BY Eric Rezsnyak
First, sorry for the delay in this recap. I was traveling this weekend hosting Drag Race Trivia in Boston to benefit the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. If you work with a nonprofit and are interested in a pop-culture trivia fundraiser, leave us a comment on this blog and let’s see what we can do!
So, onto Episode 7. This was simultaneously a great episode and a really awful one, because of the elimination. Do I think it was the right decision given the way the episode unfolded? Yes. Do I think that queen had been struggling for weeks? Yes. Did it also hurt to see her go so early? You bet.
The episode kicked off with the queens somewhat surprised at Vicki Vivacious’ lipstick message, which referenced loving “most” of the remaining girls. I think this next part was mostly the editors immediately trying to paint a specific picture of Cara Melle, but: Cara seemed particularly taken aback at the message, and more than one girl — specifically Tomara Thomas — explicitly said that Vicki was for sure singling out Cara there, because Cara is “loud.” I cringed a bit that Cara, one of the few queens of color on this season, and to ever be featured on DRUK period, is “loud” and therefore difficult to like. That’s…a rough take. It also doesn’t really line up with what we’ve seen all season. Cara can be accused of several failings, but loud isn’t one that would ascribe to her. Especially not with Tomara, a walking cackle, right there in the work room. (Please know that I love Tomara, but she is without a doubt the loudest cast member left, possibly of the entire season.)
The queens then had to participate in the recurring puppet challenge, which was death. I actually cannot remember the last time we had a successful puppet challenge, on any franchise. While I enjoy seeing the actual puppets — and the UK5 gals were adorable in puppet form — I don’t think they give the queens enough time to prepare their off-the-cuff insults. They certainly didn’t seem to this time, as almost every single queen bombed, except for Ginger Johnson, who savaged Kate Butch. The other queens have started to roll their eyes at Ginger’s recurring wins this season, but gals, she’s simply excelling while the rest of you are stagnating or collapsing under the weight of the competition. It’s just the truth.
Mini-challenge winner Ginger was allowed to pick her partner — Kate Butch — and then assign the two remaining teams (DeDeLicious and Tomara; Cara and Michael Marouli) for the main challenge, a comedy acting one in which the teams had to film parodies of popular British TV shows, “Footballers Wives,” “Holedark,” and “Femmerdale.”
Broadly, everyone did well in this challenge. The edit would have you believe that DeDe and Tomara flopped in “Femmerdale,” and certainly they seemed to be struggling with their lines while rehearsing with Michelle Visage. But the final product was probably the funniest scene of the three. Kate and Ginger worked beautifully together in “Holedark,” but again it was Ginger who stole the show, although Kate held her own. In “Footballers Wives” Cara continued to get the “you’re too loud” note, which, again, I didn’t really see evidence to support. I got the argument that both she and Michael started off at an 11, giving them nowhere to go. But I didn’t find Cara particularly loud. She also, unfortunately, didn’t seem particularly comfortable, or get many laughs.
On the runway the theme was Pajamas, which I again found to be a bit of a dud. There were some interesting interpretations — Kate looked incredible in a film noir-inspired runway; DeDe’s onesie was whimsical; Cara’s rollers wig was exceptionally cool — but I felt we had seen much of it before, specifically in US Season 9’s Naughty Nighties runway. How Tomara was praised for basically just tying stuffed animals to her body, I will never know. I am a Ginger Stan but this was another week where she was completely off the runway brief and seemed to do whatever she wanted.
The judges agreed that everyone did very well, and that the bottom team would be decided primarily on who was least funny. That meant that Cara and Michael were in the B2, and you could tell everyone was shocked, including them. My suspicion is that when that was announced, everyone immediately assumed it would be Michael going home. While Michael has done well in this competition, Cara came into like a ball of fire and absolutely dominated the first few challenges. Unfortunately since then it has been a pretty precipitous slide, and the person who was the obvious frontrunner after Week 2 was clinging to safety by Week 7.
And then the lipsynch, to “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)” by Samantha Fox. Again I suspect the editors worked hard to create a specific narrative here. Based on what we saw, Michael was confident, engaged, and fully present in the lipsynch, while Cara appeared to be distracted, listless, and unfocused. I think she also slipped once or twice. She didn’t seem “into” it — at least, that’s what they clearly wanted us to think. There were moments where Cara obviously threw a trick into the mix and we didn’t see it, because the focus was on Michael. This is a case where I really wish we could see unedited side-by-side footage, because I suspect it was much closer than they would like us to think.
In the end, Michael was saved, and Cara was eliminated. The other queens looked absolutely shocked by this, and I know many viewers were as well. Cara was EASILY the breakout star of the season for the first few weeks after its debut. I think everyone assumed she would at least be a finalist. To go home at F6 is genuinely surprising. But not so much if you consider Ru’s response to Cara over the past few episodes. There has been a notable lack of enthusiasm for Cara’s challenge output since “DisasterClass.” It seemed like Ru got frustrated or irritated with Cara’s inability to push through. That also makes sense with what I had been picking up with Cara pretty much since the start: Cara self-produces constantly. Even in her confessionals she’s putting on airs, speaking grandly. I get the sense that Cara doesn’t really trust in herself, at least not in the way she should as she is obviously a spectacular talent. But over the episodes it became more and more clear to me why they had resisted casting her until this season, despite auditioning every year she could. I think Cara gets into her head, and it prevents her from fully throwing herself into the challenges. And I think that’s exactly what happened to her this season.
I will miss Cara terribly. She is a STAR. Basically everyone in this cast is, but Cara in particular has an It quality to her. I think she needs to believe in herself a little more, and let loose when it comes to the funny stuff. If she ever chooses to come back I think she would be a major threat. Regardless what happens, I have no doubt she will have a legendary career, both in the UK and the States. She’s a breakout character, for sure.
I also need to comment on the winner of this episode. I adore Kate Butch, I have since Episode 1. I thought she looked sensational on the runway. I thought she was solid in the challenge. Her winning over Ginger was both to give Kate the win she has been striving for, and to keep Ginger from getting her fourth consecutive RuPeter Badge. Because to my mind, Ginger was the best in the main challenge. Her runway was a whiff, no debate there. But i thought the judges were REALLY gassing up Kate with the praise for her challenge performance. She was good, but there were better. Including her own scene partner.
Next: Makeovers, AKA the episode where it is incredibly easy for the show to boot whichever contestant they’re no longer invested in, because the judging is so subjective.
International “Drag Race” Round-Up
I watch all the international seasons so you don’t have to!
Behind on all of these after last week’s travels, but will catch up before Friday. We’ll also have Canada 4 to add to the mix, god help us. (Excited for that season though.)
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