NICK TAYLOR: Welcome back, Cláudio! And welcome back, 90-minute Drag Race episodes! The return of a longer runtime definitely gives the show more room to breathe – it really is so nice to hear Ru say “Bring back my gurls!” again – and allows us to really spend more time with the queens. This is clearly a talented cast, but “Two Queens, One Joke” feels like the best chance we’ve really gotten to know this top seven. Do I agree with the judging 100%? No, but as an episode of television, this felt satisfying in a way that season 15 has too rarely achieved.
CLÁUDIO ALVES: I love the return of 90-minute episodes (really 60 minutes), even if this week’s judging infuriated me. Moreover, the outcome of all those shenanigans was downright heartbreaking…
Before we give ourselves into Broadway Baby melancholy, it’s time to be annoyed. Loosey is back on her bullshit. She thinks she should have won and that her runway was sickening. Bless her, Luxx is not having it, pointing out that the other bitch’s Beyoncé look was missing a baby bump – it was!
We all know Drag Race is a piece of heavily produced television, so each contestant’s presence is molded by the edit, meaning that what we see on screen is a character more than a person. So, I’ll just say that the character of Loosey LaDuca on the show’s edit is starting to transcend the stages of Jan delusion, reaching for that middle term between obnoxious and villain-esque that poor Alexis Michelle exemplified in season 9. I both feel sorry for her and am starting to salivate at the possibility of a reality TV downfall. Where do you stand on the Loosey issue?
NICK: I appreciate her sticking her ground re: the baby bump, even if she was factually incorrect. As silly as the second-place hang-ups are, she’s not wrong to stick up for herself as a performer who’s done well throughout the series. Loosey’s apparent argument that she’s being underappreciated by her fellow competitors and the judges reads as insecure to me, and I’m curious how her attitude will change after this episode. Side note: I still don’t know what producer’s note is keeping these queens from saying they think they should have won a challenge instead of fighting for second, but I wonder if I’d react differently to Loosey if she wasn’t clawing for a silver medal.
Luxx, on the other hand, is equally convinced of her brilliance, yet she’s stayed relatively chill about expressing this to the other queens. I honestly appreciate her saying in her confessional that she’s running first in her head. It’s as close as anyone’s come to saying they think they should have more challenge wins, and she’s not gonna make her path to frontrunner status anyone else’s problem except hers.
After Luxx and Loosey go at it, Ru pops up on the TV – another staple I didn’t know I missed til it came up – to name drop a lot of comedy duos before she enters the werkroom to announce a mini-challenge. The queens have to get into quick drag for a vogue-off. I, for one, had a good time. Sasha and Anetra turnt it, as expected, Marcia got to strut her stuff, and Mistress transformed it into a full on reading challenge. Special citation to Miss EsTitties, who tripped almost immediately and used that momentum to go apeshit on the dance floor. Not the best of the bunch, but we love a fighter.
CLÁUDIO: As much as I want to say Sasha was robbed – that hair play was everything – Anetra earned her victory here. Some ballroom performers, including season 9’s Aja, have criticized the Vegas queen’s performance, and while I value their expertise, I also think these mini-challenges aren’t that serious. The point is to have fun and entertain RuPaul and the audience for one fleeting moment. These bitches do that well enough. Indeed, I could almost be persuaded to give Mistress the win. What she lacks in sickening moves, she has in charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and trolling. Her interaction with Marcia is a highlight.
After that silliness, it’s time for Mama Ru to introduce the week’s main challenge. But first, some team selection by way of flagrant product placement.
NICK: It’s time for a comedy special, sponsored by Bubly! The seven queens will reach into a cooler of Bubly, and whoever gets the same flavors will be paired together. Our first pairing is Loosey and Luxx, then Anetra and Sasha, and lastly Marcia and Mistress. Salina, being the odd girl out, is given the option to fly solo or steal someone else’s partner, and swipes Mistress for herself. Marcia is left alone in the cold. Her unflappably positive attitude is tinged with panic about taking on this challenge by herself, but Marcia’s ready to push herself and see what she can do, and I admire that tremendously.
