Previously on RuPaul's Drag Race: We met the second batch of queens, who were put through a rather shadily-themed "Tardy for the Party" couture challenge. Milk managed to make a goatee look good, Joslyn managed to walk in a straight line, and Magnolia Crawford's severe attitude problem (and severer nose contour) got her the boot. Finally, at episode's end, the new girls returned to the workroom, only to find the original six, painted to filth and glaring. Cut to:
Team One face-to-face with Team Two: the former lying in wait, the latter fresh off the runway, Laganja sharpening her multi-inch nails, Bianca sharpening her verbal barbs — and everyone's breath is visibly bated. How to react to their newfound rivals? Will they, as the music suggests, run Amazon-style and tackle their respective dopplegangers — clubkid to clubkid, airhead to airhead? Is it time for a full-on, wig-tossing brawl?
Of course not. Because, no matter how the producers may have tried to spin it, these are ladies, after all. Meaning, their fighting is going to be far sneakier than all that.
Exhibit A: Amid the hugs and cheek-kisses, Courtney greets Laganja with a "Happy Mardi Gras!" then sneaks in a backdoor brag by asking if Adore if her American Idol run was on Season 1. (Of course, Adore was probably still stumbling in her mother's heels back when Idol first aired — but fair play, Courtney, we'll take it.) Then, Gia does her one better with a choice pointed pause — "You girls… look good" — to which Bianca calls her "Kimora Lee Kardashian" with some serious side-eye. Honestly, it's a little surprising the extent to which girls who were competing just moments ago have so quickly jumped to cliquey "Us vs. Them" groupthink. Even Gia, who didn't have a kind word to spare in Episode 1, saves all her behind the scenes vitriol for her new competitors: "I don't like messy queens, I don't like cheap queens, and I don't like manly queens." Here, I will take a page from Gia's book and simply pause (especially regarding item two).
Still, the queens can't spend all day trading shade (though, God, don't I wish), and thus the SheMail inevitably rings in — with an ear-piercing scream in place of a siren, to announce the theme of the week: "Put the 'Fear' in 'Fear-ce,'" AKA campy horror, AKA YES.
But first, a quick detour to a product placement mini-challenge, hyping some resort or something (I will not join in your reindeer games, advertisers), which means the contestants have to pair up with a girl from the opposite group and play that "sit on my chest and pretend my legs are your legs" game. In bikinis. Which actually, in practice, is kind of terrifying. Of course, there are plenty of puns about "being on top" and "assuming the position," but what is surprising is who each queen chooses as a partner — especially the winning duo: Milk and, gasp, Adore! My only love teamed with my only hate-to-love?! Adore even goes so far as to paint Milk's signature gap onto her teeth. Well I never.
Luckily, this is one of those weeks when the mini-challenge winners are split up to become separate team captains (phew), each charged with directing her group in a scene from the auspiciously named horror franchise "Drag Race Me to Hell." Yes, in the great tradition of "Queens in Space" and "Hot in Tuckahoe," it's time for the acting challenge — and this season it's all about cheesy, olde-timey gore, à la '60s and '80s scream queens (excuse me: #ScreamQueens). When it comes time to pick teams, though, both Milk and Adore stay right along party lines: Episode 1 ('80s) and Episode 2 ('60s) remain intact. Ru feigns surprise — as if this juicy rivalry wasn't her plan from the start — and exits in a fit of terrified hysterics. (Milk's response: "Just die already!" I remain, as ever, enamored.)
Though Adore professes a yen for '80s horror, her team seems to be a bit a-flounder from the start: After casting herself as "Heather" (of course), she doles out the roles rather haphazardly, sticking the rather fishy April with the role of a butch real estate agent. Meanwhile, Gia has never heard of a Delorean — for all she knows, it's "an ancient dildo." I can only imagine what she'd do with a Flux Capacitor.
Team Milk, on the other hand, has it just about all together — even Darienne, who gets stuck with the role of "Head in a Box" is optimistic — save for Trinity, the self-professed "acting virgin." Who is then given the part with the most lines. Sigh. When she proves predictably flat, Bianca suggests that she "do it like, 'Let's get real, gurl,'" to which Trinity counters, "Oh, you want me to be black?" Of course, she absolutely has a point regarding frustrating pervasive stereotyping in entertainment (see also: Shirley from Community 's response to being told to act "happy-threatening" in Greendale's commercial), but then again, Bianca also unfortunately has a point that even her crude caricature would be more entertaining than what Trinity's got going on.
