Erica: Following Plastique’s elimination, the queens were relatively chill. I think there was a little bit of shock that she was gone. I’d planned on seeing her around for a little while longer. Despite winning the lip sync battle, Vanjie was a bit worried about the judges’ critique of her acting, while Nina was a bit bitter about being overshadowed by Brooke Lynn Hytes.
Brittany: This week’s mini challenge involved everyone’s favorite silent men in underwear: the pit crew. In “Balls to the Wall” the queens were each paired with a pit crew member. Without using their hands, they had to get as many balls as possible into a basket. It led to some interesting predicaments. At one point Silky and her partner had to get a ball in the basket using only Silky’s cheek and her partner’s hip. Once in place, Silky picked him up—literally—and sashayed to the basket. Dr. Ganache antics aside, Vanjie won the mini challenge. It was a much-needed confidence boost for her.
Erica: Silky really surprised Ru with that move! I always love when the queens get a reaction out of her—maybe because she’s so hard to read. As the winner, Vanjie was able to pick her team first for the maxi challenge: magic acts! She went with all the girls of color: A’Keria, Silky and Yvie. They were officially known as Da Black Magic and unofficially known as Team Personality. Silky also referred to them as Team Beauty—minus Yvie. Good lord, she can’t stop shading her for one second!
Brittany: Even though Brooke Lynn didn’t pick Vanjie as her partner last week, I was still surprised when Vanjie did the same this week. That left Brooke Lynn with Nina and Shuga. The queens didn’t waste any time getting to work on their magic acts. As Vanjie said, she was ready to “Michael Jordan this shit” and “SuperBowl Beyoncé” the whole thing. Oh, Vanjie. Never change.
Erica: Honestly, I think it was smart of Vanjie not to pick Brooke Lynn to keep their “situationship” in tact. They could clash during a challenge, and that would be the end of “Branjie.” I was excited for Nina to take charge because, as she said, she excels at writing and producing shows. But as she, Shuga and Brooke Lynn struggled to settle on an idea, my heart sank.
Brittany: Or, Branjie could be a match made in magic heaven and we’ll just never know. Either way, I think the teams made sense. Nina and Brooke Lynn work well together and Shuga needs some of their pixie dust to liven up her act. A’keria, Silky and Vanjie have been a trio since the beginning. And Yvie is just, well, Yvie. But even with their gal pals, the teams struggled. Team Nina (or team self-doubt as I am calling them) worried about finding the perfect story for their characters, while half of Team Vanjie was OK with winging it rather than planning their act.
Erica: As each team learned its set of magic tricks, you could tell Nina’s group would be the frontrunners. However, Brooke Lynn was not feeling her trick at all. I instantly worried that Nina, being the sweetheart she is, would trade acts with her and sabotage herself again. But not as worried as I was about A’Keria swallowing a balloon as part of her performance! I almost broke out in hives watching her learn that trick. Thank goodness I’m safe in a bar in Columbus and not a contestant on “Drag Race.”
Brittany: I still think there were secrets to the tricks we weren’t seeing. You know magicians never reveal their methods. Team Vanjie seemed to be going the raunchy route with their act. Not only did it fall flat, but it left the magician who was brought in to teach them magic completely befuddled. Nina and Co. did well, but don’t ask Silky. The doctor was out like a light. Nothing magic about it, just some soft snores.
Erica: Back in the workroom, the queens revealed what they would do differently this season if they could go back in time. I think everyone tuning in screamed in solidarity when Vanjie mentioned her regret over her “46 swimsuits” on the runway.
Brittany: Yet another reason why I love Vanjie: She continuously keeps it real and keeps me laughing.
Erica: Thankfully Nina’s team hit it out of the park! Nina was absolutely hilarious, and even threw in some nice dance moves alongside Brooke Lynn Hytes. Unfortunately, Shuga got lost in the mix. If Team Nina was a well-oiled machine, Da Black Magic was a rusty bucket. The personality was there, but personality can only get you so far when you don’t have structure!
Brittany: Shuga is every spunky best friend in every chick flick but without the spunk or the humor. Don’t get me wrong—I love Shuga. She seems grounded and quick and sweet, but America’s Drag Queen she is not—at least not yet. Now as for team Black Magic… it wasn’t great as you say. But it wasn’t terrible. I think the team members psyched themselves out and tried to force it. But as any good magician will tell you: You can’t force magic. You are magic. (Please note: No magician has ever actually said this to us.)
Erica: (Speak for yourself.) Can we just take a moment and count all the blessings that Ru keeps giving us on the runway? Tonight’s dress was absolute perfection. I’m telling you, she’s going to mentor me, I really believe that. Anyway, after the maxi challenge, the queens served us “caftan realness,” which has to be one of my favorite runway looks thus far. For once, the top outfit of the night didn’t belong to Brooke Lynn. Miss--“I’m a white lady on vacation”--Vanjie looked amazing! I would buy her outfit, nose ring and all, tomorrow.
Brittany: I was living for this challenge. As someone who is constantly striving to remove pants from her wardrobe, I was so excited to go on this journey to Cafghanistan with the queens. I would wear every one of tonight’s looks—yes, even A’Keria’s not caftan/kaftan. But can we admit that Ross “I live in Palm Springs so I take caftans very seriously” Matthews was the sleeper star of this runway challenge? If Ross ever decides to run for office, I will give him my full support, assuming his platform is “Caftans for all.”
Erica: And I felt Ross’s pain when he criticized A’Keria for not wearing a caftan. I’m not sure what that was! Actually, I know what it was: my cheap Halloween costume from last year, butterfly wings and all. I was terrified that her mistake would land her in the bottom two, lip syncing for her life.
Brittany: The claws came out a bit on the runway when Yvie received a less than thrilling critique from the judges. She put the blame on her teammates and their lack of preparedness. Miss Vanjie was not having it. She was visibly upset after that and during her own critique. (The judges loved her runway, her performance less so.) Here’s where I’m going to be a Vanjie apologist. Her team’s magic show wasn’t great, but the judges constantly prosecute Vanjie for the crime of being Vanjie. Yes, she can improve, but they seem to want her to create a new persona every time she’s in a challenge. And while that is a part of drag for a lot of people, it’s not for Vanjie. Her schtick is Miss Vanjie. Not everyone is a Nina (actor) or a Brooke Lynn (dancer). Some, like Vanjie and Silky, are great queens because of their personalities. I will now step off my Vanjie soap box. *Exits by walking backwards while whispering, “Miss Vanjie.”*
Erica: I understand where you’re coming from. Vanjie just needs to add more levels to her performances and she’ll be fine. I know I keep going back to the Britney Spears skit earlier this season, but she was just so good in that one. So she has it in her. At the other end of the spectrum, Nina received praise across the board and won the challenge! I was so happy, and she was, too. Man, Ross Matthews does not hide his adoration for our Ohio queen. I think he would have a fit if she were ever in danger of going home. It’s good to have an ally at the judge’s table.
Brittany: Ross called Nina’s look the caftan he has been dreaming about his entire life. High praise from a real live Palm Springs resident. All Nina needed was a tiny, yappy dog and a glass of pinot grigio to complete her “ladies who sit” look.
Erica: Once Ross’s panting subsided, Ru got down to the tough business of choosing two ladies to lip sync for their lives. I was so relieved when A’Keria was safe. Silky narrowly escaped, too. Although her caftan was nice, she was criticized for her ill-fitting costume in the magic act. I am so tired of her messing up in that area week after week. Please, do better! Once again, Vanjie found herself fighting to stay, this time with Shuga, no stranger to the bottom herself. They performed to Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama,” which made the battle even more solemn than normal. Chucking bracelet after bracelet into the crowd, and not even noticing her wardrobe malfunction, Vanjie was in a trance. Even Ru, who normally plays her cards close to her chest, praised her before sending Shuga packing.
Brittany: In case any of you were wondering, “No More Drama” still slaps 17 years later. Vanjie was feeling her Mary J. Blige oats. She did a great job. Now if she can just transfer some of that magic into the main challenges. I suppose there’s always next week.