“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 16, Episode 9 Recap

March 1, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

I think my thoughts about the conclusion of this episode can be summarized by American poet laureate Thorgy Thor:

To be clear, I think the result was understandable. I won’t go so far as to say “justified,” but I can understand how we got there. And I absolutely hate it, even as I have come to really love this season. The casting department absolutely smashed it, and we’ve had some creative, engaging challenges in the mix.


Best “Drag Race” Snatch Game Performance

Best “Drag Race” Runway Look (S7-S12)

Top 10 “Drag Race” Winner Stepdown Looks

Top 10 “Drag Race” Seasons of 2023

Like, for instance, the spit-take mini-challenge. The best mini-challenges are stupid, silly, and unserious, and that’s exactly what this was. The girls got in gloriously busted quick drag and each performed a classic water-spitting reaction to some (very funny) lines read by RuPaul. Everyone did well, and we got the sight gag of the Spit Crew, Bryce and Bruno in briefs and wellies, wearing clear ponchos. A+ effort to everyone involved. Ultimately Nymphia Wind won, the beginning of what I assume is her improbable underdog edit.

The main challenge for this week was — for the third time this season — a design task. This cast has a lot of strong designers in it, but also some strong performers who cannot design at all. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and there are only a handful of them that straddle both sides of the divide. This one specifically was “See You Next Wednesday,” a contemporary couture goth look, inspired by The Addams Family and specifically Wednesday Addams. Again: whoever is coming up with the challenges this season is doing the damn thing.

I’ll go through my thoughts on each queen, ranked from most impressed to least. With the caveat that it was a VERY tight race for the top, as so many of them did well this challenge.

Q: Q is one of the strongest designers we’ve ever had on “Drag Race.” Not only is she fast and creative, but she knows how to make a STATEMENT with her work. This was absolutely stunning, from the scraggly hair piece down to the ripped-and-pinned fishnets. My main concern going into judging was, Will the judges think this meets the “goth” brief? Because while it was undeniably gorgeous, it almost read more clown than goth to me. That didn’t seem to be an issue for the panel, which lavished the look with praise, and rightfully so. Q is such a strong competitor. I do worry for her outside the show, though. She had a *rough* week on social media, and for her long-term career prospects she’s going to need to figure that part of things out, for real. A great first step is never, ever reading the comments. Just saying.

Sapphira Cristal: Sapphira not only delivered a strong design this episode — and a delightful runway presentation — but also really cemented what an incredibly lovely person she is by helping out her struggling sisters, Mhi’ya Iman LePaige and Plasma. I was yelling at the screen for Sapphira to stop, because we saw her stumble in the last design challenge, when she had again split her attention between her own work and Mhi’ya. Thankfully it seemed that Sapphira learned her lesson and prioritized her own look, which was quintessentially Sapphira — regal, refined — but still goth. A great week for Sapphira.

Dawn: I personally would have put Dawn in the Top 3 for this challenge. I thought the suspended hoop concept she created was quite creative, even if it was hard to read on a TV screen, where black on black just creates a sea of darkness. But there were very cool details in that look that I bet looked great in person. It was a good episode for Dawn, too, who has been coming off quite harsh lately. I did not for a second think she was deliberately sabotaging Plasma with her design advice, and I thought she handled the disappointment of once again losing a design challenge with grace.

Nymphia Wind: I thought Nymphia’s look was dramatic and certainly goth and fashion, but in “Project Runway” parlance, it felt unresolved to me. Again, it’s possible some of the work was being lost via television, because it was layers of black fabric on top of one another. But it was very difficult to figure out what was going on with the bodice of that dress, and I thought the headpiece AND the veil were overkill. Nymphia’s face has never looked more incredible than it did on that runway, though. Again, I really like Nymphia, and I’m rooting for her hardcore. I also respect that procrastination is very much a part of her artistic process. But given the very tight turnaround they have for these looks, and how much footage we saw of her goofing around in the work room, I couldn’t help but feel she probably could have delivered something a bit more refined had she focused it down earlier. But maybe that’s just me.

Drag Race Banner

Plane Jane: I really liked this look, and I was surprised that Michelle Visage specifically was not vibing with it. I thought it was quite successful, giving me Edward Scissorhands as a drag queen. The chain details were cool, I LOVED the hair and make-up — has Jane ever looked better? — and I thought it moved beautifully on the runway. I suppose it lacked the sophistication of all the previously mentioned looks, but on its own I responded to it positively. Jane was a bit sharper this episode than we have seen her in a few weeks, personality wise. It’s clear that this group has figured out how to work with her unique brand of humor and her sometimes blunt delivery, which I’m glad to see. I think she was also frustrated falling out of the top placements, and when it dawned on her that she could realistically be in the bottom, her attitude seemed to get much colder. It’ll be interesting to see how Jane navigates the next few weeks, as Safe spots get fewer and fewers.

