RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Let’s go ahead and be real. Do we like real? With Jasmine, Farrah, and Gia gone, the competition can now actually begin. We may have seen some of these bitches deliver a little bit harder than others, but the fact is that each of the remaining girls could win this show at their full capability. Now, it just depends on how each lady rises to the challenge each week. Because with people like Manila threatening to knock out strong girls if they slip up, even once, it’s really anyone’s game. You can’t make mistakes. This is like surgery if surgeons weren’t required to tuck their hair back into a scrub cap. Drag queens, unlike surgeons, often let their hair be big and everywhere. A surgery no-no.
This week’s maxi challenge is an improvised courtroom comedy called Jersey Justice. It’s like Judge Judy but with Michelle Visage in that role, presiding over the girls as they argue ridiculous cases that are decided for them in advance. Is it a missed opportunity that we don’t let the contestants create their own courtroom scenarios? Probably, but the ones we’re given could be worse. Latrice, Monét, and Monique will be arguing “How ‘Bout Them Cakes?” which is topical in that it focuses on cake-making discrimination. Naomi and Manila argue the tale of a makeover gone wrong entitled “You Made Me Look Like a Bitch, Bitch!” And, finally, Trinity and Valentina, who have really buddied up in the competition, will perform a scenario entitled “Snookered by Snooki,” in which an identity has been stolen. Already, I’m nervous about everyone’s accent, across the board. I hail from Long Island, the soul sister of New Jersey, so I’m very sensitive when people attempt this manner of speaking and don’t sound like real, authentic, gorgeous trash. I can say this, I’m one of them!
Monique and Monét would already be quite the spectacle on their own, but with Latrice thrown in the mix … hmmm. Seconds into rehearsal, Latrice is having similar issues to the ones she had during Snatch Game. She simply does not like to compete for attention and detests all the screaming that comes with challenges like this. Will this prove to be an issue for her in a challenge that is about comedy, sure, but is mostly about grabbing the spotlight and not letting go? Just being real, because we love that!
Naomi is being very much The Fan around Manila Luzon, and it’s cute, but at a certain point she is going to have to quit revering her competition or she won’t feel like a fitting winner. Even Naomi can look small! Valentina and Trinity are a great team on paper, and they seem to be able to trust and push each other, but Val’s attempt at an accent is rough. She’ll have the voice and the look, she says, but the improv is going to be the problem. You heard it here first! The improv will be the issue for Valentina in the improv challenge. We’ve seen what Trinity is capable of, but you need a good scene partner to make something like this work.
The honorable Judge Michelle Visage enters the maxi-challenge courtroom set, looking gorgeous, as the first scenario starring Manila and Naomi begins. It becomes clear that “You Made Me Look Like a Bitch, Bitch!” will be about how Naomi, a hairdresser, made Manila look too much like a dog. Sure! We love that. The two swear to tell “something like the truth” and we get into it. Manila is a talented performer who is very in her element here. The accent sounds really good on her and she’s able to clearly explain what’s brought her into the chambers today. She went into a salon owned by Naomi’s character and, wouldn’t you know it, she left looking like a poodle. How will she be able to go to her high school reunion looking like a sexy hot bitch when she looks like a bitch? You know, the dog kind of bitch. Naomi capably stays in character as the salon owner, but Manila has the bulk of the comedic opportunity here. It’s just a case of one performer outshining the other. I will give Naomi points for an answer to one of Michelle’s questions about her usual clientele. “They normally got four legs, and they normally got some anal glands goin’ on.” I love it. They got some anal glands goin’ on! That feeling when.
If Manila and Naomi are the bar, then it immediately looks like Monique’s team is going to set a new one as they begin their scenario, “How ‘Bout Them Cakes”. Monique is a truly captivating and energetic performer and plays Anastasia Ravioli Ragu, a 26-year-old newlywed, for all she’s worth, and Latrice looks exactly the part as the bakery-owning defendant. Monique as Anastasia complains dexterously about the horrible cake that Latrice has made (there are white people on it and the icing message is about how someone named Lisa is a skank) and makes quite an impact. Latrice, in response, is competent but is kinda doing the bare minimum, and doesn’t get much time to do more than that before Monét comes in as Latrice’s daughter, Alexis, a “hostile witness.” The story gets totally lost at this point. Monét is funny and playing the character well (it’s certainly an improvement over her Whitney last week), but we don’t have a narrative thread to follow. Before we know it, we are slapping each other, calling each other whores, slamming cake in each other’s faces, making out, etc. It is funny in a “we are being funny” way. Poor Latrice doesn’t have an opportunity to do much here, and you have to wonder if this was a fair challenge for this reason. Obviously it would benefit the contestants to have only one other scene partner. We couldn’t have waited ‘til next week for this one? I call shade.
The mother of that expression, Trinity The Tuck, neé Taylor, is up next with Valentina. Trinity enters first (Valentina’s character, in what is maybe a nod to her own persona, is “always late”) and it seems that she immediately forgets her character’s name which, by the way, is Fisha Pice. She recovers immediately and commandingly. I love when she refers to Michelle as “ya judge” and she is probably the closest thing so far to being an authentic Jersey woman. She’s not winning an award, or anything, but it’s serviceable! We know where this bitch lives. Valentina eventually emerges, as a woman claiming to be the real Snooki, and actually delivers a pretty good Jersey persona herself! I don’t know why I never expect Valentina to deliver on acting challenges but she is funny and pretty lived-in as a Snookified Jersey monstrosity who charmingly “doesn’t know the rules” of the court. I am, yet again, intrigued to see her in the live Rent musical on Fox, which I love to remind everyone is something that is happening. This duo also decides to end their scene in a fight to the death, and wigs, nails and bras fly before all is said and done. Trinity and Valentina are probably my favorite performance out of the three, but overall the challenge is a little messy, chaotic and I have a feeling will feel extremely subjective in judgment later.
