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Drag Race S9E8: Roasting is Fundamental

by Chris Feil

Last week, RuPaul’s Drag Race gave us a stellar episode thanks to a nearly across the board strong performance by all of the queens. This week, we got an equally great episode but for the opposite reason.

The queens are challenged with the one-two punch of the Reading is Fundamental mini-challenge and a revival of season five’s RuPaul Roast (and six's photocopy Queens of Comedy). There may not have been a Laganja-level meltdown this time, but it has its share of Roxxxy flatline drama. Until know, you may have missed that we are short a comedy queen this season - though many of them can bring the funny when needed. [extreme Patti LuPone voice] They are wonderful, you know, performers for what they do, but they are not stand-up comedians...

Which only means more fun for us seeing who can rise to the top and who falls hardest. The reading challenge wasn’t one for the history books, but Valentina was the rightful winner giving Lucy Van Pelt pouty realness in her quick biting barbs.

Best Read - Peppermint on Nina Bo’nina Brown’s massive couch cushion pads: “Goodwill pick-up is on Sundays.”

But the queens took it too far for Alexis, who was hurt by the many jokes about her size. Now I understand Ru and others’ response that she needs a thicker skin particularly on the reading challenge, but here the show is contradicting itself. Was Eureka not taken to task a few weeks ago for joking past people’s personal boundaries on the very topic of body issues? There’s nothing wrong with having one personal thing you want spared from the jokes. And also immediately jumping to Alexis’s body is lazy thinking on the queens parts - its not like Alexis hasn’t been giving them self-absorbed material all season.

The roast celebrated Michelle Visage this season, a surprise that was kept from Ru’s bestie until the last minute. Michelle seemed truly tickled and that delight carried through the challenge and critique. It was such a treat to see her be more real and not play the severe role she’s developed over more recent seasons. Michelle is just better when she plays it loose.

The Roast goes mostly smoothly, with a few high points like Sasha’s jabs at guest judge Tamar Braxton and Valentina’s kooky sexual advances to Ross Matthews. Even the best queens relied very heavily on their cue cards and nearly all of them were playing a character that didn’t make their set much better (except maybe Nina’s great aunt church lady). Farrah could have maybe used a character to help contextualize her mean-spirited set - if there ever was a time for her to play up the dumb bimbo routine, she missed it.

It was Peppermint that nabbed the win with the energy and jokes necessary to keep a roast alive. Her chill charisma finally paid off in a challenge where her competition was clearly sweating, and it was also the best she’s ever looked. Pep’s charm has been her best asset all season, unflappably positive when even describing her struggles as a trans woman, so it was exciting to see her completely own a challenge.

Elphaboobs - Last week Val gave us gorgeous lily pads, but this week Alexis gave us visible green titty pads. Those breast pads were such an eyesore, like an eclipse you can’t stare at directly or it will blind you. Alexis is having a creativity crisis, but I don’t understand how she didn’t catch herself here.

Farrah and Alexis landed in the bottom for a Dolly Parton lipsync (the show’s first!) and it was yet another close call. Both girls brought the salloon girl energy, but Alexis’s sliding split sealed the deal. Poor Farrah never rose above, but her lipsync performances were actually adorable and her most distinct work on the show.

Farrah sure seemed like she knew her time was up on Untucked. This week’s behind-the-scenes bitch sesh begins tamer with our soft-spoken safe girls Nina and Valentina, but the fireworks come when Shea makes good on those promises to lay into Nina Bo’nina Paranoia Brown’s continued externalized low self-esteem.

Now that we are down to only seven queens, this is where eliminations only get harder. We’re down to the major talents - and as much as it seems like Alexis is on the outs, I’m confident the lipsync will bring some wings to her sails. No matter how it shakes out, the next eliminations are going to burn. Maybe we should follow Val’s lead and pray to Guadalupe for our favorites.

Current Ranking:

  1. Shea Couleé
  2. Sasha Velour
  3. Trinity Taylor (though she's threatening Sasha's #2 spot)
  4. Valentina
  5. Nina Bo'nina Brown
  6. 🔺Peppermint
  7. 🔻Alexis Michelle
  8. Eureka O'Hara OUT
  9. Farrah Moan OUT
  10. Aja OUT
  11. Cynthia Lee Fontaine OUT
  12. Charlie Hides OUT
  13. Jaymes Mansfield OUT
  14. Kimora Blac OUT

Gif as Episode Grade:

Who are you praying to Guadalupe to save to the finale?

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Reader Comments (16)

The RuPaul Roast is from Season 5... Laganja's meltdown during Season 6 was just a stand-up challenge. Remember Coco playing Ru's cousin from the projects and Alyssa's burn that Santino should "shut the f*ck up with his no drag knowledge.....mouth"?!?!

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Nick - oy, that's what I get for writing/editing so late. Fixing!

May 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

"chill charisma" is the perfect description of Peppermint's appeal. And weirdly it's such a surprise-perfect springboard for really HI ENERGY moments like that great great lipsynch a week back.

