Drag Race’s Moulin Ru-sical is a windmill of emotion

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 14 Episode 12 Recap

Golden Ideas and Golden Tickets make Episode 12 bittersweet entertainment.

Finally, some laughs. After weeks adrift in the doldrums, Drag Race picks up momentum with this week’s “Moulin Ru-sical” episode. It’s a warm and clever episode that turns the mundane self-congratulatory musical challenge into a delight to watch. Yet the gods are ever mischievous. When it feels we’re finally rolling towards the ball, the competition stalls once more.

I like when it’s a free-for-all to decide casting. It gives a queen the chance to call themselves “an entertainer” when they have to take a role they don’t want. Queens are only ‘entertainers’ by force; they prefer to be ‘performers.’ And that’s precisely what happens on the casting couch between Bosco and Lady Camden, both of whom firmly want the lead role of Saltine, the cabaret courtesan with a curious cough. 

It’s not surprising that a season determined to keep as many queens as possible would find drama in immobility. After considerable back and forth, including an awkward group vote, Camden acquiesces and takes the other lead role of Lady Z, the bearded emcee. Fans of the show know such a narrative build-up can only mean a dramatic rise or fall.

That the performance turns out as good as it does is in no small part because of the group’s relaxation during rehearsal. The moment the queens turn the corner to rehearse on the runway and see Leslie Jordan is there as guest director, the mood lifts almost instantly. Along with Rusical composer Leland and choreographer Miguel, Leslie Jordan brings the much longed-for levity with quick jokes, sharp shade, and genuinely helpful direction.

Because, goddamnit, Leland, this is a clever Rusical. Leland had to weave together a complex tapestry of reorchestrations of RuPaul “hits” for this play on Moulin Rouge! the 2001 movie musical turned 2022 Broadway musical. Not only are they able to recontextualize Ru-songs in surprising and delightful ways, but they also rightly incorporate references to past musical episodes. Queens have often made more significant and memorable contributions to the musical world of the Runiverse than the empress herself. Leland’s references to these contributions make “Moulin Ru” feel like the most complete satire of Drag Race that we’ve seen in a good long while. 

Ever the “entertainer,” Lady Camden plays into her devilish egg-shaped face and gives an appropriately cheeky performance as Lady Z. Why she thought she wouldn’t be perfect as the slender version of an already dragged up Jim Broadbent is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, she rides the underdog current through to the winner’s spot this week.

Other queens can show off their talents as well. DeJa Skye’s not-Lil-Kim rap verse is hard and shocking, considering how much DeJa was in the background leading up to her solo. Being the precious fairy she is, Willow excels as The Green Fairy, the incarnation of absinthe inspiration. Her character’s increasing speed and exasperation let Willow showcase schtick in a way we haven’t seen before.

Bosco’s failure to settle into her character is the most jarring. She talked a big game during casting, so to see her flounder is awkward. Unfortunately, from the onset of her performance, you can see in her eyes that she’s thinking about the lyrics, dance steps, and the mechanics of emoting. Never does she relax and let herself be her character, save for her asides during Willow’s solo in which she gets to play humor off of her friend.

Dead eyes will get you every time, and they’re what land both Bosco and Jorgeous in the bottom. Despite being Ru’s pet this season, Jorgeous can’t manage to realize herself enough in the challenges to stay out of the bottom. We’re all aware she can slaughter a lipsync, so she does have resting confidence that she can always redeem herself. And though a remix of Whitney Houston’s “Heartbreak Hotel” causes enough cognitive dissonance to give one vertigo, both queens manage to find their moments. Jorgeous takes the voguing perfume ad approach, showing off her deep inspiration from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in her moves, while Bosco gives us Mary Martin as a “park and bark” Martian. 

As the queens untuck, they take a moment to address their answers to the dread “who should go home” question that crops up every season. Just like during casting, Bosco once again got the most votes, but these were not votes of confidence like they had been previously. But to Bosco and indeed all the queen’s credits, their assessments of themselves, their critiques, and their competition are continually mature, insightful, and professional. However, the most precious part was the surprise video from Lady Camden’s chic and eccentric mum. Drag Race has striven to show supportive parents of queer children in recent years, and Mama Camden is the latest shining example. 

My friends, when I say what happened when the queens return to the runway is “conflicting,” I mean it from the very depths of my ambivalence towards this show after fourteen seasons. I love Bosco and agree that she’s Top Queen material, but she under-delivered in the challenge after doing well in most other challenges. Jorgeous continually finds herself in the bottom. When Ru named Jorgeous the survivor, I was confused but pleased she had made a decision, making a cut that hurt, but at least we were moving on with the competition.

Ah, but the fickle finger of Fate. Be it by divine or producer intervention, Bosco is blessed with The Golden Chocolate Bar of Legend. No one will go home this week. We had our laughs this week, but I still want to cry a little bit. With three episodes left and seven queens remaining, we will see some interesting a-Ru-thmetic as the competition finally winds to a close.

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CategoriesRecap TV
  1. Melanie B. says:

    Thank you for such a delightfully-written and insightful post on this unique episode. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jim Broadbent was my favorite actor in the movie, and Camden managed to deliver on that crazy eyebrow-wiggling energy. So glad Michelle called out Bosco on drawing on her signature brows for this challenge– not a good choice. Such a great episode, we’ve already forgotten about that lackluster mirror runway.

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