“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16, Episode 10 Recap

March 12, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Sorry for the late recap. This weekend the Great Pop Culture Debate panelists took on Awesome Con in Washington, DC, and I only just caught this week’s episode late Sunday.

Anyway, this week was the season’s annual political episode. They occur every four years, aligned with the American presidential election cycle. This time, instead of fake debates (as they did in Season 4 and Season 12), or political attack ads (Season 8), they went with a rousing musical number, titled “Power,” intended to gas up listeners into getting out to the ballot box.


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I think it was the right decision. It is so critically important in this election — possibly more than any other in my lifetime — that young people, women, and people of color really show up to vote. The Venn Diagram for that grouping of people and the viewership of this show is basically a perfect circle. I don’t think a comedic take on politics is going to speak to people this time around. The stakes are too high. Doing an uptempo, in-your-face, funky, and yes even catchy song about using your power in the voting booth might stick with some of them. So there were bigger stakes than normal for this challenge, and I think the queens really delivered.

This episode also really hit home what an excellent cast this is. I’ve been saying that for the past few recaps, but truly, what a talented and personable Top 7. And they are anything but boring. The casting department really nailed it this season, and these queens are understanding the assignment. Even the two quietest queens in the bunch, Mhi’ya Iman LePaige and Nymphia Wind, got moments to shine in this episode or in “Untucked,” and both did well in the challenge.

There was a lot to love this episode. Leland and Freddy Scott gave us another great base for a song in “Power.” Jamal Sims gave us terrific choreography for the number. The production values were excellent. I’m obsessed with the dance crew in fringed trunks and cuffs, playing horns. And the girls almost all delivered, one way or another. I’ll go over each girl in order of their “Power” verse — which I also just realized is alphabetical — and share my take as well on their performance as well as their color-based runway looks.

Dawn: Dawn took a different approach to the challenge. Instead of talking explicitly about using your political power, she talked about mental health and empowering yourself. I appreciated her candor about her own mental-health journey, although I’m not sure it fit for this challenge. Dawn’s performance was among the weakest of the night — but still not actively bad. The judges commented on the disconnect between the funk vibe of the song, and Dawn’s mayonnaise energy. Savage? Yes. Accurate? Also yes. I thought her runway look was very cool, a nocturnal dream elf. But if the challenge was monochrome looks, I again don’t think it fit the brief. It wasn’t all one color, and I also wasn’t clear what color the bulk of it was. I believe she said it was navy blue, but it read more black on my screen. Dawn remains an essential talking head for this season, and I like the zing he brings to the group in general. In truth, if Dawn is the mayonnaise of the season, at least she’s Miracle Whip.

Mhi’ya Iman LePaige: Mhi’ya has been taking the judges’ notes about having fun and letting loose, and it has helped her since her Snatch Game breakthrough. The lyrics here were a struggle — rhyming “equal” with “equal,” like how is this something that even needs to be said? — but I do think she threw down a solid performance in the actual challenge, wearing Oompa Loompa Gone Wild stylings and putting in some of her signature flips in addition to Jamal’s choreo. On the runway, Mhi’ya looked easily the best she has all season in an all-red gown. A decent week for Mhi’ya, who at this point is pretty obviously the least well-rounded cast member left, even if she does have a win and others (Dawn, Morphine) do not.

Morphine Love Dion: Morphine has been a slow burn for me all season. I didn’t care for her at all in her premiere episode but slowly I came to appreciate her talking heads and her playful shade — I’ve always respected the mug, one of the best in series history — even if she can be, at times, delusional. The performances have often been lacking, but she fully brought it this week and I was so impressed. A well-written verse, a commitment to the choreography, and real star presence on the stage. She has improved tremendously over the past few weeks. I thought her purple look on the runway was beautiful, but not among the most exciting looks of the night. Still, a great, great week for Morphine.

Nymphia Wind: It’s wild to consider how Nymphia, who was an obvious frontrunner when this season began, has now very much become an underdog in the edit. She unequivocally bombed Snatch Game, but I would say that’s been her only real weakness — and yet, based on the way she’s being portrayed on the show, you would think she’s barely hanging in there, including this episode. I don’t think that’s an accurate reflection of what she’s laying down. I thought hers was a perfectly good verse. Minimal, in terms of words. But not nearly as bad as people are suggesting. It got the job done. Her dancing was quite strong, and again, I feel like we’re being led to underestimate her abilities. Very interesting. Where I will knock some points of for Nymphia was the yellow look, which was, predictably, all bananas. I get that’s her schtick. I love a schtick. But we have seen so very many banana looks at this point. I don’t need to see anymore for the rest of the season. She’s such a talented designer, and so chic in her aesthetic. She doesn’t need to keep going back to this well.

