By Mike Fleming
Project Q Atlanta

The queens get wiggy wit’ it on this week’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Not only is the challenge an extra hairy proposition, but a tangled twist at the end makes for even more wigged-out drama.

Ru warns the Top Five that they should get ready to wig out. Things kick off with a mini challenge in which the queens must create quick-fire headdresses from beach paraphernalia. Hu? Well, whatever: It ain’t pretty (top photo).

Despite the inflatable parrot humping an inflatable dolphin on Shangela’s head—yes!—Raja’s head full of crabs and lobsters (second photo) wins. She gets a five-second head start on pulling wigs for the main challenge: Create three head-to-toe looks inspired by period hair, modern red carpet hair and the piece d’resistance, a fantasy hairstravaganza made completely of, you guessed it, hair.

The work room tension is fluffed to high with such a multi-faceted challenge. That, combined with just five girls left in the competition, turns the usual passive-aggressive snarking into full-fledged bitchery. As they start cutting and spraying their looks, Raja has decided “not to be nice anymore” (What?!), and Manila is just full-on talking bad about people to their face.

Even with so few competitors left, three looks each makes for a long, tangled mess of a main stage presentation. Joining Ru and Michelle on the judge’s panel this week are on-again-off-again judge Santino and celebrity guests Fantasia Barino (third photo), who is having a ball just being there, and sexy comic Wayne Brady.

Raja does Mad Men ‘60s secretary to the T, an edgy deco dress with a razor cut for the red carpet, and then a completely successful cotton-candy interpretation of Janice from the Muppets.? Her personality sucks, but she’s a definite for the finals and a solid bet to win.

Yara works a partially braided ‘fro and sparkling jumper for her period piece, a so-so red carpet look, and an inspired braid-and-curls hair ensemble, right down to the purse (fourth photo). Brady feigns confused straight guy and wonders if it’s wrong that he’s so attracted to Yara’s booty. Ru assures him that it’s not wrong at all.

Shangela tries her damndest as a Flamenco dancer, then as a daytime Oprah’s Legends Ball queen, and finally as an alien princess who appears to have forgotten to wrap hair around the Styrofoam cones on her head.

For her period look, Manila mixes disparate eras—the 1980s and Marie Antionette’s 1780s—and it somehow works. She’s goes all Jennifer Love Hewitt-plays-Audrey Hepburn on us for the red carpet, and serves hairy bumble bee for the fantasy category. Like it or not, this other Heathers clique member is a shoe-in for the finals as well.

Alexis goes for ‘40s and lands smack in the early ‘90s. Her wide-hipped red carpet look misses the mark, too, before a fantasy black-and-fuscia ballet cluster (bottom photo) leads Brady to call her the Ho of Hooville.

When all the dos are done, Yara takes her first win. Raja is a close second, and Manila is a tight third. It’s down to Alexis and Shangela to Lip Sync For Your Life to a soaring Fantasia anthem. Alexis does a better job, but at this point, it really is time for Shangela to Sashay Away, or in her case do the Halleloo Shoo. Oh well, hair today, gone tomorrow.

But that’s not all, children. Ru provides the WTF moment of the night: Michelle, Santino and Santino-light Billy B. will caucus to determine which eliminated player returns to the competition next week. It’s an acrylic nail-biter as “Drag Race” heads toward the semi finals with one queen—Venus D. Lite, Atlanta’s Phoenix, Stacy Layne Matthews, Mimi Imfurst, Delta Work, Carmen or Shangela—getting a second chance in the spotlight.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.