Every mysterious new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race comes with one hotly anticipated standard episode: Snatch Game!
Based on the 60s TV gameshow Match Game, RuPaul introduced his version of the game in Season 2 and it’s been back every season since (save for All Stars 1, which substituted a similar celebrity impersonator take on Laugh In).
Snatch Game has two simple rules – transform into a celebrity, and make them funny. It’s a make-or break live improv challenge that tends to elevate certain queens from the rest of the pack for the remainder of the season and create quotes that fans will call back to for years.
Last night’s episode delivered another callback to past seasons – a redux of Season 8’s “Night of a Thousand Madonnas” runway theme, which served up four different kimono looks based on the “Nothing Really Matters” video and Drowned World Tour.
With 11 queens in the race already forewarned to avoid the kimono could we avoid duplicates entirely? I don’t know, but I hope this runway becomes a fixture of every season just like Snatch Game. And girls, you betta watch out, because there is no one that knows their Madonna better than your author – except for maybe Michelle Visage … and we’ve both been served with cease and desists by Madge.
The combination of Snatch and Madonna was last seen in 2000, with Miss M lending “Lucky Star” to the soundtrack of her then-husband Guy Ritchie’s film. In the 2017 edition, it catapulted a new queen to the top of the rank after last week, plus shuffled a pair of queens at the bottom.
Who’s that girl? Let’s find out!
1. Sasha Velour
Average: 5; was 3, 8, 8, 4, 5
I’m being bold and giving Sasha this edge over the rest of the queens on the power of a dangerous Snatch Game impression that was always on the verge of going south and a spot-on perfect Madonna look.
Ru, Michelle, and thousands of fans have been waiting for eight seasons for some serious old-Hollywood glamour to be done well on Snatch Game, and Sasha brought it with her Cheshire-like and slightly mechanical Marlene Dietrich.
While she may not have captured Dietrich’s exact manner, she went the Ben de la Creme as Maggie Smith route of parodying a more general reserved, old-timey, German lesbian actress and she nailed it. Her overlong answers dangled on the precipice of unfunny, but every final punchline was so crisp that they snapped the entire joke into focus.
Then, on the runway, Sasha utterly slayed her dominatrix Madonna look from Erotica. It was one of the simplest Madonna looks of the night, but the execution was so detail-perfect. And, what luck for Sasha that she got to unleash her Marlene Dietrich and Madonna’s 1930’s inspired look on the same night.
If there was one downside that prevented Sasha from taking the official win from Alexis, it was that this look was very close to being a repeat of her Naughty Nighty look in “Good Morning, Bitches,” only in black instead of white. Still, better they were seen in this order, where Sasha had an excuse to repeat details like her plain pasties, rather than with this look coming first.
I’m not quite ready to call it Sasha’s game to lose, but she’s finally forced herself back into contention for the final three. And, if you’re concerned that she might not survive a lip sync against some of the girls on the bottom half of this list, you need to get thee to YouTube and look up her penchant for tacking movie monster howls onto perfectly executed pop choreography.
2. Trinity Taylor
Average: 4; was 11, 6, 2, 3, 2
Trinity scored a solid win with a vampy, quippy Amanda Lepore in Snatch Game and a Madonna Met Gala look that was an inch of bangs away from being note-perfect compared to the original.
RuPaul tends to be obvious about putting her favorite of the characters in the top left spot on the panel, so it’s no surprise that club celebrity and plastic surgery addict Lepore would occupy the spot out of this group of queens (although I’m sure Ru considered Naomi Campbell).
While Trinity may not have served the breakout performance of a Sharon Needles Michelle Visage or a Bianca del Rio Judge Judy (neither of whom were winners, I’ll remind you), she held her own with amusing answers and one between-questions quip. Fellow silcon-obsessee Sharon Needles actually does a killer version of Lepore, and by comparison Trinity should have gone way bigger on her lips to sell what was otherwise a strong imitation.
