Question: does a reunion that goes on for two hours require a separate reunion to recap what happened within itself? It just kept going. But that is fitting for Season 13, the “How can we miss you if you won’t go away?” champion of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Calling this a reunion is, honestly, a stretch. At no point were all 13 cast members interacting with each other. The Final 4 didn’t connect with the eliminated queens at all. The Final 4 weren’t even in DRAG this episode, which I find so interesting — there’s never been an entire episode where contestants weren’t dolled up. Instead, it was a super segmented reintroduction of all 9 eliminated girls, and a general overview of the season.
As some of the GPCD panelists were saying in a group chat, we had forgotten most of the moments from the season. And that’s because so few were generally memorable. Production did its best to manufacture shocking moments with twists and gags, but overall there wasn’t a ton of truly breathtaking material to be found in Season 13. And considering it will have run for a full 17 WEEKS by the time it wraps next Friday, that’s…not great.
I also deeply miss the reunions that were unscripted (mostly) and allowed the queens to actually grill each other and address issues. The reunions for Seasons 1-3 are literally iconic because the queens were allowed to be themselves. Tammie vs. RuPaul? Raven vs. Tatianna? The Heathers vs. The Boogers? Mystique Summers Madison vs. the Mexican drug cartel that had kidnapped her mother? I. Con. Ic. For Seasons 4-8 they did the reunion as part of the live taping for the finale, and it was much more stilted and produced, with very few “real” moments. It’s no surprise that when they brought back the actual reunion formats for Seasons 9-11 we got more honest, intense moments, like “You don’t love me,” the Vixen’s walkoff, and…I am sure Season 11’s reunion had some wonderful moments, but god help me, I can’t think of a single one.
Of course the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has required a shift in format for Seasons 12 and 13. I get that. But they just aren’t satisfying. Last year, the queens were completely forbidden from referencing the one thing EVERYONE wanted to talk about — the Sherry Pie situation. This year, the eliminated girls all had to Skype in for individual and small-group segments, while the Final 4 all got 69 Questions interviews as they entered the theater where the finale was taped (this interview format was ripped off wholesale from Vogue, btw). Each of the eliminated girls also gave us a solo music video, with varying degrees of success.
There was minor controversy earlier in the week when at least one of the queens *cough* Elliott *cough* made reference on social media to this reunion format requiring more time, money, and effort from the eliminated queens. I have to assume she was referring to the music videos, because I did not see money or effort reflected in virtually any of the looks the girls gave us for their reunion interviews (sorry, not sorry). I do think some of the queens put those videos to better use than others, and in a way I wish they would do this as an introduction to the queens BEFORE the season instead of after their runs.
Let’s briefly go through them all:
Kahmora Hall: Kahmora came off well in her solo interview — laid back, self aware, charming, and just a little shady. I’m of the opinion that Kahmora showed us just about everything she had (minus the gorgeous clothes in her suitcases) in her three episodes, and her interview and video didn’t do anything to change that conclusion. Her “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” video was…adequate.
Joey Jay: Joey was a standout here. I thought the reunion look was a mess, frankly, and Joey was strangely combative in the small-group interview. But Joey popped as a personality, and I though the music video to NSYNC’s “I Want You Back” was hysterical. Joey looked great in it, both wigged and nonwigged — Joey really knows how to beat a mug — and the NSYNC stand-ins had me *howling*. That Justin Timberlake wig was so bad, it broke space-time and stopped JT’s career from ever taking off. That’s the power of that wig. Thank you for that treat, Joey. Honestly.
Tamisha Iman: Tamisha didn’t really push through in this format. She had a compelling arc for an early boot, but I wasn’t feeling the fire here. She is still super likable and I hope they will bring her back for All Stars (I”m sure they will). I do give her credit for using the music video to push an original song, “Arrogant,” a remix of her iconic confrontation with Kandy in “Untucked.” This was very old school 90s, but that’s Tamisha, and I thought the video was effective. She also looked great in it. While her interview was lukewarm, her music video was one of the better ones.
LaLa Ri: I think LaLa looked the best out of almost all the eliminated queens, so I appreciate the effort she put in. I don’t recall LaLa being so challenging to understand during the actual season, but I could literally not comprehend a word she said in her interviews. She seems to be leaning into that disastrous bag dress — as she should, it is iconic — but her interview did not leave me thinking, “Gosh, I wish we saw more of LaLa Ri.” Her music video, however, did. It was another original song and while I didn’t catch the name (something about a dirty point?) I thought it was well produced and LaLa and her guests threw it down convincingly. Again, if I had seen this preseason? I would have been way more invested in LaLa.
