‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap 9×02: Cheer Leaders, Dear Readers

And the candle goes to…Valentina! Bravo TV

Last week’s episode ended with a bit of a cliffhanger that actually seemed fake. RuPaul announced that there would be another queen appearing. Given that none of the cast photos had a mysterious outline with a question mark, nor was there much buzz in the pre-season about who a secret cast member would be, it was easy to dismiss the ending as a stunt. It was not, and it turns out that returning to the show is…Cynthia Lee Fontaine?

Shea Couleé spoke for everyone when she asked, “Is this a joke?” By all accounts, Cynthia is one of the sweetest queens to ever appear on the show. She is genuinely kind-hearted and a wonderful person. It is horrible that she got cancer and inspiring that she beat it. Everyone wishes her well in her future endeavors. But there is no reason for her to return to Drag Race.

Cynthia did not excel, ever, and her most memorable moment was her bafflement during the Empire challenge. She had no chance to win her season and no chance to win this one. Further, even taking her season alone, it would have made far more sense to bring back Thorgy Thor (who clearly was railroaded) or Robbie Turner, who was amazingly talented in many different ways. Cynthia’s forced catchphrase is simply begging for Regina George to say “Stop trying to make cucu happen. It’s not going to happen.”

The episode begins with Lisa Kudrow just popping into the werk room for no real reason. That the show is gaining mainstream credibility and appeal is a divisive issue. On the one hand, the bigger the audience the more the queens can make drag into their career. On the other hand, well, the hipster argument of “things get ruined once commercial” is too well known to repeat here.

For the main challenge this week the queens split into two cheerleading squads and have to do a cheerleading performance. Cheerleading is a very athletic event, and it’s not the kind of thing a given person can learn in one day. That said, with seven girls per squad it would become fairly simple to work around the weaker links. Interestingly, the last one picked is Valentina, who at the very least has the kind of build that would go well with cheering. That can only mean that there’s something about her that is rubbing queens the wrong way (shades of Violet and her season).

The cheers are silly as the show is known for, but it isn’t anywhere near as funny as the Glamazonian Airlines sketch from two seasons ago. It’s all pretty much in the same voice and vibe, and though the routines are perfectly fine they’re neither jawdropping nor tragically bad. Both squads manage to deliver perfectly adequate if not downright workmanly performances. There are a few cool gymnastics moves but this isn’t a cool gymnastics show. Frustratingly for the queens, they are judged not as teams but as individuals—and this is only told to them at judges’ panel.

As a result of so much going on, we’re treated to an aborted runway this week. The queens have to be clad for a white party. Some standouts include: Shea Couleé in her body suit with cutouts; Valentina in an amazing wedding gown; and Farrah Moan in a Vegas showgirl look that’s still somewhat unique. Last-picked Valentina wins this episode, and Jaymes Mansfield and Kimora Blac (whose outfit had far too many colors) are the two on the bottom.

The song that they will have to lip sync to is “Love Shack,” with the B-52s right there in front of them. It’s interesting to see the two queens’ reactions to being up for elimination. Jaymes seems sad, resigned and confused. Kimora, on the other hand, isn’t as worried about being the first one sent home as she is angry at the injustice. She clearly has a lot of fight in her and sees this as an opportunity to kill the lip sync instead of something to fear.

There’s no way that Kimora would ever perform to the B-52s in her act, and the zany lyrics would seem to be right up Jaymes’ alley. Though it’s a dance number it’s not really a high-energy club dance number, so lip syncing to it is a little tricky. But Kimora refuses to give an inch on that stage even though it’s obviously not her natural vibe. To no surprise, Ru sends Jaymes packing.

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap 9×02: Cheer Leaders, Dear Readers