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Monday, February 22, 2021


The rusical episode can be polarizing for Drag Race fans. Drag is a big, beautiful umbrella attracting theater kids, punks, comedians, artists and more, but your personal musical mileage may vary. I’m typically full up on group performance challenges by this point, but this season’s rusical managed to land a few solid jokes and leave a significant impact on the competition.

Combining singing, dancing, comedy and character, there’s plenty to trip up the queens. Recording with Michelle Visage, complex choreo with Jamal Sims and a snappy social media script push the queens to their limits, while shaking up the standings. Would this finally be the week performers like Tina, Rosé and Denali take down frontrunner Symone? Let’s find out!

As Ru explains, since the gals are probably missing their Grindr phones, this season’s rusical is dedicated to social media. The queens need to assign roles inspired by different social platforms. We get a little taste of drama when Utica holds strong to her desire to play a fast-paced, Gilbert & Sullivan/Hamilton-inspired Twitter-based character. (She’s clearly still smarting from losing the mime role to Olivia last week.) Rosé and Denali are both angling for the same part. Rosé believes she needs it, because the signature song is similar to her hero, Barbra Streisand. (A homosexual idolizing Barbra Streisand? As Hathaway’s Prada co-star famously said: Groundbreaking.) This all leads to something that rarely happens on this show, but, honestly, always SHOULD: an audition.

I mean, it’s crazy it doesn’t always come to this. This time, Denali makes the mistake of 1. thinking she can outperform Rosé in a musical, and 2. letting Rosé go first. It’s really no contest (though a few girls vote for Denali to provoke Rosé), so Rosé takes the part.

An unexpected Ru-Alert rattles the girls, but it’s not a mini-challenge or even a returning queen. Instead, it’s a princess. That’s right, the Princess of Genovia herself, Anne Hathaway. Despite a reputation for not always coming across particularly likable, Hathaway is a delight here, and she offers some of the most actionable advice shared in the werk room. (RuPaul and her mushy inner-saboteur koans should take note.)

First, Gottmik tees up a great question about what to do when you don’t get the part you want (coughDenalicough). Hathaway inspires Denali to steal the show anyway. You can see the confidence surge in Denali, and it’s exactly what she needs to hear. As a follow-up, Denali asks about performing with an accent, since she was left with the role of a Russian bot, and Hathaway gives a lesson all actors should learn. You play a person, not an accent, so try to think of someone you know with that accent to draw inspiration from. Luckily, Denali’s years of experience as a figure skater has exposed her to a Russian woman or два.

Recording with Michelle is a mixed bag. Tina opens up an Ethel Merman belt, and Olivia shows off a few runs. (Olivia’s reputation as a sneaky assassin continues to grow.) Utica struggles with her rapid-fire lyrics, while Symone crumbles. It’s not just that she’s not a good singer. It’s all just so lifeless. She’s not feeling confident, and it shows.

Her troubles follow her to the choreo, another area of weakness for this season’s breakout star. Here again she appears to be Weekend at Bernie’s-ing herself through the motions. Gottmik, paired with Denali, has difficulty matching her partner’s energy. Synchronicity is key to their segment, so Gottmik needs to rise to Denali’s level.

Before hitting the stage, the dolls spill about their own social media escapades while getting in drag. Kandy dishes about her own brush with meme infamy and all the hate Aja received following her blowup with Valentina. Rosé puts Tina’s former relationship with Graham Norton on blast, and Tina explains the backlash she faced during the relationship. (Those flat-ironed papparazzi photos, honey! The early-aughts of it all, mama!)

The curtain rises on Social Media: The Unverified Rusical, and it’s a mixed bag. Tina Burner brought Merman to the recording booth, but she brings a whole different vibe to the stage. It never quite clicks. Utica manages to turn in a serviceable performance of her clearly more difficult material, which should be more impressive than it is. After a lousy vocal and wishy-washy choreo, Symone struggles to sell it. Gottmik and Denali use their time on stage to indeed steal the show, just as Fantine predicted. They are perfectly hammy, and they don’t drop the schtick for a second they are on stage.

Following a solid yellow-themed runway, their wacky duo nabs two of the three top spots for the week. Gottmik especially gets praised for transcending perceived limitations, which you know Ru just eats up. Eventual winner Rosé has a near-miss with Michelle for her runway — inspired by the Jim Carrey film, The Mask — because the jacket reads more orange than yellow. How funny would it have been for Rosé to finally make it this close to winning a challenge — the rusical, no less — only to lose it over a “warmer yellow” hue? That’s not how this goes down. Rosé deftly demures to the criticism and apologizes. This, my friends, is how you survive a Michelle critique. She rightfully snatches the win.

