “inspired by Detox” in a look she wore outside of a season, at a finale event, was proof that the damn challenge producers lost their marbles and didn’t have any ideas. That’s glorified recycling and, more importantly, ripping off someone else’s drag. It felt gross from a show producing side but, again, the results were not terrible (despite them all looking blue, thanks to the lighting). Why wasn’t the runway Michelle Obama realness or First Lady couture? What about The Iron Lady? This show has too many ideas it wants to get out there and is sacrificing thematic commitment to flashiness. Anyway, Kimberly Chi ran away with this while Naomi’s Raven homage proved she is breaking out of her beauty shell (but still won’t win) while Derrick’s look was fairly basic, Thorgs and Bob were mood boards of black and white cuteness, and Chi Chi brought something she hadn’t brought before: sophistication. It suited her!

2. What the fuck was Vivica A. Fox talking about?
Did anyone else notice she kept trying to make a catch phrase or something happen? She kept saying something that sounded like “stran-jay” or perhaps it was a Bell’s Palsy attempt to articulate the word “strange.” Whatever it was, it was not explained and is a fucking weirdo tagline that isn’t actually a thing. Stop with that, V.

2.5 Michelle looked fab.
Can we talk about how fucking fierce Michelle looked this episode????? She was so hot!!! She has been killing it this season. Her ace critiques to her good hair and buxom buzooms make me a big fan of her as I was very “Meh.” on her previously. And can we talk about how much of a wet dream Thomas Roberts is? Oh yes daddy.

1. Clearly, this is the first episode of the season where things got great.
Here we are, three episodes from the season’s end, and this season has finally found itself. The challenge was good, the drama was good, and—as mentioned before and reiterated on the runway—you felt the love, which is a quality that makes RuPaul such a singular creation in reality and LGBTQ programming. Example: there was a real moment between Ru and Kimberly Chi when she had the breakdown about her diction, that—Despite her fierce look.—her lisp is what drags her down and she really, truly, is affected by that. Instead of allowing it to be brushed off, Ru swooped in as mama and told Kimberly that she is doing great and she has to be this harsh because they are vying for the top five. That felt matronly instead of judgemental which the show forgets to do. The final lipsync between Chi Chi and Thorgs ended up being a good example of how excellent these final performances can be (THE BEAD BREAK!!! Was it staged or accidental? Either way: genius.) and that, despite Thorgs giving it a good go, Chi Chi was destined to stay because she has something Thorgs is missing: a soul. Thorgs was a frontrunner (in my opinion) but the show again excelled by illuminating her flaws, that Thorgs is a victim of her own making and that she could not ever do a good job at performing such a serious song because she can only do the yuk, yuk, yuk schtick. Eliminating her was a shock—and shocks, upsets, etc. make for good television. Also, according to Ruvealed, Thorgs damn lost her mind, unraveling in her final act. Speaking of Ruvealed, you did not get a single moment of Chi Chi prepping for her lipsync which is testament to how strong a queen she is. It’s not that she was being lazy but that she was qualified to do the song before she arrived, that it was a part of her repertoire, that she has the depth to stand up to Bob and explain the significance of Jennifer Holliday’s performance to a clueless Derrick. Something else missing from the show but clearly arched in Ruvealed is how literally without means Chi Chi is as, for what I believe to be the second time, someone left her jewelry and it showed something that will never truly land on the main event of the show: that Chi Chi is without the financial means to support herself, that she is getting by on her own accord and the goodness of bygone queens. This is why the show is so beloved and why the show can work and excel and fly into the sky on the wings of gay doves: it teaches you about the love LGBTQ people have for each other, that we are family. You also saw that people change, that stories can be rewritten as the Derrick and Naomis can rise while the seemingly infallible (Thorgs) can sink.

See? I’m not always mean when I recap episodes like this. Let’s look at where everyone stands.

12. Naysha Lopez
11. Laila McQueen
10. Dax Exclamationpoint
9. Cynthia Lee Fontaine
8. Acid Betty
7. Robbie Turner 
6. Thorgy Thor (Last week I had her at number one. NUMBER ONE!!! I must have been high, I guess.)
5. Derrick Barry. (Up one—as a formality. I give Derrick a lot of shit but she seemed like a real person this week. She won’t make it any further but I didn’t want to rip her up this week. Then again, I have given her the same review for three weeks now.)
5. Kim Chi (Maintained—and tied with Derrick. I love Kimberly and think she is great but she’s a better interview and Instagram personality than she is Next Drag Superstar.)
3. Naomi Smalls (Up one! I was impressed with her this week. As the judges observed, she was the only queen who actually threw shade. Good for her! )
2. Chi Chi DeVayne (Up one. I just love her. I want to give her broad shoulders a hug and let her curl my hair.)
1. Bob The Drag Queen (Up one. Who are we kidding? She is the Raja/Sharon/Bianca of this season.)

What did you guys think? This week’s episode was such a revelation to me! I loved it—and I’m curious to see what the dramatics between Naomi and Derrick become next week. Also: AMY AND DAVID SEDARIS!!!!

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