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RPDR RANT: Season 7, Episode 9

Aedan Roberts

Oh my dear friends. Those who have read through my ever-increasingly-long screeds: Welcome. Welcome to my rant for Rupaul's Drag Race Season 7, Episode 9. As I don't have much to say outside the breakdown I'll just get started. In no particular order:

• Ginger Minj: Girl hit it out of the park in the Maxi Challenge. But honestly? If anyone was expected to rock this particular episode it was Miss Minj. She's a self-confessed "Glamour Toad"- a phrase that sounds like it comes directly from John Water's wheelhouse. And while I would argue against the "glamour" part of that title- she proved herself deserving of the "toad" title (I mean that in a good way) when filling the roll of Edith Massey. Her runway look, however, was merely ho-hum. It was generic, boring Minj in a bright neon green fabric. She knew it would appeal to Visage's burning hatred for the color- but was there anything actually inspired about the ugly in her outfit? Nope. I think one thing that was consistently wrong with everyone but Katya's (and arguably Violet's and maybe Pearl's) execution of this challenge is that they tried to keep the Ugly restricted solely to the dress. And Ginger was no exception here: her makeup may have had slightly more eyeshadow and a tiny bit of extra cakey mascara on her fake lashes but otherwise her hair and makeup application were identical to any other challenge she's presented so far. If she had busted up the dress a bit more, highlighted the terrible quality of her real skin and really fucked with her wig it could have been something- but as it was? Meh. This, coupled with the fact that her (very much admittedly phenomenal) performance was already the starring role of her scene made me feel like she wasn't really pushing things the same way another queen had done this episode, and thus should not have won in the end. A close second? For that rendition of "Eggs," absolutely.

At the end of the day, though, she was not the overall best and once again this season feels like the decision for who wins and who fails seems more influenced by a pre-determined narrative Ru wishes to tell and not what actually happened. Sadly this win also has the added consequence of cementing Minj's inclusion in the Top 3. A Rupaul Redditor made the observation that every queen that has won three challenges has made it to the finals, and this seems to be Ru's way of saying "suck it up and get used to it, this bitch is going to be there whether you like it or not." I'm already making peace with it, but she's still ultimately a queen that I've never found the ability to love. My assumption here is because there hasn't really been any growth on her part, coupled with a caustic, mean attitude that sometimes shows itself in extremely unflattering ways. She came into this competition an intelligent queen who can perform like a motherfucker, but the areas where she is lacking (visuals and interesting presentation) have been statically "meh" the entire time and, with the exception of that fantastic leather and lace number, left me severely underwhelmed. I could go on about this for way longer than sanity would allow for, but I'll leave it there for now.

• Katya: The bitch was robbed. Again. Which is becoming a trend that is frustrating me about as much as the trend where Kennedy's mediocrity has been praised and rewarded. The girl SERVED last night- and though Minj also brought her A+ game to the Maxi-Challenge I would argue it was KATYA who brought it above and beyond to every single challenge of the night. First of all: her Library reads were hysterical. I thought they were easily among the funniest of the group. If Trixie hadn't dropped the funniest line of the season in her apt comparison of Minj to the lady from Poltergeist I'm sure she would have won it. And then there was the Maxi Challenge. She was given a much tougher role to shine with than Minj's. The mother was originally the straight-man to Divine's bigger-than-life terribleness- but Katya brought a whole new level to the part by infusing it with a life of its own. The creature she created, as she sloshed and stumbled and squatted her way around the stage had the entire bar cheering and laughing the entire time. She was given table scraps and turned it into a five-star dinner- which in my opinion is much harder than being given filet mignon to begin with. And then we had her runway. More than any other queen she embraced the Ugly from head to toe. Her wig was inspired in just how thirsty, knotted and gross it was. It was like a rat-king of white-girl dreadlocks had a catfight and their broken bodies were laid upon Katya's head. The dress was terrible in a good way- it was a strange knit (that I kind of loved) in a terrible clashing color scheme. She was an entirely coherent idea. And that's three for three, girls. Based on the merit of this Katya was the clear winner here. And it really pisses me off that she wasn't given the win she so clearly deserved. She's been the-Bridesmaid-but-not-the-bride in so many of these challenges and honestly this was the most egregious. But thems the breaks, I suppose. It just really is getting tiring watching so many poor decisions being made this season.

