RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Due to the way time works, there’s no way that you can read this recap and act on my strong suggestion that you, the reader, absolutely must watch this episode of All Stars 4 surrounded by dozens of queers at a bar or other Space Where Television Is Watched. The episode will air, this recap will hit the ol’ web, and everyone will go on with their lives, now made better by the extravagance of this episode’s final act. All I can do is hope beyond hope that you braved the frigid January air to enjoy this episode in a communal space where they allow gagged screaming, because this one goes in hard.
Not since All Stars 2 have we seen a comeback episode that actually delivered on its thrilling high-stakes promises. With this installment, All Stars 4 officially overtakes last season in terms of quality. It’s now canon. Some queens remind us why they’re fierce, others impress us with new dimensions to their talent, and even the ones who don’t crush from a performance standpoint deliver their brand, honey. What more can we ask for?
We knew it would be thick when the remaining queens turned away from the Lady Bunny in the Mirror to face the eliminated queens, all dressed head to toe in their funeral wear, ready to kill some bitches. We begin tonight with the queens welcoming each other warmly enough before all sitting down to discuss the happenings that have gone down so far. Specifically, these girls want to know why they, exactly, are the ones who went bye-bye.
Right off the top, Trinity and Monique seem the most shook by this whole reveal. That’s probably because, bitch, I would be pissed too if I had been killing the competition pretty thoroughly throughout the season and all of a sudden my spot was taken by, sorry, any one of these other ladies! The issue with these comeback episodes is that it can always feel like a weaker competitor comes in while a stronger one leaves, and the eliminations thus far in All Stars 4 have actually all seemed pretty dead-on. Jasmine Masters? Yeah. Farrah Moan? Hm. Gia? Right. Latrice? Even Latrice, bitch! The report card wasn’t up to snuff and Monique’s decision was justified. I hate to get all Headmistress on you, but the remaining girls are the remaining girls for a reason.
Before we find out what exactly is going down with the comeback queens, we find out that both Monét and Manila decided to eliminate Valentina if given the opportunity. Miss Diva doesn’t necessarily agree with their decisions, to put it mildly, as she is still convinced she was funny in the roast. “I’m not going off the critiques, I’m going off what I felt.” This is certainly a way to live your life, and if by following this path you end up like Valentina, honestly? Maybe there’s something there.
The only super dramatic showdown in terms of past eliminations is between Latrice and Monique. Latrice doesn’t believe for a second that Monique ever had any intention of weighing the decision between she and Monét fairly. Monét is Monique’s friend, and so she was going to have her back, Latrice firmly states. Not so, says Monique, who lays out that Latrice had not been stunning in the competition and she was well within her rights to do what she did. Latrice is unmoved, especially when Monique brings up All Stars 1. Ms. Royale is on the record saying that All Stars 1 was an absolute mess that is simply not Drag Race canon, so this whole idea of having “had her chance already” is absolutely not flying with her. Both ladies stand in their truth, and we’ll have to see how this will dramatically and competitively come to a head.
If this episode has a weakness, it’s that there’s a lot of workroom bantering and bickering about how high the stakes are before we actually get to the meat of the episode, which is a lip-sync competition in which the four eliminated queens — in the reverse order of their elimination — are able to select which of the bottom four queens (Naomi, Monique, Trinity, and Valentina) they will lip-sync against for a chance to replace them in the competition. Of course, this is quite the twist, so there is a lot to discuss and ruminate on, but once this challenge is announced, it’s hard to watch Trinity, for the third time, say she isn’t nervous in the face of Gia Gunn. We need the main event! We need the LaLaPaRuZa, which is the name of this challenge.
Just to quickly get you up to speed about where everyone’s head is at, Monét and Manila are chillin’ with immunity due to their win last week. Valentina goes to Farrah to try to mend fences in regards to their friendship, but maintains that Farrah was the worst competitor when she sent her home just weeks ago. I’m not sure this conversation protects Farrah from selecting Valentina as her lip-sync competitor, but I’m also not sure Valentina has too much to worry about. Because she’s right; Farrah does seem a little out of her depth in this particular field. Monique is not feeling Latrice’s questioning of her integrity and character, but she’s putting her game face on to fight Latrice for her life in this competition, which she knows is an inevitability, and even welcomes it as such.
Eventually, we get to the main stage, and it’s clear right from the start that RuPaul is here to have fun tonight. She’s rocking a tiny highlighter-pink minidress, giving Naomi Smalls a run for her money with them legs, and announces that the runway category is LaLaPaRuZa Eleganza. Pause for a second. Imagine being a layperson, tuning into this show and hearing the runway category. What would you think? Some sort of Dr. Seuss moment? We are a chosen family, truly, in that we hear the words LaLaPaRuZa Eleganza and we have an idea of what we’ll see. I like this show very much.
Jasmine Masters enters in a rose-themed catsuit with big ol’ hair and a big ol’ smile. Farrah Moan is wearing … I don’t know, a lot. Gia Gunn is labeled perfectly as “Hermione Granger” at “Satan’s School For Girls” by Michelle and Ru, with her devilish private-school ensemble and accompanying long-ass black ponytail. Latrice’s look is giving you Tonya Harding, now, dressed as Tonya Harding, then, honestly, and those boots are not it with this bodysuit, but she looks ready to rumble and that’s really all we care about for this particular challenge.
The safe girls, Manila and Monét, take two very different approaches to their mandatory runway presentations this week. The former is very on-brand, and chooses to wear something she’d probably be praised for any other week — a spaghetti-and-meatballs-inspired sundress and derby hat — while the latter probably picked the weakest runway offering she had so as to use it on a week when she knew she wouldn’t be judged. It’s lumpy and unspectacular, and I think it’s smart to just get this look out of the way.
