Wow. Just wow. I mean, yeah. Wow. I am officially gagged. Gooped. SHOOK. After just bemoaning how predictable and rote the return of the eliminated queens has become, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars comes roaring back with one of my favorite mainstage challenges of. all. time.
We picked up exactly where we left off last week: The returning gals, all dripping in recent widow eleganza, were in the workroom. Some smattering of drama presented itself right out the gate, when Monet and Manila both revealed they chose Valentina to go home. Valentina, in her signature, extraterrestrial oddness, rejects this notion, claiming that she did great last week.
Of course, she wasn’t going by the judges’ critiques; she was going by her feelings. I hesitate to ascribe “Trumpian” to anyone unless they really deserve it, but the parallel here isn’t not apt.
It didn’t take long for delusionitis to spread. Latrice quickly called foul on Monique’s decision to send her packing. She claimed Monique’s friendship with Monet took precedent. Monique stood confident in her decision: Latrice’s report card wasn’t up to snuff. Sorry, Latrice! That’s the way the NYX Cosmetics powder foundation crumbles, henny!
Latrice trying to force the notion that she was gravely robbed honestly isn’t all that cute, but the stage was set for a showdown between Ms. Royale and the ooh-ah-ah sensation herself.
Ru arrived to lay down this week’s challenge: Each eliminated queen, in the reverse order of their elimination, gets to pick a girl still in the competition to lip sync against. Winner gets to stay; loser packs her wigs and goes. Manila and Monet are safe. And it’s all set to Ru’s greatest hits in a LaLaPaRUza lip sync battle royale.
TO THE ARENA!
Well, almost. There was a lot of time in the workroom this week. (Too much time, in this blogger’s opinion.) Drama blossomed between Valentina and frenemy Farrah when Ms. Moan asked if Valentina truly believed she the worst the week she sent Farrah home. Without hesitation, Valentina gave an enthusiastic, yah, absolutely, duh.
“I have been told for a lot of my career that I don’t have any talent,” Farrah said in the confessional. Now, look, I’m all about twirling on them haters, but also, maybe, I don’t know, take the note?
Elsewhere, Gia prodded Trinity about her nerves, and Trinity asserted repeatedly that no, definitely not, she is totally not nervous. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Why should she be? Nope. Not nervous at all, STOP ASKING!
On the runway, category is LaLaPaRUza Eleganza, which is such an insane thing to type out, you have no idea. Honestly, the lewks were a bit lacking, but considering the pressure to turn out a lip sync performance, I understand prioritizing function over fashion. (More on the ensembles in the rankings below.)
One by one, the eliminated queens picked their opponent, and the competitor they chose picked a random lipstick with the name of the RuPaul track. It’s family only judging, with Ru, Ross, Michelle and Carson on the panel. Ru particularly is a VISION in a pink, sequined mini dress so short, it would even make Naomi Smalls blush.
First up, Jasmine Masters, who goes straight for Trinity the Tuck. Go big, or go home … again … I guess. The track was “Peanut Butter,” an ode to ass-shaking (“Must be jelly, ‘cuz jam don’t shake!”) that plays directly to Trin’s strengths. Jasmine was just okay (her actual lip sync was noticeably off), but the choice was clear. Trinity shantayed, and Jasmine sashayed away yet again.
Next, Farrah followed the reality edit and chose to perform against Valentina to “Kitty Girl.” It was … fine. Valentina put a quirky spin on the performance, but Farrah just seemed lost. She seemed like less of a drag performer and more of the best dancer at a wedding. Not the most thrilling face-off, but it gave a satisfying little end to their narrative.
Gia smartly picked the gurl that seemed on paper to be the least lip sync skilled: Naomi Smalls. Little did she know, Naomi is bonafide superstar. They battled to “Adrenaline,” and it was epic. Gia was great, tearing away her Battle Royale schoolgirl ensemble and vogueing the house down. But, Naomi. Not only did she deliver on a scintillating runway slide-crawl, but she performed a backbend that would shutdown any game of limbo between creatures with any sort of bones. It defied gravity. I was screaming. Give her a million crowns. I’m in love.
Naomi stayed, duh, but Gia acquitted herself nicely and should leave with her head held high.
Finally, that meant Latrice was going to try to prove herself against the queen that sent her home, Monique Heart. They were set to square off to the classic Ru track, “Sissy That Walk,” and it was a bloodbath. Latrice was the first to shake off her wig for a big, glam ponytail, only for Monique to do her own wig reveal, shedding big, beautiful, voluminous hair for a sassy traffic-cone orange wig. There were numerous sack-slamming splits, and it was just unrelenting. The two queens gave EV.ERY.THING., and both could’ve claimed the win.
