‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 15, Episode 8 recap: Sync test

The LaLaPaRuZa returns not as a punishment, but as its own maxi-challenge

The all-lip-sync, non-finale episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race have quietly become a reliable staple of the show. At the very worst, they’re narratively inconsequential, but still a ton of fun to watch (like the All Stars 4 battle that just brought Latrice Royale back into the competition). At best, they are a season-best installment that adds something big to the season, like All Stars 6’s lip sync Rudemption gauntlet. I’m even a defender of the oft-maligned Season 13 premiere!

But I’ll admit, I was a bit worried when I heard we were getting a LaLaPaRuZa this season, and not as a punishment like it was in Season 14. Lip Syncs for Your Life are designed to be just that: for your place in the competition. If you fail to perform at the required level during a challenge, you get one last chance to fight for your spot. By making it required for everyone to lip sync for no other reason than just because, it feels like adding a new hoop for the queens to jump through. One of the most beloved winners, Bianca Del Rio, always notes that she won Season 6 without being able to lip sync expertly because she never had to. A Bianca type couldn’t do the same this season, seemingly.

In practice, though, I really like this challenge, and it produces an incredibly fun episode of television. Ru frames the challenge by saying he still hasn’t seen a bulk of this cast lip sync, and that’s about to change. Now, moving forward, we know exactly what this cast’s capability is when they hit the bottom two, and that’s thrilling in its own way. One might’ve assumed, as Malaysia Babydoll Foxx does in this episode, that going up against Marcia Marcia Marcia will be an easy victory. Now we know that Marcia is a force to be reckoned with, after she dominates the first lip sync to Anitta’s “Boys Don’t Cry.”

Beyond future implications, though, what makes this episode great is that it delivers several terrific performances, at least one iconic flop, and a lot of goops and gags along the way. It feels like what the all-lip-sync episode should be every season: a hell of a show.

Bruno takes over Pit Crew lottery duties from Calix, as he draws balls throughout the tournament.
 

The setup of this episode is remarkably quick—we’re at the main stage about five minutes into the hour—and the rules are familiar. Bruno of the Pit Crew will draw a ball with a queen’s name on it, and they’ll get to choose their opponent. Their opponent will then get to choose one of seven songs (with each being eliminated as it’s chosen) to lip sync to. Malaysia, as mentioned, gets first draw, and goes with Marcia. Marcia, seemingly offended to have been chosen first, promptly picks her strongest song in Anitta’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” and smashes it. She stays, in impressive fashion, and gets to go watch the battles in Untucked. Malaysia has to stick around and prepare to lip sync once again.

Loosey LaDuca is up next, and she makes the play Malaysia should have and picks Spice. Spice goes for Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” keeping up her lady rocker song trend after previously doing Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run” with Sugar. This lip sync is honestly pretty bad! Neither seems confident, but Loosey’s attitude is more in line with the song. Still, as Marcia notes in Untucked, this is far closer a battle than it should’ve been, considering Spice’s self-admitted limited lip syncing talents.

Luxx Noir London is up next, and she baffles me by picking Salina EsTitties as her opponent. Granted, no “easy” option is left—Jax is probably the safest considering the show’s lack of investment in her, and Mistress Isabelle Brooks remains something of a wild card as a performer at this point. But choosing Salina, who proved a dynamic performer just a couple of lip syncs ago, seems like folly. Salina susses out that she believes Luxx chose her so that Salina would pick a high-energy song that Luxx could keep up with.

So in perhaps the most impressive strategic move we’ve seen on a LaLaPaRuZa (apologies, Willow Pill), Salina instead goes for Céline Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” This is a song Salina does as part of her act, and she proves it by dominating the stage. Luxx, on the other hand, never quite gets into the groove of the song—which is admittedly hacked up into a less-than-two-minute arrangement—and fails to outshine Salina. The Angeleno queen is sent to safety, and a quite-pressed-looking Luxx must lip sync once again.

Malaysia Babydoll Foxx errs in picking Marcia Marcia Marcia as her opponent, as Marcia slays an Anitta lip sync.

Mistress is up next, and chooses Jax, hoping she’ll pick the song Mistress wants (the Full Willow). And indeed, when Jax picks Taylor Dayne’s “Tell It to My Heart,” Mistress is thrilled. There are several songs in this episode that are repeats of previous LSFYLs: the Céline song has appeared on both Canada’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, and one song each in the second and third rounds is a repeat. But the last performance we got of “Tell It to My Heart,” from Alyssa Edwards and Detox in All Stars 2, is a definitive one.

Jax gives a good performance, as expected, but suffers from giving similar energy to what Alyssa and Detox did back in 2016. Mistress, on the other hand, gives face and emotion, and stands out more easily. She wins, to the surprise of the queens, as expressed in Untucked. (I completely agree with Ru’s decision, but it is interesting that the show allows so many queens to question the choice.)

