After a dubious Double Shantay where both Jackie Cox and Heidi N. Closet are saved from elimination, there are still six queens left in the competition. Jackie and Heidi (who’s had a “Hepiphany,” adding to the glossary of Heid-isms) feel great about this; for some of the other girls, not so much. Gigi “You will never see me in the Bottom again” Goode, who’s had a third consecutive wakeup call about her free-fall after a strong first half of the competition (five weeks in the Top, and three wins), is upfront with Heidi and Jackie that she’s annoyed that they’re back to a Top Six, and everyone has to start over again. Jaida’s feeling a little more good-natured about this, given that she’s coming off a second consecutive and third cumulative win, and laughs that “Look, when you’re seeing your friend off at the airport, that does not mean that you love them any less!” Time’s running out, and everyone wants a spot in that ultimate Top Four where they’ll… lip sync for the crown? If that will still be a thing?
It’s been a few seasons since we’ve seen a good old-fashioned Bitch Fest with puppets (the last of which being where eventual America’s Next Drag Superstar Sasha Velour won the mini-challenge): everyone loves puppets, and clearly RuPaul has missed it as much as we have! After reaching into a hole (gently, because it hasn’t been used in a while), each queen is paired with the puppet they pull, and have twenty minutes to drag it up to represent another remaining queen in the competition, and well, it’s doesn’t appear that it’s been worth the wait. Previous editions have been much funnier, and this time, recycled jokes about Sherry’s proclivity for dressing up as older ladies and trying to force-feed America are evidently good enough to bag Jackie Cox the win.
As the prize that accompanies many Mini Challenge wins, Jackie is privileged/encumbered with the responsibility of designating the presentation order in which the queens will perform their own one woman shows for this week’s Maxi Challenge, for which they’ll be coached and judged by EGOT Winner Whoopi Goldberg. Jackie knows that she’d like to go first, and every other queen wants to perform somewhere in the middle. Someone has to go last, even if no one wants the pressure of having to close the show. Jackie suggests Jaida for that unwanted spot, and she grudgingly accepts, saying that “I don’t care, at this point: if it’s going to be funny, bitch, it’s going to be funny.” Hmmm. That’ll be a moment to bookmark: in case Jaida doesn’t perform as well as she’d hope, she might need a reminder that she agreed to this.
Each girl gets a chance to air out the rough drafts of their performance concepts in front of RuPaul and Whoopi, and for one in particular, it doesn’t exactly go well. Jackie’s routine is taking a lot of time to build to jokes that don’t land, so Whoopi, who says she doesn’t do stand-up because she’s “not that funny” (… since when?), and encourages Jackie to take her cue and focus on telling a story.
Ranking the One-Woman Shows
1. Sherry Pie
It’s really easy to (rightfully) hold S***** P** under a critical lens given the recently revealed reprehensible actions in her personal life, but this is the hill I’ll die on in giving her maybe the one moment of credit that I believe she’s due: this number is messy performance art brilliance. She’s serving “Liza with a Z” references, feigning a Jennifer Coolidge voice (why did she not choose her for Snatch Game, and why hasn’t anyone else, for that matter?), covering the “ears” of a fishbowl, and on an occasion where she gets briefly tongue-tied, she turns it into one of her best jokes. And the act of post-production interference where they interrupt the flow of her performance with intrusive title cards chronicling the number of minutes that have elapsed makes that she’s going long even funnier. She’s already the funniest girl up there, and the editing conceit makes the absurdity of her self-indulgence even more hilarious. One of the show’s most memorable and effective shady edits, whew!
2. Jackie Cox
So, Jackie took Whoopi’s coaching to heart, and totally scraps her original concept. Instead of attempting a comedy routine, she opts to tell a story referencing how having two divorced parents with different vales affected her upbringing. But, she is able to work some funny moments into her routine, laughing about how both parents were scientists, about how drag would have been low on the list of dreams that they’d like to live vicariously through her, or about those times that her mom turned her nose up at the “Espice Girls,” urged her to study the male anatomy, or found a hidden feather boa. It’s interesting, funny, effective and moving, and is able to veer away from feeling too corny or manipulative.
3. Gigi Goode
This was interesting to watch, insofar that it really highlights Gigi’s weaknesses, even when the concept and material are correct. Gigi has probably the funniest jokes in her number, but she’s stuttering her words early in her number, which reveals her nerves and her desire to stay on script than to naturally let her ideas come to fruition in the moment. But, her idea to engage the audience, asking them for their names only to call them by another is pretty brilliant, and individual jokes about God paying attention and punishing bad fashion or unsalted nuts being a sign of a trip to Hell (which is also Detroit) are funnier than anything the other girls are serving. If only Gigi were more charismatic or comfortable performing: this had the best material of any performance this week, but she isn’t able to take it all the way.
