Friday, February 10, 2023

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - A Special Guest Star Steals the Acting Challenge From All the Queens in 'The Daytona Wind 2'

MTV's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 15.07 "The Daytona Wind 2"

The queens exchange flatulence for canned laughter, as the melodramatic acting challenge returns in surreal sitcom form. Actor Harvey Guillén guest judges.

Malaysia doesn't feel like rehashing the drama from Untucked. She was in her feelings and directed her anger towards Luxx and Marcia for their behavior. She thought they were being disrespectful to her. Mistress was called out as well. Malaysia wanted this moment to feel how she wanted. It didn't need to bubble up into more drama. Mistress wants to be included and have those opinions voiced to her because she wasn't around during Untucked. She was on the main stage being critiqued. Sasha understood exactly what Malaysia was feeling. As such, she was able to have that conversation with Mistress. Even then, Mistress didn't appreciate it because she thought someone else was fighting the battle for Malaysia. Moreover, she doesn't like how Sasha wants to make everything a teachable moment. That's how she views her competitor who simply has the wisdom and experience to know how to communicate these issues without needing to get heated with her emotions. Malaysia and Mistress don't exactly have that maturity. And so, it's combustive for a brief moment. When they are part of a team later on, everyone fears the worst. And yet, they are complete professionals. They know how to get the job done when it comes to delivering for the challenge. It's more important for them to have a moment in private to talk about their tension. Yes, Mistress is playful all of the time. She never wants to take herself too seriously. That mentality is common amongst drag queens. However, it can't be their base line for every single moment. Malaysia thought the mood had shifted and the queens had a different understanding. She got upset because Mistress disrupted that notion. It's not drama that leads to ongoing tension. And yet, it's still quite annoying how often Mistress feels the need to say she's a very understanding person. She's a fabulous drag queen. She has the skills to go all the way in this competition. She doesn't have to be friends with everyone either. She has a likable personality. At times, that simply rubs people the wrong way. That's not the entirety of her being. It's simply the mood she is most comfortable operating in because it has been successful for her so often.

Similarly, the main challenge is a rehash of a former acting challenge that was a massive success. RuPaul and the judges loved the Season 14 queens in The Daytona Wind so much that no one was eliminated that week. That challenge worked because the queens weren't in on the joke. Sure, that was cruel in the moment. It may even have been manufactured to create a specific narrative. How is it possible for an actor to deliver a convincing performance if they don't know what's going on? That's what the judges want in this challenge. They need to see these queens connect with a character and embody them in a performance. And now, the production is distracted by whatever gimmick they can throw in to create dimension. They no longer trust the queens to come through with that skill. That's disappointing. When it was fart jokes, it was funny because it was unexpected. It followed a trajectory throughout the challenge so that it never got too stale. With a laugh track though, it's a familiar rhythm that everyone understands. It's a play on classic sitcoms. That's certainly appealing to RuPaul. But it's not disruptive to the scene. Nor does it fully enhance what's going on. The show tries to throw in some more editing tricks to better convey the intention of every twist. It's still ultimately lame. The queens who know how to act are believable in their roles. The queens who could commit to going over-the-top also stood out. So many faded into the background. Sasha hasn't done that at all during this competition. And yet, her role was so small that it's unlikely anyone could say what she did this week. The same is true of Luxx. That allows them to coast instead of being challenged to be their best. It's daunting to put this challenge on with eleven queens. It doesn't even have the joy of embracing the chaos. It's just pulling references from the show into situations that could be funny. They simply lack the spontaneity to feel organic and original. Even Aura is confused by how these lines figure into the drama. As such, it's easy to get tongue-tied for anyone who doesn't have a strong command over these skills.

On the runway, the queens were asked to go big with the "Puffer Please" prompt. This category requires the queens to go over-the-top as well. It's not good enough to simply incorporate a puffer jacket into a look. The successful queens enlarged the material to match their proportions. Mistress says a regular puffer jacket wouldn't look good on her. Sure, she's done a similar look to this one before. However, it was a true embrace of the material where every stretch of the fabric was puffed to create an entire look. That cohesiveness is important. Stories are being told through art. The queens need to come with a commanding perspective. They have to stand out. Again, Sasha and Luxx have that in spades. However, Luxx said her look was inspired by Jackie Kennedy when the only thing barely connected to the former First Lady was the color scheme. That disconnect is striking without taking too much away from the actual presentation. Moreover, the puffer pieces need to be the stars. Loosey was great when she featured the puffer coat that draped all the way to the floor. When she took it off, it was completely forgettable. Similarly, Aura was incredible with her puffer sleeves. It just wasn't functional when she ultimately had to lip sync for her life. Again, it only takes one thing being off to alter the look. It's great to see Malaysia walk the runway in something other than a gown. Her look was strong too even though the print on the dress could have been slightly bigger. Small details are frequently washed out under the runway lights. Of course, understated drag is popular. Certain queens build their whole brand around it. That doesn't provide the variety the judges want. Nothing Spice and Anetra have on is bad. They simply don't go far enough as compared to the other queens. Meanwhile, it's clear Marcia is pushing herself. It's still a basic slate built around a white dress and a bloody nose. And finally, humor can be quite effective through fashion. Salina always tries to push the limits in that regard. Her details were just too small. It looked like just a regular puffer coat she put some details on. She wants to sell it as best she can. It's mostly just a moment of pure cringe. Fortunately, she's safe based on the challenge.

Mistress is declared the winner. That's a fitting victory. She has been chasing after her first win. This serves as validation of her skills. She is deserving of this moment. She has been positioned as a potential frontrunner for the crown. It seems unlikely that anyone can surpass Sasha. She continues to present as leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. Mistress has still done solid work throughout the competition. Malaysia has as well. It may have been awkward for Mistress and Malaysia to work together. And yet, they were the only queens having fun and making RuPaul laugh on set. That's really all it takes to make a nice impression. The inverse is true as well. Aura, Spice and Jax didn't take direction well. As a result, they came across as stilted during the final product. Spice at least offered some personality. Again, no one in that first group really stood out. That leaves Aura and Jax in the bottom. They both truly come alive when performing. That's what they do best. They simply are uncomfortable when thrown into a situation they have never done before. That's the pattern that has emerged for them. That too creates the narrative that Jax is unbeatable in a lip sync. She sent Robin home last week. She eliminates Aura this week. Who in this cast could realistically take her down? Sasha is the easy answer. And yet, it seems unlikely that she will be in the bottom anytime soon. Sure, absolutely anything could happen. That would simply go against the established narrative. At this point, the show is still just making its way through the cast. The first impressions have ultimately been proven correct in every exit so far. Aura is the first queen who won a challenge to be sent home. That distinction is notable. She's shocked the two events happened so quickly. That's how fast a day at Drag Race can do. Danny Trejo stole the show with his cameo in The Daytona Wind 2 after all. The show loves to mess with its format. It throws surprises out like that. But it still follows a certain formula as well.