CLÁUDIO ALVES: Praise be the 90-minute episode, the Rusical team, the queens of season 15, and the politically prescient writers who saw the current anti-drag policies coming a year in advance. Praise be to everyone! “Wigloose” is the episode of the year so far, which is saying something when you consider the utter mediocrity of its LSFYL. Then again, nobody should’ve had to fight for their lives this week. Even more than in the original “Daytona Winds,” the queens delivered excellence across the board. Sure, some did better than others, and the runway could break ties, but the talent is so evident it’s hard to keep euphoria at bay. And yet, after last year’s non-elimination-palooza, I can see why the producers and Ru herself might want to keep things tight. I’m sad, but I get it.
NICK TAYLOR: Praise be to the singers who actually interpreted all of those songs, too. I think the sheer brilliance of last week’s tooth-and-nail LSFYL and the performances in this week’s Rusical should (and, in a prior season, absolutely would) have prevented anyone from going home. Lord knows Marcia probably would’ve won this episode. Heaven Bacon was tailor-made for her…
Even so, I ultimately agree with the brutal choice to keep sending bitches home. No matter what I think of the judging for any given episode, the implacable march toward the finale is an absolute asset to a season with this many queens to work through. It’s fucked that the stunted runtimes of the entire first two-thirds of the season have kept us from knowing most of those sixteen queens as well as we might have. But those earlier failures can’t diminish what a stellar episode “Wigloose: The Rusical!” is, not just by the standards of this season’s diminished expectations but as a high water mark of Drag Race overall.
CLÁUDIO: I would agree with your final statement, that’s how good this episode was. In any case, things start out in an expected manner, with casual post-elimination decompressing and Mistress’s “era” obsession spreading to the other queens. Poor Salina states she’s entering her top era, but in the confessionals, she expresses her true anxiety about being the only queen left with no wins. The iconic Isabelle Brooks also declares the time for congeniality is over, a stance bound to get eye-rolls. For how confrontational Mistress has been throughout the season, this episode saw her claws get sharper than ever, and Loosey is her favorite scratch toy.
NICK: Salina’s “I don’t need a win to win!” statement reads very Coco Montrese in season 5 after she sent home Alyssa Edwards. As anxious as Salina is, she’s also aware that her performance this season has been better than her track record indicates, and I admire that she isn’t defeated about her prospects the way she was a few weeks ago.
No mini-challenge this week, as Ru introduces the maxi-challenge. We’ve arrived at The Rusical. As with season 14’s “Moulin Ru!”, our queens are tackling a spoof of a musical film. They’re doing Wigloose, the story of a community that’s on the cusp of abolishing drag permanently, if only a spirited outsider could inspire the town’s queens to fight for their rights. Everyone immediately grasps the gravity of this story but also the potential for fun, and they seem eager to tear into it.
The queens are left to choose their roles themselves, and for most of them, the selection process is easy as pie. But Luxx and Loosey both want the leading role of Heaven Bacon, and it becomes an argument that swallows up the whole cast. Luxx thinks the role of a young, fierce and fearless outsider fits her better than it does Loosey, and she sees a lot of herself in Heaven. Loosey argues the same, though the edit includes her saying in her confessionals that she wants the biggest showcase in order to win the challenge. All of the other queens believe Loosey just wants the biggest role, and agree that Heaven suits Luxx better. Loosey ultimately relents, outraged that everyone is accusing her of less than noble intentions, only for Luxx to give Heaven to her anyways, stating that she doesn’t need the lead role to shine as bright as she always does.
CLÁUDIO: The roles are:
Loosey – Heaven Bacon, the new kid in town who rebels against conservative oppression.
Anetra – Mama Bacon, the lead’s supportive mother.
Mistress – Preacher Teacher, the conservative bitch who banned drag.
Sasha – Carl, Preacher Teacher’s dweeby husband.
Luxx – Christian, Preacher Teacher’s jock son.
Salina – Tuck, Christian’s schoolmate and hoedown enthusiast.
