“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16, Episode 14 Recap

April 7, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

We are at the Final 4! For the past several seasons — since Season 9, to be exact — the series has shifted to a four-person (or in one case, FIVE-person) finale format to accommodate the controversial Lipsynch for the Crown. So going into this supposed final challenge, the remaining queens — Nymphia Wind, Plane Jane, Q, Sapphira Cristal — likely thought they were cruising to a secured spot in the grand finale. And yet…whenever you feel comfortable in this series, that’s precisely when Ru throws you for a loop.


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With only four contestants left, the show had to take to the couch cushions and fashion some old-fashioned padding. That included a fun but pointless mini-challenge in which the queens had to lipsynch “underwater,” which Sapphira Cristal rightfully won.

After that, the main challenge was a direct repeat of a classique Season 2 challenge, in which the girls had to conceive their own autobiographies, shoot a cover for the book, and then have a podcast interview to promote the book with Las Culturistas icon and smutty holiday-music chanteuse Matt Rogers (who did a wonderful job with these interviews, by the way). This is a GREAT challenge, which tests the queens’ creativity, their ability to brand, their sense of aesthetics, and also show that all-important vulnerability to the judges right before the final push. This should be a regular challenge, in my opinion.

In my opinion, the best part of the episode was the book-cover photo shoot featuring RuPaul in hands-on artistic director mode. Ru gets a LOT of shit nowadays. The level of criticism is, in my opinion, inappropriate given the amount that RuPaul has given back to the LGBTQ community broadly, and the drag community specifically. She’s not perfect. But what RuPaul has accomplished in her life, in her career, and the platform that at this point I think so many people take totally for granted — put some respect on her NAME. And she showed us WHY she is queen of drag in this segment, where she very much mothered the Final 4 and gave them brilliant direction on poses, on styling, on selling a garment, and on branding. This was the most engaged with the queens I have seen Ru in a long time, and I ate every bit of it up.

I’ll go over my thoughts on each of the Final 4’s main challenge performances, including their Fan runways (which overall I found underwhelming, sorry not sorry).

Nymphia Wind

Nymphia was very nervous about a writing challenge — remember that English is her second language, and she has been candid the past few episodes about the tremendous amount of anxiety she has been feeling about her performances. Early on in the season, many viewers — including myself — thought this might be a strategy on Nymphia’s part. She would appear to be struggling, and then out of nowhere kill the challenge. That trend disappeared mid-season, and Nymphia very clearly was in a spiral. She talked about that candidly with the other queens in the work room, and in her interview with Matt Rogers, opened up about her very real issues with self esteem. It was an emotionally honest conversation in which Nymphia let go of any defense mechanisms, and it endeared her to both the judges AND the viewers.

Her book title — “Breaking Wind: The Art of Letting Go” — was concise and highly on brand, and she was VERY smart to not do anything banana-related here. I thought her fan runway was one of the more successful ones, but still one of my least-favorite Nymphia runways of the season (as Michelle said, Not Another Marie Antoinette reference). It was a very good episode for Nymphia, and while I’m not sure I would have given her the win here, I don’t object to it. It certainly makes a more exciting finale, with Nymphia having 3 challenge wins and 0 Bottom 2 appearances, and having a nice boost of momentum going into the finale. She also has tremendous fan support, which cannot be discounted. All of that could add up to an unexpected (yet totally justified and welcome) crown for Nymphia.

Sapphira Cristal

I thought Sapphira was going to win this one. Everything I said above about Nymphia’s candor in her interview was doubly true for Sapphira, who just radiated warmth and maturity. Sapphira may be one of the most likable queens we have ever had on this show, and I could listen to her speak about life for hours. I thought her book title — Slue Foot: Embracing All of Me — was a pretty obvious suck-up to Ru (I don’t object, that’s just smart gameplay), and I didn’t understand why the focus of the cover was her enormous braid, not her foot.

Still, it all worked. It resonated with the judges, and the love fest between Sapphira and TS Madison was simultaneously so lovely to see, but also spoke to an obvious edge for her in the competition. I thought Sapphira had the only knockout fan look of the night. Another impeccable episode for Sapphira, who enters the finale with 4 challenge wins and 1 Bottom 2 appearance. She is, in my opinion, the most likely winner of the season.