First, Ru told Latrice that she would be rejoining the competition. A chill washed over the mainstage before Ru told Monique … she is and always will be an All Star.
Oh, and also, shantay she stayed.
With this news, Monique (and I) both collapsed on the floor in one of the most genuinely surprising and satisfying end to a Drag Race episode I could recall.
What a ride!
Now, onto our rankings.
- To be clear, Manila didn’t have to bring it this week. As a safe queen, she could have walked down the runway wearing a sack. Instead, she slayed in a wonderfully Manila spaghetti and meatballs-themed dress and hat. Given her unique point of view, comedy chops and veteran skillset, she remains the frontrunner.
- Not far behind, Trinity took a big swing, and it paid off. It was a risk to walk the runway wearing essentially a tarp for the sake of the reveal. However, she really sold that cape, making it clear she was — as usual — totally in on the joke. She probably had the easiest lip sync this week when you consider her talent level, but that shouldn’t take away from how good she was. It’s a performance that will be overshadowed by the all-time greats we got to see, but she is still a strong contender.
- I was skeptical about Monique when she was announced for this season. She was a lovable queen, and one of the best talking heads we’ve ever seen, but an All Star? I wasn’t convinced. Now, I want to hang her in the Hall of Fame myself. To accomplish what she did against a legend like Latrice was, in a word, STUNNING. I loved her makeup, and, unlike Trinity, her outfit was gorgeous before, during and after her performance.
- When will we learn, America? Never underestimate Naomi Smalls. Win, lose or draw: She’s etched her name in the annals (I said ANNALS, get your head out of the gutter) of Drag Race herstory. That outfit was crazy, that sliding crawl (what is that called properly? anyone?), THOSE BACKBENDS, it was all gag-worthy. More importantly, it felt uniquely “her.” I don’t know if the competition will get the best of her (I’m already worried about her pairing with Valentina next week), but even without the win, she made her mark.
- Monet, I’m hard on you, because I love you. We’ve seen what you’re capable of, and we want your best! That runway look was not even close. It was lazy and lumpy and a snooze. Maybe she was burning through a weak outfit, because she knew she was safe. That’s no excuse. Manila still brought it, and so should have you. I’m hoping we see more of Monet’s best next week.
- Welcome back, Latrice. The large and in charge queen was justly eliminated two weeks ago, justly eliminated in All Stars 1 (sorry, babe, it’s canon!) and justly eliminated in her season. That doesn’t mean she’s not fierce as hell, but it does mean I’m looking sideways at any sort of claim of a rigged system. Royale certainly earned her spot back in the competition with that high-octane performance, but, gurl, that outfit. I thought the saying was “Once you go cinched, you never go back,” but apparently that’s not the case. Big IS beautiful, but the silhouette was just all wrong.
- The writing is on the wall, er, lipsticks for Valentina. If she finds herself in the bottom again, she’s going home. I’ll reiterate what I said last week: I think we’ve seen all she’s got. I liked the Jessica Rabbit-esque catsuit she wore. I thought she was fine in the lipsync, but she could’ve given a fraction of the effort and still beat her competition.
- Boy, did Gia choose wrong. I guess really none of the remaining queens were pushovers, but I think Ms. Gunn had a rude awakening when Naomi started turning it out. Gia looked incredible, and her tearaway was a MOMENT … it was just immediately dwarfed by Naomi’s stunts and the Monique/Latrice smackdown.
- There was almost zero chance Jasmine was going to return to the competition. She could’ve twirled from the rafters like P!nk at every award show circa 2010, and it would not have mattered. However, she did a decent job, and, this may be an unpopular opinion, I liked that sparkly rose jumpsuit. Sue me!
- Ugh, Farrah. If anyone left this week worse than they arrived, it’s Farrah Moan. I was shocked that colorful, fringey outfit didn’t contain some sort of reveal. Then, she failed to really stiffen her wig with some heavy duty hairspray/freeze spray. It seems like Drag Queen 101, but the lack of hold on her hair had the wig in her mouth too much to track the actual lip sync. Seems like a rookie mistake. Gia said she was giving us Christina Aguilera, but all I was getting was Rebecca Black. There was no character or personality. There was no STORY. It was like watching someone impersonate a pop star. Not my jam.
How would you rank the queens?