RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Welcome To Marwen? Honey, where this episode of All Stars is concerned, it’s more like welcome to drama. Was this a bad way to open up this recap of episode two? Maybe. But it does give me an opportunity to bring up Welcome to Marwen so that somebody, perhaps one of you in the comments, can tell me what the fuck it is. What is this movie? Is it barbies fighting? Sometimes I worry about Steve Carell!
At the episode’s start, Trinity The Tuck is feeling all tuckered out emotionally from eliminating Jasmine Masters, but Monét X Change reminds us that this is a competition, and friends are to be damned! Farrah Moan learns that she also would have been spared elimination by Monique Heart, and we see a little glimpse of fire in Farrah’s eyes. Gia deliciously states that “the beautiful bitch got lucky” this week, and cackles like you would when you know you’re going to be the end of the cold open. Gia is being a bitch, and she is good at it. I would say she is even better at being a bitch than she is at kabuki, and the woman can kabuki her little ass off, as we’ve seen.
Valentina shows all of the girls her ass in the work room, this moon serving as the proverbial rising sun on a new day in the competition. RuPaul informs the contestants that the maxi challenge this week will be an audition for his new supergroup, “Henny!” For those new to the word henny, it’s like the word “honey” but replace the “o” with an “e.” I’ll use it in a sentence. “Henny, I’m home! And I’m saying it like this because I’m gay!” The girls will be split into two teams, record their own verse, and lipsync it on stage as they back up the iconic Stacy Layne Matthews, former Drag Race contestant and, I suppose, the first person on earth to exclaim “henny”! She takes to the workroom like a legend and is hilariously deemed “the artist in residence this week” by RuPaul.
Trinity and Monique, last week’s victors, are the team captains and choose their groups. Monique, Monét, Naomi, and Farrah end up on one team and will record “Everybody Say Love,” and Trinity, Valentina, Manila, Latrice, and Gia are another, performing “Don’t Funk It Up.” Monique’s team, going forward, is focusing on being positive and not crying *cough Farrah cough*, while Trinity’s team is already having fun brainstorming ideas until Gia stops everything to let everyone know what’s really going down between her and Farrah.
What had happened was, Gia and Farrah were close friends until Farrah overstepped trying to manage a conflict between Gia and someone else. Then, apparently, Farrah showed up drunk to Gia’s gig where it all blew up. This is all according to Gia, who is now wondering if now is the right time to confront Farrah again so that their beef doesn’t continue to “be a distraction” in the competition. Trinity, immediately, says she doesn’t think it matters, stopping just short of fully rolling her eyes in Gia’s face. It’s so clear that all the other girls are here to work, so Gia ends up coming off like a dramatic lil’ schemer.
Monique’s group gets together with music producers Leland and Freddy Scott to record “Everybody Say Love” and the team captain confidently steps forward to record first. She is the self-proclaimed best singer in the group, and the cut to Monét can’t come fast enough. Heart’s raw vocals sound good, and if the sounds she makes when she is especially gooped in her confessionals are anything to go by, the bitch has octaves. Monét really has something to prove at the mic, as she is supposed to be a trained singer and last week’s talent show was not a shining moment. She opts to rap, which is smart, and everyone looks impressed.
When asked about her experiences recording music, Farrah says she has never laid down vocals for a song but she has done phone sex operating in the past, which is not relevant but is a joy to know. She coos and giggles into the mic and wins her previously skeptical team over. We don’t get to see Naomi Smalls record, probably because it was such gripping television that producers didn’t think we could handle it.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I put the ‘T’ in the ‘LGB’” does not work because, famously, the letter ‘T’ does not appear in that particular three letter combination, but Gia is going for it anyway, henny. Preferring to be inspirational rather than funny, Gia’s verse about being a trans woman and not a “hag” drag queen is merely satisfactory in terms of energy. I just wish someone would have suggested the lyric change to ‘T’ in the ‘LGBT’, which could work if you gave it a little rhythmic spice. But rhythmic spice is not Gia’s specialty like it is Valentina’s. It’s unclear what she’s doing in the recording session with Leland and Freddy, but it is clear that it will gag us.