Anetra gets to delegate the order of the show as a reward for winning the mini-challenge, and the final arrangement is: Marcia opens, Loosey and Luxx go second, Anetra and Sasha go third, and Mistress and Salina close out the show. All of these pairings seem potentially fruitful to this fruit, though they have their ups and downs. Mistress and Salina click pretty quickly, while Luxx and Loosey almost reflexively step on each other’s toes as they workshop their material. Marcia is stressed but committed, and Anetra is stuck fighting a horrible migraine, leaving Sasha a bit stranded.
CLÁUDIO: As someone who suffers from chronic migraines, I feel for the trade of the season (sorry, Aura). Trying to write anything while suffering a crisis is hard enough, but trying to plan a comedy routine from scratch feels next to impossible. It’s at this point in the episode that keen viewers will start penciling Anetra for a bottom two position. Marcia, too, since going solo in a group challenge rarely pays off – just ask Roxxxy Andrews. Still, gotta give props to the girl for keeping her cool, for being so chill and positive. Honestly, so many of this season’s queens exude good vibes, pure professionalism – they’re a dream blunt rotation and ideal colleagues. They’re all contenders for Miss Congeniality – Loosey, Luxx, and Mistress aside.
Marcia and Anetra’s incoming downfall is underlined when the queens get to workshop their jokes with Michelle Visage and special guest Ali Wong. This passage is refreshing out of episodes where the creative process gets left on the cutting room floor. One senses that these bitches are taking in every note, even if they later fail to apply them. Salina, in particular, seemed to get a lot from Ali’s guidance, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. What did you think of this week’s extra special judge?
NICK: I thought Ali Wong did a great job coaching the queens. Her enthusiasm to be on the show was palpable, and she had constructive criticisms for everyone, no matter how strong or weak their material is. She and Michelle Visage are a solid team, and they really give the queens a lot to chew on about improving their jokes and their chemistry. And the queens in turn have a lot of material to present! Everyone’s got real potential, with the exception of Anetra, who’s told to scrap her whole set and start over.
From there, we jump to elimination day. The queens confer in the werkroom, and Salina EsTitties is the sounding board for a Tragedy Mirror moment with her face caked in unblended makeup for the third goddamn time.
Salina asks her comedy partner Mistress about her relationship with her family, and Mistress reveals that she hasn’t spoken to her family in years. In particular, she’s had a rough relationship with her mother, who was vocally embarrassed by Mistress being a drag queen and insulted her when she was in the hospital with a broken ankle. It’s sad stuff, but there’s something inspiring to see how fully Mistress has made peace with not talking to her mom anymore. She has her community, and it makes the video message from her drag mother in Untucked all the more moving.
CLÁUDIO: The smooth transition from the coaching session to the truly devastating Mistress story is a great showcase for the improvement in editing quality. A 90-minute episode really favors the show in its current form, and whoever at MTV had the brilliant idea of cutting that shit down for the season’s first half needs to be given another job.
Anyway, from that tear-jerking conversation, we jump to the main stage, where Mama Ru serves a corker of a lewk. It’s a micro-dress seemingly made of multi-colored pop tabs arranged in chainmail of zig-zagging stripes. Nice of Zaldy to prove that he would win an unconventional material runway challenge if assigned such a task.Michelle Visage, TS Madison, and the hilarious Ali Wong also look fantastic, by the way. The latter seems especially thrilled to be on the panel, her enthusiasm infectious throughout – hey, Drag Race producers, keep her as a permanent judge from now on.
NICK: The judges look great! Nice to get two episodes of TS Madison in a row, we can’t take simple joys like that for granted.
First up is Marcia Marcia Marcia, in some delectable red dress. I thought her stand-up was perfectly solid, comparing the anxieties of being on the show so early in her drag career to puberty and poking fun at the repeated comments about her makeup. It’s not an inspired set, but Marcia’s jokes are okay, her stage presence halfway makes her anxiety work as a character point, and she looks good. We’re just past the point where proficient is good enough to be safe.
