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Drag Race finally cuts some queens, but the fans are still unlucky

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 14 Episode 11

This week, the queens lip sync to see who should have gone home last week.

We open in the past. The girls are sitting on the couch following the Chaps on the Runway, runway, basking in the collective praise they received from the judges. Then Willow, wearing an inflatable wedgy, sees through a rip in time: “There’s gonna be one challenge we’re all gonna bomb.” [All laugh unaware.]

Following last week’s disastrous showing during Snatch Game, this week is a special Lalaparuza in which the queens will face off in lip-sync matches to determine who should go home. Never in Drag Race herstory have we dedicated an entire episode to decide who should have sashayed away the episode before. Fans of the show wanting Drag Race to do something entirely different have gotten their wish. However, I don’t think it’s how they imagined it would be fulfilled. 

It’s certainly not how Daya imagined it. Ever our Complaining Connie, I grow more and more sympathetic to her plight each week as we tap dance in place, inching no closer to the crown. We’re now two-thirds of the way through the season, and there are still seven queens in contention. The poor queens trapped in isolation this year will tie last season for most episodes in herstory with a whopping sixteen episodes instead of the average twelve episodes plus reunion and live finale episodes. Can anything help turn this season’s pacing from molasses to more yass, sis?

Not in this episode. Yet it’s not without its merits. As the queens do their makeup before for a long and trying day, we get into an exciting discussion about the craft. Since the queens don’t know who they will be lip-syncing against, nor do they know the song, there’s an infinite combination of strength and style combinations that could play out. And that means different genres of drag may be competing against each other and the current of the song.

Long ago, this show used to teach others about drag culture, not just Ru-drag culture, and this felt like a brief return to those educational early days. This week we get to be privy to how these artists talk shop. We learn about the “park and bark” queens and what is needed to effectively plant and deliver a ballad. We peek into the bag of tricks dancerly queens can pull out when needed. Through the conversation that Angie leads, we get some lovely comparisons of skill sets that show off a sophisticated understanding of the tasks and talents of drag. It’s a great reminder that these are professionals, that some/all/most of this is work. I wish we got more of it.

But the most enjoyable part of the episode was DeJa Skye. Since she won last week, she is exempt from the blood sport and gets to relax in luxury in the Werkroom to watch the battle Ru-yale. Though the winning queens join her as they escape elimination and add their own commentary, DeJa’s cheer-coach observations are funny, thoughtful, proving she is tough competition for Miss Congeniality. She, in many ways, becomes a wonderful stand-in for the audience watching at home – the supportive spectator all dragged up to sit on the couch, ambivalent in good faith.

A Special Shoutout goes to Calix, the poor Pit Crew worm in a speedo that has to spin the bingo balls and determine how the lalaparuza will proceed. He will draw the ball to pick a queen, who will then select their opponent. The chosen opponent then decides which song to which the queens will compete. It couldn’t have been easy or comfortable standing there in a cold studio for who knows how long. Thank you for your service.

Jasmine is chosen first and decides to compete against her main rival Daya Betty, of all delusions. Daya picks “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and what follows are strange, hair flipping, pussy pounding performances that weren’t disrespectful, but they weren’t what we needed either. Though her Avril Lavigne s8tr drag made her totally incongruous with the song, Daya gets to join DeJa as the winner of round one.

Only five more of these.

Willow is next, and Bosco selects soulful Luther Vandross smash “Never Too Much” as their battle song. Theirs is a pretty evenly matched track, with both queens getting into the pocket of the music and delivering an earnest and truly joyful lip sync. For having just a bit more fluidity to her fun, Willow lives on for another episode.

What to do now that there’s an odd number remaining? A Threeway, of course! Jorgeous, Angie, and Lady Camden are up next, and Jorgeous selects “Radio” by Beyonce. The Sacha Fierce era dance ballad is rough terrain for these three very differently skilled queens. Jorgeous and Camden can dance it out; Angie brings the mouth and emotions. No one can bring both. It’s mostly a lot of arm-waving, but Jorgeous gives enough of both arm and heart to pass through to next week.

Camden and Bosco are back, facing off against each other to “Don’t Let Go” by EnVogue. This R&B harmonious classic prevents Camden from doing her usual splits and stunts. This song would have been better suited to a “park and bark” queen that could channel the pleading nature of the song that makes its crescendos so effective. Both queens hair-whip their way to a not-quite-soulful but passable performance. Despite the performance being more or less a whiteout, Lady Camden eke out just a bit better than Bosco. 

Our ballad queen Angie beats Jasmine in a whirling performance of JLo’s “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.” Another odd song choice from Ru, this song is neither conducive to full singing nor stunty dancing. That’s why Jennifer spends most of the video walking. Still, eventually, Angie pulls ahead by showing off her interpretive skills and leaning into the ridiculousness of the song.

The final performance comes down to sisters-in-trans Bosco and Jasmine Kennedie. Their number features an appropriate amount of floor work for a song called “Swept Away.” The Diana Ross track features dance beats, soft vocals, and guitar solos so that the queens can show off all their skills. As we’ve learned from past success at playing Miss Ross for her Apostle RuPaul, the key is subtlety of mouth and motion. Bosco can convey this controlled effervescence, so Jasmine has to sashay away.

Thank the gods it was just chocolate this week (sad trombone), and someone really went home, or I would have absolutely lost it.

Our Untucked episode confirms how much of a non-episode this was. The Top Seven are together, recapping their stats and storylines thus far. This is a talented and professional bunch. This episode showcased that, but so did the talent shows. Unfortunately, this display isn’t in service of their talents, but televisual drama. But sadly, this episode cements that this season has fully parked it and lost all its bark.

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