‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 12 power ranking: Designing women

Who among our top five will fall short of the finale?

Welcome to RuPaul’s Drag Race Power Rankings! Every week, we’re debriefing the week’s new episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 16 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. We’re finally down to the last five competitors of the season. Which queen will fall short of the final four?

6. Dawn (last week: 5)—ELIMINATED

Like Marcia Marcia Marcia last season, Dawn spent this season floating along—occasionally scoring a high placement here and there, never really in danger of being eliminated—and then suddenly wound up in the bottom two next to a Lip Sync Assassin on a song ready-made for them to dominate. Granted, Marcia put up more of a fight on “Boss Bitch” than Dawn did on “Body,” but even if Dawn had been free of her complicated chain dress and more able to move freely, I don’t think it would’ve changed the result. 

I think we’ll look back on Dawn as one of the most high-potential queens to never manage a win: as I’ve said before, in other seasons she likely would’ve dominated those later design challenges, and she’s charismatic and witty enough to have picked up some other high placements, too. Alas, this season boasted incredibly tough competition, and Dawn just couldn’t break through.

5. Morphine Love Dion (last week: 6)

Morphine took up the Lip Sync Assassin mantle from Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige and immediately put it to good use, absolutely smashing “Body” and decisively sending Dawn home. The question now is whether she’s simply granted herself a stay of elimination, or if she can pull something off here. Notably, next week’s challenge is the makeover, and Morphine’s mug shows that at least on her own face, she can paint like nobody’s business. I could see a world in which she pulls out a surprise win, potentially putting one of the four frontrunners in danger. (That said, considering we’re at final five with two episodes to go, I imagine some double shantay shenanigans would likely come into play to save them.)

But I think the more likely result is that Morphine just goes next week. She’s had a hell of a run—much longer than I would’ve expected of my fave—but even getting a single win would not help her track record stand up next to the other queens’. She’s earned this spot through her performance skills, and I’m proud of her no matter where she lands. But I do think this lip sync victory might be her last triumph before the endgame.

4. Nymphia Wind (last week: 2)


I get that Ru ultimately decided to put the queens who faded into the background in the bottom two instead of the ones who dominated the scenes. And I also understand that Nymphia’s runway this week was a smash, which Dawn’s and Q’s were not. (Morphine’s was great, though.) But despite those factors, I can’t help but feel that Nymphia got saved by Ru a bit here. Unlike Q, who talked a lot in the sketch but was consistently adding to the lore of the bathroom—a phrase I didn’t think I’d ever type in my life—Nymphia was just saying the same things over and over. Dawn couldn’t get a word in edgewise because Nymphia was filling every bit of dead air.

I don’t really know what to make of Nymphia’s chances going into these last few weeks. Honestly, since she was the first to two wins, I’ve never really doubted that she would be in the finale. (Same goes for her large and vocal fanbase, which should really boost her if she makes it to the #Team posts stage of the game.) And considering next week is the makeover, I think she’ll make it to the final in-season play episode before the reunion and finale. Could she be sent home there? Maybe, but I somehow doubt it. Nymphia’s edit may not be robust in the way you’d expect of a future finalist, but I do think she’ll get to the end.

3. Q (last week: 3)

I wondered last week if the show would take Q or Sapphira Cristál’s side on the matter of Q being “robbed” of the challenge win last week, and the answer is: Sapphira’s! Q’s statement that Sapphira’s win wasn’t deserved was framed as not just incorrect, but offensive to the Philly queen, leading to a later confrontation in which Q apologized for her word choice. I don’t really have much to say about the argument itself (except that Q really is a sore loser), but it’s very notable what the show chose to include about it. Granted, Q at least gets a nice moment while apologizing, so I don’t think it was awful for her—but it certainly isn’t the edit you’d expect for a potential winner.

But enough about last week’s placement. This week, I thought Q’s placement was basically dead-on. Of the two worse teams, the Naughty Potty room was far better in both concept and execution, and Q did a good job keeping the sketch going even when Morphine faltered. Her chained runway look was pretty janky, but she presented it well. And with a makeover next week, I’m thinking Q, like Nymphia, will be making it to the very end of the season. But will she make the final four? Odds are yes, but I wouldn’t call it a guarantee just yet.

2. Plane Jane (last week: 4)

Though I have her in second position, mostly owing to Sapphira’s now-incredible track record, this was a tremendous episode for Plane. Finally letting her guard down and letting her sisters in—particularly Sapphira, who helped her challenge partner with a healing exercise—shows us another side of the Boston queen at exactly the right moment. I really applaud the Drag Race story editing team for how they’ve handled Plane this season: my early frustrations with her too-blunt brand of villainy have melted away as I’ve gotten to know her more, both as a performer and a character. I’m now very much rooting for her to make the finale, though I’m not quite #TeamPlane for the win.

If I were to quibble, I’d say Plane getting bad (and deserved) critiques for her repetitive runway look while Sapphira got nothing but raves across the board means this shouldn’t have been a team win. Unless the queens were going to be judged in teams across the board—as in, one pair in the bottom—giving both Plane and Sapphira the victory when their critiques weren’t of the same caliber feels odd. Still, Plane did great this week in the challenge, and overcame some major demons in the process. Mama, kudos for slaying that. For winning.

1. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 1)

Can she be stopped? Here’s a fun fact for you: with this victory, Sapphira Cristál becomes the first queen ever on the flagship series to earn three maxi-challenge wins in a row. (The closest anyone has come before: Gigi Goode in Season 12, who won three challenges in four episodes.) Not only is that herstoric, but Sapphira is also at four challenge wins with two more still up for grabs. Could she be the one to finally break the four-win ceiling we’ve seen the past 15 seasons? With her breadth of talent and current momentum, I certainly think she could!

Ironically, I think Sapphira’s greatest test is going to come next week, with the makeover challenge. Despite their joint victory this week, I could very easily see Sapphira and Plane in the bottom, owing to their competitors’ fierce design and makeup skills. Even if that happens, I don’t think either of them is in any real danger of going home—as I mentioned, there’s still a potential double shantay built into the schedule at this point. But it would be a real slowdown on her momentum coming off three wins to suddenly land in the bottom. If she can avoid that, I think there’s no real case to be made for another queen’s victory. She’s been that dominant all season long, and the Sapphira reign just won’t let up.

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