RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Recap: Tough Crowd

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RuPaul. Photo: LOGO
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Episode Title
Revenge of the Queens
Season
2
Episode
5
Editor’s Rating
5/5

Alright ya little goblins, buckle up and grab a buddy. We have a lot of television to chat about and we can’t have any stragglers holding up the group! No bathroom breaks!

All week I’ve been stewing in my own odorless sweat, wondering how the artisans at Logo could possibly top the end of last week’s episode. The image of those queens appearing in that mirror has haunted my dreams, as I’m sure it’s haunted many of yours. Imagery like that is hard to top with simple content, henny! But by God, did All Stars get behind us tonight, shove our faces into a pillow, and top us good.

Let's start with Phi Phi. Oh, Phi Phi. If you just spent an entire episode hectoring Alyssa Edwards with the idea that “we should listen to the judges,” maybe don't let the centerpiece of your argument for sending her home boil down to “I am butt-hurt that the judges seem to like her, even though I do not.”

While I don’t think Phi Phi’s Twitter tantrum was orchestrated by Logo, the synchronicity with which her various tweets and the reaction to those tweets has matched up with her All Stars narrative is downright brilliant. This week, Phi Phi has the audacity to tell Alyssa to “stop playing the victim,” which is truly a spit-take-worthy sentiment coming from her. It’s so completely tone deaf and hilarious. Phi Phi has built an entire brand around playing the victim, and yet she can’t seem to spot one in real life. Of course, Alyssa is anything but a victim: She’s confrontational yet playful; she's calm and collected; her arguments are all cogent. Phi Phi has a chance to really own her bitchiness here, and instead she tries to bury it by sputtering out a series of mealy mouthed excuses. “That’s just my opinion!” she cries, as though being aggressively foul and having an opinion are mutually exclusive.

That is perhaps a little too harsh, because I don’t totally believe that Phi Phi is an intrinsically rotten person. She just lacks self-awareness. It’s clear from the other girls' confessionals that Phi Phi was so wrapped up in the optics of being redeemed this season that she ended up being even more aggravating. As a fan of reality TV, I don’t mind all the theatrics. But the eternally quotable Alyssa Edwards boils it all down quite succinctly: If you're gonna be a bitch, then “stand up and be one.”

Meanwhile, Ginger tries in vain to grab some additional camera time by inserting herself into another feud with Alyssa, but her grievances are so confused, you'd literally need a diagram wall to connect any of those dots. It’s a smart move when she tries to save face, but it's executed terribly. Everything sputters out so magnificently when she tries to turn it all back around and paint herself as some kind of Drag Race martyr who wouldn’t let Katya go home. Yeah right! This kind of manipulative behavior made Ginger Minj a top-notch monster in season seven, but there’s just too much happening for the camera to linger on her this week.

Really, though: There's so much delicious nonsense! And guess what? We haven’t even hit the three-minute mark! What did any of us do in this life to deserve TV this good?

When RuPaul comes back, she reveals what many of you had already guessed: The returning queens will not only compete to send home a bottom queen, but to also return to the competition. Sure, it’s not exactly a shocking twist, but lest we forget, it's much better than season nine's Naysha Lopez debacle. We deserved better than that.

This week’s maxi is a “stand-up comedy” challenge, one that has appeared in various forms throughout many a Drag Race season. This time around, the queens get paired up — a fairly uncommon context for stand-up comedy, but like, what is comedy? What is drag? Uh-oh, Logo just sent me spiraling into an existential crisis.

With the queens all paired up, Roxxxy Andrews is given the responsibility to host the show — a staggering amount of power, should she win. Of course, everyone in that room knows that is a statistical impossibility, so no one seems all that concerned that their fate will be in the hands of one Ms. Andrews. While her performance isn't a revelation by any stretch, it hit me during this episode that if anyone has been truly successful in rehabbing their image, it was Roxxxy. Perhaps the all-powerful edit went a little easier on her than Phi Phi, but Roxxxy has gone from one of the most transparently manipulative, spiteful characters in Drag Race herstory to what appears to be a pretty chilled-out, normal person.

But a good comedian? Well, let’s dive in and find out.

Roxxxy: Once again, Roxxxy flails wildly in a performance challenge. As soon as she falters on her (perfectly fine) first joke, it’s all over for her. In a bizarre attempt to save the performance, she drags out her kid-show character from season five, Tasha Salad, not once, but three inexplicable times. Although I don’t exactly have fond memories of Tasha, it appears that less is definitely more here, as she gives us five salad-dressing-related jokes too many.

Coco and Phi Phi: Roxxxy wasn’t the only one to bring back a well-worn character from her season, as Coco wisely decides to resurrect RuPaul’s cousin from the hood, a character that won her the stand-up challenge in season five. Unfortunately, coupled with Phi Phi’s horrific pregnant chola character, these two aren’t able to squeeze out more than two jokes. It is less a stand-up routine and more a Tyler Perry hellscape.

Alyssa/Alaska: Alaska proves once again that she understands how to play this game better than anyone else by letting Alyssa off the leash to just be Alyssa, even if Alyssa doesn’t quite understand why that’s funny. Although it seems like she's stepping aside to let Alyssa have the spotlight, Alaska is the rare queen who can make a one-word punch line seem electric.

Ginger/Katya: This should have been better. This is the only pairing with two self-proclaimed comedy queens, and yet it falls flat. Katya acquits herself well enough, but I’m starting to worry that she stalled out after week two. And Ginger, normally quite a capable performer, doesn’t seem to understand the timing at all.

Detox/Tatianna: What a surprise this one is! It has one of the better setups, they look amazing together, and for two queens who’ve been knocked for their performance abilities, they really shine. I've always admired her aesthetic, but I’ve never been a super vocal Detox fan. If she continues to show up in these performance challenges, it’s hard to imagine a top three without her.

After more inserts of Phi Phi's dirty looks (which, even I’ll admit got a little heavy-handed), Tatianna and Alyssa are declared the winners. What a fucking treat.

Under the added stakes of this being the season's first Lip Sync for Your Life, these girls really turn it out. Alyssa and Tatianna look amazing in their perfectly coordinated black-and-white outfits, though I’m a little unsure of how I feel about the queens constantly changing before the lip syncs this season. (A privilege of being an all star, I guess?) The minute that Rihanna song started playing, I could hear gay men shrieking across America. These two absolutely demolish the stage, and it becomes a real Sophie’s Choice. And while my jaw did initially drop to the floor when Ru declared Tati the winner (reeked of rigor morris, girl!) I was then doubly pleased to learn that not only was there a double save (thanks, Adore!) but the possibility of a double elimination as well.

Of course, that was never going to happen. Although there is certainly reason enough to send both Roxxxy and Phi Phi home, it is Phi Phi’s time. Her messy performance backstage all but sealed the deal. To be honest, it seems like a real gift for someone who's been visibly coming apart at the seams. Phi Phi may not have gotten the redemption arc she wanted, but she certainly got a lot of attention this season. (Just look at how much real estate she's taken up in these recaps!) With a new album on the horizon, something tells me things will work out just fine for Ms. O’Hara.