Summary of RuPaul’s Drag Race: An unfortunate occurrence of significant magnitude

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Vulturinas, my sorrow is immense. The departure of Amanda Tori Meating has left a void, and my world is diminished by it. I did not anticipate Amanda’s early exit. Yes, her drag lacked polish, and yes, she was the most chaotic among the contestants. However, she possessed star quality; the show thrives on Cinderella stories, and she was handing the producers storylines effortlessly. Amanda seemed like a perfect candidate for the Heidi N Closet treatment. Now, Amanda (and Mirage) are gone within the first three weeks, and we’re left with a group that includes more than a few queens I am certain will not make it to the top four or even the top seven. What a tragedy!

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Nonetheless, I can’t complain too much about this week. While I mourn the Amanda- and Mirage-less season ahead, it was indeed a good episode. It unfolded like a tragedy: Amanda’s edit built her up as a performer before her Achilles’ heel (messiness) brought her down. Plane and Amanda were set against each other, and it seemed we were heading towards an Amanda triumph, only for Plane to be proven right, likely leading to a larger villain arc (hopefully with an iconic downfall) ahead. What makes this episode great is that, after four weeks of setup, it’s our first payoff episode, igniting small sparks in the powder keg that has been building up.

The episode concludes two major storylines. One is Amanda’s downfall, leaving Plane in a precarious position. However, the seeds for further plotting are sown through a new rivalry with Q and a discussion about the potential downsides of Plane’s abrasive nature with Sapphira. The other concludes with the unexpected success of the “bottom” girls (Mhi’ya, Geneva, and Megami), ending storylines about the judges not responding to their work. These queens now have the opportunity to chart a new path or face elimination, completing an arc. Finishing those storylines was exciting; I was engrossed throughout the episode, first elated, then cursing the way it was unfolding. But being sad or mad is not a flaw in reality TV; it’s a sign that the season has cast members worth our time, and I’ve connected with them. I wanted more for Amanda, of course, and I am apprehensive about the rest of the season due to the continued presence of a few queens whose work I am less invested in. However, in terms of the current episode, it’s compelling content.

The other significant story of the week is Q’s narrative, beginning with her complaints about being at the top without scoring a win and ending with her finding herself at the bottom. While this is a Drag Race classic and may feel somewhat stale, watching Q’s monologue in the opening segment was surprisingly enjoyable, largely due to Plane’s presence – that’s the added value of a character like her. Sometimes you can sense Plane eager to say something rude. It’s delightful when it finds the right target, like a girl complaining about not winning a challenge just three weeks into the competition. She may not be as witty as we might want her to be, but she is so willing to embody Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent that it heightens the stakes in all group conversations. Q’s feelings are hurt, but for the viewer, she has already cried about how hard she works in the premiere critiques. There are diminishing returns on feeling sorry for a queen doing well and crying about the difficulty of the journey. Plane’s swift response, “I’m not going to complain about being in the top. I’m not going to sit here and cry and sulk all day. I feel great,” promptly sending Q into a tailspin, is ultimately entertaining.

After the couch conversation, we are treated to something I’ve been missing from the show – a mini-challenge! It’s a photo shoot, fortunately not the overused “photobomb” mini-challenge. Sapphira’s win may seem random, but there’s no better choice. These are carnival games; just let it slide.

The challenge revolves around girl groups, which is great in my book! Any week when the queens are not forced to read scripts is a win. The teams are as follows:

  1. QDSM (underwhelming name): Q, Dawn, Sapphira, Morphine
  2. Lovah Girlz (fine name): Plasma, Jane, Xunami, Amanda
  3. Thicc and Stick (best name by far): Nymphia, Geneva, Megami, Mhi’ya

Predictably, the girls immediately dismiss Thicc and Stick, but I didn’t, mostly because their assigned song is “ASMR Lover,” which is by far the best thing RuPaul has put out in years.

Rehearsals are notable mainly for Amanda Tori Meating commanding the stage. It turns out she’s an excellent dancer who easily picks up choreography and worked on the international tour of Kinky Boots. At this point, I fell for the feint, genuinely believing Amanda would be in the top. There’s also Q, who, as it turns out, is awkward in her movements. We also witness the continuation of the “Nymphia is a secret strategist” plot. It seems likely that she and Sapphira are the top two of the season, so having Sapphira narrate this section is a smart framing.

Fortunately, we are spared Trauma Makeup Corner in favor of Drama Makeup Corner. Q approaches Plane and tells her she thinks Plane was unkind to her. Plane offers a clearly insincere apology and subtly shades her teammate Amanda in the process. Amanda questions why Plane is such a Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. The stakes are high, and it’s entertaining! They’re so high! Sapphira advises Plane to be less mean; Plane asserts that’s just who she is. To this, I say: Good, don’t let the mature people get you down, Plane Jane.

