Tori Spelling finds her ideal acting pupils: drag queens.
Tori Spelling finds her ideal acting pupils: drag queens.

As Dylan McKay once said on Beverly Hills, 90210, "I just have one question. Are we having fun yet?" And this week, season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race picks up its stride, delivering one of its best (and most fun) episodes of the season so far. Unlike some seasons, where the winning queens' acting skills are about as perky as James Lipton's booty (hey season 7), it turns out many of the remaining season 9 girls are pretty great on set. Now midway through the competition, the show's cut through some of its unnecessary drama and underwhelming queens. We know who we like, we have some vague idea of who's going home next, and we're able to focus on performance as opposed to character building. Every queen left is a winner (they've stayed long enough to grab a fan base and a much, much higher booking fee), and we start to see more well-rounded portrayals of the girls as they tongue pop their way to the top.

The entirety of this episode is devoted to a parody of Beverly Hills, 90210, with Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling serving as guest judges and acting coaches. Some of the queens freak out (those ages 30 and up) and other girls remind us they were born after 90210 started airing. (RuPaul threatening to fuck Farrah Moan up because of her young age is delightful.) While RuPaul teased us with a mini challenge during the Kardashian episode, the show's returned to being mini challenge free, which means we jump right into rehearsal drama, mama.

I feel so childish right now. Aja, on her tantrum
"I feel so childish right now." Aja, on her tantrum Photo collage by author feat. crying baby stock image from Dreamstime

As baby boomers and Generation X have repeatedly reminded us, you can't be a millennial without being painfully self-obsessed. Aja, the youngest queen of this season at 22, immediately throws a tantrum for being cast in a role she doesn't like. Aja gets side-eye from the older queens, picks a fight, gets what she wants, then whines about her own whininess. This open complaining might make Aja look like a mopey baby, and land her in the bottom two, but it's less aggravating than Nina stewing over not being cast as Blac Chyna and then taking up an entire episode with her complaints. (Nina did, however, spawn some gorgeous fan art.)

And then we get to the main challenge. Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth are perky and right at home giving drag queens direction. Nina, as always, slightly underperforms, and lashes out at Tori and Jennie. Tori looks scared (it's satisfying) and Nina gets shit from the judges for her attitude. But hey, 34 years of insecurities don't disappear under the pressure of a reality TV camera crew and the weight of a million viewers' expectations. Every episode I'm reminded how much Nina is like Jasmine Masters, and how much I wish they'd join forces and perform in a drag version of Side Show.

More underperforming: Wait, what do Peppermint and Alexis Michelle even do in this episode? Farrah Moan once again slinks by the judges, being cute but forgetting how to do everything but look flawlessly highlighted. As Brandon Walsh affectionately said on Beverly Hills, 90210, "I love you, man, but if you were any dumber, you'd require fertilizer."

The secret to good acting is a sneaky tuck.
The secret to good acting is a sneaky tuck.

No good season of RuPaul's Drag Race comes without surprises. Sometimes, these surprises are forced and aggravating, like Pearl's rise to the top 3, Cynthia's return to season 9, or the ill-conceived "Shade Tree." But other times, something sincere, fierce, and untainted by overediting comes THROUUUUGH. This season, it's Trinity Taylor. While she may have started the competition dressed as a giant painting of Orlando that resembled an anus, she's evolved into an unlikely season 9 frontrunner. Early on in the season, her screentime mostly focused on her being a pageant queen (which is usually a kiss of death / easy villain edit on RPDR), and was gawked at for her plastic surgery. This week, however, Trinity wins her second performance challenge (don't remind me of those horribly animated monsters), proving to us all that she's more than a famous tuck.



Runway Theme: Big Hair Everywhere!

TOPS: Trinity, Shea, Valentina

As already detailed fully, Trinty "the tuck" Taylor has emerged from being a "filler queen" to being my secret not-so-secret favorite of this season. A pageant queen who can do comedy and has killer looks? Yes ma'am.

Shea continues her breezy race to the top 3 and Valentina continues to excel in roles that are designed to make her succeed. Let's see her stumble a bit, okay? (Also, Trinity, Shea, and Valentina are my current picks for this season's top 3.)


BOTTOMS: Sasha, Aja, Nina

Aja for throwing a fit, but ultimately doing fine in the challenge.

Nina for being a standard, subpar drag queen actor amongst a group of queens who are much better at performing in acting challenges than Ru's standard crop of girls.

And Sasha, who's only in the bottom because she's having a difficult time translating her unique, genius brand of weirdness to a platform that does a garbage parody of 90210 and then feels entitled to market it as camp simply because RuPaul's name is associated with it... Sasha probably won't find her footing in this competition, which is good, because that would mean she'd have to make some creative concessions. She will, however, probably be Miss Congeniality.

BYE BYE: It's a showdown of two fan favorite (and often unlikable) titans. Aja and Nina fight off in one of the best lip syncs of the season, with Aja arguably giving a flashier performance. But RuPaul has her ways... and miss AJA gets the chop.

R.I.P. Banjee Queen

And the local queen says...

Jenna St. Croix (right) with Mona Real (left)
Jenna St. Croix (right) with Mona Real (left) Rachel Robinson, Pride 2016

This week, I chatted with Seattle's own Fairy Godmother of Seattle Drag, Jenna St. Croix. She maintains Seattle's only contemporary drag performance archive, which you can browse through on her YouTube channel. Beyond being a pro bono archivist for local emerging performers, St. Croix is a real asset to anyone who's interested in following the local scene but doesn't have the time to go to every single show (y'know, someone like me).

We chatted about this season:

"Snatch Game was last week, but admit it: Nothing that happens on RPDR before or after Snatch Game matters or is good. In the spirit of this truth, here are the 90s icons each of the remaining queens should have portrayed on what should have been this week’s episode of Snatch Game:

- Peppermint: Jackee Harry

- Farrah Moan, by Calvin Klein: Derrick Barry as Britney Spears

- Trinity Taylor-Thomas: Calista “Ally McBeal” Flockhart

- Aja, now with 90s pre-HD filter for the haters: Fairuza “Nancy from The Craft” Balk

- Valentina Bonina-Evangelista: Linda Evangelista

- Sasha Velour Should Win This Season: Sinéad O’Connor. No. Daria.

- Shea Couleé Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit: Naomi Campbell again, but it would be better, because Naomi Campbell was still relevant in the 90s

- Alexis Michellerose-Place: Monica Lewinsky

- Dr. Nina Bo’nina Brown- Quinn, Medicine Woman: a Furby

Seattle already did something kind of like this at Kremwerk with ArtHaus 3.0: Nineteen-Ninety-Fierce back in March. Local queen & coffee slut Americano slayed that function, though, with her iconic Kurt-to-Courtney reveal."

That iconic Kurt-to-Courtney reveal can be seen here:

You can check out Americano every Friday hosting a RPDR viewing party at Little Maria's.