Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 6, Episode 5: Snatch Game!

Or: Shut up, Laganja Estranja

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 4:00 AM

This episode, and its companion “Untucked,” were so stuffed with great moments that there wasn’t even time for a mini-challenge. RuPaul skipped the foreplay and got straight to the kaikai -- Snatch Game, the challenge that separates the true queens from the pretenders to the throne.

While the Snatch Game itself proved one of the better editions in series history, the episode as a whole majorly changed my opinions on several of the contestants. Some rose in my estimation (Adore, Joslyn), some dropped (MILK), and some I am completely, totally over (LAGANJA).

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The best way to handle this is to go queen by queen, starting from the top and going to the bottom.

BenDeLaCreme was the surprise winner of the challenge, although at this point, Ben winning really shouldn’t be a shock. He’s done so well so far, but Ben admitted to being nervous about Snatch Game, and RuPaul was openly dismissive of Ben’s plan to portray Maggie Smith. But Ben absolutely killed it. Funny, witty, great retorts, totally in character, and looked amazing on the RuPaul-themed runway. Ben is a huge threat, and VERY likable. But I continue to be so nervous for him. I realize it’s the same fear I had for Jinkx, Sharon, and Raja in their seasons -- these are all special queens who are so good at what they do. But what about that one week where they’re asked to do something at which they DON’T excel? Ben claimed that impersonations are not his thing, and that Snatch Game worried him. False modesty? Deliberately lowering expectations? I don’t know. I just know that I adore everything about Ben (the fact that he’s a fellow member of the Former Fatty Club only endears him to me more), and I want desperately for him to be there until the end. But y’all are making me SWEAT IT.

Bianca Del Rio was largely assumed to be the winner of this challenge based on her character choice of Judge Judy -- brilliant, and brilliantly executed -- and because Bianca is just generally awesome. And Bianca lived up to the hype in the Snatch Game, more or less running the proceedings with her gavel (and her putdowns). Where Bianca likely lost the win was the runway, where her RuPaul ensemble looked an awful lot like just another Bianca gown. Now, let’s be real: any Bianca look is still better than the majority of the looks that come down that runway. But she’s not giving us a ton of variation on that front, and this is the part where the judges are going to start asking to see more aspects of her drag. And I believe that’s something Bianca can give us, if she chooses to do so.

Adore Delano stunned me this week. Here is a case of a queen picking the absolute perfect Snatch Game character -- Anna Nicole Smith -- and nailing it to the wall. Adore’s take on Anna Nicole was totally over the top, but deliberately so, and blisteringly funny. I never thought of Adore as a great comedian before, but she has comic chops, and that charisma we keep hearing about was in full effect tonight. She also stepped it up on the runway, thanks in part to Bianca helping her with a cincher. (She still has a long way to go on her presentation skills, however.) I also was very pleased to see Adore separate herself from the Kiddie Pool (Laganja and Gia) on “Untucked,” specifically calling out Laganja’s almost pathological victim shtick (more on that in a second). Very pleased with her this week.

Darienne Lake probably just missed out on being in the top, which is an indication of the strength of this Snatch Game. Darienne was great as Paula Deen, getting in some sharp one-liners delivered with a melted-butter Southern accent. She also looked great on the runway, evoking RuPaul’s Eartha Kitt homage.

Courtney Act was safe, and from what we saw of her Fran Drescher impersonation, she did well in Snatch Game. She looked incredible on the runway. I wondered -- did she borrow the “wings” from Darienne? We saw Darienne use something that looked just like them in Episode 3…

Joslyn Fox portrayed “Real Houswife” Teresa Giudice, and this was the episode where I finally made up my mind on Joslyn. The ditzy thing is an act. She is playing this game very shrewdly, mostly flying under the radar but still doing well enough in the challenges to get positive notices, while simultaneously endearing herself to the other queens and the viewers at home. At this point she has to be the lead candidate for Miss Congeniality. But she’s more than just pretty and sweet. Joslyn had some very funny lines as Teresa, who is not a character I think of as naturally funny. That took work, yet Joslyn made it seem easy. I had totally dismissed her early on, but she’s definitely got potential. She needs to up her wardrobe, but I want to see more of her, for sure.

Trinity K. Bonet is another one that inspires conflicting thoughts -- and that’s just based on this episode alone. Her Nicki Minaj focused way too much on the wigs and seemed like an endless line of missed opportunities (based on what we saw, at least). Her runway gown -- which she apparently made herself -- was stunning, and I suspect helped save her from Bottom 3. Her defeatist attitude in “Untucked” was exhausting, but when she explained her frustration over feeling mocked for her speech impediment by Santino (something RuPaul denies), I felt for her. And then when she disclosed her HIV-positive status, and got the video from her mother, you couldn’t help but root for her. The problem is, Trinity is not rooting for Trinity. Not fully. I don’t get the feeling that Trinity believes she can really do this. She said this very episode that she’s not the best. There is obvious talent there, and there are moments when I really relate to this young queen. And then there are moments when I find her frustrating. But the bottom line is, like Joslyn, Trinity is so much more interesting than I expected. I am hopeful that her “moments” in “Untucked” this episode light a fire in her. Preferably one fed by those tragic Nicki Minaj wigs.

MILK is tragic for entirely different reasons. I had no idea who MILK was until the Season 6 cast announcement. Then I instantly loved him. I’ve loved all of the clips I’ve seen online of MILK (the “He went to Jared!” one cracks me up). My expectations were super high, and they were met in that first episode. Since then it has been a slow slide to -- I’m going to say it -- mediocrity. MILK is obviously a smart, interesting queen. I just wish that the performance level matched up with the sharp visual aesthetic. MILK’s Julia Child was a whiff. The same could be said of his performance in the horror challenge, and the Grizabella character last week wasn’t great, either. The Work Room Ru look -- essentially MILK in boy drag, or as one member of my viewing party remarked, “Hey, why is that creepy guy from the old Six Flags commercials on ‘Drag Race’?” -- was intended to shock. And it did, I’ll admit. (I was somewhat surprised that MILK didn’t just come out in blackface.) But it can’t just be shock. There’s got to be something there for us to latch on to, to root for, and MILK isn’t providing that. And for what it’s worth, I agree with Santino Rice (*ducks in fear of lightning bolts*). If MILK really wants to surprise us at this point, she’d give us serious glamour, just to show us she can. When MILK complained that doing that wouldn’t be true to her, RuPaul brought up the dreaded vulnerability criticism. The clock is ticking, MILK. I will avoid a terrible spoiled-dairy pun out of respect for you.

Gia Gunn was initially planning to portray Latina pop star Selena, which is a truly baffling choice. (Adore had it exactly right: “What are you going to do with that? ‘I eat pizza and I got shot by Yolanda?’”) After RuPaul basically told Gia to change it, Gia switched to Kim Kardashian. Kim has the potential to be parodied successfully, and Gia has the ability to do it (see her whining, soul-dead intoning of “ABSOLUTELY!” as proof). But, she flopped in the Snatch Game, and came out on the runway looking a mess. Santino was right again (more lightning bolts!) when he called it a castoff from a cheap Halloween store, with a busted wig and a wonky eyelash. It was a 1-2 punch that sent Gia to the Bottom 2, and had her lipsynching for her life to “Head to Toe” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (YES!). After an awkward, clumsy on-stage costume change, Gia was put out of our miseries. But not before she threw a few last insults at the remaining contestants for being dudes in lipstick. Bold words from Our Lady of the Cockeyed Eyelash. Bye, girl. Bye.

Laganja Estranja, however, is now officially the worst. She won the lipsynch, but she is still the worst. What an exhausting, infuriating character she has become. I will concede that what we are seeing of Laganja is a highly edited version, a version of her curated by the editors. But unless there’s footage on the cutting-room floor of her, like, rescuing orphaned puppies from burning buildings or curing cancer while simultaneously transforming water into vodka, I can’t imagine much that would change my opinion of her based on what we’ve been shown.

Here begins the rant that is going to piss off most readers under 30, and offend several of my friends: Laganja embodies everything that drives me nuts about Millennials. And, yes, this is a generalization -- but one I’ve found to be more true than not. She is obnoxious, hyper, sullen, entitled, needy, and incapable of dealing with any criticism whatsoever. Bianca referred to Langaja as an attention whore, but I think that’s wrong. All drag queens are attention whores, almost by definition. But people like Laganja are attention vampires. They need to be focused on constantly, and when the spotlight isn’t on them, they’ll seek it out and take it. They must be the center of attention -- but only positive attention. Because they cannot be told that they are wrong, or that they need to improve. Because they are already awesome. Did you know that they are awesome? Listen: they are awesome. And if you can’t see that, well, that’s really offensive and hurtful to them. And if they can’t get their way, they pack up their toys and go home.

Which is precisely what Laganja tried to do in her first Bottom 2 appearance for her bizarre robot take on Rachel Zoe. I actually felt bad for Gia -- I FELT BAD FOR GIA, that’s how infuriating this situation was -- when Gia spent her moments pre-LSFYL having to reassure Laganja and talk her into performing, because Laganja was threatening to give up. What exactly did Laganja expect to happen when she went on this show? That she would sail to the win without ever having to be criticized? Without ever appearing in the Bottom 2? Ridiculous. Delusional. Laganja has been quite quick with an insult on this show, but even quicker with the water works if anyone makes her feel like anything other than the special snowflake she perceives herself to be. Typical. And typically exhausting.

“I want the world to hold my hand, and I’m sorry for that,” Laganja said on “Untucked.” First, no you’re not sorry. You are clearly not sorry for feeling that way at all. Second, some people have real problems in this world, and watching your little dramas is OFFENSIVE to them. Grow. Up. This is not cute, and it’s not excusable.

My assumption was that once Gia was eliminated -- because Gia was obviously getting the Early Bitch edit, and there was no way she would ever get close to the final -- Bianca would emerge as the true terror of the season. But Bianca is firmly being shown as our Mother Hen. A brusque, blunt Mother Hen, but still, behind her barbs is a lot of heart. And I assumed we’d be getting a Laganja redemption edit in the second half of the season. Now, I think we need to saddle up for Laganja as L’Enfant Terrible. We’ll get a mix of meltdowns, breakdowns, and tantrums as she rejects any and all criticism thrown her way, by the judges or the other queens. And it’s a shame, because Laganja DOES have talent -- she’s an amazing dancer (we saw that in the lipsynch), has a great visual style, and I suspect she’s going to murder next week’s rap challenge. But who can root for her with this juvenile bullshit? To quote stand-up comic John Mulaney, “You could have stayed a guy if you wanted to be an asshole.”

Next: Rapping! Ru-Tang Clan! If there’s not a lipsynch to “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)” by Khia I will be SORELY disappointed.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 6, Episode 4: “SHADE! The Rusical”

Mama's gettin' hot; mama's got the stuff...

Posted By on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Curtain up: the spotlight focuses on a gaggle of geeks at a gay bar in Rochester, NY. A lonely blogger among them downs not one, not two, but three Maker’s Marks on the rocks while worrying about if he will be able to sufficiently retain the goings-on of the episode playing on the multiple flat-screen TVs. After a rousing rendition of “In the Navy” by the Village People and some random, much-appreciated shirtlessness, he no longer cares. All he knows is that the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewing parties at the Bachelor Forum are a hoot, host Darienne Lake is a delight and surprisingly candid about the goings-on during the show, and he highly recommends heading out to the parties to anyone in the Western New York area. (He also wonders what kind of depraved acts he must endure in order to get a drink in 15 minutes or less, because he will totally take that hit.)

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So, it was a good time at the Bachelor Forum on University Avenue in Rochester, NY. But it was a mixed bag for the contestants of Season 6 on “Drag Race.” After a “female or she-male” mini-challenge that I’m fairly sure will infuriate the trans* community, we got to the main challenge: “Shade! The Rusical,” a live musical-theater extravaGANza. The challenge was very much in the spirit of the ballet challenge from last season. But while Alyssa Edwards was the clear winner of that round, a handful of queens really shined this time around. Unfortunately the rest of them receded mostly to the background.

After the mini-challenge, in which Adore Delano and Ben DeLaCreme came out on top, the teams shook out like this. Team DeLa (Act 1) featured Ben, Courtney Act, Bianca Del Rio, Darienne Lake, Gia Gunn, and Trinity K. Bonet. Team Adore (Act 2) featured Adore, MILK, Joslyn Fox, April Carrion, and LaganjaEstranja. As we saw in the previous episode, there was a huge difference in ability between the two groups. Act 1 was interesting and gamely played by the group members, while Act 2 was mostly a mess, save for decent performances by Adore and MILK.

