Wow. Just… wow.
The first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2 was like the summer blockbuster movie of drag: it had tons of flashy effects and big twists, but the ending wasn’t much of a surprise.
The blockbuster status isn’t just because of a cast of 10 mostly-flawless queens, but because the show finally let the queens perform exactly as they would in their own drag shows with a unthemed talent show.
Honestly, I can understand why Ru wouldn’t try this on any old season – some of the typical queens might have messy routines or rely entirely on licensed music to make things work. However, for 10 all-stars at the top of their games it was a different story entirely.
How did the rankings shake out after the show compared to my Pre-Season Rankings from Thursday given the shocking rules changes for Season 2, all of the talents on display, and the ouster of Coco Montrese? Let’s take a look.
1. Roxxxy Andrews
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 7
Roxxxy Andrews was flawless in this episode.
Her entrance look was one of the best of all time. Roxxxy was breathtakingly gorgeous, modern and feminine, but aspects of it were still exaggerated enough to read as drag. Her burlesque routine was a hot little number, and she looked like a curvy woman while she did it.
Most importantly, she got to be the one to test-drive the new “Top queen kicks off the bottom queen” system, and it showed just how tactically she plays this game. She passed over kicking off two competitors most likely self-sabotage in the future in Phi Phi and Adore (one with utterly rabid fans) for a competitor who could reasonably beat her in a Lip Sync and doesn’t have the huge fanbase to vilify her.
Will the smarts and unshakeable confidence last? I say yes – this really felt like an all-new Roxxxy. But in this new format the moment a strong contender winds up in the bottom two she’s toast.
Can Roxxxy really stay out of the bottom until the final episode, or at least manage to wind up in the bottom with the bigger threats Alaska or Katya? Let’s recall, she only lip synced a single time in her original season. It could happen.
2. Alaska Thunderfuck 5000
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 1
If you needed a sign that Alaska was amongst the favored queens this season, this episode had several.
She wins the reading challenge, misses being in the Top 2 purely due to Tatiana blowing the roof off the place (more on that below), and gets all positive notes from the judges aside from them fussing over her extra-long dagger nails.
Yet, the little barb from the judges about about her nails being distracting might be an important chink in Alaska’s trash bag armor. Just as they disassembled Adore’s personal style tonight, I can see the judges coming for some of Alaska’s idiosyncrasies as the season progresses – especially if other contestants like Roxxy are serving up traditionally glamorous drag.
As a queen who stayed utterly true to herself on her first go round on the show, will Alaska be willing to cave into petty nitpicks purely for the purposes of securing the crown?
I’m not too worried. I doubt Alaska will wind up in the bottom unless it’s very close to the end of the show, and at that point all bets are off for who would be eliminated given the wild new format.
As it stands, she effortlessly repurposed something she was completely comfortable doing into a Talent Show performance this week. Next week’s Snatch Game will be more of the same given the sheer amount of impersonation she’s done over the years on Best of the Seasons tours. Also, she had the wisdom to handicap Adore – her singing competition – by slotting her first in the talent show.
3. Detox iCunt
4th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 6
My pre-show concerns that Detox might be a little bit too much of a loose cannon were largely resolved by her gameplay in this episode. There was nary a misstep
First, instead of entering in some form of neon vinyl fantasy like she did in Season 5, Detox wears a subtler neon executive realness look. It’s a clear callback to the runway in the episode where she was eliminated. There’s no need to blow a runway-caliber outfit on her entrance look. Afterwards, she is a standout in the workroom and hilarious in her interview segments.
For me, her greater strength was her strategy the talent show. She brought a song, which is an obvious nod to her time in DWV. Yet, Detox isn’t known as a singer the way girls like Adore and Ginger are, so she dresses her song up with sex in a way neither of the other girls could or would do. In a cross between Sheila E and the Blue Man Group, she plays a set of standing drums that splatter her with neon, blacklight paint, and then leaves the drums behind to dance provocatively in the resulting mess.
Despite the awesome performance, I wasn’t surprised Ru skipped putting this Detox in the top group over Minj’s boring song. On one hand, Detox’s fashion was a little unremarkable. On the other, why even bother? It’s clear Detox is amongst the front-runners along with Katya and Alaska – there’s no need to make it so plain in the first episode. Thus, Detox was safe – along with both Katya and Alaska.
