Welcome to my review, recap, and power rankings of the eleventh episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 – “Two Queens, One Joke.” It’s a typical Drag Race stand-up challenge with the added twist of being performed in pairs, a la All Stars Season 2. Plus, a voguing mini-challenge, a “Rip Her To Shreds” runway, and an all-time best lip sync!
There’s a reason that Drag Race places stand-up comedy challenges towards the back half of the season, and it’s not just to have enough run-time to show comedy sets from every queen.
Comedy challenges are some of the most-subjective Drag Race challenges of all. It’s easy for producers to craft any kind of narrative they want for a queen purely by having RuPaul laugh more or less during her set and then matching Ru’s energy in the edit. Even a genuinely hilarious queen like Bianca del Rio could be stopped short by complete silence between her jokes..
While queens have a little bit of control over their fates in writing their own jokes, it’s not much. There have been many re-edits of iconically bad past comedy challenges where the addition of an audience laugh track or Ru’s own screaming laughter makes seemingly dead jokes come alive. There’s a version of Laganja Estranja’s iconically bad stand-up set with laughter included that makes her out to be mildly amusing!
With that in mind, it’s no coincidence that “Two Queens One Joke” was used to dismiss a queen who did perfectly okay but who would’ve likely crushed her competitors next week. That would have made the road to the finale more complicated and potentially cost us several front-runners along the way. Of course, this is exactly what I predicted last week, because I have seen a few (dozen) Drag Race comedy challenges before!
Luckily for us as viewers, the challenge yielded a highly-entertaining lip sync to Doja Cat’s wildly fun “Boss Bitch.” It’s a song I am utterly addicted to even without a lip sync to pair with it! It helped that the lip sync ran a full two minutes and five seconds of a 2:14 song.
That’s not totally unusual. The Ariana Grande lip sync on the full-length Episode 2 was a couple of seconds shy of two minutes. However, last week’s “Single Ladies” was a slim 1:47.
Eighteen more seconds in a lip sync is a lot of time for queens to endear themselves, especially when it means we get a full song with virtually no edits. Even some of our favorite evenly-matched lip syncs of all time like “Shut Up & Drive,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” and “Miss You Much” are heavily edited, and it’s obvious we lost some material to the cutting room floor. Here, we saw the nearly entire thing.
That longer lip sync was a result of this week’s second lucky turn for viewers: this was the first week of Drag Race returning to a 90-minute TV runtime on MTV, which means an hour-long episode edit! The episode had so much more room to breathe with an extra 20 minutes of footage. The return of seeing the judges in their private deliberations reinforced for me how essential they are to keeping the narrative of the show moving forward.
What does this mean for my Power Rankings compared to last week’s interview challenge? Absolutely nothing when it comes to the dismissal (which I anticipated), but this episode’s placements shook up our potential final four in a major way for the first time in several weeks.
Readers, start your engines. And, may the best drag queen win!
Reminders: I typically refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across in relation to this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15, Episode 11: “Two Queens, One Joke” Challenge & Rip Her To Shreds Runway Power Rankings
Before we get to our slim set of rankings, let’s take a moment to appreciate Mother Ru nailing a sexy, leggy runway look.
I’ve been a little bit hard on Ru’s proportions in these super-short skirts this season, but she looks very right in this one! I think the silver cross-body zig-zag is helping create a slimming illusion in her midsection, which combined with the red at the top of the bust and the wide-set shoulder straps is giving us a perfect body illusion.
Also, I love this natural blonde hair color set in the most massive waves available, which looks better with this slight asymmetry than it would as a perfectly round halo.
#1. Luxx Noir London – 2 Wins (3.40 avg; was #2, 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 5, 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Luxx Noir London finally notched a second win after several high placements in a row. With Sasha Colby earning her first low placement of the season, that gives Luxx the narrative momentum she needs to top the power ranking for the first time!
Luxx Noir London nailed the runway brief by digging into the RuPaul archives for inspiration for a shredded look from Ru’s days fronting Wee Wee Pole. While I think Ru’s original leggings are a little bit more impactful than these white thigh-high tights, all of the other details of this look are well-considered. I love the fabric of the shreds, and I am obsessed with the massive wig.
