‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 14 power ranking: The final three

For the first time since Season 12— and the first time intentionally since Season 8—we have just three queens in 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. One final elimination brings us to this season’s top three—and it’s an incredibly tight one at that. Who will be America’s Next Drag Superstar?

4. Q (last week: 3)—ELIMINATED

I feel for Q in a few different ways, but I ultimately do think her elimination was the right call. She got to the final four, which in every regular season for the past seven years (save the one with a disqualified finalist) would’ve given her a spot in the grand finale. I am admittedly glad that Drag Race is back to a top three, but it sucks for Q that this is the season in which the show made that change. Moreover, I don’t think Q was the worst in the challenge this week, and did a nice job in the interview portion despite it clearly being outside her comfort zone. However, based both on the final lip sync and her performance throughout the season, I do think sending her home here was fair.

Aside from the competition: Q’s really gotten it from the fandom this season. I get the criticisms of her as both a sore winner and loser, and I can understand fans not agreeing with every placement she got this season. Yet when Q received a tidal wave of hate online, unlike most queens, she chose to fight back. (That is, until she eventually left Twitter entirely.) I’d argue that her response was ill-advised, to say the least, but I can’t blame Q for feeling frustrated by how the fandom interacts with the queens.

At the end of the day, she was not competitively at the level of the other three queens in the final four. A placement in the finale wouldn’t have changed that. So I understand her elimination. But Q has been an important part of this season in terms of its storylines, and I’m glad we got to experience her run.

3. Plane Jane (last week: 1)

Like Sapphira Cristál in last week’s makeover challenge, Plane was by far the worst this week, and were it not for a stronger lip sync and superior track record, she easily could’ve gone home right before the finale. It was kind of alarming to watch Plane fail to open up this week, because I honestly thought she had worked through her tendency to put her guard up through her chat with Sapphira two weeks ago. But her choice to default to shady comments about her fellow competitors instead of really talking about her own journey in the interview highlighted the character she’s put on in this competition. The other queens instead showed more dimensions of themselves.

 

I think this bottom two appearance is just a speed bump for Plane—if Plane is going to win this season, having to lip sync once won’t change that. However, I still question whether she can take the crown. Yes, we’ve gotten more texture to Plane’s character as the season has gone on. But at this final juncture, when the other queens made the case for how they’ve grown, Plane was suddenly reduced back to who she was near the start of the competition. Even the swipe at Amanda Tori Meating felt incongruent with Plane’s more recent characterization. Modern Drag Race is shy about crowning villains, and at the last opportunity of the season, Plane reminded us that she’s still very happy to lean into her shady traits.

Maybe I’m reading these tea leaves wrong and Plane is still in with a chance to win it all. But at this point, I think her odds of taking it all are the worst of the final three.

2. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 4)

While Sapphira did well this week, it does feel like her momentum from the mid-late game has slowed. At one point, it seemed like Sapphira was going to win this in a cakewalk, but her stumble in the makeover challenge plus her closest competition’s big final win have evened the playing field. In other words: we’ve got a real race on our hands!

The case for Sapphira is one of incredible consistency. She earned positive critiques from the judges a remarkable nine times, winning four of those episodes. Her looks have been reliably strong on the runway, and she has had her banter with RuPaul down from her very first “You know why” in her talent show act. When Sapphira said in this episode that she and Ru get on like old friends, she nailed one of the main reasons why she’s felt so far ahead of the pack all season long: she and Ru feel like colleagues already, in a way I would compare to queens like Bianca Del Rio and Sasha Colby.

But might she feel too similar to our current reigning champion? Sapphira and Sasha definitely share a professionalism and Jacqueline-of-all-trades quality, though I’d argue their actual drag styles are worlds apart. I’d say the bigger argument against predicting Sapphira to win is that she and Plane are going to get blown out in the fan vote. If she can finish in a strong-enough second place (like Sasha did to Anetra), I think she’s still fine. But if Ru feels the public is aligned in another direction, that might be enough to shift the tides.

1. Nymphia Wind (last week: 2)

This win could not have come at a better time for Nymphia, who has not only overcome her difficulty with writing and vulnerability challenges, but now has the most momentum going into the finale. Combined with the fact that she is going to have the fandom on her side in the vote—it’s all but a certainty, with the only real question left being by how much—and I’m wondering if Nymphia has tipped the scales in her favour at just the right time.

In Nymphia’s corner is not just the public, but a sense of unpredictability. You could never really guess what she would wear next on the runway, jokes about too much yellow aside. (Though I must say I’m very glad she leaned into a darker look for her stunning book cover.) She took her fellow competitors by surprise by excelling in challenges she didn’t think she would—and, as we found out in this episode, she took herself by surprise as well. She’s the only member of the final three never to fall into the bottom two, but we know she can turn it out in a lip sync based on the girl group and Rumix challenges. If she makes it to the Lip Sync for the Crown, she’ll have an element of surprise advantage over her competitors who have lip-synced two (Plane) and three (Sapphira) times.
The argument against a Nymphia win is her somewhat spotty track record. She has one fewer win than her fellow finalists, and though she’s never landed in the bottom, she twice barely avoided it: in Snatch Game and in the bathroom design challenge. There was a whole swath of the season where it felt like Nymphia faded into the background, which was never true of Sapphira or Plane. Moreover, while I do think she has great momentum now, there’s an argument to be made that her breakthrough in this episode was Nymphia’s victory. In other words: did she peak too soon? I don’t know! This one is genuinely too close to call, and I’m excited to see how it all plays out in the finale.

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

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