‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Recap: I Quit Shuga, Girl!

Sometimes you gotta take the sweets away for something a little more substantial, honey.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

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Move over Alexis Michelle, because RuPaul’s Drag Race has a new producer: this week, Sarah Wilson sauntered onto set, took one look at the queens and demanded they remove Shuga Cain, lest she give into her cravings. What a magic trick: just like that, she’s Gone, Girl.

Scrolling through Facebook, Reddit and Twitter, it’s clear that some viewers have decided this week’s elimination was completely unfair. And while yes, Shuga simply didn’t deserve to be in the bottom after her team’s amazing magic show, you all seem to be all forgetting that the alternative would be Shuga… staying?

RuPaul’s Drag Race is about finding America’s Next Drag Superstar, and that’s a very different thing from a good drag queen. They have to have C.U.N.T, and Shuga, honey, was only offering the T.

In some seasons, that’s enough to get you to the end (See: Kameron Michaels), but the show’s producers clearly needed her gone — whereas Kameron Michaels had plot lines centred on her introversion, there wasn’t much they could do with Shuga’s ‘I Quit Wall St To Take Up Drag’ plotline. Having said this, she’s a delightful queen — but sometimes you gotta take the sweets away for something a little more substantial, girl.

Poof! What Did You Just Call Me?

This week’s main challenge was a magic show, but before we get into that, we had a much overdue cameo from Emmy Winner Delta Work. While I’ve been critical of this season’s over-reliance on Drag Race alumni, it’s been lovely to see overlooked queens return — especially when Delta is on-set anyway, as she’s in charge of RuPaul’s wigs.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

We even saw Raven coming for a Best Supporting Actress Emmy! Her faux-surprise was the Biggest Little Lie I’ve ever seen.

Delta’s saved her appearance for the pit crew-starring mini challenge, which she says she could smell from afar. And despite being in Sydney, so could I: it’s inexplicable to me, but Shawn Morales’ constant sheen of sinewy sweat over those odd, ‘Unknown-from-Pokémon’-esque tattoos awakens something within me.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

Dirt Squirrel is easily the worst brand name I’ve seen in a long time. Do you think this advertising ever works?

Vanjie wins by being the fastest to move balls or something (???), and picks the teams for the main challenge. And she fucks herself up, as Nina is clearly the queen to work with here. Instead she creates #TeamPersonality: herself, Silky, Yvie and A’Keria.

At first, we’re set up to believe that Nina, Shuga and Brooke are doomed due to their tendencies to overthink, but it’s a classic misdirect. The trio stay up all night preparing, and you can tell — their show might be one of the slickest productions we’ve seen on Drag Race.

The other team turn out to be wonkier than Silky’s hip-pads, as they lean too much on personality. But we don’t quite see this during the rehearsals, which are led by a dabbing magician.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

My internet, guided by Gay-ngels, refuses to load this moment in HD.

As Brooke says, ‘I hate this’. Which is why her team, The Mighty Tucks, drastically build upon every trick, and turn it into something better. Black Magic try to do the same, but they’re foiled by going too dirty, and are forced to re-work their whole act. In narration, Shuga shades them by saying the show’s “supposed to be PG13”, which feels forced by the VH1 overlords — they’re drag queens!

The only way to pull off a magic show is to make it super campy (The Mighty Tucks) or super sleazy, because, friends, magic absolutely sucks. Sucks! Sucks!! This is a fact, proven by the dabbing magician’s ability to teach these queens complicated tricks in a single afternoon.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

Then again, maybe these queens are bringing a little bit of previous knowledge.

It makes sense that Black Magic fail so much then, but it was pretty unpleasant to watch — especially coming after The Might Tucks’ performance. Silky and A’Keria pull through on personality, but Yvie is a little shaky and Vanjie leans too much on being herself.

The difference between Silky doing Silky, and Vanjie doing Vanjie in challenges is that Silky performs and plays a version of herself tailored for the context. Vanjie yelling about being accosted in a store is just her doing her. Much like Alyssa Edwards, Vanjie’s still entertaining, but often doesn’t hit the challenge brief.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

“And I said, ‘Mary! Check the bag!’ And she said, ‘Mam, this is an Arby’s.'”

