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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 10, “Makeovers: Crew Better Work”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 10, “Makeovers: Crew Better Work”

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A few week’s ago, Alexis Michelle relished that the latest cycle of RuPaul’s Drag Race was reaching the point where the filler queens were falling by the wayside. What she must not have realized was that once any season of Drag Race separates the chaff, the next chapter always sees the editors dividing the remaining pile of wheat into heroines and villainesses. And Alexis stands virtually alone in the latter regard this time around.

Yes, last week, I speculated that the series was deliberately attempting to turn Nina Bo’nina Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet Consectetur Adipiscing Elit Sed Do Eiusmod Tempor Incididunt Ut Labore Et Dolore Magna Aliqua Brown into one as well, and certainly this week’s pre-credits sequence suggests the other queens in the workroom are right there alongside those wishing ill will against an unyieldingly chilly Nina. Fresh from sending fan favorite Valentina and her controversial mask packing, Nina is subjected to a full-court press. Isn’t she thrilled that she triumphed over Miss Columbia? Doesn’t she feel a surge of power to have felled Little Miss Teacher’s Pet? Nope, she doesn’t really see it that way. Cue mass eye-rolling, sighs of exasperation, and animated GIFs of Beyoncé waving “Boy, bye!” Even that Terrence Malick grass-brushing montage of a drag queen Sasha Velour, who would pull you aside to give you a lecture on the spider you just smacked with a newspaper, shakes her head and vents, “I’m not having this conversation anymore.”

At this late stage, the remaining girls, aside from Nina, are focused on the competition, and Nina expressing the basic human dignity of regret for setting her own teammate up to be devoured by the lip-sync showdown simply doesn’t compute. In other words, Nina placing herself outside of the competition is just about the most offensive position she can take. By now, she recognizes that her performance to this point isn’t going to endear her to anyone once the series reaches the air, and the rest of the girls know that her struggles with self-doubt aren’t going to make for particularly good TV, especially compared to someone like Katya Zamolodchikova, who turned her anxiety into radiant performance art. Or, for that matter, Adore Delano, who when she got it into her head during last year’s All-Stars that she really couldn’t come for those other bitches, tearfully but decisively bowed out of the competition. Nina may indeed be coming from a place of genuine empathy, but the bottom line is that Valentina truly wanted to stay in the race to the sweet end. And Nina’s bitter that she’s still around for yet another week of absorbing the judgment that may only exist in her own head.

Nina would already be at a major handicap going into this season’s makeover challenge under any circumstances. But this year, Ru tasks her queens with making drag sisters out of her crew members. Previous makeover challenges forced the queens to forge new relationships with random gay veterans, reality TV little people, DILFs, or blushing grooms, but this year’s challenge lets them get up close and personal with people who’ve been right there alongside them the entire production. No clean slates here, hunty. Advantage: Everyone but Nina. And in a challenge where multiple neophyte queens invariably sissy that walk looking like this, no disadvantage is too minor.

Still, season nine’s actual joined-at-the-hip drag sisters Sasha and Shea Couleé pair each crew member with a drag momma who they believe makes a good match. No tea, no shade, and for once from Sasha, no overthinking. For Nina, that means getting paired up with tatted art coordinator and part-time graphite artist Aaron, who stands a reasonable shot at understanding Nina’s blobby Hobby Lobby drag style. Sasha aims high for herself, snatching the highest-ranking crew member on set for herself: associate director Duncan, who growls, “We’re all in Ru’s house. When Ru’s not here, it’s my house.”

The episode sees the editors dividing the remaining pile of wheat into heroines and villainesses.

