‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: Silk Silk And The Curdling Milk

With one episode in the workroom left for S11, where to from here? Certainly not West.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E11

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Am I Sharpay Evans in High School Musical? Because I feel like scream-singing, “This is not what I wanted / This is not what I planned / And I just have to say / I do not understand!” to an auditorium of my peers. What the hell happened this episode?

After one of the show’s most lacklustre lip syncs in recent seasons (sorry Miss Fame and Pearl), Silky shantéed, Nina sashayed — and before that, Brooke Lynn won over Vanjie in this week’s makeover challenge. Then again, those facts themselves aren’t the frustrating part. It’s more that the producers completely abandoned any sense of narrative to get us there.

The footage we saw didn’t quite match up with what happened. It’s all just very confusing, because we know Drag Race can and will edit the show to down-play a queen’s successes and up their failures (remember when S7’s Max interrupted RuPaul on the main-stage to sing, seemingly unhinged? Not quite!).

Editing for a narrative is ‘unfair’ but ultimately fine. In case you need reminding, we’re watching a reality TV show, and what’s realer than a rigged meritocracy? But this episode, the editors left in so many moments that led the viewers down false paths — Vanjie getting such high praise, #Wig-gate, the ‘meh’ — that it was hard to not feel hard done by once the dust settled.

RuPaul's Drag Race s11e11

Even Vanjie was surprised, her face dropped when she heard she was ‘safe’.

With one episode in the workroom left for S11, where to from here? Certainly not West.

They’re Back Back Back Back Back Again

Am I Corbin Bleu in High School Musical 2? Because I’d much rather be baking than in the midst of all this half-hearted #Wig-gate drama. But first: A genuinely funny faux-slapping challenge.

I’m guessing the girls were given extra time to write the reads in the wake of that disastrous Reading challenge — the jokes are a step above last time. Brooke rightfully wins thanks to her spins and Dynsasty-esque side-stares.

Since her comedic breakthrough on ‘LADP’, she’s managed to turn her ballet poise into an asset in acting challenges, and she’s fast become The Frontrunner of the season (especially now that she’s on three wins, but more on that later).

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E11

When Vanjie gives you a cold sore, after she promised she just had a pimple.

The returning queens enter for a makeover challenge — well, some of them. Last week, I noted that Mercedes and Ra’Jah weren’t coming back, and guessed they weren’t too keen to. But I completely forgot about Kahanna Montrese. Luckily, Honey Davenport was ready to fill in as this season’s trade.

What is good?

There’s a lot of talk about shady pairings this episode, with Silky outright saying it was unfair she was paired with Soju. But I tend to believe Brooke when she says they were just the left-over couple, since everyone else works so well together.

Still, given that the other teams have similar body sizes, for most, the makeover is a simple case of slightly tailoring a pre-existing outfit. By nature of their body types, Silky arguably has to sow two looks, and the rushed nature of it shows. It’s clear she’s absolutely in her head this episode: she looks defeated the moment she gets her partner.

Ah yes, two friends who love working, touching and talking to one another.

As a result, Silky more or less spends the episode lashing out at Soju. Sure, Soju doesn’t wear heels (due to a medical condition, apparently), and was the first out, but since it’s a make-over challenge, Soju’s own makeup issues shouldn’t matter all that much.

It’s pretty awful to watch, especially as it’s clear Soju tries to laugh off the constant comments — which include Ru directly asking Silky if she was at a disadvantage, while Soju is standing next to them.

Silky’s entire interaction with Ru is off, as she refuses to directly admit she screwed up last week. It’s clear Ru’s gunning for that Vulnerable Moment the judges are so obsessed with, but Silky continues to be loud and quip-filled.

When she flubs that Bruno Mars (???) reference, you can see a panic in Silky’s eyes, as if she knows she needs to be saying something very different, but isn’t quite capable of it.  More than her lip sync, her failure to offer that moment here might cost her the crown, unless there’s a breakthrough next week.

Meanwhile, Scarlet is feeling her oats so hard that she forgets that there are other oats there.

There’s a lot of hatred online for Silky this week, both for surviving the lip sync and her behaviour to Soju and continual pushing of Yvie. I get the disdain (but, of course, don’t condone the hatred). Silky is calculated and cutting when she tells judges that Yvie is fundamentally a mean person — and it’s frankly ridiculous to then claim you’ve “only ever been nice” backstage on Untucked, especially given how she acted to Soju this episode.

