RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 Episode 9 – The Realness
It’s a pretty short recap this week. Derrick sniped at Naomi, and wasn’t very good. Bob’s dress wasn’t made out of paper. Kim Chi won, Bob survived, Derrick went home.
The door to the Werk Room opens, revealing Naomi and Chi Chi in their fabulous eleganza. Kim Chi notes that Derrick’s mirror message is shorter than she expected. Bob wipes off the lipstick, while reiterating her respect and love for Derrick. “Long live Britney,” Kim Chi adds, mournfully.
Bob confesses to the camera that falling into the bottom two has put a dent in his armor. Kim Chi is very happy about the win, but realizes that it isn’t any guarantee of safety this week. Apparently, the judges wonder if Naomi can look ugly. She tries to make an ugly face, which just looks goofy. Then Bob challenges Naomi to smudge her make-up. She accepts the challenge, but refuses to remove her eyebrows, so Bob comes over and smudges it for her. Then they all talk about how major it is to achieve Top Four.
Time jump to the next morning (symbolized by close-up shots of jewels, shining like dew). The Top Four trundle into the room in hotel robes and full make-up. There’s no time for pun-filled videos. RuPaul magically appears in the biggest hat yet. It’s like the 500 Hats of RuPaul Charles. Standing next to RuPaul is not Mathu Andersen, but some stranger named Jayson Whitmore — I think it’s Whitmore. Anyway, he seems nice enough, if you like muscly, tattooed music video directors. Jayson cautions the queens that time is limited, so they need to get their shots done as quickly as possible.
Whoosh! No time to waste! We’re in the studio, and Naomi is lying on a table with fabric swaths radiating out from under her. Jayson tells her that they will be filming “floatography” and to play to the camera suspended above her head. She does this (as the other queens help out by waving the fabric up and down), and she looks good. The only difficulty she has is keeping her legs from hanging down. Bob has the same problem. Chi Chi seems to have no problems — Jayson just keeps saying things like “Awesome! Great!”
Naturally, Kim Chi has the most difficulty with the whole floaty thing. She really strains to hold her legs up, and she doesn’t look at the camera. Bob jokes that Kim Chi looks like a turtle turned upside down. Then Kim Chi accidentally rolls off the table — which the show plays for tragedy, in slow-motion, with Bob looking like she’s about to point and laugh. But I can’t help laughing, because, even rolling off a table, Kim Chi is adorable. And there’s a shot of Naomi smiling so sweetly at Kim, in the midst of everything, that I want to start shipping them. (Kaomi? Nam Chi?)
(Also, Bob notes that Kim Chi has fallen more than anyone else in “Drag Race history.” I love how the queens are always trying to carve out their unique contributions to the show)
Next comes an Avant Garde dance section. I think that’s what’s going on. Bob is told to amp up the comedy by Jayson, and does so. Don’t gotta tell Bob twice to make it bigger. Whatever Kim is doing pleases Jayson, because he has nothing but praise for her “attitude for days.” Naomi, ironically, almost falls in her thigh-high white boots. But the rest of her work is stellar. Chi Chi wears a long gown with a black leather cutwork overlay, which gets caught — twice — in the heel of her shoe. It’s so hard for her to dance in the dress that I wonder if it’s something she borrowed for the competition.
Now we have a new shot, with each queen “acting” into a mirror. Except Naomi, who just lies on the ground in a fabulous outfit. I have no idea what this is about, but Jayson sounds pleased. Hmm. I kind of miss Mathu’s rolling eyes and bitchy direction.
As Jayson announces that the video shoot is a wrap, Bianca Del Rio strolls into the studio, looking for the “Past Winners photo shoot.” Which, if you recall, took place in Episode One. When she realizes that she’s looking at Season 8 contestants and not past winners, she insults them and leaves. Bob practically rolls on the floor with laughter. “Is there no security in this Goddamned studio?”
Now the queens are back in the Werk Room, preparing for the last runway. They talk about what they learned in the competition. Bob says he learned that his confidence sometimes comes off as a arrogance. Also, that you can’t worry about the things other people dislike about you — you have to focus on the things you like about yourself. Kim Chi learned that he can’t walk or dance in heels, and that he has a lisp. Naomi declares that he admired Kim Chi before the competition ever started, and now thinks of her as a “big, lovable panda.”