CLÁUDIO: Yeah, she seemed perfectly safe, though I don’t like her ‘lady in red’ look as much as you do. Later, on the judging panel, some critiques felt too harsh for Princess BFA, whose greatest sin was being unremarkable but never outright bad. Moreover, kudos to Marcia for weaponizing her anxiety while facing what surely had to be the toughest challenge of the night, being the only solo comedian and the show’s opener.
Next come Luxx and Loosey, who make their early episode animosity into the backbone of an entertaining comedy routine. You can tell Lady LaDuca is accustomed to this sort of performance, for she exudes confidence and professionalism out of her every pore. The younger queen is less secure but overcomes it all pretty well. Out of all the teams, they work best as a duo, even in how their costumes coordinate without being matchy. Nevertheless, I don’t think either served win-worthy comedy. Am I crazy, mayhap suffering from the same drag delusion that’s overcome most of this cast?
NICK: I thought they were the best duet of the night. Loosey’s air of familiarity plays well against Luxx’s more effusive but less stage-accustomed energy. The sugar daddy material made me scared they’d break into Shangela’s big blow-up, but their set was tight, the rapport was good, and as you pointed out, they even complemented each other visually. As with last week, it’s not mind-blowing work, but their baseline competence and energy counts for a lot in an uneven cast.
After them is Sasha and Anetra, who tragically fall heads over asses into the same stoner comedy trap that befell Jax in Daytona Winds 2. Sasha has slightly more stage presence than Anetra, and her joke about Michelle’s balls at least had the desperate verve of someone who knows their previous jokes have barely translated to the audiences. But I don’t remember any of their other jokes, aside from them cheerily announcing they were about to start some canned bits. Just an absolute whiff from two of our presumed finalists.
CLÁUDIO: They were shockingly bad, with Sasha saving herself with some last-minute laughs. Still, it was too little too late. Anetra was just a big ol’ nothing, though I can’t help but feel bad for her knowing how my own migraines can be debilitating. On another note, their looks felt oddly combined, making for an aesthetic incongruency that didn’t help matters. Why is Sasha styled like Patsy Stone? Why is her dark hair peeking out from under the blonde updo? What has befallen Mother Colby to make her so wig-impaired two weeks in a row?
Salina and Mistress are our closing act, choosing a storytelling approach revolving around a persnickety bit of trade with a potential Santa fetish and a rhinestone on his dick. The EsTitties bitch, bless her, saves the entire comedy show with a blast of sheer charisma. What’s more, she implements every note given to her by Michelle and Ali Wong, making the extended bit flow towards an expected end while modulating her rhythms with multiple punchlines. Sadly, Mistress fails in the same way her colleague faltered during the coaching session. It’s a repetitive shtick delivered too monotonously to make an impact.
NICK: Salina’s the star of the show by so many miles it’s crazy. I almost wish she’d worked alone so that she could have her moment in the sun with no one else to worry about.
For a queen who’s alternated pretty hard between standout moments and confidence-shaking fumbles, it’s so gratifying to see her hit a home run like this. Her moment-to-moment inflections are as funny as the overarching gag, and the way she shouts “Ignacio!” with such surprised recognition is probably the best line reading of the whole night. Mistress fumbles the ball the same way Salina did in rehearsal, making her choices even more mystifying, but their interplay is pretty strong. If Mistress’ performance makes me rank our final pairing slightly lower than Luxx and Loosey, Salina’s set is undeniably the best show of the night.
From here we go to the runway. Tonight’s theme is “Rip her to Shreds!”, asking the queens to tear up their outfit as hard as they tear up that stage.
