What family BBQ is complete without a little drama (and potato salad with raisins, apparently)? Just as important as who’s invited to the party is who ISN’T invited. On last night’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, it was our dearly disinvited that made the biggest impression.
The specter of India continues to hang heavy in the workroom.
Right from the get-go, Alexis is shook by last week’s attempted coup. The departed India has taken every opportunity to wring each drip out of her exit, from her cringey runway exit spiel to her verbose mirror message, India wasn’t done shaking things up.
Alexis continues to plead with the girls that, while she did see Shea as competition, she did not campaign to boot her.
But, like the tell tale heart, India has burrowed her way into the queens’ brains, and suspicion looms large, only exacerbated by the personalized letters India hid around the work stations like the most petty escape room.
She even left a note for Alexis, a calculated bit of last words that managed to claim moral high-ground, extend grace to Alexis and somehow frame this as something requiring Alexis to open her heart? (Likely a reference to last week’s lip sync, but doubly-effective as another way to make Alexis look like a villain.) It’s a deliciously evil way to further entrench India in Alexis’ mind, like squatters fighting against the building of CyberArts studio.
Of course, this week is all about unwanted visitors, sort of. Ru drops in to introduce this week’s challenge: the Charles Family Backyard Ball. Each queen needs to present an original “play cousin” character with voiceover, as well as some handmade BBQ realness constructed from unconventional backyard materials. As the guests of dishonor of the party, they’ll need to be clever and creative, but to nail the second look, they need to be inventive and skilled.
So, although I didn’t love the premise, this was a good week to test the ladies’ limits.
In crafting these characters, we actually got to learn a little more about the people behind the performers. During Ru’s walkthrough, Shea tearily tells a tragic tale about losing her father and sister in a short span of time. We’ve gotten to see what a strong competitor Shea is, but witnessing her emotional strength is just as impressive. In fact, Shea’s powerful belief that she carries her lost loved ones with her is such a healthy outlook, even RuPaul resists the typical urge to spin the situation into another one of her armchair psychology koans.
Elsewhere, Ru-ru meets up with Juju and they bond over their sobriety and the vital friends that helped save their lives. Juju is a beloved Drag Race vet, so seeing her discuss her sobriety could be an impactful event for others who are struggling. It’s also always a bit of a gut-punch when Ru gets emotional.
On the mainstage, Cracker is an obvious stand-out right out of the gate. She smartly punctuates her voiceover intro with jokes and live reactions that make sure every single word counts. It’s joke after joke after joke, which is exactly the point of the exercise. For her cookout couture, she turned out a sickeningly slick red number that uses pieces of badminton equipment. It’s not my favorite lewk up there, but it’s chic.
Next up, Juju, obviously, kills it. Her play-cousin character’s jokes feel a touch less original than Cracker’s. “Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come” is the kind of thing you’d see on a mug in a sponsored Facebook post, regardless of how tickled Bebe Rexha may have been. Still, Juju can DELIVER a joke — no matter how hacky — with enough aplomb to land it. The effect was a funnier presentation, but her original unconventional materials gown was merely a simple dress adorned with some watermelon cut-outs. She looked pretty, but not very exciting.
Still, Juju’s runway was a thrill compared to Blair’s time on the mainstage. Her character was fine — a soft-butch, mulletted, trailer tart — but the “jokes” were obvious and the mannerisms didn’t necessarily jive with the voiceover. I had high hopes for her couture runway, but she walks a so-so pastel gown that was desperately missing some edge and refinement. Her makeup was still cute, but overall disappointing.
Shea, no surprise, has a strong showing in both parts of the challenge. Her character monologue wasn’t as chockablock with jokes as Cracker or Juju, but the outfit was perfect, including an airbrushed t-shirt featuring her character Grandrea from her season’s 90210-Ho challenge. However, it’s Shea’s custom-made backyard bridal eleganza that really stuns. A masterful combination of gingham, netting and chaps, it’s my favorite of the week.
