RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Kicks Things Off With A Talent Show
Because flawless drag is just assumed. This is All Stars. What else can you do?
You guys! ...And squirrels! RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race is back! And that's the order of the words in the title, which I think is not the same as the last All-Star season. I know it's not the words my Tivo was expecting to see. On the other hand, this season is being aired on both Logo and VH1, which is very exciting news if your VH1 has an HD option, since Logo does not.
You might notice that I'm not Mark Blankenship, but I'm only here for one episode. What are my qualifications? Well, the night this episode airs, I am out at a hilariously filthy staged reading of the movie The Craft, full of actual drag queens. So there's that. Also, I've seen every episode of this show and I love it with all my heart.
Bring On The Queens
Well, obviously you have to watch this part, because it's where everyone makes her grand entrance and also repeats her catchphrases nine or ten times. The important thing is to establish a brand and then hammer it home.
Katya is fairly recent. You remember her, right? Russian? Would like to win? That's about it.
Detox looks, if anything, even less human than before. Detox gets special recognition for having come up with a special look for the talking-head interviews:
It's not everyone with the strength of will to look even weirder out of drag.
Alyssa Edwards does that tongue-click thing twice in her first thirty seconds, and then three more times in her video package. It's very nearly a parody of the very concept of catchphrases, except that I'm not sure it's on purpose.
Phi Phi O'Hara is dressed as a villain to show people how she's actually not a villain. She's nice, you guys! Just because all she's remembered for is being a jerk to the immensely talented Sharon Needles is no reason to hate her on social media!
Ginger Minj is also here.
Roxxxy Andrews has lost some weight, which is a little awkward because she needs to say "thick and juicy" a lot. That's not going to stop her. I promise her eyes aren't closed in this picture. She just has so much stuff going on around them that light can't escape.
Remember that "feud" Coco Montrese had with Alyssa Andrews during their season? And how they wouldn't shut up about it while at the same time not saying what they were feuding about? They claim to be over it. They claim it a lot, because there's no point leaving oxygen in the room when you could be using it to talk about yourself.
Alaska goes straight into "Hieeeeee" and will absolutely not stop talking in that ridiculous faux-stoned voice. Or possible actually-stoned voice. Her being here means that all of "RoLaskaTox" is here, if that's important to you.
Tatianna is from Season 2, which is why you don't remember her. Although she lasted longer than Pandora Boxx, so you really have no excuse. I think she's one of the few that hasn't been on tour with the other queens, so everyone acts like she's a complete mystery to them. Her catchphrase is "Thank you," which is good because many drag queens are not known for their politeness. There's a lot of talk about how drag has changed since her season. It was six years ago, people; it's not like Tatianna was in Paris Is Burning.
Oh, and hey! It's Adore Delano, who I totally came around on after her season. I'm a big fan now, and I don't see why everyone has to look glamorous all the time. She claims to be aiming for "messy slut couture," which is totally a thing.
Reading Is ALREADY Fundamental
That's right, the library is open in the first episode of the season. Why wait around? Everybody knows each other and we've seen all of the queens before. But before we start getting mean, RuPaul introduces the ground rules.
Tonight's special guest judge is Raven-Symoné, which RuPaul pronounces as though there were a tilde over the "n", so it's sort of "Raven Sih-moan-yay". Raven-Symoné will agree with that pronunciation later in the episode, but a quick YouTube search shows that really she pronounces it the same way everybody else does. Also, and probably more importantly to the show, the end-of-episode lip syncing will be done by the TOP two queens, rather than the BOTTOM two. This is huge, because it means that the best queens get to perform more often. There are also obscure hints that RuPaul won't be eliminating people, but don't get too excited.
The reading is mostly really good. You can't go wrong with "Obviously a diet consisting of nothing but hatred for Jinkx Monsoon does a body good." There's some shade thrown in the direction of people's terrible dance tracks, but not nearly enough.
The winner is Alaska, who is one of several genuinely funny people up there.
Screwing Around In The Workroom
This is what the show is really about, when the queens are supposed to be getting ready for the challenge but are really just sitting around bullshitting with each other. Adore pulls out a David Cassidy reference, which is not entirely on-theme for her.
Phi Phi and Roxxxy are mostly here to rehabilitate their images, although Roxxxy takes some time to be clear that she definitely said all those mean things to Jinkx Monsoon, whom she now describes as very smart and funny. Katya, on the other hand, is explicitly here to win, explaining that she's here to show the world that she's turned into a monster. In general, everyone shows a very refreshing awareness of what kind of show this is. They're never entirely out of character (especially Alaska, who will NOT drop that voice), but they're pretty relaxed about it.
The big challenge tonight is a "talent show," which should be easy for everyone. They're all drag headliners, so they all have acts. Right? Let's find out!
Adore can legitimately sing, as you might remember from when she was on American Idol. This is a fine smoky cabaret-style number.
Alyssa's talent is "variety," and I believe she's employed juggling and stilt-walking in the past. This time, she starts out with some terrifying ventriloquism and then starts lip-syncing to her own voice.
Coco dances. Sort of. There's a lot of awkward hat work, like she's had Bob Fosse described to her but has never seen any for herself.
Detox's act is described as "singing," but all we hear is pre-recorded autotuned vocals while she hits drums covered in glow-in-the-dark paint.
Ginger also sings.
Katya's alleged "gymnastics" consist of a handstand, a cartwheel, some splits, and a lot of walking around. It's probably not fair to judge this right after the Olympics.
Phi Phi's thing is described as "a cappella," and you'll notice that actual singers like Adore and Ginger like to have music to sing along to. Phi Phi ends up just doing a lot of melisma. It's weird how flat you can be when you only have to be in tune with yourself.
Roxxxy does burlesque, which involves a fan dance that reveals a lot more than the traditional version. But Raven-Symoné is absolutely in love with it.
Alaska is yet another singer, but she's more interested in being funny than in singing. Which is a good instinct, because the actual goal is always to entertain the audience, rather than just to impress them.
Tatianna's talent is "spoken word," which is something you'd think all the queens could do. If you like spoken word poetry, it's fine. It's about how she has the "same parts" as a guy who's attracted to her. It's exactly as subtle as RuPaul likes things to be, which is to say that it is not at all subtle.
The permanent judges this year are RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, and Todrick Hall. The guest judge, as previously established, is Raven-Symoné, who I now think is just being a good sport about Ru making fun of the accent over the "e" in her name.
The big twist is that after the top two finish their lip sync, the winner will select someone from the bottom and eliminate them. And the winner of each episode also gets $10,000, so there's an incentive to keep trying.
Alyssa, Detox, and Katya are safe, but they don't get to go hang out in a branded lounge during the judging. Adore is in the bottom because Michelle Visage is absolutely not having a messy drag queen. The judging is kind of all over the place, but since the judges are no longer in charge of eliminations, it doesn't matter that much.
Eventually, the decision is that Roxxxy and Tatianna are the top two, so they'll be lip syncing. The bottom three are Adore, Coco, and Phi Phi. I suppose I should note that the top two were acts I did not care for, so apparently I don't have the same taste level as Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley. I'll try to carry on despite the shame.
Back To The Workroom
Oof. There now follows a scene where all the queens are back in the workroom freaking out about how eliminations are working this season. Look, I agree that it's rough, but at least this isn't another team-based season. The general consensus is that whoever wins each week should eliminate based on who did worst that week, although I'm guessing everyone knows that it's going to get more "strategic" later on.
Coco interviews each of the bottom three, but Tatianna claims to have a plan already. This is a bunch of sincere emotion, so I don't like it. I do enjoy Adore pointing out that Michelle is always arguing with her when they're on the road. I don't agree with Michelle's narrow idea of what a drag aesthetic is supposed to be. You would not BELIEVE how sloppy the reading of The Craft is going to be. Silly String EVERYWHERE.
Lip-Sync For Your...Legacy?
Since this isn't for elimination, it's not being called "Lip Sync For Your Life." And that's a shame. On the other hand, it looks like someone got a budget increase, because they're performing to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." That's a song that was a huge hit in this century! It sets a very high bar for the season, and I hope they don't follow it up with a bunch of public-domain songs to save money. Although I guess I would probably enjoy seeing drag queen lip-sync to KidzBop or something.
The actual lip-syncing is...fine. It's okay. They're both fine. I think Roxxxy is underplaying it a bit, but it's very close.
Roxxxy Andrews is the winner of $10,000...and the power to decide which of Adore Delano, Coco Montrese, or Phi Phi O'Hara is going home. I'd make a prediction, but you'll notice that both Roxxxy and Tatianna are in the top despite my not enjoying their talent show performances, and Roxxxy has just won in spite of my liking Tatianna more. I'm starting to think that the judges aren't listening to me.
So Who's Going Home Already?
Coco Montrese is going home, that's who. She didn't get to much this season, but at least we won't have to hear any more about how she and Alyssa might or might not be feuding.
Most Watchable Moment
Every time Alyssa is shocked by something, which is about every two minutes.