The final battle of the first round is Anetra vs. Sasha Colby, and, as the other queens note, it’s a battle of the titans. Anetra chooses “I’m in Love with a Monster” by Fifth Harmony, and Sasha says she knows it and is ready. “Ready,” as it turns out, is an understatement. Anetra and Sasha tear this song up, both bucking and moving with aplomb (Sasha in particular is so smooth in her movements), but also catching every single beat of the lyrics and making a meal of them. It is the longest lip sync of the episode and somehow still too short. I’d personally have saved them both and evened out the numbers for later in the episode, but as we’ll soon see, Ru clearly had plans for the grand finale.

In Round 2, we get the single funniest moment of the episode. Malaysia picks Spice, as she should’ve done the first time, and Spice picks Camila Cabello’s “Don’t Go Yet.” Why, you ask? She believes Malaysia does not know the words to the song. And she’s right! But you know who else doesn’t know the words to the song? Spice. The queens in Untucked openly laugh at Spice playing herself so hard, and mostly for just not getting hoisted with her own petard, Malaysia is sent to safety.

Anetra vs. Sasha Colby turns out to be the performance of the night, and deserving of a double shantay that never comes.

Credit: Courtesy of MTV

We get a three-way battle to settle the rest of Round 2, and this is why I feel like Anetra vs. Sasha being a deserved double win would’ve made more logical sense. Instead, Luxx, Jax and Anetra must all face off to Vanessa Williams’s “The Right Stuff” (previously done so infamously on the show by Shangela and Venus D’Lite). Anetra and Jax turn this into a stunt-a-palooza, but it’s Luxx who fits the mood of the song best. She stays, and both Anetra and Jax are sent to the final round—despite both delivering good-to-excellent lip syncs in the first two rounds.

So naturally, if it’s going to be a three-way lip sync at the end, Spice is going to get clobbered, no? Uh, uh, uh, not so fast. Ru has a twist in store: Bruno will draw one final ball, and the queen picked will get to choose their opponent for Round 3. The other queen will be sent to safety. Anetra is picked, which looks like good news for Jax—except Anetra pulls out an incredibly bold play and instead saves Spice. “I can’t lip sync against Spice,” Anetra says in a confessional. “Like, do y’all think that’s fair?”

Spice is spared thanks to the grace of another, while Jax is upset that her friend Anetra would consign her to an almost certainly doomed fate. Neither gives their best performance of the night on the final song, CeCe Peniston’s “Finally,” but Anetra has shown far more promise in the competition so far. She stays to slay another day, and Jax, like Jasmine Kennedie before her, becomes a Lip Sync Assassin sent home on a lip-syncing challenge.

Quibbles about the format or results aside, I have to admit, I had more fun watching this episode than I have all season. The quickly paced editing made the highs hit even quicker, and Spice and Malaysia’s epic flop brought the comedy. And I’ll be rewatching that Anetra/Sasha showdown on repeat for the rest of the week. What more could one want out of a Drag Race episode than this?

Untucking our final thoughts

Loosey’s edit takes a sharp left turn this week, as we see her complaining again about not being in the top last week (after she went on at length about this in Untucked). She then gets called out for downplaying how upset she was by the other queens, and in the tournament, Salina says she’s rooting for Spice in their lip sync, because she thinks another loss might make Loosey crack. Not sure where this is going, but it’s a very sudden change in how the show is depicting its Snatch Game winner.

Spice repeatedly tells us she’s about to be in her top era—even her “dom top era!”—during the first act of the episode. By tournament’s end, we’re still waiting.

The queens’ “lip sync assassin drag,” as Ru calls it, obviously goes uncommented upon on the runway. But my personal favourites are Salina’s (so gorgeous!) and Sasha’s (a warrior ready for battle!). Luxx also looked beautiful, and made great use of her hair during her “The Right Stuff” lip sync.

This season, Bruno from the Pit Crew takes over lottery-ball-drawing duties from Calix. Unlike Calix, Bruno gets to sit on the judging dais for the performances! Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the first time we’ve seen a Pit Crew member in a judge’s seat? Good for Bruno!

Obviously, quite a few confessionals from Anetra this week, but the 🚨🚨🚨Anetra Confessional Alert 🚨🚨🚨 will be reserved for the fact that as the challenge begins, she is the first to get a confessional! Foreshadowing? Maybe! Thrilling nonetheless to see our girl? Absolutely.

The fact that Ru is still quoting Anetra’s talent show performance all these weeks later is a good sign that he’s really responding well to her. “You are safe to walk that fucking duck another day,” he says as he sends her to safety. She obliges by duck-walking her way off the mainstage.

This is turning into a pretty great season for lip syncs, no? Both Sasha and Anetra’s battle this week and Jax’s “Sweetest Pie” last week (alongside unfortunate lip sync assassination victim Aura Mayari) are all-time great battles, and there are several others—Salina’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and “Q.U.E.E.N.,” Mistress and Jax’s “Tell It to My Heart”—that I can see myself revisiting over and over again.

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race will air Friday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. EST 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.

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