Be warned, gentle readers: As a proud musical theatre practitioner (read: geek), I was ecstatic about this challenge. But something hit a sour note while watching it. So there will be a lot of musical puns and musical theatre jokes, and maybe a song or two. But that comes later. For now, let’s start at the very beginning… a very good place to start…
As we return to the workroom everyone is mourning the loss of poor sweet Vivacious (except Gia Gunn, who’s happy to see another girl go home; and Bianca Del Rio, who can’t stand Gia) and marvel at everyone’s sad feelings and having a moment (except Gia, who is feeling her oats, grains, wheats, thins, everything; and Bianca, who is asking for subtitles to Gia), when Ru pops in with Ian Drew of Us Weekly for a weird (and pointless) challenge: using close up pictures, the girls are asked to identify if it’s a Female or a SheMale.
(Side Note #1: One of these days, someone is going to write an epic treatise on whether or not RuPaul’s Drag Race actually is biased towards or against trans- and cisgendered people. But that’s another topic for another time, and for people infinitely more qualified than me…)
(Side Note #2: Throughout the episode Bianca once again brought it in terms of laugh-out loud lines. One of her best was when she was presented a photo of last season’s standout Detox “I love that she discussed ‘I had my lips done! I had my cheeks done! I had this!’ And she kept that nose? Did she run out of money?”)
After that (pointless) mini-challenge, Adore Delano and BenDeLaCreme won, which meant that they were the team captains for the main challenge; in two groups, the girls would perform an act in that brand new smash hit Shade: The Rusical!. DeLa and her team (Courtney Act, Trinity K. Bonet, Darienne Lake, Gia Gunn, and “Miss How To Succeed In Bitchiness Without Really Trying” Bianca Del Rio) would handle Act One, while Adore and her troupe (April Carrión, Joslyn Fox, Laganja Estranja, and Milk) would tackle Act Two. If this sounds like last season’s ballet challenge, it is in a way, just with singing instead. After rehearsing the girls debuted the musical in front of Ru, Michelle, Santino, Shade: The Rusical!’s composer (and RuPaul’s long-time musical producer) Lucian Piane, and Tony-award nominee Sheryl Lee Ralph.
(Side Note #3: “What’s a Tony?” Oh shut up Gia!)
(Side Note #4: I would pay good money to see How To Succeed In Bitchiness Without Really Trying. In a heartbeat.)
(Side Note #5: Miss Sheryl Lee Ralph BROUGHT IT to the judges’ table tonight with on point critiques. And before we go on, let’s take a look at the performance that got her that Tony nomination. And eagle-eyed viewers will note that this video also features Season 4 guest judge Loretta Devine.)
Okay, enough overture. Curtain up! Light The Lights! We’ve got nothing to hit but the heights (and lows!)..
A Shady Lady (DeLa) narrates the story of Penny (Courtney), a good, young drag queen who just wants to be a star. When she can’t decide whether she wants to be one of the pageant queens (Bianca and Trinity) or one of the comedy queens (Darienne and Gia), the Shady Lady offers Penny the dreaded Fish Oil which takes her to the dark side.
One of my complaints about the episode was that the editing didn’t really show who was killing it in the performance and who wasn’t. For example, I couldn’t tell that Gia was doing well and Darienne wasn’t. Nor could I really tell that Trinity wasn’t killing it in the enunciation department. What she should have been read for (and was, in a roundabout way) was her poor, defensive attitude in rehearsals and in working with her colleagues. But Courtney delivered as she was expected to, and so did DeLa surprisingly enough.
(Side Note #6: I was Living for DeLa’s “Bettie Page IS The Phantom Of The Opera” look.)
(Side Note #7: Sheryl Lee Ralph’s cry of “Put A Cork In It!” was life giving as a read to Trinity and a strong piece of advice. And while I’ve never done the cork in the mouth trick, I have done the floating piece of gum trick – put a wad of gum on the back of your teeth to force you to nail you esses.)
Enough side notes. Intermission is over.