I think I’ve spent so much time focusing on Sasha’s talent, Anetra’s strategy, and Mistress Isabelle’s runway package that I don’t know if I’ve devoted enough words to just how smart Luxx Noir London is. It has been a long time since we’ve had a queen this young who was this well-prepared for every kind of challenge and this well-read on RuPaul, Ru’s references, and the history of the show.
Luxx is a walking, talking, Drag Race reference machine, spouting constant soundbites as reactions. Yet, here she referenced a classic Ru look not from the show or even her rise in the 90s, but her punk days. And, she referenced it very well. It’s a calculated risk to pack a runway that directly tributes Ru without being asked by the runway prompt, but Luxx had the nerve to do it and was rewarded by a rare bit of real emotion from RuPaul at the judge’s table.
Luxx also had the smarts to go toe to toe with Loosey LaDuca in the “Two Queens One Joke” challenge and come out strong enough for a dual win. Even if Loosey provided a big chunk of the “Loosey so white” jokes in Luxx’s half of the set, Luxx’s smarmy, grinning delivery made them work. She also perfectly took the note from Ali Wong to clean up her diction so her punchlines would really land.
From top to bottom, this was a flawless episode performance from Luxx – and, I wouldn’t even say it’s her first. Closer to fourth.
Luxx Noir London is like an Aquaria with more charisma or a Symone who can dance and sing. She has all of the it-factor of other queens who seemed absolutely destined to take home a Drag Race crown. There’s just one little problem with that, and her name is Sasha Colby.
I think Luxx Noir London is now a lock for the finale. Even if she stumbles slightly in the next three episodes, Luxx certainly has the skills and the goodwill to survive her first competitive lip sync against anyone in this cast other than Sasha Colby. The question is if she can beat Sasha Colby when it counts – at the finale! At the moment, Luxx is the only queen with a narrative that feels like it could swing in that direction. Especially if she is strong in the Rusical and a final Rumix verse, she could wind up the David to Sasha’s drag Goliath.
#2. Sasha Colby – 3 Wins (1.6 avg; was #1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 5, Pre-Season #1)
This week was Sasha Colby’s weakest on the season so far – weak enough that she could have easily been sent to a lip sync. Now the question if this was just a brief low moment to give lend her some vulnerability, or if she will struggle to maintain her momentum for the next three episodes.
I think Sasha Colby’s “Rip Her To Shreds” runway was just okay. I try to stay away from the Michelle Visage line of, “we’ve seen this before,” but… we really have seen a lot of ripped up jean outfits before. I think it’s a perfectly fine concept to repeat, but denim-on-denim can make it hard to see the lines and shapes of a look. The torn and shredded denim runways that work the best tend to have an obvious amount of structure to them.
I think Sasha’s styling, hair, and make-up are to-die-for here, but it’s not her strongest garment. Honestly, I’m not sure that it was enough to save her from the lip sync with a “Two Queens One Joke” set that was equally bad as Anetra’s. There was a tiny whiff of favoritism and a heaping helping of narrative to keep her out of the bottom two.
I’m not about to start doubting Sasha Colby, who has proved herself to be proficient at just about everything the Drag Race machine has to throw at her. There’s absolutely no chance she is eliminated before the finale, but she might still wind up lip syncing once to make it all the way. I don’t think the show would risk pairing her against Luxx unless it was for a double shanté. Nor would they blow another Sasha/Anetra headline event before the finale. However, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see her be the one to dismiss Loosey or Mistress Isabelle Brooks.
#3. Loosey LaDuca – 2 Wins (5.20 avg; was #5, 6, 7, 4, 4, 2, 2, 5, 14, Pre-Season #8)
I maintain that Loosey LaDuca does not have a winner’s edit, but if the show wants to push a slightly-contentious spoiler queen into the finale to keep the drama alive Loosey is looking like an increasingly valid choice.
I think this all-beige garment was different enough and fashionable enough for Loosey LaDuca that it was notable on the runway. It’s a little ironic that a queen who dresses slightly older than her years won on an outfit where she was intentionally trying to look as old as possible.
Part of me is tempted to say this needed a shock of red on it somewhere, whether it was a necklace or sequined blood stain, but I think this is a look that has a lot of power rendered monochromatically. The different layers have enough texture that read against each other despite all being beige, especially under the stage lights. I do wish that Loosey painted slightly less of a cartoonish white face and more of ancient vampire glamour, but maybe it wouldn’t have popped as much on this look.
