Remember when I said last week that sometimes RuPaul’s Drag Race is at its best when it’s awkward? Well, I’m going to be like the judges on this show and flip my opinion, because this week’s challenge is a tedious exercise in public humiliation that doesn’t show any of the wit and beauty that has made these girls All Stars. As the girls try to convince strangers on the street to engage in various “crazy” activities to gain points, the flaws in this All Star season become clear, particularly in regards to the challenges. These are the best of RuPaul’s Drag Race, we want to see them showing off, not struggling to hold on to their dignity in broad daylight on the streets of Hollywood. Why couldn’t the producers just reuse the best of the previous season’s challenges like Top Chef and Project Runway do for their All Star shows?
Before the real embarrassment, the girls are forced outside of their comfort zones by taking pictures of their butchest man faces (#QueensWithGuyPhones). In all the pairs, one of the photos is better than the others, which is the problem with this show’s paired format. In all the couples, one person is superior: Yara is stronger than Alexis, Chad is stronger than Shannel, Manila is stronger than Latrice, and although it’s close, Jujubee is outshining Raven. That’s not necessarily the case in this challenge—Shannel takes a better picture than Chad—but it’s the case in the general competition. Yarlexis wins the mini-challenge, as Yara goes gangster and Alexis goes Backstreet, although Jujubee does a great job looking like an awkward Asian nerd. Raven seems to have missed the memo that this is supposed to be manly, and she gives some signature MySpace duck face.
Last week’s challenge was awkward, but at least there were glimpses of wit amid all the chaos. This week, the queens have to get passers-by on the street to do things like eat sardines pulled out of a garbage can and crack an egg on their forehead. It’s rough to watch, but in an uncomfortable way, not a hilarious way. The ladies have to use theirs CUNTS to convince anyone to do anything, and some are just more inviting than others. The challenge is initially presented as a Punk’d/Candid Camera pranking show, but when the queens actually get in the sun, they’re just begging people on the street to perform random tasks while their partner directs over a headset. It’s a challenge that would be fine for something like Daisy Of Love (where’s season two, VH1?), but it’s degrading for our fabulous All Stars.
I can understand how the challenge relates to drag in that it forces the queens to be engaging and persuasive outside of their usual environment, but when the action begins with Raven trying to feed grapes to a homeless man, something has gone horribly wrong. Raven looks like she had Willam do her make-up, stayed out all night, then stumbled on to the street, and it’s no surprise that people stay away from her. In this challenge, fun and campy is preferable to sexy and catty, and the former is much more accessible and inviting to the general public. While Raven struggles, Jujubee proves that she has much better skills in public, convincing a man to let her spray whipped cream in his pants. In a tiny Ongina hat, Manila does a similarly strong job, although Latrice ends up getting lost in the garbage for most of her time. Yara’s terrifying high-pitched greeting and general franticness prevent her from scoring many points, but this is the type of challenge where Alexis’ pageant background comes in handy. She’s learned how to be glamorous while remaining approachable, and it helps people loosen up to her on the sidewalk.
Shannel and Chad have known each other for 15 years, and that rapport, combined with their extensive experience, helps them win this challenge. Granted, most people probably thought they were Sharon Osborn and Cher having a really off day. It’s all just so sad. Shannel drinks water out of a man’s hand like a dog, which is just gross, and Chad’s time ends with her on her knees, begging three pedestrians to stoop to her level. They don’t. This is the kind of thing that should be forced on new contestants to prove that they’ve got the stuff. In an All Star season, ideally there would be more spectacular drag queens doing catty things to each other rather than men dressed as women humiliating themselves.
After the challenge, the pairs all talk about how great their partners are before the conversation shifts to how the queens view themselves out of drag. Latrice talks about how she found the mini-challenge very hard because she doesn’t feel sexy as a man. The other girls on this show can get out of drag and be those men that cruise bars and get picked up, but Latrice can’t do that. It sparks an interesting discussion on male sexuality; Raven is comfortable as a man, and drag is his artistic outlet. Chad understands that he has to own his age, and loves that he’s balding. Manila points out that it’s odd that they get to feel like the sexiest thing ever when they’re playing dress up, but it’s important to maintain that sexy confidence once the makeup and the padding is gone.
