“Family That Drags Together” is an emotional roller coaster. The makeover episodes are usually a lot of fun, but an influx of family drama gives this episode significantly more weight than past makeover challenges. Bringing in the remaining all stars’ female family members for makeovers is an inspired decision by RuPaul, but the timing doesn’t work out well for Alyssa and Detox, who are both mourning the anniversaries of their parents’ deaths. The pain is especially raw for Alyssa, who sees her sister, Tabatha, for the first time since their mother’s funeral one year ago, almost to the day.

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There have been many tearful moments in Drag Race’s seven-year herstory, but few have hit as hard as Alyssa and Tabatha’s first conversation on the couch. I don’t know how much of it is staged by producers who want to create powerful moments, but it doesn’t really matter. The outpouring of emotion when Alyssa and Tabatha get a moment to catch up is heartbreaking, and you can sense the tension between them when they first sit down and how it dissipates as they reconnect. The cutaway interviews with Alyssa reveal that she threw herself into her work after her mother’s death, cutting herself off from the rest of her family as a way of keeping herself from truly coping with the loss. Alyssa’s situation makes the petty squabbling of Drag Race feel childish and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and this makeover is the bonding moment Alyssa and Tabatha both need in order to heal.

Alyssa and her new drag sister Ava Edwards hit the runway on the anniversary of their mother’s death, so naturally their performance is dedicated to her memory. All of the queens have to perform vogue routines with their loved ones, and it can’t be easy getting into vogue mode when you’re fixated on your mother’s passing. There’s no way to avoid the sadness of this day, and while Alyssa is able to easily get into character and put a fierce face on, you can tell that Tabatha is having more difficulty getting into the spirit. On the plus side, she’s actually one of the stronger voguers among the guests (based on the very short footage shown), but it’s clear that this isn’t exactly the way Tabatha wanted to spend the anniversary. And I don’t fault her for that. She’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage in addition to that gigantic wig Alyssa puts on her head, and she may not be having as much fun as the other relatives, but she’s trying her best to be there for her brother.

The death of Detox’s father isn’t quite as recent (he became sick just before Detox went on Drag Race the first time), but the anniversary recently passed so it’s been weighing heavily on her mind. While Alyssa and Tabatha have a more strained relationship, Detox and Heather are best friends with a tight bond. Heather made Detox live with her during a particularly rough time in the queen’s past, and Heather is also Detox’s lawyer. The two talk a bit about their father, his difficulty accepting Detox’s lifestyle, and how grateful Detox was that his dad made amends before his death, even showing up at one of Detox’s shows. It’s a sensitive subject for Detox, but the emotion isn’t at the same level of intensity as Alyssa, who is going through it this week.

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Alyssa has her sister walk the runway wearing a dress that says, “Love never dies, but someday we all will.” The last thing I want at a drag show is a depressing reminder of my mortality, and while I was nervous about how this phrase was going to be incorporated in Ava Edwards’ runway look, it actually ends up looking pretty good. Not as good as the Technicolor outfits Detox and D-Rama wear on the runway, though, and Heather is living in her new drag persona. I have the feeling that this isn’t the first time Heather has had her brother give her a drag makeover, and D-Rama has the best showing of all the family members in both aspects of the challenge. Her vogueing is on point, and she has the perfect attitude to sell her garment on the runway.

Detox ends up in the top this week, along with Katya, the only remaining queen not from season 5. Katya’s vogue with her mother, Pat (drag name: Svetlana Borisnova), is absolutely delightful (my favorite bit is when Katya fans Svetlana’s crotch), but it’s their runway walk that really wows the judges. With Katya as a “’70s Soviet Anna Karenina” and Svetlana as her “confused, bumbling babushka,” the two create memorable characters with a clearly defined, very funny relationship, and Pat deserves special recognition for the fullness of her character. She’s having a blast on that runway, and Katya feeds off that energy to make her personality even bigger and bitchier.

Roxxxy ends up in the bottom because at this point it’s her default position, but she also has the biggest challenge in making over her grandmother Sonia (whom Roxxxy refers to as mom because she raised her since she was three). Roxxxy just isn’t giving us anything new in the competition, and there’s no ambition in the looks she puts together for herself and Raquel Andrews. I get that the pantsuits are an homage to Madonna’s “Vogue” video, but it feels very easy, as do the leopard-themed ensembles they wear later. They don’t look bad and they’re playful and confident on the runway, but Roxxxy needs to aim higher if she’s going to get in the top.

