MANILA, Philippines – Last week’s poignant makeover episode was a tough act to follow, but theoretically, Drag Race Philippines’ ninth installment should’ve been one of the season’s most exciting, seeing as it’s the one that decides which queens make it to the show’s grand finale.
That being said, episode 9 may just be Drag Race Philippines’ most dragging episode yet – filled with overlong chatter, not enough werk room action, and a Drag Race tradition turning into some sort of weird and gratuitous therapy session.
We knew perhaps since that cursed “Miss Shutacca” episode that this show has an editing problem and an audio problem (watch any clip of Xilhouete’s long-ass homilies set to dramatic music to get an idea). In this episode though, those problems really shine – like they’re the stars of the show?!
The episode begins in the usual way, with the queens chatting in the werk room following the events of the previous episode. At this point there are five of them left: Marina Summers, Precious Paula Nicole, Eva Le Queen, Minty Fresh, and Xilhouete.
The queens recall some of the season’s most memorable moments (Turing’s on-stage near-fainting incident, Gigi Era’s tiyanak look, Xilhouete’s epic Untucked meltdown), until host Paolo Ballesteros walks in to announce one last maxi-challenge.
This week, the queens are tasked to lipsync and dance in a music video to RuPaul’s “Champion,” while serving two themed looks: “beautiful boxer” and “dripping in gold extravaganza.” Oh, and they also have to perform the last part of the song live on the main stage, in front of the judges.
This week’s runway also calls for back-to-back looks: a glow-in-the-dark LED-lit look, and their best drag.
Too much time for Kiki time
After Paolo leaves, we hang out with the queens in the werk room again, and there’s more talking…which cuts to even more talking as each queen sits down with Mamwa Pao and Kaladkaren for Kiki Time – Drag Race Philippines’ version of RuPaul’s famous TicTac Brunches.
The TicTac Brunch is usually the point in every Drag Race season where we get to know the queens even more, and where we get a feel for what Mama Ru thinks of each contestant.
Drag Race Philippines’ Kiki Time though is not as revelatory – or it could be, but it just runs on too long. As loveable and interesting as these queens are, their conversations dissolve into white noise at some point, which is a shame, because a defter edit would have really made the queens’ personalities shine.
Here’s what I catch from their conversations before my mind wanders away: Eva talks about her insecurities of being “less entertaining” than other queens, and Kaladkaren asks her how she feels being the only one in the top five without a RuBadge, to which Eva says that it’s not a big deal.
Marina talks about her firsts on Drag Race (first time to do comedy, first time to act), and says she was able to break out of her box of being just a dancer. Minty gets real about her struggles of growing up gay.
Precious shares that when she performs, she imagines her mother in the audience, saying “Simula nung bata ako wala naman ako gustong iimpress kung hindi siya lang talaga (Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never really wanted to impress anyone except her).”
Xilhouete plays the same old tune about being underestimated by the other queens because she doesn’t perform in drag like they do every week, but being proud of being consistently in the top.
By the time Kiki Time is over, we are already well over 30 minutes into the episode (can anyone guess how many taps of the 10-second fast forward button it takes to get to the end of it??) – and it feels like nothing has happened yet – just a loooot of talking.
When did they shoot that music video??
Back in the werk room, we see the queens donning their “beautiful boxer” looks in preparation for the maxi-challenge. There’s more werk room conversation here, mostly from Xilhouete, who then approaches Marina to finally apologize for whatever beef happened between them pre-competition.
It should be a satisfying moment, seeing as the drama between the two was a major plot point early on in the season. However, their reconciliation (and the confessionals in between) adds another five minutes to the episode’s runtime, and all the talking somehow takes away the warmth that reignites between this drag mom and daughter.
Now we’re 40 minutes into the episode, and we haven’t seen much drag yet, just a lot of overplayed drama set to bad music. All of a sudden the opening notes of “Cover Girl” plays, signaling that we’re headed to the main stage…already??? At this point, we didn’t even know the girls had shot the music video yet because THERE WAS NO FOOTAGE OF IT. I sincerely hope that the intern who forgot to run the cameras learned their lesson.
On the main stage, Mamwa Pao introduces the judges: regulars Kaladkaren and Jiggly Caliente, recurring guest judge Jon Santos, and this week’s extra-special guest judge, veteran talk show host Boy Abunda.
After introductions, the music video plays, but without behind-the-scenes footage preceding it, we viewers have only a thin investment in how it plays out. It feels almost like a betrayal that the show gave us one-too-many clips of Douglas Nierras dressing the queens down at dance rehearsals in previous episodes, only to withhold that drama in this one, where it really matters.
The queens are wheeled out in a jeepney, and they lipsync and dance from a boxing ring. There’s a weird lighting situation going on in the video so we can only see the queens through a haze of light, but from what we can see, Marina, the dancer of the group, stands out as expected. Precious and Minty also hold their own, nailing the choreography with confidence. Even the decidedly non-dancing queens do fairly well.
Towards the end of the video, we see the queens’ takes on “dripping in gold eleganza,” and there are some stunners there – particularly Eva’s liquid gold look and Precious’ gilded corset and headpiece. The video ends with a shot from probably the most unflattering angle ever, and the performance transitions to the main stage.
At this point, the queens serve up the stunts – Eva punches the air, Marina goes for a high kick as does Minty, Precious goes for a cartwheel, and Xilhouete attempts to keep up with a “come hither” gesture.
