Who knew that the reunions of Drag Race would be *the* highlight of a season? I didn’t see that coming—and I certainly didn’t see a non-live reunion happening at all. This is great news all around.
It appears that they producers finally listened to something, likely after the success of All Stars: Season Two‘s return to form with a similar reunion. Whatever the case, I am thankful—Very thankful.—that someone listened and brought the queens of season nine together to get real, in a post-mortem that finally delivered a juicy piece of dramatic ass to the audience.
And that drama is raw too. Think about it for a moment: this taped reunion happened before the faux crowning of the top four and after situations like a Nina, Valentina, Eureka love affair or Drag Con happiness or potential pre-reunion (or pre-crowning) hanging out. This was something that is fresh, unexpected, and—for all intents and purposes—rocketed a show and happenings that took place last year to the present. As they say, it shooketh the shitty foundation of this season.
Anyway! It was a great episode, one that took over ten episodes to get to. In the hopes of speeding through things, here are some stray thoughts gathered while watching the reunion.
• Reunited reality, forever. This was the first instance of this season that actually felt like a reality show. There was no time for Very Special Episode bullshit nor was there any playacting niceness: people got real. They stopped being polite or worrying about the potential fandom and went in on each other. The biggest takeaway was that Valentina had a huge target on her back but that would be an over simplification of the matter: both Charlie and Alexis had their asses handed to them as well. Unfortunately (Or fortunately?), Valentina was repeatedly attacked which is why her name was on everyone’s lips by the episode’s end.
• Trinity VS. Eureka, redux. Remember the baby battles between Trinity and Eureka? That felt like a lifetime ago! It was nice to see those two unearth the ax to fight again, suggesting something that was always somewhat, sort-of, almost arrived at in the show. I remember noting that their fights suggested realness amongst so much fakeness and we saw that again. That storyline—an updated Alyssa versus Coco storyline—would have fit in so well if the queens on the show around them were actually real people instead of actors.
• Charlie literally hides. Broken rib. Diarrhea. Channeling the lyrics. Bullshit, bitch. Go home, Charlie.
• “I’m too good for this.” This was Shea’s critique of Charlie’s lip sync which was such a fucking gift of a setup for the drama that surrounded Valentina’s lip sync. As an editor or producer, you couldn’t have asked for a better segue than that to come out of a cast member’s mouth.
• Farrah grew up! Somehow, out of nowhere, Farrah became a real person, evolving from a sad pink crying Mew into an adult, self-deprecating, quick witted Mewto. It was wonderful to hear, especially since she was attacked only to serve shit back to Valentina. She deserved an award for her showing.
• Aja as all of us. From her facial expressions to her frequent interjections, Aja proved that she 1.) was eliminated too soon and 2.) was an under-served bitchy voice of reason. Yes, she may have evolved and grown up between wrapping and reunion but it was very apparent that Aja should have been a force this season.
• Training wheels, the season. Speaking of Aja evolving in a similar way to Farrah, the biggest problem with the season was revealed in those moments of “Oh! Look at how they’ve matured.”: the entire season was a bit of training wheels to get these non-camera ready people to actually become interesting. Now? They’re interesting and exciting and bitchy and shitty, just like the reality stars that we want them to be. Is that what the show has come to? Do we really need a fucking shitty season to come out with queens who will be great on All Stars? That’s not how reality television works or, if that’s how it works now, regular Drag Race is not worth our time.
• Shea is the realest. Like Aja calling people out, Shea must have sipped some truth tea because she showed everyone their receipts. Aja had the assist but Shea repeatedly had the dunk.
• “Give a trophy just for showing up.” This was something RuPaul said, saying that the show (and this season) isn’t about patting people on the back. To that I say: bull fucking shit, Ru. You sat on a stage with a needless top four, had ample opportunities to express this non-trophy attitude by sending bad lip synchers like Farrah and Cynthia home in a double elimination, didn’t send anyone home the first week and brought back a shit queen from the last season, and cackled as the queens came for each other for not being worthy of air time. Has Ru lost it? She most definitely isn’t practicing what she preaches. Then again, neither is anyone on this show anymore. Shea needs to show their queen mama the receipts because she didn’t participate in the same season I watched. (UPDATE / ADDENDUM: As someone very smart pointed out, this is a lie since everyone leaves the show now with a god damned trophy. Ru is tripping.)
• Shea and Trinity, the real top two. Another huge takeaway in watching the reunion was that Peppermint and Sasha seemed to fade into the background as Trinity and Shea were extremely vocal in calling people out and, generally, being entertaining. If neither of them win, I call bullshit on the show yet again.
