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RPDR RANT: Season 8, Episode 7

Aedan Roberts

I am so conflicted about this episode. "Shady Politics" may go down in herstory as one of the best episodes of the series, with one of the most iconic LSFYL's, yet at the same time has one of the most disappointing eliminations. And it honestly didn't have to be that way. If there was ever an episode that warranted a Double Shantay, it was "Shady Politics". Every queen did a great job this episode: every runway look was wonderful in its own way, and every political ad was pretty damn good. Obviously there were standouts in both categories, but the worst ones were still great by any other season's standards. This was also the season to do it. Having started with only 12 queens (as opposed to the previously standard 14) Ru should have had the capacity to declare a Non Elimination even with Naysha's return, and yet here we are. Another queen gone- and one I would STILL argue deserves to be Top 3 over half the remaining queens.

I'll talk more about that in the Breakdown, but for now lets get into this rant with the challenges:

Mini-Challenge: this week's challenge falls into the "No Skill Required, Entirely Arbitrary Winner, But Still Fun Because Hot Dudes With Big Packages" category of Mini Challenges. The girls are tasked with determining which of the 15 or so underwear models they line up are Tops or Bottoms. Considering that this isn't even a complete list of options (hello: versatile?!), and more importantly you can't judge a sexual book by it's fleshy cover- it's a total crapshoot that is nothing more than an excuse to ogle some DAMN sexy muscles. Needless to say I approve.

Maxi Challenge: like the title "Shady Politics" suggests, the girls are tasked with writing and starring in their own political ads for First Drag President of The United States of America, where they are to build themselves up and, more importantly, smear their political rival (which was assigned to them based on how much drama they could get out of the proceedings). The teams were as follows: Bob v. Derrick, Thorgy v. ChiChi, and Naomi v. Kim Chi.

Now for the BREAKDOWN! In no particular order:

Bob The Drag Queen: Bob did so fucking good in all aspects of this episode that Derrick got a Co-Win just from being in Bob's vicinity. He won SO HARD that Derrick got hit with a second-degree Win. His win was SO BIG Derrick simply got caught in its gravitational pull. You get my point, I assume *winky face.* She had, by far, the funniest and most well-composed political ad of the night and stole the show in Derrick's Smear Ad as well. This was also the most non-arrogant Miss The Drag Queen has been on the show, and it was a massively flattering light that I've only ever seen in Bianca Del Rio before. And speaking of Del Rio, while I've kind of compared Bob to Bianca this entire time, it was no more obvious than this episode. Instead of rolling her eyes and concentrating on herself while leaving Derrick to flounder, she took Derrick's willingly-extended hand and frolicked into the shady sunset. She offered advice, encouragement and direction that allowed Derrick to give her best performance yet. It was Bianca/Trinity K. Bonet all over again and BOY did it feel good to watch.

And her runway? One of the best of the night. The biggest criticism many people seem to have with Bob is her makeup, and if this episode doesn't prove she's got the skills to pay the bills I have no idea what it will take to sway detractors. Outside Kim Chi's efforts it was the best makeup job on that stage and matched her fantastic Black and White Clown costume flawlessly.

This also is the THIRD WIN for Bob! No other girl is currently even close to matching Bob's run- with only a single win to anyone else's name. As my personal favorite from the very beginning it brings me joy that she fought her way out of the middle-of-the-road she started with. I'm just keeping my fingers, toes, and other various appendages crossed that she can keep it up until the finale. It isn't likely, based on how these things work, that she will win any more challenges- but with THREE WINS all she has to do is place high or safe from here on out. She's amazing, so I have every confidence she can do just that.

Derrick Barry: this is also the best Derrick Barry has ever done- though like I said above I attribute that almost entirely to Bob. Her ad was delightful, with Miss Barry delivering her lines well enough and giving the perfect amount of smear-to-promise ratio. And while I will openly say that Bob was the best part of her video, Derrick really stepped up her game here, listened to advice/direction from Bob and looked like she was having an absolute blast. All told she earned her safe spot, and the residual win didn't even bother me. It was a team effort for those two, so even though one was CLEARLY the True Winner (Bob), both of them deserved kudos for their work.

