Tops and Bottoms: Season 13, Episode 1

I may give the VH1 seasons crap, but can we all be at least thankful that the increased budget means we didn’t have to slog through 6 RuPaul songs for the premiere? That by itself would cancel the show.


13. Utica

Yeah, I think this image speaks for itself.

Like, it’s not just her mugging for the camera. It’s her confessional outfit, where she chose to dress as a rejected “Sherlock-Holmes-through-the-lens-of-Doctor-Who” costume. Like, it’s such a try-hard costume (not an outfit, a costume) that just instantly makes me not wanna give her any sort of slack. 

Utica’s best moment wasn’t even because of her, it was her lazily trying to classify her drag as zany and Gottmik reacting in unamused monotone. Besides that moment, it’s clear the show is taking Utica at face value, and not as the cloying tryhard that she is, and I have no interest learning more.

12. Tina

I feel like this image of her harassing Bianca while the other Bianca laughs her ass off behind them speaks volumes. 

So, I actually very much enjoyed this premiere. Drag Race premieres are pretty bad overall, and while setting up all the characters and initial exposition is universally true for most reality shows, Drag Race also does some fuckery stunt in addition. Remember Season 7’s premiere devoting 18 hours to a pointless fashion show? Or the tired Season 2 premiere that was saved by its god tier Untucked? Or Season 11 ignoring damn near everyone aside for Soju’s cyst? So it’s great that Season 13 can start with such a good premiere, one that features everyone and gives each person a moment. It cheats a bit by not having an elimination, but I’ll take it because even after just one episode I have a solid gauge on who each character was.

Which means I can confidently say that Tina is awful.

The last quarter of the premiere is basically dedicated to Tina, and it’s a sharp decline in quality. While the pairings before felt fun and inviting, a nice glance at who each of the other characters were, Tina busts in and constantly has an unnecessary comment about Kahmora or Elliott. Even when fun things happen like Kahmora shading her and Elliott in a polite but pointed way, Tina has to butt in with some comment about Kahmora being shady and it’s like… Yes Tina, we know, we have senses. We can detect things.

What’s most infuriating about Tina is how unoriginal she is. Tina is a comedy queen from New York, a tired ass trope Drag Race loves to tote out, and as Symone points out one who always does well. There’s literally nothing to Tina, she’s just loud and abrasive, but the show treats her as this legend and it’s all so disingenuous and insincere. Tina is lame, and I really hope her time on the show is brief.


11. Elliott.

God… why would you do that to yourself? You’re only 26! Damn girl…

First of all, I hate her name? “Elliott with two T’s”, yeah girl, we can read. Maybe “Elliot with two T’s” was just too obvious a joke, but playing it straight ain’t much better.

Elliott herself had the unfortunate timing of being in the same group as Tina, so we didn’t see much of her. But even then, we got a recycled Trinity Taylor joke about plastic surgery. So… I don’t feel like we missed much.

10. Denali

Pointlessly judgy, Denali doesn’t quite sit right with me, but I mostly blame the format. Like, I can totally see that Denali has potential as a fun, bitchy villain, and maybe we’ll see a darker side to her once the cast starts being around each other more. Denali has a lot of potential, especially because she’s clearly pissed that she was “eliminated” early, and especially because her outfit was an awful one to lip sync in, so what happens to her remains to be seen.

That being said, this episode gave us an even better meltdown, so while Denali has potential, she’s been overshone. 

9. Kahmora

First of all, I love anyone who shows up on a reality show in a fucking Bob Mackie dress. That is a fucking flex, and good on her. 

Sadly, we don’t get a whole lot from Kahmora, which is a shame. Kahmora has a lot of small, quiet fun moments, like mocking Tina or Elliott to their face or that beyond awkward hug between her and Denali. Unlike Elliott, there’s clearly some meat to Kahmora’s character. Unfortunately, she was grouped with Tina, and instead of the reams of film I’m positive exist of Kahmora mocking Tina for being obnoxious, we get a Kahmora moment followed by Tina’s unneeded input.

