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Valentina (#110 of 10)

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

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.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 9, "Your Pilot’s On Fire"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 9, “Your Pilot’s On Fire”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 9, “Your Pilot’s On Fire”

Girl, call Tilda Swinton. Because we need to talk about Nina Bo’nina Helen Gurley Brown. And, because really only one significant thing happened in this week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race (namely, one of the most tragic lip-synch misfortunes in human record), be aware that spoilers are higher up in this rucap than usual. Having said that, we really need to talk about Nina Bo’nina del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Brown.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 9, Episode 8, "RuPaul Roast"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 8, “RuPaul Roast”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 8, “RuPaul Roast”

For the benefit of the children, or those clearly old enough to know better by now, let’s start our seminar on the fundamentality of “reading” at the very beginning, courtesy of a lesson plan most famously expounded by Paris Is Burning’s Dorian Corey, and forgive a thorough bitch for quoting in full:

“[Picking at] those little flaws, that’s because that’s a part of shade. That’s the idea; knock ’em out if you can. Get ’em any way. Hit ’em below the belt. Shade comes from reading. Reading came first. Reading is the real art form of insults. You get in a smart crack, and everyone laughs and kikis, because you found a flaw and exaggerated it, and you’ve got a good read going. If it’s happening between the gay world and the straight world, it’s not really a read. It’s more of an insult, a vicious slur fight. But it’s how they develop a sense of how to read. They may call you a faggot or a drag queen, and you find something to call them. But then when you are all of the same thing, then you have go to a fine point. In other words, if I’m a black queen and you’re a black queen, we can’t call each other black queens because we’re both black queens. That’s not a read, that’s just a fact. So then we talk about your ridiculous shape, your saggy face, your tacky clothes. Reading became a developed form where it became shade. Shade is: I don’t tell you you’re ugly, but I don’t have to tell you because you know you’re ugly. And that’s shade.”

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 4, "Good Morning Bitches"

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 4, “Good Morning Bitches”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 9, Episode 4, “Good Morning Bitches”

For whatever qualms longtime fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race may have about season nine’s streamlining, at least the challenges remain extraordinarily well placed. Or, as Phi Phi alleged in the embittered aftermath of All-Stars, the producers know exactly what they want and how to get it. Just as the queens are getting to that Real World zone where they’ve stopped being polite and started serving up realness, they’re thrown into a morning-news-show challenge that forces them to slap a mealy grin on their simmering tensions. And it’s more of a failure than a success, but in this context, bad TV makes for excellent TV. Or, at least, a train wreck comparable to Kathie Lee & Hoda.

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 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.)