• Toot or boot go big time. The beloved Raja and Raven web series went big and made it into the show. The canon evolves further!
• Miss Fan Favorite. The elephant in the room was that Valentina outed herself as a fucking bitch. This is excellent news despite my love of her being such a clean teen: what we saw on Reunited was a queen so dogged and obsessed with getting ahead that she, truly, isn’t here to make friends. She isn’t here to police her fans, to respond to text messages, or do anything else that isn’t being fucking fabulous: she made a beautiful bed and, despite shitting in it, is sleeping in it still. Her getting called out by virtually everyone was almost as awkward as her lip sync, which we were too foolish to think wouldn’t deepen the chasm between her and the other queens. And her eventual Miss Congeniality win? Good on Aja for going full Kanye on her because, yes, she was the fan favorite instead of Miss Congeniality. This said, she didn’t ask for it but had it handed to her because the show created a construct for fans to vote on in such an arbitrary fashion that goes against what it means to be congenial. The real question is if this win and the subsequent beef raised with Valentina will exist as the fitting uncomfortable end of an era for her, personally, and this season, if this will stain Valentina’s future as a closet bitch, or if this will only propel her further, making her more interesting because we finally saw the vulnerability her smile hid so well? We shall see. Regardless, it exemplified that Valentina unlike other idiots Charlie and Alexis is honest to a fault. She believes she is Selena, she believes Farrah needed to know she wasn’t wanted, and she believes she didn’t do anything wrong in winning or needing to police her fans.
• The real Miss Congeniality was ineligible. There is no word on if this is or isn’t true but, as we all suspect and as a few Reddit threads muse, people in the top spots are ineligible to win both the crown and congeniality. As informal polls have shown, Peppermint was the real winner. Her not-winning was likely because of this invisible ineligibility thrust on her because hashtag top four. The problem wasn’t Valentina’s fans getting rabid: it’s the blocking of Peppermint (or even Sasha) from winning the title. (And, have you know, I almost voted for Valentina but cast my ballot for Peppermint. Why? Because she was truly the Miss Congeniality.)
• The fans are killing the show. The biggest loser of this season is us. As I have discussed before, the fans are tearing the show apart because they carry too much weight over the show, allowing for the production to be dictated by fan whims instead of the show dictating to fans who is or isn’t talented. By allowing fans to voice their opinion on who should win the crown or who should win Miss Congeniality via social media, the show eschews all credibility or power into the grubby, confused teens fingers that think they know what they want. What is the point of having a show or RuPaul if everything is ultimately going to be defined by the fans who are a confused bunch? Jasmine Masters really did have it right: RuPaul’s Drag Race done fucked up drag, both on screen and off. The queens who came before—from the Harlem ballrooms depicted in Paris Is Burning to the San Francisco queens who helped give the city the queer spunk it’s known for—would be ashamed to think their identities, their culture, and their lives have been co-opted for TV big bucks.
• What did Peppermint tell Valentina? As the credits rolled, the angry and bitter anti-Valentina queens danced to a RuPaul song as Ru herself and Peppermint went to console or chat with or generally visit a confused and bruised Valentina. What did they tell her? Specifically, what did Peppermint tell Valentina? That moment was most pronounced in the end and shows that something clearly was happening between the two congenial queens.
• The show ends in an identity crisis. Beyond Valentina being attacked, you could tell that this reunion personified how the queens have abandoned ship. They, like me and other similar fans, are sick of the show sucking for whatever reason. They let it all hang out because, well, they didn’t want the show to suck, they could have been in a better season, yet they remain bored and complicit in all this. We’re in a special, delicate moment for Drag Race: it’s having an identity crisis at the hands of fans. It’s time to either take back the reigns or relinquish control to the masses, effectively euthanizing it all. Your move, Ru. Make the right decision because the queens—like us older fans—can barely take it.
Despite my gripes, it was indeed a great episode.
Little was affected in terms of my ranking too.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Nina Bo’Nina Brown
4. Peppermint (Maintained. Shoulda been Miss Congenial.)
3. Sasha Velour (Maintained. Was she even in the reunion?)
2. & 1. Shea Coulee & Trinity Taylor (Up one and maintained. I don’t really care who wins but I want it to be either of these two. They are most deserving. Peppermint is great but, again, is more Miss Congeniality material. Sasha is a third wheel in this talent show and a win for her would solidify the wrong direction of Drag Race‘s future.)
Stay tuned for next week. Who do you think will take the crown?