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'RuPaul's Drag Race' recap: 'ShakesQueer'

The queens get bawdy with the Bard.

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Denise Malone/Logo TV

RuPaul's Drag Race

type:
TV Show
genre:
Reality TV
performer:
RuPaul
broadcaster:
VH1
seasons:
9
Current Status:
In Season

Margo Channing vs. Eve Harrington. Naomi Campbell vs. Tyra Banks. Cristal Connors vs. Nomi Malone.

For as long as there have been queens, there’s been a contentious relationship between experienced, battle-hardened divas and the young upstarts threatening to snatch their (Burger King) crowns. Whenever this rift has broken out on Drag Race, I’ve tended to side with the Bitter Old Queens—it’s just good karma, and at 29, I’d already be middle-aged in this competition—but I’d love to see a little more mothering going on this season. Last year, even the prickly Biana del Rio gave into her maternal instincts to nurture Adore and Trinity K. Bonet, but this season, grand dames such as Kennedy Davenport and Kasha Davis have no interest in adopting the likes of Trixie or Pearl. And to be fair, brats like Violet Chachki have personalities only a real mother could love.

The younger generation’s mean-girl attitudes were on full display last week, but this week, the older ladies show flashes of ugliness as they sink their acrylic claws into Miss Fame, Trixie, Pearl, and Violet—or “the color one,” as Jasmine hilariously refers to her. Jasmine and Kennedy get extreme with their hatred of the (only somewhat) younger girls, with Jasmine proclaiming she doesn’t like “the air they breathe.” The lady doth detest too much, in my opinion. They also rag on the young girls’ lack of performing experience. Little do they know, those words will come back to shame them later in the episode.

Speaking of age, Ru rolls into the Werk Room on a Rascal or Rascal-like transportation-assistance device. For the Mini Challenge, the queens will “Sissy that Walker” and do a classic Soul Train danceline wearing Golden Girls garb. As far as low-budget Mini Challenges go, this one is thoroughly entertaining, with Kasha rubbing her elder-boobs against the Pit Crew dudes (the redhead is really steeling my wool this season) and Jaidynn twerking as if she’s having a seizure. Laugh-out-loud moments: Ru calling Max “a friend of Dorothy … Zbornak!” and Ru asking Jasmine Masters, “Where did you get a loaf of bread???” Seriously, where did Jasmine get that bread? Did it also fall out of Tempest DuJour’s vagina?

As usual, the winners of the Mini Challenge, Max and Kennedy Davenport, are more or less chosen arbitrarily, and they get the honor of picking their teams for the Maxi Challenge (with wings!). For the Maxi Challenge, each team will put on a staging of a Shakespeare parody Romy and Juliet and MacBitch. I LOVE an acting challenge, but the Bard might pose too big of a challenge for some of the queens. Pearl proudly shows off her ignorance in a confessional: “I’ve never even seen … I don’t know what Macbeth is, honestly. Call me young, call me, like, illiterate. Whatever.” Hoo boy. We’re in for a long show.

On to rehearsals! So rehearsals for acting challenges have always been an over-the-top disaster, but this one deserves a special spot in the Drag Race Hall of Shame. Team Kennedy falls apart at the table read—Jasmine refuses to play the ghetto character and wants to play the “pretty, ruthless, wannabe mean girl,” which is a part Violet was born to play, as she herself admits. Kennedy lets the two play against type, but in the end, because both of them fail horribly, and Kennedy makes an executive decision for them to switch roles—but it may already be too late.

Team Max doesn’t fare much better in the dry run in front of Ru and Michelle. Jaidynn totally freezes and forgets her lines. It’s the most uncomfortable live performance I’ve seen since January Jones hosted SNLmade worse when Jaidynn starts crying hysterically. I was sure when they previewed the meltdown before the commercial break that it would be part of the performance—such dramatic sobs!—but no, Jaidynn’s meltdown really was that glorious.

But Kennedy’s MacBitch preview goes so, so much worse, which doesn’t even seem possible at first. Pearl sets off the domino effect by deepening her voice to introduce the play, and Jasmine, for someone who so often touts the importance of performance skills, really can’t deliver a line to save her life. All that personality she has drains away. Kennedy can’t remember her lines either, and it’s all truly mortifying to watch—I can’t bring myself to be that bitchy about it because it’s such a painful, excruciating experience. Ru declares, “In seven years of doing Drag Race, I’ve never seen a car crash like this before.” She’s not exaggerating.

On to show night! Break several legs, ladies.

