“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Episode 1316 Recap: You’re a Winner, Baby

This is a recap of Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 13 Finale. Spoilers below.

Symone is here for the throne. From New Year’s Day to late April, we’ve watched thirteen queens across sixteen episodes plus a pandemic special. But season 13 is finally over and the rightful winner has been crowned.

But first Ru opens the show by reminding us that she may be 60, she may have a reality TV empire, she may frack on the side for extra cash, but she’s still RuPaul Charles. She performs her new song “Old Friends Silver, New Friends Gold” showing us her very best.

The finale is once again at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, but there is, of course, no audience. Instead there’s a drive-in screening hosted by season 12 winner, Fenty model, and all around stunner Jaida Essence Hall. But the editing is really sharp and gives the feel of an audience. The finale ended up feeling bigger, not smaller, than previous years — an impressive feat given the limitations.

The next act is a trio of runways with our wonderful top four. The first category is Black and White starting with the pinhead Pandora’s box look that got Gottmik to shave her head. Kandy is wearing a dress that says BLM from her hat down to the hem. Rosé is doing her best Audrey Hepburn and it is… so much. And Symone has her first of SEVERAL perfect looks with a bandana hair piece under giant hair and a giant dress with a giant bustle.

Category two is Red. Gottmik’s look is inspired by Keith Haring. Kandy is in a tight leather dress with headphones and a long ponytail. Rosé is a tree. And Symone is in a dress made entirely of red nails.

The final category is Drag Eleganza. Gottmik wears a dress that shows her now famous nipples and a visible red heart. Kandy is in a peacock gown. Rosé is dressed like the Queen of Scotland. And Symone is half goddess half warrior, her right side in gold armor and a white hair crown on her head.

Ru then speaks to the top four one-by-one, starting with Gottmik. The montage introducing her really highlights just how great she’s been all season. I love Gottmik, but not as much as Ru!! Paris Hilton shows up on video and joins in on the lovefest and Gottmik shares that Paris was her first celebrity client. Then Gottmik’s parents give a whatever message that results in Gottmik saying the very diplomatic: “I’m so happy to see they support me.”

The show moves in alphabetical order so Kandy Muse is up next. Kandy relates to Ru as a Scorpio and brushes off her feud with Tamisha. One of Kandy’s moms pops in with another video message and it’s very genuine and sweet. Kandy says her moms have always been her support system.

Rosé reveals that she got a sprained ankle but says that nothing would stop her from being there tonight. I do believe that as she is part robot. Look, I’ve liked Rosé from the beginning. But I think when things get really competitive she sinks into pageant mode and loses all her charm! That said, the video message from Rosé’s family feels so authentic and a supportive family seems like a pretty good consolation prize for not winning Drag Race.

Finally, Symone. She says that Rihanna is her icon while adding that she’s a mix of Lil’ Kim and Whitney Houston. They chat about Rihanna DMing her, which I would argue is even cooler than winning Drag Race. Ru asks Symone about her drag as activism and she says she always wants to say something and be herself. I really like the suggestion that to be political is simply to be honest about who you really are. She gets a sweet message from her mom and grandma and she says she just wants her mom to be proud of her. The finale family stuff always make me so hungry for more info about what’s going on in all these dynamics!

Ru says that 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the first reported case of AIDS. To honor that history and the recent pandemic, the top four perform in a music video to Bette Middler’s “Friends” where they’re all out of drag watching themselves in drag fight to be the center diva on stage. Ru then introduces a tribute to Chi Chi DeVayne featuring Bob and Kennedy and so many others. The whole thing was really emotional and I especially loved Heidi talking about how Chi Chi inspired her by being so magnetic on the show even with fewer resources. God what a fucking rough year this has been!!

Finally, it’s time to begin the lip syncs. This year Ru says FREE BRITNEY with a trifecta of songs by the one and only pop icon. Then there’s a video message from Cory Booker for some reason. A real roller coaster of loving Ru and being annoyed with Ru in the span of 30 seconds.

