RuPaul's Drag Race recap: Bitch Perfect
Maybe I’m just on an RPDR high because it’s still so early in the season, but this episode had EVERYTHING. The Pitch Perfect-themed challenge was incredibly energized and brought some big talents to the forefront; battle lines were drawn; the queens got REAL about their backstories; my Fierce List of queen rankings was turned upside down; and it even ended on a massive cliffhanger, and I’m not just talking about Naomi Smalls’ big toe.
At the beginning of the episode, gorgeous Naysha’s elimination left the queens with a big reality check — yep, people are really going to be eliminated! And perhaps faster than they expected (see more at the end of this recap). RuPaul went a little basic but fun for the Mini Challenge this week, which was just a spicy Latin-style dance circle with cha-cha heels and outfits from Out of the Closet thrift store (delivered by the Pit Crew!) and music by AB Soto. It was really just a chance for Ru to see how the queens moved. Let’s just say some results were more promising than others.
All the queens really went for it: Acid Betty, as expected, totally committed; Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s heels came alive; Naomi Smalls did one of the messiest death drops I’ve ever seen; Chi Chi DeVayne did a slightly less messy one; and Thorgy went into bizarre convulsions and exposed her hairy, hairy-ass legs.
Of course, it didn’t come as a shock to anyone who witnessed her Sasquatch walk last week that Kim Chi proved not be a great dancer. Perhaps even the worst dancer in RPDR history. She arhythmically whirled her arms in circles while looking confused and dropping accessories all over the place. Poor Kim Chi. Many Koreans excel at dancing — check out all the break-dancers and girl groups with perfectly synchronized choreo — but others, myself included, have too little rhythm and too much built-in shame to just let it go. This could be Kim Chi’s downfall.
Unluckily for her, the Maxi Challenge this week would be an ALL-DANCING EXTRAVAGANZA!! The winners of the Mini Challenge, Cynthia Lee Fontaine and Chi Chi DeVayne, got the chance to choose their teams (Team Lady Bitches and Team Shady Bitches) for a drag-apella movie called Bitch Perfect, which would be choreographed by Jamal Sims, the man who taught Miley her moves and caused Ginger Minj to flood her basement. Guess what? Kim Chi was chosen last for a team… Surprise!
Team Shady Bitches lived up to its name as Chi Chi and Acid locked unicorn-horns immediately. Thorgy initially sided against her New York “sister,” saying, “Acid Betty is an a–hole, and she knows it!” She continued to say that no one in New York wants to work with Acid because she’s so demanding. Chi Chi wasn’t being much better, accusing her team of not knowing how to dance (even though they collectively had more rhythm than the Lady Bitches without Kim Chi and Laila dragging them off beat) and quashing Thorgy’s efforts to add some comedy into their routine. Acid, trying to make the point that Chi Chi wasn’t listening to her, did a Charlie Brown’s teacher impression for a while, which was a high point in Werk Room maturity. When Ru walked into the room, the cattiness on Team Shady only ramped up, with Chi Chi saying that she refused to be a tyrant — she’d leave that up to Acid Betty.
The teams struggled even more when they rehearsed in front of Jamal. On Team Lady Bitches, Kim Chi was exactly out of sync and couldn’t even do a simple two-step move — but to be fair to her, Laila wasn’t much better. When Jamal had the two of them try the choreography on their own, Kim Chi fell down for absolutely no reason, other than the fact that she can’t walk in heels…which is probably the most basic requisite skill for RPDR. Upon seeing the dancing disaster, Cynthia said, “My heart falls to my cucu!” BOOM. We got our cucu mention for the evening — we can all go home happy.
NEXT: A Pitch Perfect runway
Dax Exclamationpoint was the weak link on Team Shady, having a hard time with an arm-locking move and subsequently getting all shaky and over-thinky. Jamal agreed with Acid that the team should forget a dance move in which they mime shooting up heroin — good call, Jamal! He also cast the deciding vote in letting Thorgy mime-punch Acid in the face, which Thorgy was thrilled about. Long before the actual performance, Chi Chi and Acid Betty were already planning to throw the other under the bus.