The girls are asked to bring bad girl chic to the runway, where they are judged by a ridiculous-looking Michelle and Santino, a bonkers Janice Dickinson, and a surprisingly subdued Rachel Dratch. RuPaul is serving up ’80s prom meets loofah realness, and her eye makeup is stunning, with a splash of yellow to accent the rest of the colors in the ensemble. Raven goes for a Harajuku-inspired look that is one of her best outfits yet, but Janice and Michelle poo-poo it, Janice hating on the Joker-esque makeup while Michelle goes after the granny panties. Jujubee looks good, but it’s a much safer look.
Janice seems to think that she’s on America’s Next Top Model, failing to understand the concept of camp and judging strictly on fashion sense. Latrice is channeling “the baddest bitch of them all,” Divine, with her white eye makeup, but Janice hates it, while she loves Manila’s Seventh Seal-meets-Morticia Addams-plus-high-heel look. Yarlexis looks very polished on the runway, and while Yara’s giant headpiece divides the judges, they like the couple’s performance overall. Shad wins the challenge because they scored the most points, but I’m not sure their runway performance deserves a win, particularly Chad’s “punk rock Carol Brady” with the horrible wig.
When Shannel is asked which couple she would like to see sent home, she says Yarlexis because Yara is carrying Alexis, which makes Alexis very defensive once the rest of the pairs are asked the same questions. She’s sick of hearing that her language barrier and pageant background are holding her back, and she announces that she’s coming for all these bitches. The judges want to see her try, and Yarlexis is safe, leaving Rujubee and Latrila to lip sync for their lives. It’s the worst possible scenario, putting four fan-favorites in the bottom, but a Jujubee versus Manila lip sync is an appropriately epic finish to a depressing episode. As they perform “Nasty” by Janet Jackson, Manila sabotages herself by going to her old crazy-eye standard, sending out all the energy she has in an effort to grab the attention of the judges. Jujubee focuses and makes a connection with the audience and song, and she keeps it sexy and strong as Manila turns into a “hot boo boo mess.”
It’s sad to see Latrila sashay away, as they were easily the favorite to win after the first episode, and it must burn for Manila to go out against Jujubee, the contestant she’s been compared to most. When she pulls her picture down, Jujubee’s also falls, but it looks like the two pictures were connected, something that I wouldn’t past the producers of this show. It’s interesting to note that on the wall of fame there’s only one empty picture frame next to RuPaul, and whenever there’s mention of the winner of All Stars, it’s in the singular. Hopefully, that means that the pairs will get split up at some point, because it would be incredibly entertaining to watch any of the remaining duos go head-to-head.
- If you could see the queens do one of the old challenges, what would you choose? #ReadingIsFundamental all the way for me.
- Just like seasons past, artist Chad Sell is capturing key moments from Drag Race All Stars in cartoon form on his blog. All the snaps for cross-eyed Manila gif! He also did a comic strip on the All Star’s Facebook page in the months leading up the show’s premiere, because it’s a small step from drag queen to comic book character for these queens.
- Have you seen the teaser for Drag Race season 5? I can’t wait to dive into the V.
- Rachel Dratch’s face is the size of one of Michelle’s boobs. Also, Michelle looks like she’s wearing a breastplate.
- “Drag and daytime don’t go together.”
- “Who wouldn’t want to stop and talk to an eight-foot-tall drag queen in a pink afro?”
- “Good from afar, far from good.”
- When I love Yara’s accent: “It’s time to (punk/pump) some ass.”
- When I hate Yara’s accent: “HI-EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”
- RuPaul: “What was the hardest part of the challenge?” Jujubee: “The guy’s penis when I squirted it down his pants.” JUJUBEE WINS EVERYTHING.
- Untucked highlights – Chad on Yara: “She’s brilliant. And she is stupid like a fox.” Raven: “Janice Dickinson wants to come for my face? The way I did my make-up? This comes off, honey.”
- Highlights from people watching the show with me: “Congratulations, Alexis. You are serving up everyone’s fifth-favorite-Backstreet Boy realness.” “Janice Dickinson looks like someone deflated Michelle Visage.”