Categories: TV Recap

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap S16E16: The Final Hoedown Throwdown

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After a season of sisterhood and shadiness, RuPaul’s Drag Race comes to a close on its sixteenth season of the flagship iteration of the international phenomenon. It’s been a season of triumphs, breakdowns, and delusion that has fueled the Queens to persevere through crafting more looks than ever before and writing enough while filming during the 2023 Writer’s Strike to either be considered scabs or on the cusp of a WGA membership. 

To begin the finale, Ru delivers a quick performance of her song “Pink Limousine,” which can only be interpreted as a direct reference to Barbie (and yes, I’m aware that the album this song originally appeared on actually dropped six months before the film released, perhaps she knew of the impending Barbenheimer hype last year). Ru welcomes the audience and judges Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Matthews, and Ts Madison to the finale, taking a moment to highlight family and the top three competitors of the season: Nymphia Wind, Plane Jane, and Sapphira Cristál. There is something distinctly funny about the way Ru is standing in the middle of the stage with her arms behind her back, looking like a lost teen that can’t find her friend outside the 9 p.m. horror film on a Sunday night. The entire cast is then brought onto the stage in the classic category “grand finale eleganza.” 

A not-so-quick rundown of the final runway: 

  • Hershii LicQour Jete looks beautiful, the best part being the hair complementing the beautiful dress with the blue interlacing through the wig, the nails and earrings being an added bonus in a great ensemble
  • Mirage looks stunning in a wig that gleefully embodies her spirit, a smile on her face the entire time while she struts across the stage. Having her leg out shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s watched this season, but the dress does feel a bit basic for the finale
  • Have you ever played the Alice in Wonderland world in Kingdom Hearts? If so, you might have seen Amanda Tori Meating parading around in her finale look, prepared to help you on your quest to seal the darkness. She does look beautiful and the improvement on her makeup can’t be overstated, she’s going to do well on Down Under vs the World season 2
  • There’s no explanation that will satisfy me on why Geneva Karr chose the outfit she chose for the finale because I truly think she can do better. She looks prepared to serve at an actual drag race as the girl waving flags around, but the hair looks fabulous on her
  • Megami continues her serve from last week into the finale with a look that feels like her and her face looks as good as it ever has, it’s just a really neat look that sees the Queen begging to be asked to return for an All Stars season
  • Xunami Muse looks beautiful in her dress, her visible leg looks so long and extended, her makeup looks incredible, the hair looks fantastic on her. The earrings are my favorite!
  • Plasma returns to week 5’s ode to Pit from Super Smash Bros by bringing what appears to be a gender-bent look of the character for her finale runway. This is easily the best hair Plasma wore all season and the dress looks good on her skin, and she also continues to take the judges advice from earlier in the season to make her lips bigger (which is paying off)
  • Mhi’ya Iman LePaige comes out in the most dangerous Mardi Gras outfit available, but looks stunning. Her shape looks great, and her hair is laid
  • Dawn’s finale look is exactly what anyone should be expecting, her final transformation into the wife of the Ice King on Adventure Time. The headpiece she’s wearing is one of my favorite things she’s brought down the runway, and that lip color against the pale blue looks great
  • Morphine Love Dion is stunning on the runway, an old glamour look to her dress and makeup that accentuates her curves and provides one final showcase of her being the mug of the season
  • Easily my favorite look from Q during the season, the hair looks incredible and the dress is a beautiful final serve from her, though the blue and the complementary hair does resemble Hershii’s look from this episode (it’s almost the same color if not exactly, I bet she was fuming!)
  • Nymphia saves the best for last, unpeeling her final outfit for the audience to reveal the most beautiful makeup we’ve seen from her – a feat – and providing one last reference to her favorite fruit
  • Plane Jane comes out serving the highest of Russian nobility but with a little spice, showing off her legs in a red that embodies her the boldness of her entire performance on this season 
  • While Sapphira looks stunning, I just know she’s the hardest LARPer you have ever seen in your damn life. Everyone on their feet, as she deserves for this beautiful look

Nymphia is up first for her final performance that sees her bringing her culture to the forefront of the performance in the beginning. She moves into a reveal that sees a look Plastique Tiara would wear on any given day, but the greatest and gayest moment of her performance certainly comes from the wind blowing her everywhere. She looks fierce and the dancing is actually fun, it makes you wonder how stressed she probably was getting ready knowing her repulsion to preparation and her issue with procrastinating responsibilities. While speaking to her younger self, she sweetly refers to herself, Nymphia, being the higher power version that she will grow into one day. Her family is there to support her and her mother’s genuine pride in her child is touching, as it always is seeing a queer person be so beautifully embraced by their loved ones.