Yet, leaving aside her safe placement, she seems like the queen most likely to crack the Russo-Alaskan grip on the top two, and when it comes to facing off against Roxxxy, she knows where all the bodies are buried (or waiting at bus stops).
4. Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova AKA Katya
5th Place, Season 7. Pre-Season Rank: 2
One of the best parts of this episode and its accompanying media was watching how scared and/or curious all of the other girls are of Katya.
To understand this, you have to consider that All Stars was filmed exactly a year ago – less than four months after Katya’s season ended with her as the clear fan favorite despite being eliminated in 5th place.
Despite all of these girls working non-stop, that means many of them hadn’t yet met Katya before filming aside from at the Season 7 finale. Or, if they had met her prior to her stint on the show, she might not have stuck out from the crowd of other local queens.
Yet, it’s obvious the rest of the cast are acutely aware of just how off-the-charts popular she is. Witness how many of them mention her in this behind-the-scenes video of the cast prior to meeting the other contestants.
Katya’s performance in this first episode doesn’t really bear out the other girls’ fear and fascination.
She enters speaking Russian, delivers a few savage reads, but is just okay in the talent show and winds up safe. It’s nearly a carbon copy of her debut in Season 7. Hopefully her increased confidence means she has more than this glacial “long, slow splits” stuff planned as the season ratchets up. Her occasional tentativeness is the reason behind her early departure the last go-round. She has to play it more fast and loose like she does in her interviews and web shows.
However, what’s really telling (and, for me, cements Katya’s ranking) is another bonus clip – her workroom walkthrough with RuPaul. Sure, Katya being fresh in RuPaul’s mind explains Ru’s familiarity with Katya’ media empire, but witness how quick the repartee is between the two of them. It’s so fast it almost seems scripted. Not many queens can keep up with Ru at that speed, nor can many dish out so many lines for her to respond to. It really feels like a conversation between two equals. Behold:
4th Place, Season 2. Pre-Season Rank: 8
Tatiana taking one of the top two spots in this debut wasn’t guaranteed or expected, but it is definitely indicative of the Tatianna all of us viewers of Season 2 were hoping to see on All Stars. When you underestimate her, she gets the chance to do something unexpected. Due to her smarts, those unexpected choices tend to slay.
Personally, I wasn’t that big of a fan of her spoken word piece – it didn’t have a sense of rhythm or urgency that I generally associate with strong spoken word.
Yet, even if it was a little hokey, it got a huge reaction and she looked gorgeous while doing it. If Alaska was ever-so-subtly shading her by sticking this mystery performance in the final slot (she got to choose the order of performance thanks to her mini-challenge win), it backfired.
We also saw the flipside of Tatianna’s strength in this episode. Everyone underestimates her because they don’t know her or her act too well, but that also means she’s not part of a clique with many (any?) of these girls. It’s also indicative of her having a smaller, less-vocal fanbase.
Since the girls themselves are determining who gets eliminated from the group of bottom queens, that puts a feisty solo competitor at major risk! There’s less ramifications to eliminating Tati out of any pairing, both personally and professionally.
That’s why I have Tatianna in the top half of the ranking, but just barely. She’s shown that she came to play, but as soon as she’s in the bottom she’s in deep trouble. She has to stay safe all the way through the Top 4 if she wants to make it to the finale.
6. Alyssa Edwards
6th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 3
Remember how in the pre-season ranking I talked about Alyssa being a walking, talking, human catchphrase?
Yeah. That. Girlfriend is funny as heck whenever she opens her mouth, but everything else about her is exactly the same as the first go-round – same fashion, same inability to edit herself in performance.
Her entrance look is familiar to anyone who saw her original season – a skin-baring top, a puffy bottom that leaves room to witness her great gams, massive hair topped with an asymmetrical piece, and something dangling off of her body. It’s so 100% cookie cutter that anyone could have guessed it.
Sure, Katya came in an expected Russian swimsuit, but for Katya that’s part of her brand and she ditches it pretty quickly unless it makes for a laugh in a challenge. For Alyssa, it’s just lack of imagination.
Her reads were… not reads. Yes, the concept of All Stars as “Monsters Inc” was both clever and appropriate. But her assigning each girl single-word names – some of which weren’t even monsters or nouns – would have fallen flat if not for the typically over-the-top Alyssa delivery.
