RPDR S4, E8: Frenemies Top &…uhhhh…Bottom…and, errr…Top?

Well if that don’t beat all?

There’s a reason that many queens revere vocal divas like Judy, Patti, Bette and Whitney. And why we are drawn to movies like The Women and All About Eve: they deliver High Drama. They have us throwing our hands in the air when we hear them sing, or dabbing our eyes with Kleenex and gay gasping on every other line when we watch them in the dark, while curled up on the couch with a Diet Coke and bag of Orville Redenbacher.

And Miss RuPaul gave us that last night.

Unfortunately, it also tipped the Queen’s already jaded Reality TV scale that much closer to the “Bullshit” mark. Since the beginning of The Real World, and the other shows that ushered in the modern era of “unscripted drama”, I have always accepted the fact that producer manipulation was almost a necessity to tell a cohesive story. However I always wanted to believe that in the best shows, the manipulation was guided by organic drama, and not simply a plot line manufactured in some boardroom months before the show went into production.

Well last night’s episode proved me wrong.

While it was loads of fun, and in many moments rather sophisticated scripting–it was still scripting.

We literally have a movie plot here. I mean, this was excellent classic movie storytelling–complete with foreshadowing, plot twists and a kind of cock-tease denouement. Starting with the lie detector test (by the way: that lie detector guy, John, gets around. He’s on every talk show from Dr. Phil to Anderson). Not only did they set up the whole thing with Willam, but they set up many other subplots and gave yet another plug for his shoe line (gotta love him for that blatant self-promotion).

Here’s where the Queen’s issues begin. For a minute, let’s go with the construct that this is a scripted series. The script itself has several inconsistencies. Assuming that the “moral” of the episode is that “you can learn something about yourself–especially from your enemy”, then you have to set up a very strong rivalry between the protagonist and antagonist. Other than Phi Phi and Sharon, we really haven’t seen a huge rivalry among the others. So the producers have to make up a conflict. And when it’s not done with any finesse, then you might as well have Patrick Duffy come out of the shower dripping wet.

The tepid drama in the rehearsal segment really did nothing for me. it was poorly manufactured and clumsily forshadowed the drama to come. I was watching some of Phi Phi’s club performances online. She’s actually a decent performer. The problem as I see it is that–like many “decent” performers out there–she imitates, she doesn’t innovate. She has a decent voice: a nice vibrato and tone. But she is easily thrown off. Just like in much of the rest of what we see of her on the show, she doesn’t know how to listen to others–which is crucial in choral singing. Sharon held the melody well. Phi Phi took the harmony and crapped all over it.

The beat with Sharon and Phi Phi in the dressing room, in which they seemed to get along, was unexpected. Plot-wise it would have been a lovely, subtle touch. If they had done well on the runway. As written, the moral for them became: “making friends with your enemy won’t help you–it’ll only mess you up.” Muddled writing.

So it’s Condragulations to Latrice and Willam.

None of the other lady boys even came close. The routine was tight and crisp. Bianca and the Queen agree that Latrice finally brought the personality that we see offstage onto the runway. And we also agree that it probably had much to do with Willam’s direction. We differ slightly on what that means for Latrice overall. She takes direction beautifully, and can usually run with it. I believe that the Next Drag Superstar needs to be able to listen to a director–but also create on their own. I’ve yet to see Latrice do that.

And Phi Phi and Sharon have to LSFYL.

Here is the self-induced schizophrenia that I am looking to avoid in the future: I want to watch this show either as a study in Reality TV editing, or a Reality TV Show–not both. When RuPaul announced that their team was on the bottom, I thought of it as a study: which one would the producers pick? Sharon is an important favorite, Phi Phi is an important antagonist…which would they sacrifice? Then, when they started performing, I watched it as a Reality TV Fan. The Queen starting rooting for Sharon, and praying that Ru would not reward one more damn Drag Queen for Dancing For Your Life, instead of lip syncing for it.

And then Ru comes out with a twist worthy of Citizen Kane.

So it’s Sashay Away to Willam.

The Queen will go into detail about his thoughts on the “break the rules” convention, and why I think it was the straw that broke the gay camel’s back. Suffice it to say, that as a dramatic device it had more holes than Gruyère Cheese.

I will miss Willam. He was one of the most interesting characters on Reality TV that the Queen has seen in a long time. He is the evolved product of the genre: a self-aware performer, who had an intricate game-plan that he executed brilliantly. He was a strange combination of someone you love to hate…and love to love. If you ask the Queen, it was a PERFECT way for him to go out: dramatic, with much intrigue. Drag Race lovers will be talking about him for seasons to come. And sir? If you’re still reading the Queen’s humble blog: I wish you a long, continued career of success and fabulousness!

Okay. I’m done for now. But something tells me you Miss Things have a LOT to say. Have at it!


10 thoughts on “RPDR S4, E8: Frenemies Top &…uhhhh…Bottom…and, errr…Top?

  1. First off, damn you RuPaul, for making us wait until the reunion! You are evil, and I love you.

    Anyway, I loved this episode. Lots of stuff going on between the queens, Sharon crushing Phi with one cast-off comment after another, Latrice and Willam being great on stage, and a shocking elimination! It’s a Drag Race Scandal! Worthy of multiple exclamation points!!

    I can be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to producer manipulation, so of course I believed Willam had really broken the rules. Manipulation did cross my mind, but I’m not convinced. I imagine there’s quite a bit of rule-breaking backstage in a lot of venues – pageants, other reality shows, any place that has a backstage.

    I’m not saying I think Willam is underhanded. I just think she might have done something that, while against the rules, isn’t as terrible as Phi made it out to be. She made it sound like Willam killed a baby and a litter of kittens.

    I’ll miss her. She brought something special to the show, and she constantly made me laugh. I wish great things for her/him.

