Friday, March 18, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - A Lip Sync Smackdown Leaves Seven Queens Feeling Nervous in 'An Extra Special Episode'

VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 14.11 "An Extra Special Episode"

RuPaul introduces a twist that leaves the dolls gagging.

Seven of the remaining queens bombed Snatch Game so hard RuPaul had to create a completely separate competition just to determine who should go home next. It leaves everyone in the dark because they don't know what the rules are going to be for this lip sync smackdown. The only certainty is Deja being safe. She did the best at Snatch Game. She won the challenge. She is rewarded by being able to continue in the competition. She doesn't have to prove herself in this incredibly specific way. It's what all the queens know they have to do in order to stay when they mess up. Lip sync for your life has been part of the show from the very beginning. It has become an even more crucial asset over the years. It's frustrating for Daya though because she sees Jasmine and Jorgeous being able to skate through the competition based on how they perform in the lip syncs. Daya is the person who says everything she's thinking. When she is frustrated, she lets you know about it. It's not the best strategy. It's annoying to the girls and to a segment of the audience as well. She's not exactly wrong with every criticism she has. The problem is the extent to which she says it. It's also petty when Jasmine brings up how she felt about Daya's thoughts the following day instead of talking about it in the moment. Daya knows she isn't the only one frustrated with this twist. She can see it in Bosco and Willow too. They are smart because they know they have to think strategically throughout this competition. Whenever they are on camera, their actions are being recorded and evaluated by the world. That's not saying Daya is less cognizant or considerate than they are. They are simply two different styles of competing. It's driven by personality as well. That's all that can be said. Plus, it's not like Daya is completely annoyed throughout the entire competition. When she wins, she immediately pivots to being horny for the other queens as they perform. That's exciting as well and should be recognized.

The rules for the smackdown are relatively simple. One queen is chosen at random from a ball roller. They pick the queen they want to go up against. Their pick then chooses the song. It's all done to create a fair competition for all involved. Again, it's interesting to see who makes their choices out of strategy and who does so out of personal animosity. Going into the contest, everyone was afraid of going up against Jorgeous and Jasmine. They've proven themselves as incredible performers every time they've landed in the bottom. They may have been the worst in Snatch Game. However, they have the same opportunity as everyone else to shine. Of course, it's much more pivotal for the overall structure of the episode with Jasmine. When Jorgeous is up on the stage in a threeway against Angeria and Lady Camden, it's hard to take your eyes off of her. That's the most chaotic moment. It's a lot happening at once. It was required because of the format. But it's always better to only have two queens competing against each other. That has long been the standard. It still creates a reality where Jorgeous does have to put in the work. However, Angeria and Lady Camden are forced to come alive as performers during the second round of the contest. That's when they have the opportunities to shine. Of course, choices were also made with these song choices. It's always nice when the show throws out a weird choice. But this batch presents as the show wanting to limit its budget to purchase music rights. That's a necessary part of the business. The song is being promoted after all. Some weird choices were made.

Jasmine is picked first. She decides to go against Daya to Aretha Franklin's "Respect." In the confessionals, they both talk about the respect the other has to show them or the disrespect they are doing to the song. Daya does have a better connection. Jasmine's doing her typical stunts and tricks. It's an easy call for Daya though it's not the most impressive or inspiring performance. Then, Willow makes an incredibly smart choice in picking Bosco. From the first moment they met, they understood each other's humor. Kornbread was upset with Willow's entrance look but Bosco was living for all of it. Willow never wants her competitors to know what she's good at. She remains silent and kills because expectations haven't been set. She too prevails in the lip sync because she has the better connection to "Never Too Much" by Luther Vandross. Before the smackdown, Willow said she was best at songs where she could play up a gimmick. Here, she wins because she was focused on the lyrics and the connection. Bosco tries that as well. It's not as successful when paired with the moves she was doing. Unfortunately, Bosco starts getting in her own head. That's the problem all the girls seem to know about her. It's the first time the audience sees it. It creates a firm narrative that leads to the final showdown. Of course, Bosco is also part of the best lip sync of the night when she faces off with Lady Camden to En Vogue's "Don't Let Go." Camden didn't think she could work it out given the outfit she was in. She nailed it by being so soulful and seductive. Every move was purposeful and deliberate. It was mesmerizing. Everyone should have been turned on by her just as much as Daya was. Meanwhile, the closest call was over Angeria and Jasmine performing to Jennifer Lopez's "Love Don't Cost a Thing." It mostly comes down to stage presence. The eye is immediately drawn to Angie even if she isn't as precise a performer. She knew all the words. Meanwhile, Jasmine's abilities become incredibly one note. Every time she performs she humps the stage. It's not until her final lip sync that it dawns on her to do something different.

And yet, Jasmine comes to that realization too late. "Swept Away" by Diana Ross is the song she and Bosco are handed for the final chance to stay in the competition. It requires sexy, propulsive energy the entire time. Instead, it was clear Bosco was the lead vocalist while Jasmine was the background singer. Small decisions like that can make a huge difference. It's commendable that Jasmine still has so much energy after lip syncing three times in a row. Bosco notes she was tired after one. However, Bosco pulled out what the song needed. Jasmine has so much potential. She simply needs to calm down and focus. She provokes Daya because it's fun. They truly do have a sisterly relationship. One that stands out amongst the queens. It can be annoying because it's clearly different than everything else happening. Fortunately, now felt like the right time for Jasmine to go home. Daya still has the potential to show more of what she's capable of doing. However, it's annoying only one queen is eliminated. Anything could have happened as a result of the rules being changed. The production could have been even more cutthroat. RuPaul makes the pronouncement that whomever loses will sashay away forever. Even she seems to have forgotten about the twist with the golden chocolate bar. Jasmine doesn't have it. But that was still a moment that had to be featured. If Jasmine did have it, then it would have made the entire stakes of this episode pointless. That twist didn't occur. Now, Jasmine has the freedom to learn and grow from this experience. She deserves that. Energy isn't always the most important thing. Peaks and valleys are required to do well in the one skillset the queens perform on the stage this week. The audience now has a better understanding of all the queens. That's beneficial as well even if the frontrunners still seem set for the moment.