RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap, Season 15 Episode 12: ‘Wigloose’12 min read
Photo: Vulture; Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Following this episode, it’s worth remembering the rubric queens are supposedly graded on: Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. By that measure, Talent is just one-quarter of what you need to succeed. That’s a difficult thing to understand sometimes, as Talent is, first of all, by far the most measurable of the four. Second, it’s the one we tend to place the most value on owing to that measurability. And third, it’s the only one that can be improved by hard work. C, U, and N are kind of just innate.
The main focus this week is the dynamic between Pure Talent and the rest of the Drag Race core values, which combine into that ineffable quality called “Star Power.” On some level, it’s not really fair to judge someone on Star Power, a combination of factors that are impossible to really work on while in the competition. Nobody, over the course of a few weeks, is going to learn how to be a magnetic onstage presence at the level of Symone or Bob the Drag Queen. They might get more confident or learn how to own the stage more, which can be helpful in revealing someone’s (probably already present) charisma. That happened for Gottmik, for Adore, for Kim Chi, etc. But those people already had a natural charisma, it just needed to be unleashed.
This week on RuPaul’s Drag Race, talent stopped mattering. Or, rather, it was the most important aspect of the episode up through the last ten or so minutes, at which point it was revealed to actually not matter at all. But on the only level that RuPaul’s Drag Race actually cares about, which is Star Quality, this tracks completely. Is it fair? Well, this show has never been fair.
The episode opens with Salina complaining about her placements so far but also saying that she, for the first time in a while, feels hopeful about her place in the competition. It’s tough to watch Salina this episode. She’s a great queen who I’ve really grown to like over the course of the competition. Despite this, her aesthetic sensibilities (or lack thereof) probably rightly exempt her from ever winning a challenge. It doesn’t seem like a case where she simply lacks access, like with Heidi N. Closet or ChiChi Devayne, both of whom could occasionally turn out a great look when given the opportunity. It’s more like she just has not developed the taste level necessary to push her (mostly pretty solid) performances over the edge into star-making. Competency will get you far, but eventually the judges get bored.
The episode kicks off in earnest with the announcement of the challenge, “Wigloose: The Rusical.” This is, of course, a parody of Footloose, a movie in which dancing is banned in a small religious town. “Wigloose,” then, is about a town in which drag is banned. It is a shockingly, almost startlingly prescient moment for Drag Race, a show that, with its nonpartisan “vote” signs, Nancy Pelosi Is Mother messaging, and toothless “Trump: The Rusical” challenge, has rarely been on top of the political ball. And yet with drag, queerness, and trans people specifically facing so much persecution and outright hatred right now, this stupid drag musical somehow manages to cultivate a feeling of righteousness. Maybe it’s because the show mostly manages not to shout at me how important this musical is, or maybe I’m just scared, but for the first time in a long time, Drag Race did something marginally political and I did not roll my eyes at the centrist cheese of it all. Progress!
Once the Rusical is announced, the queens must figure out the parts among themselves, which is always great fun. In fact, I’d argue that one of the best innovations of late-stage Drag Race has been moving away from Team Captains or a single person deciding on the winner of the challenge and instead just throwing it to the wolves. It’s just good TV.
This time, the issue comes down to Loosey and Luxx, which is no surprise. The same reason that they worked so well together last week is the reason that they both want the biggest part this week: These two are compact balls of ambition. The difference is that Luxx has more fun with it. Luxx and Mistress are, by this point, experts at linking up and pushing people’s buttons — especially Loosey’s. They start to argue with her because Loosey claims that she wants the part because it’s close to who she is as a person, while Luxx and Mistress claim that she wants it because it’s the lead. I mean, look: Luxx and Mistress are probably right. Luxx and Mistress are also intentionally pissing Loosey off because she is fun as hell to piss off. Somehow Loosey, a contestant on a reality-TV show, gets completely bent out of shape over the fact that Mistress thinks she’s “not being real right now.” Girl. This is circa-2004 reality-TV baiting. Nobody is being real — that’s the whole point of reality TV. If Loosey was just a little wiser about the fact that this is mostly a TV show and only kind of a competition, she’d be in a better place.
