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Drag Race: Mother-tucking snakes on this mother-tucking Plane Jane

Drag Race: Mother-tucking snakes on this mother-tucking Plane Jane

RuPaul; Plane Jane; Nymphia Wind on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 episode 2
Images: MTV

Now boarding hot takes from episode 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16.

We still haven’t had any complaints concerning our head, but several many complaints were indeed shared by fans who watched the grand premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 and felt like the Variety Show wasn’t giving them enough… well, variety!

In comes episode 2 as our formal introduction to Geneva Karr, Hershii LiqCour Jeté, Megami, Mhi’ya Iman LePaige, Nymphia Wind, Plane Jane, and Plasma. This fresh new batch of queens does deliver a Variety Show with a wider range of different numbers, but before we get there, we first need to make an emergency landing onto the werk room.

Plasma; Plane Jane; Geneva Karr on RuPaul\u2019s Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

As werk room conversations unfold, the girlies are convinced that there are some mother-tucking snakes on this mother-tucking Plane [Jane]. It becomes very clear, very quickly that this set of queens is nothing like the one in the first premiere. This group is a little less “kumbaya” and a little more “hayaku,” as Canada vs the World winner Ra’Jah O’Hara would say.

As the queens scramble to make connections and get ready for the Variety Show, they all talk about how they plan to approach the Rate-A-Queen twist and how much they’d love to win immunity. Nymphia suggests a New York City alliance, but it’s not clear if anyone else is on board. Geneva says that she doesn’t really trust Jane, and Hershii and Plasma passionately agree. Jane appears to be goofing off elsewhere in the werk room, getting whiplashed by Mhi’ya.

Nymphia Wind on RuPaul\u2019s Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

Before the maxi challenge, we get a wonderful confessional from Nymphia saying that Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage. And she’s right: same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan in May 2019. Since then, our community has been fighting but making very slow progress in terms of LGBTQ+ rights across all parts of Asia.

Jane jokes that Nymphia could be setting herself up to host Drag Race Taiwan, but Nymphia explains how small the Taiwanese drag scene is. She adds that the scene is so small that the drag performers there all know one another and consider themselves a big family. Nymphia comes off as witty and funny and kind, but also sharp and confident and competitive, and we’re thrilled to see the evolution of her Drag Race journey.

Hershii LiqCour Jet\u00e9; Geneva Karr; Plasma on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

Heading on over to the main stage, Derrick Barry returns to host this Queen Choice Awards-themed Variety Show, which starts with Geneva bringing traditional Mexican heritage to the show. “Somebody cleared customs,” she jokes, and everybody laughs. The number transitions into a high-energy Latin pop moment where Geneva calls herself “la diva más Latina.” And by the end, the judges are living for it, with Michelle Visage even mouthing the catchy hook of the song. Ms. Visage is a cunning linguist, we all know.

The next few numbers are fun, but they do feel a little bloated. First we get Hershii, who takes us to a jungle safari, makes a few Drag Race references, and then tries to sell us on some wig glue called Whiplash. Next up is Plasma, who sings a wonderful jazzy song about a happy life with RuPaul before breaking into doing impressions of Jennifer Coolidge, Joan Rivers, a silent Marilyn Monroe, and Harvey Fierstein. For both Hershii and Plasma, the performances aren’t bad… they perhaps just don’t make perfect sense?

Megami; Mhy\u2019ia Iman LePaige on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

The Variety Show goes on and we watch two queens lip syncing to existing songs. But the issue has nothing to do with the lip syncing or the songs. They’re just more straightforward, maybe even too literal, which likely contributes to these queens not landing in the top two.

First is Megami, who makes a very important statement about the anti-drag laws in the US. But Megami lip syncs to “What’s Up?” by the 4 Non Blondes while gently holding a wrinkled pride flag, and it takes too long for the song to get to its exciting “what’s going on!?” hook. In the end, she picks up the cardboard signs that had been standing on stage the whole time, and the signs read, “If you love drag on TV, love us in the voting booth too. Protect queer art.” We love this song, love this message, and love this queen, but the execution doesn’t live up to its vision.

We then get Mhi’ya, the Queen of Flips herself, lip syncing to “Bounce” by Calvin Harris and Kelis. This queen serves up a Kennedy Davenport-coded lip sync extravaganza. Baby, it’s giving Lip Sync Assassin. It’s giving the second coming of “Is she gonna jump from there?” Good luck to whoever lip syncs against this doll on the show, because you’re probably getting the chop. But we wish that Mhi’ya saved up some of these moves so that, later in the season, a judge can’t say that her flips aren’t exciting anymore because we’ve seen them since episode 2.

Nymphia Wind; Plane Jane on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

Nymphia’s Variety Show number is delicate, colorful, stunning, and exciting from start to finish. We’re always excited to see queens who bring their cultures, strengths, and passions to Drag Race while also importing those elements into the world of drag. Much like Sapphira Cristál’s opera number in episode 1, Nymphia drags it up and makes this an exciting performance for TV viewers and fans of drag.

The other strong performer of the night turns out to be Jane, who delivers a Jimbo-coded number mixing fast food, bimbo energy, and condiment jokes. More often than not, we have the same appreciation for stupid humor as Ru herself — from Yara Sofia’s hilarious “give the queen a f*cking dollar” number on All Stars 6 to Jimbo’s “Baloney Ghost” clowning on UK vs the World season 1 to BenDeLaCreme’s silly burlesque performance on All Stars 3. We have to confess that we didn’t find any throughline in Jane’s “burger finger” number in this Variety Show, but we see the judges loving it and the other queens acknowledging that Jane did a “surprisingly” good job… so props to you, mama!

Geneva Karr; Plane Jane on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

Overall, no one really bombed this Variety Show. We were confused by some of the choices, but everyone executed what they had prepared. This is one of those Drag Race episodes where fans will be arguing for years about which queens should’ve been in the top two instead, but the actual Rate-A-Queen twist determined that the top two of the week were Geneva and Jane.

It’s worth noting that Becky G’s hit songs are mostly all in Spanish, and picking one of those songs for a lip sync wouldn’t be fair to the non-Spanish speakers in the room. But it’s a shame that, due to those circumstances, we ended up with “Shower” for Geneva and Jane to lip sync… a week after Sapphira and Q got to lip sync to “Break My Soul” by Beyoncé.

The queens do their thing. Geneva gives it to you straight like a Latina popstar, whereas Jane dials up the comedy, has an accidental nip slip, and leans into it. Jane is deemed the winner of the lip sync. It’s always a fun Drag Race arc when a queen who is labeled a “villain” wins a challenge, so we couldn’t be more excited for these two groups of queens to come together in episode 3. May the shade of it all be unleashed!

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 16 airs every Friday on MTV.

Derrick Barry on RuPaul's Drag Race season 16 episode 2

Images: MTV

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.