After a particularly traumatic week for our country, I looked forward to a significantly less brutal episode of Drag Race, following the S13 premiere in which half the fucking cast believed it had been cut. I’m glad to say that Episode 2, aside from one final turn of the knife in the ultimately irrelevant Pork Chop vote, was a much less brutal affair, and more along the lines of why I watch this show. I won’t go so far as to say it was a great episode, but at least it wasn’t the exercise in cruelty that was Episode 1. (Confidential to Producers: please don’t do that again.)
I will say that, I don’t think the production team MEANT for the Episode 1 twist to be so mean-spirited. I suspect they wanted an exciting, performance-based way to divide the cast in half for the two-part premiere that worked so well in Season 12, and they wanted to shake things up to avoid the queens getting complacent. (I do not think this is COVID related, by the way — the queens were all quarantined for at least a week before filming even started.) Unfortunately I think they failed on all counts. I don’t think any of those E1 lipsynchs were particularly enthralling, mostly because the queens were so shook. And nothing about that scenario seemed fair. It was just slap after slap after slap to the Pork Chop queens.
Especially poor Elliott with 2Ts, who lost her lipsynch, tied for last in the first Pork Chop vote, and then was UNANIMOUSLY voted out in the tiebreaker vote. That’s just…awful. I like Elliott, but from what we’ve seen I think she would be out of her depth in the best of circumstances. Given the one, two, three punch of these first two episodes, I just feel for her. Nothing about her arc seems fun or fair.
On that note, following our official introductions in Episode 2, I’ll briefly run through my thoughts on the other six queens from “Team Talent.” These are strictly my (Eric) thoughts, and are not representative of the Great Pop Culture Debate or its panelists.
–Gottmik: Gottmik absolutely destroyed the fashion challenges this week. Both of her mini-challenge looks were flawless, and that runway lewk was — in my opinion — instantly iconic. But I think between the lipsynch, her verse, and the group number, we can acknowledge that Gottmik is going to struggle with the performance aspects of this show. That said, Gottmik’s casting this season is incredibly important for both the trans male community and for this show, which has had a disappointing history with trans inclusion. I’m rooting for Gottmik to survive and thrive.
–Kandy Muse: Kandy has tons of personality, and tremendous confidence. I also think she generally has a great sense of style (this week…not so much). But two episodes in, it’s clear that Kandy has not learned that most important rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. Stop telling me how incredible you are as a performer. Show me. Because thus far, in two performances and a rap verse, it’s across the board…meh. I’ve seen Kandy perform live many times, and she’s performing at about the level I expected. Read into that what you like.
–LaLa Ri: I really warmed up to LaLa this episode. The looks improved SIGNIFICANTLY and I love the personality that she gives in her talking heads. She’s also an energetic performer who commands the stage. My concern for LaLa is that when she’s interacting with the judges and other queens, she seems to withdraw. Still, much more bullish on LaLa than I was before.
–Olivia Lux: Olivia is gorgeous — the wattage of that smile could power a city block — and oozes charisma. I absolutely understand why she was cast, and I’m very intrigued to the references of her being a pianist. But I don’t think she’s ready yet. I hear you at home: “Eric, you stupid bitch, she won the challenge this week!” Yes, but that’s damning with faint praise — I thought maybe two of those verses were as good as even the weakest from the S12 queens — and between the looks that frankly read as borrowed (except her nighttime look, which was 100 percent correct) and the cringe-inducing approach to the lipsynch, my feeling on Olivia is that she has tremendous potential but needs a few more years to gestate. I look forward to her proving me wrong!
–Symone: I 100 percent get where the judges are coming from on Symone being a star. Just standing on stage she exudes star quality. The looks were, blessedly, much stronger this week, and she did a very good job in that lipsynch. But again, that verse was weak. My overall feeling on this cast is “unpolished gems” — younger-skewing queens with incredible potential who need some shining up. From what I have seen, Symone is the one who I expect to shine up the quickest, and emerge the sparkliest.
–Tina Burner: I did a real about-face on Tina this week. In Week 1 I found her crude and abrasive (please note, I am a slut, and I love a bawdy queen — but Tina was FILTHY). She delivered easily the best verse of this group and she blew me away with that runway look. The mini-challenge looks were also largely successful, especially the daytime Carrie Dragshaw look. I also thought we saw a real humanizing of Tina in Untucked. Outside of the show, Tina did a great job addressing comparisons of her to a disqualified queen from Season 12 who I will not name, and it made me stan her even more. In my opinion she should have been Top 2 this week, but barring that, she has easily run up the charts in my own estimation.
On that note, HERE IS THE POOL SCORESHEET. Check out where you stand in Tab 1, and then see how your queens performed this week!. Want to see how the Photo Finish fashion review went down? Check it out here, this week guest starring Kevin Dillon!
(BTW still looking for volunteers to be guest judges for upcoming weeks of Photo Finish! PM me if interested!)
Lastly, make sure you fill out your Episode 3 poll by THURSDAY, JANUARY 14. I think 3 or 4 of you missed out on those Episode 2 bonus points. In the All Stars 5 pool, one week of missed bonus points cost someone the win. Just sayin’.
ALSO ALSO: Drag Race UK2 premieres on Thursday, January 14. If you have not yet signed up for the UK2 pool, make sure you do so here. We’re closing that sucker on Tuesday, January 12. So pip pip, cheerio!