"It all started ‘cause I needed money. Yeah, I know, we all need money. Except… Maybe the Kardashians. But since I didn’t have a pushy mother, I was on my own."
— AJ talking about how she gets by in New York City
New York City is the first episode of the first season of this dramedy that aired as a Netflix Original on Netflix on January 10, 2020 along with the other 10 episodes.
The story begins at the end of an era as Robert (AKA Ruby Red) prepares for a new adventure. Elsewhere, young AJ endures the mean streets of Manhattan.
At some club in Manhattan, New York, a drag queen by the name of Ruby Red is performing as the audience cheers. Whereas a young kid is walking the mean streets of Manhattan at night, with a hot dog on her hand. She purposely bumps into a a couple, and subsequently drop the hot dog she had on her hand. She yells at the couple to get their attention, and to avoid a scene, the couple hands AJ and $5 bill. It's then revealed AJ is pulling a con job by purposely bumping into people, and having a hot dog fall on the floo, so that people will give him money to replace it when he does the same thing to another person.
Back at the club, Ruby is still performing her song “Ruby is Red Hot” and as the song winds down, she yells out to the crowd to give her more money as they all keep throwing bills on the stage. She takes this as an opportunity to announce to the audience that tonight is her last performance at The Box. She jokes that backstage, she and the other queens call it the smelly ol' box. Ruby then goes onto say that in six months time, she’ll be opening her very own brand-new, state-of-the-art club called Queens in Queens, New York.
Upstairs, in that same club, two unnamed queens talk about Ruby. One of them admit that Ruby is really turning up the party tonight. Whereas, the other queen jokes that it’s not bad for a senior citizen. An African American queen then walks onto the stage, and hands Ruby a trash bag to throw in all the money she made from the audience's tips. Ruby tells the other queens that they can all go home now because she got all the money. As she begins to take off the make-up and her costume, another queen that sits on the other side of the table, gives Ruby a goodbye gift. She says it’s a pair of 301s, so Ruby doesn’t have to steal her eyelashes anymore.
This makes Rubby giggle, and says, “Aw, it’s almost as if we like each other.”
When the club owner confronts Ruby about how she trashed talked the club she works for, Ruby stands up for herself by telling him that, “for once in my life, I won’t have to answer to anybody. I’ll be my own man. Cause I’ve done too much soul-searching’ and sacrificin’ to wind up stuck here like you, Tony, a shady, cheap queen overcharging bachelorette parties and going home along to a life of Netflix and Nicorette”. She tells Tony that he doesn't owe him anything. That if anyone should be credited for her success, it should be her aunt Charmaine, who let a young Robert parade around in her housecoat while his mama was at work.
An unnamed queen gets up from where she's doing her make-up to say, “and that’s why she’s named Ruby Red, ‘Cause when she reads you, you've been read.”
Afterwards, she boasts to the other queens about how her man has a business degree and calls said boyfriend, “the Sonny to my Cher. The Berry Gordy to my Diana Ross. He’s the René to my...Celine.”
Later, while on one of their dates, Hectors talks about how they have been dating seven months now. Robert is amazed that in such a short amount of time, they have their usual meal, they eat at the same booth and come to the same restaurant every night.
Mr. Hong comes over and gives the two men their duck, but Mrs. Hong yells angrily at her husband from the kitchen. Assuming it's because of them, Robert tries to tell Mr. Hong they'll be happy with whatever. However, Mr. Hong proceeds to tell Robert and Hector that Mrs. Hong is mad because he forgot their anniversary. Hector cringes and admits that is definitely something one should never forget. To help out to the other man, Robert digs out the false eyelashes he was gifted and gives them to Mr. Hong. He tells the Asian man tha Mrs. Hong is gonna love them.
While still at the restaurant, Hector moves to sit next to Robert, and shows Robert the blueprints for their club that he picked up from the architect earlier that day. Robert also hands over a second credit card, saying they had just arrived in the mail today too, and that one of them is for Hector.
Hector then gets a call from his sister asking him to take care of his mother tonight, because she can't. Hector tells his sister at first that he can't because he had already made plans to go over to Robert's place to celebrate. But Robert tells him that family comes first, and to go see his mom. He then tells Hector's sister to make sure to tell her mom that he said that, and that he can't wait to meet them all. Hector thanks him and leaves the restaurant.
Robert goes back to his apartment alone, and as he turns on the light, his roommate and close friend Louis, greets him in full drag. Robert tells his friend that Hector isn't with him, and he hopes Louis didn't dress up just for Hector.
As the two friends celebrate, Louis tells Robert how proud of him he is, and that above all else, he's really happy that Robert found the most important thing of all; a reason to get up every morning. Robert tells Louis that he was able to do this because he set his goal, and went for it all.
