Which Queens WANT IT On RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars?
Passion and commitment, darling. Serve them, and serve them well.
Despite being the shortest episode so far this season, this week's All Stars feels packed. Even better, it's loaded with performance and artistry-based business, and not a lot of emotional handwringing about who's leaving the competition. Toss in one of Michelle's all-time best pop culture references, and you've got me gagging for DAYS on this gig!
Wipe That Mirror, Gurl
After Tati's message gets wiped away, we hear from Ginger Minj, who is tired of being in the middle all the time. She wants feedback, she says, and she's apparently unaware that every time you say that on a reality competition show, your ass instantly goes into the bottom. Will that fate befall her? I CANNOT POSSIBLY GUESS.
We also get the first taste of Alyssa's episode-long mania, where she's running around the workroom saying goofy shit and grabbing people's wigs and telling people they're gila monsters.
She's created some kind of internal ranking system for people's awesomeness, and "gila monster" is in the middle. I think. It's a complex network of phrases and praises.
Phi Phi interviews that she thinks Alyssa is irritating, but I find her mess incredibly charming. She's crazy in a way that isn't out to hurt anyone -- like Cynthia Lee Fontaine or Yara Sofia -- and a solid number of her jokes are actually funny. Watching Phi Phi complain, I wonder if she just never hangs out with theatre people. Because theatre people -- including myself -- are all like this at one point or another. You just get to a point in every party or meal or sidewalk conversation where somebody launches into miscellaneous hollering.
Speaking of: I love how, for both of her seasons, the producers keep showing Katya's interview outtakes. Watching her give meta-commentary on the stuff she's just said is really enjoyable, like when she complains about doing "back in the workroom" quotes until the producers tell her that hers are really good. Then she gets knowingly perky, and it's tasty. Katya says later in this episode that she feels much more relaxed and confident than she did in Season 7, and you can tell.
...No Janet Reno?
Another episode without a mini-challenge! But that's because it's time for a full-on lip sync performance, and those take time to prepare. The ladies are tackling iconic women in HERstory, with each queen lip syncing to a short song that's part of an overall pageant of dancing and performing.
The girls are given outfits, but it seems like they provide their own wigs and can maybe spruce up the clothes as they see fit. This immediately becomes an issue for Katya, who is cast as Princess Di. She's worried about the frumpy wedding gown and cuts off the super-long train, even though that's arguably the most memorable thing about Di's dress. That said: I get it. Because it's hard enough to dance and be funny in granny's frock. It's even worse when there's a forty-foot train. (Skipping ahead: Katya eventually gets critiqued for making her Di seem too somber. BUT PRINCESS DI IS A SOMBER FIGURE IN HISTORY. About one second after her wedding day, we were bombarded with stories about her various miseries and eating disorders, and then she tragically died in a way that made Elton John really sad. What's a drag queen to do?)
Anyway, Alaska gets Eve (the Biblical woman, not the rapper); Phi Phi gets Helen of Troy; Ginger gets Catherine the Great; Detox gets Marie Antoinette, Alyssa gets Annie Oakley; and Roxxxy gets Evita. I really wish there had been one super-random one, like the recently deceased (and decidedly unlamented) Phyllis Schlafly.
During rehearsal, we meet super-cute choreographers Ant and Ash...
...who take the girls through the usual anxieties about dancing and acting and not screwing up. Ginger, to her credit, commits 100%.
Back In The Workroom
Back in the workroom, they hit us AGAIN with this narrative about Phi Phi trying (and failing) to be less bitchy. Just like last week, she goes around making mean comments and pretending they're said with sisterly concern. OKAY, HO.
More interesting is Phi Phi's frank discussion of how terrible people were to her after her original season. It seems clear that the vicious threats she received really wore her down, and I admire her for coming back with a new take on drag instead of just leaving the profession. I'm also impressed that Detox admits her role in trolling Phi Phi at the time. They seem to have made up now. That's one of my favorite things about All Stars: all of these girls are seasoned, so they can put things behind them.