Neither did the whole barbecue storyline: it was more convoluted and awkward than my limited understanding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (straight culture).

Still, it wasn’t a train-wreck, á la Team Mariah or S7’s ‘Shakesqueer’, but I would have loved to see Silky get to go dirty and promo Nicki Minaj’s finest album and tell men to ‘Come On A Cone’ instead of her face. Getting them to clean up the act was a mistake — and speaks to how the show struggles to showcase drag’s low-brow, late-night sensibilities.

As A’Keria said on the runway, it would have been filthy, but tasty, too.

The Girls Head To Abu Dhabi!

In homage to Sex & The City 2 and in a sneaky attempt to screen-test the girls as a Samantha Jones stand-in on S&TC3, this week’s runway is all about Caftans. It’s not the most exciting runway theme, but there are some stunning looks.

The higher the balls, the colder the weather.

Mothballs, but make it fashion.

“That’s ‘Ms. Vanjie’ to you, my husband recently died in a mysterious fire.”

RuPaul's Drag Race s11e10

The three wise women travelled far to offer their many gifts. They each brought gold, frankincense, myrrh, but the most important gift was left till last, when together, The Mighty Tucks performed an ancient chant to grant Jesus his powers, whispering in union, “I’m pussy bitch, rakatakakakaka pow”.

There were also some boots. As users in Drag Race Australian Facebook group ‘Eleveganza’ points out, A’Keria bought Party City back to the main-stage: her homage to Asia O’Hara’s last living butterfly costs $20 to buy online (Also, shout out to Eleveganza member Caleb Kleinig, who offered me the Sarah Wilson headline a few weeks back).

But the look isn’t bad because it looks cheap. A’keria sells it, thanks to that mug, but it’s just not on-theme.

Another week, another awkward Mariah reference.

As mentioned, there’s been a lot of ‘heated debate’ online over this week’s bottom two, with many saying that Shuga should have been safe, and either A’Keria, Silky or Yvie should have been in the bottom alongside Vanjie. I disagree.

Silky and A’Keria deserve to be safe this week: despite their respective fashion mis-steps in the challenge and runway, they sell their segments. Yvie’s nervous energy stalls her whole performance though. The runway saves her — as does the awkward moment on-stage where she throws her team under the bus, saying she essentially wrote the whole script.

While Vanjie confronts her about it, her defence comes down to ‘don’t tell the judges that, since they’ve already critiqued me for it’, which makes it clear that, despite Yvie’s teacher’s pet tone, she has a point.

Does that means she deserves to be safe above Shuga?

A lot of people have defended Shuga by saying she slayed the runway, but in my mind, a reveal isn’t anything if it doesn’t A) make narrative sense, and B) look good.

RuPaul's Drag Race S11E10

I’d like you to keep it on, please.

Earlier in the episode, during confessional, Shuga says “if I feel like I’m doing enough, I need to do more”, which speaks to her main issue on the show.

From spilling off stats, it’s clear Shuga loves Drag Race — and much like a queer who centres their personality around the show, Shuga spits out so many affected lines, girl.

When I first watched the show at age 20, I fell into the same trap: it’s an easy way to establish yourself as a fun, gay, and sassy presence — but without anything else, it’s pretty hollow. Shuga’s, um, obviously not 20, but at the time of filming, she’d only been a drag queen for two years.

Like an Instagay who loves brunch and Beyoncé, she’s still searching for her own voice. There’s one in there, for certain, and in time, we might hear it.

Sure, Shuga’s performance this episode hit the marks: her runway had three reveals, she used lots of drag 101 jokes, and did a perfectly competent lip sync. And while Vanjie performed worse in the challenge, she’s magnetic. Vanjie isn’t America’s Next Drag Superstar, but she’s undeniably a star. I’d always prefer to keep that around — though she should probably be the next to go.

Then again, prove me wrong! Next week’s challenge is a makeover featuring the eliminated queens –minus Mercedes and Ra’Jah, which, uh, wow — and I really hope none of them return to compete, since we only have two more episodes before the finale. The end’s in sight.

In the meantime, I leave you with this:

RuPaul’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episodes arriving 2pm AEST each Friday. 

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.