Let’s get this conspiracy theory right out of the way: after last episode, many people wondered why Adore -- the clear loser of the horror challenge -- was spared the Final 2 in lieu of April Carrion. It made absolutely no sense at the time, considering that Adore failed as an actress, as a leader, and on the runway. (I’m sorry to Adore fans, but that’s just the blunt reality of what went down.) The reason she was kept around was almost certainly this episode, in which the show itself (via Ben DeLaCreme) referred to the proceedings as “The Battle of the ‘Idols.’” That would be “Australian Idol” contestant Courtney Act and “American Idol” contestant Adore Delano (Danny Noriega). The show was going to give us this “showdown” no matter what, not unlike the painfully manufactured drama between Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese last season.

So Adore, despite biffing the first two challenges almost completely, was almost certainly a lock for this episode, no matter what she did. Thankfully she made it worth the audience’s while by putting in a solid performance this go around. Her lead actress role in Act 2 was well sung and well executed, even if her final “red carpet” runway was, again, sloppy and underwhelming. My fear is that this episode was Adore’s high point, and that doesn’t speak terribly highly of this queen at all. She actually told the judges at one point that she’s a much better drag queen than what she’s showing. Girl: it’s Episode 4. What the fuck are you waiting for? A party/event invitation via Adam4Adam? (My bad; Scruff is a sponsor of this show now.)

Courtney Act, however, killed it as the ingénue of Act 1. Courtney looked terrific and sounded like an actual woman when she sang. One of the judges -- Michelle Visage? -- mentioned some bum notes, but I don’t what the hell she was talking about. My feeling watching the two groups was that the first group sounded pre-recorded (in a good way), while Group 2 sounded like they were singing live. I don’t know if that was due to the gulf in talent, to the production values, or due to the three bourbons, but Act 1 sounded a hell of a lot better than Act 2. Even with Gia’s nasal grind.

The other queen to really command the stage was Ben DeLaCreme as Shady Lady. The judges (including the delightful Sheryl Lee Ralph, who was too cute for words, and RuPaul’s musical partner, the twinkilicious Lucian Piane) referenced Ben’s Bettie Page realness. But Ben was great throughout the challenge, and I desperately hope that the judges see the versatility Ben has given us so far in this competition. Because I have this awful fear that they’re setting him/her up for a shock boot in a few weeks.

Ben, Courtney, and Adore ended up in the top for the challenge, with Courtney taking the win (deservedly so, in my opinion). The Bottom 3 came down to Darienne Lake, who the judges felt failed to make an impact in the challenge; Trinity K. Bonet, who was dinged by the judges for her terrible diction but really should have been called out for her atrocious attitude in rehearsals; and April Carrion, who they felt wasn’t convincing in the “big girl” role.

Darienne was blessedly spared -- it was dubious that she was in the Bottom 3 to begin with -- and April and Trinity lipsynched to “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. April was again dynamic and aggressive, but Trinity had that lipsynch in the bag as soon as she started busting out some of those old-school drag-ball moves that RuPaul loves so much. As soon as she started working that hand fan I knew it was over.

So, unfortunately, it was “Sashay away” to April Carrion -- and that is a travesty. Over the past two weeks April was railroaded harder than perhaps any other “Drag Race” contestant in recent memory. (At least on the show. I hope some of them are getting railroaded hard in real life. Get it, girls.) April had no business being the bottom last week; a decent if unspectacular challenge performance, and an eye-popping runway look do not a LSFYL make. This week she definitely wasn’t great as one of the three back-up queens to Adore’s lead actress, but if you’re going to single out April, why let Joslyn or Laganja escape without notice? NONE of them were good, and yet April was again made an example of for no discernible reason. OF COURSE she wasn’t believable as the “big girl.” Have you SEEN April?! She is never going to read “plus sized” no matter how much padding you stuff in her dress.

While I have enjoyed this season -- and I continue to enjoy it -- April’s ouster really speaks to producer shenanigans more than anything else. There were certain queens this time out who had absolutely no shot of making it even halfway through, no matter what they did. April was one of them. For whatever reason she was dismissed fairly bluntly, and that is a shame, because I think she conducted herself well in her three weeks on air. Certainly I think she made more of an impact than Gia (who is firmly ensconced in the protective bubble of the Early Bitch Edit), Joslyn (who I enjoy, but who is being given a VERY easy time by the editors), Laganja (virtually invisible this episode), and even MILK. And I love MILK, but the most noteworthy part of her “Rusical” performance was her Grizabella Realness.

