RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Brings Tears, Love, And Grief To Family Week
It's "drag up a civilian" week and, as usual, this collision of runway glamor and sweet, everyday people turns into a moving display of emotions. This show, y'all. I could drink of a case of it and still be on my feet.
Wipe That Mirror, Gurl
By now we know that seeds for each week's storylines are planted during the mirror wipe, so when Alaska interviews that the other girls probably want to eliminate her for winning four challenges, we should pay attention. We should also note her insistence that she didn't save Roxxxy merely out of allegiance to the RoLaskaTox clique. SHE SWEARS SHE DIDN'T. And when the clique gets threatened again at the end of this episode, we need to remember that, you guys!
But on the real? Alaska is too good for this phony baloney thing about saving Roxxxy because Roxxxy loaned her a shirt to wear on the runway. So what?!?! I saw a play with a friend this week, and I gave her a piece of gum. It's not like I expect her to pay my student loans for me now. (Although, Lisa, if you're reading this and would like to do that, let's talk.)
The "bitch loaned me a shirt" narrative is just the weakest part of a tiring fixation on this clique. It's the worst trait of Drag Race, really, that it will flog certain "conflicts" to death, even though the contestants themselves are always so interesting on their own. Let it go, y'all, and spend more time interviewing Katya's sweet mom!
She Ain't Hunty, She's My Mother
Speaking of Katya's mom: the civilians this season are the queens' sisters and mothers. The girls have to drag them up to look like members of their ladyboi families, and they're required to create two looks: one for a runway stomp and one for a vogue-off. If you're wondering what my dreams look like, this is a good place to start. (Along with a giant tub of chunky peanut butter that miraculously has no calories.)
The very best thing is how much these women love their brothers and sons. Season after season, we hear so much from the queens about how isolated or hurt or abandoned they have felt, and the show always tries to balance that pain with video greetings from biological family members or backstories about the healing force of drag families. This arguably provides the grand narrative of the entire series: you will feel like an outcast sometimes, but eventually, if you just keep living as yourself, you will find a tribe. Sometimes they'll be related to you, and sometimes they'll be a family you've chosen, but they will belong with you and you with them.
So this week, when the biological family members actually become the drag family members, that message is even more powerful and satisfying. (I'm reminded of the Drag U episode where Ru's own sisters were the students. That was amazing, too.)
In the midst of this family segment, there's an "eyebrow tutorial" from a makeup sponsor that you can totally skip, but let's not worry about that. Let's focus instead on the glorious ladies we meet!
Alyssa's Sister Tabitha: Though she seems "normal" next to the megawatt explosion of Alyssa's personality, Tabitha still comes across as a straight shooter who directly speaks her mind and fiercely loves her family.
It's startling to see Alyssa with her, because all the affectations -- the goofy language, the mouth pops, the chaotic charisma -- completely fall away, replaced by the quiet intimacy that comes with someone who knows you best. As with all the girls this week, I find this incredibly moving. It seems real in a way that reality television usually doesn't.
The big story here is that Alyssa and Tabitha's mother died exactly a year before the runway day, and rather than face the grief, Alyssa fled the scene and escaped into work. This is her first time seeing Tabitha since their mother's funeral, and when they both agree that their mother would've loved to be in drag with Alyssa, they both lose it. And then they're crying and I'm crying, and I'm feeling weirdly protective of all these people that I will never meet. I'm so glad nobody is mean to anyone when the family members are here. There's no shade this week. Just kindness and wigs.
Alaska's Mother Pam: Alaska's mom kicks ass from the moment she walks in the door.
When she joins the group, she points at RuPaul and yelps, "There's RuPaul!" Just like I would, frankly. Later, when she learns that her son has won four challenges, she says, "Oh, Justin!" and gives him a big hug.
And when was the last time you heard a queen's boy name on this show? But to her mom, Alaska will always be Justin. Alaska and Pam also frankly discuss Alaska's substance abuse both during and after his original season, and they both seem titanically grateful that she's clean and focused now. Her excitement about his winning four challenges isn't only about the prize money, you know?
Detox's Sister Heather: Hello family resemblance!
I'll bet Heather has been mistaken for Detox at least once. She's a lawyer, and she suggests she will sue anyone who tries to fuck with Detox's name or career. This apparently springs from her lifelong role as her little brother's protector: she was the one who pushed Detox to be out and proud. (I'm tearing up AGAIN.)
Not unlike Alyssa and Tabitha, Detox and Heather are also marking their grief: a week before this taping was the anniversary of their father's death. Just before he died, he tried to heal his broken relationship with Detox, and watching the siblings discuss it is just...whew. A lot.
Katya's Mother Pat: Momushka!
Katya jokes that she can't stand Pat, but that's totally not true. These two are adorable together, and Katya's mom seems like a sweetheart. She's proud to see that Katya is less consumed with anxiety this time around, and we mostly see them having fun. That's kind of a relief, given all the emotions in the workroom.
Roxxxy's Grandmother Sonia: Sonia is basically Roxxxy's mom, since she's the one who took Roxxxy in after Roxxxy's mother left her at a bus stop. (I'm assuming you remember that story from Season 5, and if you don't, rest assured they roll the clip this week.)
Sonia MADE HER OWN ROXXXY T-SHIRT. It is COVERED IN JEWELS. Please tell me what else you need to know.
The queens COME THROUGH with this vogue-off, y'all. The moves are sickening. The joy is palpable. Many of the outfits are making me gag.
Top marks go to Detox and D-Rama...
...because they look exactly the damn same. They also look like Judd sisters, and if Wynonna were to join them, I'd pass out.
Alaska and Hawaii may not be to your taste...
...especially given the conceptual horse head, but I'm not mad at it.
Alyssa and Ava are a bit much for my eyes...
...while Roxxxy and Raquel's executive realness wins me over the more I look at it.
Finally, Katya and Svetlana are just as cute as I want them to be.
Stomp The Runway
After that, we get another parade of looks. For me, the most interesting are Alaska and Hawaii...
...because I find the dresses really pretty, and Katya and Svetlana...
...who do this funny bit where Katya's the prostitute and Svetlana's her clueless peasant mother. It's charming as hell.
Judging And Kvetching
Joined by guest Aubrey Plaza, the judges pretty much love everyone, with Katya and Detox named the top two. Alaska is the only one who gets seriously read, since she sent Hawaii down the runway in flip-flops. I don't think it's the worst sin in the world, but somebody's gotta be in the bottom. (Alyssa and Roxxxy are also up for elimination.)
During the kvetching round, Alaska totally loses it, pitching a ludicrous, screaming fit. I suspect a lot of it is just for show, but who knows? It's interesting that when she's upset, Alaska drops that affected vocal fry and talks like a regular person.
Naturally, there's a lot of sturm and drang about whether Detox will send a clique sister home. I'd tell you to skip all this mess, but Alaska's breakdown is interesting to watch.
Lip Sync For Your Legacy
This week's lip sync is RuPaul's own "Step It Up," which is less of a song than a chant over a beat. But that chant involves the phrase "Step that pussy up," so I'm not complaining.
Detox wins, of course, because Katya's choice won't potentially ruin RoLaskaTox forever.
And cliques can't be stopped, since Detox sends Alyssa home. I'm glad RuPaul chooses the ultimate winner, or else Roxxxy might take the whole damn thing just because her friends won't face facts.
Most Watchable Moment
You've got to watch Alyssa and her sister. Bring a tissue!