RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Recap: Let’s Get This Roast Cookin’!

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars

Carson Kressley, This Is Your Gay Life
Season 8 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 2 stars

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars

Carson Kressley, This Is Your Gay Life
Season 8 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Photo: Paramount

It’s never a good sign when they have to call in backup. This week on RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, Katya showed up partway through the episode. Not to give advice, announce anything in the competition, or judge anything, but just because the producers seemed to think the season has not been delivering. Did the Katya segment add anything to the episode? Not from my vantage point. It just kind of existed — like a limp attempt by the producers to make something worth talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I love Katya! But as I watched her flop around the Werk Room, I couldn’t help but think, Dear God, this is not a good season. When a show’s best strategy to make you interested in its current season is to remind you of a better previous season, that is not indicative of a healthy show.

So yes, this episode was boring. How many ways do I have to say that? I’ve been repeating it all season. The drama of “Jimbo might be in the bottom!” was not particularly exciting, especially because it has been the drama for so long. And guess what — she wasn’t! Again! When the entirety of the dramatic push of multiple episodes in a row is that one queen is so far out in front of her peers that if she ended up in the bottom she would probably go home but then she doesn’t and, in fact, widens the gap between herself and the other girls, it doesn’t make for thrilling TV. Jimbo could still go home next week, or at least be in the bottom, but in terms of this episode, it’s a pretty disappointing story line.

That’s especially true because no part of me ever believed that Jimbo wasn’t going to turn it out. The artistic tension of her performance that was presented to us is that it’s a risk for her to take on embodying Joan Rivers in her roast because she’s such an icon. But, if you’ve watched Canada’s Drag Race, you know that Jimbo has a killer Joan Rivers. They acknowledge that previous performance on the show, but because Ru and Michelle have never seen her do the impression, we end up with tension that doesn’t fully make sense. “Is Jimbo going to be good at impersonating Joan Rivers?” is not a thought-provoking question. Now, “Is RuPaul going to care that Jimbo seems to have potentially run out of tricks and is repeating old ones?” could be worthwhile, especially given her lip sync. But because I sincerely doubt Ru has ever seen an episode of Canada, that’s not a question that gets asked. To Ru, Jimbo’s gambit is new and risky. To an audience that’s already seen this impression, the anticipation is significantly lessened.

The other queens do have arcs this week, even if the Jimbo situation tends to take up the most air, because it supposedly has the largest stakes. Jessica is apparently too nice to roast, Kandy is trying to live up to the quality of her season-13 roast, and Alexis is attempting to get past the memory of her season-nine roast. But the thing is that all of their strategies to do better are pretty much the same — put their heads down and work. They all get coached by Michelle Visage and Alec Mapa, then promptly take their notes without any drama. Nobody has a breakdown. Everybody seems a little nervous but not terrified. It’s all at a pretty similar emotional plateau. There’s a remarkable lack of pathos. There are no continuing story lines other than Jimbo’s continued dominance. For a top-four episode, there’s very little intensity. Nothing is ratcheting up. Nothing is paying off.

Then we get to the roasts. Sadly, none of them are disasters. Part of the fun of the stand-up challenges typically is how sink-or-swim they are, but nobody produces anything as funny as Farrah Moan’s sighs, Blair St. Clair’s page flipping, or even Alexis Michelle’s own green moment. It’s just a lot of “pretty good.”

Alexis goes first, and she is the definition of okay. She gets jokes in, she delivers them well enough, and it’s a significant improvement over her first roast on season nine. Alexis got put in the position of deciding the order of the girls — another story line that went nowhere when Jimbo decided she didn’t care that Alexis gave her the hardest slot. She put herself first and, despite the episode’s ultimate outcome, I think that was wise. I was moderately impressed with her set, because I hadn’t seen anyone else’s. While all of the girls who come after her are funnier, I at least had some fond memories of Alexis’s performance. Most of her jokes are very typical drag-queen fare — like telling Michelle that her “beard cover is working great.” That’s just Drag Race–queen autopilot. The best-delivered joke in her set is probably, “Then [Carson] hosted How to Look Good Naked, which you don’t,” if only because it’s the only one that slightly strayed from the structure we’ve become so accustomed to on this show. It’s a fine effort, but it’s no surprise when she doesn’t warrant that much praise. (I also don’t like her bright-orange wig but whatever.)