Robert also credits Oprah as the one person who is very near and dear to him. He goes onto say that without all her old talk shows as inspiration that he recorded on VHS tapes, he’d still be working at the post office in Atlanta, Georgia. He says that ultimately, Oprah taught her how to dream.
Jealous, Louis reminds Robert that he taught him how to put a condom in dark, so he asks between being taught how to dream and putting on a condom in the dark, which one is more important.
Since he had the window opened, AJ is able to steal some of the money Robert had by the window. He closes the window and locks it saying how, “that kid is in a world of hurt".
The next morning Robert and Louis drive to the club Robert will be opening up. Robert pulls up a chair for Louis, who says that it smells like black mold . Robert jokingly asks why it gotta be black.
Mr. Murphy comes in, and Robert tells him to ignore Louis who is blind and isn’t even in the club business. So what does he know. Mr. Murphy says he doesn’t care, he says it's whatever, and that he just needs Robert to sign the lease and give him the deposit so he can leave. He confesses that he has an AA meeting he needs to go to, and then he has to go sell some coke.
Robert insists he needs to wait for his partner because signing the lease is a big event in their lives. He hands the credit card, and Mr. Murphy goes out to presumably run in through the system. While they wait, Robert tells Louis that when his new club opens, Cocoa Butter, Louis' drag persona will be doing two shows every Saturday night at Queens. He tells his friend that “every queen needs a princess who’s not quite as pretty or talented.”
Not too long after, Mr. Murphy comes back in saying Robert’s card was declined. Robert that's not possible since hasn't used the card yet. Louis realizes that Hector stole Robert’s money, but Robert is in denial, since it will all be cleared up and that's its just a misunderstanding.
So when Robert calls American Express, Monica tells him that his card has been maxed out.
Sometime later, Louis and Robert make their way to the police station, the policeman their tells Louis to “calm down, Viola Davis”. They explain to the police officer that she just came from the address Hector had given to Robert. The two found out Hector never lived there because it's actually a KFC.
The officer then asks Robert why he would give a credit card to a man whose apartment he’d never been to? Robert doesn't answer, instead he asks for a female officer, hoping she's more sympathetic, but she's equally perplexed. Though, when Robert shows her a picture of a shirtless Hector on his phone, she sees why he was so trusting.
The two officers who are there, ask Robert a series of question, but while telling the cops about Hector, Robert realizes that Hector likely lied and doesn’t actually have a business degree either. He begins to blame himself for being so stupid as to trust a man he barely knew.
The female cop tells Robert not to blame himself, because these con artists are professionals. She goes on to say that they are slick, manipulative, heartless.
Officer Patrick, one of the cops present ends up identifying Hector Ramirez, whose real name is Damien Sanchez. Robert feels even worse at not even knowing his real name. The female cop says that Damien is one bad dude. His criminal record lists: robbery, aggravated assault and credit card theft with his wife.
Robert feels even worse at being conned, because he's not just a criminal but also straight.
Louis points out that, “Oh girl, you know the devil’s gonna be straight. A gay devil would be tons more fun”
Officer Rhonda and Officer Patrick proceed to ask Robert if he recognizes any of Damien's possible accomplices, and is able to identify Lady Danger, who is called by that name because she hosts illegal pumping parties at the drag clubs.
Robert explains that she pumps cheap medical-grade silicone to give some of the girls at the clubs a little more girl. But sometimes it’s not silicone, instead it’s motor oil. That’s why she’s Lady Danger because you never know.
When Officer Patrick asks Robert if there’s any way Lady Danger could have known about his finances, Robert thinks back to when he went to her to get some work done. He then remembers how he carelessly proceeded to tell her all about how he had saved himself up $100,000. She is amazed, and calls him Mr. Big Shot, as she injects silicone onto him. Back in the present, he tells officer Patrick that he may have mentioned something.
Later, Robert is midway up the staircase to their apartment, but Robert says to Louis that he has lost the will to climb He goes onto ask what’s the point. He sadly admits that he has“ lost my modus operandi. My reason to get up in the morning.”
Robert says that in reality, “Hector” wasn't the René to his Celine, but instead the Ike to his Tina.
Louis gives Robert a pair of Ruby Red boots, and in trying to get his friend to cheer up, Louis gets on the piano and plays Tina Turner’s “I Will Survive”.
He forgets his troubles until he sees the window has been shattered and that AJ stole what was left of his money. He at first walks upstairs to where AJ and his mom live, but AJ doesn’t answer the door. Robert then gets downstairs again and climbs out his window and gets to the apartment by breaking the window using the heels of his ruby red boots.
