RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
The All Stars rebranding of Snatch Game as “Snatch Game of Love” has historically been the subject of much derision (Ooh pretty girl? Let’s all hate on her). But, respectfully? It’s officially time for the haters to grow up. I can understand the skepticism of these sorts of Drag Race projects, as previous re-imaginings of classic challenges have not turned out so well (season 12’s butchering of the reading challenge springs to mind). But I think it’s time to admit that Snatch Game of Love is here to stay, and that’s not a bad thing. For starters, SGOL offers a solution to an issue baked into the original Snatch Game: how do we both balance the screen time among the strong competitors and show enough of the weak competitors to justify their bottom placements? Usually, this involves cutting between jokes at a breakneck pace and ignoring some of the safe contestants altogether. By splitting the contestants up into two groups, we get to appreciate the winners far more than we once might have, and the weaker contestants have nowhere to hide. Last season, SGOL gave us iconic performances from Shea Couleé as Flavor Flav and Jujubee as Eartha Kitt. This year, we continue that legacy with Ginger’s Phyllis Diller and Kylie’s Dolly Parton. Yes, part of the success is attributable to the fact that these are All Stars, and they understand the assignment (a phrase I just made up!) But I think the SGOL format can’t be discounted either. So get on board, losers! Now that I’m done outing myself as an SGOL apologist, let’s talk about the episode.
Ginger, Trinity, Kylie
Let’s start with the best of the evening: Ginger, Trinity, and Kylie. I think we all guessed that Ginger would be a frontrunner going into tonight’s proceedings. Ginger certainly did. She has one Snatch Game win under her belt already and another strong showing in All Stars 2. It’s rare for a Ru girl to have just one successful Snatch Game, let alone two (now three!). Suffice it to say, Ginger is a bonafide Snatch Game Assassin. A quick-witted comedy queen with enough one-liners to fill a terabyte drive, no one in the cast came in more equipped to run away with the win. Enter Kylie. As Kylie points out to Ru up top (a bold strategy), she was the first queen to ever be sent home for Snatch Game. To return for All Stars and climb out of the hole set by that expectation is a tall order indeed. However, Kylie proves more than up to the task. From the second she tells her first joke, I know we’re in for a treat. And Ginger knows she’s in for a challenge. I mean, “Just because I ain’t going on a trip, don’t mean I can’t look at the map” is such a perfect Dollyism, that you can feel the spirit of Dolly entering Kylie’s breastplate. From there, it’s off to the races, with Ginger and Kylie trading barbs, firing off witticisms, and inventing folksy platitudes on the fly. It’s a thrilling match to watch, and it feels like anyone could have come out on top. That said, I was a little disappointed not to see Kylie walk away with the win. Both she and Ginger excelled to be sure, but Kylie’s jokes felt much more in character for Dolly, whereas Ginger’s felt like they could easily be jokes from her own personal standup set. But I’m splitting synthetic hairs because both queens were magnificent in their own right.
Unfortunately, as Kylie and Ginger volley back and forth, Trinity as Whitney Houston just sort of … sits there. She looks stunning as she does so, but it’s sitting nonetheless! Worse than that, Trinity makes it clear that she’s giving up before the game even starts. Trinity explains to Ru that she can nail the Whitney Houston illusion (which barely matters, BTW), but when it comes to jokes, she has nothing, nothing, nothing. Ru tries to feed her a ball or two, but Trinity’s content to simply watch them bounce away. She even confesses to Ginger this episode that it doesn’t matter if she falls in the bottom this week because her track record will keep her safe anyway. And she repeats this sentiment when defending her life before the final lip sync. It’s disappointing and distinctly unbecoming behavior for an All Star, let alone our current frontrunner. I’m still rooting for Trinity, but All Stars is not the venue to relax for a week and hope your reputation will come to the rescue. Look no further than Manila’s elimination if you’re not convinced.
