‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 12 recap: Bathroom babes

The infamous room design challenge returns, this time with … restrooms?

If I could use one slightly unnecessary but ultimately very fun acronym to describe this episode, it would be “IJBOL.” These queens are really inhabiting the spirit of LOL’s spiritual successor, cutting it up at every turn with one another and generally making Season 16 a very fun experience. Even more tense moments, like Q being pressed over not winning last week, turn into funny bits! How can you not laugh at Q being too upset to speak on her feelings about Sapphira Cristál’s win, then responding to Sapphira telling her she loves her with: “Yeah.” Camp, I fear!

While Q may be in her sore loser era, as Dawn calls out in confessional, that doesn’t mean the tone of the episode has to get dour in the process. Be it in their shady back-and-forth before the RuMail message the next day—in which Q says Sapphira’s win wasn’t “deserved”—or in Sapphira calling her out later (“Back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me in the morning! Q, what’s good?”), these queens are making even their more serious moments wildly entertaining. And it’s a huge part of why, after last week’s somewhat frustrating episode, this one gets Season 16’s momentum right back on track.

The spirit of “IJBOL” really comes into the maxi-challenge this week, which is a rehash of the club and hotel room design challenges from All Stars 4 and All Stars 5. If you’re remembering those challenges and thinking to yourself, “Hm, how could this concept get any stranger?”, you’re in luck! RuPaul introduces the challenge as “Bathroom Hunties,” a riff on House Hunters, and tells the queens that in pairs, they will be designing boutique nightclub bathrooms. The only requirement is that the bathrooms be gender-inclusive—otherwise, they can do whatever they’d like with their designs.

Once again, Ru puts the queens into pairs (which I don’t love, especially two weeks in a row): Sapphira and Plane Jane are together, as are Nymphia Wind and Dawn, which leaves Morphine Love Dion and Q as the last duo. While it’s frustrating to keep something as crucial as team selection out of the queens’ hands at this late stage of the competition, I will admit that it’s nice to see three pairings that we haven’t seen work closely together before. And perhaps Ru is onto something putting them together, because all three bathroom concepts are actually interesting and unique!

Sapphira Cristál and Plane Jane’s speakeasy-inspired bathroom is a highlight of the challenge Credit: Courtesy MTV

Let’s start with Morphine and Q’s “Naughty Potty.” They’re going for a dungeon vibe, with Morphine immediately throwing out ideas of how to make the bathroom as hellish as possible. While it’s unclear at first whether they’ll be able to paint proper flames on their walls (a phrase I’m not sure I’ve uttered before now), they get their shit together and produce a pretty great bathroom. But of course, this is not just a design challenge—they must now improvise their way through a skit of sorts, with Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley as German couple “Didi and Dada” looking for the perfect bathroom.

 

It’s here that Morphine trips up. Her valley girl characterization is an odd fit for her character (Q and Morphine decide to name themselves “Lucy the Third and Lucy the Third-er”), and she needs Q to come in a couple of times to finish out jokes that she can’t. Q is definitely the dominant member of the pair, but even she’s a little too reliant on a vocal fry—Ru’s pet peeve, apparently—and talking just to talk. Overall, really good room design, just-okay presentation.

Nymphia and Dawn come up with “the Museum of Modern Fart” as a concept, and again, the idea is pretty great. The contrast of fine art bullshit with flatulence humour is exactly where Drag Race’s comedic apex is—remember The Daytona Wind? Unfortunately, the queens seem to have come up with the punchline and little else; even their characterization (they’re just Nymphia and Dawn) falls flat in comparison to the other teams’. Nymphia talks a lot to fill dead air, but doesn’t say much, and she blocks Dawn out of being able to get a word in edgewise.

We’ll get to our winning team in a second, but Ru ultimately decides to put one member of each of the other teams into the bottom two. The chains runway could be a tiebreaker here: Morphine’s look is better than Q’s, while Nymphia’s is better than Dawn’s. However, Ru decides to penalize the queens who got lost in the sauce in the skit, with Dawn and Morphine hitting the bottom two. I personally think Ru should’ve just picked one team to be in the bottom—I’d argue Dawn and Nymphia, since all they really have is the initial concept—but considering what happens in the lip sync, I appreciate how it shakes out.

Nymphia Wind’s switch look is one of the best on the runway this week, likely keeping her safe from the bottom two Credit: Courtesy MTV

Our winning pair is Plane and Sapphira, and around halfway through the episode, this seems like an impossibility. Sure, they have an amazing concept (a speakeasy bathroom!), and they’re two of the strongest queens left in the race. But while Sapphira is flying high, Plane is failing to take off. She seems incredibly in her head, the most we’ve seen all season, and talks to Sapphira and Dawn about how the closer she gets to the end, the more she feels herself losing sight of her goal. When she was able to stay focused on the end, she could block all the noise out, but now she’s feeling overwhelmed.

Plane has been one of the most interesting characters to watch develop this season. Her toughness—which she describes as a sort of “armour” for herself—made her hard to connect with early on, as she came off too mean in her reads of her sisters. But as we’ve gotten to know her more, it’s become clear that said toughness is not her true self. Even in her peculiar way (“Mama, kudos for saying that. For spilling”), she’s connected with her fellow queens, and seeing her break down this week is the last stage of her walls breaking down.

