RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
We remain in the “get the job done” portion of this All Stars season. As we continue to make our way through the pre–Snatch Game hurdles designed to eliminate the filler, not many surprises are heading our way it appears. The challenges are fun, if not particularly thrilling. The queens who understand how reality TV works are setting up story lines for down the road, but they are certainly not playing out just yet. It’s all perfectly acceptable Drag Race content. Rather than belabor the point, I think it’s worth just diving into the episode straightaway. It’s not an episode that asks for further analysis.
We open with a discussion of last week that doesn’t go anywhere, with Heidi calming down and applauding Jessica after her saltiness in Untucked, and Darienne understanding why three girls voted to send her home. Again, it’s too early in the season for these queens to get caught up in too much drama.
We move efficiently along to the challenge announcement, but I wanted to take a moment and question why Jaymes Mansfield has a harness and a gray hankie every episode now? Is it just to remind people that the kooky, desexualized onstage persona is just a persona? I’m not sure, and I don’t exactly hate it, but it is distracting me now that she is treating the Werk Room like a confessional booth.
The challenge is a pretty solid one. They are split into three groups of three and told to create a trailer for any kind of show they want (which is to say, a comedy or a comedic parody of a different genre). They’re split up through either topping or bottoming for the Pit Crew, with a balloon between them to make room for Jesus. This was fun, but not quite as fun as when they did it in season 14 and Jorgeous was forced to top for the first time in her life, and Maddy was … straight. RuPaul also tells them that they have to come up with key art for the series, which is never judged and could have been cut.
The groups are Darienne, James, and Alexis (destined to lose, unfortunately); Heidi, Lala, and Kahanna (lucky break for Kahanna); and Jimbo, Kandy, and Jessica (obvious front-runners). It’s clear immediately that Kahanna is the only girl left in the competition who doesn’t consider comedy one of her strengths. Monica and Naysha, the other girls in that category, were quickly booted, and, while I think Kahanna has a lot of fight left in her, it’s gonna be a rocky road through non-group comedy challenges for this queen if she wants to make it to the end. Unfortunately, the girls’ general understanding of comedy does not translate into laugh-out-loud trailers so much as a group of polished trailers that are largely on the same level of quality. The separation between the much-praised winning group’s segment and the ultimate losers’ is simply not that wide.
Jimbo, Kandy, and Jessica have some issues while storyboarding, but I was never that worried for them. All of the arguing seems based less in queens being incapable of getting along than a group of individual (and correct) understandings of what the judges want from them. Jimbo knows that judges love it when Jimbo doesn’t make sense, and Kandy knows that the judges like it when she has a bit more polish but maintains her personality. It’s interesting to see them arguing not about what they think would make the better video, but what the judges will appreciate. If there’s any one thing that pushes this group into the win, I think it’s their collective ability to read through the lines to understand what’s expected of them in this challenge.
Heidi and Lala, meanwhile, have the job of telling Kahanna how to be funny, a task made much easier by the latter’s willingness to learn. This is a really good week for Kahanna, even if she is wildly outshined by her group members. She shows that she is completely open to the task of learning, which is tough, because she didn’t last long enough on her original season to learn the basics back then. Yet again, I’m particularly impressed by Heidi, who comes up with the idea for her group’s trailer on her own, diverting them from the more meandering path they’re going down. The judges have not been heaping Heidi with praise yet, and she’s noticed, but I think she’s one of the top two queens in the lot (along with Jimbo, who the judges have been heaping praise on). At this point, they seem to be setting her up to be a late-stage contender, because why else wouldn’t she be scoring judging points week to week?
Alexis, Darienne, and Jaymes go for a “Lost meets Clone High” approach, which immediately seems too convoluted. Alexis expresses some doubts, but she doesn’t have the forcefulness of Kandy, Jimbo, or Heidi and instead chooses to suck up and go along with what she knows is a bad idea. For that, I’d say she has as much culpability as anybody in her group for their loss, because she’s the one who could have gotten them out of it.
The filming scenes are cute, but they make everybody look like they could be careering toward disaster, which is by the books for this show. In reality, they’re all careering toward “okay.”
In the Werk Room while prepping for the runway, Heidi gets pissed at Kandy continually bringing up her moment of weakness in Untucked last week when they’re supposed to be in an alliance, and threatens to expose things Kandy’s said off-camera. If it turns into a big drama, I’ll be thrilled. Plus, Kandy is mostly just doing pretty normal “I am giving the producers what they want” content. I doubt she’s actually trying to come for Heidi. It appears, from the editing, that Heidi’s tea has something to do with Kandy saying something about Jimbo, and I am hoping that it comes out before the season is up, because I don’t see any of those three going anywhere anytime soon.
On the runway, the category amounts to “Have a big ass,” which is interpreted with vastly different levels of commitment. Some girls choose to feature their real, bare ass as the focal point of their garment; some queens do asses heightened to a ridiculous level; some just choose to wear an outfit where they can pad a lot; and one queen dresses as a donkey. Hee-haw! In the padding category is Jaymes, who wears an outfit inspired by her indigenous Mexican heritage, which is a great choice for a queen who has done a lot of white-woman drag until now. Jessica looks cute if a bit unremarkable. Darienne turns her best look of the season in a sexy bronze fit.
