RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Is A Total 'Bitchelor'
A Bachelor-themed improv challenge, a glorious runway, and a timeless lip sync create an all-time classic episode.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine decided to show his mother Drag Race for the first time, and he asked me which episode I thought was more likely to get her hooked. I suggested the Snatch Game installment with Ben DeLaCreme as Maggie Smith, but if he'd asked me today, I would've chosen this episode right here.
To begin, there's some GRADE-A SHADE. We jump right into that mess, with the girls reacting to the penis Thorgy drew on the mirror as part of her farewell message, along with an invitation for Shangela to suck said appendage. Shangela's unbothered, but Kennedy takes umbrage. And then Milk takes umbrage at THAT, tell Kennedy to simmer down and appreciate that Thorgy was just being her clownish self. "You're not a clown," Milk says. "Well, you look like a clown right now, but...."
OOPS! Milk then interviews that Kennedy doesn't have that All-Star shine. The not-so-subtle subtext, of course, is that Milk DOES have it, and she can't bear to be in the presence of anyone who's beneath her self-defined level of excellence. And as has already been discussed, Milk thinks everyone is beneath her, so it must be really hard for her to make it through the day. Poor thing. It's like she's Bobby Fischer playing Battle Chess on an Commodore 64 against his second-smartest cousin.
When Ben is asked to reveal her choice, she also pulls out a lipstick with Thorgy's name on it. When asked why she selected Thorgy, she hems and haws, and Shangela interviews that DeLa can't tell the truth because she's worried about her reputation. Whatever the reason, Imma need homegirl to own it. Bitch, you won. Again. Don't be a sore winner.
ANYWAY, Milk takes this opportunity to defend Thorgy and says that Stevie Nicks isn't current, which...therefore makes her unfunny? I don't quite follow the argument, but I'm not as smart as Milk, as I'm sure she'd be happy to tell me. For her part, Shangela praises herself for not throwing a cocktail in Milk's sassy face. (By the way: people keep calling her "Big And Milky", which is also her Twitter handle. However, I'm not using a sobriquet for a queen I dislike. You have to earn that familiarity, mama.)
Kennedy gets VERY offended by Milk's defense of Thorgy, since it's another way of saying Kennedy herself deserved the boot. "It seems like this divas' battle ain't over yet," Aja interviews, and you can practically see the producer holding up a cue card with that line on it. There are episode-long arcs to set up, people!
The next day, Trixie says, "Another day in the work room. You get up. You walk in. You step over the body of a dead friend, and you just move along." Tee-hee! Trixie's really got the jokes.
When Ru appears to announce this week's challenge, he's wearing a suit covered in purple squiggles. By "purple," I mean "three distinct shades of purple," and by "squiggles," I mean "stacked rows of jagged lines, like interlocking Tetris pieces in alternating hues." For Ru, it's a pretty modest outfit, because none of the purples are could be described as neon or "Grimace."
The challenge, Ru reveals, is an improv performance of Bachelor parody called, obviously, The Bitchelor. The "I" in "Bitchelor" has been replaced by an eggplant, which your kids will tell you is the emoji for dick.
(Don't believe me? Go ask them! It won't be uncomfortable at all.)
Each girl will be assigned a personality type and then improvise a variety of scenes alongside UnREAL star Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, who'll play their suitor. The girls will all have solo scenes with Jeffrey, but they'll also have two-on-one dating scenes where they must play off a fellow queen. In other words, this challenge requires the complex give-and-take of ensemble improv. The girls will need to push themselves to the forefront in order to make an impression, but sometimes they'll also need to step back and allow their partners to shine. If the girls neglect either side of this equation, the scene will feel off, and because they don't have a script to cue them when it's time to go big or go small; they'll have to rely on their internal senses of comedic rhythm and their ability to trust their acting partners. There's a reason people go to school for this, you know? Comedy is hard.
The pairs and personalities are as follows:
Kennedy, the party girl, will be paired with Aja, the super-needy girl who's so insecure it hurts.
Trixie, the fake bitch, will be paired with Milk, the psycho stalker.
Ben DeLaCreme, the cougar, will be paired with Bebe, the shy virgin who secretly wants the eggplant.
Shangela and ChiChi will be a polyamorous duo. ChiChi is the passive femme, and Shangela is the bossy, dominating power lesbian.
