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Rupaul's Drag Race (#110 of 31)

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 14, “Grand Finale”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 14, “Grand Finale”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 14, “Grand Finale”

When Sasha Velour snatched the crown in last season’s finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, many felt it came out of left field. Even though we never got to really see her lip-sync for her life at any point in the season, it was a minor upset to see her ascend beyond three lip-sync assassins. In retrospect, the live auditorium atmosphere played as much a role as anything in selecting the winner, because Sasha had the good sense to recognize that, when you’re playing not just to RuPaul, but to the back row, you’d better be packing some impossible-to-miss stunts under that lace-front. So even though it may not have made a ton of sense to crown Sasha from a narrative sense, it played into the overt populism of national politics.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 13, “Queens Reunited”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 13, “Queens Reunited”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 13, “Queens Reunited”

Last year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race reunion was the best episode of the season, a welcome return of the panelist-discussion format that went away after season three. At that point, the show opted to switch to a pre-taped finale in front of a live audience, in order to avoid winner leaks. But which of the queens ultimately wins is of far less dramatic importance to me than watching Ru and her girls tie up some of the loose ends of the show’s interpersonal dynamics. What’s changed since taping the program? How have the queens’ relationships flourished or foundered outside of the hothouse environment of the show’s shooting schedule? What’s their booking rate these days? Miss Vanjie for president? If it hadn’t been for the old reunion format’s return last season, “She looks like Linda Evangelista” Aja wouldn’t have been allowed to point out it’s not really reading someone, per se, when it’s “aggressively complimenting.”

Season 10, Episode 12, “American” Season 10, Episode 12, “American”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 12, “American”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 12, “American”

Last week, I came as close as I could to saying Kameron Michaels is the villain of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, whether she likes it or not. Now, after watching the final challenge episode before RuPaul crowns the winner of the show’s 10th season, I’m convinced she’s not a villain at all, but is instead the embodiment of the show’s new VH1-era manifestation. And that’s what’s at the root of the abuse she’s currently suffering on social media. Once again, the subject of the show’s toxic fanbase has come to a head, with the elimination of fan-sorta-favorite Miz Cracker in the face of Kameron’s lip-sync. Kameron was forced to turn comments off on her Instagram following the airing of last week’s episode. Here I submit the wild theory that it’s not Kameron that the fans are frustrated with, but the show itself.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 11, “Evil Twins”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 11, “Evil Twins”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 11, “Evil Twins”

Star quality. Who has it, and who doesn’t? Long before the trailer dropped for the forthcoming, ludicrously Oscar buzz-attracting remake of A Star Is Born starring Lady Gaga, that question has been hanging over this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. That Ru has a very specific vision of what makes a star a star should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched any of the show’s half-dozen or so burlesque dramatizations of her own underdog life. Ru’s diagnosis of star quality all but requires a razor’s edge of self-sabotaging doubt, a nefarious but fire-stoking internal voice that both keeps one self-aware but also driven to overcome. Without it, you’re merely talented.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 10, “Social Media Kings Into Queens”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 10, “Social Media Kings Into Queens”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 10, “Social Media Kings Into Queens”

We need to talk about Vanjie. Specifically, we need to talk about what Drag Race’s accelerated milking of a meme for every last drop its worth says about this season’s competition as a whole. When Vanessa Vanjie Mateo became the first eliminated queen, she claimed a few extra seconds on stage before asserting her worth in the only way she knew how: by dropping her own name thrice with the wounded delicacy of a Tennessee Williams heroine—“Miss Vanjie…Miss Vanjie…Miss…Vanjie…”—before then retreating backward up the runway while glaring directly at the judge’s table.

The moment was fierce and doleful—a fertile field for camp deification. The space Vanjie cleared around herself in that moment was instantly recognized by RuPaul and the producers; a behind-the-scenes clip showing Michelle Visage bringing Ru to tears by merely invoking Vanjie’s name was included right off the top of the second episode. And from that point on, the ghost of Vanjie never truly left the show. From the workroom to the judges’ critiques to deliberations to Untucked, echoes of “Vanjie” have never been few and far between, like some gay offshoot of the game Marco Polo.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 9, “Breastworld”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 9, “Breastworld”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 9, “Breastworld”

The loss of The Vixen last week arguably robbed season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race of its one undeniable narrative thrust, forcing the show’s cast to go from loudly debating the most outspoken queen of the pack to quietly tiptoeing around the doggedly silent elephant in the room. Though The Vixen’s elimination restored oxygen to the workroom, “Breastworld” sees most of the remaining hunties, well, hunting for ways to kick-start their own storylines, especially as the competition has rounded the clubhouse turn.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 8, “The Unauthorized Rusical”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 8, “The Unauthorized Rusical”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 8, “The Unauthorized Rusical”

The only RuPaul’s Drag Race challenge more cringe-worthy than the lip-sync production number—which this season, in case your brain has blessedly blocked it from all memory, was the extended pharmaceutical commercial from hell—is the one that forces the queens to show off their vocal chops. So what better way to double our fun than to combine the toughest aspects of both of them, with the added difficulty factor of celebrity impersonation?

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 7, “Snatch Game”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 7, “Snatch Game”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 7, “Snatch Game”

A few rucaps ago, I dismissed the acting chops of the girls on this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. I surmised that, much like Marilyn Monroe’s Miss Casswell in All About Eve, they ought to consider heading back to the Copacabana School of the Dramatic Arts for some remedial classwork. Apparently they did, because the long-awaited Snatch Game episode not only boasts some truly fine performances, but also brings all things dramatic into razor-sharp focus.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 6, “Drag Con Panel Extravaganza”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 6, “Drag Con Panel Extravaganza”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 6, “Drag Con Panel Extravaganza”

No one ever accused RuPaul of shying away from shamelessness, but usually the bald-faced self-promotion is a footnote, not the full paragraph. Ru’s “available on iTunes” winks have always been in tune with the show’s funhouse satire of reality competition tropes, and are more often than not balanced out by the moments when Mother Ru’s protégées unleash emotional realness: Roxxxy Andrews coming to terms with the moment her mother left her at a bus stop, Ongina revealing her HIV-positive status, Monica Beverly Hillz affirming her identity as a transgender woman. Look, RuPaul’s a high-powered businesswoman who, working in a trade that seldom allows for second acts, managed to build one of pop culture’s most unexpected empires. But she also knows from what film—basically the urtext American comedy of selling out—comes the line “We take the cash, we cash the check, we show them what they want to see.” With a smile.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, how do you solve a problem like The Vixen? So far this season on RuPaul’s Drag Race, she’s outpestered every pest, driven hornets from their nest, and even thrown that whirling dervish Eureka out of whirl. Conditions are to the point that, because she knows that if she has to sit in that Untucked area backstage she’ll end up popping off on some other queen, The Vixen privately confides that she just hopes she’s not deemed “safe” this week. She’d rather be in the bottom three than risk cutting off valuable kiki time by reminding white queens of just how loaded words like “crafty” actually are. During an earlier fight, Monique Heart said she worried that The Vixen’s commitment to the warpath would stand in the way of presenting “her blessing.” And “The Bossy Rossy Show” fully brings that conflict to a head. And only on Drag Race could a fiery semiotics lesson so comfortably stand shoulder to shoulder with another personality donning a full-body pickle suit and toting around a doctor’s clipboard.