Fri. Aug 14th, 2020

TV Rucap: RuPaul’s Drag Race S12 E9 “Master Debaters”

Jan is the latest girl to be eliminated from the competition, and the other girls are already appropriately attired in black for her funeral. The girls have only pleasant things to say about the newest departed: “To be here was, I know, a dream come true for her,” Jaida muses, “Every day was a bless to her,” Heidi chips in, “She was so happy and chipper,” Widow remembers, “Especially early in the morning!” Heidi adds. The girls congratulate Heidi on her challenge win: “Now, bitch, you can no longer say you ain’t got no money: you are now a Thousandaire!” Widow celebrates. But instead of comforting or encouraging Widow after having survived her first Bottom Two appearance, the girls emotionally squeeze the hand of Miss Gigi Goode, who is licking her wounds after being even remotely criticized, despite not having to lip sync for her life. “I feel like I went from a Ten to a One real quick, and I think it was because I definitely went into this challenge, you know, being like, ‘I won the last challenge; I’m going to win this one. I’m so excited” Gigi complains. Now Widow, on the other hand, realizes, “I needed my dream to almost be crushed for me to realize how important it is. I got a new lease on life: I got another Golden Ticket to be here, and as much as I love you, Kansas City, you ain’t gon’ see me just yet!”

It’s a new day in the Werq Room for the Top Seven, and Heidi Hydrates is now “Heidi Hydrates,” and she’s got a win under her belt! Widow Von’Du comments that five of the original first seven girls in the competition are still here, and then we get to see a rare moment of Sherry Pie talking outside the context of a challenge or runway, as she shades Widow, “Oh, she’s putting her hand up, but I think you were in the bottom!” “You were, too” Widow counters, and Sherry taunts, “But you’ve been flat-lining, Mother!” Ru interrupts the tension, walking in to announce the Mini Challenge as an audition for the title of Kitty Girl 2020. Jackie Cox, rrrrrolling her Rs as Purrrtha Kitt, the Perrrsian Glamourrr Puss, is the eventual winner, earning a $2,500 Gift Card from Fierce Drag Jewels.

Now that they’re done “Pussy-footing around,” RuPaul reminds the girls that the upcoming General Election is “some serious business, and we, at RuPaul’s Drag Race, urge everyone to vote.” However, to lift the spirits, this week’s Maxi Challenge is a search for America’s first Drag Queen President! They’ll be appearing at Choices 2020, where they’ll be presenting their platforms, and answering probing questions from the free press. 

Raven, a two-time runner-up for America’s Next Drag Superstar and Emmy-nominated makeup artist, accompanies RuPaul through the Werk Room to coach the girls through their platforms. Heidi’s pitch is the double entendre “No more closets, ever,” an allusion to Mommie Dearest’s wire hangers and RuPaul’s hatred of her Drag name. In regards to Heidi Hydrates’s challenge win last week, Raven comments, “The whole thing was stupid, and that’s a gift.” When Heidi responds, “It’s the power of the Gap (between her teeth),” Raven takes it further, “Forget about the GOP; get into the GAP.” Consider that stolen! Gigi tells Raven and RuPaul that economics and politics have always been terrifying to her, and she struggles to let them come in one ear, and not go out the other. “You want it to Cum on your tits,” RuPaul concludes, and inquires if she has a platform. “How high?” Gigi motions the height of a platform shoe, and RuPaul encourages her to keep it to her comfort zone, fashion. When Widow Von’Du shares her frustration over not being able to make the issues funny, Raven tells her “You’re trying to be America’s Next Drag Superstar. Now, I don’t know what that’s like,” and continues, “Bitch, you ain’t really running for President.” RuPaul tells Jackie Cox that she’s a bit surprised that Jackie hasn’t won a challenge, yet, and Jackie explains that she knows that she needs to keep it “out of the literate, and just making it a little more fun.” Raven tells her to “keep it illiterate,” and Ru remarks, “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel: the wheel is fine!” Jaida, however is confident going into this challenge: “My thing is I’m a real bitch. I don’t debate: I argue.” 

