It didn’t take long for the twists of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars to have an effect on the competitors, did it? This week saw the young Ru-mocracy reckoning with its choices as frontrunners raced to establish themselves ahead of the pack.
Fresh off the first runway, the gals have a lot to process. Not only are they handling the loss of Derrick Barry, but also the addition of the season’s lip sync assassins and a ballooning cash tip. Of course, it’s also the first time they need to reckon with their own personal votes.
No longer are the post-elimination huddles merely exchanging hypothetical elimination choices. Now, they have to put their lipsticks where their mouths are in terms of whom they’d send home. As we learned on last week’s Untucked, it was nearly unanimous to send Derrick packing … except for one vote.
To her credit, Jujubee volunteers that she actually voted to oust Mayhem. Ms. Miller doesn’t take this all too well, but the whole thing passes rather quickly. If anything, it says more about Jujubee’s approach than it does about Mayhem’s performance. The confidence to boldly stand alone and own your actions is exactly the kind of nerve it takes to snatch the crown.
Plus, there’s bigger drama to concern ourselves with the next morning. Cracker enters feeling a little salty. She feels the need to share with the class that she was up all night, shredded with guilt over her lipstick vote. It seems in hindsight, Cracker believes Ongina should have gone home, even though that was not an option and would not have changed the outcome anyway.
And yet? Cracker simply must confess this change of heart. She paints a picture of an alternate universe wherein she commandeers Wite-Out, a la Bendelacreme and, instead of sacrificing herself to go home, makes the executive decision to eliminate a queen she believes was wrongly spared by the judges. It’s a major act of hubris, both by assuming she’s a better gauge of success on RuPaul’s Drag Race than the titular queen herself and by convincing herself the other girls must hear her assessment.
Not a good look.
It’s the narrative thread that weaves throughout the episode. When she’s not retroactively raking Ongina over the coals for getting in her own head, she’s bossing around her teammates in this week’s group challenge.
This week, Ru has the ladies split up to perform original verses and choreography dedicated to their celebrity crushes. As she assigned the challenge, Ru gave the gals an important clue: Ru’s celebrity crush was Al Bundy from Married With Children. The judges are going to want them to crank up the camp and amp up the absurd for this one, not just swoon over Brad Pitt.
Ru tricks India into helping divide the gals by asking her to pick her biggest competition. She chooses Shea (obviously) and Blair (?), who become the other two captains.
Blair St. Clair’s group is first to record along with Miz Cracker and Mayhem. Cracker already ruffled Mayhem’s feathers in the workroom steamrolling some lyrics. She’s just as assertive in choreo, easily out-maneuvering Blair, who is already in her head with high expectations for the vocal challenge.
India’s team gets off to a hot start recording with an energetic verse from Alexis and a tight ode to John Stamos from Jujubee. But it’s team captain India that really spoils the party here. Before even hitting the “studio,” India toys with the idea of dedicating [*heaves*] her verse to her [*gag*] fiancé. It’s bad, y’all. Here are the actual lyrics: “I’m in love with my fiancé. His name is R.J., and nothing can take him away.” YIKES. She really said that! On television! I’ve seen better homages to crushes scrawled onto the back of school bus seats. Alexis acts as more of the leader of this team, helping dissuade India from her terrible song idea and taking charge of choreo.
Team Shea struggles in the recording. Mariah doesn’t seem to really know much about her crush, Jason Momoa, and Ongina has seemingly lost her voice completely. Luckily, Shea manages to deliver both a sickening verse and lead the trio in sharp choreography during rehearsals. Will keeping up with Shea’s lead be enough to save Mariah and Ongina?
Before the mainstage performance, it’s time for Cracker’s comeuppance. Blair is the first to drop the dreaded D-word; “Difficult.” This isn’t the first time Cracker’s name has been smeared with that label, and it’s obviously a bit of a trigger for her. It’s not exactly fair to judge based on these edited segments and interviews, but Cracker’s concentration on how she is being misperceived (rather than the damage she does) seems to suggest she’s got a bit more reflecting to do.
The performance itself is a lot more fun than all the lead up prepared me for. The breezy pop track quickly transitioned between teams and queens, keeping it moving even when the performances sagged. The good was good enough (and the bad speedily moved along).
After a glamorous “Love the Skin You’re In” runway, the judges send Cracker, Mayhem and Alexis to safety. There’s a lot to love about Jujubee’s performance and outfit, and the judges lavish praise onto her Full House jokes and elegant runway presentation. Blair St. Clair also hit the bullseye with a cheeky crush on Hannibal Lecter, but her pink latex runway — though sickening — didn’t quite meet the “skin” theme.
Neither comes close to unseating this week’s eventual winner Shea Couleé. In the performance, Shea is in another league, an all star among all stars. Her moves are crisp, her lyrics are clever and her skin lewk is a gorgeous African-inspired bodysuit that looks like it could be equally at-home in the pages of National Geographic and Vogue.
