What do you get when you take Ruth Bader Ginsberg, put her in a Chicago jail for 10-15 to take the fall for her husband’s crimes, and then fly her off to Xanadu?
You get RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 8, Episode 3. Children, this week’s RPDR was a goddamn TREAT.
On the heels of last week’s double-elimination, tensions were high as the queens reentered the workroom and speculated about who could be invited back to the show.
While many viewers were prepared for Shangela (like she do), and I had my hopes on BenDeLaCreme, it turns out the more obvious choice won out, and Season 8’s resident pageant queen Miss Naysha Lopez returned to the competition. She was gone for literally one episode, but as a widely-renowned queen and a seemingly sweet ‘mo, I’m glad to see her back! (Let’s just hope there’s not another sewing challenge, amirite?)
Category Is: Supreme Court Realness
In homage to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling supporting marriage equality nationwide—can you tell this was filmed last year?—Ru tasked the queens with turning drab judicial robes into courtroom couture.
Some of the looks were expertly crafted, like Chi Chi Devayne’s gold-lined cocktail dress, while others, like Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s Judge-Judy-at-Hogwarts number, were more on the “Scalia” side of things, if you catch my drift.
But there was no question that Naomi was the clear winner with a high-rise frock constructed for the gods. As such, Naomi was named the winner of the challenge! That meant she was assigned a team captain role, opposite Naysha, whose welcome-back gift was a spotlight in a position of authority. Too bad Mitch McConnell would still refuse to let Obama nominate her for the vacant SCOTUS Justice position. (Merrick Garland, shante, you stay. Mitch, sashay the fuck out of the U.S. Senate.)
Team captains didn’t mean much for this week, however, since the queens would be heavily directed and set against each other in the season’s first acting challenge.
Main Challenge: RuCo’s Empire
The queens were told that their acting challenge would be a sassed-up spoof of Lee Daniels’ Empire, complete with an ode to Taraji P. Henson’s infamous Cookie Lyons character. Cut to me squealing with glee.
Naomi was definitely a wiser captain when it came to team selection. Robbie, Bob, Chi Chi, and Cynthia joined her team, while Naysha picked Betty, Thorgy, Derrick, and Kim. Says Chi Chi: “I think the other team should be worried. Because they have a lot of people on their team who are… Not. Black.”
Additionally, Naomi’s team boasted Robbie, a trained actor who helped the other girls rehearse for the scene and gave them performance tips. Combined with Bob’s brilliant improv ability, Cynthia’s penchant for overacting, and Chi Chi’s actual experience on the streets (remember how she smelled brains? Check out last week’s Ru-minations if you forgot), Team Naomi was always going to excel.
But when Team Naysha took the studio stage to record the scene, Thorgy flourished in the Henson-esque role as “Chocolate Chip Cookie.” Kim flailed a little with her lines as “Vanilla Wafer,” the high-yellow harlot who stole Cookie’s husband while she was in jail, but directors Ru and R&B singer Faith Evans gave her some coaching that helped her turn the performance into something usable.
Team Naomi went next, playing Part 2 of the scene with the same spinoff characters. Bob stepped into Thorgy’s heels as “Chocolate Chip Cookie” while Naomi took the reins from Kim as “Vanilla Wafer.” Derrick fell flat as “Ginger Snap,” the character paralleling Jussie Smollett’s groundbreaking, thirst-inducing “Jamal” from the actual Empire. But with expectations set so high for Robbie the actress, her “Macaroon” character (channeling Trai Byers’ bipolar character “Andre”) didn’t outshine Acid Betty’s earlier rendition of the same role.
The runway challenge required some risk from the contestants. For the first time in Drag Race herstory, the queens were required to glide down the runway in roller skates.
ROLLER SKATES, ladies and gentlemen.
To be fair, RuPaul came down the runway in skates first. You can’t say she didn’t prove she could do it.
The panel of judges included Ru, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Faith Evans herself, and Empire’s Tasha Smith. And between you and me, they were really geeking out on this 80’s throwback to roller rink glory days.
Naysha was the first competitor on the runway in an adorable 70’s leotard, but her getup didn’t keep her from falling down. Naomi came out with another predictable “boy chest” dress, but as usual slayed it to filth on the catwalk. Bob’s silver bodysuit deserved to be clocked much harder than it was, but her precarious runway “robot” shuffle was too funny to punish.
The judges didn’t have anything nice to say about Cynthia’s mismatched, baggy Texas hoedown outfit, and Derrick’s clumsy tutu and ruffle socks weren’t inspiring. However, Robbie’s bedazzled, vintage skate queen ensemble and her skilled skating moves on the runway had them raving.
The judges deemed Naomi, Kim, Chi Chi, and the newly-returned Naysha as safe.
Thorgy was praised for her excellent performance in the acting challenge and for her cute 80’s runway look, and Betty was complimented on her convincing caricature in a bipolar role, but it was Bob who won this week’s challenge! Rightfully so, as Bob’s was easily the most memorable performance of the week. Tasha Smith became a big fan, saying, “Taraji is going to DIE” when she sees the episode.
That left Robbie, Cynthia, and Derrick in the bottom. The judges saved Derrick, but Michelle Visage challenged her to show more “soul” in her performances.
Thus, Robbie and Cynthia had to duke it out to Faith Evans’ Mesmerized in a lip sync battle. But also for the first time on the show, Ru gave the queens the option of lip syncing “in heels, or in wheels.” Cynthia chose to compete in high heels, but Robbie (in a very smart move), stood out as Drag Race’s first lip sync competitor in skates. She had a lot to prove as this was already her second time in the bottom 3 this season, and the excuses she gave for her flubbed lines in the acting challenge were edited to be the focal point of her panel review.
I have to say that Cynthia had some good moves, but compared to Robbie’s skate-stopper-tip-toe across the stage and her rapid-spin rotations, she didn’t stand a chance. Robbie even banked off of the stage (on purpose?) in what I will claim forever was a double-salchow-into-a-triple-lutz Kristi Yamaguchi finish.
In the end, Robbie was chosen to stay while Cynthia was asked to “sashay away.” The Puerto Rican queen took her dismissal with charming gratitude and poise, but it was her time to go.
However, Robbie needs to win a challenge soon in order to rise to the top. Will it happen next week? Tune in with me after-the-fact and I’ll dish the goss!