It’s my favorite every-season episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race – the Drag Ball – and this year’s Gayest Ball Ever did not disappoint!
(How could anything be a disappointment when it involves sexy unicorns?)
Our consistent finale foursome absolutely delivered in every look without a single fail amongst them, and it made for some very interesting final jockeying in the rankings after last week and before the final elimination next week.
Because this episode was all about gag-worthy looks, I’m going to rank each of the three ball looks individually before recapping the queen’s overall power ranks! I won’t bother ranking our departed queen since she was the worst in every look.
(It’s not shady if it’s true.)
Look #1: Rainbow-She-Betta-Do
If this was any other group of queens we’d be at risk of being pounded over the head with the most rainbow-y rainbow looks that ever rainbowed, so it was a pleasant surprise to see all four of these brainy queens depart from the expected color spectrum in their own way.
1. Sasha Velour
I was living for Sasha’s deconstruction of the rainbow!
Sasha Velour’s color-blocking approach to wearing the rainbow was a genius turn, and her tailored skirt set with green leather gloves and Dorothy shoes was gorgeous. That she had a tiny rainbow house tucked beneath her red hat (wrapped with fabric from her cowgirl costume!) just sealed the deal of her outfit’s excellence.
2. Shea Couleé
Shea’s pastel graffiti rainbow dress might go down as the most controversial look of the entire season … at least, for me it will.
There’s no denying the cut and silhouette was high fashion, but was it rainbow bright? Honestly, I was getting “dirty sofa” from it way more than “rainbow,” especially from the structured top.
Yet, this is an instance where I can tell my read is a total mismatch with the judges – Shea’s desaturated take on rainbow was clearly a hit with the panel.
This was a lovely look, but I feel like the details could have been a bit stronger.
I enjoyed that Peppermint used the rainbow to dress up her golden swimsuit rather than just literally wearing the rainbow. The draping of her rainbow cape felt a bit random once it got past where it was attached to her body; it didn’t create any specific sort of silhouette or train. I found myself thinking for a moment of Coco Montrese’s famous orange jumpsuit with the exaggerated sleeves, which looked fine when she was stationary but created a whirlwind illusion when she spun her arms in the lip sync.
I was looking for something like that out of this look. Also, black thigh high boots? Really? And no accessories? I would have loved some gold or silver wrist cuffs to push this to a “rainbow Wonder Woman” place.
4. Trinity Taylor
Trinity’s rainbow look was her weakest of the three looks and definitely what kept her suspended in the middle this week instead of being instantly safe or even on the top.
While the rainbow straps on her fetish-y outfit were a nice break from full on rainbow gear like Alexis’s, they were too subtle in combination with an outfit that’s safely on-brand for Trinity based on other looks we’ve seen. I was hoping she’d go full pageant here with a gorgeous rainbow dress – which would have easily slayed the other queens.
Look #2: Sexy Unicorn
Aside from a single detail, all four of the queen’s delivered stellar takes on Sexy Unicorn. I feel like the top three could be reshuffled in any order and still be pretty fair.
1. Shea Couleé
Shea’s fetish Unicorn was basic but sexy and she sold the ever-living fuck out of it with her prancing on the runway.
I especially appreciated her execution of the bent-limb hooves, which really sold her equine illusion. This is the level of detail-orientation she needed to bring to the runway this week to make up for her makeover flub last week.
2. Trinity Taylor
If Trinity’s unicorn was a bit on the simple side she made up for it with her maniacally silly runway presentation. Girlfriend could have been acting in a live action version of My Little Pony.
I love this ridiculous version of Trinity, which weirdly feels akin to Pee Wee Herman with its utter dedication to being silly.
3. Sasha Velour
Here’s the tea: This look was magnificent. The choice to go medieval with a unicorn was brilliant, especially when it references a specific painting, and the garment was beautiful. That said, it didn’t read as unicorn as much as the other girls, nor was it as sexy.
I think Sasha’s braininess slightly got the better of her on this one. I don’t know that I would change anything about the outfit itself, because if you alter the cut of the piece you begin to lose the power of the reference. Maybe it just needed some massive and clompy boots that showed off more leg rather than her fuzzy hoof illusion – something more like Gaga’s weird anti-gravity platforms with their non-heel.
Truthfully, on concept alone I think Peppermints frilly unicorn could have been the best if it wasn’t for her ill-fitting swimsuit. Everything from the shoulder drapes to the My Little Pony bubbled ponytail was spot on.
It was a dangerous missed detail in a week where all the queens were close to flawless, and ultimately was probably what sent Peppermint to the bottom.
Look #3: Village People Eleganza Extravaganza
Every one of these outfits was total slayage, which makes it hard to rank them at all!
1. Trinity Taylor
Trinity’s Village People look could have been ripped from a Judge Dredd themed drag show and it was the only outfit in this theme that was truly eleganza. It was also another magnificent example of her absolutely queer editorial vision with its visor and shock of upright hair!
I feel as though it was missing one burst of color. I would have gagged over a simple belt of “Caution!” tape to break up the black and blue.
Peppermint pulled the least specific of the Village People with the “Leather Daddy” outfit, which could devolve into a super-basic fetish look for most queens.
Not for Peppermint. This look might be her most intricately-detailed of the entire season and I was living for it.
My favorite part was the ruffled vinyl half-capes that implied the chaps of her inspiration. On so many other queens this kind of choice would be frumpy, but Peppermint used it to extenuate her figure rather than swallow it up. It looked mega-hot during the lip sync.
3. Sasha Velour
Sasha Velour’s plain cowgirl separates were a fashionable stunner that delivered a totally different, more-demure side of her than we’ve seen before. I do think the outfit was missing a certain something to break up all of the red paisley.
