RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 began with queens divided into two groups, only to merge those groups in week three like a vigorously shaken vinaigrette. But now, in week seven, the queens seem to have separated once more: oily tops against acidic bottoms.
The episode opened with Brita realizing, in the wake of her second lip-synch, that she is in the latter group, and she wiped Aiden Zhane’s goodbye message away with obviously false praise, clearly understanding that the writing is now on the wall and gunning for a magnanimity edit that will portray her as a face instead of the heel she is. In the confessionals, queens took turns rolling their eyes at Brita’s proclamations of love for Aiden, a relatively inexperienced competitor she singled out to blame for her own poor performances almost since the beginning. Some of the other queens complained that they are altogether a bit sick of false declarations of friendship, as they’d just come from an Untucked in which the contestants who have done consistently well, like Gigi and Jackie, dogpiled on those who have not, namely my precious unpolished diamond Heidi, who should be placed in a soundproof glass case and protected against all criticism from this day forward.
In the confessional, Heidi claimed that she was about to be an “umpire” and call out her bullies. What she actually did was endearingly try to tell Gigi to stop being such a goddamn sore winner and then look rightfully, and no less endearingly, hurt when Gigi continued to talk over her. The lemurian’s revenge is tarnishing Gigi’s golden girl edit with her dignified silence.
There was no mini-challenge this week, as the queens jumped right in to Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical. This time, the casting felt a little more correct than the messy Gay Anatomy free-for-all that saw most of the queens in roles that were a little too big or a bit too small. It’s always a delight to see Michelle descend from the judges’ table and mingle with the queens as a vocal coach. She obviously takes her silliness incredibly seriously, and the performances she was able to coach out of most of the queens, despite many of their limited singing abilities, were pure campy confection and a reminder of why we’re all still watching. Notable exceptions were Jackie, who has perhaps never seen Madonna’s VMA performance of “Like a Virgin,” and, as Widow suggested, did not understand that in the original interpretation the simile carries a lot of weight for the speaker, who has seen a presumable wilderness of dick. In rehearsals, Jackie performed her role like an actual virgin, awkward and a little bit painfully. Another exception was Brita, who once again, failed to understand her strengths and begged for the “Vogue” cone bra role she assumed would have the best chance of winning her a place in the top. But she completely miscalculated, and despite doing some funny things with her voice, ultimately took a too tentative approach to a Madonna incarnation most people associate with underwear that could potentially kill a man.
But all-in-all, the rusical was one of the most delightful things to happen all season, finally giving Jan a chance to show off all that talent she’s been telling us she has with an incredible vocal performance and Gigi looking stunning in a role that seemed designed to show off her talents, one of which is that her body, perfectly elongated in a black bustier and cigarette pants, looks like Jean-Paul Gautier’s sketchbook got “Take On Me’d” and started doing gymnastics for us. Edits minimized Sherry, but not enough to prevent me bitching about the fact that her contour looks like a beard, she gives the same look every challenge, and the judges don’t seem inclined to say boo about it.
I’m a sucker for Ru’s electrified poodle wig, and I got my druthers when Ru wore it on the runway paired with a latex corset and Madonna’s “Human Nature” whip to greet guest judges Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Winnie Harlow, who either got a silent edit to give Ocasio-Cortez more speaking time or was mostly decorative. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez played along gamely, for the most part, while very diplomatically also avoided giving any sort of criticism apart from “be yourself.”
The runway category was “Night of a Thousand Michelles,” a truly inspired one in which Jackie and Jan excelled. Jackie got Michelle’s Icon-era Hot Topic dominatrix look right down to the press-ons, and Jan did Michelle’s take on Britney Spear’s “Toxic” flight attendant suit absolutely correct.
Gigi won the night again, and even though I’m beginning to tire of her, the decision was just, even if Jan is the better singer. Gigi gave more Madonna in her performance, which seemed to be the judges’ main criteria for the challenge.
There were some excellent performances declared safe: Jaida’s spoken word “Lusitfy My Brand” chair dance was funny and sexy enough to rival Tatiana’s All-Star talent show number, and Widow’s send-up of early-2000s “dress like a pimp and talk like a Brit” Madonna was spot-on and laugh-out-loud good. Crystal wasn’t bad, but she certainly wasn’t top three material. I’m beginning to think Crystal’s out-of-drag El DeBarge resemblance and heartbreakingly beautiful smile has clouded Ru’s judgment, just as it has mine if we’re being completely honest
Jackie and Brita were deservedly in the bottom, joined by Heidi, whose Madonna performance elicited cheers from the judges’ table but was not Madonna enough to satiate them. After some pretty heavy-handed discussion, Heidi’s inclusion in the bottom two was so obviously a conscious production decision to keep Jackie in the game, send Brita home, and set us up to say goodbye to Heidi that it would be too obvious a narrative for scripted television. Anyway, dancing to something called “Burning Up”—apparently the only Madonna song Vh1 could afford the rights to—Heidi easily knocked Brita out of the competition. Brita left the workroom still trying for that sweetheart edit: saying that her goal was to keep spreading joy. And I definitely felt joy at her exit, so mission accomplished.
This week’s frontrunners are the word “apolo-lie,” Widow’s term for the fake-ass apologies mean queens have been kicking around this season and the fact that the judges sent Brita home in part because Michelle prefers a drop earring to a button.