The girls return to the Werk Room after Nicky Doll’s elimination, and Brita is shook that she was in the Bottom, even though she didn’t have to lip sync (it’s poor Heidi N. Closet who had to wipe Nicky Doll’s lipstick off the mirror), because she doesn’t understand why her scene partner Aiden Zhane wasn’t in the Bottom with her. It’s very congruent with the all of the queens (especially Brita) vs. Aiden Zhane narrative that has dominated the first handful of episodes, and right out the gate, it appears as though the editors are foreshadowing a final Brita/Aiden faceoff in the lip sync this week.
This week there’s no Mini-Challenge, because as RuPaul is quick to announce, this week’s Maxi Challenge is Snatch Game! Everyone’s favourite episode of a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Snatch Game challenges a queen’s celebrity impersonation and improv abilities. It’s known to be one of the most difficult challenges to get right, so a Snatch Game win or even Top Three performance is a feather in the cap of the queens who do well, and can make a compelling argument for the season win: it catapulted Season Five winner Jinkx Monsoon into a frontrunner status, and to date, Tyra Sanchez, Trixie Mattel and Yvie Oddly are the only winners who were not Top Three in their Snatch Games.
When Ru walks through the Werk Room to go over the girls’ Snatch Game ideas, he brings Season 10 and 11 fan fave Vanessa Vanjie Matteo (star of the viral “Miss Vanjie” memes) to give them an idea of what not to do (her Danielle Bregoli was a mess). One particular highlight of that walkthrough includes RuPaul telling Heidi N. Closet, “All you bitches come in here, and you think you’re Meryl Streep,” and the camera cuts to Miss Vanjie looking sheepish, as fans might recall that last season, she had a moment where she didn’t know who Meryl Streep was. It’s one of the more subtle cuts seen on this show, since it thankfully doesn’t spell this out with footage from Season 11. Ru continues his weekly stanning of Crystal Methyd’s “El DeBarge” mullet, and tries to convince Crystal to play him for the Snatch Game instead of android-esque pop star Poppy, and Crystal starts choking up in her confessional about how she doesn’t want to make a fool of herself in this challenge, and now she’s crying in front of Ru about how frustrated she is about constantly ending up in the Bottom, and gets a hug from Ru out of it. Ooh, Lord. Moving on to Gigi Goode, who telling Ru of her plans to play
Sophia Maria the Robot is strongly discouraged, because “robot” doesn’t exactly scream “comedy.” In situations like this, where Ru is adamant that a queen should abandon her idea, either she’s scared out of it, or if she’s not, she either slays the game, or bombs spectacularly. With Gigi showing no plans to change, it will be interesting to see whether her Snatch Game is a success or a failure.
THE SNATCH GAME
Heidi N. Closet as “Leslie Jones:” So, she doesn’t look or sound very much like Leslie Jones (ugh, that this queen looks so much like Diana Ross is already half the battle and it’s such a missed opportunity to pander to RuPaul’s love of his favourite icon), but she makes some funny jokes that it’s plausible Leslie Jones may have cracked. Bonus points: for those who watch the show that are not super familiar with comedian Leslie Jones’s brand of humour, Heidi is very smart to tie the Untucked moment where Jones eviscerate Widow Von’Du for her ugly shoes.
Jackie Cox as “Lisa Rinna:” While Lisa Rinna is a rather middle-brow choice for a Snatch Game character, Jackie Cox was really smart to pick someone that she understands so well, and is really, really funny. It’s basically a perfect Snatch Game performance: she looks and sounds like her character, she nails the physical comedy and prop usage, and navigates the balance between fitting rehearsed moments into her Snatch Game organically and coming up with spontaneous material. Most importantly, she not only volleys off of Ru, but she is very generous herself, giving other queens ample opportunities to ad lib off of her, after having swooped in for the jokes to seize the moment.
Jaida Essence Hall as “Cardi B:” If you’re going to play a Pop Star in Snatch Game, it really has to be someone who is inherently really funny. One immediately gets the sense watching her Snatch Game that Jaida isn’t a comedienne or a celebrity impersonator, but she looks the part, drops an “Okurrr,” responds to questions with answers that are accurate and funny (while not hilarious), and while she falls in and out of Cardi’s accent, she nails “multi-platinum album.” Whew! Considering that most Pageant Queens have historically really struggled with their Snatch Games, this solid performance is practically a win for her. It’s a reminder that even when faced with a challenge that may not necessarily play to her strengths, she is consistent, professional, and able to get the job done. It’s on brand, and it’s a good day for Jaida.
