Except, honestly not that shocking. Instead, the elimination at the end of tonight’s Top 3 episode was simply deeply sad. Not only was the queen who got the chop a stronger competitor than the queen who held the axe, but she is among the most lovable to appear on this season, and arguably one of the most lovable in the overall “Drag Race” canon.
Following a Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance minichallenge that practically screamed, “We don’t have enough content to fill an entire episode!” the Top 3 queens — Jessica Wild, Jimbo, and Kandy Muse — were tasked with the main challenge. They had to make over three lovely lesbians into their drag daughters/sisters.
I was glad that the show took the opportunity to spotlight the Lesbian in the LGBTQ+ coalition. Ru correctly pointed out that lesbians are too often invisible in gay media, and that has been especially true for this show. And lesbians have been staunch defenders and supporters of gay men for many decades, especially during the AIDS epidemic. So even though elements of this episode didn’t quite connect, I was so happy to see the show take a moment to create some space for our lesbian sisters. We all need to do that more often.
I have a lot of thoughts about the makeover episode, and very few of them are good. Primarily, they’re kind of stupid. I guess the conceit is that it shows how well a queen can apply their aesthetic to other people, and how well they can coach and work in a team. But these are never an even playing field. On more than one occasion, queens have been stuck with partners who simply will not go along with the queen’s vision or accept their guidance, whereas other makeover partners are game for anything and can take even a mediocre contestant and drive them to a win. Some of the makeover candidates are significantly more challenging from an aesthetic standpoint than others. And in the end, that has nothing to do with the queen’s abilities, it’s allowing a completely random outside element come in late in the game and have a profound impact on a queen’s chances to advance. And that’s just bullshit.
I see the actual reason for the makeover challenge as twofold. First, as the number of queens in a competition start to dwindle, the show needs to find more ways to create content. Bringing in a whole bunch of outsiders for an episode, introducing them and sharing their journeys, immediately solves that problem. They almost always have some kind of personal trauma or tragedy that will be highlighted as well. Secondly, the nature of this challenge means that the judging is even more subjective than in other challenges. I’ve watched every single Drag Race makeover challenge in history — including the international versions — and it is never really consistent as to what the judges are going to focus on. Is it family resemblance? Is it the make-up and wig styling skills? Is it the makeover contestant’s performance on the runway? Is it the duo’s connection? Is it how comfortable/happy the makeover contestant feels? Is it the relative difficulty in the specific makeover? The judges can go any number of routes for this challenge, and I think that’s quite deliberate from a show perspective, as it provides an opportunity to throw a win to a competitor who needs one from a track record, and cut off a contestant production doesn’t want to see advance.
And I think that’s exactly what happened here. Let me say, everyone did well. There were no disasters on the runway (and there have been in past makeovers; see the Tina Burner-ing of Rose, or Joslyn Fox’s cursed bride, etc.). But I also don’t feel any of the queens were really pushing themselves, either. These were all very safe makeovers, using looks the queens had brought from home, which they applied to their lesbian counterparts with varying levels of discomfort. Notably, Jimbo’s partner vetoed Jimbo’s initial approach, which leaned more into Jimbo’s clown aesthetic. (Eagle-eyed viewers of “Drag Race Canada” Season 1 will recognize these were matching versions of Jimbo’s original entrance look, which — had they kept this concept — would have been the third previous-run element Jimbo would have used this season.)
Instead, Jimbo and her partner, Sissy Delicious, ended up in fairly basic black stretch stoned minidresses and pastel wigs — hookers going out for a Night at the Roxbury — while Jessica and her partner, Kitty Wild, gave us early-years Lady Gaga with the pointed shoulder pads and big blonde hair. Kandy and her partner, Kookie Muse, sported 60s-inspired babydoll dresses and massive wigs for a London-inspired mod look.
The queens and their makeovers also had to a lipsynch performance to a mash-up of RuPaul songs. I don’t think these makeover performances ever end up impacting the results in any way. Does anyone feel they do? Kitty Wild was the weakest of the three, for sure, while Sissy Delicious threw herself fully into her twerking and Kandy and Kookie offered up some synchronized choreography. But again it was giving “We don’t have enough content,” and was just kind of…there. Remember in Season 8 with the crossing of the brooms? Now that was memorable television.
The judging was overall positive. They harped on Jessica and her girl not having matching boots, and picked up on Kitty’s lack of confidence on stage. They rightfully pointed out that Jimbo’s makeover was extremely safe. They gushed over Kandy and her makeover result. And giving credit where it is due, Kandy had arguably the toughest challenge, making over the most stereotypically butch-presenting partner and turning her into a softer, more believably feminine queen. And it must be said, the make-up and styling for both Kandy and her partner were flawless.
And so, Kandy got the win — her second this season — leaving Jimbo and Jessica up for the chop. In my opinion, Kandy was always going to win this episode, no matter how well she did. I think she was always intended to make the finale. I think she needed at least a second win to make the finale appear even close to a fair fight. And they needed to pay off the season-long drama around alliances and whether or not Kandy would honor her word to Jimbo, especially after HeidiGate basically defined the season.
The lipsynch assassin was Priyanka, winner of Season 1 of “Canada’s Drag Race.” It was lovely to see her, and I hope this means we’ll continue to get more international LSAs in the future, and should we ever get a second All Winners season, I would LOVE to see Priyanka in that mix. Pri was a delight and she unquestionably won the lipsynch to “Jumpin Jumpin” by Destiny’s Child. (Some interesting info: according to AS6 winner Kylie Sonique Love, she was initially supposed to be a lipsynch assassin this season to this song, but had to pull out due to an injury. So it could have been Kandy vs. Kylie, which would have also been a serve.)
Even though Priyanka won, it was a tie between the Bottom 2, so Kandy had to make the decision of who to send home. And ultimately it was Jessica. Kandy kept her word and saved Jimbo, even though it almost certainly means that Kandy will not win this season. Jimbo has 4 wins and is the undisputed breakout star of the season, both in challenges and on the runway. Kandy has two wins, and while she has played the alliance game more intensely than any other All Star we’ve seen, her challenge performance overall has been middle of the pack at best, and her runway package has not been impressive. I truly believe her Season 13 looks were, on the whole, more dynamic and interesting than the panty/corset combos she’s served us over and over again this season.
That leaves poor Jessica in third place. I think performance wise, Jessica has had a stronger season than Kandy (I would argue Alexis did too), and a Jessica/Jimbo F2 would have been much more interesting to watch. But Jessica leaves AS8 with one of the best All Stars runs in the history of the show. I’d put her up with Trinity K. Bonet and Rajah O’Hara as queens who came into All Stars with a lot to prove, and they DID. Jessica won over a great number of new fans this season, and she should be incredibly proud of these nearly flawless run. The chicken exits FIERCE.
Next week we get the payoff to the Fame Games twist, with almost all the eliminated queens — minus Heidi N. Closet, who I think has really fucked herself in perpetuity with her decision to tap out — coming back to do their talent show numbers. After that we will have the first Top 2 finale in Drag Race history, which I find super, super weird. I guess they switched to that format so that everyone except the finalists has a shot to win the Fame Games? Personally I wonder how they hell they’re going to stretch out an entire episode between only two queens. That’s an awful lot of Tic Tacs to be eating over lunch…