That all being said? It really, REALLY bothers me that Derrick outlasted Thorgy. It just doesn't feel right on a really basic level, especially considering how many times Miss Barry has faltered before now and was given pass after pass to get where she is. Thorgy messed up once- ONCE- and like Acid Betty before her was sent packing the minute there was any sign of weakness. It just reeks of producer manipulation and I'm sick of it. Also: the result of this episode is yet another example of Derrick being this season's Kennedy Davenport. Any time she did fine enough to excuse they were judged individually and any time she did poorly was magically an episode where she was safe-by-association. In Barry's case she earned her win here more legitimately- because she really did do well- but it was more about who she was paired with and less about her own actual abilities. 

As for her runway? The reveal was a nice touch but the dress, once revealed, was really basic. And while her makeup was Black and White- it was more of the exact same "Britney Barry" style in a challenge that begged for additional creativity. All being told it was my least favorite look on the runway (though it wasn't bad. No one's look was bad this episode).

At this point it's pretty much confirmed in my eyes- Derrick isn't going anywhere until at least the Top 4. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that she's the next to go (I love all the other girls so much more) but I'm not holding my breath with it.

Naomi Smalls: I have to say, I'm thrilled Miss Smalls is finally showing us what I knew she had in her all along. From the moment I first saw her I found Naomi mesmerizing, sweet, and fun. And while she was fairly competent for most of this season it finally feels like she's begun to come into her own as actual competition to the Front Runners and less like gorgeous filler.

Her ad was definitely not the best of the night, but it was far closer in quality to Bob and Derrick's than I was expecting it to be. It was charming, funny at times, and played to her strengths. It was also, as Miss Visage pointed out, one of the only ones that used ACTUAL Shade on her opponent (instead of the outright lies that Miss Bob and Miss Barry relied on). And her runway look? UGH. Just holy frack. It was easily Top 3- right up there with Bob and Kim Chi- and the fact that she made it to be a homage to one of her Drag Mothers (FUN FACT: her drag mothers are Raven and Raja) showed a brilliant understanding of Drag Race Herstory. If Naomi keeps this up she could easily wind up in the Ingenue Role that I was expecting ChiChi to fill in the Top 3. And with next week's challenge being another design-based Runway I see the potential there for Miss Smalls to continue to rock things. We'll have to wait and see- especially with a season as unpredictable as this has been.

Kim Chi: Kim Chi nearly broke my heart this episode. The way her face, beneath that gorgeous work of art, strained to hold back tears (most likely to keep from streaking all her hard work) had the entire bar wanting to reach through the screen and give her a big, big hug. It was like seeing a baby bunny cry- a face so sweet and kind should never have to look that distraught. And while the criticisms weren't overtly harsh (and honestly accurate)- they were also about aspects of Kim Chi that hit very close to her greatest insecurities. As such it felt good when Ru stepped in to comfort her. Miss Chi's commercial wasn't the best, and honestly probably should have landed her in the bottom instead of ChiChi, but it was also cute and fun in it's own way. It was not even close to a full-on failure. And the sheer artistry of her runway? That was probably what saved her this week.

Next week is the Ball challenge and I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Kim Chi's second win after such an emotional low. And after tonight I'm rooting even harder for Miss Chi to make it to Top 3. I don't think I can handle another loss of one of my original Top 3 girls.

ChiChi Devayne: I'm going to say it right here: ChiChi Devayne has given us a gift. A truly special gift. Like Manila's MacArthur Park, Roxxxy AND Alyssa's Whip My Hair Back And Forth (because, lets face it, they BOTH rocked the fuck out of it), Jujubee's Black Velvet, Dida Ritz's This Will Be, and Latrice's Natural Woman, ChiChi and Thorgy's rendition of And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going will likely go down in herstory as one of the greatest LSFYL to ever grace the RPDR Main Stage. It was EVERYTHING. And while I'm a little bitter that the song seemed to have been chosen to favor ChiChi (a little bird told me that they switched song at the last minute, which is S.H.A.D.Y.) it doesn't matter. A performance as jaw-droppingly emotional as this one was has resulted in something I didn't think would be possible: I cannot hold it against Miss Devayne that she sent home someone I don't believe deserved to go. I STILL, to this day, have a little bit of shameful bitterness towards Darienne Lake for being safe over the much more deserving Ben Dela. I still get pissed thinking about Kennedy outlasting Katya. But I really can't be angry at ChiChi - because the girl gave it EVERYTHING and the result was stunning.