This is why Tina bugs me so much: she’s a character cyclone who brings others down with her. I can’t confidently say Kahmora was robbed, at least not right now, but I would prefer more of her the drag hot dog doing schtick. 

8. Joey

I feel like I shouldn’t like Joey nearly as much as I do.

There’s a lot to not like about Joey on face value. For one, she’s basing her entire character off of being basic and an obvious filler queen, a defeatist self-analysis with shallow potential. I know almost nothing about Joey besides her terrible entrance look (ignoring the feathers, that’s a bad look) and that her tastes are peak White People culture. From the outset, Joey is defining herself not as who she is but rather her placement, and that has a recipe for going downhill fast.

And yet… I kinda like her?

Granted, I say this with a massive asterix to it, but I found Joey’s self-aware blandness kinda nice. This isn’t her long time dream of being on Drag Race and she desires to win no matter what. Hell, she barely does Drag in the first place, so her copping to being filler feels more like a subtle nod to not take whatever she does seriously. She knows she’s toast, and is likely approaching the show as a fun, month-long vacation before she goes back to normal life. And at least her assessment of herself as basic is limited to her liking Vanessa Carlton and not being able to handle spicy food, a much better mode of basicness than the show usually has. 

Like I said, my enjoyment of Joey is hugely conditional, and would decrease rapidly if she stays longer than third boot, but overall I find Joey find kind of charming. 


7. Gottmik

“Time to crush the cis-stem”

God, finally. 

Gottmik won me over as soon as she showed all the contempt I had when she saw and talked to Utica. As soon as Utica calls herself “kooky,” you can visibly tell Gottmik checks the fuck out of the conversation, and honestly same. I love anyone who reacts to “kooky” with thinly-veiled contempt. 

Similarly, I enjoy her complete non-reaction to the twist. Unlike everyone else, Gottmik recognizes the obvious twist and rolls with it. I mean, she knows she’s safe, being cast as a token, and even if she loses there’s no way they would just drop her from the show. Especially not over Uitca. 

Gottmik isn’t a character with a lot of legs, but from what I saw of her in this one episode, I was entertained. 

6. Olivia

Olivia, like previous icons Shangela, Scaredy, and Laganja, is a young Queen who has been doing drag for roughly 4 days. I’m already on board in concept, as these beginner types are full of potential: whether as hatesinks for the seasoned Queens to project insecurities on, unique voices who are just now finding themselves and in for amazing growth arcs, or as just batshit insane weirdos. From what we’ve seen, Olivia is the first two (it would be too much to ask for the hat trick), as she’s effortlessly likable and charming, and smiles as said experience New York Queens lose their shit over her good performance. Tina almost outright calls shenanigans about this, to which Olivia grins in a way that isn’t 100% malicious but you can tell she knew what she was doing. 

And as for Rosé’s response… stay tuned.

But yeah, Olivia clearly knows her role in the story, and she performs it well. I have a lot of faith Olivia will go down as one of the breakouts of Season 13.

5. Lala Ri

Lala Ri was always going to rank high after she classified herself as an Olive Garden pasta dish with Popeyes chicken on top. Lala Ri has an amazing way with words, and I could listen to her talk all day. And while I don’t usually talk about lip syncs during these, I can not deny she was fantastic. She didn’t need to be to murder Denali, but I love watching her perform almost as much I love hearing her talk.

This write-up will be shorter than most today, but Lala Ri is really just starting to emerge. That being said, I expect great things for her as the season progresses.

4. Kandy

I was rather hesitant of Kandy before the season began. I knew of Kandy, the heavyset one in the Haus of Aja, a drama-filled clusterfuck that lasted 19 seconds before inevitably imploding, with Aja losing her mind, and leaving a broccoli bitch publicly trying to pick up the pieces on the show and failing. And while there’s… a story there, I didn’t think it would be compelling, and I assumed Kandy would only be that.