• Kennedy Davenport: I'm over this. Seriously. At this point it isn't even Davenport herself that has me up in arms- it's more what she represents. Which is to say: this show sometimes gives certain queens a strange amount of strained praise and baffling love for what is at best mediocre performances and at worst terrible presentation choices that cannot be construed any other way than a certain level of nepotism or favoritism. I've likened Kennedy's continued success in this competition to Tyra from season 2- but at least Tyra KILLED the runway DEAD every time (mostly)- Kennedy, however, gives us meh to slightly above-average performance and mostly-awful looks. And when I'm comparing you poorly to TYRA SANCHEZ then we have a problem, girl. Did Kennedy do well in this challenge? Yup! I mean, to quote Kennedy herself: the struggle was real for her, but in the end they apparently got enough good material to give a nice final edit to her maxi-challenge scene. But here's where I'm finding Kennedy's true talent: the ability to intelligently pick partners in acting challenges (outside Shakesqueer). When she's with great performers like Katya or Ginger she seems to feed off the energy and deliver reasonably well (always overshadowed, obviously, but fine nontheless). However when she's been paired with anything else? Like Masters in the Conjoined Queens challenge? She always, ALWAYS comes up short.

What would have happened if Davenport had been left to fend for herself in the tragic mess that was Fame, Violet and Pearl's group? Swap out any of them with Davenport and I can guarantee you we would have not seen the quality of performance we saw when she was paired with Katya. And that's ultimately why these group challenges are getting tiring- even if they are producing some FANTASTIC performance gems. There hasn't been enough challenges so far this season that has left a queen to fend for themselves. To let themselves succeed or fail on their own merits. And as such some people I don't think deserve to make it this far are by all accounts thriving.

Next week we are going to get a dancing challenge- which is apparently something Kennedy is actually genuinely good at- so we aren't going to be saying goodbye to Davenport for at least another week. At this point all this manipulation has given Kennedy a track record that, on paper, makes her ALSO seem destined to be in the Top Three. But let me tell you this: I'm coming to terms with Minj in the Top 3. I've had the entire season to get used to this idea since she's been edited that way since day 1 (and has the intelligence and performance skills to back it up). But if Kennedy ALSO takes a Top 3 slot? I may skip this finale. Not from anger- I feel like most of my passion for seeing these two girls go is mostly spent. At this point I've reached Indifference- and to have two queens I care so little about making it to the top, not even Katya could save that from being a dreary finale.

• Pearl: oh lordy lord. I could argue that Pearl was sabotaged by Fame (she was shown being given pretty awful direction by Fame during their rehearsals, not to mention being thrown off by Fame's attitude) but ultimately everything Fame did to her is stuff she allowed herself to be affected by. And I haven't been this disappointed in Pearl since episode 3. Maybe it was the fact that such a disaster of a performance (and honestly such a lackluster lipsynch) came fresh off the heels of a phenomenal performance in last week's Conjoined Queens challenge that made it all the more egregious. Regardless it was painful to watch. I would argue that Pearl's Maxi Challenge was the worst of the night. She gave nothing, NOTHING to that scene. And while Fame was horrendous as well, at least Fame was going over-the-top bad instead of the nothing Pearl presented. And while her makeup was on point for the runway (I lOVED her friendly ribbing of Trixie with her makeup homage) her dress really was too cute for an Ugly challenge and her hair was WAAAAAY too flawless. As a big fan of Pearl, as someone who wants Pearl to make it to the Top 3 (not to win, though. Katya deserves the win far more), Pearl really shit the bed in this episode. And at this point she's literally lost her ability to be in the running for the crown. If past is prologue, once again, no queen from any previous season has won the crown with two LSFYL under her belt. So even if she turns it OUT next week and the week after that and manages to get to the top three- she will be a definite Third Place. Do I still want that? Absolutely. Do I think it will happen? I'm far less sure at this point. One thing I'll say about this episode: it has left me entirely uncertain about ANY of these queens and makes me feel like any judgements made now would most likely look silly after next week's episode.

