On the one hand, I feel like this season has gone way too quickly. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been waiting for Derrick’s elimination since the day I was born. The fact that everyone comments on how surprising it was to actually like her is so delicious that I don’t even need to write a joke about it. But after Bob washes away her final message (which took more lipstick to write than she wore in the past eight episodes combined), the Britney impersonator is forgotten forever. She’ll have to reintroduce herself to everyone at the reunion in two weeks. Speaking of which, that finale is looming large. Everyone’s going over their strengths and weaknesses in their confessionals. Did I win enough? Did I lip sync too much? What does Ru want?! And then Bob gives Naomi tips on how to have uglier make-up and again, I don’t even need to write a punchline. If the meta-commentary continues at this level, I’m going back to bed.
Day two begins with everyone looking mighty comfy in bathrobes and slippers. Maybe their main challenge will be a delightful trip to a local spa. Who can look most serene after a relaxing massage? Yes, that must be it. Ru has brought this hot, burly gentleman here for some totally non-agonizing reason. If we were shooting a music video, surely Mathu would have shown up. Just kidding, of course we’re shooting a music video. (Mr. Andersen is absent presumably because he was unwilling to say “floatography” over and over on camera.) For the first setup, the ladies are either lying on their backs trying to look graceful or puffing up the fabric out of frame because World of Wonder can’t afford stagehands, I guess. Also, since mental torture apparently isn’t enough for her, Ru also wants to put the girls through as much physical pain as possible, forcing them to dangle their legs off a box until their abs quake just because she can. By Season 10, the show will just be American Ninja Warrior with better outfits.
The second segment is supposed to feature “avant garde” creations, though the girls generally interpret that as “whatever outfit you couldn’t shoehorn into one of the other challenges.” Bob’s getup doesn’t do much to shatter fashion expectations, but she does think outside the box by using construction paper for her blush and brows. Then again, given her history with make-up in this competition, maybe it’s best that she start on kindergarten crafts and work her way up. Still, she gets credit for making death drops fun again after Laganja ruined them in Season 6. Having struggled with the floating portion (I didn’t write a joke about it because BTDQ’s “upside-down turtle” observation was perfect), Kim Chi redeems herself with her “Big Bird at Burning Man” couture. Naomi, having run out of clothes, quickly whips up a hooded bathing suit out of some fruit roll-ups from the craft services table. She may as well play with her food; Lord knows she’s not eating it. And the producers are so eager for anyone to show weakness that they act like Chi Chi squatted and took a dump on set when she snags her heel in her dress. (This whole problem could have been avoided if Derrick were here to hem it.)
For the third setup, Kim Chi steals my thunder by making the joke about Bob fisting mines. Stop mopping my steez, people. I don’t come to your city and put on good drag shows. It’s fine, her punishment for stealing my gig is to film her mirror interaction in a poorly-lit corner of a garage. This entire section goes by pretty quickly, presumably because no one horribly botched it. You know if they did, there would be Nancy Grace levels of sensationalism about it. Instead, we remain at Acid-Betty-as-Nancy-Grace levels of relative calm. To cap things off, Bianca wanders through just so Ru can prove that she still owns her.
The next day in the workroom is also their last, and the queens take time to reflect on what they’ve learned since they’ve been here. Ever the multitasker, Bob somehow turns her confessional about self-loathing into a humblebrag about her beautiful teeth (and thus, indirectly, an advertisement for Crest Whitestrips). Kim claims to have learned only recently that she has a lisp and can’t walk in heels. How did these facts escape her? Did she not exist before the show? For the first time, I worry that she is indeed from North Korea: they have sent an evil glamdroid to steal our homosexual prize money and weaken our resolve! Naomi and Chi Chi talk about accepting who they are or whatever, but I’m over it. I know Ru loves all the “journey to personal discovery” shit, but if I want cheap self-help advice, I’ll fast-forward through episodes of Bad Girls Club until that fake life coach pops up.
The runway theme of “best drag” is less show-stopping than one might anticipate. This is true even of RuPaul, whose make-up suggests that Mathu still has not shown up to work. Someone check his apartment and make sure he’s alive. Bob says that she wanted to wear a tuxedo for the final look, so it’s a shame she didn’t have one and instead had to make do with this Blanche Deveraux costume she fished out of the dumpster behind the studio. Sitting at home, Naysha Lopez is distraught to learn that Chi Chi did not wear the garment she left behind for this exact purpose. (Do you guys remember when she said that? Go back and watch her elimination. I feel the need to explain myself now.) Kim’s continued commitment to feathered outfits makes me wonder if perhaps she’s just growing them directly out of her flesh at this point. Everyone back up in case she goes full Black Swan on us. And then Naomi comes out looking a lot like Cher for some reason? Maybe she wants us to remember that she’s as polished as Chad Michaels, but only a third as old.
To earn the crown, the contestants had to give a couple speeches. First they all reassure childhood pictures to believe in themselves, forcing me to imagine a world in which drag queens burst through time like the Terminator just to tell first graders to be who they are. I assume Ru already has her best people researching that technology. Then they give speeches on why they should win and the others shouldn’t. Of course, if they can learn to love Derrick, then you know they’re too nice to tear each other down during the final judging. Finally, even though they just spent the entire episode doing this already, they all lip sync to “The Realness” again.
Since a chop has to be made, Ru axes Chi Chi. It’s sad, but makes sense: while she’s grown immeasurably during the competition, this isn’t Ms. Charles’ School for Girls. I’m sad to see her go, but also, let’s be real: when they gave Bob her phone back after filming, she probably already had a Venmo notification about that $100,000. Tune in two weeks from now to watch everyone pretend to be surprised about it!
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.