Monday, February 4, 2013

"RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 5, Episode 2: Paying lip service

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 11:46 PM

So I missed the first 10 minutes of the episode because the bar I watch it at decided to blare the local Top 40 radio station and run muted episodes of “2 Broke Girls” on the TVs until the bartender got around to changing the channel. If anyone would like subsidize my personal cable bill, do let me know.

Anyway. By the time I tuned in the teams had already been selected for the week’s elimination challenge. The queens were split into three groups and tasked with reenacting -- and lipsynching -- infamous moments from seasons 2-4 of “Untucked.” Here’s how the teams shook out:

Ivy Winters led LineyshaSparkx, Vivienne Pinay, and Honey Mahogany in reenacting moments from Season 2 featuring Morgan McMichaels, Mystique Summers Madison, Tyra Sanchez, and Tatianna.

Detox captained Alaska, Monica Beverly Hillz, and Coco Montrose in S4 battles between Phi Phi O’Hara, Sharon Needles, Jiggly Caliente, and Lashauwn Beyond.

Serena ChaCha had the reins over Alyssa Edwards, Roxxxy Andrews, Jinkx Monsoon, and Jade Jolie in S3 moments with Raja, Shangela, Mariah, Mimi Imfurst, and Delta Work.

I’m of two minds on this challenge. It was fun to see great moments from the past again, but since the queens had to lipsynch to the actual dialogue tracks of the original contestants there wasn’t much room for improvisation. Some of them included some funny bits, like Detox and Alasks making out as Sharon/Phi Phi, or Alyssa and Jinkx working in Mimi’s infamous full-contact drag moments into their spat. But instead of interpreting the scenes as melodrama, and cutting the ladies loose, the lipsynching really limited them. And frankly most of them weren’t very good at it. (This bodes poorly for Lipsynchs for Your Life this season.)

I honestly have no idea what the assignment was for the runway, but since the queens weren’t making gowns out of garbage the looks and face stepped up tremendously this week. Guest judges Kristen Johnston and Juliette Lewis (JULIETTE LEWIS!) came across as huge fans of the show who were super excited to be there, and invested in the proceedings. It was a memorable judging panel, that’s for sure.

Ivy Winters’ team was declared the winner, which I did not understand at all. Ivy and Honey basically bombed their section -- neither was particularly on point or memorable, and they didn’t look a thing like their original inspirations. (Hilariously, on Twitter Mystique called out Penny Tration for painting her fake Mystique face so dark -- Penny got eliminated last week, and is white, while Honey is, you know, black. Never change, Mystique! Are those Mexican cartels giving your mom trouble again?) Only individual challenge winner Lineysha really shined as Tyra, although her success had more to do with Tyra’s easily mocked attitude and mannerisms than an on-point lipsynch (although it must be said, both queens are stunningly beautiful). The forth part of that quartet, Vivienne Pinay, failed to make any kind of impression for the second week in a row. Not good.

Just about every other queen came alive this week, though. Jinkx is starting to emerge as the sweet screwball I hoped she would be (Pandora Boxx should be afraid, very afraid…). Coco delivered a sickening lipsynch in the challenge and was on fire in “Untucked.” Ivy came out on effing stilts in a giant butterfly cape, but I still wish she would amp up the personality to match the aesthetic. Detox looked absolutely stunning on the runway. That is a queen who knows how to paint a face.

The darling of the night, however, was poor Monica Beverly Hillz. I was unimpressed with Monica last week. She was memorable almost exclusively for being a crying mess for seemingly no reason in “Untucked.” This week we found out her deal: Monica is actually a transgender woman and was struggling with hiding her secret from the judges and contestants. This raises some interesting questions. This show has featured several contestants who have gone on to live as women -- Carmen Carrera, Sonique, and Victoria Porkchop Parker all identify as transgender, I believe. I have read debates online as to whether a trans woman would have an unfair advantage in this competition, since hormones or surgery would obviously aid them in their transformation from male to female.

But we don’t know where Monica is with her change in gender. And you could make a compelling argument that MANY of these queens -- especially this season -- have had plastic surgery done to their faces to enhance their feminine features. So what’s the difference? Should any kind of surgery be outlawed? Are hormones the dealbreaker? If not, could biological women apply? Would it be discriminatory to ban transgendered people or women from competing? Truly, it’s an interesting debate, and I can’t think of another show where this would even be a topic of discussion.

After her admission, Monica found herself in the Bottom 2 (totally justifiable based on her lackluster challenge performance) along with last week’s cellar dweller, Serena ChaCha, who is just plainly awful. They lipsynched to “Only Girl in the World” by Rihanna, and Monica had this without any problem. Serena seemed desperate, while Monica was confident. I hope that’s a sign of things to come from her, because as the first person to be openly trans while serving as a contestant on the show, she’s breaking new ground here.

Serena was, blessedly, given the axe, but not before insulting pretty much everyone backstage, and at home in the viewing audience. In “Untucked” we saw her once again insinuate that everyone else is an idiot because they don’t have her art-school education, refer to people as “ghetto” (this sparked a particularly ugly exchange with Coco, and then Detox), and generally act as though at 21 she knows it all, and that everyone else is an old, dumb, talentless skeeze who needs to get out of her way. Her few moments of self-awareness came way too late, as she admitted that she was intimidated by these queens and knew they would never take her seriously. That’s not because you’re young, dear. That’s because you’re an asshole. Her parting words to the contestants: “Read a book.” I think she was confused about what RuPaul was looking for on this show. Ru wants upper-case C.U.N.T., not lowercase. Serena has plenty to spare of the latter.

A couple random thoughts on the other S5 queens:

-I really don’t like Alyssa. I’m sorry. I don’t believe anything she says -- her supposed feud with Coco seems to have disappeared already -- and the way she opens and closes her mouth on the runway makes me want to get out a fishing rod and bait. It’s not cute unless you’re Chilean sea bass, dear.

-I was glad that Honey Mahogany called out Jade in the lounge for being a serious shit-stirrer, because I keep seeing everyone refer to Jade as this sweet young thing. Jade is obviously a vicious little queen. That’s fine, but I’m glad to see that at least one other competitor has her number.

-I know we’re all supposed to be rooting for her, but two episodes in I am really not feeling Alaska. It’s so unfortunate, because you can tell how much she wants this. She seems sweet and like a perfectly fine queen -- there’s clearly some wit there -- but there’s a real lack of star quality thus far.

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