Mon. May 25th, 2020

TV Rucap: RuPaul’s Drag Race S12 E12 – “Still That Bitch…For Now”

It’s finally here: it’s now the last week of the competition, five girls are left to make a bid for the four available spots going into the finale, and each of the girls enters this penultimate stage of the competition with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Gigi Goode has Three Maxi Challenge wins, including crucial, coveted Snatch Game and Ball wins, which has to be a lethal combination that probably positions her as the frontrunner for the crown: she’s convinced the judges that she is a fashion queen that is also smart and funny. However, it also feels like she’s peaked too early: she’s been bad to mediocre for the last several weeks of the competition, and she’s been getting quite a negative edit from the show since her last win, where she’s been coming off as entitled and arrogant. Jaida Essence Hall also has three Maxi Challenge wins, but along with Jackie Cox, she’s been the only queen who’s had to lip sync for her life, and it could prove to be a blow to her confidence heading into this last chance to clinch a finale spot. Sherry Pie won two Maxi Challenges in the first five weeks of the competition and was the runner-up in the first week of the competition, but her track record has been all over the place since then. Crystal Methyd only has one Maxi Challenge Win, but the last five weeks of being Top Three have culminated in that win last week, so it feels like momentum is in her favour: she’s had the most perfect crescendo of growth in this competition, where every week she’s been better than the last, and she’s also the queen who RuPaul has been most visibly enthusiastic about all season, especially since Heidi N. Closet is no longer around to compete for that attention. And while Jackie Cox is the only queen without a Maxi Challenge Win, and though she’s been in the Bottom Two a couple of times, no one else left has had as much opportunity to assert their resilience, or prove that they’re able to consistently claw their way back to the Top. Still, even if every girl left has had at least five weeks in the Top, the pecking order feels like it’s very clearly Gigi > Jaida > Sherry > Crystal > Jackie, and a lot would have to happen this week in order to change this perception.

For their final challenge, instead of posing for music videos or main stage performances of rap verses for familiar RuPaul tunes, they’ll be performing in a medley of original songs from RuPaul’s Drag Race Live, which is a welcome departure from the scripts of previous seasons. The medley includes a big opening number featuring their entrance looks, a heartfelt first act closer, and a spectacular disco finale showcasing original rap verses they must write and perform. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race Live Rankings

It’s difficult to rank the girls’ performances in these numbers, because everyone is perfectly fine to good, but no one really has a memorable, exceptional moment that stands out: they’re all a tad dull, and the overall effect is kind of boring. None of their rap verses feel like anything you’re going to memorize or go over in your head, like the All Stars 2 “Read U Wrote U” or All Stars 3 “Kitty Girl” verses.

1.       Jackie Cox

Her moment in the mirror just oozes with sincerity and heart, and she’s the queen who most radiates joy from her smiles during the rest of the number. Her performance during her rap number is a little messy and rough around the edges, but it also feels like she’s the most energetic, and having the most fun. 

2.       Crystal Methyd

Her verse is short, but sweet, and has a pretty effective summarization of her experience in the competition: her rise from the bottom to the top, and her love of glitter to make it pop. 

3.       Jaida Essence Hall

Her rap verse is instantly forgettable, but she’s probably the most poised performer on the stage this evening. 

4.       Sherry Pie

Her rap verse is kind of repetitive, and her rhymes are elementary: rhyming “Sherry Pie” with “Sherry Pie” isn’t really impressive. 

5.       Gigi Goode

She’s not particularly expressive nor does she really appear emotional during her mirror moment: she’s just correct, as usual, and hits all of her beats without doing anything to particularly wow you. The lyrics in her verse are also pretty generic and forgettable, and while the judges may be impressed with her slide across the stage, she was literally pushed/dragged by the backup dancers: it isn’t something that she did herself? And, that she’s had multiple nip slips during her performance in that red outfit is not okay. 

The Final Runway: “Eleganza Extravaganza” Rankings

While the RuPaul’s Drag Race Live number is overall just okay, this final runway is jaw-dropping, and here, when they’re difficult to rank, it’s because every girl has really brought it for her final impression.

1.       Crystal Methyd

It’s quite possible that she’s never looked better. All of the elements of this come together and add up perfectly: she wore blue velvet, suggested old Old Hollywood Silent Era glamour (especially with that turban), but turned it into a jumpsuit that’s snatched above the waist and curvy below, appeals to modern sensibilities with its asymmetrical shape, and extends the blue colour scheme to the paint of her face, until light hits the shimmery, metallic green apples of her cheeks. This look doesn’t really belong to any one era: it’s a hodgepodge of many different looks, and it probably shouldn’t work, and yet somehow it does? It has to be one of the most original looks ever to be servedt on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

2.       Sherry Pie

This is how you take a classic look and make it DRAG: the silhouette, the hat, and the parasol instantly combine to read as being somewhere between the intersection of Edwardian and Victorian fashion, but she’s updated this Gilded Age look to make it feel more contemporary and campy with an outrageous solid blue colour scheme, the replacement of ruffles that would have been sewn in with feathers, and the exaggeration of the hourglass shape of her hips. All of these choices show a smart understanding of the elements at work in these types of looks, while appealing to today’s sensibilities: it’s fashionable and elegant, but also just gawdy enough to be a lot of fun too.

