Photo: Vulture; Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race
It’s hard not to imagine what we could have had. We’re two weeks into the shortened Drag Race because of the existence of The Real Friends of WeHo (premiering tonight between Drag Race and Untucked), and I continue to be miffed. This week, Drag Race played Snatch Game with a full 14 queens left. More than anything, this challenge seemed like a page out of season ten’s book, the first season that brought the signature ball challenge out of the endgame and into the early stages of the competition. The choice to show 33 looks in one week was thrilling at the time, a choice clearly made because season ten was the first to have an expanded running time. It created a cacophony of drag that was overwhelming in its spectacle and thrust Aquaria into true “contender” territory when she still managed to stand out above the rest.
“Supersized Snatch Game” attempts something similar, and like that first early ball challenge, this episode is overwhelming. Fourteen Snatch Games is a lot to take in. Many of them are bad (as is always the case, to be honest), but the queens who stand out are doubly impressive for it. And the ones who are bad enough to end up in the bottom? Impressively bad!
But I’m still struck by how little breathing room the episode has. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the usually savvy (and Emmy-winning) producers were not told about the shortened running time until after filming. We have extra queens and an extra challenge. We skip the walk-throughs with Ru, which are a staple of Snatch Game especially since half the fun these days is seeing which queens manage to stick to the character they walked in with instead of allowing Ru to toy with their futures because she’s bored. The runways are still shortened in a week when delivering your runway is half the battle, and the deliberations are still cut, which is a real shame for a narratively rich episode. Untucked feels ever more necessary because of the shortened runtime, but I have to imagine that viewership will be down given that you have to pass over a bridge guarded by a troll to get to it (watch Real Friends).
Despite these complaints (which are the sole reason for the one-star deduction on the rating, to be clear), this episode is fucking fun. It opens with a brief mourning of Princess Poppy before Luxx’s truly remarkable
cockiness confidence results in another aimless and entertaining fight when she declares that, despite both herself and Loosey placing in the top three last week, she was actually the runner-up. This is probably not true. I love her.
After that detour, the show wastes very little time getting to Snatch Game(s). The conversations beforehand unsurprisingly cover an even lower percentage of queens, but we do learn that Salina EsTitties will be playing the Virgin Mary. I’ve been a huge supporter of Salina’s loud chaos this season, and largely still am, but I am patently against historical characters being played for Snatch Game. This game is about impressions. If you don’t have one, make one. God appears to be on my side when the lights flicker in Salina’s confessional as she’s discussing her character, but blaspheming God is way less important to this reviewer than choosing the wrong character on Snatch Game.
A little more than eight minutes into the episode (LOL), we arrive at the first round of Snatch Game, which is a solid enough outing. The guests in both groups are Pit Crew members with Bruno and Calix starting it off. The first group of Snatches includes: Marcia x3 as Tim Gunn, Luxx as Amanda Lepore, Malaysia as Saucy Santana, Mistress as Rosie O’Donnell, Anetra as “Gorgena Ramsey” (a female take on Gordon Ramsey, à la Kimmy Jong Un), Robin as Karen Huger from RHOP, and Salina as the Virgin Mary. The highlights are Marcia x3 and Mistress as Rosie, even if at one point Mistress appears to forget she is playing Rosie and instead references the life of Abby Lee Miller as her own. I’m assuming Abby Lee Miller (in her wheelchair!) was Mistress’s backup, and she prepped so much that she got the characters confused, but the episode wasn’t long enough for us to see that. Boo!
Robin and Salina end up safe, but they should be thanking their lucky stars there’s another Snatch Game later to save their padded asses. Robin’s nose contour as Karen is deeply funny, but she continues to be too low key a personality to really register. Salina is anything but low key, though she is just substituting loudness for jokes. Anetra gets some solid laughs in as Gorgena, but it’s basically just “British chef who is a woman.” Choosing to do a version of a character most famous for his anger and then staying calm the whole time deepens some slight worries I’ve had with Anetra: For all her talent, I don’t know if she has the strength of persona to make it to the end. Luxx and Malaysia are fun but unmemorable.
The second group features two more Pit Crew boys as guests, including straight, ginger rocket scientist Bryce (who has … never watched the show? Why doesn’t he know how Snatch Game works?) and Assaf, whom Ru takes great pains to note is from Israel. The Snatches are Loosey as Joan Rivers, Sasha Colby as Jan Crouch, Jax as the Mona Lisa, Sugar as Trisha Paytas, Amethyst as Tan Mom, Spice as Miley Cyrus, and Aura as Bretman Rock. The panel is positively dominated by Loosey, who earns a well-deserved win this week. Last week, I worried she blew her load too early with her Dolly Parton impression, but I needn’t have. She had a better and funnier impression in her back pocket. She’s truly, deeply, madly funny, and she lucks out when a dumpster fire of a bottom row gives her ample ammunition to exercise Rivers’s signature wit and hard-bitten nature. Loosey began the season in the bottom, but even then the judges seemed to like her drag, and she’s been proving them right since. Turns out Connecticut has got some juice in her yet.
