‘RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars’ Recap: The One Where The Queens Frack Their Way Into Ru’s Heart
With an excellent Snatch Game, 'All Stars 5' redeems itself - and the competition heats up.
And that’s how you redeem a season with one episode. ‘Snatch Game of Love’ is easily All Stars 5‘s best showing yet — the challenge let the queens shine, there was plenty of drama, and RuPaul even seemed to enjoy her own show.
It’s pretty clear that Ru isn’t super interested in Drag Race anymore: the enthusiasm and energy he had on earlier seasons has (understandably) died down. Plus, on his podcast What’s The T?, he’s been saying for years that he wants to move into more acting.
And he has done a lot more — Broad City, Girlboss — but both of his big moves (Netflix drama AJ & The Queen and his daytime talk show) were cancelled one season in (also understandably). Those felt like passion projects, where Drag Race mostly seems like a cheque — but every now and then, she lights up on the show.
Sure, each season, there are usually a few queens Ru’s engaged by (Silky Nutmeg, Heidi ‘N’ Closet and Crystal Methyd come to mind), but generally she likes to play cold in the werkroom. The ice queen persona works, but occasionally an episode comes along where Ru seems really excited for the show, cracking jokes and ad-libbing a bit more on stage. It’s a real joy to watch.
While the excellent debut episode of Canada’s Drag Race proves the show doesn’t really need her anymore, All Stars 5‘s Snatch Game reminded us of RuPaul’s charms and talents, which have been missing on the show and forgotten in the slow souring of her public perception. If you’ve read my recaps, you know that Ru’s, um, far from my favourite queen, but on a good day, she can add a lot to the show.
It’d be hard to not be excited by this week’s Snatch Game: it was one of the funniest in years.
Don’t Worry India, James Charles Is Laughing Right Now
In the aftermath of last week’s challenge, the queens discuss Mayhem voting for herself, and then assess where they’re all standing in the competition.
The consensus puts Cracker, Shea and Jujubee in the top, in that order. The queens definitely have a better view of things, but watching, I’d say it’s Jujubee then Shea, and Alexis is such a standout to me that I’d swap Cracker, who has been pretty inconsistent, out. The show’s strong arc around Cracker suggests the queens have probably clocked the top three, though.
Blair’s solid track record is mentioned, too — Jujubee even calls her “miss quiet”, which is such a back-handed compliment — but India is left out of the conversation.
The writing’s more or less on the wall: with only a handful of queens left, it’s India’s time to go. And then the writing’s gone over with permanent marker in Ru’s walk-through, as India really struggles to explain how she’ll pull off YouTuber Jeffrey Star in the challenge. It’s all pretty hard to watch.
Ru’s really putting the queens through it in her walkthrough, asking them to improv as their characters and for once offering some pretty sound advice.
His ‘I don’t understand how that’s any of your business’ example shows the exact kind of irreverent humour that Snatch Game rewards, but India just doesn’t quite get it. There’s definitely a way to make Jeffrey Star work (pushing #spon extra hard? Talking endlessly about followers and views with a deranged, murderous expression?) but she doesn’t play or hype up his persona very much.
Alexis Mateo gets it, though. Like Alyssa, she’s one of those naturally very charming, funny queens, but is able to control it for a challenge a little more than Miss Edwards could. Picking psychic and ‘Latin Liberace’ Walter Mercado is a smart move, and it’s clear from the walkthrough that RuPaul is completely sold — it’s always really obvious when Ru loves a queen.
Ru’s a little harsher with Blair, whose Ellen is perfectly passable but doesn’t really stand out. It’s a bit of a trend: Blair’s really proven herself this All Stars, but keeps being overshadowed in challenges and overlooked on the runway. On a regular season, her Ellen might even land her in the top for a few funny jokes, but here, she’s falling behind the expert Drag Race players.
It’s also terrible timing: it’s amazing that two of these impressions, Ellen and Jeffrey, would look completely different if they were filmed today. Jeffrey has been cancelled 1000 times, but the recent resurfacing of his racist behaviour seems to be sticking; and while we’ve heard whispers that Ellen is a monster for years, it’s now widely known.
The cold, cruel Ellen would have been much funnier too — as she stands in Blair’s conception, there’s just not really that much to play off of. It’s a bit of a bland choice.
Which brings us to Cracker. Lady Gaga in all her A Star Is Born meta press-tour performance art glory is an excellent pick — but she doesn’t do anything with it except repeat Gaga’s words.
