RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Well, kitty girls, we’ve reached the end of an All Stars season that was entertaining, maddening, shocking, boring, mystifying, and predictable all at once. You can’t say you weren’t gagged, positively or negatively, by almost every episode this season (except the soup-can episode, that was pretty meh) and after all, contentious debates within the Drag Race audience is the ancient gay fossil fuel that keeps the show going. Oh, and the wig stunts, tongue pops, and death drops, all three of which this season had in glorious abundance. Overall, though, we end in the exact place we thought we would, and that makes our little balls ache. Not because they’re tucked, but because they’re, well, blue (as in sad).
The queens begin the episode by agreeing that it was not a difficult decision to send Morgan home after she had missed the entire competition. Sort of a no-brainer. Morgan is a deliciously fun drag queen to watch work a room, but she’s just not a drag superstar in the way that RuPaul’s Drag Race demands you be. Trixie reveals she had also chosen to eliminate Morgan, and the ladies bask in the fact that they are actually here, at the finale, with no hijinks to be seen on the horizon.
The next day, RuPaul announces that the final maxi challenge will be the most ambitious production number in the show’s herstory: The girls must write, record, and perform their own verse to RuPaul’s “Kitty Girl” while slaying intense choreo by Todrick Hall. This sounds extremely fun, and the eyes of the girls light up with possibility. They have free rein here to do whatever they want with their verse, and it seems like, finally, their destinies will be in their own hands.
Except, nope. Because RuPaul has decided to bring back the eliminated queens yet again, and we’re calling our ophthalmologist about how hard our eyes are rolling. The opinions of these eliminated queens, while beyond arbitrary, are now going to weigh into the decision RuPaul will make as to who wins the competition. We can guess at this point that Thorgy will try hard to be righteously shady, Morgan and Milk will just, like, be there, Chi Chi will sit quietly until she chimes in to say how she loves Kennedy, and we’ll cry at Aja and Ben for what could have been.
Trixie and Shangela surmise (correctly) that the eliminated queens will come back to form a sort of jury, and that the top four will have to each plead their case to them. BeBe, in classic BeBe fashion, is hilariously wrong in the perfect way when she says that the eliminated queens will “probably be dancers.” Shangela has a good laugh at this, and so do we. Maybe BeBe really doesn’t watch this show at all, and good for her.
The girls meet up with Todrick and a selection of sexy male dancers to rehearse the number. The choreography is as intense as it was suggested earlier, and one section involving a lifted kick gives BeBe particular difficulty since she’s “afraid of heights.” BeBe is supplying a lot of comedy thus far, but all signs point to trouble as the rest of the girls execute the dance quite well. Todrick lets them know it looks sloppy as a whole (wink) and then tells them to “follow him.” Ooh, Toddy…
The girls follow him outside the set, and as the stark natural lighting hits all our queens, Todrick reveals that the majority of the production number will be take place behind the scenes, LIVE, and in only one take. That’s right, kweens, we are Jessie J–in–Grease Live!–ing it up in this bitch! The queens are gagged and excited, but Todrick reminds them that live means LIVE, and there will only be one chance to get this right. So, don’t be bad! That’s what Ru always says, right? Don’t be bad?
On coronation day, the girls are feeling excited and proud. There is still some question as to what the eliminated girls will be doing, or what their attitudes will be, but this installment of Makeup Talk is more focused on introspection as the girls look back on this season and whether they thought they’d all make it this far. Trixie documents her slow start and recent upward trajectory. Kennedy again details her feelings about how you don’t need to do well in the competition to win (this is actually sort of what she is saying), and BeBe claims to be the most consistent. Shangela doesn’t get a big moment here to state her case, but she is Daenerys, if you haven’t heard. Going forward, you have to imagine Shangela is the one to beat.
On the mainstage, a lone RuPaul announces to no one that the performance we’re about to see involves the entire cast and crew of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so we immediately put our good glasses on and run up to the television because if Winter Green (Peppermint’s drag daughter crew member from season nine) is featured, we do not want to miss that realness.
