RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Okay, it’s official. I’m enjoying this season. We got off to a rough start with a lengthy and somewhat repetitive talent-show challenge, but ever since, this installment of the All Stars franchise has more than proven its merits. I mean … the gag of this episode’s ending alone. More on that later.
This week, we’re treated to another iteration of the girl-group challenge, which I’m pleased to report is officially a Drag Race staple. While it’s no “UK, Hun?,” this week’s song, “Show Up Queen,” is a lot of fun, and it showcases some great material from our remaining all-stars. There’s also a catch this time around: The verses the queens write must contain “inspirational lyrics with a message.” But the final product shows that both of our girl groups are more than up to the task. Simon Cowell would be proud.
If we’re talking about the girl-group skillset, this team is the dictionary definition of “stacked.” Trinity K. Bonet is essentially this season’s deity-in-residence when it comes to lip-syncing while doing choreo, Ra’Jah is an excellent dancer with a voice to back it up, Jan went to BoCo, and Pandora … um … is a very lovely person! Cut to a cute little rehearsal sequence of Ra’Jah and Trinity hyping up Pandora while she awkwardly shuffles from side to side, occasionally throwing out half-hearted index-finger wags. (The camera zoom to Pandora’s flat butt not moving as she tries to throw it from side to side feels excessive, but we support her regardless!) During the performance itself, Pandora doesn’t fare any better. The choreo isn’t all there, and the verse itself is lacking: “They call you a freak and think that you’re meek / Stand with me and be proud, time to shine and get loud.” Inspiring it is not, and coming from such a smart, funny queen, it’s surprising that the lyrics are so basic.
Jan isn’t at her best either. While she’s certainly a proficient dancer, her choreo is giving less “Fifth Harmony music video” and more “Julia Stiles in her Save the Last Dance Juilliard audition.” And her lyrics? “Everyone jokes that I’m nice, nice, nice / But I love me, so I don’t think twice.” The message of the verse appears to be that you too can persevere through life even if the haters call you “nice.” … Sure!
So we’re off to a slow start, but that all changes when Ra’Jah and Trinity take their turns. Ra’Jah provides an instant mood boost as soon as she steps out in her head-to-toe purple ensemble (or head-to-mid-ankle, as Michelle points out). Her verse focuses on self-doubt, and the sentiment is beautiful. My personal fave lyric: “It’s all right, you’re okay, don’t stay in that place / Feel your feelings, have your moment, then throw it away.” Queen of honoring her emotions while understanding that it’s not necessary to internalize them! Cognitive behavioral therapy the house down, mama BOOTS! Trinity kills it as well. As the judges point out, the choreography is flawless, she looks incredible, and she serves a great verse to top it off. “If I blink, she’s gonna end up with the crown”? Catch me blinking, honey! Trinity ends this week as the season’s first double winner, rightfully cementing her frontrunner status.
At first glance, Team Kylie doesn’t appear to have as strong a girl-group skill set as Team Ra’Jah, but they more than hold their own in this challenge, with all three of them turning in pretty excellent performances. Eureka in particular steals the show. In a mere 45 seconds, she showcases some impressive stunts, a costume change, and, in my view, the best lyrics of the night: “Size 16, never gonna lose / Kick to the sky even in potato shoes.” I’ve long considered myself a Eureka skeptic, but this season, the data is clear: Eureka is killing it. And in this house, we believe in science!
While not as dominant, Ginger performs admirably as well. True, the costuming leaves something to be desired, and her vocal track falls more on the 13: The Musical end of the spectrum than the girl-group end, but Ginger can command a room, and her stage presence wins out. Finally, Kylie wraps up the show and doesn’t disappoint. These lyrics are dense, bitch! “When I’m dripping by my ego, I got all my feelings hurt / Took a bite of humble pie, now I’m putting in the work.” A word!! It’s a great verse, and acknowledging her own shortcomings makes this one of the more creative interpretations of “inspirational” this week.
With the challenge complete, it’s time for my favorite portion of the episode,
the runway psychologically tormenting Jan. I know what you’re thinking: “Paul, handsome king, you’ve already used extended metaphors comparing Drag Race/Jan to unethical, 1960s social-psych experiments in, like, two recaps. Surely you’re done.” Well, no, I am not! (Also, thank you, haha, you’re too sweet.) It starts off as it usually does, with the judges telling Jan that she’s technically proficient, yet robotic and hard to connect with (deja vu to every other round of critiques Jan has ever had). But it’s after the lip sync that things get interesting. Following an unfortunate wig snafu, this week’s assassin Alexis Mateo (light of my life) is declared the winner. And honestly, thank god for that. A queen with no flare for the dramatic might have simply said “it was a tie,” but not Alexis. She first reveals Pandora’s lipstick and then halts the elimination to reveal that she’s also carrying Jan’s lipstick. Ru announces that Trinity’s lipstick will be the tie break, revealing once and for all that Jan will be going home.
Now, as opposed to a normal elimination where Jan’s mental state goes from dread to resignation, this rollercoaster of events causes Jan to experience dread, then relief, then dread again, then confusion, then dread-induced anxiety, ending in abject depression. It’s a molotov cocktail of emotions that human-rights activists call “against the Geneva Accords” and RuPaul calls “a fourth Emmy.” It’s horrifying, it’s entertaining, it’s shocking … It’s drag. No notes. With the elimination pageantry complete, Jan is taken off to her padded cell to await the conclusion of “the game within a game,” and the rest of the queens are off to prepare for the Snatch Game of love. Let’s hope it’s a good one.
See you next week!