Chi Chi never realized how much he hates where he comes from. Naomi realized that he needs to stop comparing himself to other people, and that he found himself. Chi Chi also realizes that he hates California food, which is greasy and horrible. (That’s probably more craft services than California food as a whole). Kim Chi, on the other hand, will eat anything. Including, Chi Chi declares, fried chicken butts.
On that note, we move onto the runway, where there are no guest judges — just family (i.e., RuPaul, Michelle, Ross, and Carson). Consequently, RuPaul has decided to wear a simple (although cunningly pleated) pink gown and the scariest make-up ever. Seriously, she looks like Nosferatu. Or else the doorkeeper from the The Emerald City.
Bob struts the catwalk in a tuxedo jacket, and no pants, like someone in a Bob Fosse musical. Chi Chi has gone full pageant with huge hair-buns, and a pink floor-length gown. Kim Chi calls herself a “dark, evil Princess.” Perhaps she’s the Princess of the Owls, because her face-mask gives an owlish impression, and her corset is covered in black feathers. Naomi has gone very simple, in a pink pantsuit and long hair that evoke the immortal Cher. The most interesting thing about the look is that bodice is just two long pink triangles that Naomi has glued to her flat chest.
There was no RuPaul tic-tac lunch this year. Instead, RuPaul repeats Season 7’s trick of holding up each queen’s childhood portrait and asking the queens to share their wisdom with their younger selves. They all say more or less the same thing: Things will get better. The parts of you that are weird now, will be the things that make you unique and talented later on. Kim Chi’s, however, hints at really difficult body-issues, thoughts of self-harm and running away, and brings the judges to tears.
And then it’s time for the judges to rip the queens into shreds. But, of course they don’t. The most negative thing they say is that Chi Chi isn’t the “most original look” onstage, while assuring her that she still looks amazing — and that she’s grown the most out of all the queens.
At the end, RuPaul gives a little speech about how the competition demands adaptability, while still remaining true to oneself. She says she’s so proud of all of them, because they all did that. Then she asks each one to state why they (and not their competitors) should win. Bob says she’s got the most wins, Chi Chi states that she’s shown the most growth, Kim Chi claims to have brought the most artistic, meticulous looks, and Naomi says that she’s avoided being stuck in any specific box, instead excelling by being herself.
Ru shoos the contestants out and turns to the judges. “Get real,” she advises them, “somebody has to go home.” So, Michelle points out that Bob’s final look was not all that — but they all remember that Bob slayed every acting challenge, especially the RuCo Empire one. Chi Chi, they decide, is not as original as the other three queens, but she had great moments in the competition, including two amazing lip-syncs. Ru also points out that Chi Chi is a “backwoods queen.” Her audiences would not have demanded the up-scale fashion that more cosmopolitan queens aspire to. Kim Chi is the most unique of the queens, she looks like no one else. They can’t help noting her awkwardness, but Michelle is convinced that Kim Chi could change drag. Finally, Naomi turned out to be the surprise of the competition. Carson insists that Naomi isn’t quite up to the level of the other queens, but Michelle and Ross disagree with him.
“Thank you,” RuPaul says to the judges. “You’ve been no help whatsoever.”
So the queens are called back and all four lip-sync to RuPaul’s song “The Realness.” Honestly, I can’t tell who is winning or losing. They all seem to be doing exactly the same moves. If I had to guess, I’d say Kim Chi is doing the worst — but I don’t know that RuPaul even cares about that at this moment. At the end of it, Chi Chi is sent home.
I’m bummed, but I can’t say that it was the wrong decision. I think Bob and Kim Chi are leading the pack, but choosing between Chi Chi and Naomi is just a matter of taste. Also — I think RuPaul might be thinking strategically. Chi Chi probably needs more money than Naomi, and cutting her at #4 leaves Chi Chi eligible for the Miss Congeniality prize, which can be a nice chunk of change. Chi Chi tells the judges she’s learned to be a better drag queen, and a better person, which is worth more than $100,000.
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As the queens depart the stage, we get four voice-overs. Chi Chi feels she shown the judges that she can be everything a drag superstar ought to be. Bob’s done her best, and now it’s just a waiting game. Kim Chi is relived that she’s out of her hands, and also mindful that she’ll have more work to do when she gets home. Naomi will be curious if she doesn’t make the final three. What else could she have done better?
“Morning meeting in the main stage…” Kim Chi chants it three times when they enter the lounge area, like it’s a prayer, or perhaps a protection charm. They grab their cocktails and settle on the furniture to discuss their favorite moments from the final judgment. Or maybe just the one where Naomi claimed to love the seventies and then rattled off a bunch of things that weren’t in the seventies, like Naomi Campbell and Kylie Jenner.