The judges’ critiques about her over-calculating jokes are spot on. That first line about ‘100 people in a room’ and ‘$100k’ is so convoluted (wait, so Gaga is on All Stars competing for 100k?) because you can see all the cogs of the joke and the labour, but none of the reward.
There is nothing more Cracker than the moment she makes a reference to Ally Maine tracing her side profile, then stopping mid-way through and restarting so the camera gets the proper side-angle that’s in the film.
I know these recaps can be really harsh on Cracker, but it’s only because she’s repeatedly been so close to pulling it off.
Similar to watching Trixie be almost funny on Season 7 (and, at times, All Stars 3), Cracker’s humour doesn’t translate super well into the challenges, and the pressure doesn’t help. Drag Race is stressful for obvious reasons, but drag is best when it’s (pointedly) silly and frivolous — Cracker rarely seems to enjoy herself, so it’s hard to enjoy watching. It’s a classic ‘inner saboteur’ storyline, and last week’s win suggests she’s ripe for a break-through.
The top three this week — Alexis, Shea and Jujubee — clearly have a lot of fun during Snatch Game, and it frees them up to riff off other contestants. All three give Masterclass performances: Alexis brings her group (India and Cracker) up; Jujubee’s one-liners as Eartha Kitt are instantly legendary, and Shea’s Flavor Flav is completely unpredictable.
The decision to split the Snatch Game in two works well here (AS4 did the same, but overall wasn’t very funny), and it also gives us more time with both of this episode’s guest judges, Tommy ‘The Twink’ Dorfman and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, who’s also judging Canada’s Drag Race.
You really have to respect Ru pushing this joke about having sexual tension with Jeffrey, which more or less is a repeat from his appearance on AS3. Maybe this is why he was so happy this episode: he wouldn’t be the first to turn up the charm around a crush.
Prom Queen Was Both This Week’s Runway Theme And A MySpace Murder Mystery Webseries I Loved When I Was A Pre-Teen
This really was Ru’s week: her runway look, a clear nod to McQueen’s robot spray-painted dress (in turn ripped off for a S4 mini-challenge), was an event.
The runway was excellent this week, with each queen going in a different direction for the prom directive.
Shea’s Carrie-meets-Sasha Valour look was probably the week’s standout. Hearing her explain the look and talk about the S9 finale so candidly is really heartbreaking, as is that fans used to recreate the moment at meet and greets.
It’s really awful that even Shea, literally one of Drag Race‘s strongest competitors, felt like the butt of a joke: it’s a testament to how the fanbase can really churn an artist into a meme, or define a person by one challenge or off moment.
India also stands out this week, for putting on an outfit that had nothing to do with prom. Surprised the judges didn’t say anything, but it’s possible they didn’t want to pile on her: as we saw on Canada’s Drag Race this week, they really need to say something positive, otherwise they might crush the queen.
Shea wins this week by a hair: it easily could’ve been a double with Jujubee for their chemistry on set, but perhaps All Stars doesn’t want a three-way lip sync? Ru announces a shake-up to the voting format — from now on, anyone who didn’t win is up for elimination.
It’s clearly an attempt to add more drama in, given the votes have been unanimous each week — and boy did it work. India, who clearly should go home, sees an opportunity and throws Alexis under the bus by telling Shea she tried to instigate a coup to eliminate Shea back in episode three.
A full-on mess breaks out, and it’s unclear whether India or Alexis is lying. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, where India read a little too much into something Alexis said, as they’re both super indignant about the whole thing.
Alexis remains perfect TV, and delivers one of Drag Race‘s best lines of late while voting for India: “you’re a liar and this is why Derrick don’t like you.” Jujubee is right up there with her, continuing to give non-sensical confessionals that take the piss out of the show. Week in, week out, she’s the secret star of the show. Is it too much to demand a double-crowning?
Vanjie’s this week’s lip-sync assassin (any excuse to have her back is fine by me), and Shea wins her second lipsync of the season. She sends India packing, who gives some weird speech about the ‘4 Hs’ — haggis, honey and hula-hoop — directed towards Alexis.
The true winner of the episode, however, is Blair St Clair, who is left with the terrifying knowledge that RuPaul and her husband do an impression of her at home. That’s something to make you shiver then leave you silent.
Next week is a backyard-themed ball challenge. We’re already down to our final five, and there’s just three episodes left. At this point, it’s hard to see the final two as anyone but Shea and Jujubee, but remember, All Stars often defies logic.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars streams on Stan, with new episodes each Saturday 2pm AEST. Canada’s Drag Race begins July 3, with episodes dropping each Friday 1pm AEST.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Night Editor and Drag Race recapper. He’s on Twitter.