Speaking of the others, Gia really showed herself to be a piece of work on “Untucked,” coming at MILK’s pregnancy red-carpet outfit (I died) and critiquing her lack of “versatility.” Oh, that is a LAUGH. Gia Gunn criticizing any drag queen on their lack of versatility. Call me when you serve up something that doesn’t involve gills, sweetheart. Better yet, call me when you give us fishy that actually passes the Gorton Fisherman’s muster. Because for all your talk, you are still vulnerable to the clock. Her viciousness really reached new heights this episode, and I suspect many of the people who viewed her as a harmless, dim creature (*ahem*Tom and Lorenzo*ahem*) might be changing their tunes. She’s nasty, and I don’t have time for it. Don’t be so offended by someone calling you ignorant if your definition of drag is limited to the sale rack at DEB. *Mic drop*

As for the nearly eliminated Trinity, she did herself absolutely no favors this episode vis-à-vis the “baby Tyra Sanchez” comparisons that have dogged her since this season’s queens were revealed. Trinity displayed massive attitude in rehearsals, looking to put in the absolute minimum required effort to skate through to the next round. (Let me quote the always-reliable Jujubee here: “America’s Next Drag Superstar is not going to be a lazy bitch.”) While she did end up pulling off a decent performance on the mainstage, she was obviously a source of stress for her group, and was argumentative from pretty much the get-go. Her stank faces at the criticism just underlined how ill-prepared she is for this competition. The judges brought up her terrible diction as the main flaw in her performance this episode, but the larger issue is the fact that Trinity -- despite being able to deliver when the chips are down -- is someone that, frankly, I assume would be infuriating to work with.

Anyway, I am irritated that April was eliminated, mostly because she really never had a shot in this competition. I think in any other season she would have been Top 6, given her beauty, her creativity, and her passion. This time, the producers/editors obviously eyeballed her as “dispensable” and set about engineering her exit with fairly weak justification. But it IS a stiff field this time around. And that’s why I’m hoping the editors take a goddamned seat and let the queens rise and fall on their own merits. If they continue to prop up some of them (*cough*Gia, Adore, the increasingly forgettable Laganja*cough*) and work to minimize the abilities of others (Darienne, Ben), I’m going to get increasingly frustrated increasingly quickly.

Matt DeTurck, Darienne Lake, Eric Rezsnyak, and Adam Lubitow at the "Drag Race" viewing party at the Bachelor Forum. - PHOTO BY SOME PREVIOUSLY SHIRTLESS DUDE
  • PHOTO BY SOME PREVIOUSLY SHIRTLESS DUDE
  • Matt DeTurck, Darienne Lake, Eric Rezsnyak, and Adam Lubitow at the "Drag Race" viewing party at the Bachelor Forum.

A final note: the viewing party at the Forum really was a lot of fun. Miss Darienne Lake spills the T about what was going on behind the scenes, and she’s funny and charming and very cool about taking pictures with nerdy newspaper types like myself. The crowd was enthusiastic (and quite good looking), there was some kind of diversion involving men in wigs, etc. It’s definitely worth coming out if you’re in the area. But note: they cut off that 3-for-2 deal at 9:15 p.m., regardless of how long you were waiting at the bar to be served (*ahem*). So plan accordingly. A friend of mine did get a killer deal on Tequila Sunrises, though…

NEXT: SNATCH GAME!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“Drag Race” Season 6, Episode 3: The horror, the horror…

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 12:31 AM

After the (I think smart and successful) two-part premiere, the 12 remaining queens were thrown together for the first big challenge. The mixing of the two groups provided some interesting moments. Some queens, like Ben DeLaCreme, welcomed the others with open, fabulous arms. Others, notably Gia Gunn, were extra crispy bitchy. I like my drag queens with a healthy amount of shade, but Gia falls squarely into the category of Bitchy Bitch, not Fun Bitch. And she’s especially in trouble this season, because Bianca del Rio, Queen of the Fun Bitches, is in the house, and she is going to destroy Gia. And it will be amazing to watch. And I suspect RuPaul will approve, because -- spoiler -- she obviously is not a fan of Gia, especially after this episode.