Turns out she’s not just Fat Aja. She’s Fat Vanjie.

Like one Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Kandy is a loud bitch with a bunch of good, funny sound bites and great reactions. While Vanjie was catapulted by her loudness and sheer crass, Kandy has more going on under the hood. That’s not to say Kandy is better, we’re only a single episode in, but Kandy has much more potential for a season-long arc than Vanessa, who really ran out of steam by the end of Season 11. 

Also, I love a Queen who confidently dances well to a song she doesn’t know the words to. Like, Kandy’s dancing and choreography to Call Me Maybe was great, but her clearly not knowing the words makes it better. And how the hell does she not know the words to fucking Call Me Maybe? How?!

3. Symone

I LOVE Symone’s outfit. And it’s a stellar shout-out. 

There’s something so nice and compelling about Seymone, especially when she recognizes talent. While most of the initial meetings between the Queens were typical, caddy comments that are a dime a dozen. Seymone’s candor and warmth to Tamisha was nicely done. Seymone is just an incredibly charismatic and a good speaker, made obvious when she was able to go toe-to-toe with Ms Fracker’s ad libbing.

And, it must be said, she killed that lip sync. Like, best lip sync of the night? Yes! And even when she’s kicking Tamisha’s ass, she still goes out of her way to compliment her. God what a sweetheart.

2. Tamisha

The Murtaugh of Drag. 

It’s easy to be sympathetic for Tamisha: a fifty-something cancer survivor who admits to everyone that she’s not where she wants to be and is a step slower. Symone calls her maternal and you can see them instantly connecting, and while part of that is Symone’s warmness, Tamisha is just that instantly likable. From that small interaction by itself, Tamisha shines.

And yet she peaks when she thinks she’s eliminated. 

After getting the pork chop, she ends up in the back room with Joey and Denali, and is tired already. It’s obvious there’s some sort of twist going on, but Tamisha, understandably pissed at what just happened, sees them as hopelessly optimistic and immature. She keeps saying RuPaul told her to go home (she didn’t), and is just barely entertaining the notion that she’s not eliminated. She’s clearly, through attitude, too old for this shit, and that kind of attitude is one I find endearing.

1. Rosé

So, as I said above with Tina, I think this is a very strong premiere for Drag Race. Drag Race typically likes to focus on singular stories in their premieres, which sounds good on paper, but can mean we don’t learn about the other Queens. I don’t think this is a bad practice, Drag Race’s first boots tend to stand out compared to most reality shows, but it means the show starts with a slowburn that doesn’t exactly promise much for the episodes beyond. This premiere, on the other hand, did feel special, and it felt like we heard everyone at least once.

But that doesn’t mean we got rid of the single episode story. Thus, the tragedy of Rosé.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a stellar character assassination. I love when the show gives their contestants enough rope to hang themselves, ending in stunning moments that are almost tragic. Between Silky’s breakdown in Season 11 and Jan’s homicidal rage from losing the Madonna challenge in Season 12, Drag Race has worked its ass off to make sure we get one of these a season. And one the very first episode, we get Rosé losing her shit.

The set up and execution was literary: Rosé, confident Queen from previous reality shows, comes out and talks about what an amazing performer she is. She battles Olivia, an inexperienced Queen who Rosé helped in a minor way. We get the judges evoking Jan, and asking Rosé if she’s going to do better than her sister. And confidently, she claims she will. I mean, could you imagine her in the loser’s lounge with the likes of Joey or Utica?

She might as well have said she was two days from retirement. 

I fully buy that this was a set-up, because of course it was. Drag Race worked into overtime to have an episode 1 downfall. And while I give the show shit, in my opinion, it was absolutely earned. The set up and pay off were excellent, and the contestants used were perfect. It was a stunt, absolutely, but I buy it 100%, and it was a key reason on this premiere being as strong as it was. 

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