Eventually, Luxx capitulates and hands Loosey the lead role, while taking her second choice … which was also Salina’s second choice … which means Salina is the only one who ends up with a part she doesn’t want? I don’t know why this wasn’t discussed, but that bitch should have fought more.
Ru does walk-throughs this week, which is nice. I miss them when they’re not there; they always give good context to how Ru thinks of each queen. He talks with Sasha about her choice to play Carl, the villain’s nerdy husband, a part I knew she was going to kill from the moment she chose it. The most glamorous girl of the season going for a nerdy husband role? The judges eat that shit up. That’s part of why Sasha is, to me, the only winner of the season. I could quibble with her latter two wins (Anetra’s final ball look was one of my favorites ever, while Sasha’s was just fine; Loosey only lost the interview challenge to get us to the point where she is degrading into thirsty mania), but she’s still the strongest queen of the season, and one of the strongest ever, I’d argue. She’s glamorous, she’s put-together, but she’s never, ever, afraid to be incredibly stupid. That’s a Ru girl.
During Sasha’s Ru convo, Salina consoles a distraught Loosey. This will be important later. During this segment, Loosey gives a teary-eyed confessional talking about how she is going to kill it in this challenge, and I promptly became a little scared for (and of) her. I admire her single-minded dedication, but also, if someone edited a Lynchian score underneath her, they could convince me to worry about Mistress and Luxx’s continued existence on this Earth.
Anetra, meanwhile, talks to Ru about her family life and how drag saved her. She also gets the coveted Ru compliment, “You were born to do drag.” Yeesh! Took Ru a while to break that one out this season, but I think it’s going to the right queen.
Rehearsals are mostly uneventful. Everybody is edited to be doing badly, per the uzh. Sasha is not shown rehearsing, I assume, because she never gave them the ability to pretend she was doing badly, which, last week excepted, is also per the uzh. The best part is almost certainly Mistress asking Luxx why the security tag is still on her coat — we need a Drag Race winner who’s unafraid to mop the thrift store! Representation matters!
Over half the episode is dedicated to the runway segment, because “Wigloose: The Rusical” is incredibly long. (I’m actually okay with this. I only bring it up to note that if we still had the shorter run times, this episode, which is very good, would be terribly paced.) “Wigloose: The Rusical” is also, it must be acknowledged, actually so fucking good? I’m as shocked as you are. Before I compliment it too much, though, a complaint: These girls should be doing their own vocals. Even though it increases the production value, it turns the entire episode into a lipsyncing competition with choreo. It’s the top six, these girls should be singing.
Still, “Wigloose” is incredible. Everybody nails the choreography, plays their part well, and acts from their heads to their toes. The choreo is pretty high-level, and they all manage to perform it well. When I say that the last ten minutes of the episode throw talent away, this is why: Nobody flops the talent portion of the evening, which means the judges are forced to judge on things other than actual performance. The winner of the week and the bottom two are simply not that far apart in skill level, because nobody is that far apart in skill level. The alternative is perhaps to decide based on the runway presentations (the theme is Gloves), but the judges opt to look at overall presence and Star Quality, which means the critiques are mostly based on vibes.
So Anetra ends up winning for her work as the supportive mom of “Heaven Bacon.” I agree that she’s extremely good. Also, though, Anetra has a little something special in there, which is the fact that she’s playing the mom she never had. Like the judges, I got a little emotional watching Anetra perform that ballad, mostly because I was thinking about her life story. It was the perfect role for her, because that’s the kind of work that Ru loves. She took the hardest point in her life and made it into drag. Still, I don’t think I would have chosen her for the win, because her glove runway is super-bland, a raver look that I’ve seen a million times before. Meh on runway, great job on performance.
Sasha is my fave of the week, but I can accept that it would be wild to give her four wins right now. She’s super-funny as Carl, super-polished as drag Carl, and witty on the runway in a look made out of baseball gloves. She’s so goddamn good.
Mistress is probably second in line for the win. She does a great job as the villainous preacher, wearing Sarah Huckabee Sanders drag and ferociously tirading. Her Velma Von Tussle heel turn at the end is good, too. She also has one of the best runways of the week, bedecked in bright yellow and serving high glamour. Mistress hasn’t depended on gowns this season, but my God this pageant queen knows how to turn one out when she wants to. If I had to guess why she didn’t quite win over Anetra, I’d posit that she occasionally doesn’t feel completely in control of choreography, but still that’s a minor critique.
