RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Welcome back, besties! I hope you’re staying cool and indoors and are still enjoying your weekly 3 a.m. Drag Race screenings. (Yeah, still not over it … ) As this season begins to take shape, it starts to become apparent that there are both pros and cons to an evenly matched season of underdog queens. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind a cast with no immediate front-runner. It makes the season feel competitive and less like a runaway (e.g., Shea, Alaska). But conversely, we also don’t get the joy of watching spectacular blowout challenge victories (Alaska’s commercial in All Stars 2, Shea’s Flavor Flav Snatch Game in All Stars 5). Instead, this week we see a bunch of even, middle-of-the-road comedy sketches with a challenge winner that will have you saying, “Sure! Why not?” Let’s get to it:
First up, the Drag Fixers, where Trinity, Pandora, Yara, and Ra’Jah advertise a service that’s something along the lines of “Queer Eye for the Down Bad Drag Queen.” It’s a cute sketch, and by far the most successful of the three, mostly due to the fact that this group wisely chooses the simplest game: duct tape! Whether it’s a wig sliding back or a graphically loose tuck, these queens will stick you with enough duct tape to make your worries a thing of the past. In the Werkroom, Pandora takes on the role of creative director, but Trinity and Ra’Jah contribute pretty equally to the sketch as well. Yara injects chaos and references to “dick farting” where applicable, and the result is a relatively cohesive piece of drag comedy. Yara cracks me up as an off-the-walls drag queen with a meaty tuck, and Pandora proves to be a great foil to the rest of the team as she narrates the action. But Trinity steals the show as a queen who’s not so convinced that the Drag Fixers’ services are right for her. And for her efforts, she takes the gold, making this her first ever win on the Drag Race stage. A long time coming! It provides a nice bit of symmetry as well: In season six, her midseason breakthrough moment came in a commercial challenge alongside Bianca Del Rio.
Next up is Eureka, Scarlett, and Kylie as Drag Exorcists. Early in the process, they decide that drag-queen exorcists is a touch too straightforward a premise, so naturally they rewrite themselves as drag exercise-ors: drag-queen fitness influencers who exorcise demons with aerobics. The first significant hurdle this group runs into is the fact that none of them know the names of any exercises (again, can’t stress enough that they pitched that angle), but despite this setback, they persevere. No pain, no gain, as they say! To their credit, the group seems to pull it off. Kylie is established early in the episode as the team member with the least performance experience, but she executes her responsibilities well, playing a dolled-up ’80s instructor who falls somewhere on the spectrum of Jane Fonda to Amanda Lepore. Eureka is also passable in her role of possessed drag queen turned employee. She thrashes about during her exorcism, which feels broad even by Drag Race standards, even managing to break the prop bed frame in the process. (Hope they weren’t a sponsor!) But it’s Scarlett who seems most in command of the material and in tune with the comedy of this sketch. She nails her line readings, and her over-the-top facial expressions perfectly evoke the infomercial aesthetic of the final edit. The judges dole out even-handed praise to all three, making sure to praise Eureka for her “character arc.” While technically safe, I’m not sure this episode can be chalked up to a victory for Eureka. If she can’t snatch a victory from the jaws of a campy sketch-comedy challenge, when can she expect a win? In Drag Race’s multi-season-long quest to Make Eureka Happen™️, All Stars 6 might still not be her moment.
Lastly, we have Ginger, A’Keria, Silky, and Jan advertising Rent-a-Queen: a service where you can hire a drag queen for just about anything. Ginger seems to become the director of this group, with Jan and A’Keria happy to bounce ideas around as well. Silky, not normally known for being a wallflower, sits the pitch meeting out. When asked why, Silky reveals that she’s still incredibly wary of letting loose her full personality because of how poorly it was received back in season 11. Not just by fans, she elaborates, but by club promoters, fellow drag queens, and industry gatekeepers as well. This very situation has become a sad and relatively common plotline on the All Stars editions of Drag Race: A queen villainized in her season for being too loud/obnoxious/rude comes back to All Stars not fully having broken free from the shackles of these perceptions but traumatized, trapped, and (ultimately) undone by them. It happened to Mimi Imfurst, to Phi Phi O’Hara, and now it’s happening with Silky. The other girls lightly encourage her to join in the fun, but the Reverend Doctor abstains, choosing to “go with the flow,” and losing out on crucial screen time and possible scene-stealing moments as a result. The resulting piece is a solid B/B-. Not a disaster by any means, but falls a hair short of the B/B+ sketches of their commercial competitors. The highlights include Ginger’s male drag (think Step Brothers–era John C. Reilly) and Jan’s femme-y performance as a closeted twink who needs a drag-queen companion as a beard at a funeral.
With the commercials done, it’s time for our distinguished panel to level their critiques. Trinity is declared the winner, Tia Mowry is forced (at what I can only assume is gunpoint) to compliment Eureka’s star quality, and the entire Rent-a-Queen improv troupe is relegated to the bottom four. We’re treated to a little drama back in the Werkroom spearheaded by Trinity, as she admonishes the bottom queens for not complimenting her enough (very me). Needless to say, I wholeheartedly endorse. After Ra’Jah gracefully diffuses the situation with a toast, group deliberations begin where A’Keria volunteers herself and Silky as the true bottom two of the week. If this is some sort of pageant-queen 3-D chess move beyond my comprehension, props to A’Keria, but otherwise this feels like quite the unnecessary unforced error. And, speaking as a bona fide A’Keria stan, I’m nervous!
Back on the main stage, it’s time for the main event: the lip-sync assassin reveal. And what a reveal it is. Never a queen to feel shackled to convention (or Newtonian conceptions of gravity and physics for that matter), Lagajna does not simply appear behind a curtain, she jump splits from behind it. It’s instantly iconic, as are most other things Laganja has done on Drag Race. (Speaking of, I think we’re long overdue for a cultural reappraisal of Laganja Estranja’s performance on season six, but that’s an essay for another day.) What follows is yet another incredible entry into the canon of All Stars 6 lip syncs. Three for three, baby! Trinity is incredible, as we might expect, but Laganja is transcendent. Yes, they are stunts we’ve seen before, but nobody does them quite like Laganja. It’s drag; it’s camp; it’s Alvin Ailey; it’s perfect. Laganja wins the lip sync and thereby becomes the executor of the will of the All Stars 6 cast. And the eliminated queen is … Silky. The season 11 queen becomes a casualty of her own reticence, as her inability to move past her fear of being perceived the same way she was two years ago spells her downfall. Rest in peace, queen!
Now that the season is really moving, some patterns begin to emerge: We have a cast chock-full of talented lip syncers, and the elimination path is surprising and won’t be as predictable as in some previous seasons. As we enter the early midseason point, I eagerly look forward to seeing which front-runners may emerge. Find out with me, why don’t you? See you next week.