After two weeks of (mostly) filler we finally got to what we’ve been waiting for. The 90-minute reunion finale was filled with all the S5 queens lazily performing some basic glee-club choreography, some brief one-on-one interviews with Ru, a few clip packages, the blatant promotion of not one but two new RuPaul songs, a LaToya Jackson sighting, the sashing of this year’s Miss Congeniality, and finally the crowning of Season 5’s champion, the queen destined to become America’s Next Drag Superstar. We hope.
I’ll try to cover the highs and lows:
*I don’t know what first eliminee Penny Tration was wearing -- she was clearly going for avantgarde/Leigh Bowery but it just came off as bizarre -- but she was the only queen to throw what seemed like some legit shade at the other contestants. It was a little uncomfortable.
*Serena Cha Cha was virtually unrecognizable in straight-up mainstream glamour, and tried blandly to cover for her terrible behavior during the show. I don’t think anyone was buying.
*Monica Beverly Hillz provided one of the more interesting segments of the night. Ru asked her to speak about how someone can be trans and a drag queen at the same time, and Monica explained that trans is who she is, drag is what she does. It’s a pat answer to a not-so-simple question, but it was meant to be a soundbyte (I also felt bad for Monica being asked to speak for all trans queens -- that’s a very tricky burden.) More than that, Ru clarified that the show does not care how a contestant identifies or, presumably, what gender they are. So does this mean a straight woman could compete on “Drag Race”? I would like to see that.
*Double eliminees Vivienne Pinay and Honey Mahogany came out and, I am sorry girls, but they were just as lame as always. The show and Vivienne continued to perpetuate this myth that Vivienne is the fishiest queen ever on the show. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess, but Lineysha Sparx and Jade Jolie were SITTING RIGHT THERE. Carmen Carrera, Stacy Layne Matthews, Jujubee, Manila Luzon, and Kenya Michaels -- all of these queens are more passable than Vivienne. I do not GET it. I also don’t get how she’s now doing online make-up tutorials given that she has a tendency to look dusty, and tonight it looked like she borrowed Homer Simpson’s make-up gun when it was still set to Whore.
On a related tip, poor Honey Mahogany got ripped for her caftans again and came out tonight wearing a kimono. And then she removed it to reveal a look from her new styling team: a fairly simple red dress with a see-through skirt. Congratulations: you’re a drag queen wearing a dress. That someone else picked out/made for you. You’re doing so well up there. As if to underline her cluelessness, the poor thing was almost never looking in the right camera. She tries so hard, you guys. I’m sure she is a lovely human being.
*Lineysha Sparx addressed the crowd in Spanish because, seriously, she cannot speak English. Show: please stop casting Puerto Rican queens if they cannot speak English. It’s almost cruel. Ru gave her the business for still not knowing who Diana Ross is, and Lineysha basically didn’t care. She looked pretty amazing, though. One of the more striking looks among the S5 queens (the majority of whom were outshined by past contestants sitting in the audience -- sorry ‘bout it, girls).
*Jade Jolie -- wearing a rainbow/glitter/unicorn outfit so terrible it almost wrapped around to being sublime -- copped to being a cut-up-not-toasted while on the show.
*Ivy Winters discussed the non-relationship between she and Jinkx, was the impetus for a pointless and kind of embarrassing segment in which Ru and LaToya Jackson pronounced Ivy’s name that goofy way we all know and love/hate, and was ultimately named this season’s Miss Congeniality. I figured it would come down to her or Alyssa, but Ivy deserved it -- she was arguably the least shady queen of the season, aside from Jinkx.
*Alyssa Edwards continued to give me life with her unabashed joy at her own jokes, and just life overall. Was not a fan of her look, which read juvenile yet blood covered. But even in tiny moments she stole the show. She may have finished in sixth, but Alyssa may end up being the breakout star of this season. She certainly came out ahead in the “feud” with Coco, and she’s apparently got her own spin-off series coming out. Nine inches and fully functional, y’all!
*Coco Montrese was let off the hook way, way too easily -- based on what we saw in this heavily edited show, at least -- for her rank bitchery this season. I found her to be one of the most obnoxious contestants ever on this show. Almost as obnoxious as the color of her dress at the reunion. Chartreuse is not your friend, Coco. In the credit-where-it-is-due department, her make-up was massively improved over what she gave us on the show, and the Doritos clutch was a surprisingly self-parodying touch.
*Detox actually infuriated me in the reunion. She brought more charisma and humor to her reaction shots here than she did to virtually any challenge this season. She easily had the look of the night with her fully realized black-and-white-photo realness and was the go-to queen in the crowd for reaction shots. She fizzled somewhat in the interview with Ru, but WHY could she have not brought an ounce of that creativity and pluck to the competition? We were rooting for you, Detox! We were all rooting for you…
*As for the Final 3, it all proceeded pretty much as you would expect. Alaska addressed The Sharon Issue (wouldn’t it be weird to have two winners in the same household? The answer is no, incidentally, because they both earned it). Jinkx talked about her issues with her mother and promised to use her win to help guarantee marriage equality across the country. And Roxxxy tried again to apologize for her “bullying” (more on that in a minute) and had an emotional discussion about her late drag mother, who died while the show was airing.