Morphine Love Dion: I actually really liked Morphine’s look. It was sensual, it had a lot of detail, it was elegant, it was goth. Sure, there were elements that looked a bit crafty. But she clearly worked her BBL off this week, and she should be so proud of herself. I saw Morphine’s drive very clearly this episode. But we have to acknowledge that by Episode 9, she has yet to place above Safe (neither has Dawn!). The runway is rapidly running out for her, and it’s pretty clear she knows it.

Mhi’ya Iman LePaige: It’s tough to judge this as “Mhi’ya’s” given that she executed what Sapphira told her to do. It is called a “design” challenge for a reason. The design should be coming from the queen, not their sister. I suppose the dress that we saw on the runway DID resemble what Mhi’ya set out to do from the start, but we saw Sapphira step in and basically explain to her how to bring that concept to life, one step at a time. I appreciate Sapphira helping out her friend. I appreciate that not every queen is going to excel in design challenges. But it’s Top 8. We’re just a few episodes away from the finale. Queens should not be requiring this amount of assistance at this stage of the competition, especially when they are powerhouse lipsynch artists who are highly capable of fending for themselves when they fall into the Bottom.

Plasma: I adore Plasma. She is a standout this season and came into this episode a clear frontrunner. But she had been dodging bullets in the previous design challenges. She couldn’t dodge this one. Trying to step out of her comfort zone of mid-century lady-of-a-certain age, she produced a garment that didn’t necessarily look BAD — I liked elements of it, especially the shrug and the pants — but which was not cohesive, and which did not compare favorably to anything else on the runway. The styling was also…a lot. But Plasma knew this was not her challenge, and she really did try. She put everything she had into the challenge, and she did it HERSELF (minus some gut checks from Dawn and Sapphira). Again, it’s just the lousy luck of a season with THREE design challenges and one of the strongest overall groups of designers we have ever had on this show.

Ultimately Q was named the winner, making her another two-time winner for this season, along with Plasma, Plane Jane, and Nymphia. Q deserves it, to be sure. Although I didn’t care for her chaos-goblin energy in “Untucked.” That, coupled with her mess of a week on social media, was not a great look. I fear she’s going to have a serious likability problem going forward, which is a shame. She’s unbelievably talented and SHOULD celebrate her achievements. There was just something off about the delivery this episode.

Morphine was declared safe, leaving a Bottom 2 of Mhi’ya and Plasma. For those keeping track, this was Mhi’ya’s THIRD Bottom 2 placement — usually the kiss of death on this show — and Plasma’s first. They had to lipsynch to a sped-up version (boo) of Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary.” Before the song started, members of my viewing party said emphatically that if Mhi’ya sent Plasma home, they would be absolutely furious. But then the lipsynch started. Absolutely no shade to Plasma, who by all accounts did a good job. But Mhi’ya undeniably ate that song UP. Even setting aside the flower petals under the wig — queens, don’t bother, you will never recapture that moment — once Mhi’ya got into the meat of the song, she was incandescent on that stage. It’s not just that Mhi’ya throws down crazy tricks — although she does, and they ARE impressive. It’s that she also brings terrific musicality to her performances. This was a top-tier lipsynch performance, and even though it was her third appearance in the B2, and Plasma’s first…she won. She did. It sucks, but it is what happened.

And indeed, RuPaul named Mhi’ya the winner, which meant Plasma — a two-time main challenge winner this season — was eliminated. Absolutely brutal. A tragedy, truly. Plasma is a unique queen, a refreshing queen for the show at this point. I know some people got tired of the old-lady drag and constant references to Broadway or Old Hollywood, but I loved it. I think there is a real need for Millennials and Gen Z to be exposed to some of the foundational inspirations for drag, and Plasma does that in a way that’s not patronizing. She clearly genuinely loves the pop culture of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and I think that is something we should celebrate. She’s also a hell of a stage performer and singer, and has great comic timing. I have absolutely no doubt that we will see Plasma again in the future, whether that’s “All Stars” or on the boards. She’s born for the stage and I’m so excited to see where her career goes from here.

Next: the political challenge, which is also an original verse and choreography challenge. They are not making it easy for these girls!

Miss Our Previous S16 Recaps? Here They Are:

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!

Newsletter Banner

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

I didn’t think there was a world that Plasma wouldn’t sail through to the next round, but I was wrong. Mhi’ya certainly won the lipsync, but I thought maybe Ru would pull out the double save. What bothers me about lipsync assassins is that they seem to only do just the one thing well, and nothing else. Is it worth keeping Mhi’ya around knowing she’ll probably fail challenge after challenge, when there’s a better chance Plasma can succeed? I think producers were happy to have a front-runner leave the runway just to get fans all riled up.

Anyway, can Mhi’ya lipsync her way to the top four? I don’t see another queen except maybe Saphira would can go toe-to-toe with her. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Great recap!

Reply to  Brandon
1 month ago

Agree! Sending a talented queen home after a bad week against a Queen with innumerable bad weeks, just seems backwards.