This Queen's Maggie Smith Impression is to Die For

You guys, it finally happened: With our nails bitten down to nubs and breath all but dangerously bated, we were at last able to glimpse what is undoubtedly the most momentous episode of every Drag Race season — the institution that separates the ladymen from the ladyboys, the quick-thinking queens from the witless-in-waiting — yes, last night, it was time for The Snatch Game.

As with every season, this year's panel had its poor celeb choices (Gia's predictably flat Kim Kardashian), its earnest flops (Laganja's stilted Rachel Zoe), its "dammit, I wish you were funnier" disappointments (Milk! It's Julia Child, fer chrissakes! So. Many. Wasted. Dick jokes.), and its "huh, you actually turned it" surprises (Joslyn Fox's Pinot Grigio-requesting Teresa-from-RHNJ, anyone?). But the real story of last night was the head-to-head race between the game's three clear standouts: the ever-brash Bianca Del Rio as Judge Judy, Adore Delano as an appropriately slurry Anna Nicole Smith, and Bendelacreme as Maggie "Dowager Countess" Smith, complete with age-lines.

Yes, Dela did the Abbey more than proud with her rendition of its shadiest matriarch, playing up Smith's believable pop culture naïvéte right alongside her trademark puffed-up indignation: After identifying "Twitter" as "some kind of songbird," she defended her accent against Trinity's weak "is that even English" read with a perfectly pearl-clutching "Excuse me, but we originated the language!" Then, asked what Chelsea Handler might add to her next flavored vodka, Dela tittered, "A libation flavored with citrus — can you imagine such a thing?" and I just about died.

Though Ru was quick to declare this "the tightest Snatch... Game in history," it was pretty clear from the outset, at least to me, that Dame Maggie was gunning for the win on this one. Sure, Bianca's acerbic one-liners and Adore's above-the-head slow-clap were nothing shy of excellent, but Dela was ultimately the most in character — that is, a character who wasn't basically herself with a new wig and a nametag. There's something to be said for the commendable self-knowledge it takes to typecast yourself so well, but overall, this week's other guest judge Heather McDonald summed it up best, when noting that she was less impressed with Adore's impression after seeing her similar demeanor on the runway: "I think she's been acting like Anna Nicole her whole life."

Speaking of which, Adore had a thing or two to say about that — which I know, because this week, instead of frantically note-taking while curled up on my friend's Manhattan couch, I got my Drag Race fix alongside about 50 other devotees at The Shark Club in Costa Mesa, CA, an event emceed by Ms. Delano herself. Sporting a white polka-dotted chiffon number (yes, sans waist cinch), Adore took questions at commercial breaks and comedy-monologued to fill dead air — exactly as drawlingly sassy as you'd expect. (Example: More than once, we as an audience were called out as "boring.") But, to her own thoughts on her impression: "I know Anna Nicole Smith better than I know my own mother," she explained. "I feel like she went in my ear and had sex with my brain."

Other notable behind-the-scenes observations from Ms. Delano:

  • Though I've heard tell the queens are only allowed one cocktail for their hour-or-so in the Product Placement Lounge, apparently, it's a doozy — "4 or 5 shots," in Adore's estimation.
  • On that note, regarding this week's Untucked, it was nothing short of delightful to watch a spat play out between Laganja and Adore with the latter party sitting maybe 50 feet away. Adore's explanation for the tiff? "Laganja was drunk" (hello, 5-shot cocktails) — and apparently, feeling the weight of her negative critiques, was attempting to besmirch Adore's name in what might have been her final fleeting moments on the show, thereby securing her role as the perennial victim. (Not all too hard to believe, given the tearful production she's pulled out just about every week thus far.) Adore, however, was not having it, then or now: "I will clock you whether I'm on camera or not," she defended. "I'll be damned if I let a drunk drag queen make it seem like I was not raised right." She ended her take by expressing much love to Laganja, of course, kiss-kiss, but also warned that we would "see [Laganja's] character develop — let's just call it that..." as the season continues to unfold.
  • My personal favorite discovery: The contestants apparently perform their runway walk twice, once to the music, once only to the clack of their own heels and the judges' occasional call-outs — which, according to Adore, makes it especially hard not to crack up. "I'm backstage and I can hear them reading the other girls," she recalled. "You should hear what they said about Milk."

Oh, Milk. Indeed, aside from these insightful asides, one of the main joys of watching at a bar was (the alcohol, yes, but also) the group reactions — specifically, last night, the massive in-unison celebratory gasp that accompanied Milk's reveal of her runway outfit. For this week's "Night of a Thousand Ru's" theme, Milk forewent the predictable "big blonde coif, sparkly waist-cinched gown" approach and opted instead to channel the Tim-Gunn-style Ru who greets the queens in the workroom, complete with an ascot and horn-rims. Sure, it may have read a little more like that terrifying Six Flags dude than intended, but overall, I say her choice was beyond fabulous, once again calling out the potential for androgyny in drag that even Ru readily puts forth each episode. Of course, the judges gave it a read or two — the "We need to see you be vulnerable" tack so often forced on performative queens reared its ugly head — but thankfully, Milk lived to drag another day.

During the suspenseful pre-lip sync commercials, meanwhile, Adore offered her two cents: "I thought it was ballsy. I'm not the kind of queen who Xs out anyone's style — hell, I don't have any," she cracked, then addressed Gia's preposterous anti-Milk crusade in a line that had me snapping and "YAS"-ing all the way from the back of the bar: "You dress up as a fucking woman for a living, how hard is it to understand someone else's style?"

With that in mind especially, I can't say I was all too sad to see Ms. Gunn go: As Gia's eye wonked its last wonk come the end of the episode, the lost Kardashian tried to shoehorn in yet another comment about her narrow, fish-based "definition of drag" — but down in Costa Mesa, Adore drowned her out with a cheerful and cutting: "BYE, GIA!" Hands down, my favorite thing she said all night.

Image: LogoTV