Up first is Marcia Marcia Marcia, dressed as a pageant winner who literally fought her way to the crown. The dress itself is a letdown to me, but a lot of the details worked for me. The big hair with the bloody patch ripped out of the back of her skull, the scratches on the dress, and the mascara tears are all vivid. It reminds me of your comment a few weeks ago about how so many of Marcia’s concepts revolve around violence. Also, criticizing her because Loosey had a similar design two weeks ago is just stupid.
CLÁUDIO: The musical twink sure loves to be battered and bruised on that catwalk. I found this cute, with her best wig of the season and a skirt that moved beautifully later when she had to lipsync. Also, for what it’s worth, this is miles better than Loosey’s similar outfit.
Speaking of that loose lass, she’s serving vampire realness this week. The effect is excellent, even though the shoes are indefensible. I also think the skirt feels like a capitulation to conventional beauty. However, every issue with the fried wig and clashing makeup adds to the purposeful ugliness. In other words, that’s the point. I guess Loosey works best when she’s aiming for horror. Remember her Jason Voorhees getup?
NICK: I think this is her best runway of the season. Her vampire look is more fully realized and more distinct than the Jason getup, which basically loses the homage without the mask. Here, the color blocking and clashing textures create a wonderfully monstrous effect with its own undead beauty (aside from the shoes). Love the blush on her cheeks.
Next is newly realized Comedienne Extraordinaire Luxx, wearing an update to a look RuPaul wore as part of the ‘80s band Wee-Pole. It’s a fantastically deep cut reference, on par with Gigi Goode’s blonde Michelle Visage. More than that, Luxx twists it to make it fashion while adding some overtly masc qualities, using football shoulder pads and throwing some hot red accents to this monochromatic moment. Her makeup is war paint and her hair is fucking huge – it’s great RuPaul, but it’s almost better as a lost member of The Village People.
CLÁUDIO: Luxx is one strategic mastermind, shooting a cannon of nostalgia straight at the bitch holding the crown and the paycheck. I prefer the proportions of the original look, but the pops of red added to this reinvention make it feel more runway ready. Love the movement of it.
Sasha Colby might have failed at comedy, but she stakes her claim as the queen of fashion. This retroactively wins the Denim & Diamonds season 10 runway, winking at Y2K aesthetics but exaggerating the whole thing into haute couture maximalism. While I wouldn’t say it’s tremendous enough to save her from the bottom, I can understand why the judges might have felt so inclined. Mother is mothering – stunning!
NICK: Sasha looks great. It’s giving Disney Channel Red Carpet realness – all denim and patches, stretched and sewn to accommodate that body-ody-ody. Was it originally a denim dress that got torn up because her ass and thighs are just that fat? Much to consider.
Anetra comes next, with a shredded deep green velvet bodysuit over bubblegum pink fabric, with a cape, a shoulder piece, and some accessories that read as ambiguously digital and techy. Is Anetra a Vocaloid whose shtick is that they’re a living microphone headset? She also looks like her fat ass ripped apart her outfit, a good trend for the stoner crew. I appreciate that her suit courts different forms of structural symmetry and asymmetry, from all the ripping on the midriff to the different sleeves. Just a shame about the shoes.
CLÁUDIO: On the Oscars red carpet, when Ana de Armas was trying to describe her dress, she kept talking about mermaids and rain and whatever. Honestly, at that moment, all I could think about was that the she was taking her cues from Anetra, whose bizarre explanation for this look almost made me giggle. Something about flowers blossoming in the muddy water – bitch, this is a runway, not a spoken poetry challenge. Maybe she was trying to make her outfit sound more interesting than it actually is. Agree on the hateful shoes.
The bad shoe trend continues with Salina EsTitties. However, apart from the footwear, I have nothing bad to say about this, the best she’s looked all season. She juxtaposes the harrowing narrative of her runway presentation with a dress that looks a breath away from unraveling into a storm bridal lace. It’s delicate and smartly designed, with the ruffles creating an ombré that makes it appear she’s been walking on dirt. An editorial representation of a desperate escape for a better life, it’s brought together by those earrings spelling ‘mama.’ The detail’s a tad too sentimental, sure, but it makes sense with the rest of the outfit.
