‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 14, Episode 11 recap: Loose lips sync ships

The LaLaPaRuZa battle is the shot of competitive energy that Season 14 has been needing

Okay, now this feels like a race.

I’ve lamented in recent recaps that, amid the mostly good vibes of the cast and repeated non-eliminations, RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 14 has lacked a competitive edge. With the exception of Daya Betty, whose competitiveness usually manifests in aggressively sour ways (and does so again this week), most of the cast has seemed content to enjoy a leisurely drift toward the finale. The contrast between Season 14 and the ultra-cutthroat UK Versus The World was stark.

But after the nearly cast-wide bomb of Snatch Game that only DeJa Skye emerged from unscathed, Ru challenges all the dolls to step up their game. She puts them in a LaLaPaRuZa lip sync smackdown for Rudemption, and one queen will go home at the end of it. (Sorry to those who wanted multiple queens gone.) The way the tournament of lip syncs is structured lends itself to strategy and competitive thinking, and we finally see some of the nicer queens show their cunning sides.

The result is a very fun episode, one that actually delivers an elimination (imagine that!) and sets the table for the rest of the season. I’m almost inclined to say that every season could use an episode like this—kind of a mid-game reset that puts the girls on offense again—but I also don’t want it to become expected and tired. The on-the-fly, improvisational nature of this episode is what makes it work: it genuinely feels like the queens are scrambling to fight for their lives in the competition.

It was a close call, but Bosco ultimately survived the LaLaPaRuZa lip sync smackdown.

Credit: Courtesy VH1

We start with our cold open, which has informally become the Daya Betty Complaint Forum in recent weeks. This week, she’s pressed that she has to lip sync despite what she considers a “safe” Snatch Game performance. Her logic is a little fuzzy to me: even if she believes that, Ru has repeatedly said that to be safe is not enough on Drag Race. If she were arguing that she was good as Ozzy Osbourne … well, she’d be deluded to say that, but I’d get her argument more. Regardless, she’s pissed, and she’s choosing to take it out on Jasmine Kennedie and Jorgeous.

There’s some truth to what Daya is saying; it does feel a bit unfair that Jasmine and Jorgeous are getting a chance to do what they’re excellent at after flopping yet another challenge. But in the context of how Daya has repeatedly gone after these two (particularly Jasmine), it comes off as monotonously antagonistic. Her desperation to get someone else to back her up—a theme that continues all the way into Untucked—is also telling: she wants to be the person who says what everybody is actually thinking, and is dismayed to not get the validation that others feel the same.

 

Bosco later admits she is irritated by the twist, but that she’s more mad at herself for putting herself in this situation. This episode seems to really throw Bosco for a loop; for the first time all season, she’s projecting insecurity in place of her usual confidence. That’s basically true across the board, though: Angeria Paris VanMicheals and Willow Pill are concerned about what kind of song they’ll end up with, and Daya is terrified about going up against someone who can out-dance her. Only Jorgeous is at peace among the cast, because unlike with the various acting and comedy challenges, she knows she can do this. It’s fun to see Jorgeous so confident.

No runway presentation or RuMail this week—the queens get straight to makeup when they enter the workroom, and they quietly file out onto the stage after Ru chats with the judges. It’s all business as Ru announces the format: queens will be chosen via bingo ball (by Calix, the exceptionally hot Pit Crew member who’s had the internet atwitter this season) to find out who will be battling. The queen chosen gets to pick her opponent and the opponent gets to pick from an initial list of five songs. These choices make room for strategy, and it’s the queens who choose wisely who do the best in this tournament.

RuPaul presents the five potential songs of the LaLaPaRuZa to the queens.

Credit: Courtesy VH1

Up first is Jasmine, who picks Daya as her opponent without realizing Daya will get to pick the song. Daya chooses Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” to limit how much Jasmine can dance circles around her—though Jasmine just aced an Etta James lip sync. Soul may not be her preferred genre, but she can clearly work it out. But she struggles because Daya commands the front of the stage. It’s kind of a reverse Kimora Amour: instead of constantly following Jasmine, Daya stays in front of her; Jasmine can’t help but look a little desperate dancing behind her. It’s a win for the punk rock queen, and Jasmine’s first loss in a lip sync this season.

Next up is Willow, who’s annoyed because she wanted to choose the song. As she explains to Angeria in the workroom, her lip syncs in the outside world are usually to custom mixes, and the last thing she wants in this tournament is a dance song. She picks Bosco, wagering that she’ll choose the song Willow wants—and indeed, she goes with Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much.” This is one of the night’s weaker lip syncs, but Willow wins out by going with a tighter, more straightforward interpretation of the song, whereas Bosco can’t find the vibe and does too much. The loss further frustrates Bosco, while Willow skates to safety.

