It's Merch Week On RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, But Will You Buy What The Queens Are Selling?
Mark Blankenship has his eye on a 'spilling tea' set.
Just when you think Drag Race has subverted, co-opted, or parodied every reality format in the world, they come along and do a Shark Tank episode. I guess the only thing left is a Top Chef challenge where the girls have to prepare a Tic Tac appetizer for a Bitch Fire challenge. Which I would watch and love, by the way.
When they're thrown into the "drag fish tank," the top six queens show some remarkable business savvy, which I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have seen in even the first All Stars season. These days, no A-list queen can avoid thinking about her brand, so let's see who really delivered Executive Realness.
Wipe That Mirror, Gurl
Perhaps you've read the bilious shade that Phi Phi O'Hara has been hurling at Drag Race, World of Wonder, and RuPaul herself since her elimination last week. She's just a victim of editing, she swears! And yet nobody made her pop off like a petulant child in that interview, did they?
But whatever. That queen is gone, and I've got no more fucks to give. Neither do any of the other girls, especially after they read Phi Phi's lipstick message: "I wanted to avoid hugs because of tears." Oh, so THAT'S how it went down in her mind. But no matter what she intended, she should be aware enough to realize that refusing to hug Alyssa would look like a snub. It's called social decorum, gurl. Let Hillary Clinton teach you about it sometime.
Whack Them Balls
It's the return of the mini-challenge! I love these segments because they're so random and raunchy and sloppy, and that brings me to this week's event: Butt-Butt Golf.
Yes, a bevy of mostly-naked men -- wearing nothing but branded underwear and animal heads -- steps out to form a mini-golf course. The girls are required to strap on a long, hanging phallus and use it to knock a ball between the men's legs and into a pink hole. Naturally.
But let's not sleep on the "golf drag" the girls are rocking. I love mini-challenge drag because the ladies haven't had a chance to shave or really do their makeup, and the results are even more disruptive of gender paradigms than usual. "Genderfuck," I believe the smart kids call it, but they won't let me sit with them, so I really don't know. (You say ONE thing to question the homoeroticism of the interrogation scenes in A Few Good Men, and those bitches shun your for life!)
In this corner we've got the Lollipop Golf Guild...
...and I think Alaska has actually drawn on her mustache, which is just wonderful. Then you've got this photo from the back of a folk-rock album...
...that I would buy RIGHT NOW. Honestly, I'm obsessed with this picture. Look at the stories they're telling! Katya is the cool lead singer whose home perm says she's about the art, not the scene. Alyssa is the firecracker guitar player that the press just LOVES, and Roxxxy is the bassist, whose thoughtful lyrics mean the smart girls love her best.
Oh, and how I love the actual game play! The entendres are doubled, and the sight of all those animal heads and grotesque strap-ons makes me feel like I'm watching the extended cable remake of Eyes Wide Shut.
Alaska ends up winning the challenge, which means she wins a free suit or something. But I'd say the bigger prize is making golf seem almost interesting.
Are You Buying This? How About THIS?
Immediately after the golf game, Ru tells the girls that this week they'll be creating branded merchandise (and accompanying commercials, of course). The top two girls with have their stuff manufactured and sold at next year's DragCon. It's almost like this whole episode is really about promoting DragCon. You might say Ru is the savviest marketer of all!
Anyway, as they're coming up with ideas, CNBC's Marcus Lemonis walks around giving them critiques. He loves Tatianna's concept for a "spilling tea" set, which you use whenever you want to have a literal beverage to accompany your shit talking. And you guys? I would buy that today. I'd buy four, in fact, and give three away as gifts. It's a brilliant idea, and even though Tatianna doesn't win the challenge, I won't be surprised if someone gets these tea sets on the market anyway.
Meanwhile, Marcus is unconvinced by Katya's decision to sell a body spray called Krisis Kontrol that supposedly has thorazine in it to help you calm down. He then gives Roxxxy some good advice, telling her that instead of wig glue, she should sell a DVD of wig-related tips and secrets.
As a sidebar, when Alaska sees Alyssa making an energy shot, she pretends to drink one and then launches into a fantastic Alyssa impression. It's a loving caricature and not a mean-spirited read, and I dig it.
Shooting The Spots
Carson and Michelle are on hand for the commercial shoots, and god forgive me, but I'm delighted with Detox's ad for her "talking trash" trash can. Every time you throw something away, the receptacle yells either a Detox catchphrase ("I've had it! Officially!") or a random, rude remark. But Detox's prototype is just a dollar-store trash can with some googly eyes on it, and to make it "talk" she actually has to move the lid herself. It's like watching a homeless woman's ventriloquist act.
Meanwhile, Alyssa is told she's not being energetic enough during the energy drink commercial, so she immediately cranks up the juice to dazzling showgirl effect.
The big takeaway, though, is Roxxxy's shoot. Homegirl tries to do her signature move where she pulls off one wig to reveal another, but this keeps happening...
To her enormous credit, though, Roxxxy doesn't have a meltdown about it. So maybe the editors aren't the only ones to blame if you seem like a jerk, n'est-ce pas?