The wheel is spun and lands on Kandy and then spun again and lands on Rosé. THIS SUCKS. Our rightful top two Gottmik and Symone can’t be our top two. Oh well. Kandy and Rosé lip sync to “Work Bitch” — Rosé wearing a glittery pink suit and Kandy in a white leotard. Rosé reveals to a velvet pink jumpsuit and Kandy reveals to a colorful body suit. They’re both great, but while Rosé is the better dancer, you just can’t take your eyes off Kandy. She really is a phenomenal performer and that’s why she is where she is. And she wins! Kandy Muse top two! She and Rosé kiss on the lips and then Rosé gives a robotic pageant farewell. More videos of you giggling with Gottmik, less emotional walls, thanks so much, see you around, babe.

Next up is the most anticipated lip sync of the night! Symone vs. Gottmik! Symone is in a Lakers-inspired warm up tracksuit and Gottmik is in a red flowy baby doll dress. They are performing “Gimme More” and when that was announced I shrieked. Gottmik opens her dress to reveal that her top says “Crash the Cistem.” And Symone removes the tracksuit to reveal a bikini made of Timberlands. They’re both so good!!!!!!! Symone wins the lip sync. Gottmik wins All Stars 7.

Before the final lip sync, all of the season 13 queens are introduced on video and we do not have time to discuss all of their outfits but Denali is dressed like a cactus that left me dehydrated and Olivia looks STUNNING. Heidi walks out to her song “GAP” dressed like a rose to announce Miss Congeniality. And the award goes to…. LaLa Ri! This is so deserved!! Last week’s episode really showed what LaLa can do and I’m so excited for her future. Also all the queens get $2k which is nice.

Jaida then comes on stage once again looking beautiful. It’s finally the moment. Symone and Kandy both look futuristic — Symone in a Matrix-looking black leather coat and Kandy in a white full body suit and sunglasses. They are appropriately performing “Til the World Ends.” Symone takes off the coat to reveal she’s in a very revealing sparkly yellow fringe dress. (Symone showed a lot of body this episode and I am not complaining!) In lieu of an outfit change, Kandy’s reveal was taking out the Dominican flag. Symone has one more trick up her sleeve and by up her sleeve I mean in her hair which opens up with confetti out of her braids to reveal a spinner with more fringe attached. Even without this moment, Symone would’ve won. With it there’s no question. But no one would’ve expected Kandy to make it to the top two and I’m so glad we got so much time with her talent and her heart.

Symone was my favorite before the season began because she’s a Capricorn. Now she’s my favorite — and the winner — for so much more. This has been such a difficult year and I had doubts about whether Drag Race should have even happened. But Symone approached this moment, this opportunity, this platform with such precision. As she said, she was just being true to herself. But within that platitude hides endless challenges that she overcame. And I’m just so grateful we had the opportunity to witness her talents and vulnerabilities this year. Congratulations to Symone, the winner of season 13 and one of the best queens — and people — to ever appear on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Teleport Us to Mars!! Here Are Some Random Thoughts:

+ Thank you so much for reading my first season of recaps! One of my primary objectives here at Autostraddle is to break down the divisions within our community. What unites us as queers is not the genders we were assigned at birth or even who we fuck, but our shared values, interests, and experiences. And I would like to specifically thank Carmen for working with me before the season began to introduce this coverage in the clearest way possible and for waking up every Saturday morning and being my editor. It’s a gift to work for someone like Carmen who is not merely open to new ideas, but who will genuinely match your enthusiasm and give those ideas the support they need.

+ All Stars 6 is coming soon, but it will only be on Paramount Plus so I will not be doing full recaps. Maybe I’ll do mini recaps for BOYT? I don’t know! We haven’t discussed it! To be continued!

+ A reminder to the parents of all faggots, dykes, and transsexuals: You have to love and support your child before they’re on TV. Otherwise it does not count.

+ Ru’s insistence on BRINGING FAMILIES TOGETHER used to really annoy me, but now I just feel sad for her. Forcing reconciliation for other people feels like projection!!

+ Give. Me. Symone. Fenty. Show. Now.

