RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
This week we moved the plot right along, and the strengths and weaknesses of the cast were laid out at our feet for all to gawk at. The “strengths” category is dominated by banter. This is a fun group of queens! They all bring a slightly different perspective to the conversation, and two weeks in, there’s not a personality-deficient girl in the group. Credit here must be particularly paid to Lala Ri, who is shaping up to be the confessional queen of the season, in her pink cheetah-print shirt with gloves and the ability to spout out indelible and unique phrasings. I’m also thoroughly enjoying Jessica Wild, particularly when she talks about how much she loves Jessica Wild while sometimes talking in the third person. This might be cloying on another queen, but Jessica seems to be in dumbstruck awe of herself rather than full of herself, and it is very charming.
More important, however, is that they have chemistry as a group. The scene with Lala and Heidi trying to discuss their alliance while other queens come over and bother them is funny. The scene where the group debates the pros and cons of sister dick is funny. The scene with Kahanna and Kandy making fun of Mrs. Kasha Davis’s piñata of a dress is funny. I like hanging out with them! And the ball is a great challenge to make that chemistry clear — all the girls have a lot of time just milling about the Werk Room as they create and sew. The first half of this episode, where the queens are just talking, is aces.
But then we get to the runway, and something else becomes clear: A group cast for their personalities might sometimes let us down in the challenges. Nobody manages to produce a genuinely sickening final look for the runway, and the queen who wins the challenge mostly seems to win because they want to put points on the board for her. Sometimes these girls, quite a few of whom were early outs on their original season, might let us down in the challenges. Their group numbers weren’t particularly polished in episode one, and while their RDR Live sketches were pretty solid, it’s clear that the looks aren’t the focal point of the season. That’s fine, but when it comes to the results of a runway-based challenge, forgive me for not being blown away.
The challenge is classic. It’s a Supermarket Ball, with the categories all related to grocery shopping. That’s fine, they ran out of solid ball puns a few years back, so I won’t blame the producers for just deciding on a random theme and seeing what happens. The categories are Legen-Dairy Queens (which multiple girls take as “Dress like a slutty cow” because they are drag queens), Fruity Patooty, and a third look made out of items from the supermarket.
The ball is an interesting challenge for All Stars. They didn’t do a true ball with three looks until All Stars 6, when, as I mentioned last week, the producers started treating their mostly B-tier casts like a regular-season cast, with longer seasons and a willingness to crown queens based on how they do in the competition, rather than their previous track records or outside-show careers. With a slew of early outs in the cast this season, it’s remarkable how many girls have never competed in a ball. Jaymes, Kahanna, Kasha, and Jessica haven’t encountered this challenge before, and neither Naysha nor Monica would have seen one if they’d made it that far. Additionally, Jimbo, Alexis, Darienne, and Lala have all either gone home on a ball or done iconically bad in one (though Jimbo bounced back and won the ball on U.K. vs. the World), while Heidi and Kandy both skated by as safe on their respective season’s. It’s not a group that inspires confidence in this arena. Perhaps this could be used to heighten the stakes a little, but the edit mostly harps on Lala Ri for her iconic eyesore of a Bag Ball look while not mentioning Darienne’s saggy brown disaster, for example.
The episode begins with Kahanna learning that two girls voted for her to go home last week (Kasha and Jessica). Jessica stands tall in her conviction that she didn’t want to vote off another Puerto Rican queen, while Kasha attempts to walk back her decision a bit, apologizing to Kahanna. Jessica’s method seems like the better one to me. She’s clear in her reasoning and I don’t think girls other than Kahanna are worried about her voting erratically going forward. Kasha might give some girls pause, and though I don’t think it really played into the episode’s final decision, I also don’t think it helped.
After the challenge is announced, we’re treated to delightful banter and Ru’s walkthrough. The wise girls, like Jimbo and Heidi, take the Ru walkthrough as another chance to perform for the person deciding their fate, while other queens like Alexis just have a normal, polite conversation. (The ones who are always “on” are the ones who end up winning the competition.)
Then we get to the ball itself. Most of the looks in the first two categories (which the girls prepare ahead of time, of course) are solid, if not that exciting or innovative. In the dairy category, I was partial to Heidi’s look as a glammed-up milkman, particularly the detail of the milky handprint on her ass. Jimbo looks gorgeous and is clearly the most creative queen of the bunch, but it doesn’t scream “milk.” Of the slutty cows (Kahanna, Alexis, Lala), Kahanna’s looks the best. Jaymes gives a camp version of that Loewe look that Beyoncé’s wearing on tour right now, but I think the leggings should have been white to enhance the milkiness. Kandy is in a sculpted plastic look designed to look like milk splashing that I assume is made by Abraham Levy, and it’s a gorgeous look that I nonetheless think has been a bit played out on the main stage. The judges don’t like Darienne’s, but I think it’s perfectly serviceable. Jessica’s milk and cereal look is adorable. Kasha’s sour cream look is completely incomprehensible.
