RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
And then there were seven. Again. While I will admit that it does feel odd that we’ve only lost three queens thus far and this is fully episode seven of All Stars 4, there’s really no denying that this is a fun core group of gals. Latrice is back, and if her lip-sync against Monique in the last episode is anything to go by, she did not return to play games. The spirit in the room is jovial at the beginning of the episode, but the confessionals reveal a shadier side to several of the queens. Monique seems less than pleased that Latrice has fought her way back. Valentina discusses how truly hurt she is that Manila and Monét were going to send her packing last week, and Monét is frustrated that we’re going back in time in terms of the number of competitors. Will All Stars 4 keep up its momentum from the thrilling comeback episode, or was that the peak of this season? Bitch, let’s find out.
Based on RuPaul’s origins emceeing in clubs for legendary event producer Susanne Bartsch, this week’s maxi challenge tests the queens in multiple areas as they develop, design, and host their very own club nights. The girls will be getting into three separate teams to plan every little detail of their shindigs, from the names of the cocktails to the utter nonsense that goes down after dark. Latrice Royale, as the comeback queen, is given the opportunity to create the three teams herself, and is then allowed to join whichever one she’d like. She seems to behave mercifully in pairing up Monique and Monét, as ostensibly they’d want to work together anyway. She cleverly puts Manila and Trinity together on a team (they’re the two strongest competitors on paper thus far, and this is likely the team Latrice would want to be on), leaving Valentina and Naomi as a duo. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were a betting man, this would be … fucking easy? Suddenly, I remember that we are not counting Naomi out anymore after how gag-y she has been all season long. But paired with Val hosting a club night? My hopes aren’t super high.
Over “French Vanilla Fantasies,” Valentina and Naomi put their gorgeous heads together to come up with a theme for their club. And their heads are gorgeous — they’re just not filled with super exciting or elevated ideas. “Diva” is suggested as a theme. Also “Being a Model.” Minutes in, the girls are overwhelmed by their task. It’s nearly too many feelings and ideas for Valentina, who eventually agrees to Naomi’s pitch that they keep things fresh, clean, sophisticated, and modern, not at all unlike her. They decide to go with a sort of modern disco feel, and Studio 54 immediately comes to mind. Not wanting to be so first-thought as to call their club Studio 69 (LOL!), the girls opt to reverse those numbers to make Studio 96, where “people are so bougie that they all face away from each other.” Because, with 69-ing, you know … you face each other. Cool. So, they have an idea!
Team MoMo wants to go for a space theme, and they land on the hilarious name “Black Hole.” The tagline? “Where anything goes.” I love it, and it seems like ideas are flowing freely between the two ladies. They decide to go all-in with alien specifics, including a main event where all the club guests “walk the belt” — the belt in question being that of Orion. They seem excited, and I buy that they’ll be able to turn this into something stylish, funny, and memorable. They’re good energy!
Proving that good ideas can truly come from anywhere, Trinity notices that her teammates have black and yellow clothing pieces, just like her, and suggests they go with a bumblebee theme. It sounds odd and specific at first, but then you realize what an advantage that can be. The limited theme gives them a world to bounce around in creatively, and the ideas start forming. They’ll have a VIB section (for Very Important Bee-yotches), for example. You get the idea.
The contestants then pop over into a large space and it becomes clear that Ru was serious when she said the girls would be in charge of everything. They have to literally get into smocks and paint the walls of their spaces. These ladies are about to get their Bobby Berk on! It’s pretty hysterical to watch the queens get down, dirty, and constructional up in here, with Latrice barely fitting into the outfit she was given to paint in, and Monique and Monét getting right down to business, using tools and shit. My favorite moment of the episode comes in a continuous shot wherein Monique asks if you’re supposed to use the paint-roller in up-down strokes or left-right strokes. Monét tells her up-down, Monique questions her, and Monét tells her definitively it’s up-down and she knows what she’s talking about. Monique turns around and begins painting left to right. Chef’s kiss, editors.
Naomi and Valentina’s silver walls certainly look good, but the former reveals in a confessional that they are completely without an idea of how they are going to present the club comedically, which is always most important in these challenges. If you make Ru laugh you can get away with murder. Valentina’s energy is just not that focused, and she almost seems resigned to the fact that she’s just not going to do a ton of work here and it’ll be fine. She has a lot to say about the other groups, but puts almost no effort into helping Naomi in a real, creative way.
Club Black Hole has a glow-in-the-dark, black-light-chic vibe that I’m really digging, and Monique and Monét look very much the part, both as a duo and in relation to the atmosphere. I especially appreciate Monique’s comical, alien-esque fingers and how she describes the design aesthetic as “very space.” A really fun touch is the mock-alien twin babies in an incubator off in one corner of the room, as well as “Scotty” the bartender serving a cocktail called the Beam Me Up, which is made of “space ooze.” Everything about the Black Hole is perfectly dumb, and it seems to be really enjoyed by extra-special club guests (and judges) Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Rita Ora, and the one and only inspiration for this challenge, Susanne Bartsch herself. Monique and Monét also excel at hosting the event and getting everyone excited for their club’s big event: the Turning of a Lewk and Walking of “The Belt” in order to win a prize. Overall, I would definitely go to the Black Hole to, in Monique’s words, “have an alien probe my little bootyhole.” I definitely would.