This leaves us with three of the stronger performers of the cast to face off: Jorgeous, Angeria and Lady Camden. Jorgeous throws a curveball when choosing the song, opting for Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce deep cut “Radio” instead of Jennifer Lopez’s hit “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” What seems at first like an unforced error quickly becomes a decisive victory: Jorgeous tears up the song, commanding attention despite having two great lip-syncers next to her. Camden is good in parts of the song, but ultimately goes too goofy (the hopping on “vibrations” alone!). Angeria is very good, but her dip gets overshadowed by Jorgeous’, and her face is a bit too blank throughout the song. (This will carry over to her second lip sync, and is a weakness of Angie’s performance style I did not expect.) Jorgeous easily wins this one, and it’s my personal favourite lip sync of the night.

The second round features Camden absolutely decimating Bosco to En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go,” with Bosco once again picking a song she cannot tap into the mood of. She tries to pick defensively, knowing what a strong dancer Camden is, but the result is just Camden demonstrating that she can succeed in multiple genres—and Bosco, meanwhile, struggles to deliver in any style. Angeria versus Jasmine to “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” is a closer battle, and I’ve gone back and forth on rewatches in deciding who I’d give the win to. Ultimately, Angie has two maxi-challenge wins and a pretty impressive track record, while this is now Jasmine’s fifth lip sync. I understand why Ru chooses to save Angie.

Jorgeous, Bosco, Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Lady Camden and Willow Pill await their turn to lip sync for their lives.

Credit: Courtesy VH1

So finally, as the rest of the cast watches on in the workroom, Bosco and Jasmine face off one final time. The song is Diana Ross’ sensual “Swept Away,” and finally Bosco finds a song she can plug into. She goes full burlesque, doing some very seductive floor work and embodying the spirit of the song. Jasmine goes campy for certain parts, which can’t help but feel out of place next to Bosco. The Seattle queen wins her final battle, and Jasmine sashays away.

It’s obviously a shock to lose Jasmine after a lip sync tournament, but I think it actually makes a lot of sense in terms of the greater season. Jasmine was struggling in almost every challenge, and unlike Jorgeous, she couldn’t raise the bar of her lip-syncing style any further. It also caps what I think is an interesting discussion in this episode: someone is not just a “good” or “bad” lip-syncer, but they excel in different styles. Jasmine wound up with a lot of songs that either didn’t fit her style well, or merely fit her competition better. There’s no question Jasmine is an amazing lip-syncer, no matter what the result of this episode.

So we’ve finally broken the top eight stalemate, and are onto a Rusical with our final seven! As I mentioned last week, someone must go home every week to fit the number of competitive episodes left (just three!), but the golden bar is still out there. While I ultimately enjoyed this twist, I do think the sheer number of goops and gags this season is about to come back and bite it in the ass. If the cast stays as entertaining as they have been, though, I think we’re in for a fun latter part of the season. It may just include yet another non-elimination episode along the way.

Untucking our final thoughts

DeJa is absolutely hilarious in the first part of this episode, repeatedly poking fun at the other girls about the new twist. And when the queens are silent at one of her jokes, she responds, “We have to find humour in it, because no one found humour in Snatch Game.” She is luxuriating in being safe this week, and we love to see it.

Camden describes her pink mohawked look as “Sonic the Hedgehog’s bitch girlfriend,” which is perfect. Amy Rose is shaking.

Every new shot of Calix rotating the balls is funnier than the last. He’s just smiling in his Box underwear, rotating a hopper full of pink bingo balls. It’s a delightful vibe.

With her third loss in this episode, Jasmine joins Rosé as the only queens to lose three lip syncs in a single season. Of course, Jasmine also won three, making her record 3-3; Rosé, on the other hand, has yet to win a proper Drag Race lip sync.

This is your weekly reminder that, for all of Daya’s complaints about non-eliminations and Jasmine and Jorgeous being saved, Daya is the only queen in the top seven to actually be sent home. Just reminding you, since the show itself seemingly never will!

Considering Jorgeous’ relationship status, her response to Ru asking if she likes threesomes with “my favourite” is fittingly hilarious.

Both Jasmine and Bosco in different lip syncs mime pointing to a watch on the word “time.” It is painful. This is my new “no air guitar” rule: no fake watches!

This shot from Camden and Bosco’s lip sync may be my favourite single moment of cinematography in Drag Race herstory. Certainly up there with the camera zooming behind a hugging Alyssa Edwards and Tatianna to a shocked Phi Phi O’Hara in All Stars 2’s “Revenge of the Queens.”

Every presentation of queens’ chocolate bars has been camp—“it’s chocolate,” the horns, Ru’s sighing—but Ru really takes it up to 11 this week by repeating “it’s chocolate” back to Jasmine. It’s the melodrama this twist deserves!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race will air Friday, March 25, at 8 p.m. EST on VH1 in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. Check back every Monday and Tuesday after new episodes for our recaps and power rankings, and subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

Kevin O’Keeffe is a writer, host, instructor, and RuPaul’s Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles, California. His favourite pastime is watching a perfect lip sync.

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