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Plane Jane

Probably Plane’s weakest week of the season. I do think her cover was the worst of the bunch, although the “Walking Away from Disaster” concept was sound. I also think there may have been a bit of shenanigans when it came to that podcast interview, in which Plane took the bait and was playfully shady about her competitors. It’s possible that was a very deliberate test, to see if she could keep the conversation focused on her, her book, and share herself with the audience. She also seemed to struggle the most with Ru and the art direction for the book cover. I thought the concept of her fan look was pretty, and the chest piece was stunning. But it felt like everything was sagging for me in a way that brought the whole look down.

Plane was Bottom 2, justifiably, and probably the worst of the week all things considered. But I do think she won that lipsynch, and from a season-long arc perspective, Plane HAS to make the finale. This season has gifted us with a great many wonderful queens, but Plane is, I think, the character of the season. Her arc from deliberate antagonist to playfully shady has felt totally earned, and she has also genuinely deserved every one of her FOUR challenge wins. I can’t think of the last time we had such a strong “villain” on this show, and I think she’s genuinely going to shift the paradigm of this show for the next few seasons after several years of “RuPaul’s Best Friend Race.”

With a final track record of 4 challenge wins and 1 Bottom 2, Jane is my dark horse for the season win. But wouldn’t that be an absolute GAG? There is absolutely nobody else like Plane in the Winner’s Circle, I can tell you that.


There’s been a lot of discussion about what happened to Q this episode, with many people finding it unfair or cruel. I don’t see it, I’m sorry. While there have been Final 4s (or 5s) since Season 9, there’s nothing to say there HAS to be four finalists. There have also been many supremely talented queens who have been cut at fourth in this competition (Shannel, Tatianna, Yara Sofia, Latrice Royale, Detox, BenDeLaCreme, Kennedy Davenport, Chi Chi Devayne were all fourth-placers) who had, I would argue, a better shot at their crowns than Q had here. Q is an amazing queen. Looks/design-wise, she is top tier, no question. She can do comedy. She can act. Q’s major challenge is, frankly, Q. And boy did we see that this episode.

Q seems to get stuck on a concept and not listen to genuinely good advice against it. While I get the impetus for the “Alphabet Soup” book title, it really didn’t say anything about Q as a person, and the “taking a bite” tagline made zero sense when it came to soup. You CHEW soup, but you don’t BITE soup. I also have absolutely NO idea what she was thinking with that look for the cover shoot. Is it an interesting look? Sure. But a shapeless taupe-colored gown for a book cover? When you need to attract attention? Huge misstep. It was like Grimace’s flesh-toned cousin. It also gave her very little room for photo options in terms of body shape. Her interview was earnest, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I learned anything new about Q there.

I thought the fan dress had a fun concept, but I don’t think that back piece was working the way she intended it to, and it hurt the look overall. (I thought the wig was really fun, though.) Watching Q react to the less-than-stellar critiques was perhaps the worst part of the episode. She was crushed by the feedback, and while I am absolutely sure she gave everything she had in that lipsynch, there was a part of her that already seemed defeated going into it. That’s difficult for viewers to get behind.

The pause from Ru before final judgment has been specifically singled out as “cruel.” I’m sure it was done to elicit maximum drama from the audience. The people I was watching with were certain that it was going to be non-elim, and a Final 4. But I truly did feel that it was Q’s time to go. This was her second time in the Bottom 2, and while she had two very deserved challenge wins, I think she needs a little more time to develop before she’s ready for a crown. An “All Stars” run? Absolutely. Hopefully after she has taken some time to really process some of her deep-seated emotional trauma.

So we have our final finalists: Nymphia, Sapphira, Plane. I think it’s a great group of queens, and I’d be happy with literally any of them winning. Who is your pick?

Next week, all the eliminated queens return for a lipsynch Lalaparuza to name the Queen of She Done Already Had Herses, in which one of them will win $50,000. Will it be the Queen of Flips’ moment? Will early-season lipsynch assassin Geneva Karr get her revenge? Could Dawn shock everyone and turn it out? Who do YOU want to win next week’s lipsynch extravaganza?

Miss Our Previous S16 Recaps? Here They Are:

Episode 13

Episode 12

Episode 11

Episode 10

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. Find Those Recaps Here!

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