On the runway we saw once again that Trinity leaves nothing to chance when it comes to her carefully-assembled looks. This utter fixation with fine detail is what I’ve always wanted to see from a pageant queen on Drag Race.
Trinity’s take on Madonna’s Givenchy look was better than note perfect – it actually tuned up a few of the more messy details of Madonna’s execution! Trinity didn’t opt for the torn fishnets above the thigh-highs and went with a less distracting belt. The only detail that felt legitimately off was the missing high bangs and severe edges of Madonna’s bob hair cut.
The only weakness we’ve seen from Trinity so far was in managing a massive team (including Eureka, a past nemesis), and she’s surging these past two weeks. What exactly is going to bring her down between here and the finale? I’m starting to think she’s just as sure a thing as Shea, with all of the other girls jostling for the third spot.
(Also, let it be known that I did not miss Trinity clapping and singing along to “Music” during the lip sync. You go, girl.)
3. Shea Couleé
Average: 3; was 6, 1, 3, 1, 1
Shea was her powerful self this week, but she suffered the fate of all early front-runners – by not absolutely slaying the challenge and runway it seems like she faltered.
Her Naomi Campbell in Snatch Game was approximately right and funny as hell. However, a lot of the details didn’t read as Naomi, including the accent and the makeup.
Campbell hardly ever looks this severe; she usually has dewier skin and either a nude or a bright red lip, rather than Shea’s red wine color. I also think bangs may have sold the look better than just straight hair, even though Campbell wears both regularly.
On the runway, Shea’s “Material Girl” wasn’t really Madonna’s look. The hair shape and color was off, as was the dress. In some ways, this look was better executed than the video look, and certainly better than Peppermints.
Yet, I don’t know that Shea reached Trinity’s master-class level of actually improving the simulacrum of Madonna through her tune-ups. It turned into more of a look inspired by Madonna.
Even with the slight alterations to both characters, Shea was nowhere near at risk of hitting the bottom – both takes were solid. Yet, there are only two or three more weeks of competition where solid will be good enough.
Average 3; was 7, 2, 1, 2, 3
Similar to Shea, Valentina delivered slightly less than she has in past weeks with a Snatch Game performance that was mostly schtick, but her risky and conceptual runway was neck and neck for best of the night with Trinity and Sasha.
Valentina’s choice of Miss
Columbia Colombia for Snatch Game guaranteed her some easy jokes she could prepare ahead of time, but left her on shakier ground when it came to making it really memorable.
In fact, one of those pre-loaded jokes – about never winning anything – felt like it was deployed at the wrong time. Sure, Ru laughed, but we saw the same thing with Alyssa on the All Stars 2 Snatch Game. Making Ru laugh is key, but to win you’ve got to do it in context.
If there was even a hair of danger for Valentina coming out of Snatch Game (and I doubt there was), then her bold choice on the runway obliterated it. Valentina must have been listening to the Fashion Photo RuView from last year’s Madonna runway, because her decision to appear nude with just a pair of blacked out censor bars was straight from Raja’s transgressive playbook.
Valentina looked stunning in the buff. She didn’t perfectly evoke the slightly curvier Madonna, but she managed to maintain the character of Madonna’s carefully posed nude hitchhiker throughout the entire runway.
Both choices emphasize what I keep saying about Valentina – she’s one of the smartest and most-calculated contestants in Drag Race history, without the seeming pitfall of getting stuck in her own head. We’ve seen this masterful planning-ahead work in the past for queens like Alaska and Bianca, but in the former’s case it materialized as an invisible wall between her and winning while the more spontaneous and evolving Jinkx took the crown.
Of course, there is also Bianca, who was the winner of the season pretty much from the moment she stepped onto the set.
Which will Valentina be? I think a live comedy challenge will be her crucible – can she be funny without a crutch of a character like Miss Colombia? If she can, I think she might be able to outsmart one of the girls ranked above her to wind up in the finals.
If not, she’ll be stuck at number four – and possibly picked off by one of the next few girls.
