“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16, Episode 3 Recap

January 20, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

RELIEF! That’s what I felt after watching this episode, after Episode 2 had me really nervous about this season. The split premiere was very much the best of times (Episode 1) and the worst of times (Episode 2), and I honestly didn’t know how this whole cast would shake out once they were all thrown together. But I’m happy to say that the light and humor of the E1 queens was nicely balanced out by the spice and shade of the E2 queens, and I do think we have a competitive, compelling group of queens this season. I’m back on board.

Episode 3 was the ball, for this season, The Mother of All Balls (basically looks themed loosely around the term “mother” — look at “Drag Race” being on trend with the gay slang!). We also got the blending of the two casts, the reactions to the Rate-a-Queen results from Episodes 1 & 2, and the final Rate-a-Queen ranking for the season (for now).

I thought this was a solid ball. Quite a few good looks, very few total duds. I’ll go through my thoughts on each queen, ranked from most impressed to least.


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Nymphia Wind: If Nymphia keeps it up like she did this episode, she’s going to run away with this season. I’m not even talking about her ball looks — which ranged from solid to terrific — but also her joyous, goofy presence in the work room. She’s got style, she’s got talent, and she’s just a goddamned delight. Every other queen in that work room should be terrified of the so-called chaos goblin, who had time to playfully gab with seemingly every queen even as she put together a stunning look for the third, made-in-the-work-room look out of men’s clothing. The tie look was instantly iconic, and I enjoyed her Boy Blue from the Mother Goose round. The Significant Mother look, in which she replicated Angelina Jolie’s wedding gown, was lovely but not particularly impactful. Still, Nymphia is THE queen to beat right now. Not only did she win this episode, but we learned that she almost certainly would have been in the Top 2 in Episode 2 had Plane Jane not fucked her in the rating system. It’s entirely possible that she could have had back-to-back wins by E3.

Q: Q was right there tonight, and I’m afraid that’s going to be her story this season. Q gave us three great looks: one of the best Mother Goose numbers (The Man in the Moon), a beautiful Judy Garland (even if the make-up didn’t quite scream “Judy”), and an eye-popping black-and-white confection for the final look. In her rating, Nymphia knocked it as not being overly fashionable. It’s true that it read as costumey. But there were people on that stage dressed like giant fucking pumpkins, so I had no issues with what Q gave us here. Another strong week for Q, but I do want to see more personality from her.

Sapphira Cristal: That pumpkin look for the Mother Goose round was EPIC. Really strong opening statement for the ball. Her Eve for Significant Mother was good, although I feel like we’ve seen versions of it a few times on this show. Her homemade look was a lot of look — one person at my viewing party thought she looked like a Minion with the blue and yellow combination — but it worked for me. Another great week for Sapphira, and I think she needed to sell us on her style after a pretty disappointing runway in E1.

Dawn: Dawn did well in this challenge, but I do think it was right for her to fall out of the Top 3. The Mother Goose cow look barely met the brief to me — I wasn’t really getting cow from it — and I thought her Audrey Hepburn significant mother was Tootable but not amazing. Her homemade look was visually appealing, but I guarantee you people will be doing side-by-side comparisons between this and Shea Coulee’s Village People look from Season 9. They felt very reminiscent to me as soon as she walked out.

Xunami Muse: This was a great challenge for Xunami. I think her Mother Goose look, Humpty Dumpty, was among the best of that bunch — really well executed, including the reveal. I thought her Significant Mother tribute to Kandy Muse was well done, if not particularly exciting. Her final look was also completely satisfactory. She wasn’t reinventing the wheel in her looks overall, but as Ru has told us, the wheel is just fine. I do think Xunami gets lost in this crowd, a lot.

Megami: I was really pleased for Megami this week. Episode 2 was a rough launch for her — you just can’t deny it — but I thought she showed up for this ball. The Little Bo Peep look for Mother Goose was the best she’s looked on this show. The Gaga look for Significant Mother was instantly recognizable. Her final look gave me Rosie the Riveter meets Chi Chi Rodriguez from To Wong Foo. Really solid showing for Megami this week, good for her!

Plasma: I think it’s safe to say that Plasma’s problem this season is going to be that she overthinks and under executes. The Mother Goose look was a real flop for me. She was going for Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Cool idea! She presented it by having the second twin squashed up in her middle section. Was it a vestigial twin who was partially absorbed during gestation? If not, I don’t know what was going on there. The Significant Mother look was Anne Boleyn. Again, good idea! But the few things we know about Anne Boleyn are “Greensleaves” and being beheaded, and Plasma did not give us any of that. It could have been any generic Olde Tyme courtesan. Her third look had the makings of a solid outfit, but needed much more fitting in the mid-section. I was really looking forward to Plasma pre-season but so far it’s not clicking for me.

Mirage: After being pleasantly surprised by Mirage in the E1 premiere, I found her largely a nonentity here. Her Mother Goose look — Bah Bah Black Sheep — was more blah blah black sheep for me. Her Significant Mother look as La Llorena was an interesting idea (I think she missed the point of that assignment), but the outfit need more everything: more hair, more stones, more tears. Far too simple. Her handmade look seemed destined for disaster, but she ended up working it out to something wearable. Was it exciting? No. Did she embarrass herself on the runway? Also no. But I doubt she won over any new fans, either. Mirage was marked “present.”

