It's finally arrived. After 13 weeks, 14 queens, 31 sequinced gowns, 2096 diamantes, 10 teary breakdowns, 97 "oh-KURR"s and 342 near critical cases of side-eye this Drag Race is finally nearing the finish line, where it can look forward to a slice of orange and a vigorous rubbing in the warm down tents.
This year's grand finale spectacular was filmed in Los Angeles, but the LIVE screening and party is being held in Las Vegas, which is sort of like the geographical equivalent of RuPaul herself - glitzy, completely man made and powered by 28 million megawatts of electricity per year.
Forget Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this is...
Is your fridge stocked with beer? Have you got a freezer full of vodka? Is your ice luge nicely wetted up so your lips won't stick to it when you're doing naked tequila shots at 2am? No, not those lips... Anyway, excellent, because last week's drinking game rules are still in effect. Follow them to the letter, and by the end of the night you'll be a drag queen too!
From the very first frame showing the outside of the theatre it's clear the producers have spared no expense for the big event:
The rest of the budget has apparently gone on Michelle Visage's appearance fee, buying approximately 30 seconds of her time to do scintillating, in-depth red carpet interviews that go like this:
"Oh Scruff Pit Crew!"
"Bianca is a bad bitch!"
Wondering how to segue into the next segment, the producers do a whip-around and scrape together a final few bucks to get her to say "And now it's time to go inside the theatre!" and off we go backstage, where RuPaul is busy trying to secure Gillette as a replacement sponsor for Absolut:
But forget all that, because it's show time! And in the time honoured tradition of Drag Races past we start proceedings by being forced to watch all the eliminated queens who we no longer care about about walk the runway as if they're still important.
IT'S FINALE CATWALK TIME!* In an attempt to secure the online retailer as a new sponsor for season 7, all the queens have dressed for tonight's runway as "something hideous you can buy on Etsy".
* First up is Kelly Mantle who is introduced as "the Carol Burnett of drag", which is funny because I remember Carol Burnett being on TV for years and years and years, not just one episode.
* Next up is everyone's least favourite queen Magnolia Crawford, who has stayed true to type by coming as this dog bandana:
* Moving on to Vivacious, who has wisely spent the weeks since being evicted off Drag Race trying to make "mother has arrived" a thing. It hasn't caught on. But she does look marvellous as a fashion accessory:
* Next is April Carrion, who I only remember for coming down the runway that one time with an umbrella and absolutely no one making an "April showers" joke. Disappointing. She's celebrating Etsy by dressing as this horrible My Little Pony doll, which is apparently called "Mummy Meadowsweet". If that's not an argument against Brony-ism I don't know what is.
* Moving right along to Gia "Boom Boom" Gunn, who is simply stunning in an haut couture tribute to this $11 dragon fantasy painting:
* "Who wants a tall glass of Milk?" booms Michelle Visage, and I literally have to run to the kitchen to get a glass of milk, because I am so suggestible like that. Meanwhile, in what is both a tribute to Etsy and a reminder to get enough calcium to support healthy bones, Milk has come dressed as this fancy walking stick cover:
* Moving right along to Laganja Estranja, who has decided to pay tribute to 1992 flop Bram Stoker's Dracula with an impersonation of this terrible bracelet featuring a portrait of Gary Oldman:
* Next down the runway is Trinity K Bonet, who has spent literally minutes spray painting some boobs on her dress in a nod to this stunning T shirt design:
* Then there's Joslyn Fox in a fashion representation of this chandelier:
* Not to be outdone in the illumination stakes, Ben De La Creme has shown up dressed as this scented candle:
* Like those annoying people who refuse to buy more than one Halloween costume and so try and make the same damn outfit suit every party no matter what the theme, Darienne Lake has turned up in a sequinned dress and is all like "I dunno, I'm an ornament? Where's the bar?"
* Moving on to our final three with Adore Delano, who is living up to her reputation by dressing as this kind of cool but a bit cheap and ultimately useless shoe-shaped bottle holder:
* Not one to shy away from a challenge, Bianca Del Rio is sporting a stunning eveningwear tribute to this "contemporary chicken egg":
* And bringing up the rear (not for the first time in her life) is The Pride of Australia Courtney Act, who is showing her affection for her new host country with a specially commissioned dress based on this photograph of a Savannah fishing trawler:
Meanwhile, look who's in the audience! It's Bland Canyon Holy Trinity member Jinkx Monsoon!
