“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Episode 1601 Recap: Get Immunized

This is a recap of RuPaul’s Drag Race episode 1601, the season 16 premiere. Spoilers below.

Hello hello hello! It seems like only yesterday Sasha Colby was receiving her inevitable crowning and now here we are with another season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and a whole new batch of queens. This year Ru promises a whole new approach which — based on past seasons — could either mean complex psychological torture or opening chocolate bars.

But the best part of Drag Race has always been the queens themselves so let’s meet our new arrivals! It’s a split premiere so this episode only introduces us to the first seven.

Q is from Kansas City. An artist and a diva, she says she’s known for fashion. She also says she’s always the grandest person in the room which is certainly the case this time since no one else has arrived.

Xunami Muse is from New York City. She’s Kandy’s daughter, she’s from Panama, and she identifies as straight off the runway — with the supporting evidence that she’s signed with a modeling agency.

Amanda Tori Meating is from Los Angeles. She has a lot of bright colors and a lot of bad jokes. She says she gets her influence from the 80’s which makes sense for both. She has a similar quality to queens I’ve disliked in the past, but her drag isn’t polished enough for me to feel worried about her sticking around.

Morphine Love Dion is from Miami. She is hot. HOT. Crush of the season. She says she’s known for her face and her ass and both are indeed memorable. She’s friends with Xunami and immediately critiques the neck of Amanda’s breastplate showing. Sexy and cunty? Immediate fave.

Sapphira Cristál is from Philadelphia. Her drag is big. She’s an opera singer, a jazz singer, and an R&B singer. She speaks with authority and backs it up with talent.

Mirage is from Las Vegas. She says she’s known as the legs of Las Vegas. A stripper who shops at Claire’s, she gets her inspiration from Vegas itself. She fangirls over a few of the other queens and it’s cute.

And, finally, Dawn is from Brooklyn. She specifically identifies as “from Brooklyn” because she is not like other girls. An ethereal elf goddess, she makes her own clothes and designs her own wigs. She is the kind of queen who will be annoying if untalented and great if talented. So far I’m thinking she’s talented.

Our first seven queens introduced, Ru enters looking like a train conductor which I am going to assume is a reference to the trains flag. To be honest, I’m kind of obsessed with his bright red ascot made of what looks like two gloves tied together.

The first mini challenge is a photoshoot on a fake porch. Ru is behind the door and the photos are being taken on a Ring-like camera. I cannot tell if this is supposed to be in support of our increased surveillance state or satire. It’s always hard to tell with Miss RuPaul. Love Connie shows up as a concerned neighbor and it starts to feel like satire… but I was half-expecting Ru to say, “This photoshoot is brought to you by the Next Door app.”

Dawn won me over during this challenge with her banter and Sapphira wins the challenge with her pose. Sapphira is also horny for the other queens as they de-drag which I’m always going to appreciate.

This week’s maxi challenge is a talent show tribute to MTV’s Spring Break… which means it’s a regular premiere episode talent show but Derrick Barry is hosting as Britney Spears and the stage will have a suggestion of early 2000s Florida aesthetic.

There are a few twists, but it’s less a reinvention of the show and more a return to the past. Sure, this premiere episode lets the queens vote but that doesn’t really matter since no one goes home. (Ugh.) The big twist is the winners this season will have immunity for the following week. This is how Drag Race used to be through season five! I guess after a certain amount of years, you do a 360 and end up right back where you started. Next let’s bring back the grease filter. And Untucked that isn’t boring.

Morphine is solidifying her place in my heart by continuing to be a hot bitch when Charlize Theron walks in! If I was the queens, I would’ve shouted, “I love Young Adult and Tully! Make Atomic Blonde 2!” She’s wearing Dior and gives a corny speech about the state of the world which I will allow because she has a trans kid — and because she’s so hot and talented half the time I even forget her social media handle is CharlizeAfrica.

As the queens are getting ready for the talent show, Morphine reveals that her parents still don’t know that she does drag. Or they pretend not to know. Choosing to go on the show is choosing to be over worrying about it. She also says that in middle school she had multiple girlfriends to overcompensate for her queerness. But if she ever wants multiple girlfriends in a queer way she should give me a call.

Talent show time! Morphine starts off with a solid lip sync and dance to “A Palé” by Rosalía. It’s not reinventing any wheels but it’s good. Then Amanda lip syncs to an original song about her kitty to which Sapphira deadpans she’s allergic to cats. Unfortunately, Ru loves it so maybe she will be sticking around.

Dawn also lip syncs to her own song, but it has a lot of reveals and feels like a strong introduction to herself. She’s followed by Q who is one of two queens to actually do a talent! Q’s Puppet Playhouse involves an optical illusion where her hands are her feet doing ballet which makes it look like a big head on a tiny body. It’s really good!

Back to lip syncs, Mirage lip syncs to an original song but at least she has the floorwork talent to keep it interesting. Xunami also lip syncs to an original song and it’s the kind of thing that would be more impressive if it had been written on the spot for a different premiere format than a pre-planned talent show.

Sapphira finishes strong by singing opera. And not just opera but horny opera about wanting men while doing splits. I love when the queens have other talents, but especially when they filter those other talents through a drag lens. Sapphira has winner energy.

The runway is RuVeal yourself. Morphine is in a white towel dress with a towel head wrap that she takes off to reveal a long wig and a blue bathing suit. Dawn looks like a yeti and then like the bride of that yeti. Amanda is in a skin suit and then becomes a purple alien. Xunami is in a red velvet jacket dress that turns into another red dress that turns into a leather get up. Q looks like Maleficent and then spreads her wings into a butterfly. Mirage is in a blue and orange feathered dress and then reveals titties. And Sapphira is in an elegant blue dress that has several reveals, the last also being titties — tiny ones.

The judges criticize Morphine’s reveal look, but Charlize defends her by saying she’s an ass girl. Yes! The body IS the reveal. Simplicity works in this case! One episode in and I’m already ready to fight the judges on behalf of my fave.

The other important moment from the critiques is learning that Q made her own outfit. It really is magnificent. Q has established herself as one of the frontrunners.

The rate-a-queen is kind of pointless since no one gets sent home. But, for what it’s worth, most of the queens rate Xunami and Amanda lowest.

Sapphira and Q are deservedly the top and are lip syncing for the win and immunity to Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.” We learn that Q’s weakness is lip syncing. She gives it her all, but it’s no contest. Even with her tiny titties flopping out, Sapphira easily wins with dance talent, comedy, and just pure energy.

And that’s the episode! No one goes home and one queen has immunity. That means this is going to be a long season of Drag Race. But, hey, there’s no clear winner, the queens are pretty talented, and I already have a crush. I’m ready to watch until the summer.

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

+ Dawn says Amanda has great bone structure but she couldn’t tell when she had makeup on.

+ I did not appreciate Ru’s Florida jab especially in front of a Miami queen!

+ Untucked is so boring! All of the queens are so nice to each other. Even Amanda takes her critiques in stride which made me like her more. Ugh. No more RuPaul’s Best Friend’s Race. I hope the next seven are bitchier.

+ Queen I’m rooting for: Sapphira and Morphine

+ Queen I’m horniest for: Morphine

+ Queen I want to go home: Amanda

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and I Heart Female Directors. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 476 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Oh I am so pleased you are doing these recaps again!!!! I always feel seen as a lesbian who has crushes on many a drag queens- put me down as another one of Morphine’s girlfriends.

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