Amanda Tori Meating: In the challenge, Amanda was fine. I struggle to remember her Mother Goose look, her Michelle Visage for Significant Mother at least had a well-deployed reveal, and her handmade look, while not particularly pretty, was at least visually interesting with the various fabrication details. But what’s interesting about Amanda is that once again she quickly became the focus of the other queens’ ire, and was pretty soundly dismissed by Plane Jane, at the very least. Unless they’re cutting a lot of footage that explains why several of these girls are obsessed with taking whacks at Amanda, I am assuming it’s just garden-variety bullying coming from queens who are uncertain about their own place in the competition, and needing someone to stamp down to feel better. Gross. I think the audience is clearly taking Amanda’s side here, and I know I am.

Geneva Karr: I owe Geneva an apology for not fully embracing her in E2. Numerous times this week I found myself singing, “I’m Geneva; la diva mas Latina.” The earworm is REAL. I also think she’s really lovely and, upon rewatch, quite a quick wit. But this was not a successful night for her. I didn’t mind the Little Miss Muffet look as much as the judges — Geneva is a bigger girl so she needs lots of volume for her illusion — but the Salma Hayek look didn’t read Salma at all. The handmade look at least had a concept, but it’s true that the fabrication was dour, and the fit on the ass bordered on comical. That said, I absolutely do not think she deserved Bottom 2. I’m not even sure she deserved Bottom 3. This felt like the judges trying to light a fire under Geneva’s ass, but given how little fabric was covering said buttocks, that’s a dangerous proposition.

Morphine Love Dion: I defended Morphine and her bitchy comments in E1, saying that I’m glad we have someone with some attitude in the game. Having seen her three looks here, I think it’s safe to say Morphine is bringing very little to the table aside from her glorious mug and her Brazilian Butt Lift. In my opinion, the BBL she’s so obsessed with should stand for Basic, Bottom, Low, because that’s all I’m seeing on these runways. The clothes she brought were very simple. There’s just not much here to get excited about.

Plane Jane: Based on her chic promo look, I expected way more from Plane Jane’s fashion. Thus far I’m seriously underwhelmed. I thought there were significant fit issues on the Mother Goose look — and cheap fabrication — the Octomom look for Significant Mother was a creative idea but again cheap looking, and she barely wore anything at all for the third look. Not a good episode for Jane, and I’m not even talking about continuing to lie about how she handled the E2 Rate-a-Queen or her spat with Amanda in “Untucked.”

Hershii Liquor Jete: What a bummer. The Mother Goose look was great! You might even call it the bee’s knees. The Mother Nature for Significant Mother was underwhelming. And then for her to come out on stage for the “make it in the work room” look wearing off-the-rack pants with some print lining in the pockets, and one of the least attractive tops I’ve ever seen in my life — and I’ve been dating gay men for 25 years, so I’ve seen plenty of unattractive tops — plus that thirsty, thirsty wig… Miss Hershii, no. I genuinely like Hershii, but two episodes in it’s clear she wrestles with her aesthetic. That bums me out because I think she’s lovely. But this was not it, and based on the edit, Hershii seems to be uncertain of herself.

Mhi’ya Iman LePaige: Boot, Boot, Boot. Mhi’ya truly has appalling taste in clothes. That feather number she wore for Mother Goose was like an explosion out of her body and blocked her face. Her Li’l Kim look was BARELY recognizable as Li’l Kim and on top of that, unattractive on its face. Her homemade look was stretch prints turned into tubes. Beyond underwhelming. On the runway, Ru told her she needs more personality, and Mhi’ya seemed to imply she is already giving it. Memo to Mhi’ya: You are not giving us personality. You are a dead fish on that stage, one of the least charismatic queens I’ve ever seen on this show. It reminds me Luna Dubois on “Canada 4,” who seemed to think she was this overwhelming presence when in reality she was giving us absolutely nothing. Mhi’ya deserved to lipsynch this episode, and I’m shocked they didn’t put her in the B2. From where I’m sitting, lipsynching/dancing is what she brings to the table, and possibly the only thing.

Ultimately the Bottom 3 was Hershii (agree), Mhi’ya (agree), and Geneva (disagree, should have been low safe). I was gagged when they spared Mhi’ya, who I think was clearly the weakest of the bunch, and Hershii and Geneva had to lip synch to another Ava Max song (this show is really trying to make Ava Max happen). I thought they were both underwhelming, but Hershii was worse, committed to the gag of being a wacky church lady. It just wasn’t good. Geneva wasn’t great either, but she at least worked the stage.

And Geneva won, meaning Hershii is our Pork Chop of Season 16. Sad. I think she’s lovely, personable, has a great story. I think she simply got pushed aside by bigger personalities and showier queens. But I wish her all the best, truly. I hope she tours just like she said she would, and that she lives out her dream.

Next: the return of the show’s “SNL” parody, so we’ll get to see which of these girls has the comedy and the personality to match their looks.

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