‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 13 power ranking: All in the family resemblance

We have our top four, but will they all make it to 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. While we’ve reached the final four, we haven’t reached the finale—which could mean one of two things. Should we expect the new standard final four in the finale, or might we be returning to a top three instead?

5. Morphine Love Dion (last week: 5)—ELIMINATED

By the time Morphine was actually eliminated, it felt like a bit of an afterthought. Her departure’s edit reminded me a lot of Coco Montrese’s back in Season 5: she defeated her fellow Lip Sync Assassin rival (Alyssa Edwards, Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige), delivered an iconic, definitive lip sync performance (“Cold Hearted,” “Body”), and then just ran out of storyline to give. If she couldn’t win a makeover challenge, a task seemingly built for her skillset, then there was no real argument for her staying. And that was before she landed in the bottom next to the competition’s frontrunner.

I’ve been saying to friends for a bit that Morphine is my favourite this season in the “Won’t Win Drag Race” division (the next queen on this power ranking is my favourite in the “Will Win Drag Race” division). I don’t think at any point I harboured delusions that Morphine could have a real shot at the crown, much less the finale. She struggled in the challenges almost as much as Mhi’ya, but her natural charisma and confidence—and some great runway looks—helped boost her week-to-week. She was the confessional queen of the season, and killed the game whenever it came to a main stage performance. I’m gonna miss her a lot on the show, and I hope she finds her way back to TV in some form very soon.

4. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 1)

Time will tell if this is a Jinkx Monsoon/Bob the Drag Queen-esque bottom two appearance before the finale despite dominating the rest of the season, or if it’s an actual warning sign for her chances at winning the season. I’m inclined to think the former, particularly because of how the whole thing was edited: as a test of sorts for her, one she passed with flying colours. But I’m also a Sapphira stan, so putting that bias aside, I’ll admit that Sapphira now is clearly behind Plane Jane when it comes to track record. They are the two who have been really edited as main characters this season—often actually intertwined with each other, as we saw last episode with Sapphira coaching Plane through a healing moment—so I think it’s fair to argue one will win.

 

All that said, I’m still inclined to think Sapphira is taking this. As I wrote about in Wig! a couple of weeks ago, the MTV era has so far been defined by crystal clear winner edits: Sasha Colby’s in Season 15, Jimbo’s in All Stars 8, Ginger Johnson’s in UK Season 5, and so on. I’ve no reason to doubt anything will change this season, and Sapphira is clearly the one most frequently depicted in a winning light. I’m almost certain she’s got this. But hoo boy, here’s hoping she can avoid anything like this week’s performance in the final episodes of the season.

3. Q (last week: 3)

I don’t know, I fear I’ve run out of gas with Q. I think she’s come in for more criticism than she deserves this season online, but her sore loser (and sore winner!) tendencies have worn me out. I can’t imagine this season without her—she has driven major story arcs and has had some really exciting fashion moments—but despite her incredible track record, she still feels like a tough sell as America’s Next Drag Superstar. If she makes it to the finale, I can’t imagine her fan support coming anywhere close to the other three queens’.

That’s if she makes it, though! Drag Race toyed around with just having a top three last season, and then went as far as giving us a top two in All Stars 8. I do think the final five of Season 14, and the relatively low fan vote numbers that came in for the finalists (despite being a relatively popular cast!) has Drag Race increasingly thinking about a smaller finale. After all, it was an unplanned final three in Season 12 that drew then-record breaking fan vote numbers. I might be overthinking this, and we’re just heading for a non-elimination next week like we’ve seen in seasons like 9, 10, 13 and 15. But if there is an elimination, I think Q is the likeliest to fall short of the finale.

2. Nymphia Wind (last week: 4)

I feel the best I have in weeks about Nymphia after this week’s episode. Finally, after 12 episodes, we see Nymphia have a major mirror moment, opening up about her lack of confidence and insecurities around the other queens. I know there’s a lot of debate among fans about how necessary this really is for Drag Race, but you have to remember that this is a show that actively campaigns for (and often wins) Emmys. They want to build characters who audiences will root for—not just online fans—and these sorts of emotional moments are part of that. The show finally giving us that side of Nymphia in the edit is a sign that they’re still invested in her as a likely finalist, and potential winner.

I do think Ts Madison was right about Nymphia and her partner’s looks: she should’ve swapped them. Yes, to Michelle Visage’s point, Drag Race is about branding, and the yellow is part of Nymphia’s brand. And no, she’s not worn it every week like her loudest detractors think—her runway package has been quite varied. But she’s worn it enough that Ts, a rotating guest judge, feels she has only seen her in that colour—though she did actually see her in her red Faster, Pussycat! Wig! Wig! look. (More to the point, while Nymphia doesn’t always wear yellow on the runway, we’ve seen her wear it in challenges, talk about the colour and bananas in werk room banter and challenges and so on.) Switching the outfits could’ve been a ticket to a win for her. Instead, she’ll have to settle for a strong, but distant, runner-up spot.

1. Plane Jane (last week: 2)

Plane bodied this challenge. Granted, I wouldn’t say she had the strongest competition—this was an unusually weak makeover challenge in terms of creativity—but she managed the important feat of making her partner feel and act like a queen. Fair criticisms of inconsistent judging criteria on makeovers aside, what the judges are most often looking for is a true welcoming of the partner into the world of drag. It’s why Wintergreen was such a success story for Peppermint despite the makeover being just okay—Sarge really felt like a queen as Wintergreen.
With this fourth victory, Plane has the best track record of the season, edging out Sapphira thanks to the latter’s bottom two placement. I think, if Plane’s edit and fan reception were where they were near the start of the season, this wouldn’t really matter. But she’s significantly more popular than she was in her days of terrorizing Amanda Tori Meating, and the edit has done a great job of presenting her as a three-dimensional character. I still think she reads more All Stars champion than main series victor, but who knows? Maybe I’ve been reading the tea leaves wrong, and we’re actually in for flying the winning skies with Plane.

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Drag Race, Culture, Analysis, Drag

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