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

Damn, RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine: back at it again with an episode that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out!

Seriously, this week was a return to an actually exciting show we’ve long forgotten about for reasons beyond the shitty, shitty, shitty handled “twist” ending. It was just good. Flawless? Absolutely not. To that—and my ongoing gripe with this season—I turn to my taste twin reviewer Joel Kim Booster over at Vulture.

It would be easy for me to blame a lot of what I dislike about this season of Drag Race on the show’s move from Logo to VH1. But having little to absolutely zero knowledge of how this shift affected production — the show is still produced by World of Wonder, after all — I can’t say definitively that the rushed pacing, scaled-down challenges, and seemingly flat casting all fall at the feet of one of our country’s most-celebrated music-video aggregates. But the thing is, I have to direct my hurt and confusion somewhere. Not to alienate anyone reading, but straight people make a frequent habit of ruining my life, so if the shoe fits…

Ding, ding, ding. This is all your fault, straight people who we have to explain everything to.

Anyway. I promise not to stew in my notes and instead think thoughts about this episode.

10. Enough With The Intro
For a few seasons now, Drag Race‘s first act setup is a post-elim workroom unpack where the queens generally say how sad they are that someone left or stir up drama regarding a sore loss. That’s a reality television standard. What isn’t a standard and starting to annoy the fuck out of me is the faux drama crafted between queens that aren’t even played out. Last week it was Valentina versus everyone, this week it was Nina and Alexis versus Sasha and Shea. Yes, I get that this was all foreshadowing to the runway and Nina’s breakdown but it was so unnecessary since it opens the show on the note of fakeness. What does that make everything else feel like? Fake.

9. Remember Them? The Pit Crew? Me Neither.
Oh, dudes in underwear? They still exist on this show??? One byproduct of little time and straightening things is the loss of the Pit Crew. Once upon a time, this group was in every single episode, at any chance possible. Now? It took five episodes for them to debut. Sad. This challenge was fun—and a reminder of how quick drag reveals who is and isn’t talented—despite the selfies being taken on what you would assume to be a Gameboy Camera™.

8. Negative Nina & The Revelations
The one storyline takeaway from this episode was that Nina Bonina Niagra Falls Brown has got to grow up. I love her and I love her drag but she is having a tough time adjusting to being a main stage performer. I have a theory as to why this problem exists: she needs a drag mother—or at least a sisterhood. Her gripes with Alexis about Blac Chyna and her attitude both in rehearsals and on the main stage could have been curbed with a little stern love from someone who has her back. For those who watched Untucked, she seemed to get this as Shea gave her a beautiful talk about how Nina needs to get her shit together and shine not for herself but for every little black girl (“girl”) out there who feels they can’t be themselves. Nina just needs a little context for her problems to shine—and Shea offered that. It was sweet.

7. Kar-Not-Krashian
The bulk of the episode was framed around this surprisingly not shitty challenge. I was very concerned that this challenge was going to sink the episode so hard but, between Nina’s griping and Eureka’s bum knee and Farrah’s inability to do anything, you had real stakes drama to keep you occupied. Moreover, the musical itself was all sorts of fun and funny. As a non-Kardashian fan or viewer of the show, I had a lot of fun seeing their tropes crash into each other so delightfully. Everyone was quite good too—especially Peppermint, Alexis, and even Nina who sold her baggage to the point that those who missed her drama wouldn’t have known she had any. The only absolute duds were Farrah and Cynthia who maybe prove queens originating from Austin’s drag scenes have a hook (the cucu, fishy face) but nothing else. One other thing: Sasha’s Lindsay Lohan was basically Charlie Hides with the wave and the lip. Another thing with Sasha: her runway was so boring Katya. You can’t do Russian runway anything without nodding to Katya these days, folks.

6. Pre-Runway Weight
Two notes on weight were hit before the runway, both of which were oddly good. The first was Aja’s investigating her face and wondering if she had changed. This was funny because, as I was watching with Bobby, a few scenes earlier he commented that she looked different this episode. She did indeed look different for some reason and it might be because she lost a little weight. Who knows! My theory is that this episode likely falls in the reality cycle when the cast gets a day or two off from filming and come back refreshed, feeling and looking better than they have. The second weighty issue was the (forced, on-borrowed-time) apology by Eureka regarding her joke about eating disorders. This was another queer The More You Know™ moment for the straights but it was the most successful instance of this thus far because it felt organic, was something that truly isn’t discussed, and was tied to very personal stories of struggle with revelations that Shea, Sasha, and Valentina all have had these real problems they still are battling with. It only felt moderately faked born out of some producer prodding Eureka to apologize because her bum knee was going to kick her out. A scene like this is reality television gold though: a faked spark of conversation that blooms into something very natural and real, emotional and important.