Suddenly the lights flicker, the speakers begin to crackle, and a hush comes over the auditorium. A spotlight floods the glittery curtain at the back of the stage, and everyone in the theatre drops to their knees and starts chanting "AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA" like that guy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when he's about to have his heart ripped out and be thrown into the volcano. The chanting gets louder and louder and more and more frenzied as the lights begin to flash different shades of red, giving the impression of a theatre drenched in blood. Latrice Royale starts ripping the stuffing out of her seat cushion, climbing the walls and throwing it over the audience, while Jiggly Caliente sets fire to her own shoes and starts running down the aisle shrieking "TIS THE END OF DAYS!"
Meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh:
Suddenly the glittery curtains at the back of the stage being to quiver, then to shake, and then finally they part to reveal...
As RuPaul walks down the runway it quickly becomes obvious where this season's production budget has gone:
Meanwhile, fill 'er up:
"This is the Oscars of drag, so before we go any further I wanna take a selfie,"says RuPaul.
Unfortunately it's not actually the Oscars, so there's no sponsorship deal and Milk has to use her own phone to take the shot.
How are you going so far? There's no way you're drunk yet, so here:
Now that we've watched all the queens we no longer care about sashay down the runway, it's time for the next inevitable part of the ceremony - hearing the queens we no longer care about talk to RuPaul. Expect lots of flashbackery and awkward, pre-prepared statements.
We begin with Kelly Mantle, who is once again reminded of the time she got read by Michelle Visage for wearing bacon on the runway and failed to deliver the best comeback ever, namely:
And then there's Magnolia Crawford, famous for her bad attitude, terrible dress sense and incredible Mr Squiggle impersonation.
"I was a little taken aback that my nose was so controversial," Magnolia says.
"But at least now I can call myself MAG-NOSE-LIA!" she says.
RuPaul laughs politely and is the only audible sound in the room, apart from the clinking of Michelle Visage's chest plates rubbing together.
"Now Magnolia, how many of the challenges would you have killed if you'd stayed on?" she asks.
"Well now... I... actually... I did not watch this season," stammers Magnolia.
It's an inflammatory admission to make at the grand finale, even more controversial than the time Sharon Needles painted herself in Marshmallow Fluff and temporarily changed her name to "N-Word Swastika" after a particularly enthusiastic PBR binge.
Fire and brimstone begins raining down from the ceiling and a giant crack opens up in the floor, releasing the hounds of hell riding a tsunami of molten lava as the audience erupts into a violent frenzy, shrieking "I CAN'T BELIEVE SHE DIDN'T WATCH IT!". RuPaul lifts a single finger and a thousand tiny demons rush the stage, poking Magnolia with miniature pitchforks as she cries rivers of blood wailing "WHAT HELL HATH I WROUGHT?"
"Hold on! In my defence, in my mind I had a very good experience, despite the way anything came across I had a fantastic time and I just wanted to remember it as MY experience," Magnolia says.
"I am not buying that. Kelly, talk to her because I am over it, OFFICIALLY," says RuPaul, dismissing Magnolia with a wave of her hand.
As the paramedics strap Magnolia to a gurney and wheel her off, RuPaul turns her attention to Vivacious, who has decided to use the Drag Race finale as the official public launch of her new country, the United Soviet States of Ornacia (DRINK), by coming dressed as its flag:
"Old school way is old school way, honey, we gon' walk it and give you hips for yo nerve, we're gonna sissy it and chasse and shantay right down the runway, honey," says Vivacious.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage:
Then there's April Carrion, showing off photos of what she would have worn for the various challenges if she'd stayed on the show, including her impression of a pregnant Kim Kardashian for the Snatch Game:
Meanwhile, backstage our three finalists are waiting in something called the "Overstock Red Room", which looks like something you'd see on Changing Rooms just before the owners walk in and look around awkwardly, wondering how long it will take them to get it back the way it was.
But who the hell cares about them when back on the main stage, THE ORNACIA DANCERS HAVE ARRIVED:
"We are just moments away from finding out who will be crowned America's Next Drag Superstar," says RuPaul, who is approximately 40 minutes away from crowning a winner. So basically if RuPaul ever asks you for a moment of your time, clear your schedule.
