TV

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: Brita Is Boiling, Which Is Not Something A Water Filter Should Do

The main challenge may have been a soap opera, but the real drama was on 'Untucked'.

RuPaul's Drag Race S12E5 recap

As Azealia Banks once foretold via Instagram prophecy, the girls are fighting. Drag Race‘s main challenge this week may have been a soap opera, but the real drama was on Untucked.

Led by Brita, there’s a growing resentment around Aiden Zhane’s placement in the show, after last week she narrowly avoided lip-syncing and this week being deemed one of the six people in the top. And we get it: as expressed last week, Aiden isn’t the most inspiring queen to watch on the show.

Her lack of performing history has made her quite moody and defensive in the werkroom and meek in challenges, and her stubborn air has become a barrier to empathy. Where watching someone like Rock M. or Farrah Moan on All Stars 4 struggle with confidence is heart-tearing, Aiden’s reflexive aggression makes it hard to root for her, as she refuses to let the audience in or grow from critiques.

The judges are right to say she has something unique to offer; we see sparks of it occasionally, but it doesn’t feel fully formed yet, which is more a fault of the show for casting her early than anything else.

Queens like Katya and Alaska applied for years and years to get on the show, and fared all the better for it. Meanwhile, it’s hard to not see Aiden as being cast as an early out, reconfigured as more of a figure after seeing how much she got under Brita’s skin.

We see why: it is a super engaging storyline (far better than S11’s #Wiggate, for certain), which is why the show poked and prodded Brita a fair bit this episode.

First, she was in the bottom when Aiden was in the top, which surprised quite a few of the queens (Jaida, Jan, Nicky), as voiced in Untucked. It’s the second week now they’ve been collectively surprised by Aiden’s placement, and as Jackie points out, her lack of effort to connect with the other queens hasn’t helped either, even if it’s coming from a place of insecurity.

My face during Gay’s Anatomy

But the prodding was most obvious when the judges called Crystal, who is Latinx, a beautiful “Polynesian princess” — a direct quote from Brita, who used it to describe the thought behind her less-than-stellar pineapple look from last week.

And then, it was surprising to see Aiden in the top this week, after essentially doing a subdued rip-off of Alaska’s Mae West impression on All Stars 2. Occasionally, there were beats where she broke free to offer her own take on it, but it was overall pretty forgettable.

While Brita’s behaviour isn’t acceptable — and lets be clear, she is bullying Aiden — you can also see how she’s being pushed into it, made to feel like the show has it out for her.

And they do. Brita isn’t a stand-out so far, but her critiques this episode made little sense, especially when Michelle arbitrarily decided her big red riding hook S&M runway look was ‘too nightclubby’. Where does she think drag queens work?

The perfect shot doesn’t exi-

The storyline might be good for Drag Race, but it’s bad news for both Brita and Aiden. While Brita’s actions are being judged (and fairly, to clarify), it’s Aiden’s talent that’s getting a bad wrap, as she stays while fan favourites (Rock, Nikcy) go home.

Resentment over Aiden should be directed towards the show itself. Drag Race, like all reality TV, should have a duty of care to its contestants, but instead throws them to the fanbase for ratings.

On Twitter and Instagram, she has a good sense of humour around jokes about her same wig or referee outfit (and her re-do is much better), and hopefully continues to grow off the show. Hopefully, the fans calm down and remember it’s just a TV show — then again, now we’re all stuck inside, we have more time than ever to sit with our feelings.

Doctor, I Know I Shouldn’t Have Casual Sex Due To The Pandemic Or Whatever, So I Was Wondering If My Anti-Depressants Had A Suppository Alternative?

This week’s maxi-challenge is a scripted parody of Grey’s Anatomy, which is very much still on-air. Just this week, they announced Season 16 will end early due to COVID-19, and they’ll be donating prop gloves and gowns to hospitals across America.

We knew the hospital equipment shortages were bad, but those nurses have nothing! Not even shoes…

That’s about as bleak as this challenge’s script. While it doesn’t touch ‘BreastWorld’ or ‘Shakesqueer’, Gay’s Anatomy went for an aeon: watching it back a second time certainly doesn’t help.

Sure, a big part of these acting challenges is getting the queens to transform trash into treasure and elevate the material, but sometimes there’s only so much they can do.

While this has no real impact on the episode, it’s also truly stunning that Drag Race has a hospital-set challenge in the time of COVID-19, and that RuPaul comes to the werqroom dressed as a Doctor. His mind…

“Just as I suspected: the charts say we’re going to have to frack acres of land in Wyoming.”

As always, some roles are stand-outs: understandably, both Widow and Sherry want to be Meredith Gay’s chain-smoking, terrible mother.

Gigi and Nicky, who get to decide the roles, choose the latter, and she takes home the win this episode. Widow’s ability to shoot daggers is unprecedented, though she does well with the pregnant role, peppering it with one-liners and ad-libs to stand out.

