‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 15, Episode 12 recap: And now, a word from Luxx Noir London

In an episode already stacked with greatness, a monologue becomes the centrepiece

WELL! This is a proper RuPaul’s Drag Race episode! Sure, we’ve had a couple of strong installments in Season 15, including the premiere, the design challenge, the LaLaPaRuZa and last week’s return to 90-minute episodes. But even those episodes have felt less like series highlights and more like ports in a storm—reminders that, despite the restrictions placed on this season by the network hop, Drag Race could still be its old self.

This week’s installment, however, is a real shot in the arm for the franchise, and at exactly the right time. Featuring an all-time great Rusical challenge, some stunning runway looks, and a round of “Who Should Go Home Tonight and Why?” for the ages, this top six episode delivers, and moreover, promises a thrilling endgame still to come.

A big credit goes to the top six queens, who are not letting up on the gas as this season enters its last leg. It’s pretty surreal that, after this week’s episode, we’ve seen 11 queens eliminated. By this point in Season 14, RuPaul had sent home just six queens, with a seventh (Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté) withdrawing for medical reasons. For some perspective: at this time last season, Bosco had just found the golden chocolate bar.

This group has had to genuinely fight for their spot in this 12th episode of the season, and they’re not done battling. Sure, there’s been some frustrating resignation on the queens’ part that they’re competing for second place, as Sasha Colby has remained dominant all season long. The amount of quibbling we’ve seen from queens like Loosey LaDuca and Luxx Noir London over who was actually second in a challenge has been mystifying, considering second place brings with it exactly zero prizes. But even that starts to dissipate this week, with one queen taking her harshest swipe at Sasha yet, and another slowly, quietly making the case that perhaps she will be the one to be America’s Next Drag Superstar instead.

Mistress Isabelle Brooks stuns in a glove-themed runway category

Credit: Courtesy MTV

The Rusical this season is of the original song/lip syncing to others’ vocals variety, which is our first instance of such on the flagship series since Season 11’s “Trump: The Rusical.” (The Season 12 and 13 queens recorded their own vocals, while Season 14’s “Moulin Ru!” featured others’ voices singing covers of RuPaul songs.) This has typically been the diciest format for Rusicals, since it takes a lot out of the queens’ hands. Really, only their lip-syncing and dancing skills are on display in this format.

 

But this group, full of great lip sync performers, actually thrives in this format. Not only that, but “Wigloose”—a parody of Footloose in which drag is banned instead of dancing—is far better written than your average Rusical. The songs are all, at minimum, catchy, with one ballad actually being quite beautiful in its chosen queen’s hands. The story resonates with what’s happening in our world, as the radical right in the United States launches an all-out attack on freedom of expression and speech through their so-called “drag ban” bills. And while the solution in the Rusical is a bit pat (I can’t imagine bigots being won over by the power of performance, to say the least), it presents a fantasy future that illuminates the importance of keeping up the fight in real life.

I’ve written before about how Drag Race often seems ill-suited to responding to critical political moments. The show’s previous lack of specificity, relying on twirling “vote.gov” signs during episode sign-offs, has been a consistent pattern across its decade and a half on air. And even quite recently, RuPaul was criticized by some (including Season 7 alum Max) for not speaking out against the drag ban bills quickly enough—though he ultimately did post a video statement about the issue shortly after. In that moment, though, there were defences of Ru and the show: give them time to say something on the show, not just on social media.

No one could have predicted that, when this show filmed a year ago, it was already crafting a potent response to our current state of affairs. “Wigloose” is the show’s statement, and it’s a strong one. The fact that the Rusical is so fun, and well executed by literally the entire cast, is just a boon. It’s immediately one of my favourite maxi-challenges, not just for the performances, but for what it means for Drag Race as a whole.

