RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE recap: “Book Ball”

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Imagine how much these reality shows would suck if someone in the back room wasn’t coordinating a narrative in advance for us? It’s really no wonder so many competitors refer to themselves as “cast members.” I mean, when’s the last time you saw someone win “A NEW CAR!” on the Showcase Showdown and then talk about being a cast member on The Price is Right?!

This episode was all about Derrick Barry and Naomi Smalls. The cuts were deep and they were consistent. Let me sum it up for you: Naomi thinks Derrick doesn’t understand drag in that she makes herself look pretty, like Britney would, and refuses to paint her eyebrows up on her forehead. Derrick is mostly offended by that, and in response just threw a bunch of snarky jabs at her. Similar to the way she acted toward Bob the Drag Queen a couple episodes ago, before they became besties.

The Mini Challenge this week was an old favorite: Everybody Loves Puppets. Very much like the Reading is Fundamental Mini Challenge from a couple weeks, it’s all about tearing down your competition… er… cast mates. The main difference: in Reading is Fundamental you just throw it in their face, whereas in Everybody Loves Puppets, the queens were asked to both wardrobe a hand puppet in the likeness of the assigned queen and then put on a small performance assuming the personality of that person.

Bob’s puppet tripped over itself and lisped a la Kim Chi.

Kim Chi’s puppet pointed out Chi Chi’s “cheap queen” aesthetic.

Derrick pointed out that Naomi’s roller girl, neon, and Madonna looks were the same.

Naomi’s puppet, in turn, said that “there is no Derrick Barry, there’s only Britney Spears.”

Chi Chi let loose with his Bob puppet: “jokes jokes jokes jokes jokes.” Also, ‘walk into the club purse first’ never sounded funnier.

RuPaul himself declared Chi Chi the winner.

The Maxi Challenge was like… this is the episode where all the producers’ half-realized ideas are dumped. The queens had to develop three different looks for the runway: Baby Drag Realness, That’s My Mama Realness, Autobiographical Eleganza Exravaganza. The categories pretty much define themselves, right? The last of which was described as a couture creation made entirely out of books. The first two: they could just wear whatever.

In the werk room, it was all Derrick and Naomi. At least for the edit we saw on TV, everybody else just sat around watching them throw barbs.

RuPaul came in to visit and he had tips for everyone. He asked Derrick, point-blank, “Do you know how to paint an illusion on your face?” To Bob, he reminded him that he was challenged to focus on a more elegant look. To Naomi, he asked “how are you going to insert more of you into this challenge?” and Naomi spoke about her mom and that portion of the challenge.

RuPaul revealed inadvertently that he is completely absent the competition with the exceptions of scenes he is in. What happened? He asked about Kim Chi’s mom and was told — as we were many weeks ago — that Kim Chi’s mom doesn’t know he does drag. “She thinks I’m a make up artist,” she said, again.

David Sedaris and his sister, the actress Amy, were guest judges. The queens hooted and hollered at his name, as though they were aware who he is. The single most ‘what the hell?!’ part of this episode was when Ru told them they would begin on the runway with a group performance “in full Jerri Blank” inspired drag.

Y’all, Strangers With Candy went off the air over 15 years ago. The movie, based on the TV show, was released over 10 years ago.

Remember how Naomi Smalls is 21 years old? I’m glad they got her on camera saying she had no idea who this character is. It’s like all those seasons of American Idol when they’d have these little 16-year-old kids sing hits from the big band era, or classic rock night, or pretty much anything that’s not current. They’re 16. They went through puberty twenty minutes ago and have zero linear memory from before it.

Chi Chi, as winner of the Mini Challenge, was in charge of choreography. Because an added burden is exactly why people want to win things. We’ve seen so far in this competition that nobody else can do choreography. My guess: either they rigged the Mini Challenge so Chi Chi would win, or they would’ve rigged it so she’d lose terribly enough that choreography would be her punishment, like on Top Chef or MasterChef or whatever that Gordon Ramsey show is where the losers gotta mop the floors while the winners spend the day at Disney.

They all looked like variations of Cheri Oteri.

Baby Drag Realness seemed to require they all wear an insanely oversized red pair of shoes and/or a massive pearl necklace. The That’s My Mama Realness really necessitated the voiceover from each queen to make the generic looks work. Remember, these two categories were all off-the-rack.

Highlights from the Eleganza Extravaganza category included Derrick’s cut-and-paste papers on a corset, and Bob’s use of cardboard instead of pages from a book. The judges loved Naomi’s and Chi Chi’s creations.

The winner this week was Kim Chi.

Also safe were Chi Chi and Naomi. That left in the bottom two Derrick Barry and Bob the Drag Queen.

It’s good to see Bob in the bottom two. He’s still very likely going to win this whole thing, but it’s nice to see him not just coast the entire season toward that crown. Which was likely until this week. Having made a dress from arguably a book cover instead of the pages from a book isn’t the worst thing any of them could do, but it spoke to the strength of the competitors who were deemed safe.

So we all knew going into this lip synch that Derrick was gonna go. The producers’ choice of Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” instead of something more poppy and, let’s be honest, white pretty much sealed the deal before the performance even started.

You notice the eventual winner of these lip synchs gets more screen time during their performance, so it seems more obvious to the viewer?

Yeah, me too.

 

 

See also:

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "Shady Politics" (season 8 episode 7)

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "Book Ball" (season 8 episode 8)

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE recap: "The Realness" (season 8 episode 9)