After a strange “brownout” transition and some awkward banter, it’s time for the runway. First up, the queens sashay in their “LED there be light” looks.
Eva opens the show serving pure camp in a diner girl look accentuated by a neon-sign headpiece and with an actual milkshake to boot. Marina then emerges in a showstopping look: a full-length mermaid gown, with a giant lampshade headpiece and a butt-length wig.
Minty goes dark with a side of 2000s party-girl in a slinky light-up mini dress worn over a black mesh dress and accentuated with a dramatic feathered robe. Precious goes head-to-toe white, wearing an ornate full-length ball gown with a massive backpiece, which she said is inspired by the sunrise and sunset – a reference that doesn’t really come through.
Finally, Xilhouete closes the first category in a look that seems remixed from last week’s. Again we get a statement shoulder, abstract print, and a sleek silhouette. As a nod to the runway theme, she carries an LED stoplight.
Next, we see the queens in their best drag.
Eva comes on to the stage screaming “opulence” in a black-and-gold corset accentuated with feathers on the shoulders and hips and worn over a gold ballskirt. Topping the look off, she wears an ornate eagle headpiece that almost touches the main stage ceiling.
The gold theme continues with Marina, who walks in in a gold sequined evening gown, a statement choker, and an eye-catching headpiece reminiscent of the rays of the sun.
We get another gold look from Minty, whose best drag looks like a remix of Queen of the Damned and Moulin Rouge: a gold bikini top, paired with a gold-and-black mullet skirt and a headpiece to match.
Precious breaks the gold theme when she comes out in a fully-sequined pink-and-silver strapless gown with a matching cowboy hat. Closing the show is Xilhouete, who takes her cue from Rihanna at the Met Gala with a leather pope cloak and hat, which she strips off to reveal a black leather bodysuit.
After the runways, the queens line up for critiques – though it seems like we can’t call it that this week because the judges didn’t seem to be evaluating so much as…commenting. Based on what, I don’t really know either.
Eva gets good reviews across the board, with Jon saying he appreciates her choice of the eagle to represent the Philippines, and Kaladkaren telling her, “You don’t actually need a RuBadge to prove your worth.”
Marina is praised for her music video performance, with Kaladkaren saying, “You are a total package…. You are a superstar and you’re ready to take on to the world stage.”
When it’s her turn, Minty gets tearful, and Jiggly reassures her, saying, “Minty, keep going, I see so much for you.” In so many words, Boy says that he feels Minty is afraid.
The judges also sing praises for Precious, with Jon saying he appreciates her camp and her performance, and Boy adding, “You’ve got the intangibles. You’ve got magic.”
Xilhouete is similarly well-received by the judges. “I admire the puzzle that is Xilhouete,” Jon says, while Jiggly again points out her upward trajectory, starting from the bottom and ending up at the top.
Is this ‘Drag Race’ or ‘Tonight with Boy Abunda’?
After judging, Mamwa Pao cues another Drag Race tradition – the emotional exploitation portion of the show, where he pulls out the queens’ baby photos and asks them to give a message to their younger selves.
It’s a segment that’s meant to be touching and empowering for the queens, and their baby photos do elicit the requisite “awws.” But at this point in the show, over an hour into the runtime and with all the talking that has already happened beforehand, many viewers are just too word-weary to truly empathize with the queens’ sentiments. Here we have another case of how the show’s lack of editing (or is it poor direction?) doesn’t do justice to the queens’ shining personalities.
To make matters worse, after every speech, Boy chimes in, spewing cheesy, buzzword-laden platitudes – which is hard to digest from someone who’s only been on the show for all of 25% of an episode. If the writers were going for a touching denouement in this episode, this really wasn’t it. You know the episode is way too drawn-out when Xilhouete’s weekly speech/emotional breakdown isn’t even the most dragging part.
After all the tears and talk, we finally arrive at the judges’ decision. Marina wins the maxi-challenge, bringing home her second RuBadge and P80,000. Eva is the next contestant to be called into the top four, followed by Precious, leaving drag mom and daughter Xilhouete and Marina to lipsync for their lives.
In the confessionals. Xilhouete expresses her sadness at potentially sending Minty home even after she prayed for her to be on the show. There’s a poetic twist in that they face off to Vernie Varga’s “You’ll Always Be My Number One,” and throughout the lipsync, neither of them seems to want to outshine the other too much.
Again, this should be a touching moment that highlights the strength of drag families. But after throwing us into a pit of sentimentality for nearly an hour and a half, a lot of us are just relieved that the episode is almost over.
In the end, Xilhouete wins the lipsync, thereby making it to the finale. Instead of celebrating, though, she breaks down in tears. Despite losing, Minty looks at peace. Before walking away, she says, “I’m leaving this competition fulfilled and happy.”
The queens hug her as she exits, and she even ends up comforting Xilhoute, who by now is sobbing as if she was the one who got eliminated.
Following Minty’s departure, we now have our final four: Precious, Marina, Eva, and Xilhouete. If the show follows the format of RuPaul’s Drag Race, we can expect the remaining queens to face off in a lipsync extravaganza – which should be exciting because we haven’t seen Marina or Precious lipsync just yet.
Here’s hoping they choose great songs, and for the love of god, curate their footage because we really want to celebrate this finale and not wish it was over. – Rappler.com
The Drag Race Philippines finale will stream on September 12 on WOW Presents Plus, Discovery+, and HBO GO.