In the fruit section, my favorite is, again, Heidi. The wide-hipped strawberry pant is ridiculous in just the right way. Jimbo again takes the category in a different direction, with a salute to queer icons (a.k.a. famous fruits). I like her creativity, but I don’t like the collar. Kahanna and Kasha go for bananas, and both do very well. Jaymes’s look needs to be stepped up a little; the panties are ugly, sorry. Kandy has an unholy connection to this silhouette, with three looks already employing it (her famous forever look last week and the first two categories this week). Alexis looks beautiful. Lala’s look also needs to be stepped up a little. It’s a well-made and well-fitted latex dress, but the caramel color is sad. Give me more drips! Darienne’s second look is great, but the hair isn’t. Jessica is adorable, and any reminder of Jessica saying, “I lub this drink,” is a good one.
Finally, we arrive at the looks that they made there. It’s a lot of “meh,” with a few disasters, so I’m having difficulty picking a favorite. I suppose Jimbo does the best. I especially liked that it appears to be made primarily out of perishables, which is what you want from the Supermarket challenge, but I do wish the silhouette were a little more daring. Kahanna’s look is bright and ugly. Jaymes’s is very well-done, and the puppet addition takes it up a bit. Kandy’s skirt is great, but the top is equally bad. Alexis looks as pedestrian as I’ve seen on this runway since Rebecca Glasscock walked out in jeans, but I can’t deny the polish. I don’t get Lala’s look. I love when she does a bald head, but the look itself is just folds of beige, and I couldn’t tell what was intentional and what was ill-fitting. Darienne’s skirt really is ugly, and the top looks a lot like what Jimbo made for her first sewing challenge on Canada, but it’s still a nice corset. Jessica looks beautiful in her flower power corset, but I can’t say any of the design choices are setting me on fire. Kasha is an unqualified disaster, showing lots of artistry but very little taste. Heidi’s is very good, though it does look like both the peplum and the hem should have moved a few inches down. Still (and this is a loaded statement given Untucked, which I’ll get into below), I absolutely think she should have been in the top.
But the tops are Jimbo, Jessica, and Lala. Lala is definitely just there to set up a growth arc. So long as she wasn’t a complete disaster, the judges would give her a top spot and rave about her growth. The judges love Jessica, but while I’m not opposed to her taking a top spot, I’m not so sure about the top spot. I think, for the second week in a row, that should have been between Heidi and Jimbo.
Kandy, Darienne, and Kasha make up the bottom. The judges are not feeling Darienne this season, which is a shame and confusing. They rag on her milk look, which I thought was fine, but rightfully go after her sloppy skirt. Kandy gets told not to wear that silhouette again any time soon, and Kasha gets the harshest critiques I’ve heard in a good while over her final look.
Jessica wins and lip-syncs against recently crowned queen of Canada, Ra’Jah O’Hara, to Kim Petras’s “Coconuts.” Ra’Jah is pretty mediocre, but Jessica wins within the first ten seconds by revealing that she brought a jiggly breastplate. Given what we know about Jessica’s lip sync abilities, the boobs seem to hinder her movement a little, but it’s worth it to see her make them bounce up and down while Kim Petras sings “Bounce up and down.” She ups the ridiculousness by seeming to shout out some of the words to the song for emphasis at one point. It’s exactly the kind of stupidity that both Ru and I enjoy, and the $30,000 payoff should be more than enough to justify the cost of those breasts.
Jessica chooses to send Kasha home, which, based on Untucked, is largely due to the fact that the fight has gone out of her while Darienne is ready to stay. I’m hoping Darienne turns this ship around, but I have to say, it’s hard to imagine that, after two bottom placements, this storyline doesn’t end with a sunken ship in the waters of Darienne Lake. (No, that metaphor doesn’t work, but neither did this episode. Deal with it.)
Also on Untucked …
• What’s going on with Heidi? I also think she should have been in the top this week, but it’s not a blowout to the point where I ever thought she’d say she wanted to go home. I absolutely see her as one of the front-runners, if not the very top girl, and it’s disappointing to see this self-defeating side to Heidi that we’ve never seen before. Look, if another queen pulled this kind of stuff, I’d probably be lambasting them, but as long as she stays in the competition, I will hold out hope that positive Heidi will return. What I did like in Untucked: the safe girls putting on Kandy’s signature blush and Heidi looking entirely over it during the Jojo Siwa inspirational segment. Again, this show is a comedy.
• Alexis Michelle Watch: I loved, in the beginning of the episode, when Alexis introduced the question, “Who has ever been in a sex swing?” to the girls, just so that she could raise her hand and say she has. She is truly a natural at getting attention.
• Predicted top four: I have to say, I’m questioning Heidi’s ability to make it through the competition emotionally, and I’m questioning the judges’ dedication to Kandy. I’ll keep Jimbo and Lala in there, but I’ll throw in Jessica, given her big win, and tentatively add Jaymes, who the judges seem to like.