Finally, RuPaul reminds the girls that the first rule of improv is always saying yes. As an example, Ru asks, "Does this Klein Epstein & Parker suit make my ass look juicy?" All the girls scream, "YES!" And THAT is how you make product placement fun for everyone.
During prep time, Bebe says she's never done comedy, and then she intereviews, "I'm excited!" But she whispers it. Combined with her melodious Cameroonian accent and her interview outfit of a cowl-style hood topped with a fedora, this whisper is just the greatest damn thing. Bebe generally comes across as a wealthy but warm-hearted socialite who is just tickled pink to discover what it's like to scan her own Tylenol at a Walgreens self check-out station. How can anyone begrudge this glamorous gal her innocent fun?
I've heard grumblings that Bebe might be a plant, working as a member of the Eye in this season's Handmaid's Tale gimmick. I don't follow rumors or Reddit, but if this turns out to be true, it'll be brilliant. Also, no matter what, Bebe is still good. For instance, she decides to make her character a fresh-off-the-boat African princess, and as she's talking about this young woman, she gets so prim that she can't even bring herself to say the word "sex." It's adorable. DeLa, however, wonders if Bebe can do anything other than stand around being regal.
Meanwhile, Aja doesn't understand what "insecure" means. She plans to do a lot of crying and shrieking, which...isn't how a needy ho operates. However, I do love that for no apparent reason, she sing-songs the following phrases: "Rich fish. Religious fish. I-used-to-be-a-Christian-for-attention fish." As someone who grew up in the "don't you dare call it Xmas" south, I definitely know that girl.
Milk is certain she will be a brilliant stalker because she stalked her current boyfriend on MySpace before they got together.
ChiChi is Stressica Rabbit about her performance, since she doesn't have faith that she can embody a role. I feel for her and don't want to be superficial, but can we pause to agree that whatever work boy ChiChi has had, it was worth the money.
He's a fox!
But enough about THOSE boys. Now it's time for Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman to be the boy!
The Bitchelor starts with RuPaul, as the host, flirting with JBC and clearly wanting him. The scenography is perfect. I don't even watch The Bachelor (though I have watched all of UnREAL to date), and even I recognize that this set is correct. They're both standing in front of a mansion with a circular driveway and fancy shrubbery all around, and one by one, the girls crawl out of a limo to meet their beau.
The first girl up is Bebe, rocking an African headwrap and dropping rose petals all around her man. She refuses to look him in the eye and keeps getting on her hands and knees to genuflect in front of him. In her interviews (in character, as part of The Bitchelor), she makes allusions to his sure-to-be-big...you know. Her eyes say it all. She then tells JBC, "I'm still a virgin. I have a special flower." And he responds, "Well, maybe I can take a little sniff later." BWAHAHAHA! JBC has the improv gene!
So does DeLa, who destroys her entrance. Her cougar dress is hot pink, four sizes too small, forty inches too short, and overflowing with big fake boobs. Her wig is a soccer mom-meets-choppy-salon-cut disaster, and the cocktail she never puts down is sloshing everywhere. Her whisper-slurred come-on is, "I like to tuck a big boy in night-night." I've just renewed my subscription for another 51 issues.
The hits keep coming when Trixie rolls up as the fake bitch. She gets out talking on her phone, and seconds after thanking the taxi driver, she hisses to whoever's on the line that the taxi smelled like a barn. Then she sees JBC and says, "He's not even that good-looking. I have to go." But then it's all, "Hi, handsome! You're the dreamiest!" In the interview, her character says, "Some people might say I'm fake, but those people are alcoholics." Before she goes into the mansion, she tells Jeffrey he has a "sexy, Denzel, Gilbert Gottfried" kind of vibe, and as she exits, she says, "Bye Jason! Sorry...Jarrod!"
There's a lot to live up to after these three, but Milk doesn't get there. Her psycho stalker has exactly one level -- full-on freak-out -- and the judges will clock her for that later. Aja also falters with her weird, spoiled brat routine, which (again) doesn't read as needy.
But then comes Kennedy, who has interpreted her party girl as a hood rat with ginormous tits, a ginormous ass, and some janky teeth. Her accent suggests she's a reject from The Real Housewives Of A Dallas Strip Club Parking Lot. And given her love of partying, she naturally has a flask hiding in her brassiere. Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
That leaves us with Shangela and ChiChi's polyamory, which doesn't work. Shangela is fine, but she's overcompensating for ChiChi's awkward, unfunny performance. In a classic Drag Race mistake, ChiChi doesn't answer knowingly when JBC asks, "How's is your head?" The answer is always, "No complaints!" When will people learn?
