Friday, February 17, 2023

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race' - An Act of Grace Saves a Doomed Queen From Elimination in 'LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown'

MTV's RuPaul's Drag Race - Episode 15.08 "LipSync Lalaparuza Smackdown"

Strategy and alliances emerge as the queens face off in a series of lip syncs, all leading to a final sudden death elimination round.

These last two episodes feel like the show is trying to reproduce well-regarded moments from Season 14. Those moments were obviously produced last season. However, the effort came across as more genuine. The Daytona Wind acting challenge worked because it added an unexpected moment no one knew going in. Similarly, the Lalaparuza was a punishment for everyone except DeJa bombing Snatch Game. Production put in the effort to explain itself. After fifteen seasons, it's hard to reinvent the format and produce new moments. Everything is so expected at this point. As such, it's not surprising to see the show try to build on new successes. But the effort isn't in place to make these twists seem like a natural extension of what the competition has become. Halfway through the season, everyone has to perform in a lip sync. That's a skill required of the queens. Gone are the days where this was seen as the worst punishment for failing in the challenges. There was always an inherent discontent because lip syncing is how these queens make money. On Drag Race though, they are asked to lip sync to save themselves from elimination. This change better aligns with the skills one assumes a queen must possess in order to be captivating outside of the show. It's reassuring. But it's also just pure chaos that invites more production interference into the proceedings. It's just odd that once again one queen builds a reputation as a lip sync assassin only to be eliminated during this contest. It happened with Jasmine a year ago. It happens with Jax here. That notion absolutely should be criticized. Not everyone can carry that particular moniker. It shouldn't be self-proclaimed either. It was annoying when Aura repeatedly called herself the trade of the season. That's an honor earned based on reaction to the show. The queens want to be both fans and competitors. Those are two completely different roles and not everyone has the awareness to make that transition. But anyway, here's the breakdown of the lip sync performances:

  • Round 1 - Malaysia vs. Marcia to "Boys Don't Cry" by Anitta: Marcia had complete control over this performance. The tricks may not have always matched with the song. However, they were consistent. She shocked Malaysia and the rest of the girls with how hard they will have to work in order to defeat her. They underestimated her. That only works once. Now, people know to expect flips and tricks.
  • Round 1 - Loosey vs. Spice to "Do You Wanna Touch Me" by Joan Jett: The judges were already tired of Spice's schtick. They voiced their concerns on the previous runway. And then, she made the expected choice of this song. She had no real command over the musicality though. Loosey was hitting the beats and providing a variety of emotions. She may not be the fiercest performer but she knows how to entertain.
  • Round 1 - Luxx vs. Salina to "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Celine Dion: This is a phenomenal song and a drag staple. It already created a powerful moment from the second season finale of Canada's Drag Race. These two didn't come anywhere close to what Icesis Couture did. Salina was more notable because she embraced comedy - though she loves pulling her outfit up to reveal her nether regions. Meanwhile, Luxx was just throwing her limbs around hoping that conveyed emotion. 
  • Round 1 - Mistress vs. Jax to "Tell It to My Heart" by Taylor Dayne: From the moment Mistress walked out, it was obvious she had a reveal coming. It was very simple. The outfit underneath was much better. The wig choice was a little annoying as it didn't quite work with how she wanted to play with her hair during the number. However, she delivered emotions and variety. The acrobats from Jax are always impressive. She doesn't just do the same one all the time. But she needs to express through her face just as much as her body. This was the closest call though, with Mistress probably prevailing due to her track record.
  • Round 1 - Sasha vs. Anetra to "I'm in Love With a Monster" by Fifth Harmony: No one wanted to go up against either of these performers. And so, they are pitted against each other. And Sasha absolutely killed it with all those hair flips. She's known for them as she tells the audience. But these two know precisely how to entertain. Anetra doesn't just hand it over either. She is full of tricks and stunts too. Her moves are more typical of a drag performer on this stage. However, both have plenty of variety. Plus, the song provides moments of high energy and emotion mixed with humor. Easily the best of the night.
  • Round 2 - Malaysia vs. Spice to "Don't Go Yet" by Camila Cabello: They don't know the words. Wow, this was a serious letdown after what Sasha and Anetra did. In fact, it's a disservice that the show produced them in the same act break. There needed to be a commercial between the two to better distinguish the end of the first round and the start of the second. Everyone had to keep the energy going. No one won this but Malaysia advanced because everyone still wants to see more from her in this competition. Spice seemingly has hit her ceiling already.
  • Round 2 - Anetra vs. Luxx vs. Jax to "The Right Stuff" by Vanessa Williams: Three-way lip syncs are always chaotic. The stage gets really small under those circumstances. That's especially true with everyone trying to do stunts on top of each other. Luxx's limbs are just flying everywhere. It's not captivating even though she is called the winner. This is the first decision that doesn't line up based on the performance. Anetra won. She and Luxx had a much stronger command on the lyrics. Jax moves fit the era. That was notable but not enough to save her.
  • Round 3 - Anetra vs. Jax to "Finally" by CeCe Peniston: It's good that the show didn't craft another three-way lip sync. However, that means Spice is saved not for anything she does. Anetra simply takes pity on her. It would be an easy elimination otherwise. That's not dramatic. And RuPaul lives for the drama. That's why the twist of saving another competitor is introduced. It's meant to add fuel to the situation. Anetra opts for a show when given this special power. She knows she and Jax will deliver once more. They do. It just creates the reality of this being Jax's time to go despite her being a fierce performer. Anetra offered the simple seduction of this song. That was powerful even though Jax did nothing wrong to deserve elimination. That's the ultimate outcome though.