For the third year in a row, we have a final four episode that is largely a letdown. One of the greatest moments in Drag Race history was the final four episode in Season Four, when Chad Michaels sent Latrice Royale home to the breaking hearts of fans everywhere. The newer process, not having a bottom-two lip sync, creates an episode that is needlessly schmaltzy. This is still a competition, and the tighter the cast gets the more interesting it is to watch.
The first part of the episode has the girls performing for inclusion in RuPaul’s forthcoming “The Realness” video. This challenge is clearly irrelevant in choosing who goes forward. Last year, Kennedy Davenport—one of the best dancers the show has ever seen—ended up sashaying after the equivalent episode, while two-left-feet Pearl remained. Let’s also recall season five, when the fact that Roxxxy Andrews whipped her hair well in the video was dubiously put forward as a possible reason for her to win the whole show.
To absolutely no surprise, Naomi Smalls is superb at posing for the video. Kim Chi, on the other hand…bless her heart. The poor thing can’t even lie down on a box without tipping over onto the floor. Again, none of this really matters. Virtually all of Candis Cayne’s Pat Benatar inspired choreography was edited out of the final video for “Born Naked” last year. They’ll simply edit around Kim Chi.
This year, two of the only good aspects of the final four episodes have been cut as well. Having Ru share “lunch” (i.e., a breath mint) one on one with each contestant was a touching moment every year. For whatever reason, that fun segment is gone. It’s really quite sad. Many of the eliminated queens have pointed out that they don’t really get to interact with RuPaul outside of what makes the actual show. Surely the final four deserve ten minutes of intimate conservation with someone who they all look up to. Another unfortunate cut: The queens aren’t challenged to read each other out of the final three, as Ginger did with great ruthlessness.
Finally we get to the runway, where each contestant shows up in her “best drag” and addresses a photo of themselves as a young boy. Then all four have to lip sync simultaneously to “The Realness.” The song is not a particularly dancey number, nor is there much intensity to put forward. Then the four judges deliberate, trying to make it seem like it’s anybody’s game when that’s clearly not the case. Needless to say, after the last couple of wonderful episodes, it’s unfortunate that the penultimate episode is such a climax. Like last year with Kennedy Davenport, Chi Chi DeDayne is eliminated for no explicit reason. This might be looked at as a blessing for Chi Chi. She had virtually no chance of winning, so she didn’t need to have the months of stress wondering about the crown. Further, she gets to leave as the best lip sync this season and very likely ever.
That leaves the final three as Bob the Drag Queen, Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls. Let’s examine the likelihood of each taking home the crown in order of least likely to most. The case for Kim Chi is as follows. She is easily the most creative visual artist the show has ever seen. Like Miss Fame last year, she is one of the few queens whose reputation preceded the show itself. Naomi Smalls was not the only one gagging at Kim’s Instagram. The judges are correct in pointing out that Kim has the capacity to change what drag is. Showing her pics to the layman is enough to show them that drag isn’t simply female impersonation.
That said, nothing Kim has shown this year was enough to improve her strong original standing. She is absolutely sweet, vulnerable and impossible to dislike. But none of her looks were particularly better than the photos she’s been releasing over the past couple of years. Her dancing skills were so bad that the show clearly did their best to prevent the certain debacle of her lip syncing. While she is funny, she is nowhere near as funny as Bob. Both her wins were for looks, but while both were excellent neither was jaw-dropping.
Naomi Smalls has a small outside shot of taking home the crown. The odds would certainly have looked better for her if Violet hadn’t won last year. Her looks, though not as innovative as Kim’s, were consistently stellar (especially towards the end). She also has a great attitude and personality. She squeaks ahead of Kim due to her ability to be more of a performer on stage.
Finally, we have Bob the Drag Queen. Unlike last year, where it seemed to be anybody’s game, Bob has dominated the competition in a way not seen since Raja in season three. She is absolutely hilarious and has great flashes of earnestness and humility. While her painting skills aren’t that great, neither were Jinkx’s. Bob won three challenges and when in the bottom delivered a spot-on lip sync. It’s hard to deny that Bob the Drag Queen will have to change her name to Bob, America’s Next Drag Superstar.
[NOTE: No new episode next week, but be sure to check out Bianca Del Rio’s Rolodex of Hate special in the usual Drag Race time slot.]
UPDATE: Five questions with this week’s eliminated queen, Chi Chi DeVayne:
Observer: Let’s talk about that Dreamgirls lip sync. Do you do the whole song? What was it like to perform?
Chi Chi DeVayne: Yes we always do the whole song. I kind of felt like me and Thorgy were on the bottom but I didn’t even practice. I do that song all the time, I’ve done it before, it’s iconic. To do that song, you have to know the emotions. That was not intentional when the necklace shattered, it got caught up in my shoes and when I came up it broke.
Stacy Layne Matthews had kind of a similar vibe to you but a very different look, of course. Have you ever met her?
No, I’ve never met her.
What’s the best moment that we didn’t get to see?
The times we were having lunch and dinner. We have a blast and talk about stuff. Those are the intimate moments the audiences doesn’t to see. We were all like lions on a carcass.
Did you find out you were eliminated that day or do they shoot four endings?
I only found out when everybody else found out.
That must have sucked.
It sucked that you don’t get to go on but those are the rules.
Do you think Derrick got a fair edit? She’s very polarizing online.
I think she did get a fair edit, we all did. Derrick was very much how she was. She’s a nice sweet person but she doesn’t realize when she’s actually being a bitch.