5. Alexis Michelle
Average: 7; was 5, 7, 6, 8, 8
Finally, finally, Alexis Michelle came through with the sort of performance I’ve been waiting for since her first week fashions – and it finds her stopping her ranking backslide to climb back to where she began in fifth place.
We finally got a Liza Minnelli on Snatch Game, and it was perfection. Maybe Alexis’s version isn’t as manic as the one that Jinkx Monsoon performs on the Battle of the Seasons tour, but it was just as studied and full of punchlines.
(To be fair, the touring version of Snatch Game tends to be more rehearsed, and Michelle Visage as host gives Jinkx a ton of leeway to chew scenery. Alexis had only a fraction of the time here and still made as much as an impact. That takes skill.)
Alexis didn’t pick up momentum in Snatch Game alone. On the runway she selected one of my favorite Madonna periods of all time and absolutely slayed it to the ground.
The look was Madonna’s Dick Tracy movie vixen, Breathless Mahoney, and I’m not sure that Alexis could have done a single thing better when it came to execution. Even without the context of a Drag Race Madonna runway, I would have immediately known this was a Madonna tribute look.
If there is anything that could detract from the achievement, it’s that this slinky silhouette is similar to what Alexis presented for Gaga’s Golden Globes look. Yet, is it really a weakness to be great at carrying off perfectly snug, beautifully-constructed floor-length gowns? I think not. Heck, how many boat-necked dresses did Bianca wear?
Between Alexis’s masterful “Momager” last week and her tour de force this week, do we have a real contender on our hands? I think we might, but Alexis’s self-defeating style choices when left to her own devices for a more open runway theme might come back to snag her in future weeks. Plus, she has to outdo not one, but two of the queens ranked above her to break into the finals, all while holding off both Nina and Peppermint.
She’s got her work cut out of her.
6. Nina Bo’nina Brown
Average: 4; was 1, 3, 7, 5, 4
Nina didn’t seem to be having trouble with her inner saboteur this week. That might have been because she channeled all of its nasty attitude through her impersonation of Jasmine Masters in Snatch Game.
If choosing a past Drag Race queen in Snatch Game feels like a cheat, then choosing one who was out so early in the competition feels both risky and lazy all at once. Jasmine was a villain and a marginal performer on her season, and you’d have to be following her inane and often offensive live videos to know the catchphrases that Nina is dealing out in this performance.
To Nina’s credit, she has Jasmine’s low, raspy voice down as well as her utter inability to play by the rules of a game. On the con side, she barely looks like Jasmine. I can give a pass on the blonde hair, which Jasmine has worn a few times, but Jasmine’s face is about giant lips and even more giant TEETH … to the point that Nina should have considered wearing fake wax teeth, or at least smiling madly through the entire game. Also, Jasmine is all about big earrings, sequins, and tacky patterns, but Nina only turned those elements up to “medium” in her take.
On the runway, Nina had the misfortune to pick the same Met Gala look as Trinity. No one was going to nail Trinity’s level of detail orientation, but Nina evoked the look just as well as Trinity in her own way.
No, the garment wasn’t as tailored, but Nina’s face, hair, and accessories all suggested Madonna a lot more than Trinity did. Nina especially nailed Madonna’s late-in-life cheekbone resurgence.
What both Nina’s Jasmine and Madonna lacked were any hint of self-doubt or self-sabotage … and Ru was so happy to see it! If we can get this bold, funny version of Nina who is willing to listen to feedback for a few more weeks she is bound to knock off one of the queens ranked above her.
Honestly, I’m really pulling for her to make it to the finals, if only to avenge Chi Chi in the crafty queen category, though I don’t think she can pull out a win against any of the girls in today’s top four.
Average 5; was 2, 3, 5, 6, 6
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Peppermint has gone from a lock for the top to just barely staying out of the bottom two in this power ranking – and she was in the bottom two where it counts – on the actual show!
First, Snatch Game. It’s not uncommon for me to have no idea who these reality stars are, but that usually makes them even funnier when queens like Roxxxy Andrews, Joslyn Fox, and Pearl take their personalities way over the top.