Now, on to the performances. More than any challenge except “Snatch Game,” the girl groups introduce built-in tension because these performances are the ones fans rewatch repeatedly after the season ends. An iconic verse can significantly boost these queens’ careers, securing bookings around the country and the world to showcase what they delivered on the show. These performances are quoted effortlessly among the Drag Race fans I associate with. How many times have my friends exchanged the words “Get Krystalized at Christmastime” to fill silences, you ask? Countless, I respond.

QDSM is the first group up, and their rewatchability is severely hindered by Q’s portrayal as Slay Frankenstein with a P!nk wig. I reiterate: She is awkward in her movements, and at times, it is slightly uncomfortable to watch. Dawn is fantastic. Sapphira is also great, but I agree with TS Madison – you can see her thinking. Morphine’s lyrics are excellent, and her flow is the best of the night, but her performance didn’t stand out as much as her words. QDSM is also hampered by their song, “Star Baby,” which lacks a clear concept. The other two groups get to have fun with their songs’ central ideas.

The Lovah Girlz are next. Plasma is good but not great, which seems fitting for a vintage queen with a good voice in a girl-group challenge. Plane is genuinely fantastic. She stands out more than anyone else in her group, being “on” at every moment during the challenge. Xunami is the most positive surprise of the episode. She struggles with choreography during rehearsals, but that doesn’t show up at all during the performance. Also, her look is spectacular – so chic and sleek yet entirely appropriate. Her fashion credentials are in check. Amanda is, it must be said, a real letdown. Her dancing and energy are fantastic, but the judges note terrible padding. Still, the real issue, which didn’t receive as much attention as it should have, is that she chose unstructured hair that constantly got in her face, hindering her ability to fully emote. That’s the kind of mistake nobody else makes, and it underscores precisely why her inexperience is a significant issue for the judges.

Finally, it’s time for Thicc and Stick. The queens whom nobody thought highly of have their moment in the sun, and while it’s not “Bing Bang Bong,” it’s undoubtedly the best-choreographed and most cohesive number of the night. Every queen brings at least something to the group. Mhi’ya still struggles to emote through her face, but her flips are fun, and her verse is fierce. Geneva is a bit of a shock to the system. After two weeks in the bottom, this performance is a reminder of why she was in the top in the first week. Megami looks like a suburban mom, but after a week of being picked last for teams, crying about it, and performing chores slowly, she rallies and keeps up well. Nymphia remains a star, and her little wink at the end of her verse proves why.

Quick-fire runway critiques: Morphine looks great in an evidently very expensive outfit. Q looks great in an outfit she made herself, but the thick blood spatters on her chest look bad. Can’t we have delicate blood spatters? Sapphira’s outfit is the wrong color, but her literal pussycat wig is amusing. Dawn is not wearing a pussycat wig, and her outfit seems like Dawn on autopilot. Plasma is showing “versatility,” but I prefer my Plasma to be more distinct. Michelle is happy, though. Amanda… looks bad. Still, I applaud the ambition! That’s Kaws Rug why she’s fun! Xunami looks sexy, and seeing a girl using boy modeling experience on the runway is fun. Plane’s sci-fi look is fun. Geneva does not look good. Also, her claim, “I wanted to show it’s not all big, Texas hair,” is very funny, given that the challenge explicitly called for a small wig. Mhi’ya continues her crusade to simply wear outfits without concepts that she already had in her closet, and I support it. Again, funny. I’m into Megami’s “Staten Island Tinkerbell” situation. Staten Island is a much more interesting drag persona than either “cosplayer” or “social-justice queen,” but the fact that she vacillates between the three does not bode well for her time on the show. “Pick a lane” is kind of Drag Race’s thing. Nymphia looks the best.

Ultimately, the episode intensifies when Thicc and Stick are declared the winning group, putting six of our seven main characters of the season up for elimination (I don’t include Morphine or Xunami in that group yet). A note on Thicc and Stick sharing the win: I prefer it when they choose one standout performer, but I think that standout would likely have been Nymphia, and two solo wins this early are too much.

Everyone receives positive critiques except Amanda, who is criticized for her messiness, and Q, who is informed that she cannot dance. This is accurate, but as it solidified into a Q vs. Amanda lip sync, my heart rate increased. When Ru asks, “Who should go home tonight and why?” the answers follow suit, with those two being the only responses given, aside from one stray Xunami vote from Q.

If the episode has a somber note, it’s the lip sync, which isn’t the battle it could have been. In my opinion, Amanda does a better job, but she’s messier and would have to deliver a nearly flawless performance to send Q home. Q performs better in the lip sync than she did in the challenge, but she quite simply cannot dance. Without any dancing ability, she faces a challenging route to the finale.

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