Overall, the contestants are all feeling good about their performances, and I can see why. None of what we have seen has been bad, however some girls were overall quieter than others. Latrice, in particular, is getting picked on by some of the other girls for “not having jokes” and fading into the background. The mere mention of the fact that Latrice may be in the bottom starts a conversation in the workroom about whether or not anyone would dare to send her, a legend, packing. You get the sense that everyone there is panicking about being The One Who Sent Latrice Home if things came to that. Trinity and Valentina assure Ms. Royale that she’s so beloved that she’ll be fine.
RuPaul continues to have fun and explore her legs on the runway, and reveals to us that the runway category is “Curves and Swerves”. The ladies will swang ‘em in front of comedian Erica Ash and queen Zoe Kravitz. Manila is first, and I think it may be her weakest effort on the runway thus far. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s not pushed to the next level like we’ve seen. Michelle’s assessment of it as Cruella de Vil meets Reese Witherspoon is dead on. It just doesn’t feel like this category is taken to an All Stars level here. Naomi Smalls delivers a Stepford Wives take on the theme, and this is a little bit more like it. We’re finally seeing a behipped Naomi, and it’s nice to see her do something different. I also enjoy how she performs her character throughout.
Trinity the Tuck is the runway standout by the time she enters, as she’s applied the theme not only to her ruffled and curvy bodysuit, but also to her wavy wig. Valentina … makes a choice. She says she’s giving us fashion, “everything that drag is before it becomes a final piece.” And I’m not really buying it. An unfinished drag look on purpose? How is this Curves and Swerves? This is the second week in a row that you can argue Valentina isn’t doing the theme. My eye is on her, and its brow is raised. Monique Heart, leaning on the Brown Cow thang, is the runway winner in my eyes, as it’s the most extreme in terms of what the theme is asking. She looks like a lumpy cow! Brown cow stunning! For real! Latrice Royale is giving you a beautiful blue diamond-studded gown with a cinched (!) waist and it looks absolutely divine, and Monét serves an homage to Kim Kardashian’s famous Paper magazine cover, which I really enjoy. I would have maybe liked more of a take than a direct recreation, but it’s certainly a step up for her and I would think it solidifies her safety this week. I mean, if she was safe for her portrayal of Whitney…
Manila is commended for her performance and the way she tied the French poodle theme from the challenge into her runway (which can’t have been on purpose, right?) and her scene partner Naomi Smalls earns more praise for her runway than her performance, which isn’t knocked, but is definitely noted for not being enough. It wasn’t “as much” as Manila was giving, say the judges. Trinity The Tuck is praised for her runway, but is critiqued negatively for her performance, which I thought was pretty standout. She somehow leaves this judgment in a better place than Valentina, who is told that her performance in the challenge was just right and receives only one negative comment on her runway from Erica Ash. Monique is in good shape after her critiques, and her teammates Latrice and Monét are told their runways are superlative … but those performances. It’s hard to say whether I agree with any of the criticism because I find the challenge very hard to judge, but Ru decides that Monét and Latrice are the bottom two, their fates in the hands of Monique and Manila.
So, it could really happen. Latrice Royale could really go home. This seems to hit Manila the hardest, as she devolves into a sobbing mess almost immediately upon entering the workroom for deliberation. There is an emotional speech that the two give in tandem about how Latrice is a legend and can’t go home. It’s really all a bit much, and we know exactly where Manila’s head is at. Monique, however, has a more difficult decision ahead. She isn’t blinded by friendship, per se, close as she may be with Monét. If you look at the report cards of the two girls before her, neither are great. However, Monét has been in that top spot before, and she was more fun and dynamic in the challenge. It’s all a big question mark until the lip sync.
Monique and Manila are both stunning, and really serving Tina Turner, in their lip sync to that diva’s cover of “The Bitch Is Back” by Elton John. When all is said and done, though, Monique delivers the essence of Tina just a little bit harder, and takes the win. Manila can barely hold it together (girl, please) as she takes her place on the back line to await Monique’s decision, and it’s an emotional scene when Monique eventually gets out that she has decided to eliminate Latrice.
You may be surprised to hear me say this, but I have to agree this week with the decision. Latrice is an unbelievable drag queen (who I am sure we have not seen the last of this season), but this week Monét deserved to stay. Still, here we have our first week when it’s really tough to see someone go home. Latrice Royale! Chunky Yet Funky. Somehow comes in seventh place. It doesn’t feel right, but it’s going to have to be okay. For now…
SAID THE BITCH! A Weekly Quote Roundup
Discussing Latrice’s possibility of being in the bottom two:
Trinity: What if I’m in the bottom two and you win the lip sync?
Valentina: I’m sending your ass home, bitch, because sending Latrice? That’s too much.
….Said the bitch!!!! Hmmm. It looks like Team Monique and Monét, which I suppose we can call an alliance at this point, is a little stronger than Team Valentina and Trinity. In this game, you gotta be airtight. I have to wonder if this duo will have more words about this exchange. And not the Monét kind.