2021 force fed us NINE SEASONS of Drag Race. But after Episode 1 of Season 14 of the Original Recipe, I found I was still hungry for more. We done already had ourses, but if you’re going to give us likable queens like this group, there’s still room on my plate.
And I’ll level with you, I am surprised to be saying that. After the Candyland-themed promo, Meet the Queens, and the early release of the entrance looks for the new cast, I was distinctly unimpressed. Very few of the queens popped for me. Their deliveries, by and large, were very flat. And it all felt very, very familiar, and not in a welcome way.
So imagine my surprise when, after we got to the first challenge for the this initial crop — it’s another split premiere, this one featuring only Alyssa Hunter, Bosco, Kornbread “The Snack” Jete, Willow Pill, Kerri Colby, June Jambalaya, and Orion Story — I found myself very quickly coming to like literally all of them. All of them! Some were witty (Kornbread, Bosco), some were warm (Kerri), some have a compelling underdog vibe (Willow), and some just pulled at my heart strings (Alyssa, June, Orion). Honestly, I found myself not wanting any of them to leave. It felt almost unfair — which it arguably is.
The queens danced around this on Untucked. A split premiere means that instead of having a 1 in 14 chance of going home first, suddenly they had a 1 in 7 chance. The judges were delivering very detailed, specific critiques for a first week. And it’s a lot easier to hide a middling performance in the early weeks when there’s a much larger pack. By halving the cast, we get a much better sense of all of these queens much more quickly. That’s why they’ve done it every season since 12. But in 12 and 13, there were no first-week eliminations. The only season to have a split premiere and eliminate girls in the initial small groups was 6, and I have always felt that Kelly Mantle at least got a raw deal out of that approach.
I cannot say that is the case for the queen who was eliminated in this episode, who admitted that she had not fully prepared for the challenge — the Talent Show, happening on a regular season for the first time (it is a staple on All Stars, and was also in Down Under). Overall I thought the seven queens gave us an entertaining show, and what I certainly appreciated was the variety of acts. The All Stars talent shows are overwhelmingly dominated by singing, dancing, and lipsynching numbers, and while we got a few of those here, most of them at least had a gimmick that differentiated them. Kerri jumproped, Willow gave us actual performance art, and Alyssa did…whatever that was with the no-stringed guitar. Of course, the queen that won, Kornbread, did the most traditional lipsynch number, to her own song. But there’s just no denying her star power. If all seven queens came out lipsynching and they brought that level of entertainment, I wouldn’t be bitching about the lack of diversity in acts. Let’s just say that.
Alas it was poor Orion Story who went home first, and I do think it was justified. I thought she looked great on the runway, and her entrance look was one of my favorites. Her talent show comedy skit even had a good idea, it just wasn’t fleshed out, and never got in gear. I think she’s a very interesting queen, and I found myself rooting for her by the end. There’s something quite special about her. But honestly I ended the episode feeling that way about all of these queens, so…someone had to go first.
Overall I found the episode delightful, buoyed in part by guest judge and earth angel Lizzo, but also the general vibe of the proceedings. This is such a likable group of queens, it’s a welcome change from Season 13, where there was a real negativity that permeated the season almost from the jump. I think part of that has to be laid at the feet of the first-episode twist, which created a dual-tier of competitors — the “winner’s circle” and the “pork chops.” I hope they never do that again. As sad as it was to lose a girl this week, I prefer that to the emotional wringer they put the S13 gals through.
Next week: Group 2 takes on the Talent Show, and the specter of Alicia Keys torments them via the mirror universe.
What did you think of the Season 14 premiere? Join us on Twitter Spaces every Saturday at 2pm EST for the GPCD Season 14 Discussion Space. Share your thoughts (politely and respectfully!), vote on Toots and Boots, and play along with our GPCD Viewer Pool! Here’s the link, you have to be on a mobile device to participate (not our rules!): https://twitter.com/culture_debate/status/1479150405334487040?s=20