“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16, Episode 8 Recap

February 24, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

This week, it was time for two iconic challenges: the Reading Challenge and Snatch Game. I’ll drop my typical statement, that fans of this show have a tendency to inflate expectations around both of these challenges, relying on nostalgia for earlier seasons with results that were — in my opinion — not as good as we tend to remember them to be. That’s not to discount any of the many, many genuinely legendary moments we have gotten from the likes of, say, Jujubee, Jinkx Monsoon, etc. on Reading Challenge/Snatch Game. But those are specific performances from challenges that, on the whole, also have their bum notes, going all the way back to the so-called “classique” seasons.


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I enjoyed the Season 16 Reading Challenge. While there weren’t a ton of shockingly inventive barbs, almost all the queens were engaged, and all but one had at least one solid burn. Poor Mhi’ya Iman LePaige seemed the only bomb in the group, which should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. Something that was a surprise: well-documented sweetheart Xunami Muse won the insult challenge, giving her a second mini-challenge win.

Prior to Snatch Game, the queens (and the viewers!) were graced with the presence of Chad Michaels, “All Stars 1” champion and one of the all-time Snatch Game greats for her Season 4 impersonation of Cher. It was wonderful to see Chad again — it feels like she’s been gone forever — and she looked amazing and gave genuinely good advice to the queens. If there is ever an “All Winners 2,” I would absolutely love to see Chad come back. A friend of mine said she doesn’t need to — and they’re right, she doesn’t NEED to. But think of how special it would be to get a whole season of Chad Michaels just excelling again. What a gift that would be.

As for the Snatch Game itself, I thought it was acceptable. Not disastrous — we have seen disastrous Snatch Games on this show, and this was not one of them — but also not great. I do think it’s fascinating that we got entirely new impersonations this season. None of the 9 remaining queens gave us a celebrity or character we had ever seen on any other Snatch Game. I wonder if that was a result of new rules, or just incredible luck. I’ll go over my thoughts on Snatch Game queen by queen, in alphabetical order, also including my thoughts on their dance-inspired runway looks.

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Dawn: Dawn chose Meghan McCain, which is a great pick for a “Snatch Game” character. As a so-called “Conservative” talking head who is also a nepo baby and has a well-documented history of being absolutely fucking exhausting, there’s ample material for parody. Unfortunately, Dawn whiffed this. Not only did she barely look like Meghan — if someone showed you a picture of her interpretation and said, “Guess who this is supposed to be,” I would not have guessed Meghan. But more than that, we saw almost no funny jokes, and the answers we did see were complicated and confusing. Her Polka dress on the runway was beautiful and she sold it well. Dawn was Safe, and I think she was lucky there were three other duds on the Snatch Game. Also, Dawn’s talking heads continue to get bitchier and bitchier, and I’m convinced the editors are setting her up as our mid-season antagonist as they work to soften Plane Jane’s image. But with that in mind: Dawn is saying all of those things, on camera, and nobody is forcing her to be so dismissive and rude.

Mhi’ya Iman LePaige: Mhi’ya was initially going to play Tiffany “New York” Pollard, which would have been a disaster (as it has been before — I’m not sure any queen could successfully capture New York’s incandescence in Snatch Game, but Mhi’ya surely could not). After the walkthrough, she took Ru’s advice to play with someone Mhi’ya really knows a little too literally, as she invented Shequita, the fictional cousin of rapper Trina. Doing a completely made-up character is a copout on Snatch Game, in my opinion — part of the challenge is impersonation — but ultimately I give Mhi’ya credit for 1) listening to feedback and 2) fully throwing herself into this character, letting loose in a way we have not seen from her all season. Was it all broad stereotypes and lowest-common-denominator humor? It absolutely was. But she was having a good time, and Ru was laughing. So against all odds, Mhi’ya did well in the Snatch Game! For her Dance runway, she did 90s hip-hop, and gave us pirate sleeves on a ketchup-and-mustard body suit, topped with one of the most hideous wigs I have ever seen. Seriously, Mhi’ya has one of the worst runway packages in the history of this show. Almost every week it’s a new encounter with tastelessness. But Mhi’ya was High, and she should be very happy about how she stepped up for Snatch Game.

Morphine Love Dion: Morphine picked Anna Delvey, which is another solid choice for Snatch Game. There’s a lot she could have done with that character, but she settled for throwing around fake money and calling everyone poor — although I did like the gag where she was trying to commit fraud with her answers, and lying about having a relationship with Plane’s character. It was unfunny and unfocused. Her flamenco dance runway was beautiful. Morphine was Bottom 2, and she deserved to be. I do think she needed a wake-up call because she seems to dramatically overestimate her abilities (in my opinion).

Nymphia Wind: Nymphia picked noted ape researcher and conservationist Jane Goodall. This was…not good, at all. Nymphia relied on ape language and puppets, but simply was not funny from what we saw. You could see her stuck in her head. She confessed to struggling with off-the-cuff comedy because she’s shy, but I also suspect there’s an issue with being instantly clever in a second language. The queens made it pretty clear in “Untucked” that Nymphia was the worst of the week in Snatch Game. But on the runway, her Japanese butoh outfit was one of the most astonishing looks. Nymphia ended up Bottom 3, but was spared the Bottom 2, which shocked almost all the queens. I do think her runway played a role there, but beyond that, Nymphia has been a strong performer most of this season, while the two in the Bottom 2 were largely pretty disposable, especially from a track-record perspective. It makes sense that the judges would opt to not put Nymphia in the Bottom 2 in her first flop week.

