Since season 7, when there were so many acting challenges the queens themselves started complaining, it seems RuPaul’s Drag Race likes to disguise some of the performance tasks as something else. This week, the season 10 queens are charged with writing and executing ads for fake dating apps, which does add a bit more texture than just reading pre-written lines. But what’s the final result? Queens standing in front of the Drag Race green screen, acting. It’s an acting challenge by any other name.
That’s not a bad thing more a wish that Drag Race would stop hiding its love of the theatrical arts and wear it on its sleeve. RuPaul clearly wants her queens to be able to act on some level, and it’s a fair ask. More than any other challenge, I’d say acting tasks weed out those who are totally incapable of winning the crown.
Sadly for her, that means Yuhua Hamasaki never stood a chance. She’s a fun and quirky queen when she’s just being herself, but the New York seamstress can’t translate that to her performance in her group’s ad for the ugly-queen, hot-body app Madam Buttrface. Her line deliveries are flat, and her inability to make over her face in a convincingly ugly way really irritates both judges and her team members.
The biggest issue, though, is Yuhua’s tendency to talk back to the judges. Her banter is always aggressive and excuse-heavy, and it clearly drives Michelle Visage in particular mad. Though no one wants to go out third on Drag Race, it’s probably for the best that Yuhua gets out now. There was nowhere for her edit to go but down.
A lot of the queens struggle on this challenge, from Kameron Michaels’ character-free narrator of the lie-friendly Fibstr app to Mayhem Miller’s baffling Madam Buttrface dominatrix. (It makes no more sense in context, I promise you.) The clear winning group is the one hawking End of Days, an app for doomsday preppers. Blair St. Clair is the leader, and her theatrical background clearly benefits her. She and her team pick a religious theme that’s just broad enough to work. Eureka steals the show in this group, but everyone does well, even The Vixen in a small role.
Speaking of The Vixen: The drama from last week resurfaces, as Aquaria makes a snide comment about The Vixen using Monique Heart’s hair for her Best Drag look. The comment would be more valid if either the hair was the purpose of The Vixen’s fire-inspired outfit, which it clearly wasn’t, or everyone else’s Best Drag had been good. (It was not.) As a result, the nitpick just serves to anger The Vixen, and she claps back hard. At one point, Aquaria calls her negative, which earns a “What did you just call me?” in response. Aquaria practically breaks her neck emphasizing that she said “negative.”
The thing is, The Vixen knows what Aquaria called her. She knows how this game is played. She’s incredibly savvy when it comes to racial optics, and is successfully baiting Aquaria again and again. Haters will call The Vixen thirsty for air time, but all I see is a queen who knows how to make herself the story. She warned everyone that she was just here to fight, after all.
If you’ll permit a bit of meta conversation for a minute: For seasons now, the RuPaul’s Drag Race fan community on Reddit has successfully sussed out much of the elimination order ahead of the season through tracking looks revealed in trailers and promos. During All Stars 2, however, this went to a whole new level, when winner Alaska’s ex leaked most of the season’s cast and progress in a now-deleted Instagram post months before the season aired. Thanks to an infamous Redditor named naivesmalls (who became so renowned, no less than Bebe Zahara Benet made jokes about them), the elimination orders for both season 9 and All Stars 3 hit Reddit as well.
This season, there are multiple Redditors claiming to know much of the elimination order, as documented on the show’s new spoilers subreddit. But among the many theories for this week’s episode, there was one constant: Dusty Ray Bottoms goes home. You’ll notice I didn’t even mention Dusty in my recap; save an emotional moment with Blair about their conservative, God-fearing families, she’s barely in the episode. She’s solid in the challenge, and gets called safe. Dusty not only doesn’t go home, she’s not even close to going home.
I like spoilers, to be honest; I think the process of getting somewhere is more interesting than the result, and I think a shock twist protected by spoiler warnings can sometimes cheaply cover a movie or TV show’s otherwise-deficient quality. But the spoiler culture around Drag Race is almost insufferable (lawsuit-worthy, even), with countless Redditors claiming to know the tea when they know nothing at all.
When the spoilers were organic leaks, or just fans doing detective work to suss out who’s safe for how long thanks to what they wore in a trailer, it was fun. Now, the whole thing feels desperate, with fake leakers writing fanfic to earn their 15 seconds of fame on the subreddit. I’m hopeful this week’s bad leaks help stem the tide. Drag Race can be fun spoiled, but only when the tea-spillers actually know what they’re talking about.
Some final thoughts:
- Mathew Rodriguez is out sick this week, but will be back as your recapper next week. Thanks to him for letting me jump back on the Drag Race wagon to fill in. I know things sounded pretty dismal at the end of All Stars 3, but this season has been a breath of fresh air.
- Not counting the All Stars seasons, Mayhem’s is the quickest journey from winning the season’s first episode to lip syncing for her life. She just edges out her drag sister, Morgan McMichaels, who had to lip sync in the fourth episode after winning the first. Perhaps not coincidentally, season 10 is reminding me a lot of season 2: drama-heavy, strong personalities across the cast, and early wins not necessarily indicating longevity.
- Another statistical tidbit: There have been a few seasons where queens of color won the first three challenges (seasons 1, 3, and 8), but season 10 is the first where black queens won the first three challenges.
- Mini-challenges are best when they make no sense and ask a lot of the queens, which means the auditions for a RuPaul’s Chocolate Bar ad are a perfect mini-challenge. (Miz Cracker correctly calls it Twin Peaks-esque.) Monét X Change and Blair St. Clair both do well enough to earn wins, but Monique Heart steals the show as a busty broad doing a truly terrible British accent. Currently considering changing my text tone to Monique saying “vivacious” in said accent.
- The lip syncs, on the whole, are better when the queens are performing one of the guest judges’ songs. “Celebrity Skin” is a banger, and though Yuhua got a bit repetitive with her air guitar playing, she kept her energy up. And watching Mayhem literally tear herself apart by ripping the feathers off her dress was a gag. Occasionally, this doesn’t bear out (remember when Pearl and Miss Fame made a mess of judge Demi Lovato’s “Really Don’t Care”?), but generally, the queens seem to want to impress the guest judge on their own song.
- So far, Aquaria really hasn’t been worth all the drama. She’s incredibly popular online, but on the show, her drag is merely good, while her challenge performance is decent at best. The editors are investing a lot in her, with both a feud with The Vixen and a rivalry with Miz Cracker. I hope she starts stepping it up in the game to justify the attention.
- RuPaul was clearly sick this week, her voice suspiciously low (and even dubbed-over during certain segments) but it oddly goes unmentioned. Don’t worry, Ru! We know even glamazons get colds sometimes.
- Untucked hasn’t aired by the time this recap goes live, but I highly recommend watching if you haven’t. The episode zeroes in on race and the way black and white queens are represented on the show incredibly effectively.
RuPaul’s Drag Race returns next Thursday, April 12, at 8 p.m. Eastern on VH1.