Elliott wit 2 Ts: Lots to unpack here. First, Elliott should probably figure out a better lighting set-up, because the one she used here (it was in a bar in Vegas) did her no favors. Second, I think Elliott dodged a bullet with this reunion format. Kandy was making a lot of noise on social media when the Tamisha fight happened, putting a target on Elliott for microaggressions that we did not see on TV — and Kandy was being backed up by other queens. I was expecting at least some of that to get covered here, but no. I do feel that, of all the queens, Elliott had the hardest road this season. The emotional torment of three eliminations in one season…brutal. But Elliott didn’t come off great here, and I thought her music video — though a great showcase for her impressive dancing — did not capture my attention.
Denali: Someone else takes the crown next week, but Denali won this episode. Denali’s interview deftly showed us how hard she played this game, how much she threw herself into it — and how badly she was screwed by Production. It’s crazy that she finished middle of the pack in this season. It occurred to me watching last night: Imagine a Final 4 with Denali instead of Kandy. Imagine how incredible that Top 4 would be. Regardless, Denali came off great in her interview, gave us a terrific music video to BlackPink that showed off her skating skills, and then at the end annihilated LaLa Ri in a lipsynch to “Be My Lover” by La Bouche. Seriously, was LaLa even there? Denali won that in seconds. Denali is as well-poised to come back and slay an All Stars season as Chad was before AS1, Alaska was before AS2, and Shea was before AS5. And I honestly think Production deliberately Nancy Kerrigan’d her this season so that they could set her up to skate to the crown in AS7 or 8. (I’ll see myself out for that terrible joke.)
Tina Burner: Tina has never looked softer than she did in her interview, and she was playful and…well not charming, exactly, but she was self aware. Except that Tina seems to completely misunderstand the premise of the movie “Mean Girls,” which is disconcerting. The Plastics are not just a “bunch of girls being stupid and having fun,” they are terrible people, dear, and they corrupt whoever is brought into their social circle. Anyway. Tina also gave us an original music video for “Turn It and Burn It,” and…I respect anyone who follows their dream and puts themselves out there. I really do. But I want to gently suggest to Tina that she might want to bring people into her circle who she trusts, who can tell her no, and offer her constructive criticism. Because I think she really needs that.
Utica Queen: Oh, Utica. This went about as well as it could have. Again she was lucky it wasn’t a traditional reunion format, because I think she would have been savaged by the other girls. She took ownership of her appalling performance in the roast, but it wasn’t just that — there were so many other moments where Utica teetered on the edge of concerning, and I suspect the editors were very kind to her for most of the season. At the end of the day, Utica is a queen who peaked in the promo shoot. I can’t think of another example of that in series history, but it is true here. Her music video to Halsey, in typical Utica form, had a cool concept, with her trapped in web of yarn that she cut through with scissors. But it didn’t build it just…fizzled. Fitting.
Olivia Luxx: Olivia looked gorgeous here. That wig and mug were so fresh and exciting — I was reminded why I fell in love with Olivia early in the season. That good will had all been exhausted by about halfway through, but if I can get this version of Olivia back for All Stars, I am interested. Already I saw more of an “identity” for her between the interview and the Mary J. Blige music video than I was getting for most of Season 13. She looked absolutely luscious in video, especially the segments with the shadows. LUSCIOUS.
And that brings us to our Final 4. I thought three of them came off well in their interviews, and Kandy continues to lean into this “if you don’t like me fuck you” thing which…does not impress me. At all. I’m not sure why she, her handlers, and the show continue to double down on this enfant terrible act, but…here we are. Is charmless the new charming? Is this a generational thing?
For the finale, the rumor is that the format is going back to the Lipsynch for the Crown that we had in Seasons 9-11. The queens lipsynch in pairs, the winners advance to the finale. This has already been filmed, there is no audience. Rumor has it the match-ups are selected randomly, so as to avoid strategic alliances dictating the outcome (in Season 9, Peppermint and Trinity made a pact to pick each other so that both Sasha and Shea would not make the F2) or indecision bringing production to screeching halt (in Season 11, Silky apparently stood on stage for nearly 10 minutes silently debating who to pick while the crowd, and RU HERSELF, just stood there waiting). Rumor also has it there’s a Ball component now, so it’s not strictly based on performance.
I will level with you all: I am very uneasy about this finale. I am going in rooting for literally three of the four — I would be so happy with GottMik, Symone, or Rose win (probably in that order, too). But I am bracing myself for the show to hand it to Kandy Muse in some misguided attempt to appeal to a younger demographic or send a message to trolls or something. I will remain anxious until this is settled. Anything can happen with this Final 4 format. See: O’Hara, Asia, and the Dance of the Dead Butterflies.
No Photo Finish fashion review this week because, frankly, there was no fashion to speak of. And no Miss Congeniality points either, because for some reason they decided to hold it until the finale. *shrug*
What did you think of the reunion? Who do you think will win Miss Congeniality and this entire damned season? Leave a comment below!