‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: Always The Jan, Never The Marcia
Gigi Gigi Gigi!
If you slow down this episode of Drag Race, you can pinpoint the exact moment where Jan’s heart breaks. Gigi wasn’t undeserving of the win for the unauthorised Madonna Rusical challenge, but it was undoubtedly Jan’s to lose — and oh boy, she lost it.
Coming second is more than respectable, of course, but Jan was thirsty as all-hell to win the musical challenge — as the self-professed ‘Troy Bolton of drag’, Jan no doubt thought the producers had this pegged as her episode to shine.
Sure, she’s said ‘I want to win!’ about almost every challenge now, but this one had to be it. As the edit stands, it could’ve gone to either queen — but instead, they decided to lean into Gigi’s domination, knowing there’s nothing sadder than a gleek not getting the role they wanted.
And now, Gigi’s out front with three wins, and for three of Drag Race’s biggest challenges — a ball, Snatch Game, and the Rusical. That’s unheard of. While she’s the front-runner (her biggest competition is disqualified), you never know where the Santino Rice dice may lay: Shea Coulée’s near ‘perfect’ run on S9 proves that.
As I wrote a few episodes ago, Jan is getting a real Miz Cracker edit: not quite pushing through to get the accolades she deserves. Maybe she’s just a little too squeaky clean for the show. While Jan is easily a queen I’d see live, drag excellence without much edge or gritty distinctiveness doesn’t make for excellent TV (Brooke Lynn, hello).
Hopefully she gets her moment — and she’ll certainly have some kind of outburst next week — but if she doesn’t, Jan will flourish online. Well, she already is: her ‘Not This’ video repeats in my head whenever I read the latest Roni news or my WiFi konks out. We stan Jan, and that’s before we talk about those dance rehearsal shorts.
Pivoting away from quarantine-induced thirst, this week’s Ruscial was arguably one of Drag Race‘s best. Having the queens record then lipsync to their own vocals added an extra element to the challenge, and also removed some of the Rigga Morris elements.
It also serves as an opportunity to share one of my favourite Madonna tracks ‘Gang Bang’, off 2012’s MDNA — it’s a Spaghetti western Kill Bill dubstep hyper-camp mess. Editor, don’t remove this, don’t censor me!
That aside, the song-writing was, dare I say, quite… good? Sorry Lucian Piane, but there’s a new girl in town: head cheerleader’s gonna be Erik Paparozzi & David Benjamin Steinberg. This episode was a wonderful tribute to the queen of pop and fried fish, Madonna, tracing her career with a real thoughtfulness and humour that was a joy to watch.
Maybe it’s the iso-brain getting to me, but the line they gave Heidi — “I think the most controversial thing I’ve ever done is stick around” — made me quite emotional. Madonna’s not without her faults, but she’s done so much good for the queer community and music that it’s hard to not be disappointed with the way we discredit her now, especially when both Rebel Heart and Madame X were great. But that’s another conversation…
Justice For #UnapolageticHorse
Widow Von’Du sums it up best: at episode’s start, the tension’s so thick you could cut it with a cold butter knife. Last week’s Untucked saw a few of Snatch Game’s high-placed queens chastise everyone else for not being more prepared. Widow and Heidi, in particular, didn’t take it well.
Heidi plays a strong hand and tells Gigi she “lost respect” for her, while Widow takes a lot of relish when other queens falter throughout the episode. Schadenfreude may be relatable, but it’s not a cute look. After the past few weeks of backstory, we see where Widow’s protective wit comes from, but it still feels a little harsh to watch at times.
With no mini-challenge this episode, we get straight into the swing of things as the queens put their hands up for which role they want in the Madonna Ruscial.
Only Gigi and Jan don’t get the roles they want, with Jan awkwardly getting pressured into doing ‘early’ Madonna and starting the show, to which she agrees seemingly to keep the peace.
Meanwhile, Gigi and Brita both want ‘Cone Bra Madonna’, and Gigi concedes (to her benefit, as it turns out). The fact that the Ruscial costumes are provided raises a few questions though: does this mean they have outifts ready to fit each queen? Surely each is told their role, and they stage the assigning moment — that’s what happened on All Stars 2 with the ‘Herstory of the world’ lipsync, as confirmed long ago by the queens.
Either way, there are no bad roles for once; some, of course, have more, but at least there’s no automatic bottom role here.
Thank God Carson Kressley isn’t co-writing these recaps, because in that alternate reality he just stabbed me with a broken wine stem to write something like, ‘automatic bottom? Sounds like I’m out of a job’!