Penny has found fame and become one Bad Penny (Adore), much to the consternation of her back up queens; Bertha the Big Queen (April), Amanda the Butch Queen (Joslyn), and a third nameless queen (Laganja). When Bad Penny ODs on Fish Oil, the backup queens see the chance to grab the spotlight but can’t stop bickering. But Les Miserabella (Milk), a kindly queen reminds them that sisterhood is powerful.
As much as I can’t stand her, and as much as Ru keeps forcing her down our throats (“You Can’t Make Fetch Happen, Ru!”), Adore did deliver in the challenge. As the three backup queens; Laganja was forgettable, Joslyn was surprisingly tame (and why didn’t she bust out her basso notes like she did in rehearsal – it would have gotten her more attention), and April didn’t have the big personality to carry the role of the big girl. Milk didn’t have the best voice in the bunch, but she did commit to the role and managed to serve up some Grizabella realness.
The runway (category: Tony Awards realness) was glossed over but a few things stood out: Darienne gave us Adelle as a blonde and looked fantastic, DeLa’s dress was cute but looked better without the shoulder treatment (and atta girl for removing it right there on the runway), Courtney looks more like a woman the more she’s covered up, Adore looks great in black hair but she either needs to cinch her waist as Michelle instructed or pad out her hips more to balance it out, I would have bought Milk’s pregnancy drag more if she hadn’t worn those socks and shoes, while I adored Joslyn for standing up to Gia in Untucked, her fall on the top of her head was off-color, and April’s forehead shading was a bit much.
(Side Note #8: Can we talk about Untucked for a moment? While it was sweet to see Laganja’s parents, the second she got defensive about not having her moment to savor it was a bit over the top for my tastes. I agree with Bianca about her being a needy, attention-seeking queen).
In the end, April and Trinity had to Lip Sync For Their Lives to “I’m Every Woman” (the original version by Chaka Khan, thank you) and both women brought their A games; April taking us to “church, Jesus, all the saints,” and Trinity giving us Southern Drag ball realness (and an expertly deployed fan flick). In the end Trinity got to stay and April had to sashay away, and I feel bad about that. Compared to Adore, who seems to not have a clue, April at least puts the work in and for her hard work she got dealt a bum hand by the competition. So with a heavy heart I quote another Puerto Rican queen, Echa Pa’lante!
Or to quote that meme…
Enough tears! Onto…
Here it is: 1 point for the mini challenge winners (Adore and DeLa), 4 for the winner (Courtney) 2 for the other top three (since there was no real delineation as to who was better between DeLa or Adore), 1 for being safe, 0 for bottom three (Darienne), -1 for “Shante! You Stay!” (Trinity), -2 for “Sashay Away” (April).
Thus, adding everyone up, this is how it shakes out among the remaining girls:
– Adore Delano: 4
– BenDeLaCreme: 8
– Bianca del Rio: 7
– Courtney Act: 7
– Darienne Lake: 3
– Gia Gunn: 3
– Joslyn Fox: 3
– Laganja Estranja: 4
– Milk: 6
– Trinity K. Bonet: 4
And to no one’s surprise we have some leaders emerge, and not surprisingly it’s BenDeLaCreme, Bianca del Rio, and Courtney Act in the top three. What is surprising is that Milk is in third place with 6 points, and that Darienne is towards the bottom in spite of her win last week (I fear that’s going to be her fate in this competition; yo-yo-ing from the top to the bottom of the heap). There needs to be a reckoning to thin the herd down a bit (I’m looking at you Gia, Adore, and Laganja), and thankfully we are due for it, because…
NEXT WEEK: It’s the fifth episode of the season and that means one thing: Snatch Game!!
And special thanks, as always, to The Gay 90s for hosting the weekly viewing party. Join me and the rest of the l’étoile-ites Monday nights as we cheer and jeer the queens to success (or utter doom, depending on their mood and how much they grate on the nerves – we’re looking at you Miss Gunn).
Photo Credits: Logo / World Of Wonder / ChadSellComics.com