Hot on the six-inch platform heels of last week’s stellar, two-hour premiere, the second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 is noticeably abridged. For the last few seasons, Drag Race has stretched itself into 90-minute long episodes with a half-hour Untucked nightcap.
Now, Drag Race has been shaved back down to an hour, presumably to make room for next week’s premiere of The Real Friends of WeHo—a decision that upset loyal fans who treasure every moment with their favorite franchise. Pair that condensed runtime with 15 talented queens to show off, and the editors have a hell of a task on their hands.
Luckily, a compact episode doesn’t mean that watching these queens compete is anything less than heavenly. Literally! In this week’s maxi-challenge, the queens are divided into three groups to shoot infomercials advertising their vision of the afterlife. “What Heaven actually looks like is anybody’s guess,” Ru says, to a hilarious cut of Sugar nodding wisely, like the world’s twinkiest theology scholar.
Teams are quickly formed, and in the cutthroat process, Princess Poppy sets an unstoppable karmic retribution into motion. Poppy is the final queen chosen by team leaders Amethyst and Anetra, leaving the five remaining queens who weren’t picked to form the third and final group, cruelly named Team Leftovers. “Sorry, losers!” Poppy says, skipping over to her team. A tickled RuPaul—who, like a middle school gym teacher, lives to see the queens create drama with their team choices—warns her, “Those words may come back to haunt you.”
The workroom planning phase immediately feels troubled, with queens from each team tossing out their own haphazard flashes of popper-fueled psychosis that might constitute Queen Heaven. Marcia Marcia Marcia (of course) makes an Ariana Grande reference, suggesting that God is a woman, and should be played by Sasha Colby. It’s perhaps the only inspired choice in the planning phase; God is a woman, especially one whose confessional look is Madonna on Letterman meets Bimini Bon Boulash.
The remaining two groups are trembling harder than the floor of a Sephora during a NARS Beauty sale. In Amethyst’s group, Poppy suggests a sort of Heaven-as-spa experience, complete with a lazy double entendre facial joke and “anal bleaching on your halo!”
Meanwhile, the group of last-chosen leftovers is being overtaken by Sugar, suggesting a Heaven for “all the hungover bitches” and a horribly offensive joke about a “cracked-out Beyoncé” that made me suck the air through my teeth. Maybe the bimbo routine isn’t a total act? When Jax shuffles Sugar to the side, she complains about needing her twin sis Spice to hype her up, which doesn’t bode well for her ability to succeed in the competition on her own.
Once the queens are ready to film their infomercials in front of Michelle Visage, things are looking even more dire. As mighty as Sasha Colby is, even a legendary queen is not immune to tripping herself up once the cameras are rolling. “Y’all think that if you had this challenge, you’d be like, ‘Oh my god, I’d be so good,’” she says. “But once you’re there, it’s like all the nerves just kicked in.” Lucky for us (and incredibly unlucky for all the other queens), Sasha knows how to take a note.
Filming is done in a flash, and the editors aren’t giving us any idea of how the final products might look. But once the queens are standing before the judges on the runway (clad in some questionable, early Drag Race-level metallic looks), we get to see for ourselves. Blessed be, because Anetra’s team slays the challenge, resulting in the rest of us mainlining the purest drug in existence: RuPaul’s screaming cackle.
The team’s idea of Heaven is complimentary plastic surgery, getting tips for doing nothing, and free therapy—aka, Palm Springs, where drag queens go to die. It’s a perfect kicker joke, and each team member gets their moment to shine. But it’s Sasha Colby perfecting the ingenious running joke of breaking her own neck to jump between scenes that clinches her spot in the top.
But a little taste of Heaven is just a reminder that life’s unending horrors are always right around the corner. Amethyst’s team is up next, and immediately off the rails with a blowjob joke that lands so silently, even the crickets fell asleep. The idea of Heaven as a spa could succeed with better execution, but the stale sex jokes are devoid of any good punchlines. Sugar’s continued, one-note bimbo act threatens to flatline the team completely, but Loosey LaDuca’s perfect impersonation of Dolly Parton as God saves them from eternal damnation.
These poor angels fall harder than ever when the team of leftovers caps off the infomercial presentation. Their group’s idea of Heaven is some sort of purgatory for drag babies who form their entire personalities over loving Drag Race. The whole thing is so wildly convoluted, it felt akin to when I tried to watch Season 7 with a case of Mono that had yet to be diagnosed by the good people at CityMD.
To no one’s surprise, Sasha Colby is crowned this week’s winner, and the rest of her team is safe despite the queens being judged individually this week. Princess Poppy, Jax, and Amethyst float down to the ninth circle of RuPaul’s Inferno, with Jax barely skating by the fiery flames to safety. Amethyst and Princess Poppy’s dual abysmal performances leave them both in the bottom to lipsync to Diana Ross’ cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Poppy takes the camp route—spreading her legs in a strange exorcist demon crawl as Diana Ross sings about low valleys—while Amethyst keeps it cute and classy so as to not endure the wrath of Ru by fucking up a song performed by his idol. If I bore witness to RuPaul’s crumpled face of disgust while flashing my tuck to the judges, I’d send myself to the afterlife. The decision is a fatal one for Princess Poppy, who will hopefully be sent to Palm Springs Heaven.
For its first hour-long episode since Season 10, Drag Race stumbled a bit. It’s not surprising that both the show’s editors and audiences will need a bit of extra time to get used to this change. As the queens dwindle and tensions amp up, the season will likely find a much more stable pace, especially now that the remaining 14 queens realize how easy it is to bomb a maxi-challenge.
Because there is so much talent bursting from the screen, these shorter episodes might even be a good thing. There are no obvious leaders here yet, and with each queen fighting to pull focus, we won’t be stuck with anyone getting a winner’s edit too early in the season. Two more months of shocking wins and eliminations? That sounds like Heaven to me.
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