That leaves Alexis. I think Alexis could have recovered from last week’s escándalo, but not with a showing like this. First, her character is a take on the Latina cleaning woman trope, but it also includes a dud of a wig reveal and a few inexplicable details. For example, why would her answer for “What is your character bringing to the party?” be coquito? Her voice over explained, “Because it’s the best Puerto Rican drink to bring a party,” but … where’s the joke? She came close to saving herself with her unconventional gown, which she made thoughtfully, carefully and embellished with red Solo cups. Her mistake was sewing in an inflatable kiddie pool into the tail that just threw all the proportions out of whack and ruined the overall presentation.
Cracker is (rightfully) picked the winner this week. (Although I think some might have preferred Juju’s character and Shea’s outfit, Cracker did better between the two.) Backstage, Cracker establishes Alexis and Blair as the bottom, which is accurate, and the rest of the queens seem to accept it’s between them. Blair makes a stronger case, but even if she didn’t, lingering doubts about Alexis’ conspiratorial leanings would surely have sealed the deal.
This week’s lip sync assassin is none other than reformed Drag Race villain Roxxxy Andrews. She looks … amazing? Like, how was Roxxxy Andrews not cast in Hustlers? She basically mops the floor with Cracker to Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time,” culminating in a reveal of an extra skimpy outfit (more a collection of straps, really) that spells out Thick & Juicy on her butt in rhinestones. Even though Roxxxy doesn’t bust out too many big moves, she sells the song with her face in a way that makes Cracker looks like she’s doing some weird fake ballet.
Andrews is the winner, and she reveals the queens voted to send Alexis home.
Next week is a stand-up comedy challenge, which means Cracker and Juju are going to be at each other’s throats, and poor Blair better start packing.
Let’s take stock of where our Top Five fall in this week’s rankings.
- Shea pulled away a bit from Juju this week. More than even Alaska before her, it feels like Shea is the most prepared queen we’ve seen yet. She is playing every aspect of this game, on the mainstage, off the mainstage, with Ru, with the other girls, she is always “on,” but it never reads as calculating or inauthentic. She’s one of the few queens to grasp that they are being evaluated on EVERYTHING, not just the challenges. Shea is unafraid to open up and be vulnerable. She’s relentlessly driven and creative. She’s eager to model good behavior and help her fellow contestants sew even though they’re her competition. If Drag Race gave out merit badges, Shea would need a second sash.
- Considering we’re coming up on a comedy challenge, Jujubee continues to nip at Shea’s heels. She slipped a bit this week for me, and I think overall her fashions are merely pretty. Sure, construction is going to be her biggest hurdle, but I thought her character could’ve been better. It was good, but it just felt sort of … uninspired. Yes, Juju at 80 percent is still fabulous, but she’s going to need to hold nothing back if she wants to outpace Shea.
- Could Cracker win this thing? Maybe! This was another great week for Cracker, who almost would benefit from winning — and therefore lip syncing — less. Not that Cracker isn’t beautiful or sexy, but she’s not … sensual. When she plays straight-up sex-kitten, it feels awkward. I much prefer to see her blend glam and camp and lean into her dorkiness a bit more. I wasn’t awed by her original garment, but it was solid and her character more than made up for it.
- I do declare, Blair should prepare. I’m not feeling super confident in her ability to thrive on a stand-up challenge, and now she’s slipping on the runway? She could surprise us, but it’s seeming more and more certain Blair will bid adieu before the final three.
- Thanks for playing, Alexis. Earlier this season, Alexis mentioned wanting to prove that even if she gets older or puts on a little weight, she can still be the performer she’s always been. In a way, that’s what held her back. I don’t want All Stars to prove you can still do what you’ve always done; I want to see what I never thought you could be capable of. Alexis’s big personality and years of experience got her far, but it always felt like she was playing small, especially seeing queens like Shea, Cracker and Blair really fight to prove themselves.
How would you rank the queens?