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Alaska’s sobriety is mentioned for the first time this season when her mom, Pamela, brings it up in the workroom, and this piece of information provides valuable context for events later in the episode. Alaska says that she’s been focusing on the work rather than the after party, and when the work proves to be disappointing to the judges, she crashes hard. After so many weeks of being in the top and $30,000 already in her pocket, Alaska lets herself get comfortable instead of continuing to push herself to impress, and her looks for both herself and her drag relative, Hawaii, are very lazy.

There’s no excuse for Pamela to wear flip-flops on the runway during the vogue (at least put her in flats!), and her outfit is just an Alaska t-shirt with a frilly skirt wrapped around the waist. Alaska doesn’t put much more effort into her own look, and while the bit with the horse head is fun, it doesn’t make the fashion choices any more acceptable. The runway outfits aren’t that much better, and while Alaska and Hawaii look good together, the plain black and white gowns, hats, and boas don’t display the imagination the judges know Alaska has.

Alaska landing in the bottom is a big twist, and she doesn’t handle this development well at all. She throws a tantrum during deliberations, starting with tossing off her wig and loosening her dress as she loudly complains that drag hurts. She jokes to her mom earlier that she still cries to get what she wants, and that’s basically what happens back stage when she starts moaning about how badly she wants to get to the finale. She’s at the point where she’s willing to buy her place in the competition, and it’s not a good look. This sharp turn into desperation shows a very different side of Alaska than what we’ve seen in the competition thus far, and frankly it’s disheartening to see Alaska unravel so completely after one misstep. I understand that the stakes are incredibly high at this point, but Alaska handles herself very poorly.

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Katya once again loses the lip sync, and while she has a stronger handle on the lyrics of RuPaul’s “Step It Up,” the top of Detox’s bare ass outshines her. The booty reveal gets the judges fired up, and their energy gives Detox the boost she needs to score the win. I didn’t want to believe that last week’s elimination was influenced by the Rolaskatox dynamic, but it’s obvious that Detox’s friendship with Roxxxy is what keeps her safe again while Alyssa goes home. Detox also has a strong friendship with Alaska, but Alaska deserves to stay given her remarkable consistency up until this week. Roxxxy doesn’t have that track record, and it’s disappointing to see her get all the way to the finale when she’s regularly been in the bottom.

Katya is up against Rolaskatox in the finale, and although Alaska remains the frontrunner, I’m firmly #TeamKatya after tonight’s episode. Rolaskatox is like the big boss battle at the end of this drag queen game, and I want to see Katya emerge victorious. She hasn’t had any opportunities to send anyone home, but she’s made the fair choice every time she’s had to pick a lipstick, like choosing to eliminate Roxxxy instead of Tatianna last week. Katya’s premature departure in season 7 was one of the biggest upsets in Drag Race herstory, and I would love to see her bounce back from that to snatch the All Star crown.

Stray observations

  • What is it going to take to get Aubrey Plaza as a regular judge on Drag Race? I’m sure she’s busy with other projects, but maybe her love for this show is enough to convince her to block a few weeks off so she crawl on the runway and critique drag queens.
  • Was the rapid editing of the vogue performances due to time constraints or due to a lack of good footage to use? I’m going to guess both.
  • It’s a pity that someone changed the All Stars 2 Wikipedia page so it no longer says Roxxxy was “saved by a shirt.” Luckily I screen-capped it so let’s all laugh about it here.
  • Pat is great fun, but saying she deserves a Tony Award is a bit much.
  • Those awkward pauses during Katya and Alaska’s conversation are painful. They know that they are each other’s biggest competition and they are done being nice.
  • Tabatha is so sweet when Alyssa gets eliminated, and I love Alyssa’s attitude as she heads home. She’s so wonderful.
  • “I would want to get me out of the way if I was up against me. Luckily I am me.”
  • “There’s RuPaul!”
  • “If I end up in the bottom, it could be ‘RuPaul’s Best Friend Race,’ which means I go home. (Laughs, then is abruptly stone-faced.)” LaShauwn Beyond was only on two episodes, but she gave us so much.
  • Pat: “I feel like Katya. I looked in the mirror and went, ‘Ooh!’” Sonia: “You got scared?” Now we know where Roxxxy got her shadiness.
  • “This is the best day of my life, I’m killing myself tomorrow.”
  • “The pussy doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
  • “Does anyone still wear a hat?” I’m always down for a good Sondheim reference.
  • “Yodel-ay-hee-ho.”
  • “It was like a weird, like, birds of death nightmare that I never wanted to end.”
  • “I’m so glad he didn’t make me wear that.”

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