Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 5: Veteran affairs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 12:17 AM

With just five queens remaining it was time for the annual makeover challenge. This time the task was to turn gay veterans of the United States military into drag queens for a day. These vets ranged from fairly young to of-a-certain-age, from stick-figure twinks to bears. It may have been the most mixed bag of makeover candidates the show has ever seen. But all of the vets were game for the experience, and it did give the show an opportunity to discuss the realities of being gay in the military before, during, and after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Personally I like it when the show ventures into gay politics/history, because these are things that need to get passed on through the generations.

The episode began with a silly calisthenics mini-challenge that was good for only two reasons. First, we got to see the Pit Crew again after what seemed like weeks of absence. Second, we had a fairly cute personal trainer putting the queens through their steps. Spindly Alaska won and was given the opportunity to assign the vets to the competing queens. Ever the diplomat, Alaska merely paired up the military men with the queens who happened to be standing opposite them. If Alaska doesn’t win Miss Congeniality this season I’ll be floored. The only other two possibilities would be Jinkx or Alyssa (not because she’s nice, but because she’s a freaking hoot).

In addition to transforming these dudes into ladies, the queens also had to choreograph a color-guard routine for themselves and their partners. We saw only snippets of these. The show regularly throws a performance curveball like this into these kind of transformation challenges, but rarely shows us all of the finished products. It’s a little odd.

Here’s how everyone stacked up, best to worst:

Roxxxy Andrews nabbed her second win of the competition, and she really needed it. Roxxxy has been struggling for weeks now, and been all but begging for a look-based challenge. This fit that bill, but she had to transform her (very cute) bear companion Izzy into Isabella Andrews. Not easy, but the two of them totally pulled it out. They really did look like drag sisters, and Roxxxy’s make-up and padding jobs on Isabella were well done. They both seemed at ease with one another and had fun with the project.

Jinkx Monsoon had arguably the toughest transformation with her veteran, Dave, an older gentleman with significant physical limitations. Dave also seemed to have an air of drama about him, but it’s understandable -- the guy has apparently been through a LOT. The two of them seemed to mostly work well together (my friend said that she was glad the two of them were paired together, because she doubted any of the other queens would have been as understanding as Jinkx). Jinkx played very heavily toward camp here, doing a Liza/Judy thing for herself and her drag mother, Fortuna Monsoon. (Dave actually claimed to have possibly killed Judy Garland, which spawned the amazing Twitter hashtag, #IKilledJudyGarland.) The whole shtick worked. I also noticed that Jinkx’s make-up has improved significantly over the past few episodes. She is taking the criticisms to heart.

Alaska inadvertently screwed herself by picking the young, skinny pretty boy as her partner. The gent who became known as Nebraska had to make serious changes to his clunky high-heeled walk, and the two of them biffed the color-guard challenge. But the real issue here was that Nebraska ended up outshining Alaska. I think part of that is because Alaska’s aesthetic is always slightly off -- that is a deliberate styling choice on her part. But Nebraska simply looked flawless on the runway, a truly gorgeous queen, and as one of the guest judges put it, she was more intriguing than the actual contestant. (I did like the cat-burglar theme Alaska had going for the two of them.)

Detoxended up in the bottom for the second time, and if editing is to be believed, it’s because she spent so much time fawning over her vet. Detox’s veteran was indeed cute, and probably the most…naturally inclined to this challenge. (I am thoroughly unconvinced that he had never worn heels prior to filming this episode; dude was panthering the room in seconds flat.) Detox and Alaska probably had the most to work with, and so expectations were naturally higher for their transformations. I didn’t care for the looks worn by either Detox or Beth Adone (high marks for the name, though). Their ambitious flag routine was a disaster. And Detox looked miserable on the runway. That dour expression has become fairly standard for Detox, and honestly I just don’t think she’s enjoying this experience in any way. I’m also going to just say it: Detox hugely overestimates her lipsynching abilities. She seems to think the jaw waggle is the be-all and end-all. It was old the first time we saw it weeks ago, and it was beyond tired here. She busted out some dance moves that made her look the fool. But no way did she actually win that LSFYL.

Coco Montreseoutperformed her, but with her fourth appearance in the Bottom 2 (and third straight B3 appearance) there was basically no way she was sticking around. She performed well in that lipsynch -- and I can’t stand Coco, so please understand that it takes me a lot to stick up for her -- but she basically bombed that challenge, as she has many others over the course of the competition. Her partner, Steve (Horchata Montrese), seemed like he was trying, but there was nothing he could do to overcome the tacky styling and tragic make-up Coco put on him. Coco admitted in the work room that she doesn’t paint other people’s faces. Steve looked rough on that stage -- the eyes looked practically Picasso-esque. And Coco didn’t look much better. The hilarious thing is that Coco's been bitching for weeks that the challenges have favored the comedy queens; that she needed a look-based challenge to really shine. And still: pfffft. And then she had the audacity to get tight-lipped and pissy on stage, and throw an actual temper tantrum backstage for being criticized. Goodbye, Coco! I am absolutely thrilled that you are gone. You stand out as one of the most infuriating queens to ever appear on this show. Enjoy your delusions, dear.

That leaves us with one more elimination before the finale. Detox got a lot of character development this episode, with the discussion of her family and the awful-sounding car accident that she survived. It was a very humanizing episode for her -- which makes me think she’s out next week. It appears to be another look-based challenge, which favors Roxxxy and puts both Alaska and Jinkx at risk. Although it’s worth pointing out: neither Alaska nor Jinkx have yet lipsynched for their lives, which is rare at this stage in the competition.

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