India, Ongina and Mariah all find themselves in the bottom for a similar reason: failing to stand out. None of them were total failures, but in this crew, just good is not good enough.
Of course, given the wrinkles in the format, performance is just part of the equation, as the queens jockey for position and alliances ahead of this week’s lipstick voting.
Ongina addresses the group at large to try to offer herself to go home instead of Mariah or India. By her logic, she lost faith in herself, and, as Cracker said, that means she doesn’t deserve to be here.
Cracker, whose Resting Stink Face is beyond control, sees exactly where this is heading and takes this opportunity to apologize for unnecessarily getting into Ongina’s head. However, the damage seems to be done, and Ongina’s easy surrender appears to turn off the rest of the girls.
Shea takes the stage to face off against this week’s lip sync assassin: ALYSSA EDWARDS. OK, so they’re not playing with these assassins! Not that I wasn’t happy to see recent winner Yvie Oddly, but Alyssa is one of Drag Race‘s most beloved alums and seeing a dream match-up of Alyssa v. Shea is an incredibly appealing proposition!
The resulting lip sync does not disappoint. Set to the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” (R.I.P. Bonnie Pointer, who died earlier this week, but had left the group before they hit it big with successful singles in the ’80s), both queens brought it. Neither gal seems capable of a bad lip sync, but Shea seems to do more with the softer moment than Alyssa.
Ru agrees, awarding the win (and the $20,000 tip) to Shea. With great prizes, though, comes great responsibility. Shea reveals she picked Ongina to go home. (And Untucked confirmed the other gals unanimously voted Ongina as well.)
Was that the right call? Check out our rankings below, and share your thoughts in the comments!
- Truly the gauntlet has been thrown down by Shea Couleé. She just seems to be operating on another level than the other queens. Even within the chintzy confines of the challenge, Shea fully embodied her performance like it was live on-stage at the Super Bowl. Shea is self-aware, strategic and missing the sort of self-flagellating obsession with perfection that’s derailed so many other talented queens. Her skin runway bodysuit is a Drag Race best.
- Jujubee hasn’t had a “moment” just yet (no, I’m still not sold on her bloated ballad from last week), but she has everything necessary to stomp out the competition. She’s funny, she’s talented, she’s sharp as hell. She’s also lethally likable, which means she’ll amass allies quickly. (Even Derrick Barry singled her out for a sweet goodbye.) Her Uncle Jesse verse could’ve been more original (its most clever line is owed to India), but Juju still delivered on everything asked this week.
- Alexis continues to charm, but will it be enough? Daddy Yankee was a fun choice, and I liked her level of low-brow humor in her lyrics. (Rock M. Sakura can take note.) Alexis is delightful, but what I still need to see is how she pushes beyond what we know she can do. She has impressed, but not yet surprised me this season.
- Watching Blair St. Clair sweat in the studio was uncomfortable viewing, as the self-proclaimed singer seemed to struggle to want to … well, sing. It’s exciting to see how Blair has grown as an artist since we were first introduced, but I’m not sure we’re quite at her final form. If she can continue to turn it out when it counts, she’ll linger a while longer, but she won’t be able to compete with the more seasoned queens unless she can tap into her talent a bit more naturally.
- Miz Cracker‘s storyline didn’t feel like a one-and-done episode, and I fear her attitude may become a central story for the season. Being “difficult” isn’t exactly something that’s endearing for audiences, nor is there an established arc or trope for easy redemption. I hope that doesn’t mean Cracker is being set up to be this season’s villain, because I’m into her twisted humor. I give both her performance and bat mitzvah-inspired runway a solid B.
- This was not a great week for Mariah, but it wasn’t terrible, either. She looked beautiful as a blonde babe during the performance, but it was mostly forgettable. Same for her deliciously detailed gown that still struggled to stand out amongst the more dramatic outfits on the mainstage. She continues to outrank the others due in large part to the creativity and passion of her talent show performance which still has me hopeful there’s much more to come.
- I’m starting to think I like Mayhem out of drag more than I do in drag. In interviews, Mayhem comes off so quick and funny and warm and engaging. On stage, Mayhem looks cool sometimes. There’s just something that’s not connecting. She did enough with the material this week to earn her safe spot, though I had issues with the runway gown dripping in beading. The styling just seemed off with the makeup and shoes paired with that dress. No single piece will ever be gorgeous enough to outperform a fully-realized, head-to-toe vision.
- My feelings on India have been established, so I won’t belabor too much. Her immediate instinct to write lyrics about her fiancé and her timid delivery just reinforce for me this idea that India has no idea who her character really is. Even her eventual Justin Timberlake lyrics didn’t quite add up (as pointed out by Michelle Visage). That lack of point-of-view is a non-starter if you’re looking to separate performers from superstars.
- There’s just no coming back once you admit you don’t think you should be here. Ongina may have pulled off a few more weeks here had she not given up so easily. Neither her dress nor performance were so bad as to guarantee the chop. With Ongina out of the way, the pressure is really on the other queens who have been to the bottom (Mayhem, Mariah, India).