Jan as “Bernadette Peters:” Jan is an example of the queen who has done her homework (or has at least picked a celebrity with whom she is already well-acquainted), and has come prepared and ready for the Snatch Game. She’s equipped with allusions to “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music or “The Witch’s Rap” from Into the Woods, but the problem is that even if these pre-packaged responses work well enough in the context that we see, they feel too rehearsed and inorganic. But, it’s better to be over-prepared and married to those preparations for the Snatch Game than not to have a solid sense of direction, and overall, it’s a very strong effort.
Widow Von’Du as “Tina Turner” and “Ike:” Oh, wow, that wig is so bad. It doesn’t look like Tina Turner’s hair: it looks like a Cossack hat. Beyond that, we’re not really given that much: all we get to see of Widow’s Tina is a sassy response to Ru asking her “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” or a few of Shangela’s reincarnated head twitches. As Ike, bringing out a cake for a “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!” moment is fun enough, but very literal and not very imaginative. Hmm. It’s pretty aggressively mediocre.
Gigi Goode as “Maria the Robot:” Is this supposed to be Sophia the Robot? If so, she’s a Saudi Citizen, not a US citizen. But, okay: Gigi, once again, is really unexpectedly funny. Her robotic delivery of vulgarities increasingly loses its novelty with every new cuss that she drops, but the concept is so original, and she is prepared with a great sense of her character’s physical comedy and puns, and she’s also quick on her feet and coming up with spontaneous humour. Plus, responding to RuPaul with “What’s up, bitch?” is a really brilliant way to make an introduction.
Aiden Zhane as “Patricia Quinn:” The look is right, and Aiden even kind of physically resembles her! But, then Aiden goes on to make the same joke about either not understanding or remembering anything… It’s just a really terrible Snatch Game: she’s boring, never makes one funny joke, and it’s exhaustingly repetitive.
Brita as “Jennifer Holliday:” Brita’s Jennifer Holliday is SO bad that I don’t know that it’s possible for me to hate it, and I’m grateful that it exists. She’s so over the top, and spends most of the time sounding like an asthmatic donkey braying after chain smoking a carton of cigarettes. And mess when she answers one of her questions with “Jennifer Hudson” and when right after that, Ru asks her if she’s friends with Jennifer Hudson, she answers, “Who?” Um, okay Brita Werk, that doesn’t make any sense: you’re the one who just brought her up, so that Mariah “I don’t know her” moment doesn’t work. There’s nothing remotely good about this Snatch Game, so it’s going to be extra funny to watch Brita inevitably argue that it was undeserving of a Bottom mention. But, it’s fun in a way that you’d like to laugh over with your friends, like Ethel Merman dragging out recordings of Rosalind Russell’s vocals in Gypsy.
Crystal Methyd as “Poppy:” This is another one that’s pretty objectively bad, but also too entertaining to totally hate. Crystal certainly understands this character and is telling a story, here, even if the mimicry itself is somehow more Yolandi Visser than it is Poppy. And, not at Crystal’s Poppy unsure of how to answer a question choosing to answer in the form of an illustration? Eureka O’Hara, her influence!
Sherry Pie as “Katharine Hepburn:” I’ve been wanting to see someone play Katharine Hepburn on the Snatch Game for years, and after a few drinks at a cocktail party, I’ve been known to rant about this and proceed to attempt my own Hepburn impersonation. She seems like such an obvious selection: she’s larger than life, she has a trademark voice, is part of Hollywood mythology, and has a six decade-long career of Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated roles in screwball comedies and prestige dramas to choose from. It’s a goldmine of material to work with, and Sherry Pie… defines Katharine Hepburn exclusively by her Essential Tremor condition. Like in every other (ten minutes of) Snatch Game, apart from the two or three stars of the game who are firing on all cylinders from start to finish, or the two or three who are bombing spectacularly, a queen is likely only to be shown in her character introduction and then in only one or two answers to a Snatch Game question. As such, we’ll likely never know what was left on the cutting room floor, but it’s alarming that in all three of Sherry Pie’s appearance as Hepburn, her emphasis on Kate’s Essential Tremor IS the entire joke, every time: in her introduction, RuPaul asks her what kind of tree she would be, and after twitching and stuttering for a good seven seconds, she drops the affectation and says with clarity “an oak;” for both of her Snatch Game answers, Sherry Pie has scribbled illegibly (presumably because she’s implying that Hepburn lacks the dexterity and motor skills to reign control over her penmanship) on her index card, and then makes the same joke twice where she pretends that she answered correctly, and after the second answer, makes a vague, irrelevant joke about how she loves being in the movies. Apart from this being an ableist and tone deaf swing for the low-hanging fruit, Sherry’s vision of Katherine Hepburn is one that shows no evidence of research or understanding of this iconic actress, other than a rather mean exploitation of an unfortunate health development in her twilight years. It’s really a creatively bankrupt missed opportunity that she could have used to play a younger Hepburn, reference her films, her relationships with Spencer Tracy or Howard Hughes, or so many other things, and if she HAD to go for the physical comedy of assuming her mannerisms, she could have mimicked her ridiculous Transatlantic accent, and that would have actually been funny.