I was very entertained by Jessica Wild’s set. She’s a natural entertainer, and she oozes charisma in front of a mic. The star of the show in my view is largely that. The jokes are okay with her strongest moment coming from the runner on Carson’s Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent at the end. But she manages to get laughs from some jokes we’ve heard a million times before, like calling the other queens “gentlemen,” simply because she has an infectious onstage energy. Is that a problem? Not to my way of thinking. The challenge is a roast, yes, but the real challenge on Drag Race is always to be entertaining. Jessica accomplishes that with flying colors. If I was ranking the queens, I’d probably put her in second this week.

Kandy is pretty good. She is one of the only ones who we see not land a couple of her jokes (I bet some of the other girls had misses, too, to be honest), but we see her recover from them easily. For what it’s worth, I think she has the best roast drag — eye-catching and bright but not distracting at all. Again, some of her jokes are Drag Race standards (referring to Michelle/Ru’s “many hit song”), but I’m of the opinion that if you deliver it well, that’s the real goal. Carson’s comment that Kandy is skilled at being the boss of the room is right on the money. That’s probably her biggest skill of all.

Jimbo does Joan Rivers, and she kills it. What else is there to say? It’s interesting that the judges largely compliment her on her Joan impression, because I don’t really care about that. Again, I’ve already seen this impression, and when she repeated the “smell my fingers” phrase, it’s the only thing that made me roll my eyes. I’m just impressed by the joke construction and by the speed at which they were delivered. Those jokes came a mile a minute — all skillful and legitimately funny. Some of the setups are old (“Rupaul is so old …”), but even then, I hadn’t heard the punch lines before. Her runner calling Carson “Ellen,” then “Tilda Swinton” is fabulous. It’s the best-written set of the evening and, given that she’s in her comfort zone as Joan, it’s unsurprisingly very well delivered. Slam dunk.

The runway is Snow Bunny. I am not obsessed with Alexis’s look. Specifically, I don’t like the hood-hat thing. When she described herself as a prostitute, I did a double take, because I interpreted it as something that would fit in if she were playing a Who from Whoville. Jessica’s body looks sick, but I don’t love the appliqué on the coat. I do love that blue lip on her, though. Keep that, Queen! Kandy is doing another bikini and, sorry, but I’ve hit a wall with that. The judges seem happy that it’s “very her,” but I see limitations. I’m not in love with Jimbo’s look tonight, although it’s certainly the most inventive of the lot. The way the feathers bounce makes it look like snow is swirling around her, which is great, but it’s just so shapeless, and the panels coming down the side look strange. I would have lopped those off.

Jimbo wins the challenge — her fourth. Notably, this has happened before anyone else has won even two. Everybody else is in the bottom, which I understand kind of needs to happen from a production standpoint (otherwise, the voting would be a bit screwy with the girl who is safe having an equal amount of power as the winner and getting the sole decision of who goes home if the winner loses the lip sync). Still, I think Jessica should have been safe. What can I say? I have a multiplicity of opinions. Jimbo lip-syncs against Silky, and she’s dressed as the freak from her Canada vs. the World talent show. I don’t know, friends, it kind of feels like, after doing three seasons in four years, Jimbo has somewhat run out of ideas. I know that Ru loves it, and I know the audience went crazy for the bologna creature, but I just have to imagine that if Jimbo pushed herself to think of a new freak for the song “Freak-A-Zoid,” we could have gotten something new. I was pretty impressed that the lip-sync assassin, Silky, managed to roll with Jimbo’s insane punches and match some of her craziness, but Jimbo, for the first time ever, pulls out a win in a lip sync. Congrats to Jimbo, but it does feel a bit anticlimactic that she solved the problem of what she can’t do by … doing something we’ve already seen.

Jimbo then gets to choose who goes home and picks Alexis. That seems right to me. She has added a lot to this season, but I don’t necessarily need to see her close to the finals.

And also on Untucked …

• Honestly obsessed with Untucked this week. Alexis telling Jessica that she and Kandy have an alliance, Jessica not caring, Kandy clearly not caring about the alliance either. Good stuff!

Alexis Michelle Watch: Last one! Very sad. I think my favorite moment was her singing a snippet from Into the Woods (“excited and scared”) for no apparent reason.

• So they’re doing a top two? The preview made it seem like they have another normal challenge next week. Do we think they were expecting to have a returning queen, then realized the season would lose momentum and instead opted to have a top two to fill the episode count? I kinda do!

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Recap