Eureka, Pandora, Ra’Jah
Next, let’s talk about Eureka as Divine, Pandora as Kim Cattrall, and Ra’Jah as La Toya Jackson. Though decidedly the B squad of this week’s ep, the same pattern of the first group holds here as well: the top two queens (Eureka and Ra’Jah) volleying back and forth while the middle queen (Pandora) sits haplessly in the middle watching. Let’s start with Eureka. Eureka has chosen Divine for her second go-round of the Snatch Game, and it’s easy to see why. The illusion Eureka serves is breathtaking, and the voice and mannerisms feel pretty reminiscent of the original drag superstar as well. Even (or perhaps especially) Eureka’s off-putting jokes that make us squirm more than they make us laugh are a faithful interpretation of Divine’s ethos. That said, “faithful interpretation” is not exactly the main criteria for a successful snatch game. It’s to make Ru laugh, of course! And that’s where Ra’Jah has Eureka beat. Ra’Jah impersonates La Toya Jackson for Snatch Game, and, when she first announces it, I have no idea how it will turn out for her. She doesn’t seem to have a conception of La Toya beyond a vocal tambor (never a good sign), and she can’t articulate what makes her funny. However, when Ru launches into her perplexing/amusing sushi anecdote, Ra’Jah grabs hold, and it turns out that’s all she needs. Ra’Jah’s La Toya is a beautiful little high-pitched whir of contradictions. She’s a fitness expert who never works out, a cat lover who’s allergic to fur, and a Bubbly Barefoot wine lover in a nice pantsuit. A Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland character with a smokey eye, I mean … what more could you possibly want? Unfortunately, we’re robbed of a definitive Ra’Jah second-place finish in favor of an extended romance bit between Cheyenne Jackson and Fortune Feimster (my one quibble with this season’s SGOL), but suffice it to say it’s yet another very strong showing from Ra’Jah.
Finally, we have Pandora, who (yet again) fails to live up to both her talent and her own reputation. As an early Snatch Game standout, expectations are high for Pandora, and Kim Cattrall feels like a safe bet to take her to the top (or at least the middle!). However, Pandora’s Kim falls flat. Her idea is to channel Kim’s iconic Sex and the City seductress, but this Samantha is not the larger-than-life vixen we remember. No, this Samantha is muted, and perhaps on slightly too high a Lexapro dose to be her usual horny self. Even if Pandora were to have executed a pitch perfect Samantha Jones, it still would have felt a little disappointing to me. Kim Cattrall herself brings a wealth of material, from scatting with her husband to refusing to work on the Sex and the City reboot, Kim Cattrall is quite the personality outside of her most famous role, and a queen as smart as Pandora should have been able to take advantage of that. But, unfortunately, just as quickly as our first Snatch Game loser rises, one of our first Snatch Game success stories falls. And Just Like That … Pandora lands at the bottom.
The runway proves to be a rather repetitive exercise, but I do thoroughly enjoy Kylie’s fur/upper ass cleavage combo and Trinity’s pop art makeup style. However, as seems to be the case for much of this season, the runway isn’t weighted significantly, and Ginger’s top placement remains untouched, making her the second double challenge winner. We have a new frontrunner! Back in the Werkroom, Pandora is resigned, and Trinity is almost depressingly unresigned, as if her staying is a foregone conclusion. (And, like, it is, but maybe you should at least pretend for the sake of sportsmanship?) With the pageantry of deliberations complete, Ginger returns to the stage to duke it out to “Sugar Walls” against fan favorite and season 12’s Miss Congeniality Heidi N Closet. Heidi is a lovely entertainer, but she has a hair hiccup up top, which has now proven to be the kiss of death for two lip syncers in a row. (I hereby demand a congressional inquiry into the quality and efficacy of the bobby pins and wig glue being provided by World of Wonder.) Ginger claims her second lip sync victory, and reluctantly sends Pandora home. While Pandora came into this season a strong competitor, she never quite crystallized, and she couldn’t translate her quick wit and comedy into a challenge win.
Next week, we’re down to the top five, and while nothing has been announced yet, I have to believe that this “game within a game” will be revealed soon … I mean right? We’re running out of time! At least give us a hint!!
Until next week!