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

As much as I like Shea Coulée, there's not much of a wow factor IMO, that Bianca or Bob had. Nor is she as juicily divisive as queens like Violet, Pearl, Katya, and Kim Chi, which ultimately makes them interesting. She's a solidly talented drag queen. But I digress.

I think Sasha Velour is a star, and I hope she wins.

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

What are you talking about Aaron? Anyone with eyes can see that Shea Coulee is "unstoppable."

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

In no universe is Valentina #4 behind Sasha and Trinity, but I'm still Team Shea.

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBD

This has been a lousy season. The only thing I have truly enjoyed was NBN as Jasmine Masters in the Snatch Game. Season 9 is reaching pre-season 4 levels of bad. I'd probably even rank season 2 above it.

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I'm kind of with you on the Alexis comments. I don't think she should have been offended that the girls made fat jokes -- it's the library reading challenge, and you gotta thicken that skin up -- she should have been offended that the fat jokes were so terrible.

I was surprised that so many girls went the character route this time. I would even argue that Valentina was doing some kind of character.

Small nitpick: The first Roast was in Season 5; Season 6 was a straight-up stand-up comedy challenge ;)

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjakey

Carmen Sandiego - but the show was great before season 4 (minus season 2's eating challenge)!

May 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

I really enjoyed the episode. Very pleasantly surprise that Valentina has shown a pretty spectacular display of comedic chops after it seemed she was "only" a pretty queen. It's wonderful seeing her loose and going for it. I think she's easily, clearly in the top 3 along with Shea and Sasha. Especially after Trinity failed hardcore (again) this week. Shea and Valentina are the only ones not to be in the bottom 3 yet too.

I was worrying Farrah would be that queen to overstay but it was for the best to show her the door. Is this the first season where the strongest top 7 actually make it to the top 7? The Eureka (who clearly has a lot more to offer) situation aside. Don't feel there's any genuine weak links now. And the fact that I could realistically see them all in the finale too makes the race and the next episodes more exciting.

I agree. The lip-sync will cause Alexis to really step it up next week. She did it with every week when she wanted a win until she finally managed one. I would've given the win to Shea for how hilarious she was. I do think Peppermint was lovely but immensely helped by how poor the two queens that went before her did.

May 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

i have four queens i want in the top three: shea, sasha, peppermint and valentina. dilemma!

but i have a sinking feeling trinity will make the final [although i don't see her winning]

hopefully annoying alexis and nina bo'nina debbie downer brown are the next to go

May 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Chris - Sorry, but I can't agree with that. For the first three seasons, the show was fine, with an occasional great moment (Ongina's HIV reveal, for example) and the occasional catatrophe (Tyra Sanchez winning). Season 1 was justifiably ghetto (no money). Season 3 was a bore. Season 2 was the strongest, despite its winner, mainly because of the charisma of the cast, especially Raven and Jujubee.

It took Season 4 (partly because of Phi Phi's being such a great villain, she does not get enough credit anywhere) to really take the show to a whole new level, and then season 5 knocked it out of the part and elevated everything to general greatness. I see season 4 as the big RPDR watershed.

May 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I hope Alexis and Nina are the next to go.

I loved Nina at the beginning, but this low self esteem is so tired. What she said in untucked really irked me.

And Alexis has annoyed me the whole season lol. She thinks she knows better than everyone, and she's very self-absorbed. She's also just way too broadway for me. Lol @ her trying to defend the green as if it made ANY sense. Ok, you wanna annoy Michelle by wearing her least favorite color, then wear every single piece of green you have. But painting your body green??? No. It made no sense.

If those two go next, I'll be very happy and it'll be really interesting to see how it all goes down.

May 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

The sad thing is we had comedy queens on this season and they were both early outs: James and Charlie. Charlie, especially, would have soared in this episode. Too bad.

Even the worst contestants this season were no match for the bombs of the Season 6 comedy challenge. It was closer to Season 3's comedy challenge, where Delta and Manilla landed on the bottom for not winning over the audience because of delivery. Farah and Trinity had jokes that they just didn't sell. Alexis had setups but never specifically said her punchlines.

May 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

This episode's challenge was almost unwatchable. I was recoiling in second-hand embarrassment with several of these queens, including Valentina, who I think got a better edit than how it must happened. As much as I recognize she's a fierce talented queen, I find Valentina sort of grating and with a low key level of smugness that makes me want to see her getting a reality check-in critique.

Trinity Taylor has been a huge surprise for me. I thought I was going to dislike her all season but she has turned out to be a comic relief in the show for me (yeah, even tho she bombed the roasting challenge.) I find her to be just a natural funny gal that doesn't take herself seriously.

And yes, this is Shea's to lose, everybody. I adore Trinity, Sasha and Peppermint but they don't stand a chance with Shea. She's that good.

May 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Trinity is gross, all that botox, and at such a young age–why do people do that? Sasha is still doing great, and I hope she makes it to the finals. I'm thinking it's going to Sasha, Valentina, and Shea, with Shea winning the season, but we'll see.

May 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

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