This episode begins with a much smaller dance class for Damon; “Vogue” is finally off the charts and the reduced number of attendee’s is affecting his paycheck. The lack of interest in “Vogue” spreads to the ballroom and at the first ball of the episode, Pray Tell notes the lack of “looky-loos” and proclaims that “America’s obsession with ‘Vogue’ is dead.” He has his “I told you so” moment but reminds everyone that “ballroom is going to continue to be ballroom” regardless of the validation — or lack thereof — from the cishet world.
At the house of Evangelista, Blanca and Pray catch up on the Evil Landlady situation and Blanca shares that Frederica has been using the public’s fear of queer people and people with HIV to fight Blanca’s protest. They also talk about the young-uns; Damon, Ricky, and Lulu are struggling. Lulu is taking Candy’s death hard and it’s been affecting her health. Damon’s classes got canceled and Ricky’s out of a job too so he just hangs around at Evangelista watching TV with Damon. Blanca interrupts one such session and tries to get them to do the dishes or get a job but Damon explains that he feels abandoned and he doesn’t understand why before storming off.
Pray reminds Blanca that when he was growing up and felt lost the elders showed him the way. He and Blanca are the elders now — despite Blanca’s initial rejection of the title — because they are survivors.
Pray’s plan is to put the kids to work so he and Blanca tell Damon, Lulu and Ricky that they have a week to figure out a way to wrap Frederica Norman’s house in a condom. The act is threefold; it gives the kids a chance to see themselves accomplish something and prove their worth to themselves, it serves as a platform for ACT UP to protest the harmful abstinence-only rhetoric around HIV and as a bonus, it’s Frederica Norman’s house and she deserves the spotlight on her for all her bullshit.
Pray and Blanca’s idea works. Planning the protest gives the kids the opportunity to bond and voice their insecurities. Lulu feels like she’s not good enough and she mentions being in community college for accounting and having to drop out. Damon pulls a Blanca and reminds her that their survival is proof of their strength, resilience and smarts. The pep talk works and together they come up with the idea of asking a balloon castle company to custom make a condom for the protest. Lulu asks Elektra to fund the condom balloon and she says no at first but when Lulu reminds her that her absence from the last community protest tarnished her legacy Elektra concedes and offers Lulu $1000 of the $2500 she needs. For the rest of it, she has Lulu work with her at the dungeon and it’s a pretty wholesome bonding moment.
Later, the protest squad — Blanca, Pray, Ricky, Damon, Judy, Wanda, and Elektra — stop at a motel before the protest and Pray and Ricky get a chance to bond. Ricky shares that Chris tested positive for HIV. Pray tells him to get tested because Chris gave Ricky a blowjob on tour. Ricky also flirts with Pray and while I don’t like them in a relationship, I support the flirting because it’s the most honest depiction of having a relationship with a queer elder that you respect, look to for advice and also think is very, very, attractive.
The protest goes well. Pray and Blanca have to physically drag Elektra towards the house and she doesn’t do much but stand there and give orders but the three of them agree that as elders, it’s their duty to take the fall if the cops show up. Someone does call the cops but the squad manages to inflate the condom and get out before they actually show up. Not only that but after the protest, Blanca gets her saloon back! Evil Landlady pushed the judges to expedite the case because she thought it would be in her favor. She was wrong. She shows up to threaten Blanca again but as of this episode, nothing happened. Blanca catches up with Lulu and she’s looks — and feels — a lot better than she did at the start of the episode. Lulu tells Blanca that she’s enrolled at the Bronx Community College to get her accounting degree. Good news all around.
Pray goes with Ricky to get tested and comforts him when his test comes back positive. It was a heartbreaking scene and I hope that Ricky gets all the support and community he needs.
Another major story arc this episode was Papi and Angel. Angel gets a gig as the new Bebe girl and to celebrate, Papi asks to go to Nells — a club Angel just got a membership to — with Angel. She agrees on the condition that Papi goes as her boyfriend. They have fun at the club together — Angel introduces Papi by his legal name, Estaban — and they’re even invited to the VIP room by Mario, a friend of Angel’s. There, everyone’s doing coke like it’s candy. Mario offers them some and Angel is tempted but Papi walks out with her and tries to dissuade her. Angel reassures him that the drugs are pharmaceutical grade so they aren’t harmful. I don’t know a lot about coke but I’m pretty sure that’s not true at all. Regardless, it’s enough to convince Papi to partake. On the one hand, they do have fun; they dance and makeout and act like giddy teenagers all night and I’m happy for them but I’m nervous because they don’t have all the details to make an informed decision for themselves.
Also, Angel and Papi don’t need coke to have fun so I’m hoping that they’re able to recognize that for themselves soon. As of now, it seems unlikely; Damon catches them using and Angel drops the vial out the window to convince him not to tell Blanca but that’s not the end of it. Angel shows up two hours late to her Bebe shoot and gets a stern talking-to from Mrs. Ford. Like that’s not shitty enough, her photographer turns out to be the guy that coerced her into taking nude pictures. Like the ultimate creep he is, he invades her personal space to say hello and the episode ends there. Angel is about to go through a pretty rough time but she has the support to make it through.
This episode was a good reflection on community roles and the way we care for and advice each other. Queer elders are often way too young for the responsibility but they are invaluable. Our community survives because of all of us.
See you next week!