Let’s take a moment to honor esteemed queen and Drag Race royalty Latrice Royale. Heading into All Stars 4, Latrice’s name was one of if not the most exciting on the docket. Fan favorite isn’t strong enough; she is, as Valentina says, the Dearly Beloved. At the start of the season, the notion of Latrice being only the fourth queen out, of her being survived in the competition by not one, but two season 10 queens, would have been unthinkable. And yet here we are, and after “Jersey Justice,” while the elimination will undoubtedly be controversial, it feels earned. That’s a testament to the work put in by the remaining queens and a reflection of Latrice’s struggles this season, but more than anything, it’s a massive compliment to the writing and production team at Drag Race. The entirety of “Jersey Justice” is structured to get viewers to a place where Latrice going home feels not only reasonable, but perhaps inevitable. It’s no small task and the episode delivers, giving the season its most memorable installment yet.
The episode begins with the queens still reeling from the
Snatch Game. While they’re happy to be through it, their next maxi challenge, a
group improv challenge, is not all that different. The queens will split into three
teams and present cases on Jersey Justice,
a Jersey Shore-themed daytime court
show presided over by Michelle Visage. The queens choose their teams (Monét,
Monique, and Latrice; Manila and Naomi; Trinity and Valentina) and quickly get
to work. Monét’s all about the challenge, excited to dive into two familiar
genres, Monique is stoked to be working with Monét and Latrice, and while
Latrice is leery of Monét and Monique’s loud, interrupting style, she’s ready
to recover from Snatch Game and show what she can do.
Elsewhere, Naomi is geeking out over getting to work with
Manila, whom she’s looked up to since high school. Manila’s feeling very
confident with the challenge and while she’s supportive of Naomi, her talking
head understates just how well Naomi is doing this season. She may not have
cracked the top two yet, but Naomi has been top 3 every episode yet and never
dropped even as low as “safe.” There’s a Naomi winner narrative ready and
waiting, but once again this episode, it gets benched in favor of more dramatic
interpersonal drama. As for Trinity and Valentina, Valentina is still clearly a
bit thrown from the Snatch Game elimination drama and struggling with her character’s
voice. Trinity acts as her guide, helping her with her accent and character
work. At this point, the producers are keeping their options open. Yes, Latrice
could easily wind up in the bottom (foreshadowed by her lackluster engagement
with Monique and Monét in rehearsal), but Valentina could easily pull Trinity
down and put them in danger.
The episode dives right in with “Jersey Justice,” reveling
in the gaudy trappings of Jersey Justice
and Michelle Visage’s game turn as the judge. Manila and Naomi are up first and
they nail their scene. Their looks are great and they work well together,
leaving space for each other while staying entirely in character. Monique,
Latrice, and Monét are second, with Monique and Latrice starting and Monét
joining the scene partway through. Monique opens strong, but as the edit hinted
at in their rehearsal, Latrice is disconnected from the heightened, loud, and
trashy feel of the show and she does not respond well when challenged by
Monét enters and falls somewhere between Monique and
Latrice, fitting in more comfortably in the scene than Latrice, but not quite
matching Monique’s specificity. The scene devolves into a cake fight and later,
a make-out session, but even with Latrice’s slow start and a clear attempt by
the producers to sap energy from the scene via editing and talking heads, it’s
fun. Last up are Trinity and Valentina. After their workroom setup, it’s a
surprise when Valentina delivers a terrific, fully fleshed-out character and
Trinity gives a solid, but somewhat scattered performance. The strongest queens
in each sketch are Manila, Monique, and Valentina, but a case could easily be
made for Naomi being in the top as well. That leaves Monét, Latrice, and Trinity
in the bottom. For the first time this season, there is no clear loser, no
obvious queen to eliminate. Which means things are about to get much more
In the workroom, preparing for the runway, there’s a clear
disconnect between Latrice’s read of the challenge and the other queens’. She
feels confident; Manila, Trinity, and Valentina think she may be bottom two.