Plane Jane: I liked Jane’s verse a lot, even though I didn’t catch all of the lyrics the first time through. She did a good job integrating her political message with her brand, which is being a total prostitute. Legend. Michelle Visage called out Jane for looking lost or hesitant in the performance, and I didn’t get those two things — I did get that she was focused and possibly trying to project stone-cold slut too much. But again, was it bad? No. As Ross Matthews said, what is disappointing for Plane Jane is still great for most queens, and that’s the truth. Plane is a real talent and a reality TV goldmine. She gave us a green sheer-and-applique dress for the runway, which was beautiful and glamorous. If this was Plane’s weakest week in the competition, that speaks not only too the high caliber of queens in the mix, but also Plane’s impressive skills.

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Q: The Q singing montage this episode was a thing of beauty. I feel bad for Q, because she is being treated as the butt of the joke at this point. Which is crazy. She is unbelievably talented, as we have seen demonstrated several many times by now. But between that singing segment and the judges’ comments about her, she was really made out to be Booboo the Fool this episode. Admittedly, the performance in this challenge did her no favors. The performance look WAS cool, but Q is as equally incapable of serving funk as Dawn, but more “on” than Dawn, so it comes off arguably worse. I appreciate that Q fully threw herself into this number, even though it is so far removed from her personal style. I had a hard time catching all her lyrics. I thought her lavender look was absolutely gorgeous, and Q continues to have one of the strongest overall runway packages of any first-season girl in “Drag Race” herstory.

Sapphira Cristal: The second Sapphira stepped on that stage you knew who won that challenge. Just absolute demolition. Did a funk song perhaps skew in Sapphira’s favor? Sure. But she still made every right choice in this challenge. Great lyrics, the best delivery in the number, awesome choreo, and it all looked so effortless. A flawless execution, and that continued to her sapphire blue runway, with the massive wig and even bigger hoop skirt. It’s been 9 weeks since Sapphira’s original win, so if you needed a reminder of how incredible she is, she gave it to you here.

At judging, the judges were largely complementary to all the girls, and also made some great points about voter registration and the shockingly high number of eligible voters who are not registered. If you fall into that category, this is yet another reminder that is not too late to vote in the 2024 presidential election, and you had better bet that your vote ACTUALLY DOES matter. Please take the time to register to vote today, and make a plan for casting your ballot in November.

This was also the last episode in which Plane Jane’s immunity potion from Episode 2 was able to be used. In an interesting turn of events, Plane Jane — who was pretty clearly not at the top of the pack this challenge — opted to not use it on herself, but instead gifted it to Nymphia Wind. That’s fascinating to me. First, I remain convinced that Nymphia did not do as poorly in this challenge as they would have us believe. I think she would have been Safe, maybe Bottom 3 for the lyrics in the verse itself, but she sold the performance. I really don’t think she was actually in danger. I also wonder if Plane knew that, realistically, it should have been her lipsynching against Nymphia for that potion way back in Episode 2, but Plane screwed with the Rate-a-Queen rankings to deliberately keep Nymphia out of the Top 2. So could this have been a guilty conscience shining through? We may never know. Regardless, Nymphia was Safe due to the potion.

Once Plane, Dawn, and Q — widely regarded as the three weakest in the challenge (and gain, nobody did completely poorly) — were called Safe, Sapphira and Morphine realized this would be a Top 2 week, and a Lipsynch for the Win; nobody was going home. I’ve seen some people speculate that they made it a non-elimination episode to spare one of the production faves, but I’m not sure which one they’re talking about. Plane? Q? Nymphia? Non-elim episodes are generally not thrown out at random, they usually require advanced planning or they risk screwing up elements of future challenges. I think Occam’s Gayzor tells us that they didn’t want to send anyone home on an episode with such an uplifting message.

In the lipsynch, Sapphira and Morphine performed to a Meghan Trainor song, and I’m not sure who asked for that, but it wasn’t me. Trainor actually has some pretty bad political takes — see: the controversial statements about public-school teachers — and this as not exactly a well-known song. This felt like a real missed opportunity. Anyway, Morphine gave it her shot, but this was Sapphira’s to lose, and she didn’t throw away the opportunity. Sapphira won the challenge, her second win of the season, tying her with Plane, Nymphia, and Q.

After watching this episode, it’s pretty clear that Sapphira is the frontrunner, but I do think this is a deep field. I could see any of the two-time winners making the finale, and then who knows what could happen? Regardless, it’s a great season and this was a great episode. Everyone involved should feel proud.

Next: a presentation challenge in which the girls have to give corporate drag. Some look like they’re going to get a visit from HR.

Miss Our Previous S16 Recaps? Here They Are:

Episode 9

Episode 8

Episode 7

Episode 6

Episode 5

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

Episode 1

We’re Also Recapping “UK vs. the World” S2 and “Espana All Stars.” Find Those Recaps Here!

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