The weekly return from the lip sync has become routine for the contestants, and it shows. Everyone says that this was an emotional elimination, but they’re all either too drained or too jaded to tangibly demonstrate any sense of empathy. They’ve become fabulous robots programmed to talk about how sad they are that Thorgy is gone. Luckily for the editors, their anger and desperation are still very real, especially in Derrick’s case. Chi Chi hangs the piñata by being the first to voice surprise that the Vegas Vacancy wasn’t on the chopping block, but Naomi ends up taking the most swings with her wiffle bat. For an audience tired of watching better queens sashay in favor of the Halfwit Brit-Brit, it’s a welcome catharsis.
Tensions are running so high that the next morning, we get another conversation-free entrance. It’s pretty much just a shot of Bob’s purse and then a cut straight to Ru’s video PSA about literacy. (Are you happy, Serena Cha Cha? #readabook) Luckily, the extended length of this episode means that there’s no rush to explain why we’re talking so much about libraries and reading when we done already done had that mini-challenge. So let’s kill some time with a puppet interlude, aka the Reading Challenge part 2! It’s no surprise that the hapless intern shoved behind the glory hole (whose job is, one assumes, usually MUCH more tiring than handing out dolls) gives Naomi and Derrick facsimiles of each other, nor is it shocking that they can’t even wait until the game starts to throw out some choice barbs. Similarly, Bob barely has her Kim Chi puppet in hand before she’s dropping it for comedic effect. But Chi Chi takes the win by delivering essentially the exact same skit that BenDeLaCreme did about Bianca Del Rio two seasons ago, except with a miniature pocketbook. But hey, if the producers are going to recycle the same storylines over and over, then the contestants might as well play along.
Of course, we can only play with toys for so long: the workroom is for working, and Ru has a super-sized assignment to keep her Top 5 on their toes. This week, they’ll be competing in the Book Ball, serving three looks: baby drag, mom drag, and paper drag. The construction is all just backdrop for Naomi and Derrick’s personal death match, of course. I’m not going to bother rehashing all of it, because let’s face it none of it is as funny as what I’ve said in previous recaps. But it is now my personal mission in life to give Leggy Smalls a giant hug for finally pointing out that a certain someone is Not a Twink, Not Yet A Bald Man. Also, for only being 21, she handles the whole interaction with a lot more poise and maturity than her supposedly professional counterpart.
While the ladies stitch and bitch, Ru wanders between tables, hungry for the human tears that keep her young. “Tell me about… your mother,” she whispers through a lurid grin. Unfortunately, no one bites in the moment. She gets Chi Chi to accept her country roots and grills Kim Chi for what seems like hours, but the closest she comes is unearthing a story about Bob’s mom’s health and waiting for her talking head interviewer to finish the job later. (Not shown: the three hooded monks who solemnly collect the precious liquid sadness from her face into a sacred urn that they will transport back to Mathu Anderson’s dungeon.) When Naomi says that being in the bottom two “literally” lit a fire under her ass, I’m inclined to believe her: the Supermodel of the World will stop at nothing to extract the salty lifeblood from your eyes.
Since the combination of high-pressure sewing and parental drama wasn’t enough to drive five people simultaneously into sobbing fits, Ru ups the ante even further by assigning the group a dance routine based on Jerri Blank without even bothering to justify how that connects to the literary theme. Chi Chi is told that she’ll be choreographing as reward for her puppet show earlier, but really it’s a punishment for being so upbeat and composed this week. The rehearsal process for the number is just an excuse to remind us that Kim Chi struggles with coordinated movement because she is a sentient wetsuit full of trained cats.
Since the rest of the workroom footage is just an extended argument about whether Bob or Derrick has the worst make-up (and we all know it’s Derrick), let’s just fast-forward to the mainstage, shall we? The image of a row of queens in cheap wigs and giant toothy inserts briefly causes me to worry that Robbie Turner has sent her clone army to destroy us, but it’s just our top five trying desperately to lip sync through unnecessary dental obstructions. (Seriously, guys: Jerri Blank’s signature underbite can be easily achieved without a Party City hillbilly costume.) The only good parts of the performance are Bob’s delivery of “crack cocaine” and Amy Sedaris’ existence. And really, the fact that World of Wonder could afford to get her into the studio to record this song means that she officially isn’t charging enough for those kinds of bookings.
For the Ball itself, there’s lots to love. Chi Chi steps up her game with her paper couture creation and Naomi remains regal and runway-ready throughout. They can’t compete with Kim Chi, though: by expertly weaving her high-concept looks into a fully realized story, she nails the assignment on multiple levels and soars to the top of the best-seller list. Sadly, the uniformly high quality of everyone else’s offerings makes Derrick’s ineptitude disastrously evident. Her clothes, brows, IQ, and personality are all so collectively underwhelming that she should have just kept walking off the runway, out of the studio, and into the ocean. And Bob did great because she’s Bob and she always does great, but someone’s got to win the lip sync.
And win she does, friends. You don’t take “The Drag Queen” as your last name without being supremely confident in that identity, and her expert delivery of Sylvester’s classic disco anthem gives us a good look at her extensive tool kit. By contrast, Derrick has always been a one-trick pony, and that horse has been dead for so long that there’s nothing left to beat. Lacking the ability to show us something we haven’t seen before, she impales herself on her own Spears and gets sent packing. Bob bids her a loving, heartfelt goodbye, disappointing me for the first time in the competition. I don’t mind if they’re friends, but I do mind having that blonde nobody on my TV for ten more seconds. Hug it out off-camera.
Chris J. Kelly performs under the drag name Ariel Italic and can be seen as one of the cohosts of Nobodies Hosting Drag Race every Monday night at Eastlands in Brooklyn, NY.
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