Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 6, Episode 5: Snatch Game!

Or: Shut up, Laganja Estranja

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 4:00 AM

This episode, and its companion “Untucked,” were so stuffed with great moments that there wasn’t even time for a mini-challenge. RuPaul skipped the foreplay and got straight to the kaikai -- Snatch Game, the challenge that separates the true queens from the pretenders to the throne.

While the Snatch Game itself proved one of the better editions in series history, the episode as a whole majorly changed my opinions on several of the contestants. Some rose in my estimation (Adore, Joslyn), some dropped (MILK), and some I am completely, totally over (LAGANJA).

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The best way to handle this is to go queen by queen, starting from the top and going to the bottom.

BenDeLaCreme was the surprise winner of the challenge, although at this point, Ben winning really shouldn’t be a shock. He’s done so well so far, but Ben admitted to being nervous about Snatch Game, and RuPaul was openly dismissive of Ben’s plan to portray Maggie Smith. But Ben absolutely killed it. Funny, witty, great retorts, totally in character, and looked amazing on the RuPaul-themed runway. Ben is a huge threat, and VERY likable. But I continue to be so nervous for him. I realize it’s the same fear I had for Jinkx, Sharon, and Raja in their seasons -- these are all special queens who are so good at what they do. But what about that one week where they’re asked to do something at which they DON’T excel? Ben claimed that impersonations are not his thing, and that Snatch Game worried him. False modesty? Deliberately lowering expectations? I don’t know. I just know that I adore everything about Ben (the fact that he’s a fellow member of the Former Fatty Club only endears him to me more), and I want desperately for him to be there until the end. But y’all are making me SWEAT IT.

Bianca Del Rio was largely assumed to be the winner of this challenge based on her character choice of Judge Judy -- brilliant, and brilliantly executed -- and because Bianca is just generally awesome. And Bianca lived up to the hype in the Snatch Game, more or less running the proceedings with her gavel (and her putdowns). Where Bianca likely lost the win was the runway, where her RuPaul ensemble looked an awful lot like just another Bianca gown. Now, let’s be real: any Bianca look is still better than the majority of the looks that come down that runway. But she’s not giving us a ton of variation on that front, and this is the part where the judges are going to start asking to see more aspects of her drag. And I believe that’s something Bianca can give us, if she chooses to do so.

Adore Delano stunned me this week. Here is a case of a queen picking the absolute perfect Snatch Game character -- Anna Nicole Smith -- and nailing it to the wall. Adore’s take on Anna Nicole was totally over the top, but deliberately so, and blisteringly funny. I never thought of Adore as a great comedian before, but she has comic chops, and that charisma we keep hearing about was in full effect tonight. She also stepped it up on the runway, thanks in part to Bianca helping her with a cincher. (She still has a long way to go on her presentation skills, however.) I also was very pleased to see Adore separate herself from the Kiddie Pool (Laganja and Gia) on “Untucked,” specifically calling out Laganja’s almost pathological victim shtick (more on that in a second). Very pleased with her this week.

Darienne Lake probably just missed out on being in the top, which is an indication of the strength of this Snatch Game. Darienne was great as Paula Deen, getting in some sharp one-liners delivered with a melted-butter Southern accent. She also looked great on the runway, evoking RuPaul’s Eartha Kitt homage.

Courtney Act was safe, and from what we saw of her Fran Drescher impersonation, she did well in Snatch Game. She looked incredible on the runway. I wondered -- did she borrow the “wings” from Darienne? We saw Darienne use something that looked just like them in Episode 3…

Joslyn Fox portrayed “Real Houswife” Teresa Giudice, and this was the episode where I finally made up my mind on Joslyn. The ditzy thing is an act. She is playing this game very shrewdly, mostly flying under the radar but still doing well enough in the challenges to get positive notices, while simultaneously endearing herself to the other queens and the viewers at home. At this point she has to be the lead candidate for Miss Congeniality. But she’s more than just pretty and sweet. Joslyn had some very funny lines as Teresa, who is not a character I think of as naturally funny. That took work, yet Joslyn made it seem easy. I had totally dismissed her early on, but she’s definitely got potential. She needs to up her wardrobe, but I want to see more of her, for sure.

Trinity K. Bonet is another one that inspires conflicting thoughts -- and that’s just based on this episode alone. Her Nicki Minaj focused way too much on the wigs and seemed like an endless line of missed opportunities (based on what we saw, at least). Her runway gown -- which she apparently made herself -- was stunning, and I suspect helped save her from Bottom 3. Her defeatist attitude in “Untucked” was exhausting, but when she explained her frustration over feeling mocked for her speech impediment by Santino (something RuPaul denies), I felt for her. And then when she disclosed her HIV-positive status, and got the video from her mother, you couldn’t help but root for her. The problem is, Trinity is not rooting for Trinity. Not fully. I don’t get the feeling that Trinity believes she can really do this. She said this very episode that she’s not the best. There is obvious talent there, and there are moments when I really relate to this young queen. And then there are moments when I find her frustrating. But the bottom line is, like Joslyn, Trinity is so much more interesting than I expected. I am hopeful that her “moments” in “Untucked” this episode light a fire in her. Preferably one fed by those tragic Nicki Minaj wigs.

