By Joey Nolfi
May 07, 2019 at 03:57 PM EDT
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Out of context, random images, GIFs, and videos lifted from any given episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race function as surrealist art pieces that can only be understood by those regularly under the influence of glitter shot directly into our veins. On that note, one of the simplest, most enjoyable pleasures in life is watching the queens kiki and generally react to things in casual conversation while adorned in various stages of dress, as the beginning of this week’s episode gloriously exemplifies:

Enjoy explaining to your parents what those images mean.

Anyway, things kick off on a positive note (or, about as positive as they can get in the wake of Plastique Tiara’s unjust elimination), as the girls rally around A’Keria for her (well deserved) second challenge victory. But instead of Silky Nutmeg Ganache finding a way to suck the joyous air out of the room, it’s actually Nina West — venting about Brooke Lynn Hytes’ scenery-chewing performance opposite her in the L.A.D.P. challenge — who provides us with a shot of shade before the episode properly gets going:

America’s sweetheart (and, judging by her polka-dotted ensemble above, patient zero on that Scientology measles ship) has a dark side — and a penchant for the dark arts, as this week’s maxi challenge proves!

But, before the real magic happens, RuPaul welcomes season 3 contestant Delta Work back to the Werk Room to guest-judge a mini-challenge that sees the queens using various body parts (theirs and those belonging to the Pit Crew) to transport plastic balls into an open bin.

Sure, this has nothing to do with the art of drag and everything to do with making sure the fanbase has a glistening trove of fresh memes at their disposal, but it represents another way Drag Race understands that it’s not all about “training” its queens as much as it is about spreading them far and wide across multiple pop cultural channels; a viral star is an enduring star, so, bring on the meme-ification!

Here’s Shuga Cain playing into exactly what the challenge wants from her:

And here’s an artfully composed shot of Vanjie getting jealous of her boyfriend who’s one quarter-turn of her pelvis away from infidelity via mini-challenge:

Yvie stays true to her Drag Race track record by continuing to top the competition:

Later, Silky tortures a poor Pit Crew member by India Ferrah-ing him over her shoulder in a technical breach of the rules, which state the queens aren’t allowed to use their hands (but this wouldn’t be the first time a judge relinquished standards in favor of Silky, so…).

In the end, Vanjie sinks the most balls into the basket. As part of her prize, she gets to choose teams for this week’s challenge: a staged magic show that tests the queens’ abilities to put on a cohesive performance (season 11 is killing it with practical challenges which gauge relevant skills the ladies can actually use outside their Drag Race tenure).

But, surprise, she doesn’t choose Brooke to join her. Her explanation?

Of course, magic isn’t a natural gift: It’s learned. So, instead of Alyssa Edwards (and her pink clipboard) stepping in to help the queens brush up on pagan witchcraft, magician Kyle Marlett filled in as a coach by making a pack of matches explode between his fingers (which shakes Silky to the core).

Silky Nutmeg Aghast!

The subsequent lesson similarly provides several moments of genuine hilarity — particularly when A’Keria Chanel Davenport is asked to swallow an entire inflated balloon.

Of course, this case silently confuses Detective A’Keria, who comes out to play after sitting the last few episodes out:

Four decades after the Watergate scandal rocked the nation, the heavily debated question remains: Who really was Deep Throat? The answer is certainly not A’Keria Chanel Davenport (whom also wouldn’t have been able to secure the release of potable water for Fyre Festival, if you catch my drift).

Equally as perplexing as A’Keria’s oral skills is a civilian male guest’s decision that it’s appropriate to dab on the Drag Race main stage:

Nina West, how do we feel about said civilian male guest having the nerve to dab on the main stage?

Despite the shenanigans, Silky fell asleep.

Things perk up for the maxi challenge, which is all about:

Though she’s struggled to consistently hit her stride across Drag Race‘s diverse range of challenges, it’s no surprise that Nina excelled as a campy, comedic hostess wrangling “fragrant” panties from Brooke and turning a bottle of liquor into, like, eight bottles of liquor — all while maintaining her composure and improvising a few genuinely hilarious one-liners (she should’ve won Snatch Game, let’s be real) in front of a live audience.

