Is This The RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Finale We Wanted?
It's time to process hurt feelings in this EPIC OLD-SCHOOL RECAP!
Let me begin this recap of the RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars finale with an insight from my rational self. To wit:
It is not actually possible for a work of art to betray me. A true betrayal is personal, and it is intentional. It is a friend or loved one lying to me. It is an elected representative taking actions that imperil my liberty. It is not, say, Adele phoning it in on 25, or Jennifer Egan succumbing in Manhattan Beach to the very clichés of literary fiction that she so dazzlingly avoided in hear earlier books. I may love the work of those artists and feel disappointed when they create something I don't adore, but I can't claim to be legitimately betrayed.
Now let me give the floor to my emotional self:
Bitch, call me Clytemnestra, because Drag Race is giving me RAGE. This hooker started the season so well with her Bitchelor and her talent show, so you'd better damn believe I am HURT that she has deflated like a cheap padded bra.
Boo boo, how DARE you come here with your non-stop workroom fighting and your shortened runway walks and your finale that is so goddamned misguided that you shove the incredible finale performance into twenty damn seconds and then make me watch some People's Court bullshit for an hour?
Do you think I tune in to see who goddamned Milk thinks should win? Bitch, I DO NOT CARE ABOUT HER OPINION. I want to see RuPaul -- whom I actually TRUST -- make careful choices about the future of drag. I do not want to see queens who quit (Ben), underperformed (Morgan), or whined (Thorgy) hold sway over the Hall of Fame. We've got whiny, underperforming quitters running America right now, and IT IS NOT WORKING OUT.
So forget you, Drag Race! FORGET YOU.
Except I can't forget you, you sick, beautiful bastard. But I've been hurt. You owe me something nice, and don't think a hand job and a six-pack of Wendy's chicken nuggets is gonna cut it this time.
Okay! Now that I've got that out of my system, let's get down to recapping.
This episode began...a day late. At least, for many people. Because the name of the show was inexplicably changed to RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race in the systems of several television providers, loads of DVRs didn't recognize (and therefore didn't record) the episode -- including mine. So I didn't get to watch until Friday, even though I was ready to sit down and write this recap on Thursday night. That feels right, given all the irritating shit to come.
When things finally begin, the girls enter the workroom and discuss Morgan's ouster. Shangela says there's no way she would've sent Kennedy home. Almost certainly prompted by the producers, Bebe asks Trixie whom she would've chopped, which gives Trixie the perfect opportunity to front like Bebe and say she won't EVER tell. Except she totally does: she pulls her lipstick out of her bra to reveal that she would've bounced Morgan as well.
The queens take a moment to celebrate their presence in the top four, and Shangela interviews that she feels like Celie in The Color Purple, adding "I'm here, Lord!" I assume she's got her hands doin' good like they s'posed to.
The next day, Ru enters the workroom to announce a fabulously ambitious challenge: each girl must not only write and perform a new verse for RuPaul's song "Kitty Girl," but also work with Todrick Hall to create individual choreography that will make them stand out in a group performance. Then Ru adds that the eliminated girls will return yet again to do some kind of business. Because that's exactly what this season needs: more interpersonal drama in the place of talent and artistry.
At least there's this, though: when Shangela (correctly) surmises that the eliminated girls will be a jury voting for their faves, Bebe counters that she doesn't think so; she thinks they're going to be backup dancers. In an interview, Shangela says, "Of course she thinks they're gonna be backup dancers. Bebe thinks we're all backup dancers." Nice burn, gurl!
Then it's time for dance rehearsal with Todrick. But instead of working on the aforementioned individual routines, the girls work on a group dance number that pairs each of them with a hot male partner.
In fact, we never actually see the queens rehearsing their individual dances. We never see them recording their verses or really doing much of anything that goes into this epic finale. Because why waste time creating a coherent narrative out of the most impressive part of the episode, when you could cut to Thorgy looking pissy instead?