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After a hilariously cute, but utterly pointless, mini-challenge, the main crux of the episode was a team acting challenge. Team leaders MILK and Adore Delano ended up dividing the contestants along the exact same lines as the groups from the initial episodes (Team Milk consisted of Courtney Act, Darienne Lake, Bianca del Rio, Trinity K. Bonet, and Joslyn Fox; Team Adore had Laganja Estranja, April Carrion, Gia Gunn, Ben DeLaCreme, and Vivacious). The teams had to shoot a horror-film trailer. MILK’s was set in the 1960’s, while Adore’s was set in the 1980’s.

For a horror challenge there was precious little suspense. These two groups are completely mismatched -- something many viewers commented on after the two-part premieres -- and Team MILK was obviously getting the win. Trinity needed quite a bit of direction but turned in a solid performance, while MILK oddly failed to impress in the crazy old lady role. Adore’s team crashed and burned almost entirely, with the exception of Ben DeLaCreme, who killed it. The rest of the group was miscast or unprepared, none worse than team captain Adore.

And so, it was frankly bullshit when Adore ended up toward the bottom of the heap, but not lipsynching for her life this episode. Nothing about that scenario added up, except for the act that the producers clearly love Adore -- or at least they think that the viewers love her -- and so they want her to stick around for a while. But based on her lack of preparation for the challenge, her lousy job as team leader, and the fact that her runway look was the least polished of the Bottom 3, there’s no reason she shouldn’t have been lipsynching.

Instead it came down to April Carrion, who was woefully miscast as a butch lesbian in the horror flick, and Vivacious, who totally struggled with both her lines and delivery. They both turned in decent lipsynch performances, but April had just a little more attitude/hunger, and Vivacious had to sashay away. It’s a pity. Vi had great talking heads, some eye-popping outfits (for this episode she came “dressed like Godzilla,” TM Bianca del Rio), and a great attitude. Although she was weak in the challenges, you could see her struggling with the de facto ageism on display with the younger queens in her group. (I wonder if she would have fared better with the more mature queens in Group B?) But I will miss her. She was fun. Vivacious: please say hello to Ornacia, and also that queen who apparently dresses like a furnace. She sounds fascinating.

Of course, had it been Vivacious vs. Adore -- which it SHOULD have been -- I don’t have a doubt in my mind that Adore would have been sent packing. Please understand, I like Adore. I like Danny. I find them both oddly charming. But RuPaul was dead right when she said that Danny/Adore has skated by on her charisma thus far in life, and doesn’t really know how to put in serious effort. That was painfully evident in both Adore’s challenge performance and in the way she reacted to the criticism leveled at her. Sour, sour faces, sulking, and awful energy. And the truth is, Adore has been struggling almost this entire competition. She may have come in as a huge fan favorite due to Danny’s time on “Idol,” but this is a very different game, and she’s not prepared for it. What’s worse is, she knows it. And RuPaul has her number, hussies.

RuPaul also sees right through Gia’s bullshit, and she called her out for it on the runway this episode. (Ru does not seem to be holding anything back this season, and I for one am glad for it -- this crop is strong enough that they can take it, or should be able to, at least.) Ru specifically lambasted Gia for her lack of craft and polish during the acting challenge, and more or less put her on notice that she knows Gia is all talk and very little ability. Gia is also -- I’m just going to say it -- not the brightest queen in the bunch. She can hurl an insult, but for all the burns she’s dishing out, the editors are dousing her in flames with their hilarious framing of her many Duh Moments. This episode: Delorean, black-and-white films. Both classic “Drag Race” edits.

Other things worth noting from this episode:

*The runway was “your best drag,” and the results were all over the place. Courtney impressed with an Australian flag-inspired gown, April gave us “Singin’ in the Rain” Realness, etc. And then we had Gia looking like a Burton version of an OompaLoompa and Joslyn in one of Honey Mahagoney's discount muumuus. I don’t know. And then effing MILK shows up dressed like a slutty Pinocchio, and I just died. Slayed.

*Darienne Lake won the main challenge for playing a bewitched head in a box. Yay, Darienne! She was also funny and charming, although I suspect she’s going to get some shit thrown at her online for her kaikai remarks.

