Of course RuPaul, whose adoration for Judge Judy has been well documented, would have a sweet spot for TMZ on TV. The long-running FOX program takes the most base parts of E! News, distills them down to their most vile and then runs it all through a Tosh.0 filter. Like Judy, it’s become an institution (it’s renewed through 2023!), but its cultural significance dwindles as always-on access to celebrities via social media renders paparazzi less and less necessary.
Reduced down to parody, it plays as a sort of proto-reality TV scene (like a less systemically problematic COPS). As the framework for this week’s All Stars challenge, it’s camp.
Before we even get to the challenge, though, the real gossip is what’s going around the workroom. It begins with the weekly tallying of the lipsticks, and, let me just say, I am so glad production just hands them the box instead of relying on the girls to disclose their votes based on their word alone.
Shea wants to know who’s responsible for the two lipsticks with her name on them, and Mayhem and Alexis are quick to claim responsibility. They’re not so forthcoming with their reasoning, however, as they both defer to their close relationship with Mariah as to why they voted for Shea. Meanwhile, in the confessional, Mayhem spills that she had suspected the rest of the girls would also want to knockout the strongest competition, but her strategy “backfired.”
Simmering conflict might come in handy this week, as the gals will be teamed up for an improv challenge filming for SheMZ. (For a cute little twist, the queens also play the SheMZ staff pitching stories. The gag? They’re all in boydrag wearing baseball caps, so you know they’re butch.) Less clear is why Carson is serving us such Paul Lynde realness as his Harvey Levin character, but I digress.
The first team, comprised of Alexis and Shea, are cast as dueling fired Fake Housewives caught together at lunch. Ross portrays a cameraman ambushing the pair, and they take the scene from there. As an avid Housewives fanatic myself, I feel like they miss a lot of notable hallmarks from that universe (no mention of charity work, no wine throwing, no real estate-based accusations, etc.). Shea does her best to rein in Alexis’ energy, but the two mostly engage in escalating stunts (pregnancies! wig-snatching! love triangle!) until the whole scene devolves into a food fight.
India and Mayhem have even less luck. The premise provided is India is a troubled celeb with a little shoplifting habit, and Mayhem is a shopkeep that caught her in the act. The conflict escalates until India takes the scene in a whole new direction by confessing she’s a “licker” and proceeding to lick a donut. Now, I get the Ariana Grande reference, but neither queen seems to have any idea where this whole lick kink thing is going, so it just sort of sputters to its eventual conclusion of both queens licking glass off the pavement. Haha?
It almost feels unfair that Jujubee and Cracker landed in the same team (and very lucky for Blair!). The clever queens are ideal scene partners. Tasked with portraying the cover-up of a college admissions scandal, Cracker comes prepared with some A+ jokes, including one-liners and precise pop-culture references that honor the premise. Jujubee is ready for Harold night, because she’s an expert improviser. My favorite thing about her performance is how she reacts to what her partners are saying. You can see every other queen thinking of what they’re going to say next, but Juju always seems in the moment. It lends a real nice layer of believability to the scene, which makes all the absurdity hit harder. No knock on Blair here. She more than kept up with her partners and wisely kept to a character well within her range.
Prepping for the camo-themed runway, Blair takes centerstage opening up about her own brush with the blogarrazzi a few years back. She was busted with a DUI, and the story spread online.
After Blair’s vulnerability, Mayhem speaks up to share about her DUIs and experiences being arrested while in drag. It’s a really complex conversation that covers not only some of the systemic issues we’re currently examining with the police, but also the ever-present drug culture that permeates the nightlife scene. It’s a short conversation here, but an important one.
Joining the judges this week is Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland, who proudly claims she’s a “true East Village hoodrat queen.” I just don’t know if you get the same cultural cachet growing up in the East Village post-Giuliani, you know?
Regardless, she’s got some pretty decent critiques for the queens. Shea and Blair manage to squeak by to safety. Alexis gets a note about not listening to her partner enough. (I wonder if this will come into play in next week’s Snatch Game of Love …) Both Jujubee and Cracker get tons of praise on the runway, with Cracker ultimately getting the win. India and Mayhem land in the bottom for a scene they both had a hand in sinking.
