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Monday, January 18, 2021


After last week’s delightful return to the runway on RuPaul’s Drag Race, some firm favorites have already taken hold. With one loss already under each of their dance belts, the Pork Chop queens come into this week’s featured episode with a lot to prove.

Thankfully, these seconds were anything but sloppy.

Mirroring last week’s runway show and group performance, the losing batch of queens gave us gorgeous gowns, an iconic guest judge, a lethal lip sync and just a dabble of drama.

As dizzying as the start of this season has been, the format is ultimately very satisfying. Much like the split openings for season six, everyone’s extended stay means more time to get to know these killer queens.

Unfortunately, it’s still not enough time for Kahmora to get in face. The episode starts with a nail-biter as the ladies haul pads to turn out a Ladykins and VAMP look on the runway for the fashion show. It’s the usual scramble for a maxi-sized mini-challenge like this (not quite quick drag, but not leisurely either), but it’s just not enough time for Kahmora.

The glamorous Chicago queen tells the gals she takes a legendary amount of time to get ready for a gig. So, beating that mug in 60 minutes or less feels impossible. She is still frantically finalizing her look as producers call to her over the PA system. We’ve seen lots of queens struggle to hustle, but few have cut it as close as Kahmora here.

The dual runways are another fun romp, with judges Ru, Michelle and Ross serving some of their sharpest little jokes as the gals shantay down the runway. The lewks are universally strong, with nary a full misstep among them. Notably, Tamisha Iman looks like a million dollars, RosΓ© looks like she spent a million dollars and Joey Jay is betting it all the judges buy her no-wig presentations. (We’ll delve into the other outfits in the rankings below.)

That’s just the beginning. Like last week’s group, the Pork Chopped will now need to write lyrics and choreograph a group performance of Ru’s track “Phenomena.” Seasoned performers like RosΓ©, Denali, Tamisha and Joey leap into action, while Kahmora and Utica fret over dancing and lyrics, respectively.

There’s good reason to be nervous. Not only is Kahmora dealing with having two left feet, she’s got three choreographers. Figure-skating Denali, girl-group performer RosΓ© and ballroom-coaching Joey Jay all lay claim to being lead choreographer, but their constantly competing ideas and desperate grasps at leadership leave everyone disoriented. Tamisha cuts through the cacophony to help wrangle the queens into a routine that allows them all to shine.

Mama Iman has a starring role throughout the episode. Not only does she steal the show with her garments (we’re getting there), but she’s the absolute star of the confessionals and a steady voice of reason in the workroom. In addition to her meme-able reacts and motherly wisdom, we learn she’s got three biological kids and is the mother of the legendary Tandi Iman Dupree, she of the legendary ceiling split. Tamisha was so gosh darn lovable this whole episode. Please keep her for many more weeks!

The other notable workroom focus is Kahmora. Despite the panic to beat the clock while beating her face, she’s got the time to divulge a bit more about her relationship. Her boyfriend doesn’t support her drag career, so she keeps it completely separate from her relationship. It can’t be easy to compartmentalize such a big part of your life, and clearly this adds pressure on Kahmora to prove the validity of her career in the competition.

On the mainstage, the group number is fun, but that’s mostly thanks to the all-out performances of RosΓ©, Joey and Denali. The song feels like Ru’s most phoned-in track lyrically and musically, but the gals overall make it work. After the performance, the category is “We’re here, we’re SHEER, get used to it.”

The judges have lavish praise for Denali and RosΓ© (though Ross carefully tiptoes around calling her runway look “crafty”). Joey was undeniable during the performance, but Michelle wants to know what’s the deal with no wig? Joey explains how wigs just don’t feel right, because this is an extension of Joey, not an alter-ego. Ross loves it, but thinks it was overdone this week. The panel is still on board with Utica’s weirdness for now, but that could seriously change any moment.

(And a quick aside: Where is my HBO limited series about Utica and the Seventh Day Adventists?)

Both Tamisha and Kahmora are saved by jawdropping fashions, but the judges warn Kahmora she’s in danger of being little more than a wire hanger on which outstanding fashions sit. (Guest judge Nicole Byer also roasts Kahmora so thoroughly, claiming she looks like Nicole going grocery shopping without a list, the association is unshakable.)

No worries though, because ain’t no one going home tonight. Instead, Ru declares Denali and RosΓ© this week’s (rightful) winners, pitting them against one another for a lip sync to Britney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy.” Both girls are strong, but Denali is just unstoppable. She’s giving choreo so crisp, so complex, it’s like an official music video. RosΓ© meanwhile does what I call “literal dancing” (as opposed to interpretative dance) wherein she just literally acts out the lyrics of the song? It’s supposed to be clownish/comedic, but there’s no … joke? It’s entertaining enough, but weirdly lacking the sort of intention you’d expect for such a carefully considered queen.

Denali can’t be beat and is named this week’s winner.

But that’s the end of the good news. Starting next week: Heads will roll!

AND our rankings will combine. But, for now, here’s how I see the Pork Chop gals shaking out. Disagree? Leave you rankings in the comments.

1.      It was great to see what Denali could do sans skates. Her Lady look was over-the-top, but still gorgeous, and her VAMP was just the right kind of creepy. She had some of the most clever and complex lyrics, and her dance moves are untouchable. My one gripe is that she seems to only serve one attitude/face: fierce. Is there a campier queen in there? A softer side? Her talent is unquestionable, but I want to see some dimensions.

2.      RosΓ© is a professional, that much is clear. Every outfit is perfect, the performances are full throttle and her talent is unquestionable. The intensity still feels like a bit much, and those Jan vibes are tougher to overcome. RosΓ© is a power player, but let’s hope we see more of her better angles keeping her likable.

3.      Speaking of likable, it may be a stretch to rank Tamisha this high, but, damn, I love her so much. Talk about genuine. There’s a quiet confidence that comes with being that authentic. It’s a sort of next-level awareness that only comes with experience. I love the way she talks about her drag family; I love how she acts like a mother figure here without really trying or feeling like it’s for show; I love how she truly loves what she does. Her two runway looks were both total knockouts, but on the mainstage she was sheer perfection. She even rendered Nicole Byer speechless! I don’t disagree with Ru; that was the most beautiful gown ever on the stage. Gagged. Fingers crossed she can channel that energy into her performances going forward.

4.      Joey Jay is making a bold choice going wigless. The thing is, I really buy her justification. From the wig situation to the name, Joey Jay’s approach to drag is a bit different, but it’s consistent. It feels like an artistic choice. I would’ve been much less inclined to back her if the reasoning was merely something like, “Because it makes me look sickening!” That said, I also concur with Ross. On an episode featuring four outfits, going wigless for all was overkill.

5.      I have no clue what to make of Utica! I’m sorry! She looks a bit like Lily Rabe in the face, and I get the kookiness. The manic energy is a little overwhelming at times, and her jerky movements feel a bit like that Liza Minnelli turns off a lamp SNL sketch. I positively hated her sheer runway. It looked like a bad Ren Faire costume, I’m sorry. I thought she did a better job of channeling her weirdness during the fashion show, which leads me to wonder if she’ll be hit or miss.

6.      I badly want to see Kahmora succeed, but this just wasn’t the week, girl. The judges nailed how she wears beautiful clothes, but if she can’t dance AND can’t dress quickly, it’s going to be a long, bumpy road. All her outfits were incredible, but she’ll certainly be remembered most as the girl that went to the grocery store without a list.

How would you rank the queens?


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