Soon enough, it's time for the queens to hit the set, where Ru cautions from her director's chair to "Act as if your life depended on it — because, well, it does." I now fully expect the queen who goes home to at least get a bucket of pig's blood dumped on her head. (Hi, Raja's Carrie realness!)
Meanwhile, though, Team Milk is essentially killing it, as predicted — Courtney and Bianca are seasoned comediennes, and Joslyn steps into her ditz role with practiced ease. (Others compliment her choice to say the word "gasp" instead of just inhaling sharply; I'm still not convinced she knows the difference between dialogue and stage direction — but hey, it's working.) Trinity, however, is having a rough time, near physically incapable of playing to the camera or reacting at all upon discovering a sentient severed head. And she should, if only because Darienne is slaying her role, forehead pentagram and all: "Your mother darns socks in hell!" Just goes to show, there are no small roles, only small actors, and thank God Darienne lives up to her zaftig potential.
On the other hand, just as Adore struggles to get out her expression of confidence in herself — "Strat– Strategi– I strategically strategized!" — so does her team struggle on set. April's emphasis is awkward, Laganja's accent is pointless, Gia has no clue how to play "'80s Valley Girl" — and Adore (oh, Adore) can neither remember to enter, nor to speak once she does. Clearly, Mama Ru is not impressed. Cut to Adore being rightly terrified that, as the team captain, she'll have to go down with her ragtag ship: "Everything comes on my back!" ... I'm just going to leave that one there.
With filming wrapped, it's time for the queens prep for the runway, where they must offer up "their best drag" — which, in Vivacious's case, means "old school clubkid Bowery" style, as she explains, à la Amanda Lepore and Lady Bunny: "When I walk into a club, all eyes are on me. You're that little girl in the corner, still trying to look like a lady" — to which I say, WERK. Meanwhile, Bianca tries to stir up some drama with Trinity over her ability to impersonate Beyoncé, to which I say: Calm it down, Don Rickles. We've got a show to do. And for Cersei and The Exorcist Girl to boot! (Okay, "Lena Headey and Linda Blair," but we were all thinking it.)
So, without further ado: lights, camera, a blood-spattered gown for Ru — and, action!
BIANCA DEL RIO
... sports a floor-length black old-Hollywood number with a giant sparkly collar and a feathery fascinator to match. In short, a yes.
... describes herself as "an Australian version of the Statue of the Liberty," and indeed, the gown fits (like a glove): a glittery Australian flag bustier, a puffy tulle bottom, and I do love me an elbow-length glove. Michelle, however, sees fit to call out "Vege-mighty sexy!" which, just, no.
... is rocking gold tonight, in pseudo-toga form: The entire right side of her disco-reminiscent dress is a giant drape, with a thick gold headband to match. "I have never been so confident in my entire life," she asserts. Mmhmm.
TRINITY K. BONET
... looks like a koi fish (but, like, in a good way), strutting in her strategically ruffle-covered orange ballgown. Passing grade.
... has gone, once again, for a gloriously outlandish look — though I've got to read a bitch just little for wearing the same cut-out leggings as she did for her grand entrance. Still, they are excellent leggings — and more importantly, my heart soars at the brilliant subtle mindfuck of her ensemble: entering a drag queen contest serving Pinocchio, a character who always wanted to "be a real boy." I mean, she even has detached marionette strings in her hand, fer chrissakes. Ru's praise is slightly less nuanced: "Pinocchi-HO!" Well, that, too.
... is giving me everything tonight with a giant silver cape flowing behind a shimmery silver dress, complete with a slit up the back. It is as flashy as it is flattering — a massive improvement from last week's coochie ruching.
Michelle is the first to jump in with the "April showers" quip — because how could you not, with that umbrella dangling floor-length blue fringe. And sure, there's the yellow raincoat-inspired ensemble, but that umbrella! She is clearly a conceptual accessory queen (see: Episode 1's parachute), and I am more than fine with that.
... claims she's serving "Madame Butterfly" with her sky-high monarch butterfly headpiece, but the shape reads more as "Who from Whoville" to me. Not her finest.
... switches things up with a Medusa-esque sculpted headpiece and a black-purple-and-green bodysuit, which she calls "Power Ranger meets ninja" — once again proving her pop culture ignorance, because the Power Rangers are ninjas, like, duh.
... is serving some Princess Ariel discovered Hot Topic realness in a mermaid-tail black gown, complete with a fascinator and a shoulder-spanning blood-red wig. Maybe it's because she strikes me as a less-polished Bianca, but I say this look is exactly 100% fine.
