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Monday, April 12, 2021


RuPaul’s Drag Race is usually good at making sure its finale features distinct performance styles, but this season’s final crop of queens feels particularly strong. If you passed through gay Twitter in the last week, you no doubt came across the meme featuring the final four as Charisma (Symone), Uniqueness (Gottmik), Nerve (Kandy) and Talent (RosΓ©). It’s a perfect little display of this season’s special final four.

And, look, I know a lot of folks’ minds are made up about Kandy, but, regardless of the popular vote, Ru clearly sees something in Miss Muse. (After all, this is not a dragocracy; it’s a Ru-tatorship.) Going into the season’s penultimate episode (reunions don’t count!), the Race is so tight, one wrong step, and any one of these queens could sashay away.

I hope you brought some extra press-ons, because this is gonna be a nailbiter. Who impressed the judges? Who made it to the finale? And what advice would you have for your younger self?

Let’s dig in!

By now the final challenge — some sort of highly-choreographed original verse for the latest Ru track — is pretty predictable. The song this time, “Lucky,” is no “Kitty Girl” or “Read U Wrote U” (and certainly no “UK Hun?”), but it’s upbeat, and it’s got an infectious little throwback vibe. Before the big premiere, the queens will go over choreo with Jamal Simms and have a sitdown Tic-Tac talk with Ru and Michelle. Standard penultimate episode stuff.

(As an aside: They frame what was formerly the “What’s the Tee?” podcast as “Inside Drag Race,” a nod to Inside the Actors Studio. It’s a missed opportunity that no one got asked their favorite curse word or what they would like to hear God say when they arrive at the pearly gates. Don’t you want to know what they would have said?)

Each queen gets a fair slice of the spotlight. Gottmik especially has a standout episode. Right from the get-go, Mik is having a ball. It’s such a refreshing change of pace to see someone in a reality competition series just having a ball. I don’t mean in a smug way when they’re winning, or in a delusional way when they think they should be winning (Utica!), but just real joy. It’s infectious. We’re often fed a narrative about someone’s growth over the course of a season, but Gottmik’s arc is the real deal. There’s some sincere wonder and excitement over these discoveries week to week that just feels good to witness.

Mik’s chat with Ru and Michelle benefits from these good vibes. The laughs abound, and it’s impossible not to be similarly charmed. Of course, gender and transition come up in convo, but the scene never dips into the overly sentimental or self-congratulatory. Again, it’s Gottmik’s honesty, candor and wit that tells this story so beautifully without editors and producers laying it on thick. Ru and Michelle are clearly enamored.

The other interviews feels far less revelatory. We learn a bit more about how Symone hooked up with the House of Avalon, moved out of Arkansas and learned to have confidence as Symone. Ru blows the frontrunning queen’s mind by reminding her she can tap into that confidence in AND out of drag. It clearly resonates.

Kandy spends much of her time exchanging reads on her disastrous Haute Pocket runway last week and chatting a bit about turning the things she was teased for into things she flaunts. Speaking of flaunting, Michelle peppers RosΓ© with questions that danced around the popular charge that she’s “weaponizing her B.F.A.” RosΓ© has all the right answers, but felt much more like the stilted, perfectionist RosΓ© we saw early in the competition.

Choreography appears to be evenly applied and plays on each gal’s strengths. Gottmik already is officially a Jamal Simms STAN, but there’s more to love when he intuits that Mik would do better thinking about lyrics rather than steps. RosΓ©, of course, instantly picks up the steps and is 5-6-7-8ing with ease. Kandy is fine, and Symone seems the least at ease, but really it’s by a small margin. The whole episode is determined to showcase these final four as equals.

The actual … performance? video? … is fun. Each queen gets a little sexy boudoir scene, and everyone’s lyrics are delivered strongly. Yes, RosΓ© is the most polished and precise, but I believe it’s Gottmik that’s the most compelling. She bops and bounces perfectly along, capturing the bubblegum spirit while filtering it through her specific artistic lens. It’s a fun song, and no one is having more fun than Mik.

