It’s been a heck of a bloody week for Drag Race, folks. RuPaul is always telling her queens that with great power comes great responsibility, but she apparently never took this advice herself. Earlier this week, she sent the internet into an uproar with some ill-thought-out comments about allowing trans contestants on the show, drawing condemnation from fans and many former contestants. A standard form Twitter apology followed, as Ru and her team entered damage control mode, but the incident highlighted how big a platform Ru and Drag Race have now that the show is fully mainstream.
What will it mean for the future? It’s too soon to tell, but one thing that’s certain is that the drama surrounding Drag Race this week might have just overshadowed the race itself, thanks to a fairly uninspired episode, and a totally expected elimination that leaves us with a top four that nobody would have predicted or necessarily wanted going into this season of All Stars. I don’t want to be too much of a Debbie Downer, because there was a lot of fun stuff that happened this week, so maybe we should talk about that first.
We kick off in the workroom after DeLa’s shock decision to walk away from the competition, as the queens have a debriefing session. BeBe Zahara, last week’s other winner, coyly refuses to pull her lipstick out and reveal who she would have eliminated, claiming she’s doing it to bring peace to the competition, and dripping with delight at all the attention she’s drawing to herself. “That’s Cersei Lannister, I see now,” says Shangela, who is apparently just naming random Game Of Thrones characters now. Tune in next week when Shangela compares Trixie Mattel to Lady Olenna after she bravely slayed Hot Pie at The Battle of the Snatched Raven!
Next up, we have a very special guest. There’s a great Drag Race tradition where RuPaul will invite major celebrities to the workroom to say hi to the queens, only to have them piss off again straight away, with no relevance whatsoever to the rest of the episode. Lisa Kudrow did it, Marc Jacobs did it, and tonight, Nancy Pelosi does it. The Democratic house minority leader waves to the queens, reminds them of how important it is to vote, then hightails it the hell outta there faster than Bill Clinton at an impeachment hearing (BARELY-TOPICAL POLITICAL HUMOUR!). It seems like she might be setting up some kind of Washington-themed challenge, but … nope, that’s literally it.
After that charmingly random interlude, we come crashing into the main challenge, where we’re reminded that (a) Morgan McMichaels is sadly not very good at Drag Race, and (b) RuPaul’s movie parodies are never as funny as RuPaul thinks. The queens will be performing in something called My Best Squirrelfriend’s Dragsmaids Wedding Trip, which combines Oscar-baity movies with a raunchy Amy Schumer-style comedy. It doesn’t really make any sense when you explain it like that, and after the challenge is done, it still doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense, but let’s just go with it.
Morgan, as the returning queen, gets to assign the parts, and essentially hands Shangela the win by giving her the role of a sassy pie-making rocket scientist called Actavia. (That sounds like something you’d take to balance out your gut bacteria, but maybe that’s the point? I don’t know, I’m like half a bottle of Absolute Raspberri deep and this episode is really confusing). Bebe is playing a Queen Elizabeth-esque monarch, because like I said, this challenge is really confusing. She claims she doesn’t understand why she’s been given a part that’s so aloof and imperious, and it may low-key be the funniest she’s been all season.
If Morgan had really wanted to mess with Shangela, she’d have given her the part of LaLa, a dancer who is, um, based on the Emma Watson character in LaLa Land. Instead, she gives the role to Kennedy, who is an actual dancer, and does fine with what is essentially a pretty boring role. Trixie gets to play a boozy broad based on Erin Brockovich (the references in this episode are really wild and all over the place), and she doesn’t really want the part at first, but once she realises how to make it funny, she walks all over the other queens and is easily the best performer in the challenge.
That leaves Morgan, who is playing a mostly-wordless ballet dancer based on Natalie Portman in Black Swan. She has the look down, but gives an iconically awful performance, lurching and pirouetting around the stage and hissing angrily at the queens because … that’s what swans do? “They only actually hiss,” she tells director Ross Mathews, determined to go full method in her portrayal of a water fowl. Look, Morgan is bad this week, but in a way that transcends bad and almost approaches high art, and honestly, I’ll probably remember her campy performance long after I’ve forgotten the rest of this fairly dull season.
As a bit of a sideline, one question I’ve always had about Drag Race is where the costumes come from. Morgan McMichaels’ Black Swan look, for example, is fairly polished, and we didn’t see her making it, so clearly she was told to bring it from home, or she was presented with it on the day. If it’s the former, then this character was clearly chosen for her well ahead of time, so the conceit of her ‘assigning’ the other queens their parts was clearly just for show, to make it seem there’s a bit of spontaneity in the challenges. Some day I would love to know what goes on behind the scenes and how exactly the queens know what looks to bring.
After that comes the runway, which is ‘red for filth’-themed, and the two best performers in the challenge continue to be the two best performers here. Trixie is decked out like some kind of sexy librarian, with a stack of books balanced on her head, in a look that I’ve decided to call Horton Hires A Ho, in honour of Dr Seuss. Shangela emerges in a spiked outfit that slowly inflates as she walks – she says that her main inspiration is an outfit that Lady Gaga once wore, but she’s clearly serving Finding Nemo puffer fish realness.
It’s very obvious that these two are going to win, and it’s very obvious that Morgan is going home – backstage after the runway, Shangela just straight-up tells Kennedy to her face that she’s not getting eliminated. The only surprising moment comes when Trixie compares Bebe’s look to Ornacia, and Bebe does not know what the hell she’s talking about – it is very, very on-brand that the aloof and imperious Bebe has never seen the television show RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it makes me like her more.
Back on the main stage, Shangela and Trixie lip sync to some RuPaul song that I assume is available on iTunes, and Shangie has it in the bag after she pulls off her muumuu to reveal a fat suit, then twerks herself into a frenzy. A fat suit’s kind of a cheap gag, but RuPaul shrieks with laughter, and that’s what counts at this point, so she wins the lip sync an sends Morgan packing. Bye, Morgan, it’s been real.
So here we are, with one week to go and a top four consisting of Shangela, Trixie, Bebe and Kennedy, who has officially become the Roxxxy Andrews of this season – she’s never going to win, and it’s safer to keep her around than a queen like Aja, who could have posed a real threat to the established order. There’s a moment this episode where Kennedy despairs that she’s never the queen that people want to see at meet-and-greet events, and that truly does suck, because Season 7 proved that she does have charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, so I hope she finds a bigger fanbase after this.
BenDeLaCreme may be gone after last week’s self-elimination, but her presence still lingers over the competition, and whoever wins next week – Shangela or Trixie, but probably Shangela – it’ll be a bit anticlimactic, as Ben definitely would have snatched the crown had she stuck around.
Maybe on rewatching, knowing what to expect, this relatively lacklustre season of All Stars will be a bit more enjoyable, but right now, it’s hard to shake the feeling that they should have waited a year or two longer to come up with some fresh ideas for challenges, and get a more diverse array of queens in the mix. Still, Season 10 kicks off in just under two weeks, with its new improved workroom that looks like it came straight out of the fever dream of a dying Liberace, and my hopes for the new queens remain high.
If you haven’t seen this week’s episode yet, you can keep up to date with All Stars 3 same-time as the U.S. over on Stan.