There's Plenty Of Horseplay In A Warhol-Themed Week On RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars
Which queens are Studio 54-to-the-floor, and which ones are disco-no-she-betta-don't?
It feels like a century since we've had a sewing challenge on any season of Drag Race, let alone this iteration of All Stars, so I was glad to see the gals pull out their needles and thread (and hot glue). When the challenges turn away from pure performance, other girls get a chance to shine, and as much as I'm rooting for Shangela and Ben, I'm ready for some different hos in the lip sync.
Speaking of hos, ChiChi is a true lady as she exits this season. Her lipstick message is upbeat and friendly, which is also how I'd describe ChiChi herself.
Oh! And before I forget: Commenters on last week's recap noted that Jessica Wild played Ru in the first-ever Snatch Game, which of course is true. I'd forgotten about that -- I mostly remember Jessica for the "acai" episode -- but it's nice to remember that back in the day, someone was able to play Ru in front of Ru and essentially make it work. Also, it's helpful to note that queens have played other queens since the Snatch Game's first days. It'll lessen my frustration when we inevitably get a Nicole Paige Brooks in Season 10.
To finish the intro, Shangela and Trixie bury the stiletto over last week's drama, and SPOILER: I'm really glad the end of the episode doesn't give their awkward dynamic another chance to assert itself.
Not that anything could be more assertive than RuPaul's Andy Warhol realness when he enters the workroom.
In a perfectly hideous wine-colored, thick-lapel suit paired with a dark blue turtleneck, Ru announces this week will be dedicated to Warhol, disco, and Pop Art. But we didn't really need him to spell that out. After all, he's also wearing aviator sunglasses and a white Warhol wig, which he doesn't remove for the rest of this scene. I guess that makes him RuHol? (Thank you. I am available for the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)
Ru also announces a mini-challenge, which we haven't had since episode one. Huzzoo! I love the minis, because they give the show a chance to be weird. You can afford a strange detour when you're only using a few minutes of airtime.
Case in point: Using a vintage-looking Polaroid, Ru takes pictures of the girls and the production team then turns them into Warhol-style, pop-art portraits. So...you know...imagine drag queens in the place of Marilyn Monroe. RuPaul notes that the portraits will be worth [long pause] pennies. Hee!
Even better, the girls only have 15 minutes to get into drag, which results in some brilliant genderfuck looks. The queens avoid putting shirts on, focusing only on their face and hair, and they merely cover their man-nipples with scarves or jackets or the flowing tresses of long wigs.
All of the girls look good when they get Warhol-ized, but Aja really takes it home. Her bright blue wig is styled (as she notes) to look like Dita Von Teese, and she matches it with bright red lipstick and eye makeup that features a mascara "teardrop" under the middle of both eyes. (Please note that she correctly references Dita Von Teese. She won't get another reference right for the rest of the evening.)
Aja wins the mini, taking home both $2000 and a year's worth of hamburgers from Hamburger Mary's. I'd like a year's worth of burgers, but like Aja, I live in New York, where Hamburger Mary's doesn't exist. Biiiiitch. They'd better deliver. And I don't care how far they have to come, my food had better be HOT.
For the main challenge, the girls have to make two looks from scratch for a Warhol Ball. The first involves decorating a person-sized, wearable soup can with something that reflects their drag identity. Which...okay? This is like the avant garde challenges on Project Runway, where the brief is so vague that it's hard to know how to judge success.
The second half of the ball is clear, though: The girls need to create disco queen couture that they'd wear to Studio 54. They (and we) are reminded that the club used to be so wild that Bianca Jagger once entered on a white horse. We see a photo of said entrance, and I'm reminded that this is the only reason I know Bianca Jagger's name. This stunt got a lot of play in the Behind The Music about Studio 54, is what I'm saying. And you know I watched every episode of that mess, including the subpar reboot from a few years ago, where all the subjects were still relevant and therefore unwilling to tell the truth. Except for Nicole Scherzinger, God bless her.
And now...for the soup! Just like she didn't know what "insecure" meant a few weeks ago, Aja doesn't seem to understand what soup means now. Or what her own personality is. She's making a "candy soup" because she's so sweet, and you can hear the entire world say, "REALLY BITCH?" I have been very impressed by Aja's redemption this season. She has a lot to offer in the fashion, dance, and charisma departments. But she still feels too unpolished to be a high-level competitor. Like...know thyself, hooker! Know thy persona! We'll get back to this topic, but let's keep it in our minds.
Meanwhile, Bebe gets super literal with her soup can, dedicating it to achu, an actual peanut soup that's quite popular in her native Cameroon. Naturally, the other queens think she's saying "achoo," like she's sneezing. Shangela says, "Shouldn't soup help a cold, not cause one?"
After this good-time fun at the global cafeteria, we see Aja and Trixie, who both know how to sew, helping Bebe and Shangela, respectively, who can't sew for shit. Shangela owns the fact that she couldn't sew in Seasons 2 and 3, and that despite taking lessons this time, she still can't figure it out. I'm endeared by her willingness to accept her incompetence. And she IS incompetent, y'all. She breaks a needle. She sews something together that's too small for her. But at least she laughs about it!
The next day, Aja is feeling herself like whoa, letting errrrbody know that she's gonna win this whole thing. "I'm impressed with her sewing skills and everything," Kennedy says. "But...she's too much."
Then we get back to everyone's favorite subject: How do you choose which girl to send home? GOOD JUMPING GOD. This topic has consumed at least 30 percent of the season. It's like Bryce talking about baseball stats, and by the way, I can't believe you went with him to a minor league game when you could have come with ME to see Ace of Base in that free concert series downtown.
