RuPaul's Drag Race Finale: And The Winner Is...

After thousands of sequins sewn, gallons of lipstick applied, and untold amounts of shade thrown, the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race came to its dramatic conclusion on Monday night. [SPOILERS AHEAD, so stop reading now if you haven’t watched yet.] After a battle of Greek Goddess backup dancers in RuPaul’s “Champion” video, third-place honors went to perky Alexis Mateo, leaving a final lipsynch-for-your-life round between Manlia Luzon and Raja. And the Season 3 crown went (not surprisingly) to the unimonikered gal with the ferocious runway strut and avant-garde fashion sense (albeit nonexistent comedy chops).

Of course, it was pretty clear from the episode’s opening moments that Raja was on her way to victory, as the producers began to soften the elitist member of the “Heathers” gang by showing her declaring her “newfound respect” for fellow finalist Alexis Mateo.

The queens then met with choreographer Ryan Heffington (or, in the words of Alexis, “the genie from the lamp”) who served up lumberjack sideburns and facial hair with an off-the-shoulder red jumpsuit and pearls. Alexis asserted her authority in the dancing department — not that she had a lot of competition, what with Raja flailing on a pedestal and colliding with her fellow dancers, and Manila repeatedly missing her marks. Of course, the latter contestant bizarrely attempted to blame her mishaps on Alexis’ oversized coif. “They’re trying to blame my hair because of Manila’s mistakes,” huffed Ms. Mateo. “Bitch, don’t hide behind me! You got your mark!”

Back on the runway, though, Raja’s Fosse-inspired look — black bowler hat, skimpy black tank and shorts, 20 lbs of gold accessories — proved to be the thoroughbred in a field of Shetland ponies. I was really disappointed in the comparative cheapness of Manila’s chartreuse and purple sequined princess gown and Alexis’ fluffy pink showgirl frock (complete with parasol!), although the latter’s unabashed enthusiasm — “I feel like when you wanna roll your Rs so bad!” — was infectious. Which is why I was surprised at Ru’s decision to place Alexis third, and give us a Raja-vs.-Manila final showdown. (Anyone else notice the producers didn’t show any footage of Raja revealing any of her own negative qualities in the “name your own pros and cons” segment? Hrmmm.)

I’ve got to admit that based on Raja and Manila’s previous lipsynch-for-your-life encounters, I was expecting a totally different level of fierceness and energy when the gals faced off to the tune of RuPaul’s “Champion.” Where was the insane drama Manila brought to “MacArthur Park” or the maniacal commitment Raja delivered during “Straight Up”? Maybe both queens knew Raja had already sealed the deal, and figured it wasn’t worth messing up their hair and makeup? I wonder how things would’be played out had Alexis Mateo brought her cha-cha razzle-dazzle to the party?

In the end, Raja cried into her lace gloves while offering a winner’s speech about her desire to help kids know it’s okay to be a social misfit, while Manila scored her own personal victory by dropping the episode’s best zinger: “I’m first runner-up, so if Raja dies of old age, then maybe I’ll get the crown.”

Did the right queen win? How did you feel about the season finale, and season 3 overall? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!