RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. Did you hear that sharp intake of breath? The shift in the universe’s cosmic energy as my mind attempted to grapple with the possibility that Shea Couleé could be sent home on the third episode of All Stars? Luckily for all of us, that calamity does not come to pass. Lucky for me, as I get to hang on to my last vestiges of sanity for at least one more week, and lucky for you, reader, as you don’t have to read the words “CITIES WILL BURN. CITIES WILL BURN.” 500 times in lieu of a recap. But this episode does teach us a very important lesson: No one is safe! As All Stars 5’s enfant terrible Miz Cracker points out, “you could slay and get Manila’d.” Indeed, there is drama aplenty this week, and we are grateful for it.
Back in the Werkroom, Miz Cracker’s guilt over her treatment of Ongina is reaching critical mass. After she’s confronted by Alexis, she attempts to apologize and says that she’ll do better going forward. The words are barely out of her mouth before Mayhem begins laughing in her face. “Girl, I don’t believe none of this, I’m just going to be real.” Alexis isn’t convinced either and chimes in: “She’s not here any longer, and now you’re gonna say you apologize?” Nor does Alexis let up later in the ep, when she calls out Cracker for leaving her off of a list of queens she respects in the cast. There’s something refreshing about Alexis’ demeanor this season. Her “give no fucks” attitude feels like a relic of Drag Race past. She’s completely unafraid to let her voice be heard, even if that means coming for a queen like Cracker, who was ostensibly the fan favorite from her season. Alexis also makes it clear she’s not afraid of frontrunner Shea Couleé. She says she’s coming for the crown, and I believe her. Unfortunately, the main challenge is not quite as compelling as Alexis vs Cracker. It’s a relatively steep dip in quality from the first two entries to this season. However, weaker challenge aside, the queens make it clear they are just getting warmed up, and Shea’s close call leaves us eager to see how the rest of the season will play out.
If the main challenge this week seems familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s an almost beat-for-beat remake of the All Stars 4 “Queens of Clubs” challenge in which the queens had to design an exclusive nightclub party. The spin in this episode is that the queens must instead design a luxury hotel experience. The justification given for this twist is that drag queens do a lot of touring/traveling, and therefore end up staying in a lot of hotels. To this, I squint my eyes slightly and say, “Hmm… Okay!” The challenge is otherwise the same: the dolls pick a theme, pretend to paint the room before the art department steps in, and are interviewed about their hotel by this week’s judging panel. But before the queens begin the process, RuPaul breaks them into teams.
First up, team Julexindia is reunited with their hotel, Glamazone. Rrrrrrrrr! (As a side note, I’m very mad because my absolute worst team name from last week’s recap is the only one that I’m allowed to reuse.) Glamazone is a jungle-based hotel. So if you’re ever attending a drag show in Papua New Guinea, be sure to check them out. The Glamazone hotel boasts mosquito nets hanging over the mattress (which is on the floor), no roof, a shower head that sprays directly into the living room, and a “Pee Pee Bar.” Alexis and Jujubee are the stars of the group, with Jujubee claiming the ultimate win (presumably because her grandmother singlehandedly constructed every piece of ratan furniture in the hotel). India isn’t terrible, but it’s near impossible for her to stand out next to those two titans of personality. But you can’t help but root for India, as you watch her make half-hearted orgasm moans while throwing herself against the wall next to her bizarrely placed golden shower head. We salute you, soldier!
Shea, Miz Cracker, and Mariah comprise Team Shmacracker. Originally, I thought Team Shmacracker would run away with this challenge. It’s a savvy group, and in the brainstorming session I thought Golden Gal’s Palace was probably the strongest concept. You could feature early bird specials, a TV that only plays Castle reruns, a business center where a young person helps you forward chain emails to your grandchildren… the jokes write themselves! But apparently they do not, because Team Shmacracker has the distinction of being the weakest and most joke-lite of the three hotel experiences. The few laughs the team does have are from Cracker, who gets a cute (albeit non sequitous) “just the tip” joke, and a bit with her granddaughter hanging up the phone on her. Cracker also collects praise on the runway for her 3-in-1 Princess Anastasia storyline. Shea and Mariah do not fare nearly as well. Personally, I gagged for Shea’s rosy maple moth fantasy. The reveals are constructed beautifully, and Shea’s hair and makeup sell the hell out of it. But the judges do not agree: Ross calls it “costume-y” (which feels like a bizarre way to critique… a costume?) and the judges lambast both Shea and Mariah for their wishy-washy commitment to the overall bit and their Golden Girls characters.
The “winning” team this week is Team Blayhem. Blair and Mayhem’s hotel is the 24 Karat Experience. The concept is self-explanatory, but if you’re having trouble imagining it, the 24 Karat Experience is pretty much as if King Louis XIV designed a Vanderpump Rules-themed escape room. From the bed to the curtains to the bar cart, everything is spray-painted gold. Blair and Mayhem play delusional, narcissistic, wealthy hotel owners, and their ASMR whispers pay homage to the iconic Club 96 from the previous season. I can’t say that I loved this team, but I will admit that they had my favorite joke of the episode. When listing the famous people who have been guests at 24 Karat, Mayhem says “The Jacksons … even Rebbie.” I hope Rebbie Jackson had a nice Juneteenth. Michelle Visage and guest judge Martyn Lawrence are amused and bewildered into submission, and Team Blayhem snatches the win this week. Or, sort of. In a dramatic rug-pull of a reveal, RuPaul says that while Blair and Mayhem have the best hotel experience, it is Jujubee who will claim the top prize this week. Better luck next time Team Blayhem!
With the winner (Jujubee) and the bottom three (Shea, India, Mariah) decided, it’s time for the reveal of the lip sync assassin, which has easily become my most anticipated part of the episode. As both a homosexual and an adult with a toddler’s understanding of object permanence, revealing drag queens from behind a shimmery beaded curtain never fails to delight me. Even better when that drag queen is All Stars 4 winner and New York legend Monét X Change. Jujubee has never lost a lip sync, but there’s a first time for everything and, for Juju, that time is facing off against Monét to a Lizzo song. Monét had the lip sync in the bag from the second she put her leg in attitude derrière and grabbed her shoe on the lyric “LV all on my shoes.” Juju unfortunately doesn’t seem to know all the lyrics, so it’s no surprise when Ru declares Monét the winner.
In a close call, it’s Mariah who hits the road this week. It’s disappointing. Mariah is an excellent drag queen and even better TV, but All Stars is a tough gig, and the eliminations will only get harder as the season progresses. Shea is safe, but only by the skin of her moth mandibles. It’s looking like this season won’t be a runaway, and that the queens are eager to send a frontrunner packing at the first sign of weakness. If Shea wants to claim the crown (and keep me from having another panic attack), she’ll have to be careful not to fall into the bottom again. See you next week!
“It DO Take Nerve!”
Quotes that left me mouth agape
Mariah: “Nobody will ever accuse you of being a domestic.”
Mayhem: “With $20,000, you won’t never have to clean a mirror again.”
Mariah: “Can I borrow $20?”
This dynamic is iconic to me. I’m currently seeking producers who will help me produce a Mariah/Mayhem podcast. DM me…