4. Crystal Methyd
This is a great act for fans of physical comedy, and oh my, the mental visual of Crystal’s male stripper persona Phenomenal Phil teaching Betty White “the jerk” is quite something. It’s a real crowd pleaser, and even if it is a bit one note, at least it’s a funny note.
5. Heidi “Afrodite” N. Closet
Heidi’s attempt to tell a story about her family at a barbeque(?) gets really confusing, really fast: it’s difficult to follow which character she’s mimicking, and there isn’t really a coherent storyline that builds to a punchline or reveals some observation to glean. But Heidi is so entertaining and charismatic that this isn’t the utter dumpster fire that it should be.
6. Jaida Essence Hall
If you find yourself unable to follow along to whatever it is that Jaida’s trying to serve, you’re not alone. Lordt, what is even going on, here? She’s taking her time telling this story, and while she’s maybe not going for laugh out loud jokes, it could have used some, and once she’s finally attempting a joke, it’s too gross and unsophisticated to actually be funny. Her only funny moments are when she’s self-aware, and joking about how unfunny she is!
“The Color Purple” Runway Rankings
1. Jaida Essence Hall
This isn’t the most exciting look on the runway, but wow, she’s almost always the most stunning one. Her body is snatched, that long wig is right, and her legs have never looked better.
2. Heidi N. Closet
Aww, Heidi is famously one of the queens tightest on resources, so God Bless her for still being around to show one of the looks she spent a good chunk of her change on. It’s also pretty conventional, but it’s got to be one of her best looks she’s show, and it’s classic, polished drag.
3. Jackie Cox
Yeah, it’s messy, but it’s so much fun! Major Monique in All Stars 4 vibes.
4. Crystal Methyd
She’s also a lot of fun here, and her face paint goes well with this look.
5. Gigi Goode
Her Daphne look elicits positive feelings of nostalgia, but it’s a little costume store, after she gave another costume store look two weeks ago.
6. Sherry Pie
She’s a kitty cat and a flapper! It’s cute.
Jackie is praised for showing a lot of heart and blending it with comedy; Gigi is clocked for the nerves that overshadowed her strong concept; and while Sherry’s concept and delivery in her number go over well, Michelle Visage calls her “selfish” for running long in her performance: ultimately, these girls are safe. They rave about how much fun it was learning the moves Crystal was teaching in her routine, and how she was bringing a new brand of “stupid” to the show, and Ross throws out one of his favourite proclamations about this being how one wins this show: she’s this week’s winner. Ross is enthusiastic about Heidi’s concept for her number, but thinks that her characters weren’t differentiated enough, and Whoopi agrees, adding that “you know what they look like, but we don’t know what they look like. She’ll be asked to lip sync for a fourth time, where she’ll be joined by Jaida, who when she’s asked by RuPaul if she chose to go last, she confirms that Jackie assigned her this, which isn’t a total lie, though it is misleading.
The Lip Sync: “1999” by Prince
Wig reveals at the beginning of a lip sync are starting to become a little bit tired on RuPauls’s Drag Race, but when Jaida does it, as least it’s done right and with purpose, sporting a hairstyle that’s appropriate for a Prince song. Heidi and Jaida are both strutting across the stage like they both want to be there, and while both are looking really elegant, they are both having a lot of fun. Jaida is better dressed to be able to be moving around comfortably, and while Heidi is doing the best she can, Jaida is sliding around the stage, dropping into splits, all without losing the Essence of this performance.
Jaida predictably survives the lip sync, based on both track record and the merits of this performance, but when it’s time for Ru to bid Heidi adieu, she takes the opportunity to rave Heidi for more than a few sentences, emphasizing what everyone can already see: Heidi is a star (truly, the kind that comes once every few seasons). She urges Heidi to look for property outside of Ramseur, North Carolina: Los Angeles or Manhattan, perhaps, and reiterates that this queen is a superstar, and that she can’t wait for the world to see her, because we’re going to love her (we definitely already do). It’s a lovely moment, that hopefully soften the blow of elimination, where RuPaul makes it crystal clear that Heidi was one of her favourites. Oh, how empty the rest of the season is going to feel with the weekly renaming of this queen! Long live Heidi… something!
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.