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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 13, “Reunited”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 13, “Reunited”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 13, “Reunited”

Well, on the plus side, anyone who still misses the old Untucked format has now had their edges officially snatched, and has also finally landed on their favorite episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine. In a twist from virtually any prior seasons, the season’s queens are all invited back prior to the show finale for a reunion special the likes of which the show hasn’t really done since season three, when the Heathers and the Boogers sort of called a truce. Of course, when Ru used to close out with audience-free reunion episodes, it happened after the winner had already been crowned. This time around, all of the season’s contestants are dragged into a holding place before one of four queens find out next week which one of them gets named, for the 11th time, America’s next drag superstar. Does that stop them from reading the house down? You’d think so, but that’s not the way this counter-intuitively scheduled cookie crumbles. As it quickly becomes evident that Ru intends to flit from controversy to controversy without any real structure, here’s a match-by-match rundown of all the beef.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 11, “Gayest Ball Ever”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 11, “Gayest Ball Ever”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 11, “Gayest Ball Ever”

Every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race comes to embody the personalities of its frontrunners. Season six ultimately developed some of Bianca Del Rio’s hectoring tone, which manifested itself most devastatingly in the unraveling of Laganja Estranja, who felt very attacked until she tearfully all but begged to be sent home. Season three turned into a Heathers/Mean Girls showdown between the Heathers and the Boogers, mostly due to the riveting arrogance of Raja, Delta Work, and Manila Luzon from the former group.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 7, "9021-HO"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 7, “9021-HO”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 7, “9021-HO”

There comes a subconscious tipping point during every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race that defines how good or un-good that season is, and it’s the point where eliminations stop feeling like a relief and start feeling painful. The most stellar of seasons reach that point at least midway through; season eight never reached that point. Though the jury’s still out on where season nine will fall in the Drag Race canon, it seems difficult to deny that this particular moment has occurred well ahead of schedule.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 6, "Snatch Game"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 6, “Snatch Game”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 6, “Snatch Game”

Challenges come and challenges go, but the Snatch Game is eternal for a reason. From season to season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it has the power to confirm frontrunners, establish dark horses, expose one-trick ponies, and torpedo look-dependent queens’ hopes. And it’s not only a fan favorite, it’s every contestant’s favorite too. It’s the mirror image of the dreaded sewing challenge, in that the ones who know they can’t sew dread that challenge’s arrival and hope they can fake their way through it. No one dreads the Snatch Game because no one thinks the ability to make RuPaul laugh is a particularly difficult skill. She brings it to you every bump into or out of a commercial break! Like Alfred Hitchcock’s bomb theory, the difference between the sewing challenge and Snatch Game is the difference between queens who see the oncoming train wreck and queens who get utterly blindsided.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 5, "Kardashian: The Musical"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 5, “Kardashian: The Musical”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 5, “Kardashian: The Musical”

“This is RuPaul’s best friend race!” exclaims Alexis Michelle as three or four other RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants kiss and make up in the workroom. What happens when queens all get along? Producers manufacture drama, silly. And, even for a show that wears its fabrications and intentionality on its rhinestoned sleeve, the machinations start to seem just a touch mannered. Following a series of episodes that effortlessly drew personality (or lack thereof) from a cast that seems more look-oriented than personality-dependent, the fifth episode of the show’s ninth season is a marked regression. And not only because I now, after all these blessed years, am forced to finally write the names of all the Kardashians, a situation for which it will take me some time to forgive Mama Ru.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 3, "Draggily Ever After"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 3, “Draggily Ever After”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 3, “Draggily Ever After”

I’m neither the first nor the last person to point out that, nine seasons in, there are some RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants who were in their formative years when the series was first making waves, contestants who’ve quite literally always known drag in a mainstream context. We caught an early, often irritating example of that in season six with the finger-wagging, tongue-snapping, “OK-r-r-r-r”-ing Laganja Estranja, but you always had a sense in her case that the drag persona was the result of an internalized split, and that the drag persona for ’Ganj was a brassy form of wish fulfillment. But Valentina’s win in last week’s episode feels like the next evolutionary step in the process. And, thankfully, RuPaul’s ready with a challenge that helps restore balance between the Valentinas of the competition, for whom drag is an almost subconscious element of their DNA, and the Eurekas or Trinitys, who are paying their dues and letting the world know it.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 2, "She Done Already Done Brought It On"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “She Done Already Done Brought It On”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 2, “She Done Already Done Brought It On”

Occasionally on RuPaul’s Drag Race, frontrunners emerge right out of the gate. Raja set the bar for season three when she aced both the photo and the runway challenge without so much as breaking a nail, and Sharon Needles cut down among the fiercest of competitor slates the series has ever seen with a “post-apopolopic” look that instantly rewrote season four in her favor. Other times, though, queens emerge into their essence only with the passage of time. Just ask season five’s Alyssa Edwards, who didn’t really peak until her All-Stars run, or season seven’s Katya and Trixie Mattel, who are arguably still reaching a creative crescendo with their brilliant “UNHhhh” segments on the World of Wonder YouTube channel.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 1, "Oh. My Gaga!"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 1, “Oh. My. Gaga!”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 1, “Oh. My. Gaga!”

Opulence! O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E! You’d think season nine of Rupaul’s Drag Race would have it rough matching up to the show’s still-ballooning legacy. Season eight maybe didn’t mark itself as distinctive in many respects, but it at least afforded itself the chance to dance like Beyoncé in the end zone about reaching 100 episodes/100 queens. But the recent All Stars season truly elevated the entire Drag Race universe to new levels of sickening. Even fresh off the heels of Mama Ru’s Emmy win, though, apparently World of Wonder still has something to prove on the runway. Why else would the franchise shantay its slot all the way from Mondays on Logo (the perfect time to commemorate the total evaporation of a weekend’s worth of hangover) to Friday nights on VH1? (Cue the shade rattlesnake sound cue.)