RuPaul’s Drag Race 08:06

Well, after last week’s fiasco that was Snatch Game 2016, we have a surprisingly good episode. And I say surprising because it’s the dreaded makeover challenge, and they have a tendency of going south real quick (*cough* Justice for Pandora Boxx! *cough*). But it helped by having a great theme, which led to a fantastic runway and some surprising results.

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But no time to chat as we have company, in the form of Entertainment Weekly contributor Marc Snetiker has come by to serve as a special guest judge. And why? Because “in the great tradition of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Mr. Charles once again appropriates a famous bit of gay culture and gets it somewhat wrong. I mean, “in the great tradition of Paris Is Burning,” it’s the annual reading challenge. And “in the great tradition of Todd’s recaps for l’étoile,” I am going to turn the floor over to the legendary Dorian Corey and Venus Xtravaganza explain the fine art of (and differences between!) shade and reading (which Ru has mixed up on more than one occasion)…

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And lo and behold, there were some good reads from pretty much everyone across the board (even Naomi and Derrick, who I didn’t think had it in them)! It was a surprisingly good reading session from all involved (and if you haven’t seen the bonus footage, do it now!). That said, Bob deserved the win, but it wasn’t a slam dunk because everyone was prepared and brought their A game to the readings.

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Speaking of readings, Ru shares that his favorite book of all time is L. Frank Baum’s iconic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which leads to the main challenge; inspired by a character in the book they must create a look and an interpretive dance in the poppy fields. Of course this is a makeover challenge…

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…and their subjects are the cast members of Lifetime’s show Little Women: LA.

And what a fantastic challenge this was. Aside from the physical challenge of recreating their drag aesthetic on a considerably smaller and more challenging frame, it was clear that the cast and the Little Women got along famously.

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Joining Ru and Michelle on the runway for the challenge were Ross, YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, and revered designer (“and supporter of the drag arts”) Marc Jacobs. Let’s see how our “Friends of Dorothy” did (because, as typical, we only saw a montage of the interpretive dance in the poppy fields).

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Chi Chi DeVanye and Ti Ti Devayne (Tonya) clearly worked well together and looked identical from the neck up. The problem was the neck down. While I love the idea of a disco take on Dorothy in theory, it was in Chi Chi’s poor execution that it fell apart. And while I can understand and agree with Michelle’s comments about her either contouring and/or padding her bosom to counterbalance her un-cinched waist, I disagree that this was the challenge to do that on since as it is she managed to mimic the proportions of Tonya.

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Bob The Drag Queen and Rob the Faux Queen (Elena) were a fun couple and looked okay. I realize that Bob was rushed due to a wardrobe malfunction, but for me, as good as Elena looked (and she did), it didn’t look “drag” enough to me (hence the commentary about looking like it was from a prom). Moreover, it didn’t scream Glinda the Good Witch enough.

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Naomi Smalls and Jazzy Jems (Jasmine) nailed this challenge, and I wholeheartedly agree with this win. Ru loves it when a queen has her “Eureka!” moment, and after getting read for her “two piece and a biscuit” looks (thanks Kim for reappropriating Mystique’s line) it was wonderful to watch her deliver a true high fashion look (and her reference about Vivienne Westwood was spot on).

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Even better, her partner Jasmine looked just as great. Every single detail of Jasmine’s outfit (the bowl cut wigs, the spectacular makeup, and the genius straw leg warmers) was brilliantly conceived to work on Jasmine’s frame yet still call back to Naomi’s look. This was a win that I could easily get behind.

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Derrick Barry and Terra Barry (Terra) certainly looked alike, and were able to nail the family resemblance. And that’s where my compliments end. This was a horrible look. Nothing about this screams Tin Woodsman at all. Not only that, her attitude is a mess and she isn’t getting it when the judges ask for something more! And one more thing…

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I would not be complaining about a hot glue gun if I were you when all you’re showing us is a swimsuit with a sarong, darling!

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Robbie Turner and Hedda Turner (Christy) had the Cowardly Lion, and I kind of liked it. I mean it wasn’t the best outfit on the block, and yes her wigline needed to be softened, and yes, when you compare it to Kim’s outfit in Episode 1 it does come up lacking. But I agree with her that of the bottom four she was not the worst of the lot. That said, it’s her constant default of using excuses to explain why something wasn’t working correctly that doomed her to the bottom two instead of Chi Chi.

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Thorgy Thor and Thorgeous (Brittney) had the Citizen of Oz and they were serving some “Emerald City Sequence from the movie version of The Wiz” realness. And while the look was basic to a fault (including the Grinch pubes wigs – thanks for that image Todrick), both ladies were selling the hell out of it. A solid, if safe, look.

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Kim Chi and Miso Chi (Brianna) had a hell of an entrance (that I wish the Season 8 Trailer hadn’t spoiled already) and fantastic looks. Kim said she was going for “Isabella Blow at a funeral” and she nailed it (including the headgear that looked like a tasteful Philip Treacy hat – which makes sense since Blow was one of Treacy’s muses). Every aspect was perfect. While the dance was odd (the broom business!) the big thing that kept this look from being a win in my book is that you can’t look at this and make the connection to “Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, whereas you can with Naomi’s look.

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So, Naomi rightfully wins, and Derrick is in the bottom two along with Robbie, and here I have to call an understandable foul. While Chi Chi’s look was right to be read for filth (especially since Chi Chi has shown to be more creative than she gives herself credit for), it was Robbie’s constant complaining that sent her into the bottom. Which is a shame because as good as she was in doing Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, Derrick was living for the fantasy (which was not helped by Robbie’s wig coming of – girl, no!). That said, I would have put Chi Chi in the bottom two to send Derrick off to her heavenly award of “Sashay, Away,” but alas Robbie is told to leave this week.

Random Notes:

* Really Ru? Only one reference to The Wiz? Someone fetch Mabel King!

* That said, I’m genuinely shocked no one went full on Geoffrey Holder mode in their designs for this challenge

* If you haven’t already, Mark Snetiker poured some tea at Entertainment Weekly about his appearance on the show.

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* Can we all take a moment to applaud the production design on this week’s runway? Bravo.

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* Can we all take a moment to tell Ru that she owns this shade of purple? Because she looks flawless!

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* Can we all take a moment to applaud these wonderful women? They deserve a big “YAAAAS!”

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And finally…

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Here’s how it’s going to go for this week: 1 point for the mini challenge, 4 for the win to Naomi, 2 for second place to Kim Chi, 1 for being safe for Thorgy, 0 to Bob and Chi Chi since they were read a little bit before being declared safe, -1 for “Shante! You Stay!”, and -2 for “Sashay Away.”

And so..

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And Naomi vaults into a third place tie with Kim! Bob’s lead is still there but it’s not as giant of a lead as it was last week. And while I live for Thorgy and can completely understand her frustrations, she shouldn’t worry; right now she’s in second place. Unless something tragic happens (*pregnant pause because this is RuPaul’s Drag Race*), our final four will be Bob, Thorgy, Kim, and Naomi.

NEXT TIME: It’s time to get political henny as the queens are paired off to enter the world of politics…

Photo & Video Credits: Logo TV / World Of Wonder, Chad Sell

Originally Published on 12 April 2016 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile.

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