But as Trinity and Valentina both say, who would eliminate Latrice? She’s so
popular—with the queens, but more importantly, with the fans—that no one would
want to eliminate her. It’s the same conversation Trinity pulled Manila aside
to have after Snatch Game, about Valentina’s rabid fan base. The queens’
actions on Drag Race follow them for
years via the Drag Race community,
and that goes double for All Star
On the runway, the theme is Swerves And Curves: Padded For
The Gods, and once again, the queens deliver. In previous episodes, a fantastic
runway may have pushed someone from in danger to safe (Manila’s silver look
comes to mind, as does Monét’s boots look), but at this point, there’s no
wiggle room. Everyone looks terrific. It’s not a surprise when Manila, who was
the standout performer in Jersey Justice,
is in the top, nor when Monique, in that fabulous “Alexander MooQueen”-inspired
number, joins her. There’s a brief moment of excitement for both of them, but
as soon as bottom queens Latrice and Monét are announced, that’s gone. Manila
is immediately, visibly upset and worried for her dear friend, Latrice. Monique
is in the unenviable position of eliminating a personal friend or a personal
inspiration, both of whom were her partners in this challenge. There is no
happy ending here. It’s high drama, executed incredibly well.
The producers had a few options with “Jersey Justice.” They
could have put Trinity in the bottom and Valentina in the top, and played on
their pre-runway mirror conversation and last episode’s dramatic couch moment
of sisterhood. They could have put Monique and Valentina in the top and Monét
and Trinity in the bottom and had it be a lip sync battle of Drag Race besties fighting to save their
friends. The material was there to support either of these narratives and
likely a couple others, with a little creative editing and some sound cues.
Instead, the campy, catty energy of the recent eliminations is set aside and the
tears start falling immediately. Long-term fans of Drag Race know Latrice is capable of much more than she’s shown so
far in All Stars 4. Yet the episode
makes a strong case for Monét being just a bit better than her in this specific
Neither of them is currently poised to make it to the
finale, so is it better to save the queen who’s demonstrated more potential in
the past (Latrice), or the queen who’s done just a little better this season (Monét)? Manila’s
obviously going to save Latrice, but what is the right move for Monique
personally, and what’s the smart move for her this season and for her
longer-term career? There’s fodder for hours-long conversations here, and that’s
exactly the conversations Drag Race fans
will be having this weekend. Plus, while Manila and Latrice tearfully hug it
out on the couch, Monét gets the awkward experience of realizing she’s not a
sure thing should Monique win, the way she thought. Valentina’s utter
willingness to throw Trinity aside in favor of Latrice gives tremendous weight
to Latrice’s case, and underscores just how tough a call this is for Monique.
After an emotional deliberation (for everyone but Trinity,
who will both endear herself to and alienate fans for her dry-eyed read of the
situation), the stage is set for an epic lip sync, and Monique and Manila
deliver on Tina Turner’s “The Bitch Is Back.” Manila’s lip sync is not quite up
to her “How Will I Know” level, but it’s fierce, powerful, and fun. Monique, on
the other hand, serves up Tina and does so while keeping her wig firmly in
place through a ridiculous number of twirls, head flicks, and more. She’s
strong, musical, and completely in the moment. And neither goes for an easy
split or flip- they base their performances on the music, as more of the lip
syncing queens should. In the end, Monique wins, as the narrative and suspense
dictates she must, and her emotional reveal of Latrice’s name feels entirely
genuine, and leaves viewers with a gut-punch for Latrice and a wave of relief
for Monét at the same moment. It’s an odd feeling, and one of the most memorable
and affecting All Stars eliminations
yet. Latrice, who by the way looks gorgeous in her Swerves And Curves look, may
be gone from All Stars, and may be
gone too soon, but she’s much more than her tenure on All Stars 4. She’s an institution in the Drag Race community and her early elimination this season does
nothing to negate that. And this may be the denial talking, but who knows: with
those twists Ru promised in the premiere, she may very well be back.
- Stacy Layne Matthews cameo! Stacy the court stenographer was
definitely filmed separately from the rest of the courtroom scenes, but I don’t
care. Her reactions were delightful and she was used in just the right moments.
Here’s hoping she pops up more throughout the season.
- Manila’s not the only queen working the social game.
Valentina’s decision to create an entrance moment each day with a specific look
and aesthetic is smart. Ru makes an impression each time he enters the workroom.
It’s surprising it’s taken this long for one of the queens to follow suit (as
it were). I will be shocked if this doesn’t catch on and become a staple of
future queens’ approaches.
- I loved having RuPaul outside of the court as the court
reporter, and her runway look was fabulous.
- The sound design and music has been excellent all season,
adding texture and peppering in fun little jokes like the cowbell sting during
Monique’s runway and the hits during Jersey
- I really enjoyed Erica Ash as a guest judge. Valentina may
not know her, but she’s a terrific actor who was one of the highlights of the fantastic
and underseen Survivor’s Remorse.
Highly, highly recommended. Zoë Kravitz is not the most memorable guest
judge we’ve had this season, but she was a welcome presence on the panel and
the ASMR gags were a hoot.