CHOICES 2020

Now once, the queens actually debate their ideas at Choices 2020, moderated by Rachel Bloom and Jeff Goldblum, it’s a hot mess. It might not be such a trainwreck that it cannot be addressed as such at judging, but it’s so mediocre. The girls kind of fall into two camps: one where the girls are funny, but you can’t imagine them as candidates running for office, and another where they come off as “Presidential,” but you’re left wondering, “where are the jokes?” There’s no one on the level of Sharon Needles’s stern but funny or Phi Phi O’Hara’s candidates in Season 4’s Presidential debate. 

Ranking the Choices 2020 Candidates

1.       Jaida Essence Hall

Easily the most consistently hilarious, but it’s difficult to imagine her as a candidate running for office. She has the sharpest comebacks and is the best at finding opportunities to “retattle” the “retittles” of the “rebuttals” and point out the other girls’ phony shortcomings. Her pivots, like constantly pointing “Look over there!” or passing her questions to other candidates do contribute to her thesis of making America “confused again.” Despite not looking or sounding presidential, it would be futile to try to argue that she wasn’t the best in this challenge.

2.       Heidi Hydrates

While she doesn’t really have many hilarious one liners that you leave the debate replaying in your head (“How can you trust a drag queen when her five o’clock shadow is visible twenty-four hours after the day?” is pretty great, though), Heidi, as always, effortlessly breathes comedy just by being her country self. She does break her character a few times, laughing out of place at Jaida’s jokes, but otherwise, her shocked gasps are reactions that make her work here memorable and great. And, when she is given the chances to do things like whistle through her front teeth again, it’s so much fun!

3.       Widow Von’Du

She’s far from the most riotously funny girl on the stage (the closest she comes to being hilarious is a Hokey Pokey joke that comes off as a bit too laborious), and she does get a good read in here and there (“If she cannot win the war against her beard, how can she win the wars that we might have to fight for America?”), but her angry politician schtick is quite well realized. It’s definitely not what in normal times would feel like a winning platform or campaign, but you can definitely imagine her running on that (though stranger things have happened: after all, 45 won the presidency playing the role of a pro-wrestling villain), and she at least successfully resembles a politician and references topical issues (splitting the deficit in half). And calling debate moderator Jeff Goldblum “uneducated” and an example of what is wrong with America is the kind of cringeworthy misfire that you should be grateful for! It was, at the very least, a moment.

4.       Jackie Cox

Her Canadian running for American office narrative does get a bit repetitive, but she gets a few corny but fun Canada jokes in (Apple Poutine? Sounds awful! And, her synthesis of “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” kind of works?), and while it is overly reliant on variations of one joke, at least she is giving more of a consistent storyline than most of the other girls. And, “Don’t be tacky: vote Jackie, because we can all use a little more Cox in our life” is kind of a gag!

5.       Crystal Methyd

She has a great opening statement about “bare chests,” “bare backs” and “bare arms” (yas, leading in to a political pun!), but after that, she’s just repeating jokes about her mullet that she’s starting to now get way more credit for than deserved, or making “Make America Glitter Again” jokes that don’t really reference any pertinent political topics (though, at least it’s playing off of a MAGA pun). She was missing a storyline that would have convinced that she was a candidate for office.

6.       Sherry Pie

It’s all been done before. We’ve all seen big girls joke about people needing to eat, and we’ve also seen her “Katharine Hepburn” impression before in the Snatch Game, and she’s still insisting on exploiting her Essential Tremor, only this time, it’s even more grotesque.

7.       Gigi Goode

Oof. This performance. What did she even do, other than make some robot jokes that don’t land? Stiff, immediately forgettable, yawn. And don’t be telling others to Sissy their walks if it isn’t something you can even do. Next!

Ranking the Runway

1.       Jackie Cox

Beyond just being a really powerful statement piece, the construction of this look and attention to detail is just stunning. The vertical red pinstripes of that caftan elongate her body so she looks statuesque, the blue hijab with the stars drapes perfectly, and the length of the sleeves is cut so that they rest in the crooks of her arms when she bends them. And the garment moves beautifully! It’s just so delicate and elegant.

2.       Jaida Essence Hall

Her body has never looked more SNATCHED than in this look! She’s both shapely and curvaceous, and the boots going up to her hips accentuate that her legs are for weeks, henny. 