Kim Chi calls Bob’s look “eighties secretary going to a luncheon.” That’s very specific, Bob notes.
They admire Chi Chi’s pageant-bun hair, likening it to a pair of testicles. Chi Chi good-naturedly agrees. She loves her balls.
Bob is delighted that the judges called her glamorous. Kim Chi comments that Bob’s hair could have been bigger, but compliments Bob on her make-up. The highlights are really good. “Thank you,” Bob says, flatly. “That’s not a read,” Kim insists. “You’re looking at me like it’s a read.” “I said, ‘thank you,'” Bob replies.
Drama-lovers, revel in that exchange. It’s the closest thing we’ll get to a fight tonight.
Chi Chi decides that she’s grown the most in the competition and that she’s like all of the other finalists combined. “All of us combined?” Kim Chi asks, skeptically.
Chi Chi does admire Bob’s political actions, especially getting arrested. “You can’t do that in Shreveport,” she says. “They’ll blow your fucking head off.” She wants to be just like Bob.
“What do you think of Ne-Ne’s (Naomi’s speech)?” Bob asks the room. Silence. Drink sipping. “Shade!” Bob laughs.
Naomi defends her runway speech, and Bob goes to hug her, calling her “my baby!” Naomi tells Bob that she called her “Oprah” in a confessional.
Chi Chi makes a little speech about how she’s found a true sisterhood in the competition. She previews her later speech about learning to be a better person, and that being worth more than $100,000. She also mentions learning to take care of her wigs, and tips on being a great drag queen — which helps me to understand RuPaul’s comment from the main show about Chi Chi being a backwoods queen.
“So, whoever wins,” Chi Chi concludes, “Can you split some of it with me?” She promises to give them each $100 if she wins. Bob pledges to give $200. Kim Chi promises to take them all to lunch and let them order anything, even guacamole. Naomi promises Chi Chi a lace front wig if she wins.
Bob tells a story about betting Bianca Del Rio $100 that Bob would win the show. “And a wig!” she says in Bianca’s distinctive snarl. Then, Bob goes on, a week before the competition started, Bianca showed up and handed him a hundred dollar bill and a wig. Bob is still holding onto that bill, in order to pass it on to someone else.
Since they don’t get to see the runway from backstage, they re-create their runway walks for each other. Bob goes first, narrating every move and turn. Chi Chi goes next. Her walk features a lot of snapping, which is impressive, given the nails she’s wearing. Naomi is third, and now I understand what a “model walk” is, because Naomi’s poses are dammed impressive. I fear for Kim Chi, who initially begged off, saying her legs hurt.
But Kim Chi gamely goes to show her walk, then comes out and does a parody of herself, stomping more stiffly than a robot mummy. They all laugh at her, and she does it again, with a more natural and swinging gait and some good vogue moves. They call her the most improved and admire her jewelry. “I love that big black one,” Naomi says, peering at one of Kim’s jewels. “Me, too!” Kim Chi quips. “I love a big black one!”
They make a pact to do some specific choreography (probably from the video shoot) during the lip-sync, which explains why they were doing the same moves in the main show.
The cute producer calls them to the stage and we watch their last-minute primping with voice-overs. Kim Chi sees a Top Three placement as proof that her passion is not a complete waste of time. Chi Chi sees it as proof that she can win in life. Naomi wants to do RuPaul proud. Bob wants the validation that moving to New York to become a “flesh-colored clown” wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
There’s a slow-motion lip-sync, and a final speech by RuPaul encouraging them all to take what they learned on the show and “let. them. have. it!”
Chi Chi gets a full highlights-package after her elimination. Then boy Chi Chi shuffles into the Werk Room, carefully packing his boots into the suitcases. He says it was a roller-coaster journey and it’s changed him as a person. “This is the end of me as a broke queen,” Chi Chi vows.
I can’t be too sad for Chi Chi, because I know she’s going to have a better life now. She’ll get better, more lucrative bookings. She’ll probably travel the world. But I’m sad for us, because she won’t be in the video, and her bits looked really good. She was a better dancer than anyone else in the competition. She was as funny as Bob in the challenges, and she was as good at executing a look as anyone (if not quite as good at designing them as Naomi or Kim Chi). Even though Chi Chi made Top Four, I still think she was under-rated.