"RuPaul's Drag Race" Season 5: Snatch Game Wrap-Up



I’ve said from the beginning that this is the most competitive season in the show’s history. And this week we got that in a sense, because these queens came out swinging with their bedazzled brass knuckles and didn’t stop until the bitter end. Fight after fight after fight. Just ruthless. Not that I’m complaining – I’ll take that over boring any day. I just wish that some of them would put some of that spunk into the actual challenges, because this edition of the classic “Snatch Game” might be the weakest we’ve seen.

The mini challenge was a Who Wore it Best? Contest sponsored by Us Weekly in which the queens had 15 minutes to do something fashionable with various animal-printed snuggies. You just know that recent eliminee and caftan aficionado Honey Mahogany was sitting at home shitting herself for getting cut right before the bedspread challenge. Personally I thought the Us Weekly judge got the heats all wrong, his most egregious sin being overlooking Alaska and her lion mask, which was one of the most random and hilarious things I have seen this season. Although Jinkx Monsoon and her Olsen Twin realness was pretty inspired, too. Detox, Roxxxy Andrews, and Alyssa Edwards won, but it was kind of pointless – the prize was an Us Weekly gift bag that they never bothered even showing.

The main challenge was, of course, the annual “Snatch Game” celebrity impersonation bonanza. The guest judges were former MTV veejay Downtown Julie Brown and comedian/actress/singer Julie Brown. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the universe did not blink out of existence when both Julie Browns were seated at the same table. I also have to say that non-Downtown Julie Brown looked virtually the same as I remembered her. The Downtown version seems to have been to the, uh, “dentist.”

“Snatch Game” is a tricky beast, and after four seasons of it – and the “Laugh In” version on “All Stars” – I feel like there are certain expectations that both the viewers and the queens can make about it. First, as was pointed out by Jinkx and judge Michelle Visage, you KNOW it’s coming, and only an idiot would not have a character in mind when they were cast on this show. And yet that was the case for several of the queens, especially Alyssa Edwards and possibly Lineysha Sparx (more on here in a second). Second, time and again these queens have been told that it’s not enough to merely LOOK like the celebrity they’re skewering; they have to make it funny. And yet every season we get at least two or three queens who just think looking the part is enough. This season was even worse, because it seemed like a few of the contestants didn’t even know basic things about the person they picked to portray.

I’ll break it down by queen/character: Alaska went with Lady Bunny. This was risky for a few reasons. First, Ru and Lady Bunny are extremely close, and she’s going to have a high standard of success there. Second, Lady Bunny has a razor-sharp wit. Third, Ivy Winters just portrayed Lady Bunny to accolades in the previous episode. But Alaska did a great job here. She was dinged for not using the Lady Bunny voice, but her jokes were raunchy and well timed – another solid showing for Alaska. And then she walked down the runway holding a stuffed trout, and she took me even higher.

Alyssa Edwards went with Katy Perry, but obviously had no idea what she was going to do prior to coming to the show. Damn good thing she had immunity, because she basically threw this challenge. Absolutely terrible, missing even basic jokes. Alyssa argued that her drag is not about impersonation. Fine. But it is about being entertaining, and here she failed miserably. She didn’t even believably look the part.

Coco Montrese at least got that right for Janet Jackson, including a costume change from “Rhythm Nation” Janet to “If” Janet. But that’s about all she did. Coco apparently portrays Janet as part of her club act in the real world. She obviously saw the success Chad Michaels had with Cher last year and did a copy/paste with Ms. Jackson (because I am nasty). Thing is, Chad is funny, and Coco is not. We have seen that multiple times at the point – she cannot improvise, she cannot do comedy. She can read a bitch for filth, but she cannot be intentionally, non-critical funny. Coco’s light is fading fast in this competition.

Detox went with Ke$ha, whom she apparently knows in real life. This should have worked, because there is a ton to skewer with Ke-dollar sign-ha. And yet I found Detox’s delivery flat and one-note. Her big moment was getting up and taking a piss (faked, I’m sure) on set, but the whole thing was uncomfortable. And then she came down the runway looking like a jellyfish, the second shapeless, unflattering outfit in a row for her. I have no idea what’s going on with Detox right now. I like her but she’s floundering.

Ivy Winters for the most part looked like Marilyn Monroe, but did not have a single element of the performance down. She wasn’t believably Marilyn. She wasn’t funny. She wasn’t getting basic reference points. That pretty much sums up what I think about Ivy: great looks, very little else. And true to form, her goldfish dress on the runway was a great moment – and it likely saved her from the Bottom 2. But she’s not really bringing the personality. Ivy is circling the drain.

