‘Drag Race’ Recap, Season 5, Episode 15: ‘House of Fashion’


Photo: Vulture; Photo: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Well, that shuffled the story right along, didn’t it? This was a much-needed filler week, in which we learn a little more about the queens, put points on the board for a contender, and lightly nudge a queen who’s not gonna win out of the room. It’s an unconventional-materials challenge, and the fact that the challenge amounts to just a runway (and also the fact that we’re getting down to an editable amount of queens) results in our first Ru walk-through of the season, which was also important. The stakes for the rest of the season are set, and we’re better off for it.

So, yes, this episode was needed. But was it exciting? Not especially. For an episode largely based on the queens sitting around and sewing, there’s still very little time for fun. I think longingly of the days when the Werk Room was filled with PhiPhi and Sh*ron screaming about Party City, Latrice singing “Jesus Is a Biscuit,” and Milan talking shit about Madame LaQueer to Ru while Madame LaQueer sits next to her. And those all happened in just one episode! These days, we get a sob story every episode like clockwork, using copy-paste editing to eat up five minutes. Look, any time spent with drag queens on my TV is better than time spent without drag queens on my TV, but I would like the show to spend less time portraying them all as victims and more time letting them be fabulous (and messy, and shady, and narcissistic). Table-setting episodes like this are a time for us to learn the queens’ personalities and how they interact with each other. Let them do that.

The episode begins with the fallout from last week with Spice lamenting the loss of Sugar and Mistress discussing her gathering of Marcia x3 in the previous Untucked. Mistress has been a breath of fresh air this season, willing to call bullshit as she smells it. Whether or not you agree with everything she says (I thought Marcia x3 was pretty funny as Tim Gunn), it’s fun to see a queen who is ready to throw shade without real animosity. Does Mistress hate Marcia x3? I don’t think so. Does Mistress say what she thinks and make good TV? Yes! Unfortunately, that tendency has yet to fully rub off on her surrogate daughter, Spice, who tells Mistress she thinks other girls should have gone home over her sister but refuses to name names. In a wonderful shot and chaser, Aura gives a confessional saying she knows Spice cannot be talking about her, then, later in the episode, both Spice and Mistress give confessionals being like, “It’s obviously Aura — she sucked.” Lovely work, editors!

We then hop right along to the reading challenge, which remains a slightly out-of-place remnant of a previous version of Drag Race that had weekly mini-challenges, too iconic to leave out. Maybe because there are still 13 girls left, or maybe because the episodes are shortened or because the queens are just not that funny (and most likely a combination of the three), most of the girls get only one read included. Poor Anetra says just four words: “Robin Fierce? Swipe left.” Mistress and Sasha manage to get in two reads, while Jax earns extra camera time when she gets to respond to Aura’s read that she’s a dog by saying, “You’re the one trying to fuck me.” Good work, Jax! But it’s Loosey who wins, a choice telegraphed by the fact that the editors left in three entire reads of hers. I’m happy for Loosey, who continues to vault up the rankings after her disaster of a vocal performance in week one, but it would feel a little more exciting if we got to see some more of her competition.

We then move quickly along to a challenge plucked right out of Canada’s Drag Race season one: The queens will work in groups to create a fashion line. Their materials are associated with Ross, Carson, or Michelle. Ross’s group gets a Palm Springs–y set of materials, Carson’s group gets equestrian, and Michelle’s group gets “Jersey.” We don’t get to see the girls divide into teams because of time, which I think is a big mistake. Loosey says they were assigned randomly, but I think that was some savvy sound editing. If they were decided by Loosey (which, given that she ends up with Sasha, Malaysia, and Marcia — three queens with little drama — is what I’m assuming happens), then the process of her picking is something I’d like to see, if only to learn more about the queens’ relationships. But even if they were just decided by the show, the fact that we didn’t get to see them grouped up makes it difficult to get a handle on which queen is in which group for the rest of the episode. Bad work, editors!

Just for reference, because I’m kind:

Team Carson (equestrian): Jax, Salina, Anetra, Robin

Team Ross (Palm Springs–y): Sasha, Loosey, Malaysia, Marcia x3

Team Michelle (Jersey): Aura, Luxx, Spice, Mistress, Amethyst

We then get our first Ru walk-throughs of the season, a welcome (if late) occurrence that provides shockingly few moments in which Ru is bent over wheezing. Either these queens aren’t doing it for her or someone, rightly, told her to rein it in a little. The RuPaul wheeze is much like the Paul Hollywood handshake — it has power when applied sparingly. During walk-throughs, Ru finally gets a chance to call out Salina’s lacking runways and also asks that team what they think Carson will think of their outfits. We don’t get to find out, though, because Carson is not a judge on this episode. Why ask?

On Team Michele, Ru plays a classic Ru-card and throws them all off by seeming not to like their pitch to do “royalty.” Luxx is particularly nervous, but a big part of this show is hearing Ru’s applied-at-random hesitations and then turning it out anyway, which (spoiler) Luxx does. Meanwhile, Amethyst goes to absolute pieces trying to impress Ru on a sewing-challenge week. Amethyst has certainly watched the show enough to know that surviving two lip syncs means she’s got to turn her pussy out to a Bimini level, but she also knows sewing is not her strength. While Luxx is helping her, Amethyst utters her own death blow: “I don’t have eyes for like” — the implication is “fashion.” Oof.