Sapphira, seeing a queen in need of a boost, gives her an exercise to write down what the voices of doubt in her head say, then read it aloud, then rip it up and throw it over her shoulder. It’s a pretty tremendous moment of connection (I gasped as Sapphira told her to read it out loud), and it seems to really help Plane. She shakes off her demons heading into the challenge, and their team smashes it dead. They’re constantly entertaining, have real ideas of both their characters and the “Bootlickers Speakeasy,” and work together fabulously. It’s a pretty amazing showing for the pair—who, hilariously, call themselves Sequoia Crystal Ball and Janice Plane-Steen in the challenge.

Considering Plane gets poor critiques for her repetitive runway look, and Sapphira gets raves, I wondered if Sapphira might get to four wins before anyone else even gets to three. But in the end, Ru gives them both a victory, meaning they are officially our frontrunning duo this season.

Plane Jane and Sapphira Cristál score a joint win this week, bringing Plane’s count to three and Sapphira’s to four Credit: Courtesy MTV

Finally, we return to the two queens without maxi-challenge wins: Dawn and Morphine. Dawn thinks she may have a chance, since Morphine is on her third bottom two appearance (and fourth lip sync overall, owing to her top two appearance for the political anthem challenge). Dawn hasn’t had to show any of her moves! She’s got tricks up her sleeve! Unfortunately for her, the lip sync is to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body,” and she’s going up against the body queen of the season.

Yeah, I won’t pretend this is close. Even the show doesn’t pretend it’s close. Morphine absolutely demolishes this, to the point where every cut back to Dawn feels cruel—both in showing how far behind she’s falling, and in depriving us of getting to see Morphine’s amazing performance. In terms of physical control and moves matching the song, I’m not sure we’ve seen something like Morphine’s lip sync in a long time. She easily stays, and Dawn sadly must sashay away.

We’re down to our final five! There are two weeks left, which means you can’t quite count on two shenanigan-free episodes, but we’ll see how it works out. Interestingly for Morphine, who might otherwise seem like a dead queen walking, next week is the makeover challenge. Can the mug of the season pull out a surprise last-minute victory? And who might be sent home instead if she does? We’ll just have to see what comes to pass next week!

Untucking our final thoughts

Yes, Sapphira does indeed set a record this week as the first queen on the flagship RuPaul’s Drag Race series to score three maxi-challenge wins in a row. This is not a Drag Race record overall, though: Chad Michaels and Shannel accomplished this in the first season of All Stars. Internationally, the first queen to do it was Thailand Season 2 winner Angele Anang—though keep in mind that Thailand’s unusual structure means queens had the chance to earn both runway and maxi-challenge wins most weeks. We’ve also seen queens on UK, Holland, Down Under, Canada vs. The World and España All Stars accomplish this feat. There are only two queens to earn three victories in a row without any double or team wins: Holland Season 1 victor Envy Peru and UK Season 5 runner-up Cheddar Gorgeous.

Cash prize updates: Sapphira is now at $25,400, surpassing Season 2’s grand prize. Plane is next in line with $13,100 (plus that $5,000 in Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics she earns this week), followed by Nymphia with $11,950 and Q with $10,700. Poor Morphine has so far just pocketed the $700 she won in the Spill the Tea mini-challenge.

“I just wanna say: Bitch, I sent home the Queen of Flips!” Morphine says as she prepares to wipe Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige’s message off the mirror. “I can’t wait to rub it in her face when I get home!” May their rivalry never cease.

The mini-challenge this week is an odd one: inspired by Tammy Faye Messner, make a physical impression with your makeup on a T-shirt worn by a Pit Crew member. Plane wins, and I think it’s a deserved win? It’s just such an odd task! But her shirt definitely makes the biggest impression (pun intended).

Speaking of the Pit Crew, one of them shows up chained up in the Naughty Potty dungeon, with guests allowed to tickle him while he’s clad in nothing but a (quite flattering!) red Speedo. It’s pretty kinky for modern Drag Race!

The mini-challenge prize is Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics, so you know what that means: Norvina is here! I could watch Norvina robotically read prepared jokes while looking unbelievably stunning all day, honestly.

Before she pulls her out of her funk, Sapphira is worried about Plane’s bad spirits. “Why do I have the grounded Plane?” she asks in confessional. “Bitch, we’re supposed to be flying!”

Before we get into the more substantial mirror moment with Plane and Sapphira, we get an absolutely insane one in which Morphine asks the queens if they’ve ever … shit themselves? No lie. Morphine shares that she once did a split and thought she shat herself, but it was a false alarm. The other queens thus dub her the queen of incontinence—or, as Sapphira puts it, “Miss Incontinental!”

On that note, Morphine says she poops five times a day: “I have a really fierce metabolism.”

Mayan Lopez of Lopez vs. Lopez is our guest judge this week, and she seems fun! The way she delivers some of her puns (particularly “Let’s get this potty started, okuuuur?”) sends me, but I’ll never fault a queen for having a good time on the judging panel.

“I hate real moments boots.” So true, Plane. So true.

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race will air Friday, March 29, 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.

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