Jax, Sasha, and Amethyst are safe. We don’t see much of Jax or Sasha, but what we do see is funny enough. The visual of Jax as the Mona Lisa is very good, though I still don’t love queens doing non-impressions for Snatch Game. Tan Mom is an incredibly safe option, but given Amethyst’s track record so far, I don’t begrudge her a safe pick, and she gets one really good joke in with the “100 percent my son?” answer. Plus she’s stuck sitting between twin ground zeroes, which can’t make things easy.
The twins are very, very bad. Sugar doesn’t really play Trisha so much as a generic dumb blonde, which, based on last week’s acting challenge, may be the only part this green performer feels comfortable with. Spice isn’t a dumb blonde as Miley, but she does demonstrate equal naïveté by not knowing how to deal with the fact that she’s bombing by continuing with the same bad jokes. The loop of Spice hitting herself on the head with a hammer will haunt me for years to come. Aura, meanwhile, is a total bore as Bretman Rock. Shady question: Is it any surprise the queen who couldn’t stop talking about how hot she is as a boy chose a character that would show off her muscled body?
The runway theme is “Beautiful Nightmare,” and my opinion on a category like this is that if you look pretty, you didn’t complete the assignment. Marcia x3 continues to give too-small drag, while Malaysia continues her streak of wearing only white gowns. Mistress looks gorgeous, which kind of means she failed the assignment. Salina? Sui generis. (Bad.) Loosey edges herself up in the Chad Michaels way, which means “Not edgy, but I get that ‘edgy’ is never really going to happen with you, so it’s okay.” Jax’s shape continues to be an issue. The twins give Monster High doll, and is it wrong to hope their drag will ever earn a descriptor beyond “cute”? Aura gives the stunner of the episode in a black velvet dress with a bloody, rhinestoned spine on the back. If you’ve got to give beauty, this is the way to do it.
So Marcia x3, Mistress, and Loosey are on the top with the twins and Aura on the bottom. Despite being on the top, Marcia x3 receives mostly negative critiques. Her (well-trained) performing skills are helping her significantly in the challenges, but I sense a bit of resentment on the judges’ side — Marcia x3 is not succeeding on drag skills this far; she’s succeeding on theater skills. Her story line will be compared to Jan, and rightly so, but it’s season-three Shangela she reminds me of the most. That season, Shangela’s commitment to drag as a specific art form was questioned almost constantly, as the judges saw her as an actor-comedian turning to drag as a venue for her other skills. If Marcia x3 wants to make it to the finals, she’ll have to show the judges why she loves drag. Mistress gets an incredible compliment when RuPaul tells her she’s got her eye on her. Mistress is headed straight for top four, but Loosey wins, while Aura’s runway look (and the fact that they want a twin lip sync) saves her.
The true gag of the episode is the twin lip sync, which is slowly revealed to be a fully choreographed number. Is it good? Is it bad? I’ll argue good. RuPaul’s Drag Race is a show about being entertained, and by the end of the lip sync, I was fully gagged. Marcia x3 calls it “another canned bit.” Sure! But it’s their most nervy gamble yet, clearly aiming for a double shantay.
It doesn’t work. Unfortunately, Sugar has not buckled her shoe correctly, and it comes undone, sending her catapulting across the floor more than once and resulting in her ending the performance with just one shoe. It’s a reminder of earlier in the season, when Mistress had to tell Sugar to use wig glue; these girls just haven’t performed enough to know how to prep their outfits for live drag. And so Spice shall continue on without Sugar. The twins together were a welcome distraction within this ginormous group of queens, but Solo Spice has more than enough story potential to carry a few more episodes at least.
• Oooooh, baby, this Untucked is a lot. First of all: These queens seem obsessed with ranking themselves within unranked statuses. Luxx says she’s “high safe,” not just safe (she is middle safe, for what it’s worth). Marcia x3 says she’s second to Loosey over Mistress, which Mistress disagrees with. This does not matter! But the real centerpiece is the twins telling the room they are disappointed they haven’t gotten to their backstory yet and then promptly breaking down to the trauma of their family lives. Sasha goes into full mother mode, revealing to the twins that the whole room of queens can relate to their stories. She also is the one who convinces the twins that if one of them does leave, then the other has to continue on. Sasha Colby!
• Trauma Makeup Corner is handed over to Loosey, who tells the story of the first time she was called a faggot. Again, the way they dole these stories out is pretty rote at this point. While I of course feel bad for Loosey dealing with homophobia, I can’t say the way these segments are edited allow for much real emotion.
• Between Hugáceo Crujiente on Drag Race España season one and Jax this week, we have now managed to get two Mona Lisa Snatch Games before one Patti LuPone. Get on it, BFAs!
• Top-four prediction, just for fun: Sasha, Mistress, Luxx, and Loosey.