3.       Widow Von’Du

She’s thought the most outside the box: “stars and stripes” don’t necessarily equate to “red, white and blue.” The stars are also so well positioned to accentuate her proportions.

4.       Crystal Methyd

The skirt could be just a little more form-fitting, but that patchwork top is awesome, and the red jacket draped over her shoulders looks amazing. And more traditional Crystal Methyd makeup really suits this look.

5.       Sherry Pie

Even though the styling of this look is more British Punk than American, the mixture of the two works!

6.       Heidi Hydrates

The red Bettie Page wig is cute – so is the entire ensemble, really – but the look feels like it’s missing ice skates, or a baton to twirl, or something.

7.       Gigi Goode

It’s straddling the line of looking expensively constructed, but also still costume store, and she already wore something like this in her entrance look. Still good, but something had to be last.

JUDGING

This is clearly Jaida’s week, between her performance in the debate and her mic drop runway (Rachel Bloom is jealous that Jaida is the woman she aspires to be when she wakes up every morning, even though she will never look like that), she’s the obvious winner of this challenge. Crystal Methyd and Heidi Hydrates are both praised for bringing the charms of their unique personalities to their debate performances: they’re the two that round out this week’s Top Three. Sherry Pie is praised by Rachel Bloom for having a consistent character in the debate and an outfit that she’d want to steal, but Carson rightfully points out that we need to start seeing some variety, because we’ve seen a variation of the same old lady in Snatch Game and Gay’s Anatomy before. Ultimately, she’ll be safe this week, and she promises the judges, “You will not see me in the Bottom again.”

Widow Von’Du is praised by Carson as a standout on the runway, and Rachel Bloom liked that Widow made some interesting points in the debate, and used her performance as provocative theatre, but points out that she lacked jokes. And when Carson points out that she came off as too angry, Widow becomes frustrated and defensive, complaining that she doesn’t know what the judges are looking for from her, that she stayed up all night working on the challenge, etc. For the first time in the season, RuPaul raises her voice and snaps, “It’s hard: the competition is fucking hard. But don’t do that to yourself: the pay-off is not worth it.” The judges agree that while Jackie Cox is bright and quick, her Canada jokes were too repetitive, and that her performance plateaued once it lost the element of surprise, but they think that her runway is a touching tribute to her heritage. Jeff Goldblum wonders aloud if arguably homophobic or misogynistic attitudes in the Islamic World complicate the issue, and Jackie Cox handles this question with grace, citing the complicated feelings she has for how LGBT people are treated in the Middle East, but how at the end of the day, she is one, and stresses the importance of representation and living that truth, while also sharing how Trump’s Muslim ban personally affected her and her family. Gigi Goode is read for how not having a base knowledge of politics showed in this challenge, and how she seemed less confident than usual. Still, for the second week in a row, her mediocrity is saved from having to lip sync. 

THE LIP SYNC

Widow Von’Du and Jackie Cox must battle to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and as soon as it starts, the result almost feels like a forgone conclusion. Widow shows, once again, why she is a powerhouse of a performer: technique is on display in this performance, and her heart is fully in it. In almost any other week, this perfect anthem performance would safely win her a spot to continue in the competition, but this week, she’s up against a pretty magical narrative. At first, Jackie is making self-aware, literal, corny jokes that correspond with the lyrics of “Firework:” kicking a plastic bag around, motioning to her waist for “feel so paper-thin,” and crossing her arms across her chest for “six feet under.” But she takes the performance up a notch when she’s prancing, gliding across the stage in her spinning caftan, and it’s a striking, unforgettable visual image to see a woman in a hijab celebrating her pride, mouthing, “Baby, you’re a firework.” And she seals the deal in the coda of her performance, sending her sleeves and the hem of her caftan airborne in a way that hasn’t been seen since Coco Montrese’s “Cold-Hearted Snake” lip sync. Between her narrative and her lip sync performance, Jackie Cox looks unbeatable. 

RuPaul evidently agrees, as Jackie is told “Shantay, you stay.” Widow Von’Du is taking this really hard, and cries, “I feel like I let you down,” to RuPaul who reassures her, “You did not let me down.” On her way out the door, Widow leaves us with one hell of an exit line, “My fellow Americans, I want to leave you with this: always rub your thighs together like they harmonize!”


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.


%d bloggers like this: