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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

RuPaul's Drag Race: “All Star Girl Groups”

Illustration for article titled RuPaul's Drag Race: “All Star Girl Groups”
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Leave it to the magic of girl groups to course correct RuPaul’s Drag Race after last week’s sad trek into desperation, because this week’s episode delivers on nearly every level. Remember how I said that I wish the show would just revive the challenges that we know and love? It’s like the drag gods are actually listening, because this episode begins with some good old reading, but with a new cheerleading twist. The girls have to read the other teams through cheerleading routines, and while it’s not the most fundamental reading challenge, we do get one fantastic read courtesy of Yarlexis who tell a knock-knock joke that ends on “Shannel who?” It’s funny because Shannel is a hot fuckin’ wreck in her cheerleader look. She looks like one of the fake girls in White Chicks after a night of hard drugs and tossing tricks in the back of an ’87 Grand Marquis. Jujubee puts it best: “Shannel, what is wrong with your face? You are painting for the blind.”


Shannel is a target at the top of the episode, coming under fire for saying Yara was carrying Alexis when Chad is carrying her. Seeing Shannel next to Chad at the mini-challenge, it’s clear which queen really has her shit down. And that queen will continue to carry her team, along with the help of an unlikely ally. The challenge this week is to style and choreograph a girl group number to one of RuPaul’s songs, joined by a different celebrity child as the third member. In an inspired move, the queens pick a song and get the guest attached to that track: Yarlexis picks “Cover Girl” and gets Drag Race favorite Kelly Osbourne; Shad chooses “Glamazon” with Vanessa Williams’ daughter Jillian Hervey; and Rujubee grabs “Jealous Of My Boogie,” teaming them with Pia Zadora’s kid Kady Z because this show couldn’t afford a Kardashian.

At first, it seems like Shannel’s inferiority complex is going to ruin her group as she seizes control in an effort to be seen as more of a threat. Jillian and Chad are both dancers, so Shannel really just needs to stay and the background and have her partners do most of the planning, but she wants to remain relevant throughout the competition. Chad won’t put up with that though, and when RuPaul comes around, Chad makes sure to let Ru know that Shannel has been very assertive so that her partner can check herself. Chad knows how to get a bitch in line, and that’s by going to the queen bitch and making any shenanigans known. When they get in rehearsal, Shannel still has her anxieties, but she’s not trying to hijack the performance anymore. Chad and Shannel really have a family dynamic, always ready to support each other but also very easy to irritate each other. They welcome Jillian into their tight little circle and really take advantage of her skills, structuring the choreography around their dancer partner while dragging her out to maximum ferocity.

Teamed with Kelly Osbourne, Yarlexis should really have more of an advantage, but Alexis’ high school girl insecurity has the group spending more time talking about how hard it is to have an accent (yeah, Kelly, your life is so hard) rather than creating strong choreography. Alexis is now making the story about how the other queens don’t think Yarlexis can be the All Stars winners because of their accents. She brings all the attention to the team’s otherness to avoid the bigger reason, which is that Yara has been carrying her for most of the competition. And everyone’s talk about how Yara’s strength doesn’t just get into Alexis’ head, it gets into Yara’s. She sees herself as the leader of this group, and in rehearsal she decides to change the dance however she sees fit, because in her mind, rehearsal is the time to change everything rather than learn and refine what you already have.

Rujubee is saddled with the least invested of the three guests, and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with Kady, she just doesn’t seem like she wants to be there. After a rocky meeting with Ru, the girls get it together for rehearsal, but this team’s problem isn’t in the choreography or the styling, it’s in Kady’s reluctance to fully drag out. Kady doesn’t seem to realize that the entire point of drag is to go over the top, and she’s constantly checking in to make sure that her face is going to get buffed and softened. The queens are concerned with making sure their third “celebrity” member looks the way she wants, but they should be more concerned with making her look how the judges will expect.

On the runway, the three groups all bring it, but there’s one very clear winner: Shad’s Jillian-centric “Glamazon” routine. It’s a show-stopping number that is performed impeccably by the three, and while some of the judges have a problem with Shad putting the focus on Jillian, Mary Wilson applauds them for putting their strongest asset forward. (This is coming from a woman who sang back-up for Diana Ross in The Supremes.) Neither Yarlexis nor Rujubee come anywhere near Shad’s difficulty level in terms of choreography, but both teams perform with spirit. I’m just happy that after last week’s humiliation marathon, these queens are given the opportunity to do what they do best: lip sync like crazy. And nobody lip syncs quite like Jujubee, who attacks each word like a dog with a bone. Each team has their respective strengths and weaknesses—Yarlexis’ outfits are perfectly coordinated but their choreography is uninspired, Rujubee has the attitude down but Kady doesn’t seem to fit with her partners—and they both end up in the bottom.

While lip syncing to “Don’t Cha,” the Shemergency button is used for the very first time when Yara tags out Alexis to bring an extra shot of Puerto Rican spice to the stage. Unfortunately, that move cuts into whatever momentum Alexis has gathered, and the biggest fault with the Shemergency button is that the incoming queen has to start at ground zero while the competitor has already picked up speed and established a rapport with the judges. To really cement a win for herself, Raven strips down to her undergarments and does some writhing on the floor, keeping the judges focused on her the entire time. Yara’s move ends up costing her team the competition; the queen who was carrying the pair ends up dropping it.


Stray observations:

  • This week gives us a short look at the queens’ living arrangements, and it’s interesting how this show spends almost no time on the queens when they’re not in competition mode.
  • Mary Wilson gets such a kick when she hears Supremes lyrics used in regular conversation.
  • Rosie Perez is brilliant. Why isn’t she still a huge star?
  • This week on Untucked: It’s a relatively low drama installment as Katy is taken on a mini-guilt trip about her look, and a really sweet video from Jujubee’s boyfriend sparks conversation among the queens about the men they’ve found/are hoping to find in their lives. I want every .gif of Jujubee reacting to that video.
  • Judging by next week’s preview, it looks like the pair are getting split up, which is the best thing that could happen to the competition.
  • “One word: a legend.” Oh Chad, “a” still counts as a word.
  • “Jillian, I will smack dat ass for days! It reminded me of when I used to have sex with the light on.”
  • “Miss Jujubee, you give good mouth.”
  • Whenever I hear the name Pia Zadora, my mind immediately goes to this (at the 2:20 mark):