... goes part-showgirl part-cutesy in a pink sequined leotard with a giant bow on the butt. Also, partway down the runway, she takes a moment to make fanning gestures at her crotch — possibly because the judges mistake the bow on her head for cat ears and start making "hot pussy" quips, or because there's something amiss with her tuck. The world may never know.
Oh, honey, now that is a look. Specifically, it appears to be a red plastic bodysuit with foot-long black spikes sprouting from the shoulders, head, back, boobs — as my Trusty Viewing Partner quipped, "It's like Reptar fucked Harley Quinn." I'd say "Pokémon After Hours," but sure. Meanwhile, Blair audibly gasps when Vivacious first appears, sputtering "That's one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life!" Ru counters, "But didn't you date Rick James?" Touché.
This week, however, before we get to the critiques, we have to see the thing the girls are mainly being critiqued for: their cut-together "Drag Race Me to Hell" scenes. Team Milk is first up, and the results are perfectly promising: Editing was kind to Trinity, and everyone else plays just as well as you remembered. Smiles all around.
Team Adore is another story: She may give stellar stank face, but everything else about her video is off. Perhaps the greatest offender, unfortunately, is Vivacious: Between her zoom-reveal as the "Head in a Box" and her delivery of her first line (AKA, a moment they really couldn't cut around), there is a pause. And not just any pause. A pindrop-silent, capital-I Interval of a pause. This pause goes on for days. Weeks, even. You could darn every last sock in hell in the eons between her blinks. You could go make a sandwich — nay, a three-course meal — and still not miss anything. By the time I finished typing all of this, the pause still had not ended. Oh, Vivacious. You are in trouble, girl.
Then, to ice this cringe-worthy cake, Adore stops to adjust her wig, thrice, while she's supposed to be in the midst of electrocution. In short, I don't think anyone's surprised when Team Milk shantays backstage victorious — except maybe Trinity, who offers a tearful thank you to Ru for her patience, while also using the term "virgin actor" again. (Kudos, meanwhile, to Darienne for snagging top honors — and with the lowliest role to boot!)
Finally able to let their critiques fly, the judges lay into April for being flat and stilted — as opposed to DeLa, whom they loved, and rightly so. Also, Michelle seems strangely impressed by Laganja, stupid accent and all, asserting that she "carried" April. Though Ru delivers perhaps the most cutting read of the night to Gia— implying that Ms. Gunn is too dumb even to play a ditz — she really lets Adore have it, in this week's edition of Life Lessons From Mama Ru: "My guess is, because you're charismatic, you've been able to sail by without having to put the work in. You owe it to your talent to do your homework." And, when Adore attempts to counter that she's a star: "Stars do the work." Puh-reach.
Of course, it's Vivacious who faces the brunt of the judges' wrath. Though Michelle and Ru profess to "get" her runway ensemble as former New Yorkers themselves, that pause was simply unforgivable. "You've got to let it out, even if you're just giving head," Blair quips — and, wait, how is she the first one to make that joke?! Meanwhile, Vivacious peels back her bodysuit from one ear and holds it there, the better to hear them, which I am praying — praying — is intentionally shady, but my guess is, as with her Ornacia zipper gaffe, this outfit is just beautifully impractical.
When it comes time to pick her lip syncers, though, Ru goes off script. Yes, she makes the now-redundant joke that there were "complaints about [Vivacious's] head" while entering her, predictably, into the bottom two. However, instead of picking pea-brained Gia, or, y'know, the team captain whom she read for several straight minutes regarding apathy and incompetence, she chooses April. Miscast, mediocre April. Stars may do the work, but Adore apparently doesn't have to — not tonight, anyway.
And thus, the lip sync commences. Everything about it is wrong — the participants, the silly pop song (Selena Gomez's "Shake It Up," which my Trusty Viewing Partner informs me was a themesong on the Disney Channel; would it have been so tough to get a little Rocky Horror? "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps"? "Monster Mash," even?) And yet, both queens somehow turn it, beat for beat, lyric for lyric, which makes the thought of choosing one even more unfair. Indeed, Ru appears to have a bit of mist in her eyes as she watches that pomo dragon creature sashay from her runway. Bye bye, Vivacious.
Now, I know what you're all thinking: What does this mean for Ornacia?! Well, never fear: My top girl revealed she's still in the running.
... And, speaking of which, to lighten the mood, here's a closing GIF of Courtney faux-deep-throating that nose as the credits roll, because this is America, and we put this on television. Amen.