Stacy Layne Matthews’ choreo rehearsal outfit is one of the highlights of the episode, serving us mother of three on vacation who’s gonna hang out by the resort pool while the kids go do rides at Islands of Adventure, but this is always one of the most stressful parts of any lipsync or dance-themed episode. The contestants can never seem to collaborate well at this juncture, and this is no exception. Monique is obviously excited and full of ideas, but in a challenge like this, you’re truly only as good as your Farrah Moan. And it’s not that Farrah is bad at executing choreography, per se, it’s just that she just can’t pick it up as quickly as Monique is moving through it. Monét and Naomi can and, therefore, Monique presses on at a quick clip. But even Stacy Layne Matthews notes that it all feels a little unclear at the end of their time on stage. Stacy just wants to get this done so she can stick her feet in the shallow end and sip a flavored daiquiri. While Team “Everybody Say Love” was clearly being directed by Monique, Team “Don’t Funk It Up” seems like it has several different people calling the shots. Trinity is the literal team captain, but she’s got a lot of egos to manage with Gia, Valentina and co. in the mix.
The next day, when the contestants are getting their girl group looks together, Gia pokes in on a conversation between Monique and Manila to randomly ask how Farrah is doing on their team. A cut to Manila (who is on par with Meryl Streep in the “I’m doing nothing and yet my face shows everything” arena) says exactly what we’re thinking; Gia saw where that camera was pointed and stepped in front of it with her chosen narrative. She flat out asks Monique if Farrah is the weakest on her team, which prompts a truly funny randomly sung note by Monique, taken aback by the question and reaching for a response. Gia eventually gets exactly what she wants, confirmation that Farrah’s teammates doubt her abilities, and takes that information right over to Farrah. To terrorize her and psych her out. Read: bullying.
It’s all under the guise of “squashing beef before Farrah leaves the competition” but Farrah is triumphant here in her exchange with Gia. Every bitchy retort is simply dismissed for being what it is, an attempt to stir the pot, and Farrah is applauded by the other contestants for her resilience and her steadfast appliance of makeup. It’s satisfying to watch Farrah tell Gia to her face that “not everyone has to force storylines to get airtime.” It’s a moment that many may label as too meta or self-aware, as it’s the show fully allowing a contestant to acknowledge they’re on an edited reality show, but that is truly where we are at with Drag Race. And what Gia is trying to do is, at least in the way it’s presented here, pretty pathetic.
Ru, Michelle, and Ross are joined by special guest judges and queen music divas Ciara and Kacey Musgraves, who is fully wearing Monét’s denim look from season 10 the way that God intended, in the best unintentional read of the episode. The performances are both fun, with “Don’t Funk It Up” looking cleaner and better executed overall.
Gia’s verse is performed well enough. Latrice, superstar, reminds us that this is All Stars 4, and watching her nail her lively verse makes me hope that we will be getting a more Royale-heavy narrative in the coming episodes. I don’t know what Manila was trying to achieve with her verse, but it’s almost like it doesn’t even happen. It feels reduced and safe in a way that is not Manila. Trinity’s performance is spirited and she looks phenomenal, but the true star of the number is Valentina, who dazzles with a Spanglish verse that announces her as Someone We Are Excited To See Play Angel In Rent. She looks like a true star and ends her verse with a hilarious high note that tickles the judges. It’s overall a slay. Oh, and Stacy Layne Matthews? She was there!
“Everybody Say Love” is performed pretty chaotically by the other team, but individually Naomi and Monét shine. Naomi’s verse is funny and she is spry and precise in the way she delivers her lil’ story. Monét similarly shows real dexterity on stage and her rapped lyrics have a ton of personality. I am actually really impressed by Monique’s singing ability and how creative she was with the melodic choices in her verse, but you get the sense that the judges think the on-stage performance is a little all over the place and the outfit, developed as an homage to Aaliyah, isn’t all the way there. They’re all more successful than Farrah, however, who is still behind in the choreography department and just can’t deliver the presence and power that her teammates can. And Stacy Layne Matthews? Is terrific, henny.