Next we move to the dates. Michelle, who's on set as a director, tells the girls to stay in character, go with the flow, and avoid talking over each other. Ru and JBC flirt a little more, then Bebe and DeLa gather for snacks and a chat.
Bebe is funny enough, saying a man can't feed her chocolate-covered strawberries while she's wearing shoes. But the moment belongs to DeLa. She chews up a banana, spits it into her hand, and then sexily offers to feed it to JBC. "This is perfect for a widdle baby like you," she coos. Later, she puts that masticated mess back in her mouth and asks if Jeffrey remembers when she ate it before. Then she purrs, "Have you ever removed a catheter?"
It's around this time I realized I was watching a classic episode. So many of these queens are giving hilarious performances, and JBC is exceptional as their foil.
Speaking of: Trixie comes for our lives with her one-liners. She, Milk, and JBC are chatting outside the mansion, and she asks, "Is this your house? This is, like, the prettiest refurbished Cheesecake Factory mall kiosk I have ever been to." I love that joke because it skewers something in the culture I didn't even know I had noticed. Like: thanks for the rustic-looking walls, Olive Garden, but we know you didn't have them shipped over from Tuscany.
Sadly, Trixie's first joke is basically her last, because Milk will not stop dominating the scene. Trixie does her best, but she also tries not to interrupt, which leaves her getting visibly, silently irritated. But what is she supposed to do? If she'd tried to shout over Milk, the whole thing would've fallen apart. Trixie's professionalism is all that keeps the action moving.
Next up, Aja and Kennedy join JBC at a massage table. Aja is a total miss, just squealing and acting crazy. But KENNEDY?!?! Kennedy gets wasted and starts massaging JBC. Then she starts saying, "I'm hot," and pulling off her wig, her top, her pants. She ends up splayed out on the floor, half-naked, and mumbling, "I'm a man." It's so bizarre and so wonderful, and let's never stop thinking about it.
The faster we zip past Shangela and ChiChi's date the better. They're in a hot tub with JBC, and Shangela makes non-stop jokes to try to cover for ChiChi. Only one of them is worth repeating: when she looks at Jeffrey's crotch in the hot tub and says, "I ain't seen nothing that big and black in the water since I took you to Sea World!" Meanwhile, ChiChi eventually resorts to licking JBC's nipple. It makes me cringe.
The segment ends with an "eggplant ceremony," but instead of giving the eggplant to a queen, JBC gives it to RuPaul. He picks Ru up and carries him off the stage. Before they depart, we see someone's hand slide on screen to give RuPaul a naval officer's hat, which he puts on, Officer And A Gentleman-style, before being whisked away.
Back in the workroom, we learn that the runway theme is wigs-on-wigs, inspired by the iconic moment when Roxxxy Andrews was lip-syncing and pulled off one wig to reveal another wig underneath. It's not just any queen who inspires a theme!
We get a lot of talking heads from ChiChi about how she's lost her confidence and is now certain she's out of her depth. She doesn't want to go home, but she's worried that she should.
Shangela tells Milk that she expects her to be in the bottom, and Milk responds that she was the greatest. Shangela interviews that, frankly, she doesn't know how to respond to that kind of misplaced confidence. Over at HER makeup station, Kennedy is still mad at Milk for all the disrespect earlier in the episode. They even play that footage again, in case we forgot what happened twenty minutes ago. Plus, Kennedy felt she had a good relationship with Milk when they worked together on the road, so this makes Milk's disses even more hurtful.
Ru emerges in a gorgeous black and gold gown to introduce Michelle, Ross Mathews, and JBC with his UnREAL colleague Constance Zimmer.
DeLa kicks off the runway not only by revealing a long wig under her short wig, but also a long fringed skirt underneath her short black skirt. The judges ooh with high-pitched appreciation.
Bebe strolls out in a kimono and a pinned-up, Geisha-style headdress that is removed to reveal a long ponytail. Trixie Mattel DESTROYS the runway in a psychedelic paisley get-up with blonde bouffant that makes her look like Lady Bunny. She pulls off her cover-up to reveal a flirty, matching dress underneath, and the second wig is a super-short Twiggy cut.