Peppermint wasn’t anywhere near the top. She was too busy trying to master the simple power of speech. It’s rare for a contestant to fire blanks their entire time in the game without landing at least one awkward laugh, but Peppermint achieved the dream.
On the runway, I might have given her “Material Girl” look the edge over Shea’s if it wasn’t yet another pink dress in a row, as Michelle easily clocked.
Memory of an elephant, that one.
Finally, Peppermint’s cute, rangy lip sync isn’t going to save her when it comes to these rankings. It was a lot more fun than we usually see queens having on stage, but it was also a super-popular song that Peppermint has doubtlessly performed to in the past. “Music” gave her a great excuse to cycle through a series of dance styles to the song’s simple, stuttering beat.
She’s going to have to do something considerably more on-brand and focused if she finds herself in the bottom again, especially against this remaining cast of killers … and Farrah.
Speaking of whom…
8. Farrah Moan
Average 11; was 10, 12, 12, 10, 8
Farrah is finally in the single-digits of my ranking, but it’s going to take an act of a goddess for next week’s Lip Sync not to be Farrah being defeated with aplomb by either Aja, Peppermint, or Nina.
Either that, or another stunningly detailed runway look from Farrah. Her Vegas money served her well last night with an impeccably perfect recreation of Madonna’s black and gold Superbowl look.
It was perfection – not only the best Madonna look of the night, but really a memorable all-time runway. There’s not much else to say.
As for Farrah’s Snatch game, it really wasn’t all that bad! The editors and judges tend to come down hard on the girls who give perfectly acceptable answers that just didn’t get Ru laughing out loud, and Farrah fell squarely into that category.
I think Farrah decently embodied a character and managed to get in a solid answer to every question – she just happened to be outmatched by 6 other queens who picked showier characters. Also, Gigi might simply be a little too close to Farrah’s own personality.
(I will say that I just looked through 10 pages of Google Image results and did not see a single photo of Gigi in a plain zip-up hoodie like Farrah was wearing. Did she run out of time doing make-up, or just have nothing to wear? It looks like any strappy dress would do.)
Can Farrah survive another week? I think she has an outside chance of edging past one of the other queens to escape the bottom two. On the other hand, Ru might have had her fill of Farrah at this point, and she’s not going to beat anyone left in the competition at lip syncing based on what we saw last week
Average 9; was 9, 11, 10, 10, 7
Aja was, once again, a Princess Disastah on this edition of Drag Race. She was saved only by two Snatch Game catastrophes bigger than herself, but even that couldn’t prevent her from dropping like a rock to the bottom of the ranking
Aja’s choice to perform Alyssa Edwards for Snatch Game was an error. Queens doing other queens are never going to win. Even if they could, Violet already did a spectacular version of Alyssa on Season 7.
(FYI, the key is not to go big on everything, but to project Alyssa’s blitheness to most social cues not specifically about herself.)
I’ll give Aja credit for her pageant-y crack about being eliminated from the Q&A portion of the competition, but that’s it. The whole decision stinks of lack of imagination, as did the decidedly un-Alyssa look that Aja donned. It didn’t read as Alyssa. Oh, at all.
On the runway, Aja’s “Who’s That Girl” era Madonna outfit was flaccid. Aside from the tackiness of the fabric, Aja’s outfit didn’t have the structure of Madonna’s bodice and skirts. Also, her limp wave hair was nothing like Madonna’s bottle-blonde curls of the period, and the make-up wasn’t all that Madonna inspired, either.
I think we’ve seen all we’re going to see from Aja in this competition. Unless next week is a challenge all about being a major force of personality, I think she’ll be in the bottom.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine leaves us in the 10th spot with an average of nine. I really thought she would manage to sneak past Farrah to live another week, but the combination of her dreadful Snatch Game and Farrah’s best-ever runway meant Cynthia was doomed to lip sync against a professional assassin like Peppermint.
Farewell, my fair Cucu! I’m so glad we got to know you a little better this year!