Kennedy begins the number popping out of a truck on the backlot, imploring the world to “feel your puss down deep in your soul.” For this line alone, maybe she should win. Kennedy takes her final solo performance moment on RuPaul’s Drag Race to remind everyone that she is a showgirl, honey, and one of the best in the biz. She kicks and dazzles off at the end of her number, having shown the hell up and slaying. And yes, Morgan and Aja were in the background. Morgan was even doing some choreographed arm-dancing, so maybe BeBe was right about them background dancing after all! Maybe we were wrong for doubting BeBe!
Shangela’s verse is extremely fun and full of pride and accomplishment. If you’re an avid viewer of this show and have been since the early seasons, this may even be a little bit emotional to watch. When you consider where she started all those years ago, the fact that she has become the Beyoncé fish that she is in this moment is pretty inspiring, and no one handed it to her. She has worked hard for this and she deserves it. We’re beaming ear to ear for the entirety of her verse.
It’s going to be hard for anyone to top BeBe Zahara Benet’s rataka-tititata Jungle Kitty original verse from a couple episodes ago, and while the sewing-machine-centric voguing she does here is very good, it’s not what we know she is capable of. That being said, BeBe is a legend and she serves it. It’s just hard to compare to the instant RuPaul’s Drag Race classic that we just saw weeks ago. We didn’t hear any made-up words in this verse and that unfortunately amounts to a deduction for BeBe.
Trixie really impresses with a verbally dexterous verse. Although she doesn’t do as much dancing as the other ladies, she moves well and easily switches between her many props. More than a lot of the other ladies, it feels like she is performing her verse in real time, and she stays true to herself with a lively comedic execution. She also looks terrific. This is definitely going to be a close one heading into the climax of the performance.
After a brief musical interlude wherein Michelle Visage, Ross Mathews, and Carson Kressley do some light step-touch 1-2-3-4 choreo to fill time, the top four are chased through the backstage area by the camera until they pop onto the mainstage to deliver the final section of the number we saw them rehearse earlier with Todrick. Despite the fact that BeBe does not stick that lift she so struggled with earlier, the judges are blown away by the performance.
There is still the final runway, though, and the category is Best Drag Eleganza Extravaganza, honey. It is a special kind of gag to see these looks one after another. BeBe serves what she has all season: jungle. She is a walking leopard, and while it’s a little redundant, there is something to be said about knowing your brand. Of course we wish for some more variety, but that’s not what we’re getting. And that’s okay! Kennedy Davenport serves her final runway look from season seven 2.0, as she gives us pride-inspired rainbow couture meets glamorous evil Disney villain from the deep. We love it. Shangela looks like she could be going to the Oscars in her gown, which is absolutely stunning from top to bottom. The new wig really suits her, and she simply looks like a winner. Trixie Mattel enters in what is her single best runway look ever, some sort of dark 1940s femme fatale vixen meets dog-park poodle. We live for it. We stand with our prediction that BeBe should be sashaying away, only because her runway look isn’t the literal best thing she’s done all season. The bar is high here.
Before the judges’ critiques, it is revealed that the eliminated girls have formed some sort of tribal council and will be voting on the top two after short meetings with each of them. So throw out everything we’ve said because we have a feeling this finale performance, so hyped all episode long, is not going to matter at all. Shangela and Trixie’s suspicions are confirmed, yet they are still visibly gagged by this information.
The judges are kind to everyone in their comments and critiques. They really graze over the performance they’ve just seen and focus on the positive big-picture of it all. Who really cares what the judges say on an All Stars season when the people that matter are sitting just over yonder, watching and waiting as contoured agents of chaos.
In the workroom, the eliminated queens sit in a terrifying tableau across from a single armchair on which each queen will sit, plead their case, and answer questions so that the eliminated girls can make their choices. We should say that they all look stunning in fashions that had to be among their favorites that they did not get to wear. As BeBe Zahara Benet enters the workroom, she can feel with her “African sixth sense” that these girls do not want to crown someone who has already won a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and she is probably not wrong. However, this is not the topic that ruffles feathers. Instead, Thorgy becomes irritated when BeBe will not answer a question as to which queens she had chosen to eliminate and bring back the week that she lip-synced against Ben. BeBe holds true to her word that she will keep this secret to her dying day, and it obviously bothers the girls. Thorgy will remark a little later that she is not “made comfortable” by BeBe, and she doesn’t like that. Because, as we all know, this competition is about Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, Talent, and Making Other People Feel Comfortable.