The fight between the two of them is too exhausting. Both sides are a little too bruised and battered, and acting out of a place of hurt. With a forewarning of impending armchair psychology, it’s worth remembering that Yvie is a 24-year-old star whose body is actively working against her — her drive, ambition and yes, bluntness, likely stem from this.

And while Silky’s personality is seen as an advantage on Drag Race, the show is probably one of the few worlds in which it’s anything but a cross she has to bear. As an effeminate, overweight gay, black man who grew up in Mississippi, Silky has no doubt dealt with a lot of shit in her life — her oft-referenced past as literal reverend itself seems to suggest a lot of pain.

For Silky to then come on the one TV show that could treat her like the star she is, and then struggle, would be soul-crushing. We see these queens as indestructible, but oppressed people carry their trauma whether they want to or not, even on the runway.

“Opinions Are like Assholes, Ya Know? Most Of Them Are On My Face”

Am I Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical 3: Senior Year? Because I’m ready to move on to bigger, brighter things.

Thankfully, other teams are much more fun to watch. It’s really nice to see these queens back, particularly Scarlet, who, once she learns to dance, is my #1 pick of the S11 queens for All Stars 5.

Ariel gives some fun drama with #Wig-gate, but the lack of resolution makes it feel a bit pointless. It’s possible she sensed that Vanjie needed her to focus, or perhaps she just wanted to start some drama and then backed down when it got a little too intense. Which means it’ll be a focus of the reunion, I’m sure, which is in two episodes???

“Mmm yesss! Did you just say wig? I feel that already.”

Let’s jump into the runways. Ariel, who paints heavy on purpose, has never looked so classy; Honey is again unrecognisable; and Plastique is somehow even prettier than normal.

Touch this skin.

I, Tonya? No, but is she Tonya?”

Brooke was stunning, even if she misunderstood and thought it was another Conjoined Queens challenge.

Yvie’s wasn’t as polished as the top looks, but at least it was innovative. I’d rather see something a little off and interesting than pristine and boring. And fun: the runway performance sold it, and, as much as it pains me to say it, I think Nina deserved to be in the bottom next to Silky. Not because of the outfits themselves, but because of Shuga’s rough make-up.

The show has an odd dislike for ‘straight-forward’ classic camp, often couching it in the “too costume-y” criticism. But they’re drag queens! I’ll never really understand this line of thought, but I do understand that Nina’s look just wasn’t as well thought-out as the top queens.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E11

Denim? I Hardly Even Know What To Caption This With, I’m Sorry (Stream Vox Lux OST).

Shuga is back… and she’s bought her troll doll look?

Several cysts popped on Soju’s face just before the runway, but this time, she refused to comment on it, and silently bled from her cheeks down the runway. Fierce!

Now comes the time where I write about the lip sync, and I really don’t want to. It was such a mess. Silky flopping around, high-kicks for no reason, the hair reveal for no reason, the outfit falling apart. Gosh, it was super disappointing, considering all season Silky’s been telling us how she’s ‘ready to lip sync for her motherfucking life’, and that the song was clearly much more suited to her.

We will always be able to find the queers on the dance floor by whoever recoils when the first few bars of ‘No Scrubs’ begin to play.

Nina wasn’t at her best either, but she was concise, at least, and less captivating performances have saved queens before (Willam v. Jiggly, anyone?). According to the edit, it was clearly a double sashay and Vanjie won the challenge — so why did the show go against itself?

Counting All Stars, Drag Race is in its fifteenth season. Reality shows struggle to keep fresh after a few seasons, at best, and tend to continually rely on new gimmicks and cheap twists to play with the audience’s expectations.

When you look back at the past few years — lip-sync tournaments, All Stars 3‘s queens jury, All Star 4‘s double crowning — it’s clear the show feels it too. And it doesn’t need to: the audience for Drag Race just wants a show that lets the queens shine. Season 11 is at its best when it does this.

We head into the final workroom week with a pretty obvious frontrunner. Brooke has three wins, while A’Keria and Silky are on two, Yvie on one, and Vanjie on none, though she easily could’ve won this week’s, and the evangelical talk show challenge. Either Silky or Vanjie are going next week — then again, who the fuck knows?

RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episodes out Friday 2pm AEST.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.