It just goes to show that not all the good episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars are the most eventful. The final stretch of the race is in sight, we just got to get up this last hill.
But even in the absence of any true gags, the episode flexed some of my favorite Drag Race muscles. The main challenge is a full-body-ody-ody workout, testing the queens’ creative, sewing, acting and branding skills. There’s a mini-challenge that is low-key savage, and, of course, there’s Ru serving cross-platform synergy boots the house down, yas gawd. Queens struggle with time, Ru’s walkthrough rattles and the elimination vote is our tensest yet.
Was it a perfect, or even GREAT episode? Nah. (That lip sync really ended the episode on a womp-womp.)
The plus side is, down to the final five, it feels like we’ve got nothing but real contenders left. (Sorry, Pandora.) I could see any one of these gals taking the crown and feeling justified. But how do they feel about each other?
That’s the conceit of this week’s mini-challenge. It’s a kind of Degrassi-style classroom set up for the ladies to vote each other for a set of superlatives. The trick is, you get a point if you vote with the popular girls. So, you’re playing the game on a couple levels. You want to be mindful of the message you send to potential allies and rivals, but you also want to think how the group will vote so you stay in the game (and potentially win a small cash prize.)
It’s kept very fun and light, but some hard truths are revealed. Kylie snags all the most low-key flattering superlatives that basically just affirm that she is unquestionably hot and people can’t resist her. Trinity is voted most moody, a surprise to no one but TKB herself. Eureka bears the brunt of the harsher critiques, snatching the top title of messiest, shadiest, gassiest and most likely to go home next.
The damage is done, and everyone is feeling a little rattled going into the next challenge. Ru intros the Drag Tots, an animated entry into the Drag Race Cinematic Universe starring several popular Drag Race alums. This week, the queens must create their own Drag Tots character, with name and backstory, design and create a costume from scratch that brings the character to life AND sell it all on the runway. In addition to all of that, the usual whims of Ru that are always coursing under the surface and made explicit. Ru wants to see subversion and wordplay and inspiration, but also, make it fun! My head’s spinning just trying to keep up. The result is a challenge that really pushes each queen creatively.
Trinity originally comes in a little message-heavy and sincere, but Ru convinces her to loosen up and embrace Bugs Bunny’s irreverence. Her character, Furleasha, is a hot-pink pussycat by way of Burning Man, and I am living. As a catwalk coach (cute!), she still manages to incorporate an empowering element, and TKB fills the performance with physicality and bounce.
Ginger’s tot is the most ready for primetime. Already looking straight out of the Drag Tots world, Ginger comes in with a fully fleshed-out character based on a Southern belle who tempers her tart personality using the Parasol of Poise. It’s absolutely chocked full of wordplay and dynamism, and the lewk is polished perfection. No notes!
The edit this week gives reason to worry about Ra’Jah, who immediately gets in her own head. Ru doesn’t help on the walkthrough. Ra’Jah presents “Queen See Me,” and Ru HATES the name. He’s got a point. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, unlike Ru’s favorite word, “mexicatassen,” which is undeniably fun to say.
Ra’Jah smartly takes Ru’s words to heart (much like last week’s Drag Race All Stars Snatch Game of Love), and she rebrands as “I See You Queen.” She spins a nice little story about how she gives people new perspective, and she reinforces the idea by covering her outfit in eyeballs, like something out of a Guillermo del Toro flick. She’s embracing her signature purple color, covering her hair, skin and clothes in various violet hues. I’ve come to understand Ra’Jah’s style a bit more. It’s sexy and slinky, but it’s also simple. Not in craft, mind you, (she constructs garments masterfully), but her lewks have an effortlessness about them that feels glamorous without the fussiness. Here it’s a purple, metallic, galactic fantasy head-to-toe, a disco dress over a catsuit. Everything works. And the piece de resistance, she has a line about being made fun for dancing off beat, suggesting to tell them they just can’t hear your song. Can I get an Amen? The judges eat it up, and she’s declared the winner.