If she had lined the bottom hem or the reverse of the fabric with denim it would have popped even more and probably pushed this over the edge to the top look.
4. Shea Couleé
Here’s the thing: all there really was to Shea’s outfit was the cape, and even that wasn’t all that eleganza. If they’re going to say that Sasha wasn’t “fashion for a ball” enough than this certainly wasn’t, either.
Don’t get me wrong – the outfit was outstanding. It clearly communicated “Construction Worker” and nailed the idea of fashionable deconstruction. However, it really was pretty plain aside from the half cape. If Shea knew she had one piece that was that good I feel like she should have made it a more central part of the outfit – perhaps as a skirt? I don’t know.
This look was great and obviously successful, but it just wasn’t the full fantasy for me the way the other three looks were. I can give her credit for the rainbow dress, but not for this one too.
1. Shea Couleé
Average: 2.36; was 6, 1, 3, 1, 1, 3, 3, 1, 2, 4
This episode average: 2.333
I might not have loved everything she did this episode, but Shea Couleé is quite obviously headed to the finale and she’s doing it with some heat behind her thanks to her fourth win in ten challenges with just a single lip sync.
Actually, the thing I didn’t love about Shea this episode was her greatest strength: she pushed boundaries on the runway. That’s exactly the element she’s been lacking this season.
Shea brought a Sasha-like deconstructionist vibe to the rainbow look (plus, some much-needed glamour), got as silly as Trinity with her unicorn horsing around, and went high concept on her Village People look.
It was a well-needed reminder that Shea has surprises up her sleeve just in case week after week of excellence was starting to get a little dull for the judges. Right now, it absolutely feels like she has the Bianca / Violet / Bob edit of unbreakable strength heading into next week’s penultimate episode.
2. Sasha Velour
Average: 4.09; was 3, 8, 8, 4, 5, 1, 5, 4, 2
This episode average: 2.333
Real talk: For the second week in a row, Sasha clearly delivered a win and had it snatched from her grasp by another queen.
Looking at the narrative arc of the season, I think Ru and the producers were expecting Valentina to be in the final three alongside Shea and (eventually) Trinity, and so were expecting her to win one of these past two challenges while Sasha wiped out in fourth or fifth place.
Without Valentina, there was a final three power vacuum to fill into which both Sasha and Peppermint have surged … but Ru seems resistant to giving them credit for their efforts. Awarding Sasha a solo win this or last week would have cemented the case for a well-matched finale without taking away from Trinity or Shea – especially this week, with Shea notching a fourth win.
And yet… Ru didn’t do that. Thus, we’re in the weird position of Sasha clearly having the momentum to get into the finale with an unbroken string of four top-rated performances – the best of all the remaining queens! Yet, she’s without a single solo win to show for it – and, it’s likely next week will be a “no one wins but one person sashays” evening based on the past few seasons.
Not only does that make it seemingly impossible for Sasha to win the season, but her late-game strength is also rudely being used to tuck-block Trinity from seeming like the true head-to-head contender with Shea despite Trinity’s three solo wins.
Speaking of which…
3. Trinity Taylor
Average: 3.27; was 11, 6, 2, 3, 2, 2, 1, 4, 1
This episode average: 2.333
Yes, that’s right – per my rankings all of the top three queens were tied when considered on this merits of this episode alone.
So why does it feel like Trinity is getting totally railroaded by the Shea/Sasha train?
I feel like there’s something lacking in the judge’s effusiveness when it comes to Trinity’s victories(except for maybe Carson). Maybe it’s her slightly strange fashion sense, or maybe it’s because they aren’t seeing her deliriously funny behind the scenes footage. To me she’s coming off as an Alyssa-caliber star who needs her weirdest urges to be even more encouraged.
Can Trinity overcome the lukewarm love she’s received to seriously challenge Shea in the finale? She’s a self-professed non-singer, so I don’t have high hopes for her performance next week in adding a verse to a RuPaul song. Yet, of all the remaining girls, she’s the one who could stands to gain the most from 1:1 time with Ru to show off her personality. Plus, she could conceivably turn out the most stunning “best drag” look – I mean, she hasn’t really done a single pageant dress this entire season!
I have a hope that Trinity might pull out a late stage glam campaign next week, but I also think there’s a chance that she could be boxed out of the finale by…
Average 4.09; was 2, 3, 5, 6, 6, 7, 4, 2, 3, 3
This episode average: 3
Even if Pepperment obviously came in at the bottom of this week’s foursome, I think she suddenly has become a real contender for the final three.
Sure, she was in the bottom two this week, but when you’re down to five queens it can happen to the best of the bunch. There’s no disputing that she handily dispensed of Alexis in their lip sync to “Macho Man” in what was one of the most memorably giddy lip syncs of all time.
Seriously, it was incredible – if it was to a better song it could have been flirting with Dida Ritz’s GOAT turn on “Everlasting Love.” Between the wig reveal, the Janet Jackson “If” choreography, and the funky walk, I don’t know that I’ve ever smiled this hard during a Lip Sync For Your Life.
As for the actual episode performance, Peppermint wasn’t really all that bad. Aside from her saggy unicorn swimsuit and her Village People look was very nearly my favorite! As she pointed out in Untucked, pleather is not an easy material to work with, but her outfit was incredibly detailed.
Pepperment has had the perfect late-breaking arc on the show to be in Ru’s good graces next week to sneak into the finale. She is tied with Sasha in average power ranking, but if there’s any queen it feels like she might knock off next week it’s Trinity, whose narrative arc feels a little stalled. Would Ru really bring a queen with just one win to the finale over Trinity with three wins or Sasha with a pair of paired wins?
I can’t wait to find out.