Club 96 certainly appears very chic, but there’s something about it that’s almost too acceptable. Its aesthetic doesn’t feel super draggy or larger than life, and as Valentina and Naomi present more of their creation, we realize that extends to pretty much every element of their effort here. These two girls are pretty and fashion-forward. We know that. So it’s hard to find anything interesting or comical about their exploration of that fact here. There are funny jokes, mostly delivered by Naomi (an Isaac Mizrahi read really tickles me), but there’s also weird little rhyme schemes in the verbal presentation, mostly courtesy of Valentina. It’s very Mother Goose. Unusual! The big event at Club 96 is a “competition” to make yesterday’s clothes (they present a feather boa called “Farrah Moan’s Leftovers”) new again. It basically amounts to posing with accessories and it’s nothing new or exciting. The judges don’t look super excited about any aspect of the presentation and it’s clear that these girls are in jeopardy.
Club Hive is immediately enticing in that it’s presented by Latrice Royale, looking like the true queen bee, and already we feel more safe in this space. Honey is dripping from the walls and the bar-tops, everything is black and yellow; it’s an entirely lived-in visual world where you can picture a heightened nightlife event happening. If anything is distracting about this team’s presentation, it’s Manila’s sometimes irritating need to be at an 11 no matter what. You can’t knock a girl for committing, but sometimes it feels like Manila is unable to read the room or feel the energy of the people she’s teamed up with. The signature cocktail, the Bee-tini, is really cute, and the special contest is a “strip spelling bee contest,” which is run by Trinity and definitely wins her a ton of points with the judges. The Tuck is a natural host, and we see that she’s obviously honed her improvisational comedy skills doing bits just like this one night after night for years. When a super hot party guest competes in the bee, he’s given the word “erythromycin” (an STI antibiotic, for the uninitiated) and is forced to take it all off. It’s very funny, as is the finale of the presentation, in which bees are released into the club and everyone goes running for the hills.
The runway category is Plastique Fantastique, and Latrice kicks it off with the best runway look she’s ever served. She’s entirely covered in blue latex and her floor-length ponytail is made of big old plastic balls strung one after another. This is the All Stars version of Latrice we have really wanted to see on the runway all season. Manila’s cellophane dress and the supersized, store-bought bag of fruit on her head is very her. You know it’s Manila Luzon when you feel like you want to eat what she’s wearing. She certainly leans on the fruit thing.
Moving on! Trinity the Tuck rocks a little pink number that appears as if someone ran by, splashed her with paint, and it immediately dried. I love it! Naomi doesn’t help her poor performance in the challenge with a look that we can imagine her wearing on one of her average weeks during season eight, though it is colorful, cute, and plastic, for sure. Valentina attempts a Barbie illusion and probably would have succeeded had she not complicated it with a sash that reads “Miss Venezuela.” It’s fine. Monét serves one of her better looks, a combat-inspired look with some serious bedazzlement. Monique caps off the runway looking good, but I’m not getting the Josephine Baker vibes she thinks she’s putting out there.
Unsurprisingly, the judges are all about Latrice this week. She was an incredible host, was obviously invested in the success of Club Hive, and looks the best she’s ever looked. The judges like what Manila is wearing, but they also pick up on what I mentioned before; Manila often does too much and talks over people. Trinity is praised for her runway, as well as her commanding presence and her ability to read her audience while making them feel welcome in her club. Susanne Bartsch even says she’d hire Trinity! Naomi’s look is given fine notices, but the club is noted as being one-dimensional. Michelle seems confused by Valentina’s runway, just as I was, and she gets the same notes as Naomi regarding Club 96. There’s not gonna be a way these girls can escape the bottom, as Monique and Monét are basically universally praised for their performances and runways this week, an exception being Monique’s runway, which is knocked for being a little too safe. Speaking of safe, that’s just what Monique, Monét, and Manila are. Trinity and Latrice are the top two of the week, while Valentina and Naomi are on the bottom.
It seems odd that Valentina would come in seventh place, simply due to the fact that she’s Valentina, but fair is fair. The girls all seem to know that the right thing to do is keep Naomi and send Valentina home, but Trinity and, more surprisingly, Latrice, seem to have personal ties to Valentina that they can’t just ignore. The scene backstage is teary and stressful, as it’s plain as day that not only is Naomi’s record better, but it has been spoken out loud (admitted by Valentina herself!) that she also did a lot more of the work in this week’s challenge.
The lip-sync between Latrice and Trinity is to “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” which strikes me as an odd choice. Though it’s not as odd as Trinity’s choice to perform the number as a geriatric old woman who pulls off her leopard-print robe to reveal a nude fat suit with swinging, baggy tits. Latrice plays it pretty straight and does a good enough job to earn the win over The Tuck, who swung and missed on this one, albeit admirably. Latrice, now woke to how difficult it is to eliminate one of her sisters, emotionally reveals that she has chosen Valentina’s lipstick out of her box. And so, Manila and Monét get what they had wanted a couple episodes ago as the Latina diva makes her grand exit. And so it’s the end of Valentina on RuPaul’s Drag Race: she came, she saw, she finally lip-synced competently.
… Said the Bitch! A Weekly Quote Roundup
Valentina: “I know I’m a lot. It’s, like, a privilege but, like, a curse.”
… Said the bitch! File “being a lot” under Privileges! This queen is truly one of a kind. Gone too soon? Eh. But we’re happy we had her while we did. And remember! She’s in Rent: Live on Fox this weekend. No day but today, henny.