MILK is tragic for entirely different reasons. I had no idea who MILK was until the Season 6 cast announcement. Then I instantly loved him. I’ve loved all of the clips I’ve seen online of MILK (the “He went to Jared!” one cracks me up). My expectations were super high, and they were met in that first episode. Since then it has been a slow slide to -- I’m going to say it -- mediocrity. MILK is obviously a smart, interesting queen. I just wish that the performance level matched up with the sharp visual aesthetic. MILK’s Julia Child was a whiff. The same could be said of his performance in the horror challenge, and the Grizabella character last week wasn’t great, either. The Work Room Ru look -- essentially MILK in boy drag, or as one member of my viewing party remarked, “Hey, why is that creepy guy from the old Six Flags commercials on ‘Drag Race’?” -- was intended to shock. And it did, I’ll admit. (I was somewhat surprised that MILK didn’t just come out in blackface.) But it can’t just be shock. There’s got to be something there for us to latch on to, to root for, and MILK isn’t providing that. And for what it’s worth, I agree with Santino Rice (*ducks in fear of lightning bolts*). If MILK really wants to surprise us at this point, she’d give us serious glamour, just to show us she can. When MILK complained that doing that wouldn’t be true to her, RuPaul brought up the dreaded vulnerability criticism. The clock is ticking, MILK. I will avoid a terrible spoiled-dairy pun out of respect for you.

Gia Gunn was initially planning to portray Latina pop star Selena, which is a truly baffling choice. (Adore had it exactly right: “What are you going to do with that? ‘I eat pizza and I got shot by Yolanda?’”) After RuPaul basically told Gia to change it, Gia switched to Kim Kardashian. Kim has the potential to be parodied successfully, and Gia has the ability to do it (see her whining, soul-dead intoning of “ABSOLUTELY!” as proof). But, she flopped in the Snatch Game, and came out on the runway looking a mess. Santino was right again (more lightning bolts!) when he called it a castoff from a cheap Halloween store, with a busted wig and a wonky eyelash. It was a 1-2 punch that sent Gia to the Bottom 2, and had her lipsynching for her life to “Head to Toe” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (YES!). After an awkward, clumsy on-stage costume change, Gia was put out of our miseries. But not before she threw a few last insults at the remaining contestants for being dudes in lipstick. Bold words from Our Lady of the Cockeyed Eyelash. Bye, girl. Bye.

Laganja Estranja, however, is now officially the worst. She won the lipsynch, but she is still the worst. What an exhausting, infuriating character she has become. I will concede that what we are seeing of Laganja is a highly edited version, a version of her curated by the editors. But unless there’s footage on the cutting-room floor of her, like, rescuing orphaned puppies from burning buildings or curing cancer while simultaneously transforming water into vodka, I can’t imagine much that would change my opinion of her based on what we’ve been shown.

Here begins the rant that is going to piss off most readers under 30, and offend several of my friends: Laganja embodies everything that drives me nuts about Millennials. And, yes, this is a generalization -- but one I’ve found to be more true than not. She is obnoxious, hyper, sullen, entitled, needy, and incapable of dealing with any criticism whatsoever. Bianca referred to Langaja as an attention whore, but I think that’s wrong. All drag queens are attention whores, almost by definition. But people like Laganja are attention vampires. They need to be focused on constantly, and when the spotlight isn’t on them, they’ll seek it out and take it. They must be the center of attention -- but only positive attention. Because they cannot be told that they are wrong, or that they need to improve. Because they are already awesome. Did you know that they are awesome? Listen: they are awesome. And if you can’t see that, well, that’s really offensive and hurtful to them. And if they can’t get their way, they pack up their toys and go home.

Which is precisely what Laganja tried to do in her first Bottom 2 appearance for her bizarre robot take on Rachel Zoe. I actually felt bad for Gia -- I FELT BAD FOR GIA, that’s how infuriating this situation was -- when Gia spent her moments pre-LSFYL having to reassure Laganja and talk her into performing, because Laganja was threatening to give up. What exactly did Laganja expect to happen when she went on this show? That she would sail to the win without ever having to be criticized? Without ever appearing in the Bottom 2? Ridiculous. Delusional. Laganja has been quite quick with an insult on this show, but even quicker with the water works if anyone makes her feel like anything other than the special snowflake she perceives herself to be. Typical. And typically exhausting.

“I want the world to hold my hand, and I’m sorry for that,” Laganja said on “Untucked.” First, no you’re not sorry. You are clearly not sorry for feeling that way at all. Second, some people have real problems in this world, and watching your little dramas is OFFENSIVE to them. Grow. Up. This is not cute, and it’s not excusable.

My assumption was that once Gia was eliminated -- because Gia was obviously getting the Early Bitch edit, and there was no way she would ever get close to the final -- Bianca would emerge as the true terror of the season. But Bianca is firmly being shown as our Mother Hen. A brusque, blunt Mother Hen, but still, behind her barbs is a lot of heart. And I assumed we’d be getting a Laganja redemption edit in the second half of the season. Now, I think we need to saddle up for Laganja as L’Enfant Terrible. We’ll get a mix of meltdowns, breakdowns, and tantrums as she rejects any and all criticism thrown her way, by the judges or the other queens. And it’s a shame, because Laganja DOES have talent -- she’s an amazing dancer (we saw that in the lipsynch), has a great visual style, and I suspect she’s going to murder next week’s rap challenge. But who can root for her with this juvenile bullshit? To quote stand-up comic John Mulaney, “You could have stayed a guy if you wanted to be an asshole.”

Next: Rapping! Ru-Tang Clan! If there’s not a lipsynch to “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)” by Khia I will be SORELY disappointed.

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