Three girls go fully bare-assed: Alexis, Kahanna, and Lala. Kahanna, a queen who loves to talk about her plastic surgery, does a look themed around plastic surgery. Look, I wish she’d stop talking about it so much, but I also think that, if she’s going to talk about it this much, she might as well make some use of it. Alexis is in an assless wedding dress and looks great. She’s really homed in on her most successful looks from season nine (gowns) and made a full runway package out of them. Lala, it has become clear to me, has the worst looks of the season. A backless business suit is a great idea for this category, but why is the back a brown fabric that is just a few degrees away from her skin tone? And why is the jacket so ill-fitting?
Kandy and Jimbo are the ass inflators, and they both look great. I do think Kandy’s skin-tone latex that wrinkles when she walks is a little distracting, but the anime drag look is cute. Jimbo looks great, is creative, and stands out. This was really her category, as a queen obsessed with body, and she doesn’t disappoint.
Heidi is the donkey, making a play on the word ass. This is funny and cute. Hee-haw!
In the challenge, Darienne, Jaymes, and Alexis end up in the bottom. Their critique really amounts to, “It was okay, just not that funny.” Darienne, who’s been a bottom-dweller all season long, is the funniest one in the group because she takes on the dumb blonde role and plays it pretty well. Jaymes and Alexis are mostly complimented as well, just told it needs to be funnier. My critique differs from the judges. I mean, I don’t think it was funny, but I also have another issue with it, which is that Alexis’s and Jaymes’ characters are incredibly ill-defined. Jaymes is supposed to be the smart one, but she keeps on her ditzy character voice. Alexis is … the sexy one? Which didn’t come through at all. For the comedy to work, the characters need to be clearer.
Jimbo, Kandy, and Jessica win the challenge. Since we have a group in the bottom for not having enough jokes, I should note that I didn’t laugh at this one, either. Still, the video is marginally better, with Jimbo taking the clear starring role as a girl who kills the popular girls in her school (Kandy and Lala) after they bully her. One note here: I distinctly remember during the sitcom challenge on season nine, Valentina and Nina Bonina Brown were critiqued for not making a television promo where the story could be continued on, which I thought was a valuable critique, seeing as the challenge was not just “write a sketch.” With both Kandy and Jessica dead by the end of this “trailer,” this seems … difficult to serialize. Also, Kandy and Jessica play mean girls who aren’t particularly distinct from each other, allowing Jimbo to completely steal the show. I love these queens (Jessica especially), but I am going to give this “winning” performance a resounding meh.
On the simple metric of “did I laugh?,” Heidi, Lala, and Kahanna, all of whom are called safe, won this round. It isn’t particularly difficult humor (mostly just pulling faces), but when Heidi turned around and revealed her face during the intro, I laughed. Simple as that. And then I kept laughing at her all the way through. Kahanna is fine, and Lala is a great foil for Heidi. I’m glad Heidi and Lala didn’t just play the same type of goons all the way through, and I will note that the three characters in this group are by far the most distinct. It’s not quite as polished a story line as the Jimbo group, but it is funnier.
They’re judged as teams, and Jimbo is declared the ultimate winner, with Alexis, Jaymes, and Darienne all in the bottom. On the runway, Alexis throws her teammates fully under the bus, which the other girls hate. One thing I like about this season is that Alexis is not attempting to be any different from her original run, unlike the many queens who come back to rehab their image. Nope! Alexis fought with her teammates the last time she did this challenge, and she fought with her teammates on the runway this time. Never change, queen!
The lip-sync assassin is Shannel (Yay! I love Shannel!), and the song is “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, which is a great song, a potentially great lip-sync song, and, ultimately, a bad lip sync. Jimbo is actively bad at lip syncing, and Shannel is known for her single-minded need to be polished. She does give a damn about her bad reputation. Still, Shannel wins and sends home Darienne, who I think got kind of a raw deal this season. Ta-ta, queen. See you in the Fame Games!
Also on Untucked …
• This week’s Untucked mainly focuses on Alexis, who was kind of a bitch on the runway. Alexis says, “I am here for my sisters as well as myself,” and based on the editing, it appears as though that is not fully believed. This was certainly a tactical error on Alexis’s part, and will only make her a larger target going forward. I hope she can work her way back into the top, but I don’t see this particular theater queen managing to get in the larger group’s good graces, if season nine is any indicator.
• Alexis Michelle Watch: Look, for all her faults, you know that she is the only queen in the history of the show with an Agnes Moorehead impression in her back pocket.
• Predicted top four: The top four I’ve been wanting to predict seems pretty possible at this point, with Kandy back in the top and Heidi appearing newly galvanized, so I’ll confidently say: Jimbo, Jessica, Kandy, and Heidi.