Despite getting what she wanted, Loosey is obnoxious – AGAIN. To be fair, she’s being buried a bit too deep by the editing, and both Mistress and Luxx are taking their shade to another level. They clearly know that she will always give them a big reaction, but after a while, it feels like hitting an easy target for the viewer. We do see a vulnerable moment between Loosey and Salina. It’s mostly so that we can later appreciate a feeling of betrayal, but it also illuminates how hurt Matron BFA feels. Still, I must add that, for all that compassion, it’s evident even the queens not actively attacking Loosey don’t particularly like her either. Sasha recently said at Roscoe’s that the edit isn’t misleading, which suggests a cast-wide animosity.
Speaking of, as the only remaining white queen Loosey skews the Rusical into a white savior narrative by demanding the lead so vehemently. I believe it was completely unintentional, though it further underlines racial lines within the cast. Someone other than me could probably talk better about the poise demanded of queens of color compared to the relative fragility displayed by the white girls, season after season.
NICK: That’s a through-line I honestly hadn’t thought about until you brought it up. It’s definitely an odd look, now that you’ve got me thinking about it, though I don’t know that it negatively impacted my stance on the Rusical itself. To add to your own point about Loosey, I think claiming she carried herself and Luxx to that joint win is wildly disingenuous. I’m really curious to hear what she has to say about her edit.
After the queens pick their roles, Ru enters the werkroom for a quick pow-wow with three of the girls. He’s very excited about Sasha Colby picking the role of the nerdy, ineffectual husband. She admits choosing Carl is a challenge and a calculated gag on her part – the novelty to see Miss Colby play this part, but can she pull it off? Ru next meets with Salina, who’s very in her head about relating to Tuck feeling like he doesn’t belong anywhere. Ru quickly tells the bitch to calm down, take a deep breath, and really embrace herself for who she is. The categories she thinks she doesn’t fit in aren’t real. Salina seems to take Ru’s advice to heart, and it helps her out considerably.
Anetra is also very caught in her feelings. She’s playing an endlessly loving parent despite not having a relationship with her own mother, and it’s making her think a lot about how different her life is than she thought it would be and the long journey she’s been on to accept herself as a gay man and as a drag artist. Ru hits her with the classic “you were born to do drag”, and though I sometimes find Ru’s demeanor and expressiveness out of drag a bit too wooden to come across as totally sincere, it clearly means the world to Anetra to hear this validation. She’s crying. I’m crying. It’s a whole thing.
CLÁUDIO: It’s the emotional peak of the season, later culminating in Anetra playing the mother she never had on stage, bringing it full circle in a way that hits like a sledgehammer to the solar plexus.
Still, before such triumph, there must be failure. Or, at least, the flimsily produced insinuation of failure. During the rehearsals, when faced with Miguel Zarate’s choreography, every queen stumbles with one exception. Sasha gets no airtime during this portion of the episode, suggesting she gave the editors nothing to work with, succeeding so hard it broke the producers’ plans. Well, that’s how I choose to see it. Still, as much as I want to say that Mother Colby steals the show through conspicuous absence, that would be a lie. The star is Mistress, who interrupts Luxx’s choreo session to point out the store tag still attached to Miss London’s werkroom fur. It’s so fucking funny – I hollered!
NICK: Did Luxx even slip up during rehearsals, or did she just get called out? You’re forgetting one stellar Colby moment in her confessional, when she roasts Loosey for moving so stiffly during rehearsals – ie, for dancing like a white person. This brings to mind my favorite aspect of season five’s snatch game, where everyone’s apparent incompetence doesn’t stop them from noticing how all these other bitches are flatlining. You’re right that it’s only believable in the context of the about-face of excellence we’re going to get, but it’s easy to enjoy as a rare moment of collective flop sweating.
From this foreboding rehearsal comes a display of group solidarity, as the usual Tragedy Mirror time slot is devoted to the queens discussing the frightening volume of drag bans, transphobia, and queerphobic laws emerging throughout the US. Drag Race’s lunges towards political commentary aren’t always successful or elegant, but it’s best when the show lets the queens discuss how these political firestorms are affecting their lives and their communities.
Everyone gets a moment to speak truth to power on this issue. Miss LaDuca talks about the attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour; Mistress brings up how her Texas drag is under imminent threat from her home state; Sasha discusses the fears specific to her as a transwoman and the progress the LGBTQ+ community has made get peeled away by politicians hurling accusations of grooming and pushing agendas despite doing those things more than gay people ever have. It’s a really poignant moment, rousing and earnest in a way the show doesn’t always achieve this powerfully.
