Do not adjust your screen: You are not still watching Hamilton. Though, you’d be forgiven for confusing it with last night’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, because in both there were certainly shots fired.
The Drag Race drama went down with a lot less singing and a lot more laughs. Not only was it an episode destined to be remembered alongside villainous drama from the likes of Phi Phi O’Hara, it was also a very strong Snatch Game.
The All Stars edition definitely ups the pressure. For queens who Snatched before, there’s a need to top your previous performance. For those who were eliminated before the traditional challenge, there’s a need to prove Ru (pRuve?) wrong for sending a queen home too soon.
This season’s All Stars Snatch had some very high highs (and one notably low low). Who slayed the challenge and who was India Ferrah? Let’s recap.
Structured again as the Snatch Game of Love, a parody closer to The Dating Game than the classic Match Game. The benefit is we get three queens at a time, so each performance gets a little more space. The downside is queens can be tempted to lean too heavily on sexual innuendo and shock humor.
The set-up is thus: Three of the queens sit beside a wall in celebrity character. On the opposite side of the wall, one of the guest judges asks cheeky questions and the gals do their thing. In some ways, there’s less demand to craft a well-written joke, but there are also less distractions to hide behind.
Our first set of queens includes Cracker as “100 People In a Room”-era Gaga; Alexis as iconic astrologer (and subject of a new Netflix documentary) Walter Mercado; and India Ferrah as — ugh — Jeffree Star.
I may have been hard on India the last few weeks, but, y’all, I was holding back, and this is why. Something just irked me about India, and now I know what it was! She’s a Jeffree Star fan! She likes his “quirky remarks” like “gurl, shook.” This will not be pretty.
A word of warning to all future queens: Do not do a YouTube personality for Snatch Game. First, read the room. Look at those judges. Maybe the pop-obsessed regular judges will know who you’re referencing (even if they don’t know all the idiosyncrasies), but there’s also a good chance the guests won’t know who you are talking about.
Number 2: YouTube. Personalities. Are. Not. Funny.
Go watch a Jeffree Star video, I’ll wait. See? Not funny. Not interesting. Not well-crafted. Not intentional. Just camera-on, say whatever without much thought. Cool.
Plus, Star is no Jojo Siwa. The YouTube video-talker has courted controversy with a checkered history of racism and Nazi iconography. Love those quirky remarks! He made $18 million dollars off YouTube in 2018! The world is profoundly broken! LOL!
It’s small comfort that India absolutely whiffs the entire Snatch. At best, she delivers perfect set-ups for Alexis to dunk on her over and over. At her worst, she shouts out something like “Can’t relate!” apropos of nothing or randomly raps about ice cream sandwich crotch while waving a Dollar Store wand. It’s sad.
While India sweats, Alexis soars. She has just enough nods to Mercado’s powers, while mostly letting Alexis’ natural charm and charisma carry the character. It was successful, but, although I was laughing, I was less impressed with the material. Sometimes just being funny is enough, though.
It’s a lesson that might have benefited Cracker. As Gaga in the midst of her Star Is Born glory, Cracker came packing gags, but it’s clear she’s so pre-occupied trying to deploy them she can’t respond to Ru or the Snatchelor. She brings good stuff, but none of her best work feels “of the moment.”
Compare that to the other group, which sports TWO top-notch Snatch performances. The first is Jujubee, playing my second-favorite Catwoman, Eartha Kitt. She’s almost too on-the-nose for Snatch Game. Kitt’s a larger-than-life character with utterly unique mannerisms. Juju has those down. Just the embodiment of the character already outshines previous attempts from Chi Chi Devayne and Valentina.
But what really sets this Snatch apart is the characterization Juju layers on. She delivers all her lines in that signature, sensual purr, but everything she says is banal, literal and decidedly devoid of sexual undercurrent. It’s a brilliant move that yields hysterical moments like Eartha saying she would keep guest-judge (and regulation hottie) Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman warm by sensually walking to the thermostat and turning up the thermostat to a sensible 74 degrees. I mean, have we ever seen Ru laugh so hard?
Juju also understands that though these other girls are her competitors, in this scene, they are partners. Instead of trying to out-bitch the other queens on stage (like India unsuccessfully attempted), Juju engages in tons of play with Shea, who is in character as Flava Flav.
Shea is also an expert blend of prepared bits (“my big … fat … 14-inch … CLOCK”) as well as great off-the-cuff bon mots that keep the whole scene moving at a great pace.
The only time the scene drags is when Blair takes the spotlight as Ellen DeGeneres. Blair clearly studied Ellen, and she has the mannerisms down. There are just … no jokes. There are some attempts at jokes, but they end up reading like a list of things about Ellen that COULD be a joke (the oversized staff, the love of animals). At one point, she PASSES a question, which I believe may be a Snatch first? Anyway, I feel like when she passes to Juju, you can feel the sense of excitement in the studio, like “Oh, thank god, back to the funny one!”