Coming out of the superlative mini-challenge, all eyes (even all I See You Queen’s) were on Eureka. Smartly flipping a negative into a positive (is there nothing Ru likes more?), Eureka incorporates all the negative attributes she was assigned into an evil queen character. It’s the right idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The narrative just never comes together for me, and the crassness does a disservice to the kind of excellent children’s programming that deftly wields humor even within the confines of appropriateness. Her act-out presentation of the character is also lacking (likely due in part to the shaky character definition.) The outfit, though, is a stunner. She whips together a knockout gown with massive cowl neck and a huge castle headpiece, all in a delicious royal blue, all-over sequin print. Mama. Eureka has nothing to be ashamed of tonight.
Finally, we’ve got the obligatory “Will she finish in time?” storyline no design challenge would be complete without. This time, the focus is on Kylie, but it never feels like we’re truly in any real danger. Kylie herself reminds us, “I am a showgirl. I know how to rig up the gig.” (Which is now my new favorite mantra in times of stress!) She’s not lying! Despite sewing up to the last minute, the result is literally bewitching. Like a fashion-forward Margaret Hamilton, Kylie dons a black pointed hat and black sequin dress that casts a spell on the runway. The construction of the skirt gives the illusion of floating down the runway. There’s a beautiful little moment that deserves more praise when Kylie comes with a delightful little trick, rigging her broom to stand on its own on the stage. For a cherry on top, she has the most perfect bow on her back that gives the whole thing a 360 degree wow factor. Outside the obvious occult, there’s not much of a clear identity to Miss Behave. The lewk is great, but the character isn’t nearly as spellbinding.
Down to the wire, with Ra’Jah as this week’s winner, all the other queens are up for elimination. Barring a savage swerve to takeout the biggest competition, Eureka and Trinity feel the most in the danger on this vote. We’re at the point in the season where the numbers don’t add up cleanly enough for objective analysis. Does a win cancel out a bottom performance? Do we factor in mini-challenges? Lip-sync wins? There’s no formula here.
After a pot-stirring mini-challenge, a multidimension maxi and a high-stakes vote, I’m disappointed to say this week’s lip sync left A LOT to be desired. I don’t blame performers Ra’Jah and this week’s assassin Kameron Michaels, but rather the track. Look, I love Charli XCX like every other red-blooded, millennial homosexual, but “Boom Clap” is hardly a banger. The resulting lip sync feels below even the laziest local drag. There’s a lot of walking, pointing, etc. We get a glimpse of Kameron doing a cartwheel at one point, but it doesn’t feel in sync with the music and it’s a just a quick cutaway. Usually I’m watching these lip syncs fighting back the instinctual urge to throw my whole wallet at these queens. Not this week.
Kameron wins, sure, whatever, and the queens vote to send Eureka home.
But don’t mourn the elephant queen, my friends. Next week, finally, we see the game within a game, and perhaps Eureka will once again make a triumphant return, like a phoenix from the ashes.
Where do we stand now?
- Ginger and Trinity have been neck-and-neck for weeks now, but after TKB’s sloppy Snatch and merely fine showing this week, Ginger has crept into the lead. Her character could be the star of her own show tomorrow, and, if there was a real Tara Belle doll available wearing that runway outfit, I would buy it! And I’m not even one of those people into dolls! Is there anything Ginger can’t do?
- She may be down, but she is in no way out. Trinity still has the crown within reach, but these haven’t been her best weeks. Still, Trin is light-years ahead of where we last left her in season six. I really hope she becomes as ubiquitous of Bianca and Alaska and Trixie. Hopefully, these are just her struggle weeks, so she can overcome this hurdle for an even more satisfying conclusion.
- It’s a great time for Ra’Jah to be peaking. What a savvy queen! She listens so well, and she knows exactly her strengths. I love the buoyant, disco boogie energy she brings to the stage. I wasn’t a big fan during her original season, but now I’m a full convert. I do worry her taste level may be a problem at some point. Can Ra’Jah bring finale-level DRAMA and ELEGANZA? We will see.
- A fourth-place spot for Kylie is in no way meant to imply she’s so much further from the crown. This is a very tight race still, and Kylie has defied all expectations across all categories this season. Even Snatch Game, which many (including myself) predicted would be her Achilles’ heel, was a smashing success. She keeps surprising, which makes her a thrill to watch.
- Eureka‘s languishing finally caught up with her. I had more faith in the judges’/producers’ love of Eureka to keep her around until the end, but I definitely can see how this was her time. With no wins, she was the obvious choice. The fact next week is already the eliminated queens’ potential chance for redemption, this may be a way for everyone to have their cake and eat it, too.
What did you think of the episode?