‘RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars’ S7E8 Recap: Please Welcome To The Stage, Pleasure Inyür Absence

Not even an All Winners cast and the director of 'Zola' can transform this week's Christmas-themed acting challenge's script from a lump of coal.

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Christmas has come early: our gift isn’t this week’s acting challenge, but the knitwear runway. If only Tom Hanks was screaming at Austin Butler to wear one of these oversized sweaters while singing ‘Here Comez Zanta Klauz’, then there would have been no problem. (I saw Elvis last night and it won’t leave me be. Please go see it, though I may be asking in a chain mail way, where if I convince seven people, Tom Hanks’ acting choices will stop haunting me.)

Unfortunately not even an All Winners cast and one of 2021’s most acclaimed directors, Zola‘s Janicza Bravo, who co-directs the challenge with Ru, can make this week’s script — a Xmas-themed Scream Queens — into anything but a shiny, contoured lump of coal. There’s a certain charm to the terrible writing, obvious jokes and hammy acting, but after so many years it’s hard to get too enthused by these challenges. The laugh track didn’t even trick me in a single chuckle.

It doesn’t really matter, as we will and have watched these queens do anything, but we also don’t need filler episodes. Just let the queens write their own sketches! It is almost always funnier, better catered to the queens and judging carries a bit more weight, considering how uneven these roles always are.

It’s hard to care too much when by episode’s end, Raja has finally won a second badge — well overdue, as by my count she should have won two more for Snatch Game and the first ball. But with a few plotlines underway, including Monet and Shea’s hunger for another win, and the likelihood of some last-minute shenanigans, we can’t discount anyone just yet.

Kissy Christmas, Ru!

This week, the queens are given a comedy-horror script about a Christmas-themed boarding school that pulls from Mean Girls. As the winner of the lip-sync last week, Trinity gets to assign roles. There’s nothing too shady, except when Monet puts her hand up for the teacher role Jinkx wants: she doesn’t even really want it, but just doesn’t want to see Jinkx get her dream role and steamroll another acting challenge. Trinity makes the two audition, and despite Jinkx giving a much better/more developed reading, she gives it to her twinner.

Jinkx tries to not implode and thinks she doesn’t let it get the better of her this episode, but I’d argue it did. Left with one of the smaller roles — a pretty non-descript one of three mean girls — Jinkx goes hard on creating a Valley Girl persona and injecting as much personality as she can into every line. It’s complete overkill, showboating skills for no real purpose or reason.

I’m a little surprised it’s not used as a plot point, as it’s a pretty common personality trait within winners (Bob on S8, Alaska on AS2) and a nice point of hubris, but AS7 is designed to always portray the queens positively, even if this isn’t even a particularly negative trait. Jinkx deserves to showboat, and it normally pays off (see Snatch Game, where she took up so much screen time by singing and doing long-winded, very funny bits like singing the segment out). This episode, she tries too hard to prove she can make any role shine: the reality is, no one is going to win in that role, and she probably could have just taken a backseat for an episode.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

Completely fine :)

Shea also has a pretty-nothing role as the straight man of the skit, a transfer student whose main reaction to anything is confusion and mild condescension. Unlike Jinkx, she accepts her fate — it’s a role that gets the plot from A to B, and she serves it well without needing to have her starring moment.

The queens are directed by Ru and Janizca — I imagine her Zola co-writer Jeremy O’Harris is fuming that Ru introduces her as the sole writer of the film. (He’d also be such a good guest, even if he swerves maybe a little too Interview Magazine-level famous for the show. But hey, if they got Janizca!)

Janizca takes this script so seriously and gives such excellent, considered direction to each queen: I know she’s probably just a fan of the show and wants to see these queens do well, but there’s something very endearing about her earnest, emotive notes about “feeling pleasure in your absence” after essentially asking Trinity to act like a blonde bimbo.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

I will say that Yvie looks really beautiful.