CLÁUDIO: This episode’s editing is stellar, and no passage shows it off better than these mirror musings. Sure, the cast goes deep into an urgent subject for all queer people watching, but there’s also a nifty modulation of tone, bringing the mood up as we cut to the main stage. Loved seeing the girls doing boy drag goof off about their weird getup, especially Luxx’ Little Richard-looking ass.
Arriving on a high note, we’re instantly dazzled by Ru’s fantastic outfit. The bitch looks like she’s one of the contestants shooting the season 10 promo, all neon sensuality and body-contouring elastane. Her hair is giving 80s party girl realness, her mug is serving rocker chick. Michelle Visage is comparably demure, all covered up in red, with a little bow crowning her black-and-white coiffure. She’s the evil stepmother to Drag UK’s Dakota Schiffer. The hilarious Ross Matthews is as unfunny as ever, but she looks in zebra print. Finally, Orville Peck is this week’s extra special guest judge, donning a flaming cowboy costume that makes him look as smoldering as his voice sounds. The judging panel is very pretty tonight, all gussied up to see “Wigloose: The Rusical!”
NICK: And boy do they get a show. We don’t need to go down the show one beat at a time, but for real, I’m amazed that anyone went home based on these performances. All six queens do some of the best work they’ve done this entire season. The skill of the queens, the quality of the songs, and the real political heft with such a bouncy tone, all of this makes Wigloose one of Drag Race’s best Rusicals. Everyone nails their choreography, the lipsyncs are tight, the looks are excellent. I’m saying all this now to indicate that if I emphasize any of these qualities with a particular queen, it means they killed it.
We’ll start with the biggest role first: As much as Loosey’s hemming and hawing for the lead role was annoying, she really did a good job as Heaven Bacon. Yes, the judges aren’t wrong that she fades a bit once she’s in girl drag, but she does a fucking great job as a boy who’s willing to fight for his right to do drag. Hell, being too old for the role fits in the pastiche of it all. Mistress Isabelle Brooks would probably have run away with the whole damn show if the whole cast wasn’t at her level, but she’s such a treat as the villain here. Sasha makes her role pay off through sheer commitment to the bit, which still translates in real sweetness for this sap, and it turns out Salina’s high-tone personality pops just as effectively folding into a chorus/duet role. Aces all around.
When all is said and done, I really think my favorites are Luxx and Anetra, though that may change before I finish this sentence. Luxx is just so sparkling and bright – the bitch is absolutely right, she shines no matter what role she’s given. She wears the fuck out of both her wigs, and there’s such vivacity to her every movement and expression. And Anetra, god, Anetra. What a gorgeous, emotive performance, taking the show’s anthem and ensuring it works as a battle cry and a blanket of affirmation. Everything about her look is so outside what we’ve seen from her so far, and to see the skill and joy she’s expressed in her lipsyncs used for this role is just magnificent.
CLÁUDIO: I might quibble with Loosey’s casting more than you, but I can’t deny she kills it. I see the judges’ point, but had she dominated the show’s second half as much as she devoured the first, this Rusical would have felt unbalanced. As for Mistress, she could dance better – true – but her enthusiasm is effusive. Indeed, watching her chew the scenery as a Latina conservative pushing anti-queer legislation while hiding a drag past made me burst into uncontrollable giggles – she’s George Santos! Sasha is brilliant as Carl, so good I wouldn’t have complained had Ru wanted to throw her another win. As in the Golden Girls challenge, Mother commits to the physical comedy and aces the look along the way. Her brittle moves as she reveals Carl’s drag persona show great comedic instincts, as does the heavy mug with raccoon-like smoky eyes.
And yet, if asked to name a top three, I’d probably go with the remaining queens. Luxx and Salina take the two parts most likely to fade into the background, and they redeem them to the point they feel like the platonic ideal of such Rusical roles. Kudos to Salina for overcoming her country allergy, and to Luxx for giving into the drag ball fantasy with such joy she steals the spotlight from Loosey.
