RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
So, Manila’s out of here and the girls are gagged. Gagged, and kind of living. Gagged, kind of living, and altogether keeping the atmosphere light. While Trinity is a little nonplussed, to say the least, even she is able to smile and crack jokes with the rest of the girls about Ms. Luzon’s early departure. And let it be known and shouted into the atmosphere that this, friends, is the way we should all be acting regarding any elimination on a reality competition show, especially one about drag. I can’t personally imagine being so pressed that a thriving drag performer I’ve never met was voted off two weeks early that I’d send a death threat the way of the queen responsible for her ouster, but I guess it’s happening. So, let’s just say it here, once and for all: If you’re doing this, grow up. As I type those last two words, I realize that a lot of you probably are only 11 years old, and I guess we can only expect so much of you (you’re a child). But if you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re spending time trying to terrify Naomi? Get help, bitch. Keep it. I Don’t Think So Honey. Seek Treatment. Insert gayass dismissal here. They all mean the same shit.
Anyway, yes, Trinity is gagged and gooped that we are now 86 Manila, because in her mind this puts a target on her back this week. We’re living in a world where the strongest are now the most vulnerable, and if she has a bad week, she’s likely out if someone like Naomi is given the ability to chop. I think this makes everything more interesting, but I’m a messy bitch who loves drama (the non-death-threat kind). As we see, Monét also chose Manila Luzon’s lipstick. Fairness? No, bitch. In the words of Naomi, “Life’s not fair.” Gag.
This week’s maxi-challenge is to “overact” in a movie she-quel called Sex and the Kitty Girl 3, which will parody not only the iconic Sex and the City TV and film series, but also the BTS drama that led to the dissolution of the promised third film. Basically, we’re digging into this SJP and Kim feud even further. I’m not mad. It may be reductive! But I’m not mad. Each contestant will get to play one of the iconic women, hilariously (for rights reasons, one can assume) named after the actresses that played them and not the characters from SATC. Because we’ve got five girls and there are iconically four women (and, no, “The City of New York” does not count as “the fifth woman” no matter how well media-trained SJP was back in the day), the character of K. Jo, a.k.a Kristen Johnston, is thrown into the mix. Fans of the show will remember her from one of the most famous episodes of the series as an old acquaintance of the ladies’ who falls out of a window to her death in the episode “Splat!” Go back and watch it. It’s still shocking, even now.
As last week’s winner, Naomi is given the opportunity to assign the roles, and she demonstrates what a strong and decisive new player she has become in a post Manila-era by … not being able to decide whether Monét or Trinity should play Kim Cattrall when they both express a strong desire to do so. Before we cut to a commercial break, we a have a slo-mo dramatized game of rock, paper, scissors. This is simultaneously funny and exhausting. Naomi, bitch, just assign the roles? But also, I gag on the close-up of the hands. Who will pick rock? Who will pick scissors? And who … will pick paper? This is aggressively dumb and I love it.
Trinity wins the game and assumes the role of Kim, pretty much the role she was born to play. Monét will embody Kristin Davis, Latrice is Cynthia Nixon, Monique will step into the doomed heels of K. Jo, and Naomi opts to play the lead role of SJP. The challenges are clear for each. Will Trinity be able to nail the famous characterization of Samantha/Kim? Can Monét play the straight man a la Kristin/Charlotte while also nailing her prude tics? Can Naomi, not necessarily the most charismatic of the bunch, sell herself as a likable lead? Will Latrice be able to convince us she’s a lesbian politician? And what the hell will Monique … do?
Director Ross Matthews is on hand to help the ladies slay this gig. The girls are shooting a brunch scene that takes place at The Standard Hotel, and it looks like everything is off to an okay start. Latrice has good energy as Cynthia, while Naomi is doing the most, to say the least, as SJP. She’s doing drag instead of doing SJP. This isn’t necessarily bad, but we probably need a mix of both at some point. A funny little montage of Naomi not being able to deliver a line correctly doesn’t inspire confidence going forward. Trinity also doesn’t seem to be connecting with Kim as a character, as she can’t seem to nail the iconic slutty cougar drawl that’s so identifiable with the over-the-top fuck machine of Manhattan. It’s only until Monique comes in as K. Jo that real, honest to goodness laughs are had. Monique is just so dropped in and naturally funny that it’s difficult to argue she isn’t the star in this bunch. Yes, she has an easier task because she doesn’t have to necessarily follow a character archetype that we all know super well, but the way she asks if she can smoke inside the restaurant and calls everyone “skanks”? I’m a Monique Heart stan. Know that going forward.