Plane follows Nymphia with a song seemingly disposed of by Slayyyter before being recycled to this final performance. The “Bodysuit” song is actually cute, Plane looks great and has just as much ass as she’s given the entire season, the pink and green reminiscent of the craziest costumes Cosmo and Wanda could ever disguise Timmy in. She unfortunately sniffs her finger after the performance in reference to her “Burger Finger” song that has haunted me since the moment I first heard it and has caused chills up my spine every time since then. “You’re gonna be a drag queen when you grow up,” she tells her younger self, laughing, but it’s really about the ability to be genuine that’s causing the smile. Her drag child, Lazi Susan, sends in a message about the Queens moving forward and his drag mother, miss Plane herself, congratulating her on her achievement. 

After 11 years of attempting to get on the show, Sapphira stands tall as the final of the top three Queens of season 16. The production of Sapphira’s performance isn’t a surprise after watching her this season, the opening reveal to her tangerine dream outfit more dramatic than any episode of television that has aired this year. She gives an energetic performance where you can hear a Queen in the crowd yelling, “You better work, bitch!” which is one of my favorite things queer people do. Michelle dubs her Slue-pphira which sends Ru into a laughing frenzy, unsurprisingly. I love when Ru gets stuck on something for an entire season, Sapphira’s slue-foot has provided more amusement to Mama Ru than we’ve seen since Crystal Methyd’s comparisons to El DeBarge in season 12. Sapphira speaks to her younger self to let him know that everything will turn out fine because support systems keep us in place, especially the way hers has supported her. Her mom is there to openly file a report on Sapphira’s younger self making her clothes smell like Post Malone by performing in them without taking them to the cleaners. 

Then begins a tribute to Elvira, Cassandra Peters, that feels out of place because it is. Even with the understanding of the achievement award, the Giving Me Lifetime Award as its known, it still feels forced into the episode. She does, however, look incredible and I am grateful to have seen her on my television this week. She gives a quick speech before the episode moves into thinning the competition. Plane Jane places third in the competition as Nymphia and Sapphira both move into the final two of the season, but Plane receives a tip of $25k so no one leaves the finale empty handed. I keep thinking this money must be deposited directly into their Cashapp, which is the funniest possible way they could receive such a sizable amount.

Last year’s winner, Sasha Colby, returns to the stage for a performance to Megan thee Stallion’s “Her” but isn’t going across the stage with as much fervor as audiences might have seen before, but it must be noted that she had to change into her returning look immediately after! And we are all better for it because she looks amazing, showstopping, a goddess-cinderella that imposes trans judgment on those who might wrong her. She looks stunning, an immediate reminder of the reign she’s given over the past year and why she won this competition and is all-around the best human alive. 

The Queens of Season 16 return to the stage for the presentation of this year’s Miss Congeniality, which has still never been presented by Sandy Bullock herself, the craziest missed opportunity imaginable. Malaysia Babydoll Foxx returns to present the award looking like the owl that’s always asking how many licks it will take to get to the center of a tootsie pop. She announces that there will be, for the first time in Drag Race herstory, a tie – a word that I assume strikes immediate resentment into the hearts of twinners Monet X Change and Trinity the Tuck – that sees both Xunami Muse and Sapphira Cristál taking home the award. The only thing left is the final lip sync of the season, the first time Nymphia will lip sync this season. They will perform to “Padam Padam” by Kylie Minogue, which feels correct. 

Sapphira, of course, begins more theatrically with fake vampiric teeth and a campy humor to her showing. Nymphia does a reveal that releases balloons into the air, igniting applause from the gays in the crowd. Reveals from both Queens allow them to slip into a more danceable outfit that sees Nymphia doing handstand against one of the backwalls of the stage before falling into a split. Sapphira brings her usual energy to the stage, fighting hard with a passionate and funny lip sync, but Nymphia’s performance has a freshness to it. She brings an explosive energy to the stage with Sapphira right behind her in humor. Sapphira high kicks while Nymphia moves around like a hilarious schoolgirl with a ferocious appetite. The lip sync incredibly ends with both Queens in a split in the same frame. It then becomes time to put a crown on someone’s head and it goes, rightfully, to Nymphia Wind. She’s put up an insane fight this entire season, has given some of the best runways of the past few seasons, and will be remembered for seasons to come. You can start calling her Nymphia Win, thank you very much.

Photo: MTV

Tyler Doster

Tyler is the TV Awards Editor for AwardsWatch and from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He’s been obsessed with movies and the oscars since he was about 14. He enjoys reading, but even more, talking about Amy Adams more and will, at any given moment, bring up her Oscar snub for Arrival. The only thing he spends more time on than watching TV is sitting on Twitter. If you ever want to discuss the movie Carol at length, he’s your guy. You can find Tyler at @wordswithtyler

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