I love that she takes her work seriously, but not herself, really throwing her directing weight into this ridiculous show. More experienced guests like this, please: as if Gregg Araki, Greta Gerwig or Bo Burnham (I’m not sure why they were the first three directors I thought of) wouldn’t love to do this show! I’m sure that’s actually really easy to make happen :)

It’s immediately clear from the first scene shot that the Viv is one of the winners this week: her principal role is just a mish-mash of Kim Woodburn and Donald Trump, but it makes Ru laugh so much that Viv has to ask him to stop distracting her mid-scene.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

Shea’s smile says “there’s no way I’m getting a star this week”.

No one else really stood out to me. Monet’s death scene was fun, but the role itself was a bit of a snooze; we’ve seen Trinity play the ditsy blonde countless times; Raja’s goth character didn’t really do much; Yvie wasn’t particularly memorable. I know my bias is showing, but I’d maybe have given the other win to Jaida, who played the nerdy mean girl with a lot of reacting, hit her marks and just brought a lot of energy that felt missing otherwise. But they give it to Raja, which feels really arbitrary. But, to say what’s fast becoming my AS7 mantra, who cares!

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

More like Jaida Queens Of Queens Hall…

Knitty Girl

All killer, no filler this runway, as the queens take on knitwear in their own ways. Hard to pick a favourite, but I’ll probably give it to Jaida (surprise!), whose lavender bedtime onesie was the right type of ‘childish drag’ that doesn’t veer into the creepy Coco Montrese in S5 territory.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

The little cutouts on the thigh! The bum flap! The red nose! The pom pom hair!

Special shout-out to Yvie too, who is really killing it now she has a little more cash and time to spend on her looks vs S11. It’s nice to see how her oddball, crafty style works with more resources: the result is always completely unique, and such a showcase of why she’s a winner.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

The pants queen.

Other faves are, um, all of them, but I did really love Trinity’s leopard print kitty-cat wig, Shea’s Ndebele-but-make-it-knitted look, Monet’s puffer jacket (wanna cop) and Raja’s update to her CP3-ho look from S3. We love a self-reference!

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

Love that Monet was both a kindergartener and a ho at the same time and made it not creepy, somehow?

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

This is just really clever.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

Upmarket Karen.

Jinkx and Viv both went with gowns/sweeping dresses, and both look beautiful. Not as exciting, but undoubtedly stunning, Violet and Gottmik, there are no boots here!

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

It’s almost a wedding dress.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

Classic Jinkx, done well.

As mentioned, Viv and Raja are this week’s top two, and they lip-sync to ‘Super Freak’. It’s kind of astonishing it’s taken till now for this song to appear on the show, but to make up for it we get one of the better lip-syncs of the season: Raja doesn’t do much more than jive around but it works well for the track, where Viv maybe overdoes it with the stunts. She recovers from falling mid-cartwheel, but she probably didn’t need to do one in the first place. Raja gets the win and blocks Jaida, which now means only Raja hasn’t been blocked. Jaida knew it was coming though, so there’s no hard feelings.

rupaul's drag race all stars 7e8 recap

This friendship, in particular, is so lovely to watch.

We also get a funner Untucked this week. Not essential viewing, but rather than have the guest judge come backstage (which really interrupted an interesting conversation last week about what each queen considers their fave look from their winning season), this week the queens go old school with a pink furry box that prompts them to do impersonations of Drag Race queens. It’s very silly, and if we’re not going to get any Untucked drama, I’d prefer this sort of segment to [insert guest judge] talking about how much they love queens and how much the queens love [insert guest judge].

Next week, the queens have to create their own ‘dance challenge’ to go viral, which is actually a fairly solid twist on the usual branding challenge and lets the queens write their own material. Sounds promising!

RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars S7 is available to stream in Australia in Stan, with new episodes dropping AEST 6pm each Friday.

Jared Richards is Junkee‘s Drag Race recapper, and a freelancer who writes for NMEThe Big IssueThe Guardian and more. He’s across the internet as @jrdjms