That all being said? Everything else about Miss Devayne this episode was lackluster- and her mediocre performances are starting to wear down my ability to root for her. Do I still love this girl? Hell yeah. She's won me over as a fan, nonstop. But at this point her sheer brilliance as a lipsyncher can't be the only thing that keeps her around. She HAS to start doing better in these challenges or she's going home, show-stopping LSFYL or no. Her performance in the Ad was stilted, a bit weak, and only had a fraction of her natural charm on display (and her outfit/makeup was awful). Her runway look was lovely, but it wasn't her best makeup job here either (a little too Corpse and not enough Black And White Movie Glamour Come To Life). It just wasn't all that good overall- at least in comparison to her competition.

She really needs to step up her game. Hopefully we'll see that next week with an Adore-esque rise from the ashes. HOWEVER: we've already had TWO of those this season (Robbie and, more successfully, Naomi) so a third seems unlikely to occur. We shall see. WE. SHALL. SEE.

Thorgy Thor: I'm just so bitter. So angry, sad and bitter to see this girl go. And not only go WAY before her time (in my opinion) but to leave the competition having never won a single challenge. Unlike Katya, who felt like the Bridesmaid Never The Bride early in her season but managed to shake it with two wins under her belt, Thorgy will go down in history as the most talented girl to make it this far, score that consistently high and get eliminated without a single win to her name. She honestly had a better overall track-record than any of the other girls who have won a single challenge (this excludes Bob, of course, who has won 3), and yet was never able to eek out a win that she so desperately craved and dearly deserved.

And honestly? It was obviously starting to wear on her. While I attribute it, in large part, to World of Wonder's desire to soften the blow of Thorgy's elimination by dampening the audience's love of her through editing- the fact of the matter is her confessionals and workroom demeanor had been getting more and more sour with every episode where she would get so close but never outright win.

As a headstrong person myself I sympathize completely with how she was feeling. And it must have been especially conflicting that it was, more often than not, her friend Bob who would be the one to just barely out-do her. I'm going to confess something here: I have been in her shoes before. Back when I first started putting my artwork into galleries (as an adult) I would do it with my best friend from childhood. She's a brilliant artist as well and it was wonderful having that kind of support in such a vulnerable place. However: these shows would judge all the work in the gallery and hand out ribbons for Best in Show in various categories. For the first couple years both our work would be popular, but while we both did well hers was the only one to ever receive any ribbons. For years I felt the exact same conflict of emotions: I was happy for my friend and proud of her accomplishments but painfully aware of the jealousy and bitterness I felt for being passed over (for completely nebulous reasons that would pretty much amount to "the people judging just aren't into your style of art"). It's hard enough to deal with being passed over for accolades for the hard work you do- it's so, so much worse when you then add resentment and jealousy towards a close friend for doing better than you. It makes you feel like a terrible person for feeling that way and it's just so much harder to get out of that headspace. It's all so silly looking back at it from a distance, but when you are right there in the moment it can be extremely hard to see things from that angle.

And I think that's ultimately what happened to Thorgy- on top of her editing issues, of course. Luckily she seems to be more than fine now (having had some distance from the show) and is as vibrant and happy at her viewing parties as we have come to expect from watching the show. I can't WAIT to see this girl more in the future and I'm officially rooting for Miss Thorgy Thor for Miss Congeniality (sorry Cynthia).

And that's my Rant! Done on time this time! Let me know if I missed anything and your own views about it. See you next week!!!!!