After this season’s double-feature premiere week, one question remains emblazoned in my mind: How? How, reader, will Drag Race ever top this perfect sequence of episodes? Because this challenge is so fantastic, it’s easy to forget (but important to realize) how hard it could have flopped.
Snatch Game is, in the best of seasons, unpredictable. For every Kennedy Davenport as Little Richard, there’s an Asia O’Hara as Beyoncé. Some seasons skew higher than average (like season six) and some skew significantly lower (season 14), but the one constant of the Snatch Game is, ironically, variance. That’s what makes this particular gambit so bold. At the top of the episode, Ru announces that this crop of winners must prepare not one but two celebrity impersonations, to compete in two full-length Snatch Games. It’s a remarkable show of faith and reveals the deep trust and reverence that production maintains for these champions. And, honey, it pays off.
Snatch Game No. 1
The first of the two, this Snatch Game proves to be quite an even playing field. Zingers are flying from stage left, right, and center. Monét’s Mike Tyson is a notable standout, with on-point characterization and spot-on lisp work. Her “fuck ’em in the ass” bit is arguably one-note, but each time she says it, it’s so well-placed and delivered with such specificity that it’s hard to notice or care that it’s a little repetitive.
When it comes to creativity, Raja as Madame and Trinity as Luci (fer) top the charts. Raja is a visual artist first and foremost, so it should come as no surprise that her prosthetics create a world-class puppet illusion, and her use of riding crops as puppet sticks makes for a perfect visual gag (and the jokes aren’t bad , either!). Trinity casts her Satan as an effeminate devil who goes by Luci and boasts an intimate knowledge of all things Drag Race, pop culture, and raunchy sex. It’s a smart idea, and one that allows Trinity to elevate a simple joke into something quite clever. It’s a hit with Ru and Michelle, and establishes Trinity as one to watch this episode.
And lest you forget, there’s the brilliant Jinkx as Natasha Lyonne. It almost feels like bragging. Jinkx probably had 10–15 impersonations she could have deployed with equal brilliance as the amuse-bouche to her Judy Garland (Bette Davis, Liza Minnelli, Joan Cusack, just to list a few I’ve personally seen her do live). But she chose the most technically difficult one just to show off. Her timing and physicality as Natasha is impeccable, and her jokes are works of art. Saying that watching Jaida try to top Monét would be like “watching a 4-year-old move a couch?” Instantly iconic.
Rounding out the pack is the perfectly fine Shea Coulee as Elsa Majimbo – a performance that would probably be considered high in any other Snatch Game – The Vivienne as a charming and safe Joanna Lumley, Jaida as a mystifying yet hilarious Prince, and Yvie Oddly as a grating Rico Nasty. But the real treat is yet to come.
Snatch Game No. 2
RuPaul should dedicate her next Emmy to Jinkx Monsoon. As Judy Garland, it’s no exaggeration to say that Jinkx has reached the apex of what it means to compete in Snatch Game. Jinkx’s Judy Garland is studied, captivating, and reverent and irreverent in equal measure. She dominates the game from start to finish without so much as raising her voice above a gentle coo. It’s the type of performance that you can only give if you’ve watched the Judy at Carnegie Hall DVD every day since you were 4 years old. And even if you did that, you’d still be at a loss if you did not have Jinkx’s beautifully deranged mind, her practiced skill, and innate fagotry. I can not even pick a favorite part! Doing lines of coke off Frank Sinatra’s penis? Her direct address to the camera to talk to her veteran from season five? Her roping the mic so she does not trip during her not one but two song breaks? (Okay, it’s the last one. But it’s close!) I’ll never be able to say enough good things about this Snatch Game, but for now, I’ll end it here: Jinkx Monsoon, you will always be famous.
That’s not to take away anything from the caliber of performance the rest of the queens were giving. They were good, and in some cases excellent. Trinity’s Leslie Jordan is definitive, and maybe even tops her memorable Caitlyn Jenner from last All Stars. (Leslie Jordan using a condom as a raincoat is a perfect joke, and that was off the cuff!) Diana Vreeland is yet another perfect chess move from the mind of Raja, and Monét shines yet again with a very solid impersonation of “Martin Lawrence ”(Well, really Sheneneh as is obvious to see, but we do stan a good copyright loophole!).
Back on the main stage, the runway is no slouch, either. Monét is breathtaking in her sculpted pleather gown, as is Raja in a Vivienne Westwood – inspired silhouette (yet another flawless addition to her runway portfolio). Jinkx and Jaida make me squeal as well. The queens are offering up some of the best drag we’ve seen from the two of them, and it’s only episode two! We are feasting. The judges deliberate, and, no surprise here, it’s Jinkx in the top two joined by Trinity. (I might’ve picked Monét, but there’s truly an embarrassment of riches onstage tonight, so no complaints here.) The two lip-sync to Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” with Jinkx ultimately being crowned the true victor. Certainly not my favorite performance of Trinity’s or Jinkx’s, but nothing can dull the shine of tonight’s Snatch Game, so it’s quickly forgiven. True to her word, Jinkx dons the blocking plunger unto… Shea! A smart move from a savvy queen that caps off an incredible pair of episodes.
But there’s another thread that weaves these episodes together besides their quality: kindness. Not just kindness between the queens (though the respect each of them has for the others’ artistry is quite evident), but kindness from the show itself. Incidents that could easily have been framed as embarrassing failures (like a few of Yvie’s non-laugh lines) are quickly forgotten, as the edit instead chooses to showcase the queens thriving, like Trinity or Jinkx. These twists of the knife and narrative “gotcha” moments are notably absent from both episodes, cultivating an overall atmosphere of joy and celebration. While it’s likely a side effect of the fact that this season has no eliminations, and therefore there’s no need to narratively justify a queen’s exit by casting her in a bad light, it’s certainly a welcome one. Do not get me wrong: I live for a bit of disrespectful reality-TV editing, and Drag Race does it like no other, but something about the way this season is presenting these winners just feels correct. The queens are being treated like, well… royalty! It’s what they deserve.
Until next week!