RuPaul brought back her girls for an epic finale that pumped life back into live performances.

By Joey Nolfi
April 23, 2021 at 09:32 PM EDT
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Warning! This post contains spoilers for the RuPaul's Drag Race season 13 finale. Read ahead at your own risk.

Raise those flags at the fec'treh to the top of the mast, because the Arkansas native sashayed away from the longest season in RuPaul's Drag Race herstory with a crown and scepter in hand, emerging victorious at the end of Friday night's finale after a monumental stretch of episodes that saw her decimating the main stage, getting her "ogle" on, and rocking Black excellence on the runway every damn time.

"I told y'all not to let the smooth taste fool you," the newly crowned queen said, calling back to her entrance line.

RuPaul's Drag Race
The season 13 top four: Gottmik, Kandy Muse, Rosé, and Symone
| Credit: VH1

But before Symone could rise, three of her season 13 sisters had to fall, though not without putting on a dazzling show in a lip-sync smackdown on the finale stage — and, quite frankly, all year across a season that was filmed against seemingly insurmountable odds ("Miss Corona Virus," as Mama Ru calls her, tends to have that effect on people). It all came together for a theater-drive-in hybrid production (yes, masked fans were watching on a big screen from their cars!) that served as a welcome return to the kind of grand scale productions we used to know in a pre-COVID era.

Still, some 12 months after RuPaul served Mortal Kombat/cleansing face mask realness during last year's season 12 virtual finale, this year's Drag Race closer felt like a (sequins-heeled) step toward normalcy, as the show filmed one of the best shows of the year in a live theater for the first time since 2019.

Inside, things kicked off with a rare performance from RuPaul, who hit the stage with scores of shirtless dancers for a performance of the new single "New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold," and, mama, it felt like a PRODUCTION with a capital P. The pace maintained throughout the night, continuing as the final four kicked off the usual lip-sync gauntlet with a Britney Spears-themed lip-sync set to three of the icon's hit songs.

RuPaul's Drag Race
RuPaul at the 'RuPaul's Drag Race' finale
| Credit: VH1

But putting on the most electrifying show of 2021 can't go without fanfare; Leading up to the duels, RuPaul (and Paris Hilton, who submitted a sweet video message for her Snatch Game impersonator, Gottmik) spoke with the contestants about their time on the show. In memoriam of all lives lost throughout the coronavirus pandemic, RuPaul introduced a musical segment — which saw the top 4 lip-syncing to Bette Midler's "Friends" — honoring 40 years since the beginning of the AIDS crisis that ravaged queer and POC communities.

Later, Ru welcomed video messages from Drag Race alums Bob the Drag Queen, Kennedy Davenport, Thorgy Thor, Eureka, Kim Chi, Latrice Royale, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, and Heidi N Closet, who got emotional in a tribute to late season 8 queen Chi Chi DeVayne.

"She was a queen who didn't have all the finest things, but she had the talent and the ability and all those fixings that just made her how special she really was," Heidi said, while Thorgy broke down in tears as she spoke to Chi Chi's memory: "You are a great friend, you are a good person. I miss you so much."

Then, things got really real. After a spin from RuPaul's trusty finale wheel, Kandy Muse and Rosé — still nursing an injured ankle — took on Spears' "Work Bitch," with the latter succumbing to Kandy's ace showgirl instincts despite emerging from the main competition with a better track record.

"This show and you have changed my life," Rosé said to RuPaul upon her elimination, "and I'd like to encourage everybody in the world to never stop working and never give up."

In the second matchup, Symone (clad in a genius outfit made entirely of tan boots) knocked Gottmik out of the race during a performance of "Gimme More."

"My whole life I was told I couldn't do drag, let alone be on this show, and now I'm standing with you on the main stage in the top 4, so I could not be prouder," Gottmik said. "Let's crash the cis-tem, you guys!"

Kandy and Symone finally faced each other for the first time since their infamous double-shantay in episode 8 — which proved Kandy was a true survivor when she escaped with both her place in the competition and her body (surprisingly) fully intact after playfully calling RuPaul a "bitch" over the monumental mock elimination. They duked it out to "'Til the World Ends," and Symone ultimately took the crown. Even without a sash or a $100,000 check, you can rest assured that Kandy is going to cash in (and finally buy her boat) when she wins her inevitable Emmy for essentially producing everything within all four corners of your TV screen across season 13.

Also adding to the celebratory atmosphere was the crowning of this year's Miss Congeniality: Math Professor/Pastor/Seamstress, Lala Ri! As voted on by the queens, Lala proudly strutted her new title to help kiss goodbye one of the wildest years the drag industry has ever seen.

"I was not expecting this. I am a nice girl! Oh my God, that 'Lord/Bitch' prayer [from my confessional] actually worked in my favor, girl!" Lala squealed.

So, after all that, is your blood sugar low? In the aftermath of four consecutive months of RuPaul's Drag Race, there's no way. Sure, season 13 lasted longer than the amount of time Serena Cha Cha spent talking about her art degree, but Ru did it up right, and sent her dolls off with a fiery bang hotter than the flames that — contrary to the Kandy Muse Doctrine of Rights — Tina Burner does, in fact, own.

The RuPaul's Drag Race franchise continues with season 1 of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under (featuring Kylie Minogue!) May 1 on WOW Presents Plus.

Subscribe to EW's BINGE podcast for a full recaps of all 12 seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, featuring exclusive interviews with Trixie Mattel, Katya, Peppermint, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour, and more.

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RuPaul's Drag Race

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

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