AJ runs into the bathroom and locks herself there, telling Robert to "get out of my apartment bitch"! However, Robert breaks the door using the heel of one of his boots. AJ begins to cry and says she’s hungry, and explains that that’s the reason she stole the money. She goes onto say that her mom never came home, and they got evicted, so she’s been sneaking into the apartment every night ever since.
Robert takes pity on AJ and takes her back to his apartment. He tells her to stop crying, and that he’ll get her something to eat. He leaves her to eat some of the leftover KFC, and goes to his room, where he calls “Hector” and says that this is his last message. That he doesn’t know why he did this to him, or to them. But says that it’s not too late to give the money back. No questions asked, no trouble.
He says that , “You can’t give me my life back, but… you can give me my money”.
Back in the kitchen table, Louis talks with AJ, and when the kid asks him if he was born blind, he says that he had a diabetic stroke at 28. Right after he told his very Christian father that he was a drag queen. It turns out he was fine with it, and he worried over nothing.
AJ tells Louis that his mom has been gone a month. Louis asks if he was alone upstairs for a month, but AJ says she was in foster care for 3 weeks.
Robert then comes out of his room, and shows Louis a big red dress he calls, “Scarlett Jo-Handsome” and when Louis asks him why he’s taking that dress in his RV to Texas, Robert explains that he needs it to win the prize money in the pageant he will compete in when he gets there.
He admits that he really needs to win Miss Drag USA, otherwise he will likely go on welfare because he has no money and no job.
Sometime later, AJ tries to steal from Robert again, but he manages to stop her and ties her up using nylon. He tells Louis that if AJ causes any more problems to sock, and by that he means put a literal sock to quiet him, not hit him. Louis says to Robert that he didn’t need to remind him not to beat up a child. That he isn't the mom from Precious.
He goes outside the apartment to make a phone call to child protected services, and leaves Louis on lookout. AJ realizes the nylon can come off easy, and without making a sound, manages to escape. When Robert comes back, he realizes AJ is gone, and Louis says to not blame him because who puts a blind man on lookout.
The next day, Louis tries to come with Robert, but he says he doesn’t have the space for them both. Robert then wonders where AJ slept last night, and Louis says that with the game that kid was running, probably a 4 Season Hotel suite.
While on a donut run after saying goodbye to Rober, Louis unknowingly runs into Brianna, who is AJ’s mom. She is passed out on the front steps of a building.
She wakes up and asks Louis if he wants a girlfriend, but he says not since Kindergarten.
He gives her the box of donuts to eat.
Now driving his RV, Robert is listening to one of his taped episodes of Oprah's talk show, where says that older women are most likely to get killed by terrorist than they are at finding love past a certain age. So in this episode she will teach them how to find love, and if they have already found that perfect someone, how to keep them.
Robert breaks down in tears and stops on the highway. He accidentally steps on AJ who was sleeping by hiding herself in the big red dress.
Her beanie has fallen off while she was sleeping, and her long brown hair is shown, which makes Robert realize AJ is in fact a girl.
AJ asks Robert to take her to Texas because that’s where her grandfather lives. Robert says he is not taking her to Texas; instead he’s taken her to the nearest police station. AJ tries to leave, but Robert pulls her back, after a truck horn blares as they drive through the highway.
He tells her that they are on a bridge, and she’s gonna get herself killed.
AJ then says about Robert, “Poor guy. He never saw what was coming next".
Title and Background
- The title of the episode comes from New York City, a well known city in the United States, and home to Robert, Louis and several other characters.
- RuPaul as Robert Lincoln Lee/Ruby Red
- Izzy G as AJ
- Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis Bell/Coco Butter
- Josh Segarra as Hector/Damian Sanchez
- Tia Carrere as Lady Danger
- Katerina Tannenbaum as Brianna Douglas
Special Guest Stars
- Bianca Del Rio
- Manila Luzon
- Mayhem Miller
- Victoria "Porkchop" Parker as Porkchop
- Alexis Mateo
- Vanessa Vanjie Mateo
- Matthew Wilkas as Officer Patrick Kennedy
- Misty Monroe as Officer Rhonda
- Tommy Snider as Murphy
- Raymond Ma as Mr. Hong
- Cathy Chang as Mrs. Hong
- Jo Farkas as Mrs. Sweeney
- Shawana Carter as Tianna
- Tony Forsmark as Desk Sergeant
- Teddy Margas as Tony
- Devon Diffenderfer as Mr. Hipster
|"Ruby Is Red Hot (Kummerspeck Redux)"||RuPaul||Opening scene at the club.|
|"I Will Survive"||Gloria Gaynor||Robert catches AJ with his money.|
- Bianca, Manila, Mayhem Miller, Alexis Mateo, Eureka, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo and Valentina all make cameos in this episode , appearing as unnamed queens..
- Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is credited as Vanessa Vanjie for her appearance in this episode.