    • occasionalblonde said…

      “I’m not saying I think Willam is underhanded. I just think she might have done something that, while against the rules, isn’t as terrible as Phi made it out to be.

      Nothing ever is. I get the feeling that it probably had something to do with some kind “no outside fraternization policy,” I bet the guys aren’t supposed to do things like participate in blogs and tweet. I also wonder if he may have “gone out” a time or two without permission. That could explain his queasiness and subsequent hurling on the runway.

      I’ve got a lot to say about how the information was revealed.

      • There has, of course, been loads of speculation about what Willam did, and one that keeps popping up is that he was leaving the hotel at night. Another is that he was blogging during filming. From my understanding, most, if not all reality shows forbid contestants any contact with the outside world, other than the occasional call home. (I’m probably telling you things you already know. Apologies)

        I’m inclined to think he left the hotel, or something along those lines. I’ve seen everything from illegal drugs to getting kickbacks for all the name-dropping to being a woman or a woman transitioning to male. For a split second, the last bit of speculation crossed my mind, but I really don’t think it’s anything that major. From all reports, he’s not talking. So, at least he’s not breaking any more rules.

        I long ago stopped expecting anything exciting from reunion shows, but this one could turn out to be a doozy.

  2. I’ve decided I’m too gay for unfabulous episodes like this. Latrice and Willam (hate to see him go *pout*) did their thing but I was left hoping for Sam Harris to make a grand entrance, strike a pose – “accidentally” knocking I-Don’t-Wear-Blondie off the stage – and taking it home over the rainbow with the divine Miz Needles.

    Now that would’ve made my little rainbow heart all a-glow just like Ru’s lighting.

    • You can never be too gay or too fabulous. And from your posts and your blog you are obviously both.

      Speaking of the “I don’t wear blonde wigs” moment: that’s one of the things I loved most about Mr. Belli, and that I will miss over the next few episodes. I love the almost therapist-like calm that would come into his voice as he objectively listed facts like the occasions Phi Phi had worn them. The queens didn’t know what to do with that…except to be pissed.

      Ahhh, Sam Harris. Haven’t thought about that diva in a month of Sundays. Thank you for that.

      *goes off to download Over The Rainbow on iTunes*

  3. If the coincidential “discovery” of Willam’s crimes and the Face-Off of the Season wasn’t scripted in advance, then Ru definitely won the reality show producer’s lottery, the one with the fine print that says your odds are about 1 in 7 trillion. At the very least, the discovery was made before this week’s competition was set out. How obvious could it have been that Sharon and Phi-Phi were going to lip synch?

    I heard a really interesting interview with Sharon online, and she described her rivalry with Phi-Phi as a form of method acting. I took it as an analogy, like you can easily go into that mode when you’re in this artificial situation, sequestered, and cameras are rolling. But I guess it wasn’t an analogy at all!

  4. I’ve often wondered about the veracity of their rivalry. I’ve even speculated on occasion whether Party City isn’t actually one of Drag Race‘s sponsors.

    The only doubts I have concern Phi Phi O’Hara’s acting ability. I wonder if she is really good enough to create such a convincing character. If she is, she deserves an Emmy.

    • You know, if anyone in marketing at Party City has any sense of self-irony, they should capitalize on this and become a sponsor!

      Yeah, I’m with you, Scotty, I just don’t get the sense that Phi Phi has the chops to pull off being in character during this whole thing. And even if I’m wrong and it’s all an act, the character she created is not appealing in any way.

  5. One of the things I love about RuPaul and this show is that all the self-promotion, producer manipulation, etc. is done with a wink and a smirk and a “fuck you if you don’t like it” attitude. I thought this was a great episode, chock-full of the drama you so rightly indicated that we love.

    The challenge this week was a hard one, and although only Latrice and Willam really nailed it, the others didn’t do as badly as I feared. Willam’s behavior in the workroom the day of the challenge, and his puking off the edge of the stage, makes me believe that he really was upset by getting booted from the show. He obviously had been told early in the day what was going to happen later, and that’s why he was so bummed and quiet and why his stomach was upset.

    Now, Willam being Willam and RuPaul being RuPaul, could the entire thing have been a preconceived scheme (by RuPaul and Willam and the producers) to jack up the drama quotient? Maybe. And if anyone could pull it off, Willam could, but damn, if that was all fake–from the sadness in the workroom to the puking–that was some good acting. It didn’t read fake to me at all. Of course Ru and the producers amped up the drama by having Sharon and Phi Phi lipsync before kicking Willam out–why wouldn’t they? If this is producer manipulation, bring it on. It worked. I did the gay gasp.

    Were the “charges” against Willam (whatever they are) trumped up, or at least something very trivial? Probably. Have no doubt, though, that producer manipulation or not, Willam (and Ru) will capitalize on the whole thing to the best of their quite amazing self-promotional abilities. The only thing that irks me a bit is the teasing that “all would be revealed” about the incident in Untucked, then not revealing it. OK, I get it, we have to watch the reunion show to find out what happened. Wink. Smirk. And damn if I won’t watch. As occasionalblonde said above, RuPaul, you are evil and I love you.

    As for Phi Phi, if she makes it into the final three I will not be pleased. I just don’t see anything in the way of talent or originality there, and she seems to be a bitter, bitchy, mean-spirited queen to boot. Or at least that’s the character she’s playing. In any case, she’s not a character I love to hate, she’s just somebody I wish would go away.

    Thanks for the All About Eve clip, by the way–I can never watch that enough times.

    • “I’m inclined to think he left the hotel, or something along those lines.”

      i’m inclined to agree. my wife, the lie-awyer has been crossexaminig Willam all day. she seems to think he got him some pit crew…some photographer…and maybe a grip or two.

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