Jade Jolie did Taylor Swift, and we didn’t get to see much of her. She was fine, but there were some much funnier ways to play up Taylor’s generally terrible public persona. Go for boy crazy. Have each answer insult some former flame. Come on, guys. Jade is also revealing herself to be all about look and very little substance as a performer. But she was right in the mix backstage, with some nasty run-ins with Alyssa. I suspect she is deeply regretting her nasty comments about Alyssa’s “back fat” right now, because it spoke to a nasty mean girl streak that is definitely not cute.

Jinkx Monsoon completed her transformation into the new Pandora Boxx by nailing “Snatch Game” with a fairly random character: Little Edie of “Grey Gardens” fame. Jinx WAS that poor, nutty shut-in hoarder with alopecia. Every aspect of the character was right, and she was funny to boot. The tragedy of Jinkx, much like Pandora, is that the judges are coming after her for not being able to do glam on the runway. Jinkx is able of expressing her frustration about this much more succinctly than Ms. Boxx, explaining that she’s tired of having to justify a completely legitimate form of drag to all these glamazon bitches. I concur. I like Jinkx and hope she gets to the end. She won this challenge, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Roxxxy Andrews went with Tamar Braxton, sister of Toni and star of the reality show “Braxton Family Values.” I know of Tamar, but have never seen her, so I have no idea if Roxxxy’s impersonation was on point or not. If Tamar is a loud, obnoxious brat, she nailed it. Roxxxy was at least entertaining, so kudos for that. The irony is that she (and Coco) came for Jinkx in the work room for picking an obscure character – who was part of the extended Kennedy family, and had a documentary, Broadways musical, and HBO mini-series made about her – and yet Roxxxy went with the D-List sister of a C-list r’n’b singer. Sigh. Anyway, I absolutely LOVED her punk-glam runway look, although I recognize that I’m apparently in the minority on that – most people seem to hate what she wears on the runway.

Finally poor Lineysha Sparx ended up going with salsa queen Celia Cruz after RuPaul blessedly swayed her away from doing Michelle Obama, which Lineysha wanted to do merely because she could look like her. Terrible. Her Celia Cruz looked unbelievably cheap. Like she was dressed out of a Dollar Store cheap. But what ultimately did her in was the complete breakdown in communication due to Lineysha’s language barrier – she is Puerto Rican and speaks limited English. This was Kenya Michaels’ Beyonce all over again – Lineysha didn’t seem to understand the questions, and their idea of funny celebrity impersonation seemed to be making the celebrity look drunk or high.

Lineysha herself expressed the main problem here: it’s incredibly hard to do comedy in a different language. But there’s more than that. There’s also the massive differences in cultural references, and what each culture finds entertaining. Anyone who has ever watched a Latino game show on Telemundo can tell you that they are bananas, and would never fly here. Lineysha’s approach here was in the same over-the-top vein, and it was painful to watch her fail so spectacularly. It also seemed almost cruel. I sincerely do not understand why this show continues to cast Puerto Rican queens every season when increasingly they have poorer and poorer grasps on the English language. How do you expect them to compete when they have no idea what’s going on, or what to do? Dear Show: please take the tragedy of Lineysha as a message – we really do not NEED a Puerto Rican queen every season. We really don’t.

Ultimately Lineysha and Detox ended up in the Bottom 2, lipsynching to “Take Me Home” by Cher. Fabulous. Lineysha sure is pretty, and she tried, but her mouth was nowhere near in synch with the words. Detox kind of disappointed me with her lack of physical presence on the runway. Way too much just standing there. But she did a hell of a lipsynch, way over-exaggerating the held notes and throwing in some goofy Manila Luzon-style faces. She won and Lineysha was sent packing. The right choice.

Over in “Untucked” the drama continued nonstop, with Jade, Alyssa, and Coco at each others’ throats continually, and then the other queens basically telling Alyssa that she needs to have a seat with all of the attitude. To her credit Alyssa seems to at least recognize that she handles aggression very poorly. I think she’s the type of person who is fun and lovely when she’s winning/doing well, but then immediately starts flailing to take down everyone else around her if she’s drowning. Pity, because I loved her last episode. Overall though I will be happy if her stupid feud with Coco is never mentioned on the show again.

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