Monique came performance-ready in a purple and blue boots-centric ensemble and Naomi Smalls … whoa. She herself calls this look “the epitome of Naomi Smalls” and this is the very first indication that Naomi, just like she did in season eight, is going to start really kicking shit into high gear now as the second half of the season hits. She looks like Naomi Campbell and Rihanna had a baby. She is everything while wearing almost nothing. Standing ovation for this.
Trinity may have my favorite runway of the week, however, as she literally just comes out in a huge black cloak that is obviously hiding a lip-sync reveal. It’s hilarious to watch her do this runway with the opposite of a look to present, and her smile throughout gives away that the judges think it’s hilarious too. Finally, Valentina serves a catsuit that says, “I’m ready to move around”. And now, we can begin.
RuPaul announces that Jasmine Masters will now step forward and name her competitor. She was not given a choice, as the rest of the girls made their selections before she could, and so she will face off against Trinity the Tuck. Trinity then chooses a box from her Pit Crew selection, and the RuPaul song that they end up with is “Peanut Butter” featuring Big Freedia. For a second, this gives me pause, as I realize that this is actually a really good song for Jasmine. But I’m only pausing briefly. Because then the lip-sync starts and Trinity tears it a new asshole with her unreal ass.
One of Trinity’s highlights in season nine was her lip-sync to “I Wanna Go” by Britney Spears against a hopeless Charlie Hides, mostly due to the fact that it introduced us to what her huge ass can really do. Her big cloak is pulled away to reveal a classic Trinity ensemble that shows her entire body and fascinating tuck and we are given the full Trinity Taylor treatment when she shakes her ass to absolute victory. “Please let Trinity do her famous butt-shake!” begs Farrah Moan in confessional. Yeah, it happens. Thank you, Lord. Jasmine does fine and has fun, but this lip-sync is catered exactly to The Tuck’s strengths: it’s a funny song and it’s about ass. Trinity deservedly stays and Jasmine takes her final bow.
Farrah Moan has unsurprisingly chosen Valentina to lip-sync against, and it is a moment we’ve been waiting for since that famous “you don’t love me” moment during the season-nine reunion. Valentina selects “Kitty Girl” at random, and I almost think Farrah may have a chance due to the cutesy nature of this particular song. Again, though, the remaining All Stars prove why they are still here. Valentina does not gag us like Trinity just did, but capably and comedically performs “Kitty Girl” with little feline touches and you just can’t deny she’s a star when she’s onstage. In comparison, Farrah looks young and in need of cultivation. She’s also wearing a ton of fringe on her shoulders and her hair is getting in the way of her mouth, making it sort of impossible to stand out in a lip-sync. “I love you, baby!” Farrah happily whispers to Valentina as she goes, putting a nice button on this narrative as Miss Moan flounces back off to Vegas to shake her ass.
Gia Gunn’s strategy? Pick a bitch I can beat, henny. No narrative bullshit here. She has chosen Naomi Smalls, and I get it. Naomi is not really considered one of the better performers in the Drag Race arena, and we haven’t really seen her lip-sync very much. Their song is “Adrenaline” and it’s clear within seconds that, yet again, it was wrong to underestimate Naomi. I am going to officially stop doing that because this performance is the gag.
Perfectly embodying the spirit of the song, Naomi truly comes alive on stage. She also manages to make her one-legged crawl across the stage — which we’ve seen earlier in the competition — a signature performance move that we will now forever associate with her. Without question the most impressive thing she does is backbend further than you’ve ever seen anyone backbend, in time with the song, until she ends up flat on her back with her legs to God. And this is all done without missing a word of the lip-sync. It’s impressive, it’s surprising, it’s funny, and those things all make it ultimately a winning performance without question. Credit should also be given where it is very due, to Gia Gunn, who has reveals, hair-whips, and vogue maneuvers for days. She was trying to win this lip-sync, and it’s cool to see her go out on such a high note. What Naomi has accomplished here is a lip-sync to remember, and Gia was with her every step of the way. She leaves vindicated, as I will personally remember this out of everything she’s done on the season and I think that’s a pretty huge accomplishment. But, yes, Naomi may win this show and it would be fully deserved. This was phenomenal.
Finally, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Monique vs. Latrice. In the words of the latter, “It’s not personal, it’s just personal.” This is really the only lip-sync that has us biting our nails going into it. Even though Latrice hasn’t been strong overall this season, you feel it would be foolish to count her out with this kind of fire in her eyes. And Monique has both completely stunned us in lip-syncs as well as left us disappointed in the past. This one could truly go either way. The song is “Sissy That Walk”, a classic, and we hold our breaths.
The lip-sync is jaw-dropping and completely evenly matched. There are two wig reveals, one for each queen. There are crotch-slams aplenty. Neither queen is missing any of the words to “Sissy That Walk.” They each use the entire stage and whip their hair back, forth, and back again. It is nearly impossible to single one out over the other. Latrice’s energy is absolutely through the roof throughout, but Monique picks her moments and lands one of the best lip-sync finales I’ve seen on this show. For me, it’s a tie. But it’s not up to me.
It’s up to Ru, who announces that Latrice Royale … is a winner, baby. An emotional Latrice rejoins the competition, along with Valentina, Trinity, Naomi, Monét, Manila … and Monique! RuPaul announces that we have yet another double shanté, for the second week in a row! We are back to having seven queens in the competition, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. With this episode, All Stars 4 is for the ages. These ladies have now all proven to each other that they mean business. They’ve made it clear to each other, in the words of Ru, to not “fuck it up.” Eva!