+ Queen I’m rooting for: Forever and always, beyond this show, in all that is next… Symone

+ Queen I have the biggest crush on: Symone (winning is hot)

+ Queen I have weird sexual feelings for that I need to unpack: All of them. Throughout this very long season I started identifying as bisexual and then went back to just identifying as a lesbian and maybe by next season I will identify as something totally different. Maybe men in drag are really just men in drag. Or maybe each of those men has their own complicated gender. Maybe being a lesbian turned on by drag queens is like being a lesbian turned on by straight actresses making out. Or maybe it’s more nuanced than that. What I do know is I love being queer. I love asking these questions. I love constantly exploring. Here’s to being gay, horny, and confused. Here’s to drag in all its many forms.

Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 192 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. Drew, I was going to write a long message here for your last recap (!!!) of your first full season of television (!!!) about what a gift working on these recaps with you has been, but you beat me to it!! 😭😭

    But I still have some things I wanted to say! So I’m gonna say them!

    (For those reading along, I watched seasons 1-5 of Drag Race live when they aired, and then quit the show for a variety of reasons but largely because of Ru’s transphobia and then I’d sort of half-heartedly watch some of the All Stars and Season 9 because I love Peppermint. Until this year! Ok!)

    Not everyone will know this, because we don’t often dig deep into “how the sausage gets made” behind the website — but you went out of your way to pitch Autostraddle covering Drag Race, with at least a five paragraph essay full of reasons, including that it has the largest cast of trans performers of any other show on television and that those queens shouldn’t be punished for Ru’s shortcomings. And you were damn right. And then every week you’d put your heart and humor on the line writing these recaps. You thanked me for getting up on Saturday morning, but you often stayed up until 1am on Friday nights writing these!

    You’ve brought such emotional and intellectual intelligence to bear on a campy, silly show and gave it all the weight that the craft of these performers deserve, but you also never lost track of what made it special and the feeling of queer people coming together as a community, which we are so missing right now in a pandemic, that Drag Race can represent.

    So thank you Drew for making room for all the ways we express our queerness and faggotry and dykness and for taking all of us along with you on this journey! LONG LIVE QUEEN SYMONE OF MY HEART, FOREVER MAY SHE REIGN!

      • @Drew
        “One of my primary objectives here at Autostraddle is to break down the divisions within our community. What unites us as queers is not the genders we were assigned at birth or even who we fuck, but our shared values, interests, and experiences.”
        As someone who is walking between the different social camps of gay and trans for more than three decades, I hear/cheer you so much :)

        Also, from what I hear from lesbian friends- no worries, it seems to be pretty common to be attracted to drag queens ^^

        One thing- “Throughout this very long season I started identifying as bisexual … Maybe cis men in drag are really just cis men in drag.”
        This should read: Maybe men in drag are really just men in drag. Trans men are men. Being attracted to a trans man in drag is just as bisexual as being attracted to a cis man in drag.
        *hugs*

        • Did not mean to imply otherwise! Was more feeling like a trans male drag queen has thought through gender in a way a cis male drag queen maybe hasn’t. But you’re right that distinction isn’t necessary there. Thanks for catching that. :)

    • THANK YOU CARMEN. Very this. The cast of this show are epic, every season, with so many trans and queer people. They deserve to be shown and acknowledged. If Pretty Little Liars is queer recap culture, so is Drag Race!

    • I found your recap for the season 13 finally, loved it. So here I am, a hour later, having read them all 🤦.
      Thought you should know your writing is working for this middle aged, white, cis-gender lady 😁.
      I will absolutely be looking for more of your recaps!
      Thank you!

  2. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS SERIES!

    The first place I found a queer home was a bar with a regular drag show. That bar was finally where I had the chance to meet other femmes who made me feel like I had a place in the queer community, and it was one of the first places I watched my husband (a trans man) feel like he had a tangible home in the queer community. Some of the queens there truly made me feel the safest I’ve felt in queer spaces.
    We still watch Drag Race with the family we made there.

