‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 5 power ranking: Bubbling under

The underdogs winning this week makes for major upheaval on the charts

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. Against expectations, a group made up of underdogs (and Nymphia Wind) slayed this week, meaning things are in major flux on the power rankings.

12. Amanda Tori Meating (last week: 9) — ELIMINATED

With all the underdogs safe from elimination this week, and only perpetual runner-up Q really underperforming, Amanda was eliminated despite a strong girl group performance. Nothing about her dancing or verse was bottom two-worthy, and while her runway look was a mess, it wasn’t anything worse than what we’ve seen from her up to this point. It feels like the show just didn’t have any other business to attend to, so they decided to finally and fully make the case that her drag is lacklustre enough to send her home. She actually did better in the lip sync by my estimation, but unless Q flopped, there was no way they were sending her packing. It’s really a shame to lose Amanda this early—she made for fantastic TV.

11. Q (last week: 2)

Q is very lucky that Drag Race is a show that necessitates two queens to lip sync for their lives at episode’s end, because this week, Q was the bottom one. No one else had any major issues, and Q looked out of her depth in her group’s performance. And I’m with Michelle Visage on Q’s performance look—why did a queen who has been consistently incredible on the runway come out in an absolute nothing of an outfit? I hope Q takes the scare as motivation, because she really is a terrific competitor. This was just a regrettable speed bump in her otherwise steady journey.

10. Morphine Love Dion (last week: 10)

Praying for the day I can rank Morphine in the top half of one of these lists, but today is not that day. She did well with the choreography and was great in the challenge, but Michelle clocking her for always leaning into her BBL was a worrying sign. You don’t want the judges to note that you have a schtick, especially this early into the season. (I’m worried about Dawn and her elf ears for the same reason, but I have more faith in her ability to pivot, which I’ll explain in her write-up.) That said, Morphine’s was one of my favourite runways this week, really leaning into the cat part of the pussycat wig category. I will continue to stan my Miami queen week in and week out, and I hope that she can get some momentum going in this competition!

 

9. Plane Jane (last week: 3)

Honestly, basically everyone between the top group and our bottom two are interchangeable, so don’t take Plane’s drop here to heart. However, I do think this week is as good a time as any to talk about Plane’s “character” on Drag Race. I feel like she is simultaneously savvy about the game—leaning into Ru’s love of the stupid and nonsensical—yet misguided in her approach to the TV show. She is purposefully leaning into being a villain, but is backing away from conflicts where she has a point (her shade toward Q for crying over not winning) and instead has continued to pick on Amanda. Who, it must be said, has eaten Plane up at every turn. Plane is just an ineffective villain, one who isn’t inspiring the love-to-hate vibes that all the classic reality TV bad guys inspire. Based on how she’s playing the game, I’m sure Plane will be here for quite some time. I just hope she gets more watchable as a TV character as we go, because so far, she’s missing the mark.

8. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 5)

Like with Plane, don’t sweat the low placement too much here. I’m docking some points for Sapphira since Ts Madison called her out for being too in her own head in the number. I actually disagree with her—I thought Sapphira looked and sounded on point—but the bigger concern is that the critique was left in. Reality competition TV editing is all about what’s chosen to make the episode and what’s cut, and so I do think it matters that in an episode with few critiques given overall, this one was kept. Not enough to make me actually worried about Sapphira, but enough to have her place way down here this week. Loved the Dr. Evil look, though!

7. Plasma (last week: 1)

Again, not that steep a drop in reality, just a weird week. Plasma surprised me in the girl group challenge with how dynamic she was, and she surprised Ru and the judges with her ultra-cute Hermès runway look. The judges’ deliberations framed Plasma as someone who is going to be around for quite some time, and I think that’s right. She’s got enough range that Ru won’t get bored, and she’s quite versatile in terms of her talents. If I see any kind of concern for her, it’s that hers and Ru’s banter is a bit stiff. In response to a compliment from the host on her look, Plasma leaned into her exaggerated accent and dropped Barbra Streisand and Rita Hayworth references. Ru’s response? “Yeah, it’s great.” Not the kind of back-and-forth that finalists’ dreams are made of. Still, like with Sapphira, not a huge deal. Just notable.

