I have been looking forward to this episode for four years, and by god it did not disappoint!
Why was I so excited? Because she’s back people!
And not only was it as glorious as I expected, and more, but there was a lot of good that happened this episode from a stunning runway, some fun performances, a fantastic guest judge, a terrific Lip Sync For Your Life, and we finally get the answer to that burning question…
But first, Ru asks the pit crew and their friends who has a monster in their pants…
Gratuitous, yes, but who cares?! The best lines of the night regarding the mini challenge were from Ginger (“Every size and color, it’s like Epcot for the thirsty bitches.”) and Katya (“I have no ideas what the rules are of this game. I don’t care what they are. Just when do I get to blow them?”). Eventually Ginger won, and her prize was that she got to split the remaining nine girls into three teams to re-enact the different versions of why former judge Merle Ginsberg left the show.
For those that are new to RuPaul’s Drag Race and don’t know who she is Merle Ginsberg is an acclaimed fashion journalist and author (and co-author of Ru’s book Workin’ It), and was seated on the right of RuPaul as one of the two resident judges (with Santino Rice) on the first two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The real story (as Michelle has revealed in interviews) that Ru originally intended for Michelle to be one of the two main judges, but she was unable to get out of her radio contract at the time, so Ru turned to Merle to step in. By the time the third season rolled around, Michelle had gotten out of her contract and took her place on the show.
Many fans of the show, myself included, have missed Merle for many reasons. First off, as a fashion journalist, she knows her style down cold and can spot the references miles away. Also, while her critiques more often than not came from a nicer place, they were framed in a much more encouraging light and genuinely tried to judge each queen on her own merits and not against the judge’s own personal tastes (like Santino would often do, and Michelle is increasingly doing). Most importantly, she had no trouble disagreeing with the other judges (and Ru!) over the merits of one queen over another (in fact, the great thing about Season 1 in particular was that Ru, Merle, and Santino would openly and actively disagree on things, making the judges’ deliberation a true deliberation). And her long-awaited return last night was everything I wanted; cheeky, smart, loaded with bang on observations about the girls, and heaping side-eye action from and given to Michelle. I think I speak for many Drag Race fans when I would love to see Merle come back full time as a necessary tonic to Michelle’s increasingly harsh critiques.
But enough preamble, let’s see what really happened, and what the girls wore in a Death Becomes Her-inspired runway showing how the queens died..
Merle’s Story (featuring Ginger, Katya, and Kennedy)
Ginger’s Team won and they deserved it. Well, two out of the three did. Kennedy was cute as Ru but wasn’t nearly as commanding as her co-stars. Ginger was hilarious as an evil Michelle and played her (in Katya’s words) “like Ginger Minj as Danny DeVito as Tony Soprano as The Fonz as Michelle Visage,” which was perfect for an evil take on Michelle. Katya had to play Merle and rather than pushing the personality she played her slightly clueless, but was more than able to hold her own against her co-stars.
Then there was the moment when this happened (note the table)…
As for the runway looks, all of the runway looks were pretty solid across the board with a few notable exceptions. Ginger’s take on a bear eating her was cute and oddly glamorous. Katya’s homage to Tara Reid in Sharknado is deliciously tacky and sold by her on-stage persona. Kennedy’s look was a mess and she should have been read harder for it, but because this was the winning group, she was spared.
Michelle’s Story (featuring Kandy, Max, and Violet)
Ginger you shady bitch! Way to sabotage Max with two non-starters of performers, and the result was an overwrought performance from all of them. Surprisingly, Violet was not the worst part of the group (though as someone who was born in New Jersey, I had to agree with Michelle – we do pronounce the Rs). And while I think Max’s idea to play Merle as Michelle envisioned her was sound in theory, the net effect was that the performance was a little off. But these pale in comparison to Kandy’s work as RuPaul. While the over-contoured face was way off and gave her that dreaded five o’clock shadow again (though I get that she was trying to recreate Ru’s cheekbones), the biggest sin was the uneven wig line and the dark hairs peeking out on the sides.
