RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Well, owwwwkaayyy. Forgive me for gagging so, but I genuinely thought we’d seen the most shocking elimination of the year with Monique ousting Latrice a few episodes ago. That is simply not the case, honey. Naomi Smalls, quietly strong all throughout the season, lets frontrunner Manila Luzon fully have it on this episode by sending her packing after her only truly out-and-out weak moment of the season. It’s set up at the top of the episode that, statistically, no one can touch Manila, and maybe this gives Naomi the lightbulb moment she needs to feed that queen a taste of the medicine she toyed with prescribing earlier in the year. Interestingly, Manila is not the first queen to bring up getting rid of strong girls if they’re in the bottom and then get eliminated; Morgan McMichaels suffered that fate last All Stars season. It’s definitely a wake-up call to future contestants: bitch, keep your goddamn strategy to yourself!
This is not to say that Manila doesn’t deserve her elimination if we’re talking about judging on an episode to episode basis. You’ll remember how close even Alaska came to elimination when she also bungled the makeover challenge on All Stars 2 and was reduced to offering her peers $10,000 to keep her in the game. Manila claims distraction in this episode as a resulting factor in her poor performance (her (hot) husband is her makeover subject), but her spot in the bottom two is absolutely justified and it’s Naomi’s prerogative to play the game as she sees fit. And she’s playing to win, not playing around.
Let’s start from the beginning. The episode is Judy Garland–focused, and RuPaul takes this opportunity to educate the children on the legendary actress and singer and her influence on the gay community. Like many of the contestants, I wasn’t aware that the Stonewall riots began on the night of Judy’s funeral, and that the grief over the loss of the icon contributed to the pain and anger that incited that event. Saying you were a “Friend of Dorothy” was a secret way, back in the day, to identify yourself as queer, and if you’ve ever called one of your besties your “Judy,” well, girl, now you know where that comes from. The maxi-challenge is to not only have the contestants makeover their best real-life Judy, but to also perform in a short Judy Garland–inspired number alongside them, serving their very best Garland energy,
It’s fun and even emotional to see the parade of the girls’ best friends come into the room one by one. Whether it’s their best friend or romantic partner, you can tell it means a lot to the contestants to get a little taste of home. And honestly, right off the bat, you can tell that there’s a lot to work with here! Everyone has good bone structure! And you get the sense they’ve all put on heels and a little dab of makeup before. The big challenge here is to ensure that there’s a family resemblance between the contestants and their new drag family member.
Monét and her best Judy, the hilarious and energetic Patty, may be at a little bit of an advantage in this challenge, as Patty also serves as Monét’s real life assistant. Still, Monét was previously eliminated on this challenge when she was last paired with Tyler Oakley, who was also hilarious and energetic. So what I’m saying, bitch, is it doesn’t matter if your partner is hilarious and energetic! You have to turn the family resemblance out! These two have a ton of shiny gold fabric and good chemistry, so we hope for the best.
One of the highlights of this episode is the (televised) return of RuPaul’s walkthroughs in the workroom. I’m not exactly sure why they’re so consistently unaired (they do happen every episode) because it’s more Ru, which I love, and it’s a great narrative moment whenever a particular contestant is challenged by him, which absolutely happens here. Monique’s often defensive demeanor on the runway is pointed out to Danny by Ru, and he’s able to give a little insight into why Monique may act the way she does. Ru suggests taking a note from Judy and allowing vulnerability as well as strength the next time Monique steps out to be judged.
Trinity has a fun moment when she and Ru discuss the challenges in strapping down the, for lack of better words, big cock of her boyfriend and best Judy Leo in order to achieve that classic the Tuck aesthetic. Manila and her husband Michael have a cute exchange with Ru about how strange it will be to see the latter in drag and joke that once he knows what it’s really like to be strapped, plucked, and all done up, he can never complain about Manila’s bitchiness in drag ever again. But it’s when Ru gets to Naomi that we see why these walkthroughs are so important to show.
After Naomi explains that she’d really like to go high-concept with her runway presentation alongside best friend Ricardo, Ru notices that her hands are shaking and immediately points it out. For the first time, we get to see Naomi on her toes as she, clearly surprised by Ru’s candor, responds that she’s scared of saying or doing the wrong thing in front of her. “Please say the wrong thing and please act like a fool,” demands Ru. You can see the light bulb go on in Naomi’s head.
Ru is similarly affecting in her exchange with Latrice and her longtime friend Tim, who has supported her through everything, including her incarceration. RuPaul details the importance of true friendship, and gets emotional as she talks about how being there for someone no matter what can make a huge difference and even save lives.
Okay, fuck, I’m crying. I LOVE YOU, BOWEN YANG!
After some eyebrows are removed and some dicks are strapped back, it’s time to hit the Main Stage. Can I just say how much I love Ru’s experimentation on the runway this season? She is slaying on this episode. You better wear that silver caftan! Special guest judges are rock royalty Frances Bean Cobain and television royalty — Meredith Grey herself — Ellen Pompeo.