The runway theme is “Eloguence Afta Dark,” spelt exactly as I just did, and the girls look, in the words of Gia Gunn, … good! Miss Gunn is first out of the gate, looking lovely in a pink mermaid-esque gown. The highlight, for me, are the shimmering oversized earrings. Latrice Royale goes for a shimmering, black, old Hollywood glamour look, and it’s nice if unspectacular. Manila probably saves herself from the bottom two with her runway offering, which is stunning and what we expect from an All Stars runway. I always go back to the futuristic runway of All Stars 2 as being the definitive runway of all time on this show, and Manila’s gets us close to that feeling. She looks like a rich old bitch, and I love that even her armpits are studded. A beautiful old ho.
Trinity The Tuck manages to achieve “glamour” and also “brand” with her rust-colored dress with cutouts at her hips. She looks stunning, as does Valentina, whose icy glares tossed over her shoulder are so striking that you forget she has ever smiled as beautifully and iconically as she has. Her “Mexican in Paris” look is gorgeous, if maybe a little safe for Valentina, which is saying something.
We may have a contender for the win in Naomi Smalls. The fact that she hasn’t been featured too much in the narrative probably means that the show has plenty of her saved up for later, and if she keeps giving looks like this one, she will never be in the bottom two. I mean, my God. I love the full sleeves, the rounded hair, the shining fascinator, the tasteful jewelry, the metallic, cylindrical bottom of the dress. It’s all perfect, and she knows it. Naomi may not give us fireworks in the workroom, but there certainly are fireworks are in her work.
After she stomps the runway, Monique Heart’s look seems much less refined, though the reveal is cheeky and surprising. Her tits look phenomenal, as does her white hair, and she always gets the fun across. Farrah Moan looks like an elevated version of Farrah Moan, and Monét should be commended for the powerful way she commits to glamour in a way we haven’t seen before, but I’m going to be nitpicky and say that just because you do glamour doesn’t make it a show-stopping moment. This is certainly glamour! And it’s great that we see Monét can pull it off! But it’s also All Stars and you have to wonder if this is actually, actually a capital-lettered Great Moment for an Eloguence Afta Dark runway. I do love her final moment before she exits the stage. Monét is underrated in terms of facial beauty. She’s gorgeous.
Monét, Valentina, and Naomi are the tops of the week, which feels right, and Farrah, Monique, and Manila are the bottom three. I have to say I am surprised to see Monique here instead of Gia as, while I agree that her onstage fashions weren’t perfect or clean, I was startled and impressed by her vocals in the challenge, which went entirely without compliment. The judges feel similarly to me regarding Manila, who is so luminous on the runway and so nothing in the challenge. Valentina and Naomi are praised for their all-around excellence this week, while Monique hears, and not for the first time from these judges, that they find her a little messy. Farrah is told she is whitebread and a “white” dancer, which is not good. Monét receives accolades for her commanding performance (“you’re actually a really good rapper” says Michelle) and her glamorous effort on the runway, and is pleasantly surprised to hear she is in the top two with Valentina. Monique and Farrah are our bottom two hennys.
In the workroom, Gia annoyingly tries yet again to disrupt Farrah while she begs Monét to spare her, and Monique is altogether gagged that she’s even in this position. She makes the case that she really, truly doesn’t deserve to be eliminated, but Valentina is a question mark right now. Is she going to stay true to Farrah, the friend that she has gone through ups and you-don’t-love-me downs with? Or if she going to do the right thing and eliminate her ass? (Sorry. I’m a Monique Heart girl!)
The lipsync song is Ariana Grande’s ultimate bop “Into You,” and it serves as a cathartic moment for Valentina, who defeats Monét X Change based on the song just feeling like a better fit for her performance-wise. This is not one of Monét’s better lipsync performances (there have been so many brilliant ones), but she leaves the stage on a high, squealing to Ciara that she loves her, undoubtedly happy with how she did this week.
Valentina, ever the diva, then reveals that she is eliminating a tearful Farrah Moan. It is declared here and now that Ms. Val is here for the W, friends be damned, just like Monét said they should be. And so, the field gets even more competitive, as it’s getting less and less clear who’s next on the chopping block.
SAID THE BITCH: A Weekly Quote Roundup
Gia: “Honey, I’m here for an opportunity just like you are.”
Farrah: “Yeah, well, some of us don’t have to, you know, force storylines to get their airtime.”
…SAID THE BITCH! Farrah may have not gone very far in this competition, but she has found a newfound strength and maturity that is evident here. Slay, Farrah Moan! No tears left to cry.