But ultimately it was indeed Monsoon Season as Jinkx was crowned winner of Season 5. I was torn on that. On the one hand, editing most certainly had been building to a Jinkx win since “Snatch Game.” She is clearly a supremely talented queen, and unlike any other winner we’ve had before. Jinkx became a massive fan favorite, inspiring an almost cultlike following on social media. And we finally got a “comedy queen” win.
But…honestly, I was rooting for Alaska. I felt she came into this with a lot more working against her (the Sharon connection was a hindrance, not a help), and she really finished the strongest out of the three finalists. I also thought that Jinkx came off fairly poorly in the reunion. I’m sure she was nervous, but the yucking it up and awkwardness was not endearing. I think she’ll go on to do great things, and there is mainstream crossover potential there. But I did find myself slightly disappointed that Alaska came in second.
Because, let’s face it, Roxxxy totally came in third. Absolutely no offense to Miss Andrews, who I think has been unfairly maligned the past few weeks -- and the show has not been helping her. Roxxxy has been savaged online by Jinkx’s rabid, and I do mean rabid, fan base. The very people accusing her of bullying have been vicious to her on Facebook and Twitter, and it got so bad that Jinkx herself has had to ask them to stop numerous times. I’ve seen people compare Roxxxy to last season’s Phi Phi O’Hara, who really was like a dog with a bone when it came to Sharon and Willam. I don’t think Roxxxy is anywhere near that level of vitriol. YMMV, but I saw a very competitive young person with some maturity issues cracking under the pressure and lashing out at the person she considered to be her main competition. I didn’t see planned malice. I saw a pageant girl go into pageant mode. That’s all. I think people overlook Roxxxy’s many talents -- not only is she glamorous, poised, and polished, but she acquitted herself quite well in the vast majority of the challenges this season. I think she’s handled the backlash as best as she possibly could have, but I’ll bet she’s thrilled to have the show wrapped so she can try to move on from this. (With, admittedly, a MUCH higher profile than if she’d never been on it in the first place.)
I was chagrined that we did not get to see this season’s true darling, Li’l Poundcake. But at least we got the Underwear Boy Twerking Hour set to RuPaul’s “Peanut Butter.” Dear Logo, why is that not a show? Remember MTV’s “The Grind”? Bring it back, just call it “The Groin.” Ratings BONANZA!
So that’s the end of Season 5. Overall I’m quite pleased with it, even if I think the current three-episode format for the finale/recap/reunion sucks a lot of the juice out of the show. (I also think the live studio audience hurts the reunions -- the queens used to be fairly candid with one another, and this was 99.9 percent scripted pageant BS.)
I’ve been seeing complaints on various message boards that Season 5 has been a letdown; that it does not compare favorably to past seasons. I have to respectfully disagree. I think part of the issue is that people almost always overly criticize whatever is currently airing while simultaneously over glorifying whatever came before -- I remember a lot of people bitching about S4 being weak at this time last year, and now people are using it as the high benchmark by which all subsequent seasons will be judged. Basically everything is terrible while it’s airing, but is amazing as soon as even a whiff of nostalgia sets in. It makes me feel sorry for reality-show producers, because no matter what they can do they can never really win. (Except they go home and cry in their piles and piles of money, so you know, I’m OK with it.)
For example, the main criticism I’ve heard about Season 5 is that none of the queens -- not even the three finalists -- were really the complete package. That none of them were as amazing as Sharon Needles or Chad Michaels clearly were last season. I actually consider that a strength of this season. It was a much more even playing field this time around. In Season 4, anyone with a head could see who would be in it for the long haul from the very beginning -- Sharon, Chad, Latrice, Willam, and Phi Phi were the only real contenders by as early as episodes 2 or 3, and Sharon and Chad were the obvious standouts not much after that. So the first five or so episodes felt like marking time, because really, who thought any of the early-departing queens had any shot at that crown? The fact that Jiggly Caliente and the fun but unpolished Dida Ritz made it as far as they did is a real testament to how unbalanced that line-up was overall.
In Season 5 I felt like any number of queens could win for probably 2/3 of the run. There was a point where Ivy Winters -- who didn’t even make F6 -- was considered a frontrunner, and even 6th Place Alyssa could have made the finale and I wouldn’t have found it implausible. While it is true that none of this season’s contestants are obvious mega-stars in the making (and I would argue that Sharon really does have that potential), on the whole this crop of queens was more memorable. Very few felt like obvious filler. Serena went out second, but we’ll not soon forget her deplorable backstage behavior or shoddy aesthetic. Monica Beverly Hillz’s trans admission made her instantly a “Drag Race” icon. It’s kind of astonishing that Jade Jolie came in 8th given her escandalo past, ultra fishiness, and the shade she was throwing. And so on.
I also think the challenges this season almost all connected. You get a clunker or two almost every season. The cake episode from Season 3.The magazine shoot from Season 4. This season I can’t think of a challenge that I didn’t like, or that didn’t produce some entertaining results.
So what do you think? Was Jinkx the right winner? What do you think of Season 5 overall? And what can we do to make sure the Underwear Boy Twerking Hour comes to our TVs with a quickness? Leave your thoughts in the comments.