NICK: Oh I didn’t even notice the shoes. Why are they yellow? Anyways. You’re completely right about how good she looks. It’s sensational drama, and it looks fucking exquisite too. I have no idea why this got dinged by the judges while Anetra’s runway was praised.
I come back to my favorite word with Mistress: finesse. I’ll be real quick about pedantically asking if burn marks technically qualify for a “ to shreds, you say?” theme, but it’s great Marilyn pastiche with some smartly placed acts of destruction. The mug is, as always, exquisite, and the cleavage is lovingly embraced by a litany of pearls from above and all that pink and red fabric from below. Mwah.
CLÁUDIO: Burned or shredded, she looks amazing. That silhouette is *chef’s kiss* though it might have been even better if the designer went for ballgown length. My favorite detail might be the rhinestones around the singed fabric, dragging up the thing even more. You’ll never confuse any of Mistress’ costumes for straight fashion. They’re always 100% drag, and, to me, that’s beautiful.
After the runway, it’s time for some judging, and we’re at the point in the season where everyone gets feedback. As mentioned throughout, I don’t quite agree with their decisions, finding that Marcia and Salina are critiqued way too harshly. It seems that, when it comes to deciding a winner, they’re all in on deliberating the challenge as a team effort, awarding Luxx and Loosey the victory. However, for the bottom two, Sasha somehow gets saved, while the triple-named gal is up for elimination alongside Anetra.
NICK: I have absolutely no idea why Sasha was spared from lip syncing, save for cynical musings that Marcia was deemed Most Disposable of the bottom three. There’s nothing wrong with Loosey and Lux winning this challenge, considering that they were probably the best team, but it’s frustrating to see Salina miss on what feels like a clear peak. How did we get a record-setting 16 queens this season and only 6 of them have won main challenges in 11 episodes? It’s very strange, and unless Salina wins next week, there’s no way that number’s going up.
Anyways, Anetra and Marcia Marcia Marcia are chosen as the bottom two, and they pull out one hell of a lip sync to Doja Cat’s “Boss Bitch.” I can bitch about Marcia being unfairly thrown to the wolves all I want, and perhaps I will continue to do so, but as was the case when she sent home Jax, Anetra emerges by a hair as the victor of a lipsync so exciting that it might have prompted a double shantay in a previous season. They both turn it the fuck out, especially in the last 30 seconds or so. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched this lip sync already, gagged anew by a strut or a kick, yet it does feel like everything’s set in stone after Anetra fully leaps over Marcia’s Exorcist spider-walk. What a goddamn battle.
CLÁUDIO: I understand that the producers probably want to course correct after last season’s no-elimination bonanza, but this lipsync deserved a double shantay. Everything you say is accurate, but I’ll add that what elevates this above Sasha vs Anetra is a sense of stakes and despair. They were fighting for their lives out there, pulling every trick in the book but never falling into the error of doing too much.
Maybe Nathaniel set a curse on me for all my anti-Marcia meanness because I found myself despondent over her fate. She was a trooper to the end, avoiding all potential drama and being thrown under the bus by the judges in the eleventh hour. Her sense of style aside, she’s a strong competitor who I hope comes back for an All-Stars season and tears up that stage like the Broadway Queen she is. Any last words on Marcia Marcia Marcia, dear Nick?
NICK: I’m so sad she won’t be here for the Rusical, a challenge so up her alley it makes her removal sting all the more. I really love her positive attitude, which radiates such sincerity without being naive or idiotic. She’s talented as hell, and I look forward to whatever she does next – hell, I’m excited to see how much her style has grown at the reunion. Maybe she’ll keep my Monet X Change comparison going all the way to a Miss Congeniality crown and an All-Stars win. On another note, maybe this will kickstart a new fire under Anetra’s ass. She needs another win under her belt if she wants to catch up to Sasha, and it’s now or never.