In case you hadn’t noticed: 2016 is a raging shit parade. Season 2 of All Stars is the only thing giving me even a glimmer of hope in this world, and I need it as much as I need oxygen. (Or at least as much as Oprah needs Oxygen.) That said: writing these recaps is a big, salty bitch. This episode was really long and really good, so making it worth your while to relive the whole roller coaster again is going to be a tall order.
Then again, I can’t see any of you, so if you get through the whole article without laughing once, I’ll never even know.
Anyway, on with it. Katya comes in first (both on the show and in my heart), and starts us off by using more Russian in her intro than she used in all of Season 7 combined. Her goal is to prove that she’s the most mentally ill contestant, but the race for that title is significantly tighter than the game she’s actually playing. Next up is Detox. She seems to be doing great, though it’s tough to judge her drag without more insight into what a female of her species looks like. They are followed by the inimitable Alyssa Edwards, who has reached Phylicia-Rashad-in-Tyler-Perry’s-For-Colored-Girls levels of spouting nonsense as if it has rich layers of meaning. She might be the most watchable human being on the planet. Admit it: if she was in your mirror, you’d be transfixed, too.
Phi Phi O’Hara steps in next, and paradoxically, she couldn’t try harder if she tried. How’s that for a riddle? Behind her is ambulatory armchair Ginger Minj. Her game seems to have been raised since her season, though I’m still not 100% sure you can buy taste. Roxxxy Andrews follows and she looks impeccable and that’s really all I have to say about that. I have even less to say about Coco Montrese, who yelled about being orange once and has milked it for what feels like decades.
And just when you had gotten enough of Season 5, Alaska walks through the door! She’s joined the Alyssa Edwards School of Randomly Generated Almost-English and is on her way to becoming valedictorian. Her look is predictably great, but also totally predictable. Nest of blond hair, garbage bag gown, the inflatable lips Sharon bought her… you know the drill. Tatianna, on the other hand, breaks expectations by showing up at all (mostly because her season aired before half of the Drag Race audience was born), but she wins the Most Improved award. Is this an intolerable movie about overcoming the odds through dance? Because she STEPPED IT UP. Last but not least is Adore Delano, who looks like a real homeless woman.
(I am going to have to skim so hard through the rest of this episode; I’ve already written way too much!)
The video message from Ru has become entirely irrelevant, but she paid for that big TV in the workroom and god dammit she’s gonna use it. Her grand descent down the glamorous metal staircase is met with raucous cheers even though we know the whole cast has met her many times before. Maybe they just applaud every time they see her anywhere? That would be an acceptable response. And they’ve got reason to celebrate, at least according to one interpretation of Ru’s message: it almost sounded like she won’t be sending anyone home this season. Hmmm…
But there’s no time to think about that particular tidbit because we are jumping right into the reading mini-challenge. Since these queens have all become part of Logo’s Gender Performance Prison Industrial Complex, they’ve gigged together before and are ready to shade each other into pitch black. As a dark soul entity, Phi Phi has no trouble landing some direct hits; Katya’s inner negativity also helps her in projecting outward negativity. Coco hasn’t learned how to emphasize her gibberish in a way that sounds like communication, and so her reads fall flat. Alyssa, on the other hand, turns single words into full-on soliloquies. From anyone else, this effort would be a failure, but her delivery makes it a riotous success. Not an actual win, though: that goes to Alaska. (Even if her prize should have been revoked when she accidentally revealed that she was wearing flats under that dress.)
The next day, the ladies return to prepare for their mainstage challenge: a talent show! It’s a device that, frankly, should have been introduced into the competition several seasons ago. I can think of ten contestants off the top of my head that could have been reduced to dust by the mere mention of this undertaking. While they paint, everyone talks about their legacy and the audience perception they need to reverse. It’s like a roomful of Hillaries trying to convince the public of how kind and gentle they are. (Except for Katya: she could shoot someone dead in the middle of 5th Avenue and I’d only love her more.)
And then it’s time for the Performance Extravaganza! RuPaul walks to a remix of her usual music, though her stomp down the runway is impossible to improve. The judging panel, sadly, has been given a downgrade: Ross Matthews has lost his timeshare behind the desk, leaving a discarded Madame puppet in his place. (If even one of you catches that reference I will die happy.) Adding further weight to the sinking ship, Todrick Fucking Hall will be here every week. I assume that he’s going to do what he does best and minimally reword the work of previous, far superior judges. Rounding out the crew is Raven-Symoné, who Ru expertly shades for having an accent above a silent letter in her name.
It would take too long to give a full recap of all the talent acts, so let’s fast forward. Adore sings a song; she is good at singing songs. Alyssa serves “variety” because she defies categorization, but she is breathtaking at doing the very specific insane thing this does. Coco serves Dancing with the Stars if you took away the professional dancers and the stars. Detox gives you day-glo Play-Doh scarecrow realness. Ginger sings a worse song than Adore’s, but is also a good singer. Break for commercial.
Katya’s gymnastics routine gives you the old, white, dementia-ridden Simone Biles you didn’t know you wanted. Phi Phi confirms everyone’s suspicions that singing a cappella was a terrible idea, though I think it was secretly genius, because now she can blame this train wreck on the lack of backing track and gloss over the fact that she’s just not a good singer overall. Roxxxy demolishes her burlesque act because she has a specific form of OCD that forces her to tear off every piece of clothing she puts on. Alaska does Alaska, dressing like an alien sex toddler and making mouth noises that are simultaneously soothing and infused with Lovecraftian nightmares. I don’t think Tatianna knows what “spoken word” is, but her act is still amazing. (They should have just called it another “variety” piece.)
And then the judging. Michelle warns everyone that she’s going to be especially awful this season and proceeds to verbally beat Adore with a shovel. Especially given the later reveal that she and Michelle frequently spar about costume choices on tour, this interchange feels exceptionally personal. Others get read, but no one gets read like this. (Tatianna actually doesn’t get read at all. Everyone loves her, as well they should.)
Having shared feedback, Ru revisits her earlier tease about elimination. This season, she won’t cut anyone because they’ll be cutting each other. (Figuratively, one hopes, but with this crew…) Specifically, the top two will lip sync for the right to choose which of the bottom queens packs up. Today, that’ll be Tatianna and Roxxxy deciding the fate of Adore, Coco, and Phi Phi. The backstage discussion that follows is, I assume, what we’re getting instead of Untucked this season. Dame Andrews assures everyone that she wants to be fair and not let personal connections influence her choice, and then immediately undermines that assertion by asking to have a private conversation with each of the bottom three.
We’re so close, guys.
Back on stage, both stars kill the sync, but Ru gives Roxxxy the win. The sting she feels at sending Coco home is probably somewhat soothed by the $10,000 she gets for her victory. And come on, was the crown ever really going to go to Coco Montrese? Coco Montrese? Ditching her early was a mercy. She can go home and read a book and wait for Ru to deploy the (probably mostly meaningless) revenge being teased at the end of the episode.
AND WE’RE DONE! If you like these recaps, please share them far and wide. If you’re in New York, come to Nobodies Hosting Drag Race with Suburbia every Thursday at Terra Firma in Bushwick.
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