3.       Jackie Cox

She’s also taken a classic look and made it DRAG. She’s paying homage to the Dior New Look full circle skirts, but has really taken the size of the shape over the top, and instead of using a solid neutral colour, she’s opted for a colourful print and blue accents with her wig, gloves and shoes. It builds on a foundation of classic fashion, but its consciously tacky alterations knowingly parody the juvenile, bubblegum lens of a princess fantasy.

4.       Jaida Essence Hall

She looks perfect, because she always looks perfect, but everything that she’s been serving this season is some variation of what you imagine when you think of the most perfect, polished pageant queen possible. But it also feels like she’s lacking in references: like history and fashion never began until the 70s. She’s just up against too much other brilliance for this look to rise to the top.

5.       Gigi Goode

This is also a great look, but like Jaida’s, it suffers in comparison to the other girls’ imagination and creativity in picking looks further removed from the present. While the other girls were right to find a way to inject, campy, draggy elements into these classic looks, Gigi’s attempt at humour is hurting hers: that headgear is so unnecessary. The bow tie, ruffles and skirt cape are already inherently campy and funny enough, but it comes across as though Gigi doesn’t feel confident enough in the transmission of these elements, and like the inclusion of the headgear feels too self-aware, desperate and cheap. 

The Final Judging

Instead of attempting to shake up our already preconceived expectations of who will advance to the finale, judging essentially goes according to script. Gigi Goode wins the last Maxi Challenge of this season, but it feels like a rubber-stamping predicated on the idea that she’s already the frontrunner rather than something that was particularly earned or deserving of a recording-tying fourth solo Maxi Challenge win (equaling Season 4 winner Sharon Needles’s achievement) based on her work this week, and it’s got to be her most dubious win yet. The second queen to advance to the Top Four is Jaida Essence Hall, who with three Maxi Challenge wins is the next logical choice, and Sherry Pie, with two Maxi Challenge wins, will be the third and last safe choice. That leaves Jackie Cox and Crystal Methyd as the two queens who will have to Lip Sync for their Lives, and fight for the last spot in the finale’s Top Four queens. It’s easy to have mixed feelings about how judging played out: yes, it would have sucked for any of the girls with the best track records not to make it to the finale based on their work throughout the season, but it feels pre-ordained, or like their performances this week didn’t ultimately matte. Was Gigi really that remarkable? Doesn’t it feel like Sherry had the most negative critiques? The show is probably having buyer’s remorse in not forcing Sherry to lip sync, where in post-production she could have been neatly forced out of the competition, had she been one of the two possible eliminations (it’s rumoured that Crystal and Jackie both had to shoot scenarios where they were eliminated). And, it would have truly been a gag to see one of the presumed Top Three girls miss the opportunity to compete for the crown, or at least have to see them fight in the lip sync to survive. Meanwhile, you could argue that Jackie Cox and Crystal Methyd were the standouts in the challenge and the runway this week, and it feels like swinging for the low-hanging fruit in forcing the two girls with the least impressive resumes to be the ones to have to fight to advance. 

The Final Lip Sync: “On the Floor” by Jennifer Lopez, featuring Pitbull

As Crystal has been the only queen to make it through this competition without having to either Lip Sync for Her Life or as part of a Top Two (as Gigi and Sherry did in their premiere episodes), it’s a real treat to finally see the level of talent that she brings to the Main Stage as a lip sync artist. The opulent, period look that she’s wearing automatically plays with a jarring, humourous absurdity and swagger against a track like “On the Floor,” but she’s performing reasonably well in her own right, too. She’s confident and serving her own zany brand of crazy and serving some moves. Meanwhile, Jackie is really working her garment, and those petticoats are coming to LIFE and giving us ours, even when some of her choices like miming playing the accordion are still sometimes a bit too literal or corny. But, it’s a bit of a cop out that she takes off her shoes, which Crystal nearly trips over at one point. 

Ru has to make the call, and it’s Crystal who will advance to the Top Four Top Three(?), which makes sense because Ru loves her, she did consistently better in the second half of the season, and had a Maxi Challenge win. It’s a shame that Jackie can’t advance, given Sherry’s ultimate disqualification. 

Moving forward, now we have a finale with virtual lip syncs . Maybe it seems like the win will be more difficult to call than expected: conventional wisdom suggests that Gigi Goode, with her four Maxi Challenge wins and no appearances in the Bottom Two, is the runaway frontrunner, but her edit has been so negative over the last several episodes that you wonder if the show has had buyer’s remorse in post-production, and if they’re priming us for an upset winner. It will be interesting to see if they choose to honour Gigi Goode in the end, or if only black performers like Shea Couleé can make it to the finale with a record number of Maxi Challenge wins and be denied the crown.

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