Of the singing moments, the most striking was Gigi, who was visibly shaking from nerves. She’s been so poised all competition that it felt like the beginning of a vulnerability moment — but even after an equally shaky dance rehearsal, she got it together and owned the challenge.
We might just not get that vulnerability moment with Gigi. As discussed before, perhaps she’s just a well-rounded performer and person without much baggage due to her age and wonderful parents, akin to Aquaria. It might not be the most exciting reality TV arc, but her talent (so far, at least) is undeniable.
Jaida was incredibly charming too, giggling over recording Madonna at her sexiest. She also repeats her moment in Gay’s Anatomy, in that she doesn’t nail it first go, but takes notes immediately and proceeds to do a good job.
Jackie struggles to be sexy, and Brita can’t bunny hop for shit. Both are endearing, though Brita has an all-time bitchy moment where she says via confessionals that Widow should ‘stop complaining’ about her injured knee from the first episode, as “it should’ve healed by now”. If it’s supposed to be shade, it fails: instead, it’s as scorching as an iron cattle brander, especially after following on from that half-arsed tribute to Aiden as she wiped away her mirror message. To quote Jan, “not this”.
‘Come On/Don’t Just Stand There/Let’s Get To It/Dis-perse/There’s Nothing To It (‘It’ Being Social Distancing)’
While the bottoms for this week were fair, the tops were harder to pick. Alongside Gigi and Jan, Jaida made me question my sexuality, Crystal was incredibly funny and Widow owned 2000s era Madonna.
And the runway! ‘Night Of 1000 Michelle Visages’ made my jaw drop: it’s such a wonderful meta-circle jerk for the show, and a meta-joke about the two Madonna runways that it captured pretty much everything I love about Drag Race. Put it in a blender, not afraid to reference or to not reference…
Congresswoman Alexandria Oscasio Cortez was a guest judge (alongside Winnie Harlow), which has caused a little stir online for those unaware that Drag Race is filmed a year in advance.
In the past few weeks, AOC’s Twitter mentions have been filled with people asking whether she was going to address RuPaul’s fracking on the show, considering in February she introduced a bill to ban fracking across the US. Of course, there’s not much she can do about that now: how was she to know the world’s most famous drag queen was also hell-bent on destroying the planet (but not bees)?
Of the looks, Jaida, Crystal and Gigi’s were the stand-outs, but it was all pretty delightful. Sherry returned to the runway this episode: as Willam and Alaska guessed on their recap podcast Race Chaser, her removal last episode must have been due to Disney’s sponsorship.
My personal favourite Visage look wasn’t included, but it turns out Nicky Doll had it planned — yes, it was when she showed her breasts in S3 for no reason.
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PEEKABOOB I see YOU 🎶 Oh y’all thought I had only one reference covered? 💋 @michellevisage I would have loved to celebrate you that night! You’re one hell of a woman and one extraordinary mother. This was one of those looks I had so much fun designing! Dress by @blackandwhitestriped Photography by @jonophotography Shoes by @louboutinworld
Nicky wasn’t there, though, and so no one flashed the judges.
Jan missed out on winning due to Gigi’s surprising show this week and her out-of-the box look. While I’ve seen a bit of conversation about her lack of breast-plate for the look, Michelle didn’t, uh, have much to show for at that time in her career.
There was more playfulness, too: Gigi’s runway wasn’t impressive on a technical level, but the performance (playing with her hair, for eg) pulled it off. Jan can feel a little contrived at times — like Sasha Belle, she’s studied Drag Race, and showing your working isn’t always the best look.
Or maybe, like this viral tweet theorises, RuPaul just gives the wins to Gigi because he wants filming to end so he can go frack again. Either way, Heidi and Brita end up lipsyncing to early Madonna cut ‘Burning Up’, and it might be the best of the season yet? Heidi is charming, funny and sexy all in one, even in her TOWIE look (clearly, she’d just scrolled through Michelle’s Instagram and picked something she already had in her closet).
It’s Brita’s time to go, and the queens are sad to see her go, suggesting her harsh edit hasn’t offered much of the joy we keep hearing the judges talk about. Hopefully the fans aren’t too harsh on her — there’s more to Brita than we saw, and it backs up her boasting, too. It’s a shame she didn’t quite deliver, but it happens.
Next week is a branding challenge, which is always a highlight. Fill your week in between with laughs and follow @incorrectdrag on Twitter: whoever they are, they’re posting incredibly funny fake subtitles on S12 episodes. It’s made my week.
— incorrect drag race (@incorrectdrag) April 12, 2020
RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episodes available each 1pm AEST.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Night Editor, and freelances from Berlin. He’s on Twitter.