*Bianca and Courtney seemed to have formed a weird bond, and if I was any other queen in this competition, I would be terrified. Those two are alpha dogs, and if they’re a team, the rest of you are screwed.

*Ben desperately needs to get saved from the kiddie pool, because Laganja, Gia, and Adore are doing her absolutely no favors. Even Santino said that had Ben been in the winning group she probably would have won the challenge.

*Speaking of Laganja Estranja, I cringed again at her self-absorption and what I perceive as faux emotionalism in “Untucked.” The entire losing group told the judges that Vivacious should be the one to go home. OK. I get that. But then on “Untucked,” the younger queens -- especially Laganja -- were basically harassing Vivacious into telling them it was OK for them to throw her under the bus en masse. And that is bullshit. You said what you said. Own it. She felt ganged up on and did not have to tell you that was fine. You’re playing a game, sure, but if you feel guilty for railroading her -- which Laganja and probably Adore certainly did -- that is on you. Leave the poor woman alone.

*I cannot for the life of me figure out Joslyn. She seems like such a ditz, but she did well in the challenge and then had me roaring with her reactions on “Untucked.” She is an enigma. A derpy enigma.

NEXT: “Shade: The Rusical”! It’s an “Idol”-Off between Adore and Courtney!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 6, Episode 2: Meet the REST of the Queens

Darienne Lake debuts, and RuPaul asks, "Where's the beef?"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Monday night we got the second part of the Season 6 premiere, and it was worth the wait. While I absolutely enjoyed the seven queens in Group 1, the 10-minute preview of Group 2 that aired last week made it clear that most of the exciting queens (with the exception of Ben Delacreme and Laganja Estranja) were in the second batch. The challenge results were stronger from Group 1, but the action was more entertaining in Group 2, and I found myself LOL-ing throughout the entire episode. (And “Untucked” was mercifully free of forced, staged emotion.)

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The final seven queens in Season 6 are:

Bianca Del Rio: I found her abrasive in her “Meet the Queens” video, but of course, that’s the point. Bianca is an insult comic, and she’s very good at what she does. My fear from the pre-show clips was that Bianca was going to have an attitude of “I’m better than everyone, and better than this show” -- but that was totally not the case. Yes, Bianca is a bitch. Or at least she plays one on stage and TV. But already she showed some very human reactions in between some quick, cutting jabs. Bianca can also sew (she won the first challenge), has musical-theater experience, and has no shortage of charisma. I expect Bianca to be running these queens ragged by episode 4 or 5. She is a major contender. Her only note from the judges: tone down the eye make-up. (Although personally, I like it -- it perfectly suits her character.)

Trinity K. Bonet: I go back and forth on Trinity. She’s a stunning queen, but the illusion is ruined the second she opens her mouth and that Quaalude man voice pours out. She seems…not the sharpest, and yet her Queen Amidala reference for the main challenge was both fun and unexpected. She’s clearly a pageant gal, but she’s got some edge to her. I don’t think she’s in the top tier this season -- not by a longshot -- but there are more facets to Trinity than I previously imagined. I still can’t with that voice, though.

Joslyn Fox: Speaking of “not the sharpest,” we have Joslyn. Jos is very pretty, very sweet, and VERY perky. She reminds me of a 5-year-old, which I’m not sure is really a compliment. What I can’t decide is if the airhead thing is an act, a la Goldie Hawn on "Laugh-In," or if Joslyn really is just that dim. She said she misunderstood the point of the main challenge (they were each assigned a party-themed box and told to make an outfit -- she thought she had to use as much in the box as possible, so it looked like a Michael's store ejaculated all over her), she seemed stumped when a producer questioned her malapropism (“black horse” instead of “dark horse”), etc. And her fangirling over Courtney is embarrassing.

MILK: So, MILK is amazing. I am not going to be able to separate my own personal delight over MILK from my analysis, so you’re going to need to accept that right now. MILK is an avant-garde shock queen from NYC, but who is originally from Syracuse. (MILK is also brutally hot as a guy, though that’s kind of irrelevant.) (Wait, no it isn’t.) MILK intentionally makes herself uglier as a woman, painting a giant fake gap on his teeth, wearing bizarre, unflattering clothes, and constantly pushing the envelope -- and it is only Episode 1. MILK had me with the toilet paper stuck to her shoe, won my love by wearing acid-wash hot pants in the work room, and then took me higher by creating a runway look that included a bare-breasted “Xanadu” jumpsuit, a lilypad on her head, and a GODDAMNED FAKE BEARD. I am in love with this queen. I hope she stays forever.