Still, nothing could stop Anetra from taking this victory. Unlike her fellow actresses, this Vegas showgirl gets little choreo, focusing the maternal performance on the kind of emotional eleventh-hour ballad she hasn’t yet lip-synced on TV. In other words, she still gets to surprise Ru and us late in the game. Moreover, one should be reminded that this playback musical is a lip-syncing challenge above all else. What I’m saying is that there’s no theater kid energy great enough to overcome Anetra’s drag mastery. She knows how to milk every gesture, reaching for a level of heartfelt exaggeration that goes beyond Broadway pastiche but never falls into ‘above it’ irony. For the first time this season, I’m starting to envision a possible future where Sasha loses the crown.
NICK: I think everyone but tonight’s bottom two has a reasonable claim to the crown. If nothing else, we’re fast approaching a phenomenal top four. I could keep elaborating on the praise you’ve lavished here, but we need to finish this thing up. Tonight’s theme is “Everybody Say Glove!”, where the queens have to walk the runway in glove-forward outfits.
First up is Loosey LaDuca, doing Creature from the Black Lagoon by way of an Esther Williams swimsuit. I hesitate to be too mean about this look, because it’s polished and fun enough, but it’s also the worst of the six runways. Given her occasional penchant for horror, I’m a bit surprised Loosey didn’t lean harder into the fishy potential here. The scales on the midriff are a huge miss, since they fuck with her silhouette, and ruffles add just enough to the outfit to make me feel like everything below the waist is kinda empty, which does her legs a disservice.
CLÁUDIO: I have no hesitations – I hate this. “What if the Creature ended up with Julie Adams at the end of the movie and they had a thot daughter” is a brilliant concept, which makes the underwhelming outfit all the more vexing. Maybe I’d like it if she actually tried for a 1950s swimsuit style, but those round boobs with hard nipples spoil the attempt. It needs more structure, balance, boldness too. The necklace is a confounding choice that doesn’t go with anything, the head styling all wrong. Generic and half-assed, Loosey looks like a loser.
Anetra is next, presenting her usual merek of Vegas circuit party realness. The lasers are a nice spin on the prompt and appear well integrated into the styling thanks to those neon details. Honestly, this whole thing is a bit boring if inoffensive, apart from the hateful shoes. Her mug is stamped to perfection, however, maybe the best it’s ever looked.
NICK: Blue looks great on her. The whole outfit is built around the laser gimmick which sells it, though I think it’s fair to say that the runway isn’t what won her the episode.
After her is Mistress, wearing her spin on Raja’s golden confection from AS7. I’ll say my one real quibble now, which is that the monochrome and giant shoulders don’t let the gloves pop as much as a glove-forward challenge might demand. That being said, Mistress looks absolutely stunning. She continues to show new ways to play with her silhouette and new spokes on the color wheel that completely flatter her. The dripping jewelry is a decadent touch.
CLÁUDIO: The dripping gems feel integrated enough into the glove to make her pass the runway prompt, so I’m not complaining. Truly, the only thing I don’t particularly like about this stunning fit is the wig. That ashy blonde clashes with the yellow, not to mention it’s a direct repeat from last week’s episode.
From pageant perfection, we go to scene kid stylishness. The pants, the pops of red, the wig stolen from muppet Michelle Williams – it’s all so good it’s making me froth at the mouth. By a wide margin, my choice for top toot of the week, Luxx Noir London is a miracle on the catwalk. She poses the house down even with her elbows locked in Barbie-like fashion. Interpreting gloves as arm casts is such a fun spin – bless her prodigious mind.
NICK: I love the moment on the runway where she throws her arms back and her eyes widen a bit, like she’s trying to shrug or throw her hands up but can’t do it in her casts. I’m so curious what wig she had originally planned to use, given how perfectly the Michelle wig goes with this outfit. It’s an inspired interpretation of this challenge.
Wackiest of all is Salina EsTitties, with giant red gloves and a bodysuit with a human face stretched across it. I love this bodysuit, especially the bulging eyes on her estitties, and Ross Mathews is wrong for wishing it was black. I might even like this suit more than the homunculus hands, which go with it fine but maybe are fighting for attention. As a visual I’m into all of it, but I’m having a hard time answering that immortal question: Is it fashion?