Back On The Runway
Next we see the girls preparing for the runway stomp, where the category is, simply, "pants." As usual, this prep time is also an excuse for heart-to-hearts. The members of the erstwhile clique RoLaskaToxxx have a supportive conversation about how proud they are of each other for sharpening their individual gifts. It seems they've all realized that it's better to be sisters without being in an exclusive sisterhood.
After that, Katya talks about the value of true friends who can call you on your mess. "I just get really fearful of letting the quality of my shit deteriorate," she says, "And those ride-or-die friends are really good at holding you accountable to that." After a beat, Alaska, while looking at herself in the makeup mirror, says, "I don't see how you could deteriorate any further."
BWAHAHAHA! Everybody loves it. It's the perfect, just-among-squirrelfriends joke.
Stomp The Runway
RuPaul emerges looking gorgeous as always, and I'm particularly fond of that hair volume.
British talk show host Graham Norton, who is clever and droll, joins the panel, and then it's time for pants-pants-pants on the runway.
Overall, this is some wonderful stomping, which makes sense. If you're going to be a drag queen in pants, then you'd better make sure that outfit is off the damn chain. Otherwise, people are going to read you for putting on some Gap khakis like a trick-ass clown.
You know this is a strong top six when the weakest look comes from Roxxxy...
...who's fun and retro with her big hair and disco-friendly slacks. There's nothing wrong here, but once again, Roxxxy doesn't seem to be stretching very much.
Katya, on the other hand, is delivering what she calls "1980s, lesbian, literary agent, disinterested, pissed off, Ellen Barkin fantasy."
And that's really the only apt description of this flawless look. As RuPaul will say during the critique, the outfit is so wrong that it's right. She looks like a mall hooker, but with the attitude of a Bond villain. I love it.
Also rocking the '80s, Alyssa Edwards comes out with full Dynasty hair and fur:
And like Roxxxy's, this look is fine, if somewhat expected. I'd rate it slightly higher than Roxxxy's, just because of the tacky fur coat.
Then we get Detox, who has been destroying me on the runway every week. Her Thierry Mugler-inspired look is so simple, yet so chic. I'm gagging.
Next comes Alaska, who is just so...weird?
She looks almost like an All-American pin-up girl, but there's something a little bit off. Her suspenders are slightly askew and the fringe on those pants is just a little too big. And her overall attitude has Lil' Poundcake levels of aggression, which completes the bizarre effect. Which is all meant as a compliment, obviously. I love how hard this is to describe. Strangeness isn't easy to pull off.
Lastly, we get my favorite, hands down. Come through, Tatianna!
This is a perfect impersonation of T-Boz from TLC. I immediately know who Tati is supposed to be, and she nails both the side-to-side dance from the "Creep" video and the "traveling hitchhiker thumbs" from the "Waterfalls" video. (And of course her outfit is a play on "Creep" pajamas.) And it's even more satisfying because Tatianna has never done anything remotely like this before. Whereas Roxxxy is repeating herself (albeit at a very high level), Tati is throwing a total curveball. KEEP THAT IN MIND.
Show Those Spots
Happily, all the merchandise ads are pretty good. Katya proves Marcus Lemonis wrong by delivering a commercial that makes her conceptual body spray seem funny and necessary. Alaska, too, just kills it, with her ad for fashion tape that echoes '90s perfume spots. This is reminiscent of Red for Filth, which was her fake perfume in her original season, but it's not a retread. It's just further proof that Alaska works best when she's presenting perverted insanity like it's sexy and chic.
On the other hand, Tati's commercial isn't nearly as funny as her idea. It's fine, but next to the other girls, she's clearly missing some opportunities to be hilarious.
Judging And Kvetching
Not much to see this week. The judges are generally complimentary, but they do read Roxxxy's ad for overusing a joke about losing her wig. They also feel her outfit and set choices were drab and sad. Ultimately, Alaska and Katya are the winners -- meaning that their merch will be sold -- while Tatianna and Roxxxy are in the bottom. Many people note that we got this exact configuration in the Snatch Game. As ever, Todrick Hall is dead weight, but at least this time there's a voiceover about how he's assuming the lead role in Kinky Boots on Broadway. I bet he'll be good. He's just not great with off-the-cuff appearances.
The conferences among the top and bottom girls are the same old stuff as always, though I should note that RuPaul tells Alyssa her energy shot should be called Tongue Pop. That is true.
Lip Sync For Your Legacy
The lip sync this week is "Cherry Bomb" by the Runaways, and oh my GOD I love this song. Joan Jett's vocals are still getting me amped after all these years. Both girls bring it hard, but for me the winner is Katya, since Alaska uses an American flag a little too aggressively for my taste. During a lip sync, I'd rather focus on you and not a prop. And if you're using your own leg as a guitar, then I REALLY want to focus.
Ru disagrees with me, though, and hands Alaska the win, just like she did after the Snatch Game. Will Alaska send Tatianna home one more time?
Yep! To me, this is the wrong call, since Tati has shown more range and been more memorable this season. But while I don't think Roxxxy has the stuff to win, I do think she's had an incredible personality overhaul this season. I won't be sorry to see her compete for another week.
Most Watchable Moment
You've got to watch Alaska's commercial. Maybe twice.