Gia Gunn is next on the interview stool, not that she can actually sit on it properly because of her crazy dress:
And then there's Milk, who has killed me stone dead with her drop dead glamour dress from Planet Amazeballs, so much so that I don't even mind when she boasts: "Both women and men tell me how hot I am and how much they want to sleep with me".
Then all of a sudden a piercing shriek comes over the audio system, and:
That siren call can only mean one thing: it's Laganja's time in the spotlight!
"You were called out by the judges and the other girls for being fake, do you agree with that?" RuPaul asks.
"Well no girl, I honestly just think y'all were all boring and I was just trying to turn the party, yes GAWD!" she hollers, with a tongue pop.
Now please raise a glass to the best reaction shot ever:
Suddenly everyone stands up, holds hands and starts singing a song about togetherness and love, and there are karaoke lyrics on the bottom of the screen which aren't at all helpful because who the hell has ever heard this song before? Which, by the way, is TERRIBLE.
Moving on to the next round of interviews, starting with Joslyn Fox, who is part way through replacing her favourite diamante necklace with another, which she is buying one strand at a time on lay-by.
Then there's Ben De La Creme and Darienne Lake, who explains their non-existent feud for the three people in the audience who still care about it.
"It's not always about having great times, it's about having those times that you need to struggle through," she says.
Meanwhile, back in the share house from 1998:
Are you drunk yet? No, me neither. RuPaul hasn't even said "oh no she better don't" ONCE. Let's make a new rule - drink every time there's a totally irrelevant dance break.
Oh, would you look at that!
Suddenly the glittery curtain at the back of the stage starts to shimmer and shake: our top three have finally been released from the red room of hell and are ready to take their revenge on the audience.
Adore sings a little number about being a top singer. Courtney sings a bit about being a top singer. Then Bianca starts shouting and everyone forgets there are two other finalists.
"Like you two ever topped anybody before! I'm Bianca and I could give a shit about your runs! I could read your ass to the bank and back for fun! I can't motherfuckin' sing but I'm in the motherfuckin' top three, motherfucker!" she shouts.
Sensing an overload of joy and happiness in the room, RuPaul announces she's going to drive the final nail in the coffin of Laganja and Adore's ailing friendship by showing everyone what happened when they watched THAT episode of Untucked together, the highlights of which are:
Basically, this entire three minutes can be summed up by smacking yourself in the face, spraying vinegar in your eyes, yelling pointlessly at something (like, say, a miniature statue or tomato plant) and staring at the following:
Time for some "fan questions from the audience". Unfortunately, the audience is so full of former contestants and media types there isn't any room for actual fans, and an awkward silence falls over the auditorium as everyone struggles to come up with a question better than "When does the after party start and does it have an open bar?"
The producers quickly scramble to get the Ornacia Dancers back on stage to do a 10 minute tribute to the history of drag, but fortunately Latrice Royale jumps up to the microphone just in time to ask Adore whether she has a crush on Bianca.
"I would never sleep with her because I only give to charity once a year," says Bianca, a comment of such superior shade it causes Adore to do an impromptu impression of a puppet for no reason at all.
Next up to the microphone is your next alcoholic drink:
"I have a Facebook question," says Alaska. "How can I unfriend Sharon Needles?"
No actually she doesn't ask that, she asks Gia Gunn about her wonky eyelash, which is a tad weird for a segment that's supposed to be about the three finalists but it does raise the question: WHERE THE HELL IS SHARON?
Then Joslyn's fiance gets up and asks her to marry him.
So just to recap, in the "fan questions for the final three" segment we've heard from Adore, Bianca, Gia Gunn and Joslyn.
No time to wonder about that now - it's time for the gayest wedding of the year between Joslyn Fox and her fiance, with RuPaul as celebrant and the Scruff Pit Crew as ring bearers.
There's a little bit of confusion as Joslyn's beau tries and fails to find a bare finger to put her wedding ring on, eventually pinning it to her wig.
"I now pronounce you MARRIED!" says RuPaul, before adding "Suck on THAT, Grammys!"
Meanwhile, it looks like that experimental Russian leg lengthening surgery has worked wonders for Christina Aguilera...
No wait, that's actually last year's Miss Congeniality winner and professional stilt-walker Ivy Winters come to hand over her crown to Ben De La Creme. That's nice.
