The Snatch Game is typically cause for celebration on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but in an uncharacteristic move, Adore Delano refuses to party this week.

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I’d be O.K. with Adore ruining the episode with a disastrous performance in the challenge (and her potential choice of Jan Crouch could have been a huge trainwreck), but Adore leaving the competition after one episode because she can’t handle the judges’ criticism is an extremely disappointing development that leaves a cloud hanging over this entire episode. On the plus side, it makes for some damn good reality television, and while the disappointment of Adore’s departure is undeniable, it does raise the stakes for the other queens. The pool is smaller, meaning the probability of going home gets higher, but RuPaul is feeling that disappointment, too, which means the other queens have to try even harder to show her that they deserve to be in this competition. Ru may not be eliminating contestants this season, but she’s still picking the bottom three, and she wants to know that the remaining queens really want it.

Adore keeps repeating that she didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to come back, but this is All Stars. She’s already been through this once with no idea of what was in store, and she acts like she’s been put into a completely different show instead of the same competition she was in just a couple years ago. The rules are a little different this time around but the basics are still the same. The judges are harsh because the contestants are All Stars, but none of that is personal; the judges’ ultimate aim is to elevate the queens’ drag art, but Adore can’t help but view their critiques as an attack on her drag aesthetic. She repeats the word “aesthetic” many times in her separate conversations with Ru and Michelle, and she insists that the show is trying to put her back in a box that she thought she broke out by achieving success as a drag queen recording artist with a sloppy, grungy riot grrrl style.

There are so many problems with Adore’s attitude in this episode, and it’s hard to believe that this is the same scrappy queen who won our hearts in season 6. That Adore was hungry for fame and was willing to deal with the pressure of a reality TV competition to get it, but now that she has it, she doesn’t want to deal with the stress of being on Drag Race. Adore makes it sound like she’s doing her outcast fans a favor by following her heart in the name of her misunderstood aesthetic, but as an Adore fan myself, I would have much preferred to see her buck up, regain her confidence, and show the judges the merits of her specific drag style.

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Nobody wants to see their favorite queen back out of the competition without a fight, and while I’m sure Adore superfans will be supportive, they’re probably not thrilled that Adore took the coward’s way out. I don’t know the specifics of Adore’s personal life so I don’t know how her general mental health plays into her decision, but Adore’s intense reaction does suggest that she’s not emotionally equipped to handle the stress of this competition right now. While I wish her the best in whatever she’s dealing with, I also wish that she had spent more time self-reflecting before accepting the offer to return for All Stars; her spot could have gone to a queen that was ready for the challenge and dedicated to winning the crown, but instead that slot is wasted after one week (assuming Ru doesn’t throw a curveball with a new queen next week). Legacy is such an important idea this season, and Adore’s legacy on this series is tarnished by her choice in All Stars. She’s not the queen I thought she was, and that’s a bummer.

Snatch Game is always an event, but it’s also always a mixed bag, and tradition does not change with “All Stars Snatch Game.” There are obvious winners (Alaska’s Mae West, Katya’s Björk), middling but competent impersonations (Ginj’s Tammy Faye Bakker, Phi Phi’s Theresa Caputo), passionate but misguided caricatures (Alyssa’s Joan Crawford, Detox’s Nancy Grace), one really boring performance (Tatianna’s Ariana Grande), and one total mess (Roxxxy’s Alaska). Alaska and Katya completely dominate the game, and their impersonations are fully realized, clever, and effortless. Mae West and Björk are two brilliant choices that play to the strengths of the queens impersonating them, and Alaska embodies West’s cool, overt sexuality while Katya just gets as weird as possible with Björk.

Alaska’s performance is built on double entendres and explicit references to sex, Katya’s is built on dark comedy and occasional card chewing and bird noises, and their commitment to these roles never dips. Katya’s humor is random, but Alaska puts effort into setting up jokes, like her bit about the clinic with Jujubee that ends with Alaska telling Ru that she goes to the Santa Monica clinic because after 10 visits the next one is free. In terms of intelligence and wit, Alaska is the champion the Snatch Game, and her exceptional performance makes Roxxxy’s poor impersonation of Alaska all the more embarrassing.

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The editing tries to make Phi Phi’s Theresa Caputo look like a success, but it can’t help the fact that she’s not very funny. Ginj’s Tammy Faye Bakker is similarly dull, but she gives a much more relaxed performance that isn’t as needy as Phi Phi. As we already know, Phi Phi feels like she has a lot to prove, and after a terrible first go at the Snatch Game, she doesn’t want to repeat her past mistakes. She definitely does better this time around, but she doesn’t have the comedy chops of queens like Alaska and Katya so she tries extra hard to get on to their level. You can see the strain of that effort in Phi Phi’s performance, but at least she’s trying.

Alyssa’s Joan Crawford is a caricature of the Crawford caricature Faye Dunaway plays in Mommie Dearest, which pushes Alyssa’s performance into a realm of hyper-exaggeration that puts Ru in hysterics. It’s not a good impersonation, but it’s such a strange, loud interpretation that there’s nothing to do but laugh at it, especially when Alyssa is so committed to it. She fares best of the underwhelming bottom row, and even though Detox’s Nancy Grace is considerably better than Acid Betty’s impersonation (which sent her home), it’s still a grating, unfunny performance.