Courtney Act: Is unquestionably a frontrunner. Courtney is already a celebrity in her home country Australia, where she was a contestant -- in drag -- in the first season of “Australian Idol.” I assume Courtney’s passage to America was underwritten by Chicken of the Sea, because this queen is the fishiest contestant EVER on this show. Courtney can totally pass as female -- and, in “Untucked,” said that she has in fact seduced more than one supposedly straight man whilst in drag, referring to herself as, “a glamorous stepping stone across the pond to homosexuality.” If Courtney was just all look and body, she’d still be a threat. But she’s more than that. She’s a singer, a performer, and she has oodles of personality. Her reaction to the pillow-fight photo shoot was adorable, and she’s likable even when throwing a little shade or patting herself on the back a little much. She biffed the first challenge, but accepted criticism well. If she remains this cool throughout the competition these others hos are screwed.

Darienne Lake: I also can’t pretend to be objective about Darienne. She is, of course, our hometown queen, and I’ve both interviewed Darienne and seen her perform numerous times. Her fans have waited years for her to appear on “Drag Race,” and it’s so exciting to finally see it happen. Darienne was terrific in her entrance, her talking heads, and her interactions with the queens -- sharp, funny, bubbly, quick. It’s everything Darienne fans expected. But Darienne totally whiffed the main challenge, turning out a St. Patrick’s-inspired outfit that was both plain and unflattering. And I suspect she knew it. Darienne did not object to the judges’ criticisms -- in fact, if anything, she took her low placement as an inspiration to do better. That’s what you want in a contestant. Thing is, Darienne knows how to sew. So I’m not sure what happened there. (Time constraints?) Thankfully, Darienne also knows how to deliver a motherfucking lipsynch, and she did a great job to Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around,” giving great energy, humor, and some serious booty shaking. (Our viewing party was disappointed that, with the party theme, they didn’t do “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore; missed opportunity, show.)

Magnolia Crawford: Magnolia joined Darienne in the Bottom 2, and she was eliminated. Let’s unpack Magnolia for a second. When the cast was first announced, and I watched all of the “Meet the Queens” videos, Magnolia was hands down my least favorite of the cast. In her clips, she seemed almost bored to be there, and out of shits to give. It was just so ODD. Then I watched her audition video, and I realized that the “over it” vibe is largely an affect; it’s part of Magnolia’s “trash queen” act. I found that weirdly endearing. But after watching this episode, I’m back to my first impression. Magnolia had a terrible attitude throughout this entire affair. It was almost like she was trying to pick a fight. She hated her “country hoedown” assignment, hated her materials, glued a Holstein-print piece of fabric into a tube dress and slapped a ribbon on the back, and then talked back to the judges when they did their job by, you know, judging her. RuPaul did NOT look amused. In “Untucked,” Magnolia literally told the girls that she did not care if she got eliminated -- she was simply there for exposure. She got on the show, people knew her name, she got what she wanted. She also said that any of the queens who adapted their style to suit the judges were “boring and have no spine.” That is pretty damned bold. In fact, it was so bold, that again I wondered if it all wasn’t an act. But as one of the other queens (Trinity, I think) argued, there are hundreds of queens dying to get on this show, and Magnolia threw away a spot just to boost her ego. It’s a fair point. Ultimately Magnolia struggled with the words of the lipsynch, moved around awkwardly, and more or less couldn’t wait to get back to her hotel room for a few weeks in Sequesterville. I don’t know. What a bizarre situation.

At the end of the episode, the remaining queens from the two groups merged in the Work Room, and the tension was palpable. I’ve heard people complain that the split-premiere format robbed the first two episodes of some of the frenetic energy that typically define “Drag Race” premieres. I guess that’s true, but what was gained was a level of exposure for each competing queen that most past early eliminees surely wish they had (seriously, I feel like I have a sense of all 12 remaining contestants at this point). And Episode 3, when things typically start to level off, is now primed to be particularly explosive as we have, essentially, rival drag-queen girl gangs rumbling for the first time. I love it. I am loving this season. RuPaul, don’t fail me now!

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