Group Ross doesn’t get much airtime or a chat with Ru. Sorry to these queens.

On the runway, most of the girls do pretty well. Team Michelle kicks it off with Mistress. She looks great, but, even though the black skirt is an impressive feat of construction, the fabric sucks in all the light on the runway, and the material ends up looking cheaper than it is. Aura looks fab despite not being a seamstress. I’m still not sure if Aura is long for this competition, but this makes two weeks in a row that I’ve really liked her runways. Amethyst is not great. In a week when other queens truly bombed, she might have eked by, but with her track record — and the fact that most of the queens are okay to good — her ruffled panties and sad little shrug are enough to land her in the bottom. Spice looks cute, but that’s always true. Would love to be able to apply another adjective to her one day. Luxx slays. Her pants are incredibly constructed with the patterns almost perfectly lining up. Her turban is fierce as hell, and her flow-y top contrasts beautifully with the more structured pieces elsewhere. Great week for her.

On Team Carson, Robin kicks it off looking fine. She ends up in the top. Why? Let’s chat below. Jax delivers a very well-constructed but slightly confused look. The orange mullet wig doesn’t fit the rest of the look, and she doesn’t give enough aggression on the runway for the character to make sense. Still, I don’t know if I would have put her in the bottom. Anetra looks good, if slightly unremarkable. Salina is, uhhhh … just fully wearing a comforter. She calls it a “poncho,” but it’s more like a “shapeless blob.” She’s loaded with personality and a go-get-’em attitude, but she also said she could sew and then delivered this. I’m still happy she’s here, but I don’t think she’ll make the cut once the competition heats up.

Team Ross is probably the strongest overall. Sasha looks absolutely stunning in a bathing suit with a cover-up and a makeup-and-wig combo that serves pure charisma uniqueness nerve talent. Loosey is cute and in character. Loosey tends to do better in the competition when she breaks away from the “Loosey” persona and gives something bitchier; her nicey-nice drag character could hold her back later, when selling your persona (commercial or roast challenge) is a bigger factor. Also the pants could be longer. Malaysia ends up in the top, and to me, this is a little random. She’s giving a fully conceptualized look, which is great, but it just isn’t as jaw-dropping as what Luxx or Sasha served up. Also why is there no center to her hat? That trend began last season, and I remain confounded. Marcia x3 is cute, and her makeup is headed in the right direction.

Luxx, Sasha, Robin, and Malaysia end up in the top. Why four queens, you ask? To me, the inclusion of the latter two seems like a ploy to make sure all the queens have been critiqued by the judges at this point. Without a double premiere this season, the show has to work hard to get each queen in front of the judges and their story line in motion. The judges really love Malaysia, so I’d imagine the girl who potentially wouldn’t be critiqued is Robin, and she’s just too low key of a personality to turn the “always safe” story line into much of anything. I’d have left those two off and given Aura a top spot, to my surprise. I liked it! Maybe including the judges’ deliberations would have changed my mind on the two I wasn’t feeling “top” for, but, alas. It is still not to be. Luxx wins, something we know she agrees with after she told the judges during critiques that she knew she did a really good job this week. She may be cocky, but so far the money is going where the mouth is.

Bottoms are Amethyst, Jax, and Salina with Jax as the obvious safe girl. Amethyst and Salina lip-sync to “Q.U.E.E.N.,” by guest judge Janelle Monáe. Amethyst remains a surprisingly solid lip-syncer no matter the song, but, just as many predicted, the minute she goes up against a queen with more fire in her, she can’t quite keep up. Salina doesn’t give anything groundbreaking, but it’s a very solid lip sync that proves why she’s in this competition: She’s a performer.

Untucked is less eventful than last week, but still a solid way to get more info on some queens given the shorter runtime. Anetra is both a little miffed about not being in the top since the first week and breaks down over the lack of connection with her family. Mistress consoles her because their family situations have similarities, and Aura gives an all time statement in the category of “well-intentioned but tone deaf” with: “I hate hearing sad stories like that, because I can’t relate.” She ends up bringing it back around, but I fully gasped at the awkward phrasing. Salina seems unaware of how bad her look is, and that, more than anything, is the worrisome part. Janelle Monae comes in, and while it’s the best guest judge convo we’ve had so far, and the queens do seem truly inspired, the formulaic nature of every guest judge hosting a five-minute panel is grating on me.

• Trauma Makeup Corner is given over to Jax, who talks about growing up in a transracial adoption, and Spice, who talks about the origins of her drag and its connection to dolls growing up. I complained about the stamp-and-repeat nature of these segments above, so here I’ll just say I’m glad the editors have gotten wise to the fact that they used to forecast who’s going home and are no longer showing their hand in this way.

• I am very confused about what’s going on with Jax’s story line, but if I had to predict, I think they’re setting her up as a bottom-feeding lip-sync assassin à la Black Peppa.

• My assumed top four remains the same: Sasha, Mistress, Luxx, and Loosey.


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