Detox lands in the bottom, but she’s saved by a stunning latex jumpsuit on the runway that guarantees her safety. The judges go easy on her and save the major critiques for Roxxxy and Tatianna, who both fall completely flat in the Snatch Game. Tatianna won the first Snatch Game with Britney Spears, and she tries to recapture that magic by playing a newer pop starlet, Ariana Grande. Unfortunately, Grande doesn’t provide Tatianna with the ample material that Spears does, and Tatianna isn’t prepared with a strong character for Grande. Tatianna has to make a bold choice if she’s going to make Grande memorable, and calling back to that doughnut fiasco doesn’t cut it.

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Tatianna at least has more going for her than Roxxxy in the Snatch Game. No one has ever impersonated another queen that is actually playing in the same Snatch Game, and it’s a huge mistake that is made even worse by Roxxxy’s abysmal performance. She does a horrible impression of Alaska while the real Alaska is just a few feet away giving everyone the exact version of her they want to see, and Alaska is clearly annoyed by this imposter who uses her persona for a last minute replacement. It would have been amazing if Alaska eliminated Roxxxy for that disrespect (the first time a queen eliminated a queen that played her in the Snatch Game!), but Roxxxy is saved by her runway look, which isn’t the most inventive, but has more drama than Tatianna’s latex minidress.

Roxxxy doesn’t deserve Alaska’s mercy this week, but the decision to send Tatiana home is fair given the combination of the Snatch Game and the runway. Despite Alaska’s insistence that personal bias doesn’t play into her decision, it’s impossible not to see the influence of Alaska’s friendships with Roxxxy and Detox on her choice, and even if she’s consciously trying to keep those relationships from motivating her, it’s hard to keep the elimination completely impersonal. The conflict of this episode’s elimination is exactly what the producers want from this new set-up: does Alaska send home one of the two queens that were close friends to her in her season, or does she send home the queen whose career would benefit most from continued exposure on All Stars? Alaska decides on the latter, and while it’s the safer choice, she’s earned the right to make it with her outstanding performance this week.

Alaska’s Mae West is wonderful, her runway look is chic and striking, and she gives a great lip sync for her legacy against the equally delightful Katya, who takes the runway in an adorable Esther Williams-inspired ensemble before changing into a bright spandex jumpsuit for the lip sync. Unlike Adore, Alaska and Katya aren’t caught up in the pressure of trying to succeed on All Stars, but they’re also a little older and more secure about their drag. They’re on the show for extra exposure and ideally $100,000, but they’re also enjoying themselves while they’re back and not letting the stress throw them off their game. Last week I said I was on the fence about the winners lip syncing, but this week shows the benefit of having two great performers get up on stage without the weight of elimination weighing them down. They get silly and playfully interact with each other, and when the music asks them to freak out, they freak out. Ru couldn’t have picked two better freaks for this song, and by the end of their lip sync, the disappointment of Adore’s exit feels like a distant memory.

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Stray observations

  • I have no idea what is going on with the cryptic revenge teasers with the eliminated queens. Each season brings a queen back, but how is All Stars going to twist that?
  • Anyone else want Katya and Alaska to go to their Cirque De Soleil Zumanity show together and fall in love and be together forever? I’m shipping them.
  • Thanks to everyone who clarified Adore’s “big dicks and fried chicken” shout-out last week. RuPaul repeats Jujubee’s classic catchphrase during her introduction on the Snatch Game!
  • Welcome back, Raven and Jujubee! Sorry you had to participate in the first All Stars!
  • Alyssa’s insane impersonation of Joan Crawford gives me the perfect opportunity to tell you all to listen to Karina Longworth’s amazing podcast You Must Remember This, which is currently in the middle of a six-part Joan Crawford series that explores the lives of Crawford and other major players in her Hollywood career. If you have any interest in Hollywood’s first century, I highly recommend listening to the entire back catalog of Longworth’s podcast.
  • Phi Phi is back playing mind games as she tries to psyche out Alyssa and Roxxxy about their Snatch Game picks, and she succeeds in getting Roxxxy to change her pick from Sofia Vergara to Alaska because of the potentially tricky accent. That almost sends Roxxxy home, so good strategy on Phi Phi’s part, even if it’s not really in line with her current redemption track.
  • Katya’s Björk has testicles in her hair. I love you, Katya.
  • If I was impersonating Ariana Grande on the Snatch Game, I would play her super sweet on the surface but make all her answers incredibly filthy. Like Lil’ Poundcake filthy.
  • Nobody knows the words to Alaska’s song “This Is My Hair.” Ginj corrects Roxxxy in a cutaway interview, but she gets the lyrics wrong too!
  • Ariana Grande’s favorite things? Nouns.
  • “When I’m good I’m good. But when I’m bad I get a serious venereal disease.”
  • “I love your suit. It reminds me of the lining of my small intestine.”
  • “You know, I’m black by injection.”
  • Alyssa: “This ain’t my first time…” Ru: “At the where?” Alyssa: “At the Snatch Game.”
  • Katya: “How many bones do I win?” Alaska: “How many bones do you want?”
  • “It’s like little league softball and she has no arms. Or legs. It’s sad.”
  • “She probed them with her tootsie-loo. Why don’t you come on up and fuck me in the ass sometime?”
  • “I am a sucker for the snatch!”
  • “You know where it is!” (Smacks latex crotch.)
  • “I have to say there is a part of me that is very intrigued and attracted and seduced by this new power! (Cackles.) But I will do the fair thing.”

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