Plane Jane: Plane Jane picked Serbian pop star Jelena Karleusa, AKA the Serbian Lady Gaga. This was a wild bet that paid big dividends. I had never heard of her, neither had Ru or several of the judges (Michelle thought she was completely invented). Plane was hands down the best queen on that stage in the Snatch Game. She was quick, she was funny, she was fully in character, and she was bantering with Ru and the other queens like nobody else. It was another reminder that Plane is a deceptively sharp queen, and you discount her at your peril. It was overall a terrific episode for Jane, who was also humanized by the story of her Russian heritage and her relationship with her babushka, but still held on to that villain edge by lying to the floptinas about their Snatch Game performances (to dodge requests for her immunity potion), and then dragging them in “Untucked” for not living up to their potential. Somehow even that endeared Jane to me more, as she was almost acting as the voice of the viewer. Her Latin ballroom runway was simple and pretty, but lacked impact. Plane ended up being the winner of the week, and while I think it was close between her and one other queen, I do not begrudge her this win. Plane is one of the best castings I’ve seen on this show in many seasons, and that was a fun Snatch Game performance.

Plasma: Plasma picked Patti Lupone, who is also a good Snatch Game selection. But you could be excused if you thought she was playing Barbra Streisand, again. She immediately went into her rapid-fire, long-winded, over-accented Broadway baby schtick and delivered lines that just didn’t connect. She did have one well-deployed, “I’ll drink to that.” But other than that, a surprisingly soft performance by someone who has shown us she can do comedy and connect to a character. For her runway, she did Tap and literally tapdanced down the runway, leading to Ru exclaiming that it was “Danny Kaye playing Vera-Ellen in ‘White Christmas'” and Plasma shouting back that was the exact reference. Love her reverence for classic Hollywood, but I did not love this look, and the delivery veered toward manic again. Plasma was Safe.

Q: Q chose pilot legend Amelia Earhart, which was inspired, but I’m not sure she made the most of it. She did get in some jokes and she had the banter, but I thought there were some pretty obvious missed opportunities (based on what we saw, at least). The other queens also called out the similarities between her Amelia characterization and her Brick character from “RDR Live” from earlier in the season, which I can see. On the runway, Q gave us a very Thorgy Thor at the Season 8 finale version of The Robot, and it was one of the least successful looks she’s given us. It was a departure for her, which I appreciate. But it was objectively not great. Q was Safe, but I agree with her assessment that she was “High Safe.”

Sapphira Cristal: Sapphira picked James Brown, another smart Snatch Game character we have never seen before. Sapphira gave us a few different iterations of James, and I thought it was funny and reverent — and Ru clearly loved it. The two of them had a lot of fun playing with one another. Then on the runway, Sapphira gave us a drumline routine in the spirit of “Drag U,” the “Drag Race” spinoff that has been off the air for more than a decade, but which…changed a lot of lives. She looked terrific and it’s that kind of blatant sucking up to the judges that I respect in a contestant on this show. Sapphira was in the Top this week and arguably could have won it. In fact, most of the queens pretty clearly thought she DID win the week.

Xunami Muse: Xunami went with an invented character, the Gold Tooth Fairy. She defended her choice by saying that other queens, like Trinity the Tuck’s Devil in “All Stars 7,” had been successful playing non-real people. But that only works if the queen doing it is a) funny and b) knows how to play Snatch Game, and Xunami failed on at least one of those counts. This was a dud out of the gate and didn’t get better as it went along. It was unfunny and highlighted how ill-equipped Xunami is at comedy challenges and repartee. God bless her, she thought she would be just fine even after the Snatch Game was over, and I appreciated Sapphira politely telling her that she was very much in danger. On the runway, Xunami gave us a beautiful, beaded Salsa dress, and looked stunning. It wasn’t the most creative look I’ve seen, but it was effective, especially in its movement. Xunami was Bottom 2 for the week.

After judging, the queens all seemed confident that it would be Nymphia lipsynching against either Morphine or Xunami. But they were all shocked when Nymphia was spared, and friends Morphine and Xunami lipsynched to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” I loved this lipsynch. The two of them decided to give us a show, and the playful moments in the song were especially fun, just two friends dancing along with one another. I thought Xunami was solid, but Morphine really impressed me. We haven’t seen a ton of performance from her thus far, but I thought she delivered an emotive, compelling lipsynch, and if anything the splits and tricks were unnecessary. I thought she was connected with the song and to the judges, and was the clear victor.

Which mean it was Xunami’s time to leave, and you could tell that it destroyed the remaining queens. I’ve described several other eliminated queens this season as “lovely,” but when it comes to Xunami, that really isn’t a strong enough word. Xunami comes across as one of the sweetest, most likable queens of this season, and you could see how her castmates absolutely adored her. While she may not have made a huge impact on the competition — aside from those two mini-challenge wins, her track record was all Safe until she was eliminated — her grace and warmth were certainly felt, and I won’t be at all surprised if she wins Miss Congeniality. I’ll confess that I initially dreaded seeing another girl from the House of Muse on this show, but boy did she turn me around and do wonders for not only her likability, but also Kandy’s. Xunami seems incredible, and I can’t imagine she would put up with someone as tempestuous as Kandy has been made to seem on this show. So congrats Xunami AND Kandy on the wholesale reputation laundering!

Next: it’s another design challenge!

Miss Our Previous S16 Recaps? Here They Are:

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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