On the sweeter, softer team, the members of Team Lady all vowed to help Kim Chi play to her strength, which was her nerdy personality. Kim Chi was still down, though, and went to the Shade Tree — which is exactly like the Giving Tree, in spirit — to confess her woes. She then told the Werk Room her sad story about being the weird, fat art kid with the lisp and strong accent who used to be 350 pounds. She’s so convinced no one would be interested in her that she’s stayed a virgin, leading Acid Betty to confess that she was trying to hit on her earlier. Guess who else used to be fat? The talk was getting REAL, and I was loving it. And then Chi Chi piled on the too-realness with memories of being in a gang and owning a gun and smelling freshly blown-out brains.
On that note, let’s sashay to the Runway,where the delightful composer Lucian Piane and BIGTIME songwriter and star of Pitch Perfect (let’s not mention Pitch Perfect 2) Ester Dean were on hand to guest-judge the teams. The performance was really quite impressive — that just goes to show how brilliantly the editing can make rehearsals look even more disastrous than they probably were. The Shady Bitches definitely had the more fun lines and hard-hitting choreography, but I was also impressed with Team Lady; Kim Chi did about as well as she could in making her disastrous dance skills look like a character trait. I swear I went to college with that Asian girl character Kim Chi was playing — she was obsessed with John Mayer and wanted to become an OB-GYN. A few other highlights: Cynthia’s shoe flew off and hit the rafters, Bob hammed it up, and Thorgy served so much attitude and face.
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Now let’s skip straight to the runway critiques. Acid Betty landed in the top group with an incredible 1970s Pat Cleveland look and an architectural fan-like web next to her face. Jamal praised her team-player attitude during the challenge, which seemed to confuse the rest of the queens and the American viewership. Michelle engaged in negative thinking by saying Acid had raised the bar so high that when she’d eventually fall, she’d fall hard; Acid took that as a challenge.
Thorgy was also a top contender with the sparkly black jumpsuit. Michelle criticized her overly heavy eye makeup, and Ester clocked her ugly shoes. But the win went to Chi Chi for her performance during the challenge — Ru marveled at one moment when Chi Chi had been upside down, twerking, AND serving up crazy neck twerks at the same time. The compliments didn’t extend to her basic red dress or the grasp on geography. When her prize was announced as four nights in a New England bed and breakfast, she asked, “I get to go overseas??” (Also, is it just me, or does that prize sound like a Stephen King nightmare novel?)
NEXT: An “I Will Survive” catastrophe
Kim Chi barely escaped lip-synching for her life — probably because the producers knew that if it ever came to her having to do so, there’d be no justifying keeping her around unless she did something CRAZY weird, like Korean opera — so Dax and Laila ended up in the bottom two, for lackluster looks and performance.
I knew right as they were cueing up “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor that something was wrong — an ominous air swept across the runway, and I knew we were in for a disaster. From the jump, Dax and Laila’s lip-synch was totally low energy and just off. It wasn’t as bad as season 5’s “Oops!… I Did It Again” fiasco between Vivienne Pinay and Honey Mahogany, but it was clear before the song ended that we had a double-elimination on our hands.
And since we started the season with fewer queens than usual, we couldn’t just be down one! And that’s when RuPaul picked up her Executive Order phone…but you’ll have to check next episode, and perhaps an early scoop on EW.com, to find out what’s going to happen!
And here’s my current standing of the queens:
1. Acid Betty: I’m still not sure if I like her, but that’s not even important. She has a fire to her, and she’s going to do ANYTHING to win, which makes her fascinating to watch.
2. Bob the Drag Queen: Bob receded into the background a bit tonight, but I can’t wait for her performances in comedy or acting challenges. She better not disappoint.
3. Chi Chi DeVayne: She might have called herself the “Cheap Queen” of the season, but here’s another one with fire. I think she’s going to go a long way by pure will.
4. Thorgy Thor: I put her near the bottom last week because I found her deeply off-putting, but I have to admit, she has such a unique energy and a giant stage presence.
5. Kim Chi: She needs to have her breakthrough, and quick. The challenges on RPDR will continue to be too embarrassing and shameful for her unless she finds more self acceptance.
6. Derrick Barry: Probably deserves to place higher, but she hasn’t given us a “wow” moment yet except for her entrance last week.
7. Cynthia Lee Fontaine: This girl is FUN and very cute but needs to show some depth and versatility.
8. Robbie Turner: We need more than bitchiness and retro glamor. Actually, maybe that’s enough.
9. Naomi Smalls: Adorbs, but I’m worried she’ll turn out to be one of the young queens with no substance. We’ll see if she gets totally overshadowed by the returning queen (if that’s indeed what we’ll get).
RuPaul — as host, mentor, and creative inspiration — decides who's in and who's out.