Salina EsTitties, Luxx Noir London and Loosey LaDuca perform in the “Wigloose” Rusical

Credit: Courtesy MTV

Far from being a heavy-handed affair, however, this episode delivers on drama in a way I’ve personally been waiting on for seasons. During role selection for the Rusical, which Ru leaves up to the queens, Luxx and Loosey both go for the lead part of “Heaven Bacon.” This is an echo of last season’s Bosco vs. Lady Camden fight over a role in “Moulin Ru!,” but while that argument stayed mostly passive-aggressive, this one gets more intense, with Mistress Isabelle Brooks jumping in on Luxx’s side.

The heart of this and every conflict these queens have with Loosey is that they don’t perceive her to be a genuine person. This week, Luxx and Mistress cite that Loosey isn’t directly saying she wants the Heaven role because it’s the lead as the issue. Loosey, from what I can tell, really does think she’s being genuine—and, at least in this argument, I do think the other two are picking an odd point to be sticklers about. But the core problem these queens have runs deeper, and is likely not to be fully resolved until this season’s reunion.

During Ru’s walkthrough—while he’s talking to Sasha, specifically, and you can hear his cackles echoing in the background—Loosey talks with Salina EsTitties about her frustrations. Salina makes the point that, by being so quick to get defensive, Loosey is practically waving a red flag in front of Luxx and Mistress. If she let their digs roll off her back, they wouldn’t dig at her anymore. But instead of hearing that very smart advice from Salina, Loosey instead interjects that she was the one who led her and Luxx to a maxi-challenge win last week. It’s a lot of delusion on Loosey’s end, and, yes, some rudeness on Luxx’s and Mistress’s part. But it’s ultimately harmless drama, and it mostly plays out in entertaining fashion.

You know who else is entertaining? Anetra! The Vegas queen has a big week, as she gets more chances to open up—to Ru, to the other queens and in Untucked—about her family situation. She channels her feelings into the supportive mother role in “Wigloose,” turning out an emotional interpretation of the show’s big ballad. It’s remarkable on its own, but particularly so juxtaposed with Anetra’s much more dance-heavy work in other performances. Ru and the judges are very impressed, and Anetra snags her second maxi-challenge win of the season for her efforts.

Everybody’s getting “Wigloose” on the main stage, as the queens ace their Rusical challenge

Credit: Courtesy MTV

With everyone doing so well, though, it’s tight competition for who should win. Sasha, Mistress and Luxx all make good cases for the victory, and even Loosey and Salina do well. This leads into a rousing round of queens answering Ru’s favourite runway question: “Who should go home tonight and why?” Loosey, who really should say Luxx or Mistress here based on their conflicts, instead says Salina, based on track record. This, rightfully, pisses Salina off. Anetra also says Salina, and it’s not as egregious in her case, considering Anetra was not just days before trying to get comfort from Salina in the werk room.

Meanwhile, Mistress takes a real shot at Sasha, perhaps the only one we’ll see this season: “I’m tired of being at the Sasha Colby meet-and-greet.” Because Sasha is her biggest competition, she wants to send her home. Salina says Loosey, while Sasha says Loosey and Luxx, since they both have two maxi-challenge wins. The centrepiece of this whole thing, though, is Luxx’s answer, which I will now present in its entirety:

“Sasha Colby does drag on a level that is clean, cut, concise. But she just puts that extra thing on it that makes it the Sasha Colby experience. Salina brings something so unique with her perspective. She has so much heart. Mistress, she also has a unique spin on what she does, because she’s not afraid to push the boundary. That is something that is very admirable. You never know what to expect from Anetra, and I think the unexpected is something that I look for. Loosey does what she does exceptionally well; however, Loosey’s drag, I would have to say for lack of a better word, is a little bit more on the generic side. Everybody else on this lineup brings something a little different and unique. So tonight, I would have to say Loosey, for those reasons.”

