The first elimination serves as a reality check for the remaining contestants, who return to the workroom with the faces of soldiers who have seen atrocities. The experience was a little #tooreal for Robbie Turner, who is so shaken that she loses the will to make catty comments for the entire rest of the episode. When Laila says she will miss Naysha’s butt, Cynthia begins to cry, presumably because the mention of a cu-cu other than her own is triggering for her. Then Naomi tries to prompt a discussion of who actually should have been in the bottom two, and when a fight doesn’t immediately erupt, I have a feeling about who’s going to be in the bottom two again this week. Take the bait, McQueen; Mama Ru makes you work hard for the money.
The following morning, the contestants find the silver lining to Naysha’s absence: the crowning of a new “Prettiest Queen.” Derrick of course claws for the title, unaware that she is already “Most Transparently Insecure Queen.” And that’s a more competitive category, frankly. Before this line of inquiry leads to a Jared-Leto-in-Fight-Club outcome for Naomi, Ru interrupts with a video about singing and a mini-challenge about dancing. (Side note, I’m still mad they didn’t start calling those video mails “TeleGlams” after they had to get rid of the earlier name. Come ON, World of Wonder.)
Set to the first and last time you’ll ever listen to “Cha Cha Bitch,” the gals show off their sabor with some Latin-style Soul Train realness. We’re supposed to count AB Soto as a guest judge, but since he doesn’t get to say anything beyond his one scripted line, he comes across as more of a sequined Pit Crew member. Not that I’m mad at that. During their 15 minutes of prep time, Betty gets shady about the fact that Thorgy’s legs are hairy, but I’ll tell you what: I’ve been to Thorgy’s shows, and she keeps all that butch business hid. Conversely, I didn’t even know Acid still did shows. So there’s that.
It seems initially that Naomi’s clumsy attempt at a death drop will be the worst part of the dance-off, but then Kim Chi takes her turn. She moves as though her body is a crazy Voltron being controlled by five disparately-located hamsters who have no communication with each other. On the not-terrible side of things, Ru gives top honors to Chi Chi (who actually can death drop) and Cynthia (who puts her much-discussed cu-cu to exemplary use). Of course, winning isn’t everything, and the “prize” they receive is leadership responsibility.
For the main event, two teams will battle it out lip syncing to warring a cappella renditions of Ru’s greatest hits. I was surprised to see a challenge inspired by Pitch Perfect and its sequel mostly because I forgot those movies ever existed. The team selection process goes about how you’d expect, with the NYC girls and Derrick getting picked first and Kim Chi coming in dead last. There’s so much talk about how uncoordinated she is, I’m surprised they don’t have footage of the other ladies helping her into her wheelchair while a sad trombone plays in the background.
Chi Chi learns that she will be leading the shady group, both in the musical and in real life. Snatching Betty first seems like a worse and worse idea with each passing moment: for a woman that claims to want group unity, she’s being as divisive as possible. The tension gets so hot that by the time they start rehearsing with Jamal Sims, Dax is physically melting. Thorgy’s peace-keeping efforts are as persistent as her determination to punch Acid in the face, but ultimately neither quest is successful. I mean, sure, she gets her comedy moment into the dance eventually, but I wanted her to really deck someone. She can’t keep up that good mood forever.
The good girls are also living up to their archetypes, rallying around Kim with support, suggestions, and sisterhood. At least, that’s what they’re saying to her face; I’m pretty sure that behind her back, every single contestant offers a talking head segment about what a giant clod she is. But the debilitating absence of rhythm in her life isn’t even the main concern: Ms. Chi is also severely deficient in Vitamin D, if you know what I mean and I think you do. First her parents don’t know about her drag, and now she’s still got an intact hymen? As much as I want her to last in this competition, I don’t think I’m prepared for any more of her gag-worthy revelations.
Oh, also, Laila McQueen is struggling to come through, but I’m going to be honest with you: I kind of forgot about her with everything else that was going on.
The tough thing about having such a strong group of contestants this season is that nobody outright sucks during the mainstage performance. So while we get some impressive highlights, like when Chi Chi stops mid-cartwheel to sass up the lyric or Cynthia flawlessly finishes out her choreography after accidentally kicking off one of her shoes, we don’t get any delicious failures. Kim might move like an extra on The Walking Dead, but she’s just so dang charming that you can’t even dislike it. The worst I can say about anyone is that they’re not the star of the show, but not everyone can be, you know? Naomi claims that no one wants to meet the backup crew, but no one would have liked Destiny’s Child if they were all Beyoncés. #JusticeForLatavia
For the fashion portion of the runway, Thorgy and Betty delight with their unique takes on the Movie Premiere Realness, but Chi Chi’s underwhelming frock is counterbalanced by her overflowing dance skills, and she twerks her way to a win. Continuing her exploration of dramatic irony, Acid complains about her team’s lack of leadership without ever considering whether she might be one of the most difficult people to manage in all of human history. On the lower end of the spectrum, Kim’s quirky charms save her from having to lip sync, leaving Dax and Laila to do the deed.
And then all hell breaks loose. Not during the sync: that sucks. And sure, they’re tired from having just lip synced a whole routine, and I get that that’s unfair. But I promise you that 75 percent of the people watching the show at home could have turned out a better performance of “I Will Survive” than what we saw on our televisions. The drama drops when Ru, impatient with the mediocrity on display, sends both ladies packing. And just when I catch my breath from this announcement, she borrows Michelle’s phone and makes… a call. Is she bringing back a former hopeful? Adding a judge to the panel? Ordering pizza? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out, but one thing’s for certain: the outcome will have extra cheese, half with pepperoni and half without.