First, we see the musical tribute to Judy Garland. The chemistry is really there across the board, even if the best friends aren’t necessarily performers. Out of everyone, the clear standout has to be Monét’s Patty, who could probably do this if he wanted to and really committed himself to the art form. They are also embodying Judy Garland throughout the number and even execute real dance steps. Comparably, everyone else is just fine. Entertaining and fun! But fine. You get the sense that the majority of the judgment will be based on the impending runway presentations. So let’s talk about those.
Latrice Royale and Tim, now Alexis Knight, bear a resemblance in that they both are blondes with big hair and dark roots. Their outfits are the same material … and that’s really it. I don’t think this is an out and out failure, but I hope it’s not the best we’ll see. Is it shady to say Alexis Knight is giving us Sasha Belle? Monique Heart and Danny, or Shanida Heart, come out with a concept. Each of them ears a big eye on their torso, and they cleverly have eyelashes on their forearms that allow the eyes to “blink” when they turn them down. This is just really clever and very Monique Heart. You have to give this queen credit for just how smart and creative she is. Who thinks to do something like this? I love it, and Danny moves well on stage. Family resemblance is a no-brainer. They literally appear to be one and the same.
Manila Luzon and Iyowife Luzon just don’t nail it this week in their deck of cards-inspired look and it’s really shocking to see Manila allow something on the runway that’s this by-the-numbers. For a queen that’s so detail-oriented and innovative, she really drops the ball here. These are white dresses with some elements pasted on to make it sort of a concept. Forgive the playing cards pun, but there are no tricks up her sleeve. Iyowife is facially beautiful, though. She looks like Naysha Lopez.
Naomi Smalls and Extra Smalls, formerly Ricardo, stomp the runway in matching Cher looks before Naomi reveals a short wig and mustache addition to impersonate Sonny Bono. She took the risk that RuPaul suggested she take earlier, and it pays off. This is colorful, fun, and references one of the most famous husband and wife duos of all time. It checks every box. Naomi is expert at these makeover challenges (she’s won one before), and is hitting her stride at pretty much the exact same point she did in season eight. This will be difficult to beat this week.
Coming close are Trinity the Tuck and Indigo the Tuck (Leo), who rock a Versace-esque duo look, with Indigo in some chic pants. Monét X Change and Patty Cash look gorgeous as well in their gold looks, and it should be said that Patty has a face for drag. She looks like a goddamn ingenue and knows how to work the runway. This is big for Monét, who also looks tremendous, as it shows a marked improvement from season to season. Both these pairs are clearly very comfortable with each other, so they sell the family resemblance all the way.
Monique gets her performance in the Judy number read by Michelle Visage for being “messy,” but her family resemblance to Shanida and the creativity of her costumes are commended. Monét is praised all around, especially by the usually critical Michelle, who says she got chills during her performance as Judy. Even though Manila and Iyowife’s performance was good in the Judy section, the judges are relentless when it comes to the criticism of her runway presentation. Latrice is commended for the constant, overwhelming joy that she brought to what she did, but is told she looked distracted while performing with Tim. The runway presentation is also not beloved, as it doesn’t really scream “family members.” Latrice argues that the looks are “fire and ice,” which I get, as does Carson Kressley. It still feels like a bottom two moment for Latrice. Naomi and Extra are praised all around for their Sonny and Cher fantasy, and Trinity and Indigo are told that, while their Judy performance was safe, their runway is superlative. Naomi and Monét are the top two, and Latrice and Manila are in the bottom. “Best friends!” whispers Trinity. Yes. The theme.
This seems like it would be pretty cut and dry, and the contestants treat it that way backstage. Latrice is basically on her farewell tour, talking about how whatever happens, she’s happy because she gets to be here with her loved ones, doing what she loves. Manila barely feels the need to explain herself or fight to stay. She’s been nearly perfect in the competition. And we’re doing this the fair way, right?
The lip-sync is to “Come Rain or Come Shine” and, honestly, I think it’s a lot closer than both the edit and Latrice (absolutely losing her shit on the backline) suggests it is. Naomi is definitely doing more, and by the end of the song it is true that she has taken the victory pretty objectively, but Monét is no slouch here. She’s giving you a lip sync performance of great accuracy. It’s just not as fun. Ultimately, we’re looking for fun. And Naomi serves us just that.
And then, the gag. Revealing Manila’s lipstick, Naomi turns the whole thing upside down. The presumed winner of this season is sent packing for no other reason than she was simply too big of a threat for the crown, and now we are left with a much tighter race. You can really see this going any way from this point on. The shock in the room is very evident, and it’s a comfort to Manila and to us all that her husband is there to receive her. That can not have felt good.
… Said The Bitch! A Weekly Quote Roundup!
Trinity the Tuck on Alexis Knight: “In the words of Alyssa Edwards, ’BEAST!’”
… Said the bitch!!! Honestly, it was just fun to hear Alyssa’s name. Bye!