The ladies channel the ORIGINAL drag superstar, Divine.
Credit: LOGO

Regardless of what people have said about the quality of contestants this season, Drag Race can still turn it OUT. From crown to cankle, this episode had EVERYTHING: John Waters, Demi Lovato, tributes to Divine, singing, splits—not to mention the READING IS FUNDAMENTAL challenge!

I think RuPaul should find a way to make the Reading Is Fundamental challenge a super-heavy-flow Maxi Challenge with extra-absorbent wings. I’d like a reading TOURNAMENT spreading over three episodes with Fantasy Football-like brackets and leaderboards. (Sidenote: There’s a reason why no one should be too sad or outraged that Max is gone; she‘d have shamed herself to filth on this challenge, so she and the rest of us have been spared that travesty.) Kweens reading each other as sport in a safe, supervised environment is something we need to see much more of. Certainly, this Reading Is Fundamental session wasn’t the best in Drag Race history—nothing can top the time Jujubee uttered the words “legs and dairy” and forever changed the orbit of the drag world—but there were some deliciously shady highlights. Here’s everyone’s best read, complete with scores out of 10:

Ginger to Trixie: “Making fun of you is like shooting clownfish in a barrel. Unfortunately, that’s about as fishy as you’ll ever be.” Score: 7. Overall, there was some creativity in the metaphor, and I liked the use of “clownfish” as a nod to Trixie’s makeup style, but a little too wordy and could have used more venom.

Katya to Violet: “Pretty soon your waist size will be lower than your IQ.” Score: 8. Pithy and nasty. A good use of low-hanging fruit, and I’m not referring to Katya’s tuck.

Violet to Katya: “Make like your hairline and recede.” Score: 8. Way to use what’s clearly a queen’s major insecurity against her—this read could easily have been leveled against Trixie as well, so bonus points for broad shade-ability. (By the way, as much as I love watching the Reading Is Fundamental challenge, I could never handle it IRL. I’d be crying and running out the door).

Kennedy to Violet: “It’s a giraffe! It’s a horse! It’s just Violet serving [neighing sound] realness.” Score: 5. Good delivery but not enough basis in truth—Violet isn’t all that horsey.

Miss Fame to Katya: “Now you get to increase your hooking fee. Thank you, RuPaul’s Drag Race!” Score: 2. Not a real joke.

Pearl to Katya: Are you confused? The saying is young, dumb, and full of c–.” Score: 9. In a reading challenge, jokes about age are a safe bet.

Trixie to Ginger: “Did you ever save Carol Anne from the poltergeist in the TV?” Score: 8. Yay for ’80s pop culture references!

In my opinion, Pearl should have won. I loved her read of Kennedy (“Your eye is on the prize and your other eye is on the crown”) and when she turned to read Ru, I about died. Ru loves that kind of audacity, and Pearl surprised us all with her quickness. Trixie’s reads were solid, too, but they mostly employed easy, accessible middle-of-the-road humor, which is great for CBS, but less so for Drag Race.

NEXT: Now for the Maxi Challenge!

Ru dropped so many hints about John Waters (Pecker, Female Trouble, Hairspray, Polyester) that only Sasha Belle wouldn’t have been able to pick up on what the challenge was all about. The best line of the night was when Katya exclaimed, “I love Steven Spielberg!” The girls had to split up into three teams and perform a musical version of a John Waters scene made famous by Divine. Of course, comedy kweens Ginger and Trixie grabbed ahold of each other, Kennedy and Katya teamed up, and the leftovers Fame, Pearl, and Violet reluctantly joined forces out of necessity.

Once again, Pearl and Fame ended up clashing, and they threw jabs at each other while beating their faces for the runway. Pearl said, “I’ve always felt some weird underlying tension with Fame. She’s like … odd.” UMMM, could that tension possibly, maybe be SEXUAL? Am I going out on a CRAZY limb by suggesting that?

Team Cha Cha Heels

Katya initially wanted the Dawn Davenport role, but as soon as she and Kennedy discovered how much serious singing would be involved, they reversed roles. It was amazing how much Katya was able to do as Dawn’s mom. She kept all eyes on her with her gravelly chainsmoker’s voice and rhythmic splits. Kennedy gave a solid vocal performance but tripped all over her lines and almost ruined the scene closer by hesitating before toppling over the Christmas tree. Once again, Kennedy was saved by a teammate.

Team Eggs

Both Ginger and Trixie could carry a tune, but Ginger stole the show with her performance. She was disgusting and weirdly cute as the Edith Massey’s Edie in Pink Flamingos and hammed up every moment. Michelle called her performance a “masterpiece,” and it really solidified Ginger as the true frontrunner of the season. Trixie did well enough to not be in danger of elimination.

Team Poo

These bitches proved once and for all that none of them belong in the final three. Pearl, Violet, and Fame were each in their own movie and didn’t work off one another at all whatsoever. Violet refused to go all out with her padding, Pearl was disengaged and didn’t seem to get any of the references, and Fame was so obsessed with her own performance that her over-acting and tongue action ended up backfiring. Next!

I loved the runway theme, which was “Ugliest dress EVER!” John Waters and Demi Lovato were on hand to guest-judge, along with Carson Kressley in his first appearance in weeks. Ginger and especially Katya served up the ugly dresses like no other. Katya’s yellow dress with brown trim had to have been a custom job. I hate to shade the almighty John Waters, but he seemed a tad out of touch when he said the hippest girl in Brooklyn would wear Katya’s dress—it was such a stodgy, stereotyped view of Brooklyn and young people. The hippest girl in Brooklyn maybe would have used it as a home-birthing mat.

Pearl and Fame demonstrated that they weren’t really willing to go ugly by wearing cute dresses—especially Pearl. Pearl expected to be praised for actually looking cute, but instead she rightly got criticized for not taking the runway challenge seriously. In that moment when Ru asked all the girls who should go home, everyone but Fame and Violet called Fame out. Fame called out Pearl, adding further fuel to their sexual tension. Both of them ended up lip-syncing for their lives, and neither of them did inspired work, although Pearl was slightly sassier with her hair flips. Not only was Fame’s dress wrong for the ugly dress theme, it was wrong for lip-syncing, as it hid all of her body movements. Miss Fame wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of this elimination. I’m a staunch Fame defender, as I identify with her tendency to launch into over-emotional soliloquies, but it was really her time. I do hope we see more of that weirdo.

Now, the Fierce List, which at this point is really solidifying:

1. Ginger Minj: She’s going to win. Julie Klausner has predicted it and added her to the Redhead Hall of Fame, so at this point, there’s no other horse—not even Violet—in this race.

2. Katya: She’s so funny and talented and original, but she just hasn’t dominated the challenges enough to pull out the win.

3. Trixie: Trixie made it past the single-episode curse that most returning kweens fall victim to, so now it may be smooth sailing.

4. Kennedy Davenport: Her runway look was funny, as was her buttpick. Yes, she’s more than just a pageant queen, but she doesn’t have the charisma or uniqueness to go all the way.

5. Violet: She’s done well for herself getting this far, but the other queens ahead of her are such deeper characters. She may be a skinny, fishy queen, but sometimes it pays to have the spirit of a big bitch.

6. Pearl: Pearl has been on a nice upswing, but this episode shows that she’s still coasting too much in the competition, and it’ll once again come back to bite her.

Episode Recaps

RuPaul's Drag Race

RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.

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