The Second Ru Paul Roast featuring Michelle Visage makes for a tumultuous week in the rankings for our queens.
One of the first elements of RuPaul’s Drag Race I ever watched were the “Meet The Queen” videos from Season 6. The girls talked about a lot of things I didn’t understand at all, but one theme kept popping up again and again: they were all afraid of someone named Michelle Visage.
Based on their comments, I expected Michelle to be a force of unmitigated evil and impossible to please. She’s anything but that! Michelle is critical, but she’s realistic. She has some pet peeves she’ll go after every time (e.g., the color green, in-between gown lengths, cinching, “knowing the real you”), but her input is a lot more useful than anyone else on the panel. And, I tend to agree with her.
In this week’s ranking, every queen in the top five got shuffled. That leaves us with one new queen in contention for the finale and another finding it slipping out of her grasp.
That’s a bit of a surprise, since last week was another on-script challenge about being funny. Of course, this week they scripted themselves and had to make it work live in front of an audience.
Our remaining queens are relatively well-matched – they all have at least one win a piece, and four of the seven have been to the bottom two once. (Trinity is the sole queen with a pair of solo wins. Shea has her own win plus a shared win with Sasha. That shared victory is Sasha’s only outright victory, but she just had two weeks of almost winning.)
Basically: it’s still anyone’s race, but some anyones are a little bit better positioned than others.
That makes next week’s challenge absolutely critical. Whoever wins could be solidifying their place in the finale, while if a queen with an existing bottom two placement survives the lip sync she could be dooming herself to fourth place.
1. Shea Couleé
Average: 2; was 6, 1, 3, 1, 1, 3, 3
Shea is back on top of the rankings with another performance that seemed to be flawless in the eyes of the judges.
Unlike last week, I can’t really complain about Shea’s performance this time around. Every one of her jokes landed. Had the editors shown any more of her routine than they did, it would have put Peppermint’s big first win into question.
Shea wore a lovely, simple, sparkling black dress and a severe blonde bob. My favorite detail was her eyelashes, so huge that they stuck out past the edges of her hair! I usually hate when comic artists draw women that way, but I guess I begrudgingly appreciate it now that I’ve seen a real-life example.
Nothing is going to derail Shea from reaching the finale, because there’s no one else in the cast as strong who can definitely take her out in a lip sync. From here on out it’s all about using the next four episodes to build her momentum towards taking the crown.
Average 4; was 2, 3, 5, 6, 6, 7, 4
Peppermint finally surges back into the top three on the back of two straight weeks of powerhouse performances and lovely fashion.
This is the experienced NYC club queen we’ve all been waiting to see in this competition. In the challenge it wasn’t that Peppermint’s jokes were so funny, but that she delivered them effortlessly.
She seemed to know her audience and feel perfectly comfortable joking with them. It just felt like Peppermint talking, even though she was clearly scripted and was making exaggerated gesticulations the entire time.
Peppermint was in a glammed-up, ultra-pagaenty, besequined, big-hair look with major curves that was a her second solid runway hit in a row. Peppermint can carry off this look for a more casual challenge without it looking ridiculously over the top because she has a big personality to match the over-the-top look.
Can this newly confident Peppermint keep delivering hits and surge into the finals? Only if she maintains this level of fashion and continues to place highly in challenges, because the next two girls are coming for her – or, at least, her spot.
3. Sasha Velour
Average: 5; was 3, 8, 8, 4, 5, 1, 5
Sasha Velour stopped overthinking it this week, wiping away our memory of last week’s bitter waitress with a hilarious turn at the roast.
For me, Sasha was the funniest queen of the night. She found the perfect balance between staying true to her hyper-intellectual self while making fun of it.
In fact, some of Sasha’s most delightful moments came from the unscripted bits in her comedy challenge – her gleeful, “I’ve got more of these” and half-apology, half tell-off, “that one worked in my mind.”
Sasha’s fashion this week was a similar middle-aged-lady couture to her White Runway look, but with cleaner lines and a spectacular artful hat. It was on-brand for Sasha but avoided the dowdiness of her weaker looks. And, as always, her make-up is incredible.
Can Sasha really make it to the finale over either Trinity or Peppermint? Her only challenge win so far was a shared title with Shea, which puts her a hair behind all of the other girls, but she also hasn’t lip-synced. I guess that leaves her squarely in the middle, but we’ve seen that lead to one-shot elimination in the past (see: Miss Fame). Sasha has three more episodes to snag a second win to firm up her spot.
4. Trinity Taylor
Average: 4; was 11, 6, 2, 3, 2, 2, 1
Trinity Taylor falls to her lowest ranking in a month – and her first time potentially missing the finale since week two.
That’s down to making a critical mistake this week: dressing up her comedy with a character when she’s funny all by herself.
Trinity landed just one solid punchline in the material we saw. It wasn’t the only funny material she had, but her stilted delivery and insistence on playing up her southern-fried character disarmed her humor.
Trinity probably could have delivered all of these same jokes as a slightly amped-up version of herself and they would have been funnier – even the chicken-wrestling.