Later, the runway theme is prom, which feels long overdue. More on the individual lewks in the rankings below.
No surprise, the judges are gagged for Alexis, Juju and Shea. Cracker gets called out for being too calculating (a familiar refrain), Blair is blasted for a lack of jokes, and India? Well, when it’s her turn for critiques, I’m pretty sure you can catch Michelle dry-heaving.
But wait! There’s a twist! Starting this week, we get one TOP queen (this week is Shea) and EVERYONE ELSE is up for elimination.
Ooh, now this is getting interesting.
In no time at all, the new rule sends the whole competition into a tizzy. After four weeks in the bottom, everyone is like OK, BYE INDIA! BYE! BEEN FUN! However, it’s no longer only about who performed worst this week (and the three weeks preceding it). There is a chance she can swing this without having to prove someone was worse than her in the challenge (which, obviously, no one was).
Instead, she opts to throw a wrench in the voting. Shea tells the girls she doesn’t need to do one-on-ones with everyone, because she already knows what she’s doing. At this point, India BEGS to talk to her one-on-one. Just when you’re expecting another “I need to be here, I’ve worked so hard, I really want it, etc. etc.” speech, India hits us with the stunt.
According to her, Alexis and Mayhem, allegedly, tried to get her to vote for Shea in a coup two weeks ago. Shea ain’t got time for this Real Housewives-esque confrontation, so she trots the tea right on back to the bigger group to hash it out.
Alexis vehemently denies it, but India will not relent; the irresistible force and the immovable India. In private, Alexis raises a good point to Shea, which really convinces me. If Alexis was trying to lobby for Shea’s ouster, why only recruit India, the season’s weakest player?
For what it’s worth, my personal guess (and it is just that, a guess), is that Alexis was merely asking India if she, like Alexis and Mayhem, was also voting for Shea that week. It makes sense. Maybe the language barrier played a part, or maybe India is making a desperate attempt to save herself. WHO CAN SAY?
Shea is brought out to lip sync against this week’s assassin … Miss Vanjie. Eh. She’s great! Love her! But, I don’t know, maybe we haven’t had enough time to miss Miss Vanjie enough just yet.
The song is “Open Your Heart,” and Vanjie makes the mistake of playing it like a light, mall-pop track in a neon ’80s-teen outfit with absolutely mind-boggling partial sleeves (more Tiffany than Madonna). Shea understands the pulsing erotic energy in the song and plays it with much more savvy than Vanessa.
Shea rightly earns the win, and, after a brief, vague preamble, she sends India home.
Before India goes, she’s got to try to have the last word, which of course she bungles. It’s supposed to be some big, Veronica Lodge on Riverdale sort of kiss-off, but it ends up a sputtering speech about four H’s, which, after what feels like forever, predictable lands on something about honesty in the least veiled shade in the history of sunlight. Booooooooo.
It was the best case scenario: India is gone, and there is still enough unease to maintain a steady stream of drama as Shea figures out if she can trust Alexis. But where do the remaining queens stand? Check out our rankings below, and leave yours in the comments!
1. [TIE] You know, it’s almost a pity they crowned two winners last All Stars, because I don’t want to choose between Shea and Jujubee! I preferred Juju’s Snatch this week, but I think Shea edged her out on the runway. I liked Juju’s ’80s prom ensemble, but Shea’s artsy nod to a moment that changed Drag Race herstory and cost her the crown was inspired. These two are in a tight race to the top, and I truly can’t pick one just yet.
3. With Cracker cracking a bit, there’s an opening for Alexis to break away from the pack. Similar to her turn as Alicia Keys in her season’s Snatch, this relied more on silly than slavishly staying in character, but it worked. On the runway, Alexis looked beautiful, but basic. I want to see a real “wow” moment from Alexis that shows she can push herself a bit further while standing next to some other high-caliber queens.
4. I’m not ready to throw in the towel for Cracker just yet, but it’s not looking good. Her Gaga was flawlessly recreated, but it felt more like a series of memes than a truly lived-in character. I liked her Velma Von Tussle runway, but I agree with the judges that it didn’t read prom as much as the others.
5. Ooh, if only we could fast-forward 5-10 years in Blair St. Clair‘s future. Just imagine what she’ll be doing by then! The creativity and craft in all of her runways cannot be understated. She’s been murdering this runway each week, and I’m excited to see what she brings next. Unfortunately, I just still don’t get the confidence beyond the garment. She needs more maturing still, a little more world weariness. Then, she could be unstoppable.
6. India. See above (and the last four weeks of recaps).
What did you think of last night’s episode?