Wow. This season is tight as hell. As resident Drag Race statistician Ra’Jah O’Hara points out up top, there have thus far been five different challenge winners in five different episodes. And at the end of this episode, we add yet another unique winner to that lineup: our reigning supreme Kylie Sonique Love. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that makes six unique winners in as many eps. Exciting! I’ll admit: I was skeptical of this cast when the season was first announced, but I think the lack of a clear front-runner is proving to be quite compelling and a great step in the right direction for this particular branch of the franchise. Past iterations of All Stars have at times felt like a march toward the inevitable crowning of a clear fan favorite (e.g., Chad, Shea, Alaska). But the relative evenness of this cast is making for exciting television and some unexpected narratives. Okay, now that I’ve started with a bit of praise, it’s time to layer on the criticism portion of this low-carb compliment sandwich. A “compliment tartine,” if you will.
It’s mid-season Drag Race, which can only mean one thing: time for another acting challenge! But, my friends, there has got to be a better way to showcase these queens’ line memorization/comedy skills than with these ten-minute sketches. This affects us all. It’s not the queens’ fault! They’re handed a pun-filled script and told to be “a scene-stealer,” and that’s certainly what each of them attempts to do. The problem is, a ten-minute sketch consisting of eight drag queens simultaneously attempting to be the star quickly becomes an overstimulating, unwatchable mess. And that’s before we even factor in the fact that some of these girls simply are not comedians! (Which is fine!) I understand that Drag Race needs a vehicle for testing the girls’ comedy skills besides stand-up or a roast, but I’m reaching my limit with this particular version. We need to create a global, grassroots movement for the express purpose of finding alternatives to Drag Race’s current system. Our nation’s goal should be net-zero Ryan Murphy parodies by 2025. A Green Ru Deal, if you will. Yes, it is indeed a gargantuan undertaking, but I believe in our strength and ingenuity as a community!! That said, let’s dive into the challenge itself.
If you were to judge just by the rehearsal, it would appear that everyone is in trouble this week. First, Ross and Michelle are not vibing with Ra’Jah’s character choices (though her little Teletubby lisp got a hearty chuckle out of me). They instruct her to switch it up and lisp it up a little more, but it’s proving difficult for her to adjust on the fly. The same goes for A’keria. They criticize her monotone and her physicality, and it quickly gets into her head. Even Eureka, Drag Race golden child and slayer of acting challenges, is accused of being “manic” this week. She’s stuck in a not-so-funny line reading, and, like her scene partners, can’t course-correct in time for the final take.
Jan, on the other hand, is thriving. She couldn’t be more thrilled with her role of Lea Michele stand-in, explaining that she’s been called “the Rachel Berry of drag.” (Hmm, I wonder which handsome Vulture recapper coined that phrase …) So Jan uses her manic energy to her advantage this week, proving once again that she is indeed a triple threat: actor, singer, World of Wonder POW.
Ginger also gets an A+ in rehearsal. She’s instantly off-book, has strong choices for every line, and knows every possible camera angle like she moonlights as a morning-news anchor. It’s an interesting phenomenon. Has Ginger “improved” or “grown” significantly from her last All Stars run? I would argue not really. But her combined three seasons of Drag Race have given her a wealth of experience, and from that has come wisdom. Wisdom to know just the right buttons to push, marks to hit, and physical-comedy bits to emphasize. Ginger has become something better than good: She’s become consistent. Maybe not the flashiest skill, but one that’s serving her well this season and could very well take her all the way to the top.
Not this week, though, because that highest honor goes to the queen of the slow burn, Kylie Sonique Love. I thought Kylie might be done for after rehearsal. A familiar pit in my stomach rose as they played that shady musical sting under Kylie reading her lines, and cut to exasperated sideways glances between Ross and Michelle … I know the drill by now. But luckily, I’m not as savvy as I thought, because all that editing theater was merely a misdirect to set up Kylie’s triumph. As soon as Michelle gets out of her seat and delivers the line reading to end all line readings (bad directing etiquette that demonstrates an inability to communicate one’s vision … but I digress!), Kylie knows she has to turn up the heat, and turn it up she does. She Jessica Langes the hell out of that Ryan Murphologue she’s assigned and delivers exactly what Ross and Michelle request. It takes her a couple takes, but hey! You just need the one.
Out on the main stage, we get a goth-themed runway to go with our American Horror Story–themed challenge. My favorites are Ra’Jah in yet another stunning pantsuit, Jan in a beautiful sheer gown that gives me “Wednesday Addams on her wedding night,” and, of course, Kylie wearing a “hole-y” skintight bodysuit made of approximately one square yard of fabric. I love this show.
After some well-deserved praise of Kylie/Ginger/Jan, A’keria and Ra’Jah are left to the bottom two. It’s not much of a fight. A’keria has seen the writing on the wall for three weeks now, and even RuPaul and Michelle seem surprised she’s hung around this long (which feels a little rude to me, but whatevs). Ra’Jah, by contrast, is poised pageant perfection backstage, elegantly pleading her case all the while refusing to throw her good sis A’keria under the bus. After deliberations, Manila Luzon is revealed as this week’s lip-sync assassin; an excellent choice, if I do say so myself. Though as soon as the opening chords of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” begin playing, it’s an immediate wrap. The song is tailor-made for Kylie to kill. She’s hot and blonde, she can pull stunts like nobody’s business, and she possesses one of only four bodies on this planet that can still pull off low-rise jeans (the other three being Rihanna, Bella Hadid, and Lil Nas X). It’s a slay from start to finish, so it’s no surprise when Ru declares her the winner and forks over ten Gs. That means, you guessed it, it’s A’keria who unfortunately must sashay away this week. While she might be a good candidate to return to the competition (for the “game within a game” or whatever that is), A’keria seems pretty defeated, even when presented with the possibility of coming back.
Next week, we’ll be treated to some dancing, rapping, and (if Jan has anything to say about it) some singing, too, as the queens write and perform their verses to Ru’s “Show Up Queen.” We might even see who will be the first queen to notch a second challenge win. It’s sure to be a ball.