Drag Race is really upping its guest star game this season, with the delightful Kat Dennings and the contrarian Scary Spice, who has some opinions that have the other judges rolling their eyes. The runway theme tonight is beards, and not the kind that closeted celebrities pay to make out with them in public. Katya wins for best facial hair in my book, sporting a full Abilene Lincoln look, what she calls “Emancipation Proclamation realness.” Kandy Ho rocks a hair cube on her head (“Who doesn’t love a hairy box?” asks Carson. “My husband,” quips Michelle).

When the curtain goes up, Jaidynn brings the energy and confidence and owns the stage—there’s no sign of the quivering drama queen from rehearsals. She really psyched herself up before the show, saying, “No ma’am, no ham, no Pam, no cauliflower, no cornbread, no green beans, I’m not going home.” (A lot of Jaidynn’s jokes are food-related). Team Max is such the superior group, and it was apparent from the moment Max and Kennedy chose teams. Ginger Minj delivers all her lines with a great neck bob, Max is reliably weird and hilarious, and even Miss Fame has a few great moments.

As for Team Kennedy Daveport, MacBitch doesn’t go much better than the rehearsals. It actually seems as if the script is way worse than Romy and Juliet, but it could just be the terrible performances dragging down the material. Jasmine still can’t act, and Pearl is late on all her cues. Even Katya seems psyched out by the disaster going on around her.

Unsurprisingly, Max nabs the win for her team, and Team Kennedy Davenport is up for elimination. Katya, Violet, and Kandy Ho actually get some props from the judges, while Pearl gets told to “WAKE UP” by Ru. She should also consider picking up a book.

Sadly, that leaves sisters Jasmine and Kennedy to lip-synch for their lives, and it’s the right decision. Jasmine’s beard looks patchy and prebuscent, which is not befitting a queen of her regality, and Jasmine’s beard looks like the side of my hand after writing with a No. 2 pencil (I’m left-handed)—far worse than Pearl’s Sharpied-on RoboCop chinstrap from the first episode. Jasmine offers up some sad excuse about why she can’t glue things to her face (if that’s the case, she’s in the wrong profession) and it prompts RuPaul to shout, “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY GODDAMN EXCUSES.” It doesn’t reach the level of Tyra yelling at Tiffany, but it effectively shuts Jasmine down.

In terms of pure performance, Jasmine beats Kennedy hands down in the lip-synch. Jasmine does an impressive Jane Fonda workout move while Kennedy relies mostly on armography. However, I think some queens like Kennedy are built for ballads and torch songs (Jujubee, anyone?) so “I Was Gonna Cancel” by Kylie Minogue just isn’t going to bring out her best. If Jasmine weren’t wearing that fabulous bedazzled gown, and she were able to spread her legs, she may have performed a flying split like the one Katya pulled out last week, but nothing would have made up for her excuses and horrible acting this week. We say bye to Jasmine and her fabulously expressive lips.

For this week’s Fierce List, I enlisted the help of my BFF and fellow Drag Race superfan Justin. Let’s get into it!

1. Max: Best attitude and smartest, most thoughtful looks. Her Tim Burton-style beard was incredible, and she wins my heart forever for that pep-talk he gave Jaidynn. I never thought I could love someone who looks so much like Gabe from The Office as much as I love Max.

2. Katya: She’s serving up the funniest one-liners. I’m still reeling from her line “I just try to pound my vagina so hard into that stage that the building shakes” from last week. I’m a little surprised that she’s not doing better in the challenges, though.

3. The Minj: She’s killing all of the challenges and really understands how to accentuate her big-girl frame. Should we call the Top 3 right now?

4. Miss Fame: The best of the young, fishy girls, and she’s showing more personality and performance and relying less on her modeling.

5. Jaidynn Diore Fierce: I hope this week was a turning point for her. Like Ru, I don’t want to hear any more excuses.

6. Trixie Mattel: Could she be this season’s dark horse?

7. Kasha Davis: She hasn’t risen to the top in any way, but I still want to see more. She consistently performs well, but we need to see some more personality outside of the challenges.

8. Pearl: Stupidity ain’t cute. At first, I thought the slow act was just that—an act—but every week she’s proving that it’s not. She still manages to surprise us, though. Her red beard this week showed creativity and a spark of humor.

9. Kandy Ho: She did well this week, but she’s not long for this show.

10. Kennedy Davenport: She desperately needs to pull a power move, and fast.

11. Violet Chachki: There’s a reason she keeps getting chosen last.