Ranking the Snatch Game:
1. Jackie Cox as “Lisa Rinna”
2. Gigi Goode as “Maria the Robot”
3. Jan as “Bernadette Peters”
4. Jaida Essence Hall as “Cardi B”
5. Brita as “Jennifer Holliday”
6. Crystal Methyd as “Poppy”
7. Heidi N. Closet as “Leslie Jones”
8. Widow Von’Du as “Tina Turner” and “Ike”
9. Aiden Zhane as “Patricia Quinn”
10. Sherry Pie as “Katharine Hepburn”
Overall, it was a pretty weak-average Snatch Game, with only two good-great performances, and while Brita and Crystal Methyd are bound to be iconic and memorable for how bad they are, neither are truly among the masterpieces of incompetence that were any of the “Beyoncé” attempts or Naomi Smalls’s “New York.”
1. Jackie Cox (Just jaw-droppingly beautiful. The metallic fabric is a vision, the earrings are wonderful accessories, her face is PAINTED, and the braids in the wig are a cute touch)
2. Crystal Methyd (OMG this is a lewk. Love this wig length on her, the makeup is still fun and pretty, and those wide length pants and that collared shirt are pure bliss)
3. Sherry Pie (They hid this from us on the runway, which is a shame, because it is STUNNING, and the designer should be very proud of this)
4. Jaida Essence Hall (Bodi-odi-odi and her styling above the neck is impeccable)
5. Jan (Nice that she was thinking outside of the box. It’s a fun look)
6. Heidi N. Closet (Probably the best she’s looked on the show yet! Love the hat)
7. Brita (The cut and shape of the garment is very standard, but the colour palette is beautiful, and those shoulders are dramatic)
8. Gigi Goode (It’s polished, and fits her well as always, but it’s kind of basic and unimaginative compared to what the other girls have been doing? This wig colour is great on her, though)
9. Aiden Zhane (A little cheap looking, but kind of cute, still)
10. Widow Von’Du (Horrifying. Why did she think the life preserver was a good idea?)
Jaida Essence Hall, Widow Von’Du, Heidi N. Closet and Jan (who really would have been a deserving inclusion in the Top Three) are excused from judging as they are among the safe queens, and after the judges give the Top and Bottom queens their critiques, it isn’t very surprising that Ru announces Gigi Goode as the winner of the Snatch Game. If there were any doubts that Gigi Goode is now (or has been) the frontrunner for the win, they should be put to bed. Gigi appears to be following Aquaria’s path to the crown, entering the competition with the desire to establish herself as The Fashion Queen™ of the season, validating that with a Ball win, and then proving her range and skills by outperforming the so-called comedy queens and performers as she devours the Snatch Game. Jackie Cox and Sherry Pie (seriously, this Top Three placement has already aged poorly by the time it’s aired) round out that top three.
Crystal Methyd narrowly avoids the Bottom Two for her Poppy impersonation, which leaves Brita and Aiden Zhane to conclude the rivalry narrative that no one asked for once and for all. Aiden is apprehensive and knows that she is going to have to slay this in order to beat a “powerhouse performer” (Brita will have you know that she is an NYC Entertainer of the Year winner at the Glam Awards, in case you somehow missed that). This week’s tune is “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen, and with this week’s Frozen theme runway (any of the girls in this week’s excellent runway would have been dressed to slay). But, once the lip sync begins, both Aiden and Brita are giving appropriate, pretty, but safe Disney Princess performances. But when it comes to actual lip sync precision and technique, Aiden Zhane is predictably dead in the face, while Brita’s giant mouth over-enunciates every syllable, and actually looks quite ugly. But, this performance gridlock has a tiebreaker: Brita brought a magic trick!
Brita is indeed proclaimed the winner, which will put this ridiculous rivalry with Aiden to rest: it’s been sucking all the oxygen from the room. Hopefully it won’t be much longer before Brita is out the door behind her!
David Acacia lives in Toronto, Canada, posts regularly on AwardsWorthy forums, and is the self-appointed High Priest of the Church of Meryl Streep. He is also a member of the International Cinephile Society where he writes for film reviews as film festival coverage.