Kennedy fares much better with the girls, who ask pageant-esque questions of a pageant queen. Chi Chi does indeed break down and tells Kennedy how much she loves her, so we know where her vote is going. In a talking head, Kennedy makes a salient point in that, of the four, BeBe has already won, Trixie has a huge career, and Shangela been something of a Drag Race household name since just after the show began. She needs this the most. Whether that’s a rubric the eliminated girls will abide by is a toss-up.
Next in the hot seat is Shangela, who compares the circumstances to Ned Stark’s beheading in Game of Thrones. Apparently an entire season of Daenerys analogies has led up to an off-the-mark Ned Stark one, which makes us so mad that we want to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor. Shangela crunches the numbers as she sits across from the queens: three of them she eliminated, two she’s butt heads with, and finally there’s Ben, who silently gazes from her chair in her all-red Hello, Dolly! eleganza. We get a very valid talking point from Shangela: Trixie is the only queen in the final four who has never sent anyone home, which puts the other three at an unfair disadvantage. She then goes into an inspiring speech about her growth from seasons two and three, that she went to “drag school” and that no matter the outcome, this is her graduation. It’s an emotional self-validation that wins over even the most resistant Shangie-haters, and we can’t help but applaud as she graciously curtseys out the room.
Trixie trails in soon after, and unloads a lot of her feelings surrounding her disappointments and accomplishments on the season. She praises Shangela for making so much in the real world out of her short time on the show, but then throws BeBe and Kennedy under the bus for not showing any substantial amount of growth (exhibit: Kennedy’s updated rainbow dress). She cites her work ethic in many areas, including folk music and comedy and television development, and proudly declares herself an all-star even before taping began. The eliminated queens agree and cordially dismiss her as they move on to pick lipsticks for the top two.
Everyone gathers back on the mainstage, and Morgan announces as the foreman of the group that the jury of eliminated queens have selected their top two: Kennedy and Trixie. Shangela and BeBe bow out gracefully, and the final two move on to a lip sync of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, which is a most interesting song choice for a final number. Trixie digs deep into the seismic emotional buildup of the song while Kennedy twirls with aplomb, which is dangerously reminiscent of Kenya Michaels pirouetting around the stage to “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” against a grounded Latrice Royale. Kennedy eventually takes the visual backseat, as Trixie pulls in the full gravitas by the end. And with that, Ru crowns Trixie the third winner of All Stars and the newest inductee in the Drag Race Hall of Fame.
As we close the book on this noisy, sometimes chaotic season, we can step back for a second and appreciate it as a tapestry of wonderfully memorable moments: Aja jumping “from there,” Ben’s self-elimination, “Rataka-tititata / Yeah, I’m pussy, bitch” (or everything else out of BeBe’s mouth), and a few Snatch Game impressions. You’ll get these great bits with any Drag Race season. Alas, it’s a tapestry checkered by plenty of indelibly rougher moments: the dropped Handmaid’s Tale bit, Thorgy’s note, the entire Warhol Ball, and a few Snatch Game impressions. The fulcrum that determines a great, well-balanced season of this show is constantly shifting, and perhaps we’ve been a bit spoiled as a viewing audience with what Drag Race can deliver, but here’s hoping that the show will change with the times, as it always has, and emerge with a refreshed format that’s fit for an All Star.
SAID THE BITCH: A Weekly Quote Spotlight
In lieu of a quote for this finale episode, we will instead honor BeBe Zahara Benet as the most quotable queen this season, and present her with our Said the Bitch Icon Award. Sure, Trixie was the talking-head MVP of the season, but week after week, BeBe’s sound bites just begged to be repeated out loud and spoken with that soothing, sagely timbre. All hail the original.