CLÁUDIO: It’s goofy fashion, even if those big red hands make her look cartoonish. I cosign everything you said, though I’d like to add a quibble. Salina has a strange predilection for odd proportions, often peppering giant statements with tiny details that are hardly perceptible. Her bling falls into that category, as do the twisty knots of her hairdo. A more sculpted wig, the kind that’s so large you can see it from space, would have been better than this popstar number she’s sporting.
Last but not least, Sasha Colby serves up this week’s most creative design. Instead of styling a look to feature gloves, she made one out of the accessory, going for deconstructed baseball mitts. It’s a remarkable look, and even the wig is right. Sadly, I can’t say the same about the face. While the heavy eye worked for the glammed-up Carl, it strikes me as too much for this sportier character.
NICK: The makeup’s a bit much, sure, but this is maybe my favorite runway for the sheer ingenuity of her concept. It’s so fucking creative, sporty and sexy and still somehow a moving piece of art. I can forgive the raccoon eyes (or as Langaja says, Tina Turner Frankenfurter) when every other element is so perfect. And the boots! What a great touch.
From there we begin the critiques, which are so euphoric it’s almost hard to figure out who’s on top and who’s on the bottom. Everyone knocked it out of the park, though some runways get more praise than others. It’s a tight call, so Ru asks her most infamous of questions. Who should go home tonight and why?
Loosey throws Salina under the bus despite crying on her shoulder earlier, saying she’s been in the bottom the most. Anetra more democratically cites track record on Salina. Mistress wants an end to the Sasha Colby meet-and-greet, going for the “send home the competition” route rather than saying who she thinks actually did the worst.
Luxx, reminding the people once again that she’s here to play a different game than they are, goes down the entire line of queens, offering a short thesis on why each of them is a unique, memorable artist before settling on Loosey, calling her drag the least original of the remaining queens, and it looks like Loosey is in physical pain when she hears this. Salina reminds the girls who said her name that they were as thrown by her repeated trips to the bottom as she was before saying Loosey’s name. Sasha ends it by naming Loosey and Luxx, citing the same logic Mistress used. In the end, Anetra wins the challenge, and Salina now lip-syncs for the fourth time, with Loosey as her newest opponent.
CLÁUDIO: Maybe that dissertation should have won Luxx the week, for it was the epitome of CUNT. Still, gotta love how Sasha can throw shade while being subtler than Miss London. Notice that, by going with track records, Mother Colby manages to avoid saying Mistress’ name. In other words, for as much as Isabelle Brooks might see the Hawaiian goddess as her biggest competition, she doesn’t even register a blip on her opponent’s radar.
As for the bottom two’s performance, Ru makes them emote their hearts out to last year’s hottest song, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God).” Neither queen delivers the goods, I’m sad to say, choosing to play it straight when a looser style might have saved their asses. Not that a ‘park and bark’ approach to this number is necessarily wrong. We needn’t have gymnastics to nail the gender-bending anthem, but you certainly must be a better interpreter, a better actress even, than Loosey or Salina was at that moment. I can’t stop thinking about what Sasha Velour might have done here, or even this season’s resident Sasha. In summation, this was a waste of Kate Bush and the only real sour note in an otherwise smashing episode.
Anyway, I’ll miss Salina. Farewell, queen of titties.
NICK: I would have even settled for something more erotic, or more excited, or more in keeping with the song’s spirited beat. I don’t like how heavily they play it, as if the song’s intensity wards off having fun with it. I can’t say Loosey really “won”, but whatever Salina was trying to do by taking off her gloves near the end of the number did not translate narratively for one second, so I guess Loosey did better by default. Still, I feel bad for Salina, who can’t hide how bitter her exit feels. No challenge wins, no money, four lip syncs for her life, and two girls telling her it’s her time to go. It’s a rough track record, but it’s also a tenure filled with plenty of high points among a talented cast. I stopped predicting Salina for the finale a while ago, but she clawed her way to the top six and deserved to make it this far.
We’ve arrived at the fabulous five, a makeover challenge on unsuspecting teachers. Three queens have yet to lip sync for their lives. One is maybe headed for a breakdown. God, I hope it’s a good episode.