After a few weeks of exemplary challenges on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, we really got a stinker this week. When Ryan Murphy is involved, you know results may vary, and that was surely on display as the remaining queens threw themselves into an American Horror Story-themed acting challenge.
These acting challenges rarely reach levels above “cringe,” but this was a doozy. The writers just named all the characters after the actresses who played them, and the jokes are similarly on-the-nose references. Even though the challenge felt excruciatingly overlong, it still managed to make even less narrative sense than usual.
The costumes were cute though!
The scares actually come a bit earlier in the episode, when the lipstick box reveals the last vote split evenly between Jan and the departed Scarlet. Jan doesn’t understand the judges’ critique and still feels she wasn’t being over the top. Step right up, step right up, see the queen with zero self-awareness! The other girls are quick to assert that, baby, Jan was at 110 percent, at least.
That energy will serve her well this week. In the script, there’s a character inspired by another deeply dark Ryan Murphy project — Glee. It’s a part everyone knows is perfect for Jan, the self-confessed “Rachel Berry of drag.” Not all the characters are so cut and dry. Pandora and Trinity briefly clash over a part that’s a little Myrtle Snow and then a little Joan Crawford, but Trinity acquiesces with little drama. Ginger and Kylie both want the juicy Jessica Lange character, but Kylie takes it in a high-stakes game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Angela Bassett drops by via video to remind all of us that she is just one of the most g*ddamn beautiful people on the planet. She also give notes on acting that are honestly too good for this dreck. Like, what sort of real, lived-in emotion is Ginger supposed to channel when she suddenly sprouts a unibrow having a magic fight with a bearded lady? This is not the time for, like, the Abramovic Method, you know?
If anything, everyone is already too in their heads. Filming with Ross and Michelle drags on. A’keria, playing a part reminiscent of Gabby Sidibe’s Queenie from season three of AHS, is trying so hard, it never really gels. Ra’jah tries to make a strong character choice playing one of the twins Sarah Paulson portrayed in American Horror Story Freak Show, but it’s not quite what Ross and Michelle really have in mind. These two are in danger, for sure.
(Huge missed opportunity to use the Pit Crew in an ode to Finn Wittrock’s Dandy Mott, by the way.)
Pandora delivers on the assignment as Myrtle Snow/Joan Crawford, but there’s not a lot of great jokes to land. Trinity gives us Angela Bassett Lite, and it’s fine. Both will end up safe. Michelle tells Jan she was born to play “Lea,” which is truly worse shade than when Ru said Scarlet talking about how much she loves her moms made her “uncomfortable.” Savage.
Eureka is a surprise, but not in a good way. Usually a top performer, especially in an over-the-top comedy challenge, she gets stuck on her delivery and can’t take the directors’ notes. It was like watching a less painful “I was rooting for US!”
That leaves Ginger and Kylie, the two queens who clashed over the Jessica [Lange] role. Ginger plays the young, fashionable diva (a nod to Emma Roberts in Coven), and she’s great. She nails every bit of physical comedy, every facial expression, every punchline. (Well, whatever one might consider a punchline.)
Kylie struggles at first to meet Lange’s KNOTTY PINE?!!! levels of scenery bingeing, but with some coaching from Michelle and Ross, she gets there. It certainly helps that she looks the part. The wig and makeup are on point.
On the runway, the gals give spooky-dookie with Oh My Goth eleganza. Honestly, everyone looks incredible, no exceptions. Much has been said already about the high-cost of competing on Drag Race, and this season has got to be featuring some of the most costly couture. We’ve got dramatic trains, enormous headpieces, sequins, stones, feathers, tulle, Voodoo dolls. It’s a macabre feast for the eyes, and it’s giving me all the #HotGothSummer energy.
On a night where so many queens were dinged for not taking the directors’ notes, it makes sense the win is awarded to Kylie. (That and Ginger already got her redemption win last week.) It’s good to see Kylie get her first ever Drag Race win.
She’s lip syncing this week against Manila Luzón, but it feels like Manila was told to give this one to Kylie. They’re facing off to Xtina’s classic “Dirty,” which already feels tailor-made for Kylie, who is, as usual, serving body-ody-ody. She dances actual circles around Manila, breaking out a few backbends into the splits that wow the crowd. On top of her challenge win, she pockets the $10,000 tip.
She pulls out A’Keria’s lipstick, and, really, there’s no arguing with that.
Where does that leave this season’s crop of All Stars? Let’s break it down in the rankings.
- On the heels of a few strong performances, Ginger has clawed her way to the top of the pile, for now. I thought her performance was the strongest, given the circumstances, and she looked amazing throughout. Her performances, stellar runways and share of screentime have her in the position to beat.
- Trinity has been delivering strong performances in every challenge (I’m still shook over her Beyoncé), and she consistently has some of the best runways. I would be surprised to see her not make it to the end, and I’m rooting for her to win it all.
- They harped on Eureka for that one line reading, but that’s really splitting hairs. Eureka is a pro-fess-ion-al. She looks great, she’s prepared, she’s giving 100. I think she’ll easily bounce back from this week, especially if the lewks keep serving like her boudoir Bride of Frankenstein this week.
- Ra’Jah is slipping. Granted, acting challenges are her Achilles heel, so she may still come back from this. I appreciated how she tried to show up on set with a full character, but she got tripped up with the directors’ feedback. I’m really digging Ra’Jah’s runways. They may not be as showy as A’Keria or Eureka, but they’re chic.
- What is it going to take for Pandora to push through? She’s consistent, but I never feel like she surprises me. She does exactly what I expect her to do, and she does it well. It’s just not enough when the other queens are showing such growth and evolution.
- Had we not seen Kylie struggle in filming, her performance would have been more impressive. It’s just hard to accept as a winner when we had to watch Michelle get up out her seat to physically demonstrate how to do it. Meanwhile, Ginger brought so much to set on her own, even if it was a less flashy role. Still, I don’t begrudge Kylie, and I’m happy to see her get a win. The sync wasn’t a favorite (just one backbend into a split would have had more impact, in my humble opinion). Kylie is always serving body on the runway, but I appreciate the variety in silhouettes in style.
- Oh, Jan. You lucked out this week with that part, but I’m worried about the future. She really can’t see that thing everyone else — fans, the judges, the other queens — sees. (I mean, we’ve all been there.) The first step to recovery is acceptance, though, and I’m not sure the high-stakes setting of the competition is the place to find that sort of clarity. It seems like we’re in for another couple weeks watching her fight off a Janyeurism trying to balance authenticity and “funk.”
- As much as I didn’t want it to be true, it was A’Keria‘s week to go. Too many weeks in the bottom, too many struggles in the challenges. The runways are all so good, but it still bears stating that A’Keria regularly manages to still stand out. She just doesn’t have the theatricality of folks like Ginger, Pandora, Eureka, Jan, etc.
How would you rank the queens?