We’re at the reunion episode already? It seems mere moments ago that Crystal was skipping into the workroom like a hyperactive clown, and Heidi was standing in the doorway going “LILILILILI!” for no good reason. In reunion episodes, we get to hear from all the past contestants, with their thoughts on the trials and tribulations of the season. It’s one for the hardcore fans, for sure.
This one could make for a challenging watch (not to mention, a challenging recap) because it’s all been done virtually, for obvious, world-changing reasons. But we must all do our best and plunge forward as safely and happily as possible. So here we go!
Three seconds in, and we’re already exhausted. All the dolls are here, decked out in slumber-party finery, singing at us from their bedrooms, straight into our bedrooms (depending on where you watch it – but most people watch Drag Race in bed hungover, let’s be honest). This makes it almost uncomfortably intimate. At least before, there was a solid fourth wall separation. This is making us check our phones to make sure they’re not actually FaceTiming us.
And yes, we’re already being treated to a musical number – The Shady Bunch. Wonder if it’s available on iTunes. After this mind-bending intro, we get a rare glimpse into RuPaul’s home. There’s lots of leopardprint. Not a fracking drill in sight. He takes us straight into a hectic recap, which serves as a reminder of the formidable amount of talent we’ve seen from ALL the contestants, and also reminds us of the comparative lack of conflict – there’s a marked absence of the screaming workroom fights that defined the earlier seasons.
We head to Zoom to catch up with the girls – Brita’s got a SNOOKER table in the background. Back home in North Carolina, Heidi’s room looks like a show home from 2004. Rock M Sakura’s backdrop is giving us anxiety, but it’s so nice to see her. RuPaul thanks them all and says “it do take nerve to flatten the curve”. Sorry, but we’re not ready for Covid Drag Race catchphrases yet. Just … no. We won’t be buying that t-shirt.
Heidi reveals she had to take anger management classes as a kid, which is interesting, because she seems relatively soft and supple most of the time. She says acknowledging and controlling her anger helped her find her sense of humour. Many of the world’s best comedians suffer or have suffered from major mental health issues, so you’re in great company, Heidi. We tip our broccoli hat to thee. They cover Heidi and Gigi’s uncomfortable makeup moment and apologise to one another candidly. Heidi reveals that her fans identify as “closet cases” (amazing) and that as a result, she’ll be keeping her original name, Heidi ‘N’ Closet! Excellent.
We cut to Nicky Doll and she’s looking stunning as usual. It’s such a shame she went so early – if she’d have been able to overcome her demons, she could’ve been a great talent and lasted to the end. The instant a Drag Race contestant says they themselves deserve to go home, you know they’re done for. Blind self-confidence is an essential component when it comes to drag, and if that leaves you, it’s time to go home. We’re now cutting between single, two, three and five screens, with alternating shots of all the contestants and clips from the show and it’s all getting a bit confusing. Aiden is rolling her eyes as Brita talks. She might have been rolling her eyes at something else and they did some cheeky editing, but either way it’s funny.
Onto Jackie, and she acknowledges she’s the bossiest one in the cast. Really though, in the scheme of things, she was still very polite. She was just organised compared to some the others. Real Housewives star and the subject of Jackie’s hilarious Snatch Game character Lisa Rinna pops up! Her husband Harry Hamlin ambles into frame looking like he’s not really sure what he’s doing or what’s going on. “Ya really nailed her!” he says, leaning in and looking for the camera. Lisa gives a smile and a thumbs up, to screams from the queens. Cute.
Self-identifying “bedroom queen” Aiden says he’s “used to this life”. Oh. One of THOSE people. Sorry, but anyone who says they’re having a great time in quarantine is lying. It’s a nasty assertion designed to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. But we think Aiden’s statements are just hyperbole, so it’s fine. Aiden looks great on this reunion call. Maybe because this is the first time we’ve ever seen her in a different wig. Watching the recap, it’s good that Aiden left when he did, because that storyline would’ve worn thin very quickly. Even just revisiting it is tedious. NEXT.