6. Xunami Muse (last week: 6)

It’s always a thrill when a queen’s runway presentation is as hot as Xunami’s was this week. She had the judges titillated by her matador look; she knew she was really eating it up on the catwalk. Combined with a strong performance in the girl group challenge, and I see no reason to move Xunami from her very solid sixth placement. I do think Q’s critique on the runway that Xunami hasn’t had a breakout moment is fair. She’s doing Drag Race really well right now, but she’s still flying a bit under the radar. When she does something that really makes the judges sit up and pay attention? Watch out, because Xunami’s got the goods to keep that attention all the way to the finale.

5. Dawn (last week: 8)

This was the week where I really began to see Dawn’s potential longevity in the season. She’s stayed a consistently present character despite mostly placing safe so far in the competition, and while her runways haven’t always hit the mark as hard as I thought they might, she’s always looked polished and interesting. I thought she was terrific in her group’s performance this week, but where I saw Dawn truly click in was her response to Michelle calling out her elf ears. She saw a predictability critique coming and knew immediately to accept it and promise more to come. She didn’t fight back, and more than that, she turned it into an opportunity. (It helps that simply removing the ears is an easier pivot than, say, Morphine having to rework a runway package that likely includes a lot of ass-focused looks). I’m impressed with Dawn’s savvy, and I’m excited to see what comes next for her.

4. Geneva Karr (last week: 12)

And here we arrive at our winners of the week! I’m thrilled for all of them, but perhaps no one more so than Geneva. After two weeks of fighting her way out of the bottom two, Geneva deserved a break. She, like her whole team, defied expectations and delivered a truly dynamic number. Sure, they got one hell of an assist with their song—“A.S.M.R Lover” was the clear winner of the selections in my book. But that meant failures would be all the more evident, and this team really kept it tight. When it comes to sorting the top four, I mostly based it on runways, and Geneva’s was my least favourite of the lot. That hardly matters, though, as she exits the episode with a win. Congrats to Geneva!

3. Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige (last week: 11)

Like Geneva, Mhi’ya’s been dwelling in the bottom in recent weeks, though she hasn’t yet had to lip sync. But the flipping queen quickly proved that even if she does have to fight for her life, she’s more than ready to do so. She’s a dynamic, agile performer, and she paired her excellent choreography work with a fun verse. It was easily her best performance of the season so far. Her runway look, unfortunately, was well below par, and her wig choice felt unrelated to the rest of the outfit. But again, the details don’t really amount to anything when the end result is a win. How will she take advantage of this momentum in the competition?

2. Megami (last week: 7)

If I were only judging this week on the girl group performances, Megami would be in the top spot. She totally surprised me with her verse and dance moves. She demonstrated an ability onstage that I wish she had showcased back in the talent show. Like with Mhi’ya, I pity those who have to go up against Megami in a lip sync, and I really hope she gets to do more stage performance challenges. This is clearly a great lane for her. Of the non-Nymphia Wind members of her team, Megami had my favourite runway. It was sexy and cool, though not as impressive as the efforts on some other teams. But overall, Megami has bounced back nicely from her underwhelming introduction. I’m excited to see what she does next!

1. Nymphia Wind (last week: 4)

First to two challenge wins this season, an integral part of the best girl group’s success and a runway reveal that was both clever and stunning. Who is doing it like Nymphia Wind? Nymphia Two Win-d is more like it! She’s really gotten a leg up on Sapphira and Plane and can safely, I’d say, be called the true frontrunner of the season. Think about all the skills we’ve already seen from her: she can hold her own in a sketch comedy challenge, designs and wears gorgeous drag and she can perform both pop-based and more traditional material. As long as she can improvise, I’d honestly say she’s set to barn-storm this season. It’s Nymphia’s world, and we’re just living in it.

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

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