Trixie notes that her partner, Braden, is so sexy that she might pass out.
And he is indeed a sexy man, but I'd personally need smelling salts if I danced with Shangela's partner, Jake.
This reminds me of the time that my very sexy college acting teacher selected me to help him demonstrate a stage combat move where we rolled around together on the floor. I was wearing sweatpants and praying that no problems arose.
As God and reality TV insist, a rehearsal segment must always feature a performer who can't pull it together. This time, it's Bebe, who is too intimidated by a lift to actually get both feet off the ground. Which I understand! She just met her partner, and now she has to trust him to pick her up? Sure, all the other girls do it well, but Bebe's reticence makes sense to me. Todrick is not interested in the "struggle bus," however. He says the girls look like "three hesitant people and one person who's lost." Oops!
Then he takes the girls onto a loading dock and says that the entire performance will be "live," meaning it's going to be filmed in one take and have the girls roaming the soundstage. Which is a great idea! It's the Drag Race version of a lip dub video. Trixie is incredibly excited about this, which makes me happy. It's nice to see an artist embrace the challenge before her.
But why show any of the rehearsal for this thrilling endeavor? Why let us see the art getting created when we could instead see workroom conversations about what the eliminated queens are going to do? Because that's what we get: a whole lot of chatting as the ladies do their makeup. And when they're not discussing the girls coming back, they're talking about why they deserve to win.
And just like that, it's time for the performance. RuPaul does a cute bit on the runway, where she introduces the challenge to an empty room. Nobody's there -- including Ross, Carson, and Michelle -- because they're all in places for their part in the lip dub. After she says, "May the best all star...win!," Ru holds her pose and makes a glorious grimace while she says, "Why do I feel like I'm talking to myself?"
It's just a throwaway line, but Ru delivers it perfectly, with face, eyes, voice, and arm position all under control. This is why it's her show.
Then we reach the one spectacular stretch of the episode: the performance. We open on a male stagehand in short-shorts and high heels. Carrying a clipboard, he saunters across a loading dock to a delivery truck and pulls up the rolling door to reveal Kennedy and four shirtless hunks sitting on a pile of boxes that, according to their labels, hold "RuPaul's Drag Race Hip Pads." Kennedy looks flawless in a short-n-sassy wig, a black-and-gold mini-dress with feathers all over, spangly fishnets, and gold boots.
Kennedy's verse is well-sung, and her dancing is sensational. As she and her dancers exit the truck and move around the loading dock, we see Aja and Morgan posing in the background. So I guess Bebe was sort of correct to guess that the eliminated girls are backup dancers. (Aja, by the way, is standing under a sign that reads "rear deliveries.")
Next up, Shangela gets wheeled in on a trunk by two fierce-looking lady dancers dressed like construction workers. Shangela's rap is on fleek, and soon, she's joined by a phalanx of construction babes. Her moves, as usual, are on point.
Next the camera zips over to Bebe, who is sitting at a sewing machine. Behind her are many hunks in sunglasses, also at sewing machines. It's a sexy quilting bee. Soon, they all rise and dance with the fabric they've been sewing. It's really quite pretty!
Then, coming down a flight of concrete steps, we see Trixie, wearing a bejeweled purple and pink leotard and matching purple and pink hair. At one point, she grabs a glittery baseball bat and smashes the camera like she's Lemonading, and then she dances down a hallways past DeLa, pausing to do a slutty move on a rolling cart where she lays back and throws her legs up in a triumphant "V."
This is all wonderful to behold.
The camera then zips over to a makeup area, where Ross, Michelle, and Carson getting their faces done. They jump up to do a little choreo, then the camera zips past the girls' soup cans from a few weeks ago. Soon, all four girls knock over another pile of hip pad boxes and run en masse onto the main stage, where they do their group number.
The "live" element ends there, and we return to our regular system of multiple angles and edits, with the judges all in their regular seats. The final routine comes off pretty well, though Bebe doesn't quite nail her jump. (Still, I'd give her a B.) Crucially, Shangela's partner Jake remains gorgeous...