Luxx does really well with the part she ends up getting — she really does seem like the gayest little boy who ever existed. In her trio with Loosey and Salina, she’s the one who stands out the most. All three nail the dance moves, but she has a little something extra that draws your eye to her. When they all come out in drag at the end, that’s made even clearer. Both Loosey and Salina get less interesting in drag, while Luxx has the charisma to punch through. She does a pop-punky look with arm casts acting as her gloves. The look is right, but those are not gloves, sorry.
Loosey gets a raw fucking deal of it this week. She plays the lead, and thus has a ton of choreo and a ton of words to learn. As opposed to Bosco last season, who fought for the lead in the “Moulin Ru” and then bricked it, Loosey is really good. When she plays the young boy (a young boy with the most tattoos and the most intense beat you ever did see), she really does give full Kevin Bacon. It’s great! That alone would typically exempt her from the bottom. And yet I unfortunately understand where the judges are coming from. The most salient point comes from Michelle, who notes that when Loosey gets into drag later on the musical, you completely lose her. She’s no longer acting as Heaven Bacon, and also unfortunately, when you put Loosey the drag persona in a song-and-dance number next to the other queens’ drag personas, she fades. Michelle critiques her for seeming too serious and acting like a workaholic, which is especially mean because that’s fully just Loosey’s personality. It’s one of those times when you have to acknowledge, This queen did everything she could, and it still wasn’t enough. If they wanted to bolster their critique of Loosey a little, they could have said more about her runway. I don’t like it.
Salina is also bottom two, and as with Loosey, I think she did everything she could. Salina hits the choreo, lipsyncs every word, and is in character the whole time. Like Loosey, however, your eye just doesn’t go to Salina in a group setting. Also her runway look is, yet again, a bit of a mess. I actually like the bodysuit well enough, but the gloves are weird and the hair is too small to balance it out. You can tell she’s pissed to be in the bottom, but, let’s be real, any queen would be pissed to be in the bottom this week. They’re all good.
The peak of the episode, though, is Ru asking the girls who should go home and why. Loosey and Anetra say Salina for track record. Mistress says Sasha because “I’m tired of being at the Sasha Colby meet-and-greet,” and that’s funny but also kind of a copout. Salina, a little sore over the queen she consoled earlier saying her name, says Loosey because she doesn’t think Loosey is the future of drag. Sasha gives another copout answer by naming Loosey and Luxx, since they both have two wins. The star of this segment, though, is Luxx, who gives a queen-by-queen rundown of each girl, before ultimately settling on Loosey because she isn’t unique. It’s a mean way of doing things, and it’s absolutely delicious. When it comes time for deliberations, the judges don’t even mention Luxx’s runway or her performance; they just compliment her answer to this question. And that is what makes a star.
So Anetra wins, and Loosey and Salina lipsync to one of my favorite songs of all time, “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush. This lipsync is lame as fuck and cost the episode a whole star in my rankings. Loosey, appropriately, needs to start letting loose. She’s so stiff in this lipsync that it pains me. Salina, though, has even less direction, and gives a confused performance akin to her “actress”-y Lil Nas X lipsync, so she goes home. Despite her honestly solid performance in the Rusical this week, it was time. Loosey should be a trip next week!
• Untucked is not as exciting as the “who should go home tonight and why” question would imply. We get two family messages, which are nice but more for the queens’ morale than the audience, and guest judge Orville Peck stops in. I was hoping for more fireworks.
I have to assume Loosey is the next to go, which would give us a top four of Sasha, Mistress, Luxx, and Anetra unless one of them absolutely bricks it and then can’t beat Loosey in a lipsync, which would be weird. Solid top four, I’d say, but I wouldn’t be opposed to upping the stakes a little more and having both a winner and a bottom two (with elimination) when they do the Rumix in two weeks. Don’t want any of those four to go home, but I do think that would be gripping TV.
• I’d rank “Wigloose” above “Moulin Ru,” but a lot of people liked “Moulin Ru” more than I did. “Madonna: The Rusical” remains the top of the pack for me. Sound off on your favorite Rusical in the comments, please.
• What a step forward the past two weeks of Drag Race have been from the previous season. We need 90 minutes!