• Trixie Mattel: Trixie had a LOT of expectations to live up to from her fans. People are looking for her to hit it out of the park with her return to the show- especially after so many had gone to bat for her on social media since her premature elimination. But tonight she did, at best, mediocre. It's probably not popular opinion, but even if Minj hadn't killed it in her part Trixie's Divine would have faded into the wallpaper. She seemed to be trying far too hard to sing well and ended up failing to connect to the roll or to properly channel Divine. As such she really only came out so-so. And while I get where she was going with her runway- 80's prom dresses really are the best/worst- her makeup was more subdued (and thus prettier) than normal (when she really should have gone FULL TRIXIE) and her hair was lovely. Hell, she didn't even go for the ugliest 80s prom dress. She could have gone puffier, with a hideous color scheme and an over-the-top skirt. But as it was it came out actually looking nice- and that wasn't the challenge. Don't get me wrong- I love Trixie and can't wait to see what else she does now that she's back, but this episode must have been kind of a major let-down after all that buildup to her re-emergence. I just hope she brings it like she did in the Conjoined Queens challenge next week.

• Violet Chachki: her Divine was another "meh" performance. I will say she was probably the least terrible in her group- but that's like saying Moe was the smartest of the Three Stooges. It's pretty clear she was completely saved by her Runway which was only second to Katya in terms of the overall package. Her outfit was full-on Pride Clown in a hideously yellow bob-wig. And it was delightfully garish. However just as Minj doesn't seem to have had ANY growth in terms of her style and presentation, Violet seems unable to grow as an actress or performer. I will give her this, however: she HAS grown more than Minj in one area- personality. I genuinely LIKE Violet at this point. And if you had asked me from four weeks ago if I would have EVER said that I would have laughed in your face. I like Violet. I just hope that she can eventually connect with an acting challenge, but her chances to do so are running out.

• Miss Fame: I don't really have much to say about Miss Fame that hasn't already been said. I will say this, though: I called it. I totally called it. Remember when Trinity K Bonet came out as positive and the very next episode she went home? And, albeit slightly more delayed, when Kandy Ho fixed her beard it was also HER time to clock out? Well apparently Fame's over-arching narrative this entire season has been whether or not she would ever get the "How's your head?" joke. I said last week that her ability to FINALLY respond correctly to Ru's inquiry (helped by Ho, most likely) signaled the end of Fame's time on the show and I was TOTALLY RIGHT. Her story had reached it's apex of absurdity and thus there was nothing else for her to offer. And without the performance skills there was nothing to fall back on. Also: her lipsynch was about as tragic as I was expecting. Goodbye Miss Fame. You are a phenomenal artist. You really are. Your looks are often inspired and your makeup skills are well on their way to becoming legendary. But it was not your time. So I'll see you at the reunion!

Stray thoughts:

• As much as it troubles me to say this- because I've seen Pearl perform off this show and know she's actually a DAMN good performer- but halfway through last night's lip-synch I thought we were going to see a double-elimination. It was just that boring. Pearl definitely performed better than Fame, and was much more watchable than either Vivienne Pinnay or Honey Mahogany were with THEIR double-elimination, but boy was that a letdown of a show closer. Pearl better fucking ROCK next week is all I'm saying.

• Katya's shenanigans in Untucked were hysterical. LOVE that bitch.

• Speaking of Untucked- this is the first time in ANY of Minj's confessionals- that I can currently recall- where she defended and praised anyone but herself. Her kind words about Pearl were both completely out of Left Field, completely true, and helped me to warm up to her ever so slightly. If she gave more of that attitude and less of the insecure one that looks to tear everyone else down I would be a LOT happier about her inevitability.

PS: This was a post I wrote right before this rant. Thought I'd include it for posteriority:

"This last RPDR gave me life- but it also seems like an episode where the Untucked is more important than ever to fully form a coherent idea. So my rantings will have to wait until I'm able to watch that. All I can say right now is: Katya was robbed, Kennedy keeps getting baffling amounts of praise, and Fame deserved to FINALLY go. Also Pearl, girl- that was your worst episode to date. More on all of this soon!"