On the runway, RuPaul comes out in a dress that looks shockingly like the one she wore last week, with shiny, wrapping-paper-style strips of fabric all over the place. I'll forgive her this, though, since she says Michelle is "a woman whose cans are definitely museum-worthy." Ross is on the panel, and so is actress Shay Mitchell. And also Tituss Burgess! "Have you had any good pinot noir lately?" Ru asks. "For breakfast," says Tituss. "And by 'pinot noir,' I mean black cock," Ru clarifies. "For breakfast," Tituss clarifies in return.
Then we get the cans, and honey, I don't know. They all seem fine to me? Because what the hell even is this? Aja gets clocked later for her "Sugar Tits" can, and while it's definitely not reflective of her drag persona, it's at least cute.
Shangela calls her soup "Halleloops," which makes sense. Oh, and did I mention all the queens walk to their own voice-overs, where they tell you what the soups are? This is important for Trixie's can, which is called "Pep/Abysmal." In her voice-over she says, "Just like my soup, I'm inspired by rainbows, little birdies, and the re-emerging dark recesses of a rocky childhood." Hahaha! THAT is the Trixie I'm here for.
Kennedy will eventually get read for playing a home-cookin' grandma in her can of "Pot Licka Juice," since that's apparently not the Kennedy aesthetic, but I think it's funny. Especially because the can says we can spoon our way to a "phat ass."
Bebe, on the other hand, will get all kinds of praise for her low-key, straightforward can of soup with a label that says we'll scream "Cameroooooon." I guess it's in keeping with her "restrained elegance" thing, but it's also boring to look at.
Finally, Ben is a miss for me for the first time this season. Her can is called "Cream De La Creme," and her voice-over is about how her "all-purpose soup" wins everything. It reads as arrogant in a way that isn't cute.
Then we get the horse. THE HORSE! For the Studio 54 portion of the challenge, all the girls enter by sitting on a fake white horse that's at the back of the runway. Most of them get helped to the ground by the pit crew, and it's just right.
The girls walk the runway while voice-over plays that was inspired by Andy Warhol's diaries. Meaning the girls are supposed to be making funny observations about their run-ins with celebrities. For most of them, it's a bit that doesn't work.
Aja's look totally works, though. At least for me. She'll get read for a wig that's too '60s, and I can see that. But I still like it.
Shangela gets correctly clocked for an ugly-ass outfit made of giant, spray-painted circles of cardboard. They're supposed to resemble gold records, I think, but they mostly look like the bottoms of hat boxes. The disc on her head covers most of her face, which we'll later hear was frustrating for Michelle.
Trixie's look is a pink velour jumpsuit with matching pink headband. I love it. I also love Kennedy's look: a green, glittery, velvety bathing suit with a cape-like thing hanging off her right arm.
Bebe's look is also glorious. Her blue dress is a miracle of fringe, matched with a cascade of blue necklaces and bracelets. And the hair serves Diana Ross in Mahogany. That will be important later.
Ben's look is a shiny orange bathing suit number, with a cute fur wrap. She'll get read later for sleepwalking through this week's challenge, but despite the soup-can failure, I don't agree. She's great here. If nothing else, she's the only one with a funny diary voice-over, letting us know how the Taco Bell chihuahua took her to Baby Jessica's party at the bottom of a well. HAHAHAHA. Girl, that's going to send us all to hell, but it's worth it.
During the critiques, when Aja's talking about her look, she mispronounces France Joli's name as "Frances Joe-lee", and when she says Brigitte Bardot was her hair inspiration, Ru points out that that's a '60s reference. This is what I was talking about before. Talent needs polish to really shine. Tituss tells Trixie she murdered the challenge, and everyone agrees. Bebe also gets universal praise. They make the top two, while Aja and Shangela land on the bottom.
Kennedy and Ben, therefore, are safe, and in the workroom, Ben says that, yes, she's exhausted after the psychic weight of selecting a loser for four consecutive weeks and zzzzzz. Aja cries and cries about being disappointed in herself, and when she chats with Bebe, it's clear that Bebe has already decided to send her home. Bebe doesn't let Aja say a word in her own defense and instead serves her a monologue about seeing the champion inside herself. It's like watching a CEO fire an intern that she likes, but whose botched coffee runs she can no longer excuse.
The lip sync is basically over before it begins, since the song is "The Boss" by Diana Ross. Bebe IS Diana Ross, y'all, so of course she slays it! But at the same time, let's not diminish her excellence simply because we expected it.
Not for nothing, but she also changes into a flowing caftan for this performance, which she can whip around for maximum effect.
I love that the girls are now giving us new looks for the lip sync, because it lets us see even more fashion.
Trixie is great too. Like Bebe, she opts for sincerity over camp, but with a few extra high kicks. Still, Bebe wins, which, as I alluded to before, means Trixie will not have to choose Shangela's fate in an ironic reversal of last week. Bebe naturally sends Aja home, and like a true diva, she cries so much about how she loves all the girls that she turns Aja's ouster into a Bebe moment. Aja comforts HER. It's clear Bebe has taken Drama Queens 101.
As Aja gives her exit interview, we finally get to the next phase of the Handmaid theme. After Chad and Alaska creep up on Aja, we cut to a scene back on the runway, where Chad and Alaska (still in their Handmaid garb) bring out three other girls, faces hidden, in robes and bonnets of their own.
In the "next week" teaser, we learn that we're going to see a girl group challenge. But will there be a rival group made of Handmaids? I can't wait to find out!