Milk's giant orange wig is concealing a ponytail that's coming out of a hair-wrapped pencil cup. It lets her pull the ponytail to its full length, like she's pulling it out of her skull, but the illusion is somewhat ruined by the fact that we can clearly see the pencil cup peeking through the blonde locks.
Aja redeems her lackluster improv in an instant. She struts out in a puffy plastic anime costume with matching plastic wig, then pulls it off to reveal a neon yellow wig, then pulls THAT off to display a long purple hairdo. And the final look, with the purple wig, is spectacular. The judges will later say it's the best she's ever looked, and they're right.
Kennedy emerges in a beaded ballgown and numinous Afro wig, which conceals a cute pink bob. She then pops that off reveal a blonde pixie cut. It's very pageant, and that's fine by me.
ChiChi arrives in a slinky gown and Afro wig of her own, followed by a long black wig that recalls '70s-era Cher.
Shangela has turned herself into produce, in a dress and wig that look like the leaves on an unshucked ear of corn. The wraps come off to reveal a slinky brown dress with yellow accents, and the wig gives way to a bright green number with little pieces of popcorn in it. Constance Zimmer cracks, "GMO-no-she-betta-don't!," and that's in the running for runway comment of the season. The judges crack up over this comment for about thirty minutes, as do I.
Shangela and Bebe are deemed safe, and if you buy the theory about Bebe, she'll never be in danger of getting eliminated. (But then again, she really was a middle-of-the-pack performer this week.)
The tops are DeLa (again!), Kennedy (up from the bottom last week), and Trixie, who has finally had a great episode of Drag Race.
In the critiques, Michelle weirdly says she keeps waiting for DeLa to drop the ball, and is happily surprised she doesn't. Because RuPaul is always ready, she replies, "Those are really lovely words of encouragement." Seriously, Michelle! What's the tea?
That leaves Milk, Aja, and ChiChi on the bottom. The judges, as I said, do praise Aja's look, but that performance was too bad to be forgiven, I guess. Same for Milk and ChiChi. Milk gets an extra read for her pencil holder issues. ChiChi cries that she's letting everyone down.
Ultimately, all three girls are up for elimination, while Kennedy and DeLa are named the top two. In the workroom, Kennedy refuses to interview the bottom girls about why they should stay. In other words, she has already decided that Milk's hankty ass needs to go. THE WORM HAS TURNED, MISS 2%! Ben -- who has been in the top every week, MICHELLE -- does her regular shtick about hating this hard, hard decision.
The workroom gives Milk another opportunity to cluelessly praise herself. Shangela interviews, "I don't know how she's this delusional! Somebody put something in her cocktail! ...Cosby?" Nice one, gurl. Only a drag queen can make that joke. ChiChi serves up more self-loathing and basically begs to be sent home.
When the lip sync arrives, it joins the glorious challenge and exceptional runway as the third pillar of this episode's greatness. The song is Lorde's "Green Light," which is SUCH a good choice. It has quiet parts and loud parts, fast parts and slow parts, but more than anything, it has a heightened sense of theatricality. It is drag-nip.
DeLa interviews that she needs to play it straight, so she can demonstrate she can do more than comedy lip syncs, and she nails her intense, serious performance. The faces are fire and fury. The dance moves have a tinge of mania.
Kennedy, though, transcends us all. She begins in a floor-length black wrap held together by a jeweled clasp. She's wearing a voluminous brown wig and standing there like a lonely statue, all all faded elegance and Joan Crawford hauteur. Then she slowly, slowly undoes the wrap to reveal a glittering silver dress. This disrobing is so purposeful that it feels like a bomb dropping when the wrap hits the floor.
When the tempo picks up, the giant wig is pulled off to reveal a short bob, but Kennedy's face retains its gravitas. It's like she took her hair off because the emotions inside it were too heavy. And while DeLa does some furious dance moves, Kennedy just takes a few steps forward to make her point. Her near-stillness is mesmerizing. Plus, as my husband pointed out, she doesn't lip sync to the backing vocals like DeLa does. She only recreates the lead voice, because even though she's suffused with pain, she is still a star.
Seriously, y'all. This lip sync is a masterpiece. As is only just, Kennedy wins, and then she bounces Milk's ass on home. BYE BITCH.
And then, in the perfect end to a perfect episode, the "Handmaid moment" that interrupts Milk's goodbye speech inexplicably features Alaska and Chad dancing the wah-watusi. Because why the hell not?