Everyone feels pretty confident after the challenge, and it’s difficult as a viewer to say who will be in the bottom and the top. There’s some bitchy back and forth between Trinity and Monét about who would have been a better Kim, but I still have hope that the edit is throwing us off. I just don’t see how Trinity could have screwed up this role for herself. After some discussion about what kind of queen should be winning All Stars 4 and what each of the queens is thinking about when they’re making elimination decisions, we hit the runway.
Guest judges are Emmy Winning Actress Felicity Huffman, no stranger to being one of an iconic four as Lynette on Desperate Housewives, and fashion designer Jason Wu, who comes complete with a RuPaul barbie doll on his shoulder. Category on the runway is “Cat Couture” and we begin with Trinity the Tuck, who has certainly committed all the way to the theme. Think the iconic Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman costume in that it’s all about the body and the feminine sex appeal, but make it jungle. Trinity looks stunning and performs the ensemble on the runway with dexterous movement, licking herself clean all the way. It’s aces. Next up is Monét X Change, and I love this pink bodysuit as well as her makeup but … it’s definitely serving mouse and not cat. I am not sure what exactly it is about it. Probably the ears? But if this were a mouse runway, she could have worn the same exact thing and you wouldn’t be saying, “girl, that’s a cat.” It’s good and I think it’s an improvement on Monét’s average runway, but it’s mouse. It is!
Latrice looks good but doesn’t make an effort to truly do the theme. This is a jungle-themed dress. An animal dress, to be sure. There are many animal patterns. But this runway theme is “cat couture.” Maybe I’m biased because Trinity came out as a literal cat right out the gate, but this feels unspecific to me personally. It doesn’t look bad. It’s just not an All Stars version of this theme, and I fear we’ve had to say that one too many times for Latrice Royale. Fingers crossed her Cynthia is fantastic. I also don’t like Naomi Smalls’ take on the theme, which feels barebones. It’s attempt at a sort of juvenile fashion forward moment are lost on me, partly because I feel like I’ve seen it before, and partly because I don’t think it was particularly challenging for Naomi to come up with this. Ms. Smalls certainly frontloaded her runways this season. They seem to have become less exciting as AS4 has progressed, though she did admittedly set an extremely high bar for herself.
Last on the runway is Monique Heart, and this is an example of the way this runway should be done. Not as first-thought as simply coming out in a cat costume (however well-executed it was from Trinity), and more on theme than the rest of her competitors, Monique stuns in a Puss In Boots inspired ensemble complete with a massive wide-brimmed hat. It fits exceptionally well, the hat and boots are amazingly complimentary, and her makeup looks fantastic. It’s pussy, bitch. Ooh, la la la la la la. BeBe Zahara Benet would gag.
Sex and The Kitty Girl 3 is a lot of fun to watch, even if it’s choppy and uneven. The chyrons describing each character are an inspired touch (“Lesbian Thespian”, “Humble Living Legend”, “Fun Lesbian”, etc.), and a couple of the performances are really fun. Latrice may not be the star of the show here, but she nails what the script asks of her and lands copious jokes about lesbianism and politics. Monét has a tough job with the Kristin Davis role, as it’s incredibly tough to stand out as that character. She does her job, but there’s not much of a job to do. You kind of just have to sit there and react to the bigger characters. The best performance out of the four main ladies is obviously Trinity as Kim, which anyone could have seen coming, editing trickery be damned. She absolutely knows the vocal characterization after all and is able to mimic it admirably, and gets a good moment where she has an orgasm at the table (she’s being eaten out by a server, natch).