The way she whispered “magic!” throughout the piece was life-giving, but it begs the question: Are you a *whispers “Club 96″* girl or a *whispers “magic!”* girl?

Vanjie’s team, while performing more complex magic tricks, struggled to polish their presentation in the same way a seasoned stage veteran like Nina did for hers. And it was kind of obvious that Ru knew it:

Still, mirthy moments crept into the performance — especially a bit which saw Vanjie’s sisters casting a levitation spell on her.

Light as a feather, stiff as a whore-d.

On the runway, the category we’ve waited 11 years for finally arrived: Caftan realness! And, in true Yvie fashion, she deconstructed the theme and stitched it back together on her own terms, creating a heavenly, goddess-like ensemble we’d gladly worship every Sunday.

Even if the religion’s requirements were to pray with your hands behind your back!

Detective A’Keria should’ve spent a little bit more time investigating this case, because she wore a jumpsuit instead of a caftan.

Because the theme called for it, Vanjie didn’t wear a swimsuit for the second week in a row!

Brooke further cemented her lead as the runway legend of season 11:

But, despite not being the most inventive caftan of the bunch, Nina embodied the spirit of a middle-aged California woman who lives her life in caftans, and that (rightfully) pushed her over the top to win her second overall challenge of the season.

As the oldest queen of season 11, Shuga also got (part) of her assignment so right with this furry piece:

It cheapened (slightly) as she took the layers off to reveal two additional looks underneath, with the transformation mimicking the seasonal progression from winter, spring, and summer. Dropping the price point per outfit, however, mirrors life! You know, when your $90 Zara coat (January) gives way to a $35 H&M bomber jacket (April) before you give in to the heat and wear your $5 Old Navy flip-flops to work (July). So, no harm done, Shuga!

At judging, Yvie laments her team’s working relationship, admitting she wanted to prepare a structured outline while her sisters wanted to improvise the performance, and, at the last second, had to cobble together an introduction when things started to fall apart.

Of course, this bothered Vanjie, and they (verbally) tussled in front of the judges.

Still, Yvie’s commitment to her regal resting pose had us gooped! It truly was a moment to see her breaking her stance to talk some sh—, then snap back as soon as she felt it fall. The dedication to presentational excellence is that of a true superstar! Everything serves the lewk, darling!

Ultimately, Vanjie (yep) and Shuga (what?) landed in the bottom: Vanjie for relying too much on her personality (but didn’t Silky win Snatch Game *because* she relied on her personality?), and Shuga for… being better than most of the ladies on the other team, but failing to measure up to Brooke and Nina? We’re confused, too!

The queens end up lip-syncing to Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama,” and Vanjie’s nipples come out to play (how was she not read for this on the runway? Michelle HATES BOY NIPPLES!)

As far as forced-emoting among Drag Race guest judges go, Katherine Langford‘s reaction to the lip-sync gets a solid B+.

Shuga — diligent protector of her own nipples — amps up the melodrama for an equally arresting performance, though it clearly paled in comparison to Vanjie’s trip to church.

The holy spirit literally yanked her turban clear off her head!

Guest judge Gina Rodriguez is gooped.

There’s the nipple again (Also: This is the same show that blurred Valentina’s nipples on All-Stars 4. WHERE ARE THE CENSORS, Y’ALL?)

“WHEEEEERE ARE THE CENSORS?”

Missed another one!

This is the mid-lip-sync face you get from RuPaul when you’re about to shantay (unless you’re Scarlet Envy, of course).

Take it home, Vanjie!

Alas, the sweet Shuga rush of season 11 faded away as Miss Cain took her final bow on the runway.

Outside of Ra’Jah O’Hara’s exit at the end of episode 7 — and even that was about two weeks too late — Shuga’s elimination caps a surprising run of confusing eliminations. Sure, Shuga, Plastique, and Ariel Versace lost their respective lip-syncs, but they shouldn’t have been in the bottom in the first place. Scarlet, who actually earned her spot in the bottom two that week, murdered hers, and still sashayed back to Brooklyn. Either the most epic returning-queens surprise is in store, or dark-sided witchery is afoot.

Dare we say, an act of black…

Next week’s episode (which teases the potential return of the previously eliminated queens — including sweet cyster Soju!) will reveal all.

RuPaul’s Drag Race returns Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on VH1.

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