RuPaul apparently hires production assistants who are only incredibly hot or scorchingly hot, and Shea chooses one of the two available P.A.’s for herself: tall, luscious Josh. She gives the also tall, dark, and impossibly handsome Rizzo to Trinity Taylor, who, unlike Detox when she was put in the position of dragging up a hot piece of ass, manages to keep her wits about her and not touch the merchandise…well, at least until the time comes to help Rizzo live up to his drag mother’s Instagram handle, Trinitythetuck. (The jury’s still out on whether Trinity taking, ahem, matters into her own hands at great, ahem, length was a gesture of empathy or two sides of a self-serving coin.) Alexis is paired with audio operator Brady, who gushes about how great it is for him to make the queens sound as good as they look, so he clearly shares Alexis’s precocious gift for yammering on. And Peppermint gets camera operator Sarge, a former U.S. Army sergeant who looks like the love child of Dean Norris and Bob Hoskins and says everything with his eyes.

Aside from Trinity yanking Rizzo’s chain, there isn’t as much drama in the workroom as the makeover challenges usually bring. Duncan gives Sasha some overdue advice: to try to avoid over-intellectualizing everything. He even suggests using drugs, which doesn’t seem like the right thing to tell someone who’s got a year’s supply of Hamburger Mary’s at her disposal. Nina appears ready to do battle with a sewing machine before deciding to grab the thigh-highs and corsets that are still warm from the week before. Even though she’s resigned to her fate, Nina does finally reach a breakthrough (of a sort) after Aaron tells it to her straight: that she’s absolutely bringing herself down. “No matter how many people tell you you’re good, and we’re here for you, I’m not going to believe it until I believe it for myself. It’s me.” DJ, I believe that’s your cue for this week’s lip-sync needle drop?

As fast as a modestly redeemed Nina is rushing toward elimination, she has to go through the mainstage presentation first. Having haphazardly caked rabbit-cosplay fondant onto her and Aaron’s faces, she joins the rest of the crew in a choreographed performance of Ru’s “Click Clack (Make Dat Money).” No one in particular is earning beaucoup cash tips, and in the end Trinity-Rizzo and Peppermint-Sarge are probably best in show.

Sasha has apparently decided to ignore Duncan’s direction to steer clear of too-smart-for-the-room, frocking the pair in something not merely editorial but New York Times editorial-page editorial. Meanwhile, Shea and Alexis go shockingly basic for their looks, a classic makeover-challenge blunder—settling for generically pretty when the occasion begs to be treated with go-for-broke gusto. Shea doesn’t even try to keep Josh’s tufts underneath that raspberry-blue State Fair booth non-lace front wig. Trinity cruises to a pretty easy win, and one can’t help but wonder if the win is actually more about Ru giving Rizzo that $2,000 Klein Epstein & Parker gift certificate to suit his fine self in. (Like Bianca Del Rio says every time she fills in on the tooting and booting on WOW Presents’s Fashion Photo RuViews, I ain’t mad at her.)

Even though Trinity takes the W, Peppermint’s sister, Sarge, is the one who steals the show during the judge’s critiques. Kesha, poet laureate that she is, tells Sarge that she can’t help but smile at his face. “It’s just so funny,” she says, which gives a mock-offended Sarge an open invitation to camp it up in ways Jaymes Mansfield only dreams she could. That, in turn, busts up the entire cast and crew, yielding the comic apex of the season. (Smearing egg on Kesha’s face, though, would be the highlight of virtually any show’s season.)

Once the laughter subsides, Ross Mathews and Michelle Visage are clearly at odds over who should join Nina in the bottom two: Shea or Alexis. Ru selects Shea for the dishonor, for what seem like a few strategic reasons. First, for those still smarting from Valentina’s dismissal, there’s the extra drama of seeing a second top-three queen potentially cut down. Second, the series gets to keep Alexis around as villain in chief. But most importantly, Shea, having sustained the whiplash of being Nina’s biggest booster and then accused of being her primary backstabber, gets to be the one to tell her the time to shape up expired five episodes ago, so Shea’s out already. And that’s exactly what happens. Synching to Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer,” Nina doesn’t bring the same fire she used to slay Aja and Valentina. Shea keeps her head on straight and her eyes on the prize, and the sad saga of Nina finally comes to a graceful conclusion. Except for that it happened in front of Kesha.

For more recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race, click here.