Not faring as well is Naomi, who is just really laying it on too thick as SJP. There’s none of Sarah’s natural effortless charm and ease, which is what made Carrie Bradshaw so beloved. Even though Carrie lived a large life, we always felt we could identify with her. There’s nothing identifiable or likable about Naomi’s crazed, wide-eyed performance. In contrast with Monique Heart as K. Jo, it looks even worse. Monique is a really talented comedic actress in that she does a lot but it feels effortless. She’s just really good at taking space and executing a moment. It probably helps that her entrance into the scene is to plunge from a tall building to the ground right outside the restaurant, but Monique maintains a high comedic energy throughout her entire time in the scene. It all goes to crazy town when the ladies end up fighting as clowns (?) but by the time it’s over it’s clear who the standouts are.
Trinity is praised for her runway and her performance as Kim, which is well deserved. I mean, what is there negative to say? Moving forward into the top four, Trinity is the obvious frontrunner. She’s just done the best job in the competition so far, objectively. Monét is told that, yes, this is a mouse costume she is currently wearing. The judges acknowledge that the character of Kristin is not necessarily a gift, but also note that Monét is a good actress who sort of made it work. Felicity Huffman’s Lynette was sort of the Charlotte of Desperate Housewives, and she makes sure she gives Monét her props for doing what she can with this role.
Jason Wu, despite being a fan of Latrice’s, lets her have it for her runway, but the judges overall are big fans of Latrice’s Cynthia Nixon drag. I’m not understanding the praise for Naomi’s runway, but I am understanding the criticism of her SJP. Michelle Visage pretty much nails it when she says Naomi was not likable or aspirational in the challenge. We need to, as the audience, want to be Sarah Jessica Parker. That wasn’t happening. It is admirable that Naomi took a big risk and challenged herself to go with the lead role, but the thing about taking big swings is they can also reveal big weaknesses. Monique, like Trinity, is given props overall for her challenge performance and runway, with the judges noting that this may be the best she has ever looked, and Ross offering that he barely had to give her any direction. She didn’t need any!
The top two are Trinity and Monique, and the rest of the girls are all up for elimination. It’s going to be a tough one, as there are pretty solid arguments for both Naomi and Latrice’s elimination. Monét doesn’t seem like the eliminee here, both because she doesn’t seem like a huge threat going forward, and she also isn’t the obvious worst of the week. The ladies toss it back and forth in the workroom; Latrice has already been eliminated and she has the worst track record on paper, but she was not the worst in the challenge this week. Naomi was obviously the weakest performer this week, but she has been impressive and shown a ton of growth in the competition. Would it feel right if she weren’t in the top four? Monique and Trinity do their best to convince us they don’t know what to do, and then we head to the lip sync.
It’s to “When I Think of You” by Janet Jackson and it’s a lot of fun to watch. Overall, Trinity just seems to be more in, forgive me, control of her performance and that really brings Janet forth. At one point she leaps into a sideways pose lying down, and you’re just reminded of what a professional she is. Monique is no slouch here, but it’s not the best we’ve seen from her and the Tuck is handed the win. She reveals that she has eliminated Latrice, and all in all this does feel like what’s fair to me. When someone is eliminated from the competition, they’re eliminated from the competition, and I’ve never been a huge fan of the bring-back policy of this show. It was great to spend a few extra weeks with Latrice Royale, but the top four of this season is Monique, Monét, Trinity and Naomi and that doesn’t feel wrong. Manila fans, I see you, I hear you, and I am still sticking to my guns. This finale is going to come down to the wire and I’m here for it. I couldn’t help but wonder … who was going to win this season?
(Sorry, that was bad.)
… Said The Bitch! A Weekly Quote Roundup
On whether or not Trinity is telling Latrice that Monét and Naomi both said she should be eliminated:
Naomi: “Honestly, she could tell Latrice what I said about her and I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s exactly what I said.’ I don’t give a fuck. Honestly, I don’t give a fuck.”
… Said the bitch! Naomi doesn’t give a fuck, y’all! And while she definitely didn’t slay it this week, I’m happy she sticks around so we can get more of this bitchiness. You need it in this competition, especially in its final week.