Finally, she tried to show her powers of imagination in her talent show, but it also came off as stilted and stale. A brief stint at puppetry was ill-fitting and badly executed and her dance routine felt unstructured. What really worked – and what she should have emphasized – was the half-spoken, half-rapped original track she danced to. It was clever, and not at all what I’d expect from Alyssa.
Perhaps she should have danced it while rapping live – even if she had been a little off, the shock and awe of that would have proved more about her nerve than this ultimately safe performance.
Girl can do a split like none other, though (except for maybe her protege Laganja.)
7. Ginger Minj
Runner-Up, Season 7. Pre-Season Rank: 4
Ginger Minj did just about everything right this episode – so, why do I have her ranked in the bottom third?
In comparison to all the girls above, The Glamour Toad is seriously lacking in star power. In the sleepy Season 7 she came off as a powerhouse, but against some of the best queens in the biz dare I say she seems a lot like a filler queen?
Her talent show entry was actually strong – a vocally impressive take on an uplifting ballad. Yet, that’s the problem. In a cast full of strippers and dancers, Minj brought a ballad whose melody I cannot recall a lick of (as opposed to Adore’s, which is still stuck in my head) and a safe pantsuit fashion.
As a past Snatch Game winner, she needs to set fire to the rain next week to show she can hold her own against the other queens on this list in the longer term.
8. Phi Phi O’Hara
Runner-Up, Season 4. Pre-Season Rank: 9
I had high hopes for Phi Phi, largely because I’ve grown addicted to her Instagram and I’ve always thought she was a lot smarter than she came off while under duress in Season 4.
I… may have been wrong.
Phi Phi entered in a truly dreadful Riddler outfit – by far the tackiest of all the entrance looks. While I’m sure she made some of it herself, it looks like it came from a Party City – which, okay, LOL, but it’s still not a great advertisement for her newfound strength.
Once she’s in the room, she contributes very little aside from her witty line before the reading mini-challenge. You could argue that it’s because the other girls are a little cold towards her, but her narrative is that she’s never been as big of a bitch in real life as she was on the show. If that was the truth, the other girls would have been warmer. It’s telling that even in the bonus material the only one who really pals around with her is Katya, the newest queen on the block.
Then, there was her talent. Or, should I say, “talent”?
Phi Phi’s talent show was by far the worst from all the girls. Phi Phi might have a cool voice, but we’ve yet to discover a context where that’s clear. Singing a seemingly improvised song acappella with tons of shifts in key and tempo is definitely not the context.
You know how Santino used to say “I question your taste level”? I feel that way about Phi Phi after this episode. What self-aware queen would come in a halloween costume and put herself up against these killers (particularly Adore and Alaska, both singers) with this hot mess of a performance? It makes me question if Phi Phi even has the wherewithal to make it through Snatch Game next week.
9. Adore Delano
Runner-Up, Season 6. Pre-Season Rank: 5
It turns out that bringing her own quirky, grungy style back to the Drag Race stage was a massive mistake. I don’t think anyone expected her to get reamed out on the runway for her unremarkable fashion when she was far from the worst performance of the night.
Sure, she’s a little yell-y when she sings, but she was singing her own song live, and it was good. She should have been able to edge Alyssa into the bottom trio.
(That Adore didn’t do that might speak more to producer manipulation than her performance. Yes, Alyssa and Coco in the bottom would make for scandalous TV, but there was the distinct risk that a strategic queen would immediate drop Alyssa as some of the biggest competition. It’s in the show’s best interest to keep their walking catchphrase on screen for at least a couple more weeks.)
What this all put on display is that Adore is an actual working musician who is above caring about how she’s cinched or the length of her hem line. Given that she was begging Roxxxy to send her home, I don’t expect she’s going to last more than an episode past next week’s Snatch Game (where she has a clear prowess).
Eliminated: Coco Montrese
5th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 10
Alas, poor Coco, you never stood a chance in this crowd.
Hey, at least she’ll get her Ru-venge at some unspecified later date.
[…] First, Adore Delano decided to the leave the cast before the challenge. Second, a trio of high-quality, gag-worthy queens wound up in the bottom two – including both top queens from last week! […]