Perform It, Ladies
The performance segment is really fun to watch, and the individual songs -- which are performed by session singers -- are pretty good!
Ginger does a great, campy Catherine the Great, complete with sexual attraction to a hobby horse:
Alyssa nails her Annie Oakley number, which is about killing men in bed with her gun (read: secret penis). Every time we hear a gunshot, Alyssa bounces her butt or thrusts her crotch at the Pit Crew boy who's tied up on a chair in front of her. It's aggressive and playful all at once.
As Eve, Alaska's asked to channel Britney Spears's "I'm A Slave 4 U" performance from the VMAs, where she carried that snake around. The song is a total Britney knockoff, too, but it works.
And I've gotta give kudos to Detox for putting a neon spin on her Marie Antoinette look:
Katya's Lady Di does get lost, but I've already explained my thoughts on that. I'm also underwhelmed by Roxxxy's Evita, since she doesn't seem present in the performance.
Stomp The Runway
The runway category is "the future of drag," with designer Jeremy Scott on hand as a guest judge. Before the girls come out, I notice that Michelle is looking especially delicious tonight.
And then we get to the girls, including yet another brilliant look from Detox...
...who is serving us The Fifth Element and then some. She starts in a blonde wig, then pulls it off to reveal that silver bald cap, and I come to life. Then there's Phi Phi, who finally gets to show the cosplay persona she's developed in the last few years...
...and I'm very impressed! I'm less taken with Ginger's cheap-o look...
...and with Katya's "mom of the future," which feels like a joke that doesn't work.
Judging And Kvetching
These sections are worth watching this week. For one thing, Jeremy Scott is a charming judge who isn't afraid to differ from the others. He likes Ginger's look, for instance, and says it evokes Miss Piggy in Muppets In Space. The BEST EVER, though, is when Carson astutely compares Roxxxy's look to a sad knockoff of Whitney Houston's "Queen Of The Night" outfit in The Bodyguard.
Michelle responds by saying we should all buy The Bodyguard soundtrack and listen to track 9. Which is the track that Michelle herself sings. It must've been hard being one of the non-Whitney artists on that album, but at least Michelle's song got a music video. It's also good to remember that between this song and her big hit with Seduction, Michelle really did have a pop career for a while. Never forget that she is the Paula Abdul of this show, but with less rambling!
Alyssa and Detox are named the top two, with Ginger and Katya in the bottom. During the kvetching section, Alyssa breaks from the "just follow the judges" script and says she's looking for the queen with the fire to keep competing. It seems like that's Ginger, since Katya gets really sad about het critique. But to her credit, Alyssa says she also sees a fight in Katya...so basically, Alyssa is your sweet, crazy aunt who sees the best in everyone and, like, rubs crystals on herself to heal her ragweed allergy.
Lip Sync For Your Life
The lip sync sends me to paradise because the song is "Tell It to My Heart" by Taylor Dayne. Y'all, Taylor Dayne is an underrated legend of dance-diva pop. Her first ten singles create a flawless playlist of hot beats, soaring ballads, and inspirational key changes. I love every one of those songs, and I heard most of them live in the late '90s when I saw Dayne perform on a floating stage in the middle of the Tennessee River. This was for an annual Chattanooga music festival called Riverbend, and I'll never forget my friends and I screaming "Tay Tay!" over and over. She especially tore the roof off on "With Every Beat Of My Heart."
ANYWAY: Alyssa and Detox both do fine tribute to Ms. Dayne, and as Detox notes, SHE doesn't have to change her outfit to deliver. But Alyssa, despite being in new clothes, pulls out her trained dances moves to get the win.
And when she sends Ginger home, I'm a little surprised, since Ginger seemed to have that "fire" Alyssa was looking for. But Katya's my boo, so I'm glad she'll be back next week!
Most Watchable Moment
Detox on the runway. Specifically, Detox snatching herself bald on the runway.