‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: Sorry Raven, But We Have A New Supreme Symone Now
Two episodes in, we have, to use a boxing metaphor (??), a knockout champion.
This week, RuPaul steps away the Jigsaw mask, and returns to regular broadcasting: with Drag Race S13’s cast still split in half thanks to the Stanford Prison Experiment of the premiere, we get to meet each of the lip-sync winners (and Elliott) properly.
And while they’re truly all a joy, it’s hard to not see Symone as the instant front-runner. To paraphrase the best poet with WW initials (sorry Walt!), “She’s an icon, she’s a legend, and she is the moment.”
The judges see it too, and sing her praises this week, with Ru even calling her “kiddo”, her highest term of endearment possible. Time will tell if she falters, but right now, she’s just magnetic — and it’s matched with money, too, which always helps.
Symone’s looks have all been sublime (and yes, it’s not exactly revolutionary to love a stick-thin queen’s fashion), but it’s the way she performs them that puts her in another category: chewing fake gum as a Dion-from-Clueless Valley Girl, being a beautiful masc boxer. It’s the elegance with which she talks, somehow pulling it off when others would sound like a bad parody of Domonique Jackson from Pose.
It’s the small subtleties of her Dua Lipa lip-sync where she adds more depth to the song than it actually holds, perfectly catching that feeling of resignedly falling in love, shrugging at the song’s end. It’s everything!
But earlier in the episode, the girls don’t see Symone as the one to beat: when they chat in the werkroom about their biggest competiton, everyone lands on either Tina or GottMik. Given they hadn’t actually seen each other perform, they were purely going off first impressions and name recognition prior to the show — sure their answers shifted by this episode’s end. I can’t wait to see what she does this season.
Behind Symone, it’s anyone’s game: this episode showed off a lot of looks, talent and enough charm to pull off that absolute clanger of a RuPaul remix. Let’s go.
Before we get into this week’s challenges, the show has to deal with the premiere’s mess.
Back in the Porkchop Lounge, the queens have to decide who gets the ‘chop’, and on first count, the vote’s split between Eliott and Utica, whose wig, containing her serotonin, is slowly falling further and further back.
I already wrote last week that the ‘twist’ felt a little cruel, and while watching the votes we pretty much know no one is actually going home, it’s not particularly fun to watch Eliott lose the subsequent tie-breaker round — losing three times in the first episode is brutal.
But that doesn’t matter, because she pretty much instantly walks into the werkroom as a ‘surprise’ for the winning queens, which also tips them off that the other queens are still here. I like splitting the queens up — after this episode, I feel like we know who all of them are — but the false threat of instant elimination is so inconsequential and cheap. It’s nice to move on.
The show repeats S7 and S12’s fashion show mini-challenge, which sees the queens present both a Summer day and dark night look down the runway.
It’s hard to pick stand-outs: GottMik and Symone obviously both have the designer connections, but Olivia Lux rocks her collection of knock-off Jacquemus tiny bags and La La Ri is so, so charming that she even sells me on her brown and green summer dress. Kandy first look is high-drama, if not nonsensical for the theme: the second, a PVC demon, has a lot going on, but it’s also somehow a little underwhelming.
No one is bad, but Tina’s looks are a bit overwhelming: wisely, she hoses down the fire colours for the mainstage.
Elliott, meanwhile, mishears the instructions and dresses like a ‘Mlady of the night.
‘Condragulations’ Flopped, Stream Vox Lux OST And Petition Natalie Portman To Perform As Celeste While She’s In Sydney
With the runway done, the queens are thrown into the main challenge: recording and performing a remix of Ru’s ‘Condragulations’, which is no ‘I’m That Bitch’.
Before he throws them to the fire, Ru reminds the queens (and the audience) that everyone on the show is a winner, regardless of “what happens here, out there or online”. After the hatred Widow Von’Du underwent last year, it’s nice to see the show make more of a concerted effort to tackle the toxicity within the show’s fandom, even if it’s mostly lip service.
It’s also nice to see the show’s editors are listening to criticism, as they’ve chopped the boring ‘queens record verses’ segment we normally get. Instead, it’s straight to rehearsal, where the queens have to self-choreograph — and no-one really has the expeirence, which leaves us with some pretty lacklustre moves.
Elliott is a trained dancer, but doesn’t butt in with suggestions as she’s feeling a bit of distance from the group, who keep calling her a spy — a notion that makes no sense, as Kandy realised watching the episode back.
It’s a bit of a shame she only pipes up towards the end, as the end performance is a little shonky: they needed some direction. Still, it’s understandable — Elliott was just eliminated twice on first impressions alone, and her attempts at jokes in the werkroom created a minor stir with Kandy.
This would have been a hard episode for her, which is probably why she was brimming with more energy than someone who thought their first pill wasn’t working so took another:
During rehearsal, Gottmik retreats into himself, as his lyrics out him as trans-masculine — something the queens might know already via his online presence, but that he hadn’t actually talked to them about. It’s pretty intense to watch his horror at being accidentally outed by himself, as he literally recoils when the lyric plays.
Mik is really shaken by it, and when he has to choreograph his section, just kind of walks around and says ‘it’ll be very…. and very that….”, which, again, is incredibly relatable.
It’s sad he has to go through this on camera, but, at the same time, it’s a really concise example of how gender dysphoria can work, and an example of how trans people can have to disclose their identity again and again, at the source of a lot of anxiety. Mik chats to Olivia the next day as they get ready, who is an affirming, empathetic listener.
As a reality show, Drag Race had to ‘discuss’ Mik’s transness in some form: this first moment suggests they have taken time in considering how the show can inform its audience without being too didactic, or exploiting Mik’s own experiences.
Lame Song, Lamé Looks
The actual performance is fine — Kandy fumbles the choreography and it’s difficult to decipher her lyrics, and Mik is a little less present (probably still a little off from the day prior). If it was a regular week, these two big characters would be in the bottom.
The real surprise is Elliott, who outperforms most of the girls, and could be a top of the week if not for her runway. RuPaul might like the Exposé aesthetic (he’s said it twice now), but it doesn’t quite have the dramatics the other girls’ Lamé looks go for. Take La La Ri or Olivia, who run with the chance to go regal.
Kandy pays homage to drag king film Austin Powers, while Tina Burner harks back to another cinematic delight: Derrick Barry in S8.
The top toots have to go to Symone and Mik though: the latter’s alien queen suit was made by Diego Montoya, who is behind a lot of iconic Drag Race looks, including a fairly similar one worn by Sasha Velour in the S9 finale. It’s divine, though at times I wish the queens were given a spending limit, to even things out.
Symone and Olivia are given the top toots of the week — I would’ve given it to Symone and La La Ri, whose performance was more electric than Olivia’s — and they lip-sync to ‘Break My Heart’ by Dula Peep for $5,000.
Olivia goes for comedy, but Symone just feels it out: between this and Janet last week, we might have found this year’s lip-sync assassin. Next week, we do it all over again with the ‘PorkChop queens’, which means no one will actually go home till episode four. It really is RuPaul’s Best Friends Race, for now.
RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episodes available each Saturday, 2pm AEDT.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and freelancer who has written for The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s on Twitter.