Moving on, and apparently it's time to meet our top three. Again. Here look, I'll make this easy: Adore's the punky party girl, Bianca's the wise cracking professional and... who's the other one again?
OH THAT'S RIGHT, ONLY THE PRIDE OF AUSTRALIA COURTNEY ACT, WHO HASN'T HAD ANY GOD DAMN SCREEN TIME THIS ENTIRE EPISODE.
Just to recap: we're 45 minutes in and the only thing that's come out of Courtney's mouth has been some carbon dioxide.
Adore talks for about 10 minutes about... oh I dunno, winning or some shit, before RuPaul finally gives everyone playing the Bland Canyon drinking game a chance to tone down their sobriety by bringing her dancers back on for a routine to the worst Drag Race spin-off single of all time, "Oh No She Better Don't". Double drinks for irrelevant dancing and annoying catchphrase.
Over to Bianca, who cracks some jokes and does a brilliant Lady Bunny impression, getting an ecstatic reaction from the crowd including from this guy, wearing the most spectacular sequinned jumper the world has ever seen:
UPDATE!: Wanna know more about this jumper? Read all about it here!
"It's time to finish our lesson in the A B Cs of drag - and I think we all know what the C word is," says RuPaul, in what would normally be a funny way of introducing Courtney but given she's been actively prevented from saying anything for the past hour actually seems a bit like adding insult to injury.
"Was this competition extra pressure for you, because you were already a star down under?" asks RuPaul.
"I HAVE A STAR DOWN UNDER! I PAID MY WAXER EXTRA FOR IT!" yells Khloe Kardashian, stumbling in from the lobby bar.
"Did you learn anything from this competition?" RuPaul asks.
"I learned a lot. Australians do have a very blunt, kind of honest sense of humour," Courtney says.
"There's a lot of times when I thought I was being helpful, and I watched it back and was all 'ooh, did she just say that?'."
At this, all the other queens spontaneously break into a group impression of a stone wall:
As an Australian who has lived in the States I can confidently say: COURTNEY GIRL, I FEEL YOUR PAIN. I can't even tell you the number of times I absolutely horrified Americans with what I thought were benign jokes or observations. Americans and Aussies are, as they say in South East Asia, "same same, but different". Pour one out for our awkward relationship.
"I'm definitely learning to chip away that cold, Australian exterior," Courtney says.
More irrelevant dancing - DRINK - and finally it's time to crown a winner. FINALLY.
"We are just moments away from crowning America's next drag superstar," says RuPaul, who last said those exact words over an hour ago.
If we're going to hold up proceedings it might as well be for Drag Race's reigning queen and official member of the Bland Canyon Holy Trinity Jinkx Monsoon, who is supporting RuPaul's Etsy sponsorship bid by coming dressed as this edible gum sculpture of the Statue of Liberty:
Jinkx tells everyone about all the fabulous things she's done since winning last year's crown, including touring her stage show The Vaudevillians (I saw it, it's honestly amazing, and I drank Grey Goose with her in a nightclub afterwards, so it was basically the greatest night ever and you should go see the show if you get a chance) (not sure if the vodka is part of the show though) (it's probably not) (go anyway).
"Well the wait is over, kittens," says RuPaul, before blathering on about something else for another five minutes.
"The time has come to crown our queen," she says again, and then goes off on a tangent about prizes or her shopping list or something, I don't know.
"The winner... of RuPaul's Drag Race... America's next drag superstar... is..." says RuPaul, trying to maintain the tension in the room.
Oh OK, it's Bianca Del Rio.
And so the time has come to say goodbye to Drag Race, and leave our new queen and overlord Bianca Del Rio to the spoils of her new kingdom (namely: free drinks and blowjobs for at least the next 12 months).
It's been a fun 14 weeks, staying up until 3am making GIFs of drag queens falling over and trying to come up with jokes about RuPaul looking like various homewares. Now please excuse me while I go and quietly faint in a corner under a pile of wigs.
If I happen to lose my sanity at some point over the next few months, be sure to join me when I recap ALL STARS II, aka: THE SEASON OF ALASKA.
Want to go back in time to the worst episode of the whole season? Sure, READ EPISODE 13.
Or start the whole shebang over again from the beginning: READ EPISODE 1.