Ball jokes and bug snacks punctuate an overstuffed (and overtucked) episode of season 14.
Y’all, I’ve got things to do. We can’t be starting over again, again.
The beauty of reality competition television is that it gets going right away. Contestants leave, the end always clearly in sight; it’s the televisual equivalent to crossing off a to-do list. Yet RuPaul is, once again, determined to try the limits of format and thus our patience.
After the two groups of queens finally meet and have their kiki about who knows who and who is whose seamstress, RuPaul announces the return of the previously eliminated queens, Orion Story and Daya Betty. I/they/we all sigh. With the season reset to the original fourteen, our benevolent
dictator dicktaper announces there’s one more twist this year.
Season Fourteen will be RuPaul’s Willy Wonka Prison Experiment. All the queens are to sign randomly selected chocolate bars. At the end of every lip sync, the losing queen will have a chance to unwrap their chocolate bar. If there’s a golden ticket inside, they will be saved from elimination. (Meaning there will be at least one week where no one goes home, stalling the competition again, again, again.)
Just when we spectators think we couldn’t be stretched further, Mx. Charles announces that we’re going to have two separate balls with three categories each. Queens from week one will throw a “Hide n Chic” ball serving Zebra Resort, Leopard Evening, and Wedding Gown Eleganza. Week two queens put on the completely unrelated “Red, White, and Blue” ball walking Red Hot Resort, Evening Gown (All In White), Wedding Gown Eleganza (in Red, White, and Blue).
Yesterday’s episode does feature a special pest star: a dragonfly who made its way into the werkroom. Dragonflies are considered good luck in some cultures and Daya Betty must have ingested some of that luck because she earned a safe spot this week. In an episode filled with things we’ve seen before, I will pause to say I’ve never seen a drag queen eat a bug. That was exciting.
But it’s also as tasty as this episode gets. While we get some good looks on the runway, with Willow getting a well-deserved win, we still have to endure forty-two individual looks. And since RuPaul insists on bringing out “red, white, and blue” as a category every election year, half of those looks feel like looks we’ve seen a million times before.
And so many ball jokes. In fourteen seasons, there isn’t a testicle joke left untried by our distinguished panel of judges. I like a good “testicle tehe” but forty-two is too many opportunities to say the same old sack of puns. Those jokes have been shooting blanks for years.
As the girls untuck, there’s the fairly standard conversation about the (dis)pleasures and pressures of being safe. Alyssa and Jasmine particularly peeved to be safe and not get critiques while others like Kornbread are thankful to have survived a sewing challenge. It’s an unremarkable third episode, mostly because it feels like the show is just now getting started. All their confidences and insecurities have already been shared, the queens are just rehashing them for the larger group.
I wish I could say it was this same fatigue in the face of repetition that led to June and Maddy’s lackluster performance of “I Love It” by Kylie Minogue, but it’s clear that both of these queens don’t have the strong sense of self needed to go far in this competition. June couldn’t sell confidence in the unflattering dress she made and Maddy continues to prove they have unqueer ideas of gender and gender performance. It’s a predictable final two who pull out the predictable stunts and lack thereof. In the end, June’s bar is chocolate (sad trombone) and she is sent home.
Maybe there are more exciting, less repetitive, challenges in the future. But as it stands right now, Season 14 has not done anything to set itself apart from previous seasons. At this point, we have to seriously consider if the show has circled into an ouroboRus.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 airs Fridays on VH1.