Me, locked in my apartment staring out the window and thinking about how I moved to Berlin in February and then fucking Berghain closed before I could even go for the first time and contract gonorrhoea, a rite of passage.

No one really does badly in the challenge, with no major fuckups or fails. The season 12 queens are all super talented, which is why the lesser performances stand out more than usual.

Beyond Aiden, Nicky falls to the ‘no personality’ narrative this episode, lacking a certain… je ne sais quoi. She was pushed by the judges to incorporate her langue nativ into challenges, but it didn’t quite translate to the bitchy baby character.

It wasn’t the smartest decision to choose another role that required improv, given she’d previously talked about the language barrier causing a delay to thinking on her feet.

Nobody puts baby in the top.

Jan feels a little too carefully calculated to really shine; Jaida and Brita both don’t do much with their roles; and Heidi loses out to Crystal, who gives their conjoined queen performance just a touch more energy.

Easily, the funniest element of the scene was Dahlia’s surprise cameo. Just like most brocc-allies, she couldn’t help but pop up in a scene not meant for her.

Did they film this *after* she was eliminated? Or *during* the challenge, which means they kind of knew she wouldn’t have stuck around?

Meanwhile, Jackie continues to do an excellent job while remaining merely safe: next week’s Snatch Game (!!!) could be a break-through moment.

After the main challenge, the girls talk about mummy issues. Jackie shares that she feels like a disappointment to her mother, who wanted her to be a doctor, and that she doesn’t even know she does drag.

Thankfully, the show doesn’t try and force a ‘coming out’ as it has with other children of immigrant parents; instead, it lets the moment sit for what it is.

One of the most underrated parts of Drag Race are the cut-aways to the queens in half-mug while listening to someone describe their deep trauma. It’s laughable and sincere at once: that’s queer culture, baby!

We also get a massive insight into Widow, who reveals her mother died in a car crash when she was just 17. They had an argument just beforehand, and it’s clear she’s carrying a lot of grief and hurt over it — something near impossible to resolve, and again, the show doesn’t really try to wrap it up neatly.

Via confessional, Nicky nails it when she says it offers a bit of context into Widow’s bravado. Forgive me for writing this, but it’s exactly the vulnerability that makes a queen more relatable.

Of course, more often than not the ‘sad story’ feels contrived and forced by producers asking queens to talk about their traumas, but it can still offer us a fuller picture of someone, allowing us to fall in love with all of them, flaws and all.

We, As Gay People, Get To Stan Normani

This week’s runway theme was capes. Apparently I took no good screenshots of them in action, which is somewhat telling. Crystal, Nicky, Gigi and Jaida all looked excellent.

She really just is very pretty!

Hearing Crystal’s excited voice describe her looks is one of S12’s highlights. I hope she sticks around for a bit longer.

Me, watching yet another Instagram story of a ‘crazy Zoom party’

Aiden’s look was also wonderful: the Silence Of The Lambs nod was really smart and on-brand. Where last week’s talk of ‘staying simple’ seemed defensive, here’s an example of when it works — but this is much more sleek.

Do I have something on my face?

Meanwhile, RuPaul told Normani, born in 1996, that Crystal Methy’d’s boy hair looks like ‘DeBarge’, an ’80s group she has clearly never heard of. This is her reaction:

Online, lots of viewers have expressed visceral disappointment this week’s lipsync song wasn’t ‘Motivation’, but there’s a simple reason why. The show was filmed mid-last year, and it wasn’t out yet.

Yes, true obsessives like me know that Ariana Grande let the queens lip sync to ‘Break Free’  during S7 filming aka before it’d been released, but it’s unlikely that VH1 were willing to bet on ‘Motivation’ being as big as it was.

Which is a shame, because Kim Petras’ ‘Heart To Break’ is, to borrow a term from Alaksa and Willam’s Race Chaser podcast, another “tipping number” — a polite bop better suited to collecting bills than a big number.

Nicky and Heidi are in the bottom, and where Heidi fights, Nicky is a little defeated. She was tired from fighting a war against herself — maybe she could return to an All Stars in the future. She’ll do fine off the show, though: she is simply too pretty to not succeed in life.

Next week is Snatch Game. Despite being quite bad at it, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is going to make a cameo.

While SG has a reputation for separating the pack, last year, front-runners Brooke Lynn and Yvie Oddly both bombed. Still, it remains one of the show’s most hyped challenges: it’ll be interesting to see how these queens fare. It’d be lovely to see Heidi or Crystal win out, though Jan and Jackie both make more narrative sense. Then again, they’ve got tough competition with Sherry, who probably has a few more wins coming.


RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with episodes dropping Saturday 2pm AEDT.

Jared Richards is Junkee’s Night Editor, and lives in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.