‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 9 power ranking: Drag by design

If this week’s power ranking looks familiar, it should

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. A former frontrunner goes home in a shock elimination—although judging by this week alone, it’s an understandable result.

8. Plasma (last week: 5)—ELIMINATED

Look, I’m as gagged as you. Drag Race has been cavalier about eliminating queens with maxi-challenge wins this season (Geneva Karr, Megami). But sending home a competitor with two solo wins while queens with zero (Dawn, Morphine Love Dion) are still in the race? That’s wild! And yet there was no other fair result this week. Plasma was the worst in the challenge, and she lost—and lost badly, I’d say—in the lip sync against Mhi’ya Iman Le’Paige. 

There’s been a fair number of fans arguing for more rigging this season (like insisting someone stay after not knowing the lyrics in a lip sync), but I’ll always appreciate when the show is more fair versus less. If it’s truly a Lip Sync for Your Life, then losing it should have real consequences. Plus, when was the last time we had a statistically gaggy elimination like this on the main series? Max’s elimination back in Season 7, maybe? Sorry to see Plasma go, but you can safely pencil her in for a future All Stars finalist run.

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

Standing by what I just said, I will also say that I think Ru might be kidding himself by trying to make Mhi’ya his diamond-in-the-rough discovery this season. The host has a long history of liking a queen with a lot of charisma and/or talent but lacking polish: Adore Delano, Pearl, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and so on. But while Mhi’ya is an absolute cyclone of tricks in the lip syncs, she fails in basically every other facet of Drag Race. Her runways aren’t at the caliber of other queens’ this season, she struggles in performance challenges other than Snatch Game (for which I do think she was graded on a curve), and even her runway banter and confessionals lag behind the rest. We’re at the point where I’d be annoyed if she eliminated anyone else left, but I also don’t know who is capable enough in a lip sync to send her home.

6. Morphine Love Dion (last week: 8)

It might be Morphine, in a battle of the Miami girls, who could send Mhi’ya home. And certainly, Morphine is also lagging behind the rest of the pack in terms of challenge performances. (I think she’s a good bit better on the runway than Mhi’ya, and a great deal better in terms of banter and confessionals.) But at least this week, I thought Morphine’s brush with the bottom two was unfounded. Her mug was sensational, and her dress was well-made, if a bit simple. From my point-of-view, Plasma was the clear worst of the week, and Mhi’ya getting so much help from Sapphira Cristál clearly doomed her to the lip sync. Everyone else could’ve just been called safe. At this point, I’m just hoping Morphine makes it to a makeover challenge, because with her makeup skills, it could be an easy win for her.


5. Plane Jane (last week: 1)

I’m glad Michelle Visage didn’t let Plane’s look go without some mixed critiques this week. Carson Kressley and Kaia Gerber seemed head-over-heels for it, but I found it pretty underwhelming, especially in comparison to the top four. That said, she was in no real danger this week, so she once again passed on using her immunity potion. She’s got just one more week left to use it—what do we think she’ll do? 

Option 1: she just lets it expire. Seems unlikely to me; she’s production-savvy enough to know they want her to use it. Option 2: she uses it on herself no matter what. I would buy this, except as we saw when Sapphira used hers, it seems like it not only makes you immune from elimination, it removes you from the judging process entirely. If she thinks she’s a contender for the win, I can’t see her making a choice that would negate that. But that raises another possibility that’s been discussed a bit online. Option 3: she uses it on another queen to keep them from winning. It’s a bit meta-gamey, but considering Plane’s edit, I think it’s far more likely than her just helping out a sister. I’m intrigued to see how it plays out!

4. Sapphira Cristál (last week: 2)

Sapphira continues to dominate week in and week out, continually scoring in the top and never falling below safe. I understand her frustrations that she’s yet to get a second win, but with five in-season episodes remaining, she’s got time to secure more. Far better to spend these weeks with more queens left avoiding any trips to the bottom three. Though I don’t think she was in true contention to win this go-around, she impressed by selling her garment during her runway presentation in such funny fashion. If she can keep up that balance of comedy and glamour, which has very much been her signature all season long, I could easily see her taking the crown at season’s end.

3. Nymphia Wind (last week: 7)

I would have rated Nymphia’s look significantly lower than the judges seemingly did, in large part because of how she walked the runway in it. Michelle did finally point out that her veil kept falling in front of her face during deliberations, but that got waved off just as easily. Between that and her having to shuffle her feet just to make it across the runway, I thought Nymphia’s effort here was not a real contender for the win. (The edit, which showed Nymphia and Dawn’s reactions before Q’s eventual victory, seemed to indicate they were the top three.) 

I do have a broader note about Nymphia’s performance on the show, which is that it seems like she’s struggling to shift into a higher gear. She started so strong in her first couple of episodes, but since then she’s either faded into the background (the Rusical), underwhelmed relative to previous performance (the doll challenge), or outright failed (Snatch Game). Original recipe Drag Race seasons are long, and queens do need to be able to reveal new dimensions if they want to keep the audience’s—not to mention Ru’s—interest. I’m hopeful Nymphia has more cards to play, because right now, I think she lacks the momentum to win it all.

2. Dawn (last week: 6)

You have to imagine Dawn wishes she were on any other season at this point. In any season without Q, she’s probably got two design challenge wins right now. But in both the doll challenge and this task, Dawn designed something structurally impressive and aesthetically interesting that promptly got blown out of the water by a Q masterpiece. This actually was an even more lopsided battle than in the doll challenge—and that’s despite Dawn turning out a better look here! She clearly impressed Ru with her engineering knowledge, so it’s not a total loss. But especially considering she’s one of two queens at the final seven without a win—and three queens with challenge wins have already gone home—I’m certain Dawn is really smarting after not pulling out this victory.

1. Q (last week: 4)

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Q is the best designer we’ve seen on Drag Race. Her looks are simply several levels beyond what we see from the other queens. The fact that Dawn and Nymphia are as good as they are, but Q is still winning these challenges, really says something about just how dominant she is. (Though I disagree with Q and still think Nymphia deserved the ball win over her.) Moreover, unlike with other seamstress queens we’ve seen in the past, Q is good at many, many other facets of Drag Race, with dancing seemingly her only weak point. That’s pretty incredible to consider. Like I alluded to in last week’s power rankings, I think any predicted final four without her in it is foolish talk at this point. Especially with this second win, she’s leading the pack.

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Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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