    One of the reasons that Drag Race is so important to me, even though it certainly has its flaws, is that it was one of the first places where I saw the femme-ness that I aspired to and craved being celebrated, really and truly. Unabashedly and unforgettably. I felt so awkward and ugly and out of place as a kid, because it didn’t seem like the femme-ness that I craved was ANYWHERE within my reach. I craved creative femininity, chaotic femininity, loud and colourful and shiny and obnoxious femininity, and I felt like I had no claim or path to it as an awkward quiet kid who didn’t wear makeup or dresses or pink. And Drag Race really showed me how you can make that space for yourself; you can claim your identity even if you don’t feel like you qualify, you can experiment and change how you present.

    Thank you so much for making this space, Drew!!! I have been reading Autostraddle for a long time but was so excited to see this series. It’s made me feel more at home here.

  3. Drew, I’m so grateful that you reviewed the season. It’s been a delight to read your recaps. I’ve been HIGHLY entertained – particularly ‘If RuPaul can film 4 seasons of Drag Race in a pandemic, I can review a meeting that could have been an email’ – but importantly what you’ve written and thought about has also encouraged me to ask myself questions and do more reading and think about stuff.

    You’ve summed it up with: “I love asking these questions. I love constantly exploring.” I’m grateful to try to constantly explore, with AS writings to encourage me.

  4. Thank you so much for the recaps! I only watch Drag Race because queer friends keep inviting me to watch it with them (in the same way that I would probably watch sport if queer friends invited me to do that), and your writing and humour have made it all way more fun for me. This has become one of my Autostraddle must-reads, and I look forward to more!

  5. Drew I really loved your recaps! I got a WOW+ subscription only to be able to watch the show in sync with the recaps (the latest season is not yet available on Netflix in my country) and it has made my entire spring <3

  6. Drew, I am so deeply grateful you pitched these recaps and took the time to write these each week. As others have said, they have been a weekly gift during a difficult time!

    Getting to learn more about the support from Carmen also has cemented my respect and appreciation for this site. Thank you thank you thank you!

  7. I’ve never watched Drag Race, but I thoroughly enjoyed every one of these recaps. While entertaining and fun to read, they also pushed me to think and reflect on my own viewpoints and assumptions. Thanks for this Drew and Carmen, and congratulations to Symone!!

  8. [I’m a Capricorn—can I be your favorite too? All I want from you is the chance to write about 25% as well. ;-/ ]

    “Then there’s a video message from Cory Booker for some reason.”

    I take it you don’t watch Skip Gates’ “Finding Your Roots”? Skip “rooted” RuPaul last season, and the ending reveal was “you’re related to someone who has previously been on the show” (it was Booker, and it was very easy to say “I can see that”)

    Damn, after the wheel-of-lipsync-fortune first landed on Kandy, there was a 2 in 3 chance it would land on either Gottmik or Symone, so OF COURSE it had to land on Rose instead! A lipsync w/ uninjured Rose might have been interesting, but not this.

    TBH, I was surprised to see Gottmik had better moves than Symone. But Symone is peerless (this season) in really interpreting the song (such as it is—not a Britney fan), and that’s what counts…

    …as it did for the crown. Congrats, Symone! Continue wowing us w/ your Ebony Enchantment…

  9. I can’t help but feel like these recaps were written by someone who has just started watching Drag Race. They just don’t seem to GET it.

    I’m sure these recaps are enlightening for the casual viewer, but as a long time fan of the show, these are disappointingly surface takes.

  10. Drew, thank you so much for covering this season. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear a trans woman writing about a feminine trans man with unwavering warmth, cheek, and understanding. It feels completely different from the clumsy cheer of cis fans of the show (who keep calling Gottmik “they” for some reason).

    Gottmik’s performance represents something I know I have, and that I know is a beautiful thing, but have never ever (ever!) seen appreciated in public. That is – the skill, artistry, and joy that many transmaculine people carve out of the femininity that was imposed on them. My chosen family with whom I giggle and dress up in the old girly clothes we can no longer wear outside, or who back-pass as cis women for work, have femme skills cis people can only dream of.

    It feels so powerful to actually see someone get appreciated and paid for doing something they were both forced to learn (performing womanhood) and pressured to discard (in order to perform respectable transness and respectable maleness).

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