And to the delight of so many, RuPaul finally said unto Tina Burner, “TINAAAA! COME GET…THE AXE!”
If you’ve been watching our Photo Finish videos, you know I actually enjoyed Tina, and I don’t get people’s either dismissal of or outright hostility toward her. I really don’t! I think the complaints about the constant red/yellow/orange color palette ignore the fact that Tina went outside that range for almost half of her looks. I think the argument that she was abrasive and irritating make no sense given the love fest some viewers are feeling toward other queens I won’t name here. To me, Tina is an ideal Drag Race contestant. She has a fully realized concept, she is a solid performer, and she is memorable. That’s really what I’m looking for on this show. I understand that she may not be everyone’s cup of ketchup and mustard, but Tina Burner genuinely has a fan in me.
I find it beyond ironic that the queen with probably the most fully realized personal brand went home on the branding challenge. I also don’t think that was an accident. I won’t go into all the ins and outs on the branding soda commercials, but I will say this episode more or less told you exactly where all of these girls stand going into Final 6. Let’s break it down:
Symone once again effortlessly delivered a superb challenge performance. The soda concept was good, the delivery was flawless, and she made it all look so easy. The judges lavished her with praise, much of it was deserved — except for their love of that runway look. The theme this week was BEAST! inspired by the woman, the myth, the legend, Alyssa Edwards (always and forever). This was truly the best of times, and the blurst of times, and in Symone’s case, it was the cursed of times. I am not one to yuck anyone’s yum. Truly. So long as everyone is an adult, and consenting, you do you (or whoever you please). But sister went out there wearing what looked to me like an actual furry suit. I was cringing thinking of who has done what in that outfit in non-smoking room at an airport Hyatt. Symone looked like Drag Bandicott. Not a joke, just a fact. Also not a compliment. It was a rare misfire from Symone, and the fact that the judges still ate it up — and gave her her fourth win — tells you everything you need to know about Symone’s chances going forward.
Rose also slayed the commercial and had, in my opinion, a gamechanging week. She took the criticisms that the judges have been giving her this whole time — you’re trying too hard to be perfect, you come across as cold and conceited, you need to loosen up, you need to stop wearing yards of body-swallowing tulle — and she addressed them directly in her commercial for RoseAid. The whole worked, and was a smart way to say to the judges, “No really I am listening,” but still staying true to her. She also wore easily the best look on the runway, and one of the very best of the season thus far, in a devilish look that had me saying, “Hail Satan.” I was pleased that she was ALSO given the win for the week, and if anything, thought she should have been the sole winner.
Kandy Muse was safe this week, and again: this should tell you everything you need to know about where things are heading. I have been warming up to Kandy’s personality over the past few weeks. She’s had several humanizing moments, including her disclosure this week that she was violently gay bashed at a young age. I can only imagine how that must have impacted her, and it helps to explain some of the behaviors we’ve seen from Kandy on this show whenever she feels threatened (note I said, “helps to explain” not “justifies”). I also think we need to consider how much the other queens all adore Kandy — and it seems quite genuine. So going into judging, I was ready to acknowledge that I have been veddy, veddy harsh on her up until this point. But then we got to the runway. And we got to watch her commercial. And speaking of Alyssa:
The commercial was awful. Unfunny, random, meandering, contentless, and it needs to be said: Kandy looked a mess in it. And then she came out in what has to be one of the worst runway looks we have seen on Drag Race since — I really believe this — Dusty Ray Bottoms’ infamous feathers look. Watch this week’s Photo Finish for more thoughts on this, but to sum it up: HAGSVILLE. And the judges loved it. They loved her commercial. They loved her runway (Michelle attempted to object, but you could practically see the producers Force choking her off camera). They just kept up with the, “Oh Kandy, you’re so FUNNY. Everything you do is just so FUN. You’re so FUNNY. Just…FUN.”
And that’s when I realized what’s going on here. I actually don’t object to Kandy. She is doing her best in this competition. I don’t think it’s up to the level of virtually anyone left, but she is trying. She’s VERY invested in this, that’s for sure. My issue here is the blatant favoritism being shown to her by the judges, the editors, the producers. It makes my bile rise because it is so overwhelming. But honestly, that isn’t Kandy’s fault. She is benefitting from it, but she didn’t ask for it. And at this point I’m not convinced they’re even doing it in good faith. The praise they’ve been lavishing on her undeservedly has largely served to turn people off on Kandy in a big way (there are definitely Kandy stans out there, and god love them). For her to put forward that challenge and runway performance this week, and to be not only Safe, but universally praised isn’t just a fix. It’s a reality renovation. And nobody wants to buy that house. But maybe that’s exactly what the editors and producers are counting on?
The other four queens all failed the challenge, but I would argue, Tina failed it the least. She at least produced a commercial that made sense and communicated what her product was supposed to do. Olivia Lux was for the second week in a row called out for not having a sense of herself, or a real drag identity. I’ve been literally saying this since Week 1, and I should feel some sense of satisfaction for the judges finally acknowledging it — but I don’t. Because Olivia was given the Kandy Push early in the season, being handed two dubious wins, at the expense of other earlier queens (specifically Denali and Rose). Now the screw is turning, and she’s on the other side of the equation, and that has to be hard for her. I actually feel for her in these critiques.
Gottmik was very lucky to escape the Bottom 2. I suspect she saw how positively the panel responded to her Paris Hilton Snatch Game and decided to use that success as the bedrock for her new drag “brand.” But it just didn’t work. The whole commercial was a mess, the product name was unwieldy, and Gottmik seemed completely lost the whole challenge. I thought the runway was a successful interpretation of the challenge, but also highly reminiscent of looks we have seen before. I think Gottmik can do better, and was one of the worst two of the week for me.
Utica Queen was definitely the other. I think at this point, between this episode and Snatch Game, we have a sense of what’s going on here — Utica is an artist, like a Capital-A Artist. Incredibly conceptual, insanely creative. But she doesn’t know how to connect that creativity to the reality we’re all living in. Should an artist have to do that? Not generally, but if you’re competing in Drag Race? Yeah, you gotta find a way to translate to at least what the judges are looking for. Utica isn’t isn’t her own zipcode, she’s in another galaxy. That commercial was whackadoo, while her runway felt like an afterthought. You could almost feel the panel give up on her this episode.
Except instead they gave Utica the win in the lipsynch to “My Humps” by Black Eyed Peas (*shudder*) and cut Tina Burner instead. This has been controversial on the internets. Many people believe Tina won that. I don’t agree. Utica didn’t do enough, but Tina did too much. This was Tina Burner in An Act of Total Desperation. She brought out every corny dance move and stage she could think of and just kept throwing things on the stage. I appreciate the effort, but it’s a lipsynch, not a 90s club dances exhibition. Tina even acknowledged this in her farewell video, saying that she struggles finding a balance between giving too much and not enough.
I for one generally appreciate Tina giving us too much for most of the Race. It makes for a more interesting viewing experience, that’s for sure. But I don’t think it makes for a winner of this show. Tina was never a likely contender for the crown — although she is undoubtedly a legit NYC legend — but I am glad she was able to achieve this dream, and I think she was chucked by the producers at the first possible moment. That’s a bummer. I hoped that the show had learned a lesson after pushing Sherry Pie so heavily last season — and we all know how that turned out — but instead of over producing one queen via storylines, they instead decided to overproduce at least three. I’m…not sure that’s a winning strategy, show. And it will hurt this season’s overall legacy. Mark my words.
Here is this week’s Photo Finish, featuring guest judge Andrea Guerrero! We take on this…memorable?…runway: