Stephan Lee
March 31, 2015 AT 03:08 PM EDT

RuPaul's Drag Race

TV Show
Reality TV
Current Status
In Season

Fashion girls or performance beasts? Wars have been fought (in the form of shade-throwing) in an effort to answer the age-old question of who reigns supreme on Drag Race. Lately, the untucked meat has swung dramatically in favor of the comedy girls who can make Ru cackle—but can a couture-focused model-girl like Raja win again? This week’s challenge tested both the queens’ personalities and their glam potential, and plenty of the queens who had seemed like nothing more than wooden mannequins before finally showed flashes of humor.

Speaking of wooden, Pearl arrived in the Werk Room and threw a hissy fit after she barely avoided elimination. (Trixie’s elimination was mildly shocking at most, despite Katya’s blown mind: “I gagged! I TRULY gagged!”). “I’m really just kind of over the judges,” Pearl said, confirming Kasha’s generation’s worst fears about a younger generation in which everyone grew up getting trophies for just showing up. “Back home, everybody loves me.” Pearl expected everyone to be obsessed with her right away, which explains a lot about her performance so far. Back home in Brooklyn, I guess an unsteady walk and a tired smirk is enough to get panties thrown at you on the subway. (I know Brooklyn, and those panties would be dirty).

For the Mini Challenge, the queens got paired in teams of two based on where they were standing in a line—always a delightfully shady move, Ru—and had to create replicas of iconic red carpet looks out of paper. Ginger Minj and Kandy Ho recreated Lil’ Kim’s purple pasty moment from the 1999 VMAs; Ru pulled a Diana Ross and jiggled Ginger’s pastied boob, which didn’t quite have Lil’ Kim’s bounce. Jaidynn and Kennedy made Lady Gaga’s meat dress out of what looked like balled-up tampons, and Violet and Fame (a dangerous duo!) replicated Jennifer Lopez’s plunging green Versace gown but failed to replicate her giant booty. Come on, girls: all you needed was a dozen industrial-sized rolls of Bounty for the padding.

Katya channeled Bjork in a swan dress—how gay is it that I primarily associate sartorial swans with Johnny Weir?—while her partner Kasha channeled Joan Rivers, which felt too soon. But there’s no such thing as too soon for someone as fearless as Joan Rivers. Kasha was sharper than she’s ever been before with her Fashion Police commentary, saying Katya-as-Bjork had a “swan on her body and an elephant on her ankles.”

Katya and Kasha took the win, mostly due to their performance, because Max and Pearl had the better outfit. Their origami Bob Mackie was beautifully geometric and involved all the household glitter the girls could shake out of their hair (which is a lot).

The Main Challenge ended up being super fun. The girls would put on the DESPY Awards, which I always thought was another name for the Daytime Emmys. For winning the Mini Challenge, Katya and Kasha got to be co-hosts, although James Franco and Anne Hathaway might argue that co-hosting is more of a punishment. The other girls would be presenters, nominees, and possible winners in a variety of unflattering categories, including Most Busted, Shadiest Queen, and Meatiest Tuck—which, from a point of view that’s totally irrelevant to this show, could be a huge compliment.

The duos broke off to write jokes. Katya struggled to get some of Kasha’s ancient references: “I’m not actually that young, I’m just ignorant,” Katya joked to Ru. Violet and Fame butted heads immediately because Fame is a know-it-all, and Violet hates being told that she knows nothing.

But the drama really went down when Ru checked up on Pearl and Max. Ru, clearly wanting to shatter Pearl’s confidence—which, let’s be honest, doesn’t seem very hard to do—casually observed that while Max had a big personality, Pearl did not. Sharon Needless to say, Pearl didn’t take it well, saying the comment “doesn’t make me feel good or give me confidence.” Ru and Pearl stared each other down for an uncomfortable amount of time, making Max want to chew her own legs off, until Pearl asked Ru, “Do I have something on my face?” Other than a look of pure terror? Or other than that nasal-cartilage-wall piercing? How dare you snap back at Ru, Pearl—even though Ru is the type to appreciate that sort of rebelliousness.

Pearl took a diva moment to recuperate outside of the Werk Room, leaving Max in the lurch. In a confessional, Pearl opened up about her anger and abandonment issues in the past. She looked off camera, as if she were about to cry, but she may have just seen a snail crawling across the floor.

Back in the Werk Room, we learned a little bit more about Miss Fame, who just loves to talk. She spoke endlessly about raising chickens and talking to chickens and getting chicken tattoos and entering chicken into shows, which was actually quite fascinating. Imagine a pudgy young Miss Fame displaying a chicken’s butthole to a judge. I actually just wrote that down in my Notes app under “Amazing TV Show Ideas.” Miss Fame will played by Adore Delano and the judge will be played by Michelle Visage. The chicken will be played by Violet Chachki.

Miss Fame and Violet actually started to get along, which is heartening, like the moment Bianca warmed up to Trinity K. Bonet. We’re finally at the point in the competition when we start seeing these people, little by little, as three-dimensional human beings.

Onto the awards show! Did I just see Ryan Seacrest? Oh, that was just Katya out of drag.

Katya and Kasha opened the show with a monologue. Katya had a great zinger about Pearl (“the drag equivalent of a Valium taking a Xanax in a K-hole”) and introduced Kennedy and Jaidynn as the “stars of Tyler Perry’s Roots,” which was a risky but funny line.

Jaidynn and Kennedy were cute with their presentation. Jaidynn had a solid one-liner about Fame (“since when did the Dollar Store become a brand?”) but more importantly, Fame was hilarious when the camera panned to her acting offended. She did what looked like a quadruple take. When she actually won the award, she quipped, “I’d like to thank Mexico for the tapeworm that snatched my body.” I think this fashion girl is a lot funnier than the other queens give her credit for.

Other highlights: Katya owned with her acceptance speech for Meatiest Package, Kandy Ho’s multiple jokes about her beard fell flat, Ginger Minj killed with a joke about community service, Pearl did an impressive impression of Ginger, Violet channeled a less delusional Sally Field (“You don’t like me. You REALLY don’t like me!”) and, in a great reversal of fortune that we could see coming a mile away, Max and Pearl won.

Guest judge Isaac Mizrahi gagged over Miss Fame and Violet’s gowns and overall looks, which were quite compelling. Isaac said of Miss Fame, “Looking at her makes me want to live, die, and live all over again,” which is almost the title of a sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt that I would recommend. Ru once again gave Violet too much credit, claiming that the reason she didn’t get along with others was that she’s too busy reading fashion blogs. I object to that reasoning on the highest terms.

Overall, unlike a couple of recent challenges, this one was thoroughly entertaining—and it was surprising who did well. Less surprisingly, Kasha and Kandy Ho ended up on the bottom. Both did fine, but were outshined by their partners and hadn’t done much to distinguish themselves this season.

But they pulled out my favorite lip-synch of the season so far. The song was “Lovergirl” by Teena Marie, which you can interpret two ways: as a bouncy, flirty number, or a passionate, almost rageful cry for love. Kasha went the bouncy route, and Kandy Ho went for scorching. Kandy started out slowly but erupted with passion by the end, and it was an easy and obvious decision to send Kasha sashaying away.

This episode typified what’s great about RuPaul’s Drag Race, and was a real return to form. It came at the right time, too; last week, I was ready to write this season off. Even Ru seemed to be in a light, silly mood with jokes about death drops and the AARP, and she gave the strangest delivery of “Bring back my girls” I’ve ever seen. Ru’s gotta keep those catchphrases fresh!

Some shakeups in the Fierce List this week:

1. Katya: There’s still no definitive frontrunner yet, and I choose Katya for the number one spot with a lot of reservations. But she’s the funniest queen in the competition, and Ru goes for funny. She needs to stop being quite so self-deprecating and start snatching a wig or two—show us that she’s in it to win it.

2. Ginger Minj: Always a top performer, but Ginger’s right—Ru isn’t always giving her the credit she deserves. Her teammates, such as Kennedy last week, are reaping the benefits of her good ideas.

3. Miss Fame: SHOCKER that Miss Fame is so high. She’s really rising in my book. I just wish she’d shut up now and then. Ru and the judges were giving her compliments on the runway, but then she had to ruin the illusion of her regalness by opening her mouth: “I’m just wanting to get past my own head … I’m thinking a lot, and I know you guys can see that. I don’t even know how to turn off my thinker.” Girl, that’s never been your problem.

4. Max: He has the best attitude and the smartest aesthetic, but he needs to start owning the challenges more.

5. Jaidynn Diore Fierce: Unlike Fame, Jaidynn’s problem really does seem to be that she thinks too much and gets in her own way. She hasn’t had any meltdowns on challenges lately, which is a sign of improvement. Also, I’ve never seen such a spherical drag queen in my life, and I love a beach ball.

6. Violet Chachki: She looks amazing as always, and this week, she showed some signs of coming to life.

7. Kennedy Davenport: The more I see of her on Untucked, the less I like.

8. Pearl: This week’s win was a fluke. She still needs to wake up.

9. Kandy Ho: Even though she was great in the lip-synch, I still have no idea what Kandy is all about. Even Pearl’s comatose persona is SOMETHING.

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