5. Runwhere?
This week’s runway was the best example of the very recent extreme disconnection between challenges and runway. After the musical number, it was quite shocking to hear that they had to dive into “faux fur couture” without any explanation why. Why didn’t they do “tabloid chic”? Or “reality show realness”? Or “banjee girl bombshells”? Why didn’t they do something that, if you squinted, you could have seen some sort of Kardashian relevance? It was annoying because you went from selfie to Kim Kardashian to…faux fur? It felt like they just plugged something random in because they had to do something. The result was a meaningless runway that really took me out of the episode. Moreover, outside of Shea and Valentina’s looks, everyone bombed.

4. TodriMegWha?
Has Todrick replaced Lucian? This is something to note since he came back again as a special guest (and Ru’s teacher’s pet). Also, why did Meghan Trainor wear that unicorn kigurumi costume like a giant baby? If she’s trying to be relevant or cool or something, that was not the way to do it. Again, this seems like a producerly disconnect in articulating what the challenge and runway was because if that was her attempt at “faux fur couture” she too failed and looked like a damn fool.

3. Peppermint, The Sleeper Killer
I might have been reluctant to give her credit but Peppermint is becoming a sleeper killer in these challenges. Although she needs an upgraded wardrobe, she has consistently found herself in the top for her talents. For her looks? Not really but she can at least keep up and isn’t the worst. Her Britney Spears was proof of this—and other queens would have made a really snoozy effort. Peppermint? She was a star.

2. AlexizzZzzzzZzzZzzZZZZzZz
While Alexis’ self-casting as Kris was truly inspired (She really was perfect.), her runway and behavior in Untucked illustrated why Alexis is bad: she doesn’t have taste and she blames other people. Alexis is the show’s real villain in the cast and, thankfully, she’s slowly blooming into a bossy bully type. This was also maybe the first loss of a win at the hands of bad fashion. Unprecedented! This to me was the real twist ending of the episode: Alexis set herself up to win, truly was the star, let her own poor taste and judgement get in her way, and then blamed everyone else as a result. Juicy. I love this fake Roxxy Andrews for all the wrong reasons!

1 .A Surprise Of Predictability
I kept reading from friends and fan groups that this episode was “crazy” and that the ending was wild. While it might seem like the lackluster lip sync was the reason why (Cynthia was fine but Farrah proved to be the more animated ghost of Charlie Hides), it was actually because Eureka was killed off so that bottom bitches Cynthia and Farrah could live. Really? Really. I was furious and still am. Send all three of them home instead of giving someone like Farrah—who proved herself to be a bad baby queen—a get-out-of-jail-free card. Obviously Eureka had medical issues and should have left but it was in the handling of her exit that grates me: it didn’t feel earned and was so random while also predictable. Yes, it was set up that Eureka was on crutches and in pain only in this episode but there was no moment of a doctor telling her that she really did fuck up her knee or that she was actually doubting her abilities. If given the chance, Eureka would soldier on. So when a producer “steps in” at the final hour to say “Oops: she gotta go. She hurt :(“? That felt fake because it was. Any reality television fan who has watched enough Survivor knows that a medical discharge is handled by talking to a doctor and diagnosing the situation on camera so everyone knows the stakes. Here? It was peppered in quickly then conjured for a stupid twist that made no sense other than to shock. You didn’t even see Eureka in a wheelchair or “in pain” until Untucked. It was so fucking dumb. Who knows what Eureka will bring to next season but I certainly know what we lost this season: a lot of personality and one of the most entertaining personalities in the cast.

Another thing about this week is that it really shook my ranking. Eureka or not, everything got all topsy turvy as this was a make-or-break episode for a lot of queens. We now know who is toward the top and who is toward the bottom. Unfortunately, we still have ten fucking queens left. It’ll be a while until we’re actually whittled down to the final fight.

14. Jaymes Mansfield
13. Kimora Blac
12. Charlie Hide
11. Eureka O’Hara (Down six—and out.)
10. Cynthia Lee Fontaine (Maintained. She’s fun and cute but truly one note and that note has been played to death.)
9. Farrah Moan (Maintained. This baby girl. She must be such a boring performer, no? That lip sync was maybe sadder than Charlie’s, to be honest.)
8. Aja (Maintained. Remember her?)
7. Alexis Michelle (Up four. She’s only here because I want her to be the bitch she hints at herself being in Untucked. Let that cunt flag fly, hunty!)
6. Trinity Taylor (Up one. She’s only here because she can turn it out and rise to the occasion. She’s not going to win no title though.)
5. & 4. Peppermint & Sasha Velour (Up one and down one. These two are the new “good” mediocrity hump as both are upper crust but not winning. They’re the front runners for Miss Congeniality.)
3. Nina Bo’Nina Brown (Down one. Miss Nina needs some love! Put some pep in that step or GTFO. I think Shea’s talking to her will make her deliver.)
2. Shea Couleé (Up one. She’s a contender! The first queen with two wins and arguably always on top this season. She could steal the win from…)
1. Valentina (Maintained. Miss Valentina has been a little quiet but, like winning queens before her like Bob and Bianca and Sharon and Raja, everyone knew she was going to win from episode one and you have to zoom out from her as a show to distract from the inevitable. We’re in the hump of Valentina being mum but continuing on strong until lesser queens get killed off.)

What did you think? Were you “shook” by Eureka or bored?

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