Stress is in the air, honey. We’re down to four competitors who spend most of the episode focused less on the excitement of winning, and more on the difficulty of continuing to endure. Ru even congratulates them on making it this far, as if he had expected a fatality by this point. In contrast to the bravado displayed in former seasons, everyone shows signs of vulnerability and fear. Those of you in therapy hopefully saw the omens and changed the channel immediately: if not, I’ll assume you had access to mood stabilizers, because you surely needed them.
The queens can’t rely on pills, however. At least, not on camera. Instead, Ru introduces a mini-challenge that will build their spirits the natural way: exercise! A game of Horse, or in this case Fish, will get those endorphins pumping. Let’s shoot some hoops, bro! Team Shad serves up a gym class look, while Rujubee goes a little more editorial with their minimal, revealing outfits. Raven in particular turns heads by opting not to stuff her tube top. As implausible as it sounds, it is fashion, dahling. Sadly, Shad’s precision doesn’t extend to the court, and they accrue four points before their competitors miss a single basket. Rujubee earn themselves some contact with the outside world, a prize that reminds us how the All Stars are also prisoners.
After oh-so-subtly encouraging us all to see Starrbooty, Ru announces the main challenge: the two teams will become superhero/supervillain pairings, preparing not only distinct looks, but also superpowers, alter egos, and backstories. The assignment is inspired, not only for pushing the already over-the-top aesthetic of drag into the outlandish world of comic books, but also for injecting some much-needed DRAMA. Everyone’s been so friendly to each other, and Ru’s all, “You have to be enemies whether you like it or not, so there.”
Since both members of Team Shad are so… assertive, they have trouble immediately seeing eye to eye on a story. Chad ends up vetoing Shannel’s serious take in favor of a more humorous, if somewhat filthier, plotline. She defends her recommendation with the reminder of “an individual” from her season who failed to bring the funny and got sent home. I love the flaccid attempt at preserving anonymity, like we don’t all know who she’s talking about. (Perhaps her name is guarded by an ancient curse, preventing it from being spoken aloud without permission. That’s why Ru always had to ask, “May I call you Jiggly?”) Anyhow, Ru questions their use of words like **** and ***** and suggests that a more family-friendly version be created. Because of all the families watching, one assumes.
Team Rujubee’s effort to include all their ideas cooperatively leaves them with an overstuffed plot that Ru encourages them to streamline. Juju is worried about how much effort this will involve and once again laments the difficulty of working under such tight time constraints. Shannel has similar concerns. That’s when Mr. Charles twists the knife by adding a further complication: the queens will be choreographing a number together. The room explodes in squeals of joy. Everyone has been waiting for this.
No, they don’t. I was just checking whether you had already seen the episode (are you seriously relying on me for reliable information?)—everybody is horrified.
Both teams start rehearsal with one goal: finishing rehearsal. Sure, dancing is fun, but they’ve got costumes to build. Shannel’s plan for moving things along involves a whole bunch of talking, but her go-getter attitude wears thin quickly, and a season’s worth of dirty looks are thrown. Truth be told, no one seems to care whether this number even works or not. These chicas have the weight of the entire female-impersonating world on their shoulders. No wonder Absolut is a sponsor. After witnessing this much tension, I need a drink.
After some beauty sleep and a bit of workroom chatter, the challenge winners make their calls home. Jujubee goes first and has some light banter with her man friend, Chris. Since we already saw him pre-propose during Untucked last week, the moment is cute but a hair anticlimactic. Raven, who is either single or has a terrible boyfriend, calls her mom, who is the most supportive person in the world. Like, we’re talking human push-up bra.
Next up: makeover montage! I love seeing everyone get ready in the mirror because the in-between stages are always so grody and frightening. Good rule of thumb: the uglier someone looks during prep, the better she’ll look on the runway. So get good and busted, kids, because you’ve got some exquisite judges to impress: newcomer Wendi McLendon-Covey and returning champ Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, plus usual suspects Michelle Visage and Santino Rice. Ru does a spinning quick-change into a non-trademarked masked badass cat character (move over, Anne Hathaway), gives everyone a chance to slip in a quick one-liner, and then brings out the dancing ladies.
I’m sure the group performance seemed like a good idea at the time, but I could have done without it. First off, didn’t we just see them do this last week? Second, bringing everyone out at once immediately spoils their runway looks instead of allowing us to be surprised by each outfit individually. Poor planning, if you ask me.
As the runway march starts, Chad sets the bar high with a chic, billowy red number that, given her superpower of vaginal restoration, is surely meant to portray a woman’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Her transformation reveals a creation that I frankly think is overwrought: her superhero persona of Fire Crotch is exploding with accessories. Editing is her kryptonite, I guess.
Though we learn in Untucked that the judges questioned Shannel’s black, spiderwebbed gown, I think it perfectly embodied the look of an everyday supervillain. Bad guys in the comics always seem to dress like elderly lunatics, so her aesthetic matches well here. Unfortunately, she’s just as overdone as her partner after she transforms, delivering a preposterous S&M getup that I’m surprised didn’t get a harsher critique. I get that her lactation power demands boob emphasis of some sort, but there are so many other ways she could have (and should have) done it.
Jujubee tries her best with a red dress of her own, but after Chad’s stellar showing, she can’t help but come in second. Her “I look like I work at the mall” comment from the first day comes to mind. In hero form, she contributes a surprisingly streamlined take on the comic book theme: while the red wig and white jumpsuit fit the genre, they look like the trappings of a character doomed to perish in the first few pages so that the real star can take over. The only nod to her magical melanin-creating abilities (other than her natural skin tone) is her “ray gun,” which the panel mocks repeatedly. I mean, the woman is carrying around a hair dryer. There is a new announcement: you’re basic.
Raven appears last and completely steals the show. Unlike Shannel, she decides that a daytime supervillain can and will wear color. The bold print dress might not have much to do with evil, but it sure is fierce. Things get truly sickening, however, when she emerges as the evil SPF. Ghostly face, ghastly transparent mask, shock of platinum hair, fur shoulders, kinky corset, bangin’ booty, and head-to-toe black: this presentation is exactly what I want out of a bad guy. Per. Feck. Shun.
At first, it seems as though the judges agree with me: they have balanced feedback for both teams’ attire, but roundly congratulate Rujubee for a superior, more cohesive narrative joining their characters. There are disagreements as to who did what better, but the outcome seems clear. It just goes to show you: don’t trust a drag queen. When deliberation is over, Ru gives Shad the win and sentences Jujubee and Raven to some friend-on-friend violence: they must lip sync against each other.
The emotion that has been building for the past hour is released full-force: before Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” has even begun playing, both contestants are weeping freely. Rather than perform, they just let it all out. It’s honestly hard to watch; the idea of sending the other home is so painful to them that neither can bring themselves to do it. Juju struggles so much with the process that she has trouble breathing and standing afterward. If you didn’t cry watching this, then you have a really ugly brooch where your heart should be.
RuPaul the Great and Powerful is not unmoved. She wouldn’t be caught dead in an ugly brooch. Whether out of compassion or because she had it planned all along (remember what I said about not trusting a drag queen?), she opts to keep both contestants: no one will sashay away. While that kind of means that nothing happened this episode, it also means that we have a hell of a competition on our hands for next week. Make sure you tune in for the finale, because the race is tight and it is absolutely anyone’s game.
- Following the example set by Manila’s shoe, Yara leaves behind some neon sleeve thingamawhosits. They have an intern in charge of shipping that crap back to people, right?
- I love that Shannel’s losing basket got slo-mo and inspirational music. That is some SHADE.
- It’s tough to take Chad’s “butch queen” read too seriously when she delivers it in that deep a voice.
- Raven once again served up some tastefully blurred physique. Please tell me DVD’s gonna have butts.
- The ever-murderous Ms. Michaels took yet another discussion of elimination to the next level, this time assuring the other three queens that she had “a bullet for each of you.” I hope the studio where this was filmed had metal detectors.
- I’m surprised that Raven’s mom has a webcam, but Jujubee’s boyfriend doesn’t. He couldn’t run to Best Buy before they taped this?
- Santino wears more foundation than Michelle Visage.
- Ru ended the episode by asking you to vote for your favorite queen on Facebook and Twitter. You’d better do it. I can’t remember the last time we had an election this important.