It’s always rewarding to see a queen walk into a challenge where they’re meant to do well and slay it. That’s what Loosey did on this episode. We’ve heard that she is funny and she was great in Snatch Game as Joan Rivers, but this is the first time we’ve got to see Loosey be fully funny just as herself. Her blithe, self-deprecating character was not only the perfect counterpoint to the smiling Luxx, but also a nice way to take the piss out of the high-strung version of Loosey we’ve been getting from the edit.
I think Loosey LaDuca is a terrific example of just how manipulative the edit of the show can be. There’s no reason they have to show us so many moments of her being delusionally over-confident or being teased by the other queens. If they didn’t show those moments, she would be more likable and would come off as a more-credible finalist. Sure, Loosey said all of those words, but in a show where she gets only a few minutes of screen time per episode those words are counting for a disproportionately huge amount of what we know of her.
Of course, that’s going to colour how she’s received by fans. That’s not fair to her. A less grating, more charming edit of Loosey would probably win her double the fans and swell the size of crowds at her bookings. She isn’t being as rotted as Phi Phi or Roxxxy were on their original seasons, but in this newer, nicer era of Drag Race Loosey is a clear “villain” in the edit, even if she isn’t being mean to anyone at all.
I’ve never been so sure of a Drag Race prediction as I am in saying Loosey LaDuca will not win the season. There’s just no way she would get this much of a negatively-tinted “delusion” edit if the show seriously thought she could be crowned. However, if the narrative is starting to center on a two-queen race between Sasha and Luxx, Loosey makes for a credible and talented second-runner up and it sets her up for a powerhouse return on All Stars.
#4. Mistress Isabelle Brooks – 1 Win (3.10 avg; was #4, 2, 4, 1, 2, 4, 4, 4, 2, Pre-Season #6)
After an unbroken string of error-free decisions, it’s starting to feel like Mistress Isabelle Brooks might be running out of steam in this final sprint of episodes. After a sleepy showing in last week’s interview segment, she delivered a low-energy comedy performance that Salina easily outshone.
I think Mistress Isabelle Brooks won the “Rip Her To Shreds” runway theme with this singed take on Marilyn’s “Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend” via Madonna’s “Material Girl.”
This look is why I don’t really care about the “we’ve seen it before” critique. We’ve seen these deconstructed, singed gowns before. We’ve also seen this exact Marylin/Madonna look before. Yet, in this look MIB found a perfect shape for her figure and got the details perfectly right. Look at the singe pattern at the top cuff of her glove and how it matches the un-singed top of her bustline. Look at how she is using the exposed crinoline to floof up the bottom of her silhouette even more, further accentuating her hourglass figure.
It’s another Mistress Isabelle Brooks success in a string of successful runways.
She’s lucky she had that on her side for judging, because Mistress Isabelle’s comedy set was not good. I think she gave in a little too much to Salina’s storytelling vibe and it cost her the snappiness of her natural wit. MIB’s can’t match Salina’s wide-eyed, awed-voice storytelling mode, which made her own story full of false notes.
Mistress Isabelle Brooks is the big mystery to me in this cast at the moment. She has a string of high placements and an unbeatable runway package, but she’s starting to seem like more of a memorable workroom character than she seems like a threat for the crown. That could change in a major way now that the field of competitors is smaller. A second win could seriously alter her trajectory. Especially if Luxx has a last-minute stumble, Production needs to keep the MIB hope alive so Sasha has reasonable competition at the finale.
Yet, with three episodes until the final and at least two more LSFYLs, that means at least one of our never-lip-syncing queens will have to survive before we reach the finale. Mistress is a good lip syncer, but can she defeat any of the remaining cast members?
#5. Anetra – 1 Win, 2 lip syncs (3.40 avg; was #3, 3, 2, 3, 5, 6, 3, 3, 1, Pre-Season #2)
With Anetra showing off her killer lip sync skills a fourth time this episode, it doesn’t feel as though she’ll have the power to survive another bottom placement – even if only two of those lip syncs were to escape a “sashay” from Ru.