New York queen Brita says this season was hard for her to watch, because she didn’t like the person she saw in herself. This is great – she did have some slight bullyish qualities, and it’s good that she’s seen that in herself and will hopefully change as a result of it. We feel for her, too – it must be horrible watching yourself back and not like what you see. For journalists, the equivalent is re-reading your first ever piece of published writing *shivers*.
Next we head to Dahlia, who looks like Daenerys Targaryen if she had done a Fine Art degree at Central St Martins. RuPaul asks why she was so annoyed at being eliminated. Why do you think, Ru?! She got eliminated first! Surely that’s reason enough to be annoyed!
One of our favourites (and our main crush of the show, fyi) Rock M Sakura, says the show helped her self-confidence and seeing comments from fans around the world made her feel “so validated”. Now that’s great, Rock, but be careful on that Instagram, especially now during lockdown when these things are magnified. You don’t want to end up like Bryce Dallas Howard. Rock also says she’s been working on her relationship with her mum and RuPaul looks a bit tearful … or maybe something just flew into his eye.
Next we head to one of this series’ most matter-of-fact and memorable contestants, Widow. She was intriguing, colourful and promising but suffered the same affliction as Nicky Doll, with a crisis of self-confidence ending in her elimination. She says she always used drag as something to hide behind – hiding her real self, Ray, under the glitz and glamour of Widow. Much of the time, people start doing drag as a form of armour and defence. Which is fine – there are many coping mechanisms less healthy than drag. The trick is to not let it take over, and not forget your real self.
It’s Jan’s turn to chat next, and we’ve just noticed her dressing gown is covered in a print of her face, in which she’s wearing exactly the same makeup as she is on screen, which she later mentions is merch. We get to see Jan’s Kris Jenner audition tape and it’s great.
The next part of the episode is a bizarre amalgamation of outfit recaps, general chat and the opportunity for the girls to read each other. Gigi says “Miss Jackie Cox … you are so supportive, I can always count on you for a face to file my nails on.” Crystal says “Heidi, you must be enjoying social distancing because you do look best from at least six feet away.” Widow says “Gigi Goode … I bet R Kelly wouldn’t even piss on you.” IS THAT … CAN SHE … IS THAT EVEN LEGAL FOR HER TO SAY THAT? Either way, 10 points to Widow.
Next we go to questions from fans, and WHOA, it’s “Maria from Rancho Cucamonga!” We just googled Rancho Cucamonga – it’s a city in California with a population of 177,751, making it the 26th most populous city in the state. It’s home to two public libraries, which together contain a total of 200,000 books. Its top employer is Inland Empire Health Plan, which provides 2.5% of the city’s total employment. Its bustling recreation centre Victoria Gardens is home to several vibrant shops, park areas and eateries. Rancho Cucamonga does not have an aquarium. Start booking those 2021 flights NOW!
Then, it’s Carole-Ann from Seattle – Seattle is a large conurbation with an Atlantic climate. This means that – actually no, we’re not doing this. You’ve all heard of Seattle. If you want to know more, watch Frasier. SPOILER: Maria and Carole-Ann are actually Miss Vanjie. Then Brita does a fan question for herself. Then we get another character from Vanjie. Whilst these interludes get some cheap laughs, it would’ve been nice to have some ACTUAL calls from Drag Race’s devoted fans, with some actual interesting questions. Oh well.
Jackie reveals that she visited her mother prior to the show, and she accepted Jackie’s drag for what it is. She even sent a letter to RuPaul. Ru reads it and it’s very sweet. We might be crying. Or maybe something just flew into our eye.
Next week, we’ll be at the final, and god knows what that’ll bring. It’s going to involve “virtual lipsyncing”, “cutting edge technology” and more. What this reunion episode showed us, is that it’s very difficult to properly recreate things, especially something as involved and physical as a drag show, via the medium of video calls. With lots of clever and probably painstaking editing, the Drag Race team have made it watchable, but the sad reality is that it was a poor imitation of the real thing – through no fault of anyone involved.
Here’s to a sparkling 12th season of one of the most popular reality shows on TV, and to the return of film and TV studios – as soon as safely possible.