The bottoms are a little unexpected. While Symone’s struggles were clear, it’s a surprise to see Tina in the bottom. The judges like her taxi lewk (though I think Elliott’s was better), but they don’t feel like she lived up to expectations. Kandy, in one of her most stunning outfits, disappointed the judges in the performance, lacking focus and energy. Ru muses that Kandy needs to learn “where to put the zucchini,” which she uses to mean how to incorporate her uniqueness into a larger concept/challenge/character. (Can we get Hathaway in here to put it more plainly?)

The lip sync comes down to Symone and Kandy, and it’s a lot of fun. This one feels less like a competition and more like a duet. It’s a joy to watch. It’s unfathomable to consider a Symone sashay at this point, so of course Ru tells her shantay. The real gag occurs as Kandy makes her exit. Ru stops her, and then ruveals the double-shantay. Kandy stays!

I still don’t think Kandy has a shot of unseating a lot of these queens, but I can also understand the difficulty in sending her home on a week where the lip sync was solid, the runway was beautiful and the misses in the main challenge weren’t that egregious. I’m sure opinions will be split, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Kandy brings to Snatch Game.

No episode next week, but there is a documentary special about the filming of this COVID-compliant season that looks fascinating. We’ll be back with recaps the following week after Snatch Game.

But where does that leave the standings? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!

1.      I still think this is Symone‘s Race to lose, but her win feels much less like a lock after this week. The seemingly unshookable Symone was clearly shook this week, and that sort of stalling out is a bad sign for future, more intensive challenges. Still, the judges are gobsmacked by her runways week after week, and when she shines, no one is nearly as bright.

2.      Whoa, look out! Gottmik is surging. In fact, I would’ve given Gottmik the win this week over Rosé, especially considering the yellow latex ensemble. Already routinely best-in-show on the runway (neck-and-neck with Symone), this week’s stellar performance establishes Mik as a serious threat. Scoping out the Russian bot part was a masterful move. Gottmik knows where to put the zucchini, if you will. (Let’s hope that bodes well for Snatch.) I thought this interpretation of a crash test dummy was much more FASHION than Denali’s previous attempt.

3.      Olivia‘s diva tendencies continue to ruveal themselves. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it adds a little edge to the bubbly, beautiful queen. She’s got a ton of performance experience in that tiny purse of hers, and that face! She already has an effervescence on the runway, coupled with those chops we’ve got a real contender on our hands. She definitely fulfilled this week’s assignment, though her part was lacking some of the over-the-top humor of the others. Her yellow runway was another classic Olivia, glamour gown.

4.      Rosé finally delivered the sort of dominating performance she’s been teasing. Granted, this was her signature challenge, so maintaining this momentum is crucial. We already knew Rosé was a musical theater queen. This felt like Tom Brady winning a pop warner game. (Did I sports that right?) I guess of all the challenges to truly slay, the rusical lacks the punch of some other season regulars. I was disappointed with Rosé’s runway, but not for the same reason as Michelle. I love the concept, but the green face makeup didn’t live up to the promise. It needed to be bigger/bolder, or maybe bald or even some prosthesis to really sell the Mask-yness of it all. It was a cute idea, but far from a ‘wow’ moment.

5.      Tina got hammered for the way she stopped lip syncing during her death scene, but I think the more important factor is the one Michelle touched on earlier: She didn’t match the character in her singing. I was much more charmed watching her facial expressions recording than I was when she was supposed to be serving face in the lip sync. The fact this is her arena made the errors more glaring. On the runway, the taxi outfit was just OK, especially compared to Elliott’s.

6.      It was a very good week for Denali. She was unsung in the discomentary and Bossy Rossy, so this recognition feels a bit overdue. I appreciate what she brings to the runway each week, but, again, it always feel very obvious, like one iteration away from where it needs to be. There’s been a fire lit in Denali now, so I’m eager to see where she goes next.

7.      Utica‘s performance should have felt more triumphant. After getting a struggle edit in recording and choreo, the end result was good! Perhaps she was dinged for the runway, which was another Utica dress that gave me Ren Faire vibes.

8.      I’ve been hard on Elliott (and this ranking isn’t exactly changing that), but I thought she had a great week. She fully delivered the Billie Eilish TikTok character, from look to attitude to (computer-assisted) voice. No notes! I also thought this was one of Elliott’s best showings on the runway. Even though Tina was going for camp and Elliott was serving something more chic, I still think Elliott was more successful. Plus, her details (like the fare inside the lining) were more unexpected and clever than Tina’s headlights and license plate.

9.      I can see the conundrum in figuring out who should go home this week. Would I say Kandy was the worst part of the rusical? No. (Symone truly stunk up the place.) Was her runway lacking? Not at all. But, zooming out, hot glue gun to the head, who would I send home? It would have been Kandy. However, Kandy’s time didn’t feel done just yet, and I’m glad Mama Ru agreed.

How would you rank the queens?


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