Deliberations are pretty straightforward, since Mayhem seems resigned to pack her bags and not throw India under a bus. Unfortunately, India has no such reservations, blaming the poor performance almost exclusively on Mayhem. (For what it’s worth, and maybe unsurprisingly, I thought Mayhem was the stronger of the two in the improv.)
Cracker comes out for the lip sync looking like something between Queen Elsa from Frozen and the Night King on Game of Thrones. She’s up against Morgan McMichaels as this week’s assassin, and it seems a bit like a lopsided contest. I know it’s personal preference, but I’d rather see Cracker get campy than try to be sultry.
Of course, it’s hard not to rely on sex when you’re up there with Morgan McMichaels, a queen that oozes so much sex she practically sweats Swiss Navy silicone. Cracker does a few gymnastic tricks and brings a little humor in at the end, but the real highlight is when Morgan uses her opponent’s leg as a Skip-It while Cracker breakdanced.
Surprisingly, Ru rules this a double-win, meaning two queens could potentially be sent home. Though, when the lipsticks come out, both Cracker and the crowd voted for Mayhem.
Next week is Snatch Game of Love, and I don’t have high hopes for some of these girls! (India. I’m talking about India.)
But before we get there, let’s check our standings. Share your rankings in the comments!
- A real three-way race is emerging, with Jujubee slightly pulling ahead of her top competitors. Many believe the beloved Drag Race vet was twice robbed of an All Stars crown, so it would feel like some kind of justice to see her in the Hall of Fame. So far, she’s been expertly prepared without coming off too calculating. And, it seems like she’s just as skilled at playing the political game around the workroom. I agree with the judges that her camo runway could’ve used just a little something more, but her improv was so pro, it hardly matters. Now, her previous celeb impressions on Drag Race (Kimora Lee Simmons and Fran Drescher) weren’t terribly memorable, but something tells me Juju will have something up her sleeve this time.
- Shea is already on the bounce back after last week’s scare. She squeaked by with a so-so improv, and I didn’t love her runway as much as I wanted to. I almost wish it wasn’t so monochromatic. Against the the backdrop of blue stagelights, the camo almost did its job too well. Next week can be the week that Shea re-establishes her dominance, as long as she brings something stronger than her season nine Snatch, Naomi Campbell.
- Cracker is creeping up the rankings with another strong performance this week. She drove the engine of her scene and was wise enough to show up to the “improv” with some jokes prepared. I like Cracker at her campiest, so this week’s sexy camo runway and sensual lip sync left me wanting. Still, I’m happy to see Cracker mix it up on- and off-stage (though I had a hard time following her conflict with Blair). Cracker came to play, but can she out-slay Shea Coulee? (Say that five times fast.)
- Alexis is this season’s wildcard, for sure. She’s one of those queens that can crush a challenge by sheer force of personality. That makes it harder for strategic queens to plan for each challenge. She’s pushing herself on the runway, but I don’t really want high-concept from Alexis. Give me that big, bright showgirl from this season’s premiere. As beautiful as the white camo was, none of her personality was able to shine through.
- I wish Blair wasn’t safe, because I’d love the judges’ thoughts on that runway. I feel like tree-themed runways have a rough history on this show, but I loved this. I think it’s all about the proportion. The high-waisted trunk effect, the slits in the pants to emulate spreading roots, the exaggerated shoulders, the perfect amount of adornment, I loved it all! Even the nude pump! Gorgeous. This Blair is much more mature than the first go-’round, and I’ve really been enjoying her work. Especially with the way eliminations work this season, Blair could easily find herself in the top three if the gals decide to knockout a power player at some point.
- If ever there was a week for a true double elimination, I would’ve hoped it was this week. India was the weaker half of her team for me. (Compare how Mayhem licked the donut to how India — who didn’t even wear nails! — licked the donut.) However, this was my favorite India runway look ever. I adored the dark palette; I loved the slicked-back hair; I thought the black latex gave her some edge. More of this, please! Less Lady Marmalade, more Fairuza Balk.
- Once Mayhem let her negative attitude show in front of the judges, it was all over. Her camo runway felt like half a concept. She insisted it was Black Barbie going to combat, but it needed more G.I. Joe flavor. (I think adding a pink patrol cap and replacing the chains with Rob Liefeld-esque utility pouches would’ve made a difference.) She committed fully to every decision in her improv scene, and she can be a very compelling performer. She just came up too short this week.
How would you rank the queens?