‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ S14E1 Recap: Making A Splash
We meet half the S14 cast - and fall in love with a few of them immediately.
Back, back, back again! S14 is here, and it feels like Symone just won. But time has melted and RuPaul demands we return to snarfing seasons of Drag Race like the hog shits we are — and I have returned to recap, for I won best hog.
Lest we choke on our food (we’re not all competitive eaters like Kornbread), Ru’s served up this year’s premiere in two parts, as with S6/12, though they’ve learnt from the anti-climactic lip-sync battle opening from S13 and have gone Milan on us: there are new girls in town, let’s get to business. We’ve only met half the cast and we’ve had a photoshoot, trauma backstories, tears, a variety talent show and an elimination.
Or have we? There was no hint of a return for our first out Orion Story, but I’m sure she and whoever goes next week will be back in some capacity. Here’s hoping — her drag is far more interesting than what we’ve seen from half these queens. Let’s get into it.
‘Tonight’s Guest Judge Is Che Diaz!!!’
Our first queen is Alyssa Hunter, a hot Puerto Rican who has expensive outfits but isn’t super memorable this episode. The show does tend to put serious contenders/big personalities through the werkroom first though, so maybe she’s a grower.
Next up is Bosco, a kooky alt-queen from Seattle — somehow only the third queen to be cast from the city behind Jinkx and DeLa. She side-steps that pressure entirely, instantly establishing her own distinctive, dark drag throughout the episode with some (remarkably similar) looks, a sharp wit, and trademark brows.
Next up is my pick for S14 winner, Kornbread ‘The Snack’ Jeté. She was the obvious stand-out in the (somewhat …reserved…) set of Meet The Queens interviews: instantly charming and funny. Loved her entrance look a lot, but I loved her lying to the queens about her planned performance being speed-eating 120 hotdogs in 60 seconds even more.
My favourite entrance look, though, was Willow Pill’s ’00s White Girls fantasy, which was right on that border of everyday wear and drag. It’s a bold move to come in essentially in a singlet and flip flops, and in Untucked she says she did it so the other queens would under-estimate her. Not to put it on the same level, but it reminds me of Raja’s entrance — a way to say ‘this is all silly!’
Kerri Colby is next, probably the most well-known queen of the cast before the show via being within one of LA’s renowned drag families. She is radiant. So, so beautiful — and not our sole trans contestant this season either, with Kornbread publicly coming out as a trans woman back in November.
Next to enter is June Jumbalaya, another LA queen alongside Kerri and Kornbread. I’m surprised there are no shady comments about her entrance look — though there’s Kornbread’s line about how June buys designer even if it doesn’t fit her, which feels apt for this jumpsuit. I cannot deny her face though: she’s beautiful.
Finally, we have our first-ever Michigan queen (representation matters!), Orion Story, who enters as Juno Del Rey, hamburger phone and all. Her ‘opening paragraph’ about RuPaul’s car insurance (or whatever) almost works, which is pretty emblematic of her whole presence this episode: it’s almost there. There’s a very interesting artist here, but it’s a little first draft.
And that’s it, for now! The queens are a little shaken to learn someone’s going home this episode despite the premiere, and then they’re spun around for a photo shoot that’s very disrespectful to Symone, whose face sniffs each queens’ crotch.
Kerri wins $2500 (she’s very pretty!) for her pic, and then the queens are given their first maxi-challenge: the CNTs, a Charisma, Nerve, and Talent show. Ru makes a joke about how ‘all we need is U’, but surely the writers knew snarky viewers like me would take it as the show’s admission that after 30+ seasons of the DRCU (Drag Race Cinematic Universe), the uniqueness is a little less important.
The Winner Of The Talent Show Is Adam Driver Singing The Words “Baby Annette”
After Ru heads to the werkroom and trauma-frack the queens for every last drop, the show begins with Ru’s own saunter up and down to his own song ‘Catwalk’, off his new hyperpop album Mamaru (no, really).
June’s ‘African Dance’, which reminds me a little of Elektra Shock’s choice to do contemporary dance on Down Under. There might be a lot of artistry on display, but know your context! Dance doesn’t really work in this context of a 60s show, but if not for her slipping headband, she would have been comfortably safe: it may be a piece of fabric, but it winds her up in the bottom against Orion.
Speaking of, Orion’s sketch comedy routine about a trailer park aerobics instructor wasn’t awful — it was much more interesting than the lipsync numbers, but it was lacking polish. In Untucked, she reveals she had no time before the show to work out a routine (her cat was sick! she had to move!), and basically improvised it on-stage which is why it gave ‘first draft of a MAD-TV sketch’.
Originally, she wanted to do an original song like Kornbread, which gets to one of the big issues of the show: an LA girl like Kornbread can pull a track together much quicker than a relatively unknown queen (though raw talent always trumps resources, which we saw last year with Utica compared to, say, Kahmora).
Arguably, either two should have been swapped out for Alyssa, who lipsynced to a ‘rock song’ and ‘played’ an unplugged guitar. I wonder whether she wasn’t able to play guitar live due to production issues, because it missed any real purpose/character.
Right in the middle of the pack was Kerri, who lipsynched to ‘Anaconda’ before some jump rope tricks. She could’ve won if she took Ru’s advice and double-dutch’d — a rope trick that’s impossible to do with just one person. But what is drag if not magic?
Kornbread may have also done a ‘lipsync’ song, but her original track was the exact performance you’d lose your shit over in a club. Bonus points for the Merle shoutout.
Bosco’s burlesque routine goes down well with the judges, but given we’ve seen burlesque so many times now, it’s hard make it stand out. Removing each rose petal frill of her costume bit-by-bit was smart, as was the ending reveal of a rose above her crack, but there was just that tiny bit of cohesion missing – maybe the reveal of a plain white corset lost me a little.
On the other end was Willow, who Ru has already launched an affected nickname for, Widdle Pill. Smile and laugh! Willow’s ‘quarantine self-care’ routine was her lip-syncing to Enya while throwing shit into a bath, including a toaster: again, it didn’t quite have polish, but it was weird and silly enough to work for me, even if it was a pretty dark joke about how fucking awful our lives are because of COVID.
If her runway look was a little… less ugly… she could’ve won.
Category Is Drag Extravaganza Slay, PS. Kornbread Once Farted On A Priest
Kerri Colby wears a fur coat that swallows her chain-link dress underneath. It doesn’t matter, because she looks like this.
Of the runway looks, my favourite was easily Orion’s mushroom triple-titty creation, a bizarre Stepford-spore wives look with impeccable makeup. Really hope we see more of her.
Alyssa’s My Fair Lady drag is equally beautiful, though less exciting: hopefully she does something a little less expected in the next few episodes.
June looks nice, Willow’s green-denim alien outfit hands a little loose on her skin, otherwise I’d like it more; Kornbread gets celebrated for her shiny silver catsuit, but it doesn’t really work for me. Bosco looks great, but it’s almost the exact same outfit she entered in.
Kornbread’s our first winner, and our bottom two battle it out to guest judge Lizzo’s ‘Water Me’. It’s pretty clear June isn’t going home, and Orion packs her bags only to return in a few episodes. Right? Right???
Next week, the talent show continues. And just like that… Drag Race is back.
RuPaul’s Drag Race S14 is available to stream in Australia on Stan, with episodes dropped each Saturday 3pm AEDT.
Jared Richards is Junkee‘s Drag Race recapper, and a freelancer who writes for NME, The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s across the internet as @jrdjms