Anetra delivered a lovely dark green and neon pink shredded runway, but if we’re being honest we’ve seen all of these elements on Anetra before. Catsuit and half-cape is kinda her signature look at this point. Of course, she looks as fantastic in it as she has all season. However, right now she could use more of the bomb-blast, high-glam impact of her stunning design challenge ballgown or the diversity of Mistress Isabelle’s runway package.
There’s no question Anetra was the worst in “Two Queens One Joke.” Could she have done better had her ocular migraine not sidelined her for the brief spate of material-writing time the day before? I think so. Anetra is dedicated to training and improving, and I think if she walked into her session with Ali Wong with more of an idea of what to do with her set she could’ve gotten farther with her set. She has a natural sense of humor that shows through in all of her confessionals and i wish we had the chance to see more of that in the challenge.
(This is a good reminder that this show, and most reality shows, simply aren’t set up to accommodate contestants with medical emergencies – and, certainly not ones with chronic conditions or disabilities. )
Anetra feels completely locked into the “lip sync killer who comes back to All Stars even more polished” narrative at this point, taking her out of contention as a serious threat to Sasha Colby for the crown. That feels wild to say because she is pretty damn polished to begin with. She hasn’t shown too many weak spots in the competition thus far. It’s still entirely possible for her to make it to the finale, and if she does you better believe the show will engineer a way for us to get a Sasha vs. Anetra rematch. But, with Anetra feeling out-of-contention for the crown, she could also make a shocking and emotional final elimination.
#6. Salina EsTitties – 3 lip syncs (7.40 avg; was #6, 7, 5, 8, 11, 8, 8, 7, Pre-Season #12)
Salina EsTitties had a brief moment of redemption after her lip sync with what was clearly the third-best “Two Queens One Joke” comedy set of the night. That’s the perfect penultimate chapter to her Drag Race run, which will almost surely end with the Rusical next week.
I think this shredded runway was a second strong one in a row from Salina EsTitties, but she just didn’t model it effectively. I get that she was giving it a character and trying to tell the story that inspired the look. But, look at that posed Instagram shot. We needed to see this garment with some air beneath it and with some moments of stillness to take in the details.
(I disagree with the comment that the entire dress should’ve been made from the blanket. I think the dress echoing colors from the blanket was enough.)
Salina’s “Two Queens One Joke” set was good but not great. She took excellent direction from Ali Wong to tighten up her timing, but I still don’t know if a single complete narrative was the best idea for a comedy challenge on Drag Race in a must-win situation for Salina. I feel like shorter bursts of observational humor might have served her better.
Ultimately it’s moot – there was no stopping the Luxx & Loosey juggernaut in this one.
Salina EsTitties has had a wild ride on Drag Race. She has been low several times just for her peculiar runway choices, she’s swerving every time it seemed like she was counted out, and she’s served in every lip sync. Narratively it feels like her time is up, but can this musical theatre queen really wind up in the bottom for the Rusical next week? I think she’d have to be firmly high, if not the winner, to avoid that fate. It could be such a tight decision that her runway alone does her in. For her to survive, two or more other queens will need to completely crash and burn.
Eliminated in 7th Place: Marcia Marcia Marcia – 1 lip sync (6.56 avg; was #7, 5, 6, 7, 9, 8, 6, 7, 4, Pre-Season #10)
Marcia Marcia Marcia gave her best as the one solo queen in this paired “Two Queens One Joke” comedy challenge and delivered a lot of solid jokes along the way. If we’re being honest, even with a slightly tentative approach she was better in this challenge than a full half of the cast.
Unfortunately, Marcia was going to crush the entire cast in the Rusical next week if she wasn’t eliminated now, so it was her time to go. That’s why she wasn’t made the emcee (like other odd-one-out queens in paired comedy challenges) and why the only judge commentary we saw for her was a critique of her Die Hard joke.
Marcia Marcia Marcia may have never had a win this season, but she also showed few signs of weakness outside of some bland runway looks. I think she arrived on Drag Race with all the right talents, but still a few years too early in her personal development to wield them to their highest impact. However, I think that means she is primed to take advantage of this major exposure and turn it into personal success.
People need to stop asking Marcia Marcia Marcia when she’ll come back for All Stars and start asking her about her on-stage ambitions. I’d definitely check out future work from Marcia, in or out of drag.