That said, there was a spark of something in Trinity’s country bumpkin character that was quite delightful if you could look past the bombs and the clumsy delivery. She was serving shades of Lucille Ball in her zany pigtailed get-up, which made her lack of comedy even more brutal.
Trinity doesn’t like to lose, and I can see her surging back with force in the next few weeks. However, she’s now been dinged with low placements nearly as many times as Peppermint with just a single win to her name. She’s going to be dangerous in the next few episodes, because she has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Average 3; was 7, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 2
Valentina made it through the comedy challenge by the graces of her patron saint, but there’s definitely a sense of her running out of gas despite her win in the Reading Is Fundamental mini-challenge.
While there were laughs to be had in Valentina’s routine, it was a rough one. Her material wasn’t funny so much as it was reliant on a goofy, unspecific Latina caricature to carry her performance. In that way, she wasn’t really all that different than Cynthia as Sofía Vergara in Snatch Game. Valentina just had the privilege of making fun of a language barrier rather than struggling against it.
Also, I didn’t love her character choice of wearing a non-glam outfit that emphasized her broad, masculine shoulders (which in itself was amusing, since she went after Alexis’s wide body in the mini-challenge), but even Valentina’s version of “masculine” is prettier than what most of the departed queens served on a typical week.
Valentina has aced every “do this” sort of challenge and “look like that” sort of runway. The comedy challenge was one of the first times we’ve seen Valentina faced with a task that couldn’t be easily conquered by being an A-Student who simply studies the hardest. It’s telling that she struggled with it mightily. I totally sympathize. I love acing things by nailing all of their objective merits, but sometimes when it comes to a more subjective scale of grading I’m lost for what to do.
As with all the queens, Valentina will need another win to restore her momentum to the finals. Thinking about the challenges ahead, one will surely be a make-over and another will be a Ball theme with tons of construction. Valentina is sure to nail them both. Yet, we’re likely in for another brainy, subjective challenge like the Marketing or Political challenges from seasons past. It’s there that Valentina has to be wary of a stumble – and I have yet to see a high-energy lip sync from her on YouTube!
6. Alexis Michelle
Average: 6; was 5, 7, 6, 8, 8, 5, 6
Alexis Michelle fell so flat in her comedy challenge this week that I might subscribe to the Reddit theory that she threw her performance just to knock off Farrah in the Lip Sync in revenge for calling her fat in the Reading challenge!
While Trinity and Farrah were just about as bad as Alexis, it feels like we have to grade Alexis on a curve because this challenge felt like it was so much in her wheelhouse. Not only were her jokes bad, but she stumbled through their delivery!
What’s even more disappointing is that Alexis’s one-note joke of being dressed completely in green could have been a hilarious theme for her roast if she just had a little bit more nerve. Given her body image doubts after the Reading challenge, Imagine if she played the entire comedy challenge as a sadsack, overweight Elphaba who was doomed to bomb at Michelle’s roast because everything about her is green! Characters usually fall flat in the comedy challenges, but a dejected witch showing up to roast the legendarily witchy Michelle Visage would have been a scream.
Alexis is even with several of the other girls with her one win and single lip sync, but given her rankings so far it feels impossible to imagine her in the final four, let alone the finale. To get back into contention she needs to stay far away from lip syncing for the next three episodes, notching a second win along the way.
I can maybe envision her squeaking into the top four, but it’s getting really hard to picture her getting past three of the girls above this position to make it to the finale.
7. Nina Bo’nina Brown
Average: 5; was 1, 3, 7, 5, 4, 6, 8
Nina was brutally bad this week in every respect, except she managed to squeeze in a handful of jokes in the process – and she might have made up one or two of them herself!
First, in the Reading Is Fundamental challenge, Nina recycled several bits from prior queens. While Ru doesn’t generally have a great memory for the names of her hundred-plus disciples, that seems like the kind of thing she’d notice.
Then, in the roast, Nina’s old church lady character just barely worked. She got her share of laughs, which is more than we could say for the bottom three, but the routine was full of awkward moments.
Also, what was with her painting on a pair of crooked glasses? Sure, glasses do scream church lady, but could those five minutes of make-up applicate have been better spent?
It’s these moments of misdirected energy that are sapping Nina of her momentum. We got another in Untucked, where she once again unleashed her inner saboteur to complain that the other girls were shading her. Even if they had been, Nina needs to be focused on winning, not on if the other girls don’t think she’s good enough!
(Shea volleyed back with an impressively heated takedown that still managed to be kind.)
Nina may no longer in contention for the win, but she could still reach the top four by playing spoiler to another queen in a lip sync – as I feel like she could take out anyone on the list but Peppermint in a head-to-head.
However, that queen that would have to experience a massive fail that week for RuPaul to choose Nina over them, as I get the feeling mama Ru is just about done with Nina’s antics.
Here lies Farrah Moan with her groan-worthy average of 11. It says a lot that almost all of the remaining girls have averages that are about half of hers. She was sort of sweet between all the whinging, but not very talented or even all that fishy other than being petite. I did enjoy that in her parting words on Untucked she recommended taking sewing lessons and an improv class, which were some of my suggestions in the 10 Skills Every Queen Needs To Be Sickening.