Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race/VH1

Now in its tenth season, RuPaul’s Drag Race is the perfect example of a competition reality show at the top of its game, armed with a gaggle of queens whose talents are equally matched.

What started off as a scrappy enterprise in 2008, with shabby sets and a very low budget, has blossomed like a beautiful hothouse orchid into a media empire: from DragCon, various tours, and the increase in money, bookings, and popularity that can result from appearing on the show, Mama Ru’s curatorial eye brings nothing but good tidings and a pleasant little career bump to those she chooses.

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The legacy of Drag Race and its winners’ eventual success now exists as a map to a certain kind of fame—achievable only by fully embodying the four pillars of Drag Race success: charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. Some contestants possess more nerve than they do talent, more charisma than uniqueness, and occasionally, none of the above. Historically, there has always been a front runner from the first episode or so—recall the three-season stint whose winners included Bob the Drag Queen, Bianca DelRio, and the wasp-waisted Violet Chachki. Every queen was talented, but the winner pulled ahead early on and always stayed ahead of the pack. This season, the talent seems divvied up fair and square. Everyone’s good and no one, truly, seems to be that bad.

After an All Stars season that caused such trauma for competitors and viewers alike, a regular-ass season of Drag Race is just the ticket—and season 10 is returning to its truest form. What a reLIEF it was to see the doors to the gussied-up workroom admit the ten gorgeous, sparkly, hungry girls into the best reality competition television program of our time!

If Drag Race returned in its tenth season and did not come out strong with a mini challenge, there would be riots in these streets. This petite ball challenge showcased the queens’s personalities and let us check up on how all the other Drag Race alum have been faring since their time on the show. Something about the setup made me think that the former contestants would be pelting them with wigs or something, but no, that is just a scene from my rich inner fantasy life.

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Brief aside: look at how many queens they got to come back! Mariah Balenciaga? Manila!! Detox, in a dress that he cannot move her body in, to match her face?? Kim Chi, whose dress was a toile de jouy print that, upon closer inspection, is a bunch of naked men?

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Image: VH1

The winner of the mini challenge was Monét Exchange, who executed three death drops in a row, though points will be deducted from her grade for executing said drops from a seated position—is it still a death drop if you’re doing it from the ground? A question: why did Mayhem Miller NOT win this challenge? She executed a cartwheel in a fishtail gown and didn’t break her ankles—I feel she deserves a medal for that alone!! Also, if the outlandishly-monikered Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams is going to call herself the twerk queen, she must prove herself by....actually twerking. A 45 minute cut of this entire challenge would be welcome, so if that’s around, please plop it in the comments, thanks!

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Notes from the workroom: Kameron Michaels has a sick bod; Yuhua couldn’t tell the black queens apart; and an Aquaria vs. Miz Cracker showdown (that has apparently been percolating for some time) nearly erupted over the same eyebrow/makeup style. I’ll be bold and plant my flag now: Team Cracker, though I’m open to discussion.

Trotting along, the maxi challenge is a pleasant throwback to the first challenge EVER in Drag Race herstory—drag on a dime, where the queens are forced to make actual clothing out of pool noodles, sponges, caution tape, and various hats found at dollar stores. More of this please! Make them work for it! Money can buy eleganza, but it cannot buy two of the most important tenants of Drag Race, uniqueness and talent. MAKE THEM SHOW YOU THE CONTOURS OF THEIR CHARISMA, UNIQUENESS, NERVE, AND TALENT!!

Image: VH1

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Almost everyone did something fabulous with what they had to work with: Kalorie’s money dress caused Ross Matthews to make an extremely terrible “cash me outside” joke; Dusty Ray Bottoms looked like the Tin Man stumbled into a traffic cone; whatever Blair St. Clair tried was better executed by Miz Cracker; and Monét’s ombré-sponge fantasia left me a teensy bit cold, but I loved, loved, LOVED that she had a story to go along with it. Tens, twelves, and twenty-fives across the board for Monique Heart, who made her wig out of plastique “no trespassing” sign—structure! Opulence! Construction! She should’ve won.

Last season, extra-special guest judge Lady Gaga entered the workroom as the final queen; this year, extra-special, extra guest judge Christina Aguilera came on the stage as Farrah Moan, giggled her way through some shit, and then, when asked if she had anything to say for herself, opened her mouth and unleashed a “hheeeyAHHAHOOEHHHOOOHHHHEEEEHHHeehhhoooOOhhhyeahhhyeahhhhhheeehhuhh” that will never, ever fail to make me laugh until I cry.

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There is a winner! And a loser. And there was a lip synch. At the tippity-top was Mayhem—hmm. And at the bottom, Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, the latter of whom was clocked for strolling out with a flower-covered hog body. Cinch that waist, ma’am! Michelle hates a hog body!

What a dream it would be to lip synch to “Ain’t No Other Man,” a Christina Aguilera banger that saw a twerk attempt from Kalorie and a handful of dollars ripped from her bodice. Even though I maintain that the Twerk Queen must actually TWERK in order to claim that title, that clutch of fake dollars ripped from her chest area won her the lip synch. Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, daughter of the House of Mateo, went home.

That’s all she wrote, glamour toads. Until next week!