This is a barn-burner of a monologue, and is endlessly entertaining TV. Ru’s reaction to it is hard to parse, however, and the judges seem both impressed and a little bemused by it. Ross Mathews is entertained; Michelle Visage makes a remark about it going on for too long. My friend and colleague Mathew Rodriguez made the argument to me that Luxx has won the battle, but lost the war with this speech: it’s a huge viral moment, and basically guarantees her return for All Stars, but it’s difficult to see Luxx winning this season based on it. Main series Drag Race typically doesn’t like its winners to be too shady, although there are exceptions (Violet Chachki probably being the most recent).

Of course, with Sasha in the competition, maybe she would never win it in the first place. But hey, Anetra is quietly making her case for the win. It’s not over until Ru makes his decisions, after all. The only one who we can definitively say won’t be winning is Salina, who goes home after a bottom two lip sync against Loosey. Honestly, both are pretty bad in the “Running Up That Hill” lip sync—it’s a great song, but neither connects to the emotion in the right way. But after surviving four Lip Syncs for Your Life previously, Salina’s time was running out. Plus, we get one more week of fallout of this week’s drama with Loosey—and I’m particularly interested to hear if she reacts to Mistress openly rooting for Salina in the lip sync.

In the end, a terrific episode of Drag Race, and a poor lip sync can’t keep it from being a great one. Next week is the makeover challenge with teachers, and while as an educator myself I’m excited, I hope we don’t let too many good vibes drown out the drama. There’s real tension coming to a head with this group, and this season deserves to see it play out in the end.

Untucking our final thoughts

Upon hearing Ru’s RuMail message, Loosey says, “We’re gonna do ‘Let Loose,’ but as a Rusical?” Oh, Loosey of the past, if only you knew what has become of “Let Loose” in present day! Even Maya Rudolph is singing it!

Orville Peck is our guest judge this week, and he is a delight! He gives us a Daria reference during the critiques! His runway call-outs are fantastic! If Ali Wong was the ideal of an incisive, critical judge, then Orville is the ideal of an eager fan judge. The fact that it’s such a strong episode makes his energy all the more welcome.

Luxx notes in the cold open that Sasha scored “low” last week—which is a reference to the old “LOW” scoring placement that would be listed on Wikipedia. A couple of seasons ago, these placements were wiped off Wikipedia entirely, primarily for accessibility concerns, but also for a lack of “official” distinction on the show of high- and low-scoring queens. (In essence: Ru declares winners and the bottom two, but never actually says who scored elsewhere—just that they’re “safe.”) It’s interesting to see the show increasingly allow these terms to be used when they’re not reflected on Wikipedia anymore—though they are still on the Fandom wiki.

Sasha once again plays mother to the warring queens after Loosey’s fight with Luxx and Mistress over the roles: “The fun thing is that you all get to play friends no matter what you are!”

During his walkthrough, RuPaul tells Anetra the sacred phrase: “You were born to do drag.” Reader, I gasped. I never expected Anetra to be the one to get Ru’s adoring blessing, the way Krystal Versace and Jorgeous did before. Of course, those two had radically different endings to their runs on Drag Race, with Krystal ultimately taking the UK Season 3 crown, while Jorgeous went out in a double elimination with DeJa Skye. Time will tell where Anetra ends up, but as I’ll explain in this week’s power ranking, I’m feeling better about her chances than ever.

Mistress not even being able to properly mourn Marcia Marcia Marcia’s passing because she’s too busy stanning Anetra’s lip sync … relatable queen.

I think we need some more time to evaluate where this Rusical falls in the canon, but I agree with Michelle when she says it’s “Broadway-level.” According to Luxx at Chicago bar Roscoe’s watch party, the queens had a full weekend to rehearse this one, and it really shows in the final product. I think it’s definitely up there with Season 12’s Madonna Rusical among the best.

“EsTitties, EsTitties, my titties, not your titties!” Absolutely incredible Ciara reference from Salina on her way out the door.

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race will air Friday, March 24, at 8 p.m. EDT on MTV in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. Check back every Monday 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.

Read More About:
Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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