It’s a shame that they spoiled these looks in the previews. Max’s look with the bleeding heart was stunning. Violet’s look was shocking in getting her waist down to eighteen inches (and Merle’s reference about the famous corset-maker Mr. Pearl was dead on in regards to this look). Kandy’s look would have been better for me if the collar wasn’t so high and the same color as the hair. In fact when she strips down for the Lip Sync, it actually looks better.
RuPaul’s Story (featuring Jaidynn, Miss Fame, and Pearl)
This group was all over the map performance wise. Pearl actually came away slightly unscathed and was trying to be engaged with her co-stars, but she was tripped up by them. Miss Fame was way too much in her head and tried to have a vulnerable moment at the absolute worst time possible. As for Jaidynn, I have to give her a lot of credit. She knew it would be a challenge for her, and it was, but her look was spot on and her energy was right. The only fault against her was that she didn’t have the material down cold
As for the runway, I was not completely taken with Pearl’s look. With the other looks, it’s pretty clear how each girl died but in her case I couldn’t figure it out. Additionally, the eye makeup seemed off and closed her eye off, and while it was better this episode, how she paints her décolletage seems off to me; it looks like it’s all highlight and shadow, without any padding to give dimension. Miss Fame’s look was cute but the knife through her head was askew and once again she went on one of her verbal diarrhea sprees. I really felt bad for Jaidynn on the runway. One the one hand, I loved the idea (her being sliced open on barbed wire escaping from jail) and most of the execution of the outfit, but the details were off (the wiring should have been silver to punch it out against her coloring.
In the end Katya won and both Jaidynn and Kandy had to Lip Sync For Their Lives to Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” and both ladies delivered on the song. In the end, Jaidynn got to stay while Kandy had to Sashay Away. While I wish she could have delivered more, Miss Ho gave us three fantastic Lip Syncs that showed her off to her absolute best.
– While I am very in favor of Michelle and Merle together forever as lead judges, Ross Matthews has been stepping up his judging game in a big way and I am shocked and impressed. More of this please and thank you.
– Speaking of judges, the other guest judge of the night was none other than Ariana Grande, and I was delighted! She was kind, funny, gave great critiques, and was geuninely happy to be there. That said…
…any woman who breaks out into finger wagging when she sees two queens slay on her song deserves all the love in the world. Not only that but her surprise appearance in this week’s Untucked to congratulate Kandy on her performance in the work room was sweet as hell. You are welcome back anytime Miss Grande.
– Let’s talk about Michelle this season, shall we? Is it me or is she getting nastier with her critiques? I get that she’s supposed to be the bad cop judge and I get that she’s meant to keep the girls on edge and in check, but I miss the earlier seasons where she managed to do that but we in the audience could tell that it came from a genuine place of love and wanting the girls to succeed. That said, I’m okay with Michelle’s turn to the dark side as long as all the other judges have free reign to actively and openly disagree with her.
– Sometimes I do not give Ru credit for her looks. Tonight’s ensemble was utter perfection.
– I truly felt sad for poor Jaidynn; not only for her struggles this week but her struggles with her family over being gay, which in this day and age is a damn shame. No one should have to go through the fear of their family not loving them for being who they are. Keep your head up, girl, because you are what?! Fierce!
– With all the catfighting and sideways shade, I’m surprised and disappointed that the actual catfights were so tame. Let us all take in a master’s class in catfighting with Professors Collins and Evans…
And finally we return to…
This Week’s Breakdown: 1 for the mini challenge win, 4 each for the winner, 2 for each member of her team, 1 for the safe girls, 0 for the bottom three, -1 for “Shante, you stay.”, -2 for “Sashay, away.”
If it seems Ginger is frightened by Max, she should be; they are neck and neck for the lead. Meanwhile Katya vaults into fourth place, while Kennedy is hanging on to third place in spite of some lackluster work.
Next Week: It’s finally time for our favorite challenge…
Photo Credits: Logo TV / World Of Wonder, Chad Sell; Video Credits: Logo TV / World Of Wonder, Aaron Spelling Productions