...and if he'd ever like to bring that wholesome smile over to my house, I'd definitely take a picture.
The number is followed by a runway walk whose theme is "Best Drag Eleganza Extravaganza." For Bebe and Kennedy, that apparently means "Drag We've Seen Before." Bebe walks in a full-length cheetah-print dress with a plastic cheetah head on top. Which is basically her lion look with a different coat of paint. Kennedy walks in an admittedly beautiful rainbow dress, but as Trixie will note later, she rocked a rainbow look in her original season.
Shangela, on the other hand, surprises me: she walks in a glorious, floor-length gown that's red carpet-ready.
This is some A+ fashion, and it demonstrates an elegance in Shangela's drag that she doesn't often convey. Well done.
Trixie takes a similar route in a curve-hugging, sheer black gown, but the proportions of her body and the volume on her sleeves are amped up to campy levels. Same with her hair, which is a big blonde poodle wig.
This is great look for a comedy queen like Trixie, because it's both alluring and true to her spirit. It shows an enormous amount of growth.
Meanwhile, the eliminated queens have been off to the side, watching the runway show. Turns out, they're going to meet with each finalist and then vote on who will be the top two all stars of the season. Please refer to my earlier argument, in which I point out that I am not interested in seeing the other contestants choose a winner.
Just before the power is put in the wrong hands, the judges give their critiques. Notably, they all say that Shangela is quite clearly at the top of the game and of the contemporary drag world.
Then we get to the interminable scenes with the "jury." And I do not use the word "interminable" in error. This portion of the episode takes almost 13 minutes, when there are only 41 minutes of content in the whole broadcast hour -- and those 41 minutes include the recap of last week and all the interstitial bits telling us what's coming up. In other words, almost a third of this episode is spent on also-rans yammering.
Just as she did a few weeks ago, Bebe refuses to tell the panel whose lipsticks she drew to return and to go home. She says that "because [she's] African," she can sense the dark energy in the room. Hee! After she leaves, the jury reads her for being haughty, but Bebe correctly notes that none of the jury's questions was actually about her talent.
Kennedy is obviously the favorite of the room, and she notes that she has the most to gain professionally, since the other girls have had bigger careers than she has. The jurors add that she makes everyone feel comfortable. And...you know, I get it. For fellow professionals, these are meaningful criteria. However, I am certainly not watching the show to see who wins a popularity content or to give a victory to the girl who'd like a higher appearance fee. I want to like the winner, yes, but I want to like her AND admire her talent. Ugh, now it sounds like I'm dissing Kennedy, who is a great queen. But she's definitely lacking the confident flair of Shangela, Aja, or DeLa.
Shangela knows her goose is cooked. The jurors basically tell her, "Look, you don't need this. You're already successful." Shangela makes one last Game Of Thrones reference -- this time about being executed -- and carries on. She and DeLa were far and away the most original, exciting, and charismatic performers of this season.
And close behind them was Trixie, who had a rough couple episodes but really surged at the end. As she notes, she also has a big career now, and honestly, since she's got her own TV show, I'd say she's a touch bigger than Shangela. But the jury has to choose somebody, right?
All of which is to say that Shangela, ridiculously, doesn't make the top two. Instead, it's Trixie and Kennedy who lip sync for the crown. And they're both strong queens! I'd say Trixie is a brilliant queen, even. But come on, sis. This finale is obviously the result of a system that favored the wrong things. It encouraged DeLa to drop out and let Shangela be cut for what seem like petty reasons.
The final lip sync is to Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball," and it's nothing to write home about. Neither of these girls projects the tear-soaked melodrama necessary to make this brilliant. But somebody's gotta win, so RuPaul chooses Trixie.
And it's CRAZY that I feel disappointed by Trixie's victory. Yet here we are. I'm going to wallow for a few days and hope that the world makes sense again soon.