RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE recap: “The Realness”

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This was the episode that revealed the top three and, therefore, who would make it to the season finale.

Let’s stop right there. You know as well as I do that whatever RuPaul and all them producers were gonna make these queens do this week wouldn’t make a damn difference as to who’ll be in the finale. The big fun, then, will be watching to see how they manipulate this week’s challenge to fit the game plan (or if they even have to). The final four is…

Kim Chi

Bob the Drag Queen

Chi Chi DeVayne

Naomi Smalls

Heading into the episode, I was like, “Kim Chi, bye!” and here’s why. It was really a process of elimination. They’re all very qualified to—um… make the top 3. Let’s leave it at that and, setting Kim Chi aside a moment, take a closer look at the remaining three individually.

Bob the Drag Queen has had this race all locked up since episode one. You know — and I mean YOU KNOW — RuPaul loves Naomi Smalls; there’s something very Violet Chachki about her (it may just be her skinniness). And as for Chi Chi, it seemed that RuPaul delighted in feeling she was bringing her up, that presenting her to the live audience during the finale, all these months later, would make for a great “take a look at my protégé” moment.

Kim Chi hadn’t struck me as having personality enough to outshine (at least one of) the other three. Having said that, she’s very witty, if you listen closely and, of course, the make-up and wardrobe designs are perfectly on point.

That’s my pre-episode assessment.

This week there was no Mini Challenge. RuPaul showed up, introduced them to Jayson Whitmore, a film director who you know is great because he was like, “I’m just gonna wear a tank top!” and then they got right to the Maxi Challenge.

Jayson directed them through various scenes for the video of RuPaul’s new single, “The Realness.”

The first set-up was called “floatography.” Each queen had to play like she was floating, laying on a box and it seemed the hardest part was lifting their legs to maintain the façade. Kim Chi fell of the two foot high box they each laid upon and, when Bob mentioned that she’d fallen more than anyone in drag queen history (and I knew that I’d only seen it maybe once, and even then it was on Untucked), I couldn’t help but wonder why editors chose not to share that comedy gold with us.

The second set-up was called “avant garde,” which is what Jayson defined as “all about self-expression: movement, face, and art.” They all took their turn dancing for the camera. Chi Chi wore a gown that looked like pleather netting and kept stepping in one of the loops. Jayson asked, “have you danced in gowns before?” and it was surprising when she said no because Chi Chi defines herself as a dancing drag queen.

The third set-up was “a scene between you and your biggest competitor: you and the mirror.” A strange one, here they all literally sat or stood in front of a mirror like it was for the cover of a book jacket or the gatefold on a vinyl record from the late 1970s.

In the werk room, each queen assessed their growth in the competition. The biggest revelation came from Chi Chi, though he’s hinted at it before. “I never realized how much I hated where I was from, and how I talk,” she said.

There were apparently no rules for the final runway. Bob wore a glittery business suit. Chi Chi went for a pageant look with about three big buns on top. Kim Chi wore black, “a corset covered in goose and pheasant feathers” and a mask. Naomi wore a pink pantsuit and ass-length straight hair.

Then came the “talk to your younger self in this photograph” section. A lot of “it gets betters.” No big surprises. Kim Chi in particular broke down as he spoke. It was the emotional highlight of the episode.

Judges included RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley and Ross Mathews. Compliments all around. Then came the chance for each to explain why she should win and not the others. Again, no surprises. The judges deliberated alone. And you know they’re closing in the top three when they have equal parts compliments and criticism regarding each.

Everybody participated in the lip synch this week because, again, it didn’t matter. The song was RuPaul’s new “The Realness.” None of them was really trying to outperform any of the others. In voiceover, each queen took her turn telling us why they need to win. And when it was all said and done, RuPaul eliminated Chi Chi DeVayne.

And I said “WHAT?!?!”

I thought RuPaul LOVED Chi Chi.

The surprise for me, then, was assuming the rules that carried the entire season would extend into this episode. We all know Kim Chi can’t dance (may God help her to simply walk) so all along I was thinking, “if she ever lands in the bottom two and has to lip synch for her life, she’s gone!” It was an inevitability that she would leave at some point. She couldn’t win because she’ll never pass that hurdle. WRONG. Also: she’s more a make-up artist and personality than a performer, so I figured it another reason she couldn’t make the final three. Again, I was wrong.

I think where Chi Chi failed, and where the editors refused to reveal it explicitly, was during the Shady Politics challenge. Remember when she went in to create that commercial with Thorgy Thor? Thorgy had all those ideas—so many, that she lost focus and ended up going home—but Chi Chi didn’t seem to have much of any idea. She started with her commercial and Michelle and Carson shut her down. They told her to highlight her Louisiana roots and the subsequent commercial SCREAMED Louisiana. I loved it. It was my favorite but the more I considered the about turn that the ad took, it struck me that maybe Carson and Michelle sat down and wrote that commercial for Chi Chi. And I suppose it’s that sort of thing, the (in)ability to think on her feet and lead a crowd, that became the tipping point which sent Chi Chi packing just one episode away from the finale.

 

 

 

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)