The judges remain equally impressed with all the gals, and then out come the pictures of their younger selves. Ru makes a point of explaining that Gottmik OK’d using the young photo (since sometimes seeing old photos can be painful for trans people). Mik explains to the photo how feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin is a way to grow a thicker one. Kandy offers her younger self hope, while cautioning of dangers along the way. RosΓ© sounds … a little pageanty … but still manages to slip in a little joke and overall a very positive message. Symone gets the most emotional, offering more of that softer side. It really helps explain the motivation underpinning her excellence.

Tonight’s runway is, coincidentally, DRAG EXCELLENCE, so there’s a lot to digest. Gottmik is wearing a black and white polka dot dress with dots that go onto her face and wig. It’s a brilliant choice to include some flesh colored spots and open spaces in her makeup. It just adds another dimension that elevates the overall idea.

Kandy, whose looks have been the most lacking of our final four, finally struts down in a stunner. It’s a colorful corset and mesh number that feels stylish and still a little street. She may be Kandy Muse, but she’s always a little [Kandy] ho, too.

The judges enjoy RosΓ©’s tartan gown, but the shape is just all over for me. It adds a lot of bulk, and, coupled with some unforgiving makeup, it might be one of my least favorite RosΓ© runways.

And do I even need to tell you Symone was sickening, because obviously. With beautiful blonde cornrows and a purple gown with exaggerated sleeves, this was yet another jaw-dropping Symone moment (Symoment?)

After all that, somehow the judges still can’t make up their minds, so Ru asks all four ladies to lip sync, one at a time. Not that I wouldn’t want to hear Whitney Houston’s “I Learned From the Best (HQ2 Radio Mix)” four times, but instead we get a cross-cut of all four performances, and they seem good.

Then, to the surprise of absolutely no one: Ru declares all four are going to the finale. Gorge! So, one last time, where does that leave our ladies? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments.

1. Despite a few stumbles, Symone has maintained her perch atop this competition. Even when she whiffed a challenge — and she did whiff a few — she turned it out on the runway or rebounded with a strong showing the following week. Symone has all the makings of a star. I don’t just mean she’s gorgeous and funny — she is — but she’s also someone who works hard, she’s got a strong sense of self and a gift for expression. There is something undeniable about her presence and her work.

1. That’s right, it’s a tie! While I can’t deny Symone’s star power, I can also no longer deny Gottmik‘s top spot. On a season that sliced and diced and rearranged and brought back the cast so many times, why can’t we have two winners? We’ve done it before! Gottmik has had some of the best runway lewks we have ever, EVER seen and over-delivered in several challenges. There is something deep with Mik that really resonates with Ru, as well. I just can’t imagine any ending without Gottmik or Symone being crowned.

3. There’s not much to add to the RosΓ© discourse. As I mentioned, this episode felt like a step backward as the Scottish queen tried to delicately navigate a chat with Ru and nail the final choreo. RosΓ© is a fierce queen, no doubt, but just not of this moment like Symone and Gottmik, both so original and exciting.

4. I love Kandy. I don’t care what the haters say, sorry. Perhaps my New York is showing, and it has something to do with having at least a loose grasp on what it means to grow up gay and effeminate in the South Bronx. Or maybe I just love a loud, delusional bitch! This was her sharpest runway by far, and she looked gorgeous in the performance. Watching someone be confident is always more fun than watching someone holding back, and Kandy is all confidence. Ultimately, the judges’ persistent refrain about how to work her natural Kandyness into the challenge will be her undoing. And yet, I’ll still show up for some pure Kandy any day. Not everybody is a quadruple threat, and even when they are (RosΓ©) it takes more than talent alone.

How would you rank the queens?


1 comment:

  1. Huh. What a nothing burger of an episode. Disappointed. I wanted axes to fall. Thanks for the recap. You know your stuff, angel!