The second episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars came packed with even more surprises than we’d typically expect from a Snatch Game!
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!
Of course, this entire cast is high-quality and gag-worthy, which makes every elimination a painful one – especially since the queens are the ones doing the eliminating. However, this one couldn’t help but be controversial because Alaska found herself choosing between her Season 5 BFFs Detox and Roxxxy Andrews and relatively forgotten (though wonderful) Season 2 queen, Tatianna.
Let’s check out where the rankings wind up after the carnage, and then I’ll get back to Alaska’s decision to cut Tatianna from the cast.
1. Alaska Thunderfuck 5000
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 1. Last week: 2
If anyone had any doubts about Alaska’s intent to snatch the All Stars crown, this episode should have erased them completely.
First, her Snatch Game performance was legendary. Alaska’s choice of Mae West was inspired – no other queen was likely to choose her, she’s easy to caricature thanks to an outsized personality, and she’s full of famous lines.
Alaska’s performance managed to surpass what anyone could have expected, even with such a solid choice. She was bristling with sass and witty comebacks the entire time. Every one of her lines was a laugh, including complex multi-part set-ups like her joke about clinics and her repartee with Katya’s Bjork.
Second, her runway was pure sex appeal. Alaska so frequently chooses “weird” over “hot” and dons outlandish silhouettes with multi-wig hair that emphasizes her tall, alien-like face. Not here. She wisely dressed up a relatively plain vinyl outfit (Tatianna’s was likely a better look on the rack) with a long bob and a heavy line of black makeup across her brow line to shorten her face. The result was a sleek, simple Alaska that looked all-new and was anything but basic.
Finally, there’s her strategy. It’s easy to say that Alaska should have axed Roxxxy or Detox as bigger threats to her legacy. However, in Tatianna she had someone she could safely cut who was also as likely as anyone to cut Alaska from a bottom group.
Every queen on the show had to know that this is Alaska’s game to lose as soon as she walked into the workroom, which means they’re likely all tempted to eliminate her if she ever hits the bottom. Whether that will ever happen is another story entirely – she famously was only the third queen to never lip sync for her life (though it’s happened a few more times since then – Bianca, Courtney, Violet, and Kim Chi).
2. Detox iCunt
4th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 6. Last week: 3
How can I possibly have a queen from the bottom three going up one notch in power from last week?
To do that, we must begin with Detox’s runway.
Her bondage ball version of Girl with a Pearl Earring was visually stunning, and she completely sold it with a confident strut. Fans are already saying it deserves a spot in the pantheon of the best runways of all time. While the look itself was relatively simple, I can’t disagree. Any outfit that makes Ru audibly gasp when it hits the runway has something special going for it. When it was Detox’s turn in front of the judges, there was absolutely nothing to critique.
While Detox has always been fashion forward on the runway, this look is an evolution from her Season 5 looks. They were all amazing, but they relied heavily on Detox’s curves and weren’t ever both conceptual and so slick in execution. If this is the post-fame level of inspiration Detox is working with, I’m not sure any other queens in this cast can compete.
If we believe she has the runway on lockdown, then is she at risk from a challenge? I don’t really think so.
Detox can sometimes be pegged as an inconsistent performer, but that’s an unfair accusation. She killed on Season 5 on her children’s show and in the telenovela, and her solo perfume commercial was hilarious. If we’re slagging her for being bad at reading her cue cards in the RuPaul roast we must be in need of Jinkx’s “Delusion” fragrance, because – card shuffling aside – her jokes were savage.
Really, Snatch Game was Detox’s only glaring weak spot in Season 5, and last night she was fine. Her Nancy Grace gave several amusing answers that were plausible guesses that also gave her scenery to chew. She also mixed it up well with adjacent queens. It wasn’t memorable, but it wasn’t a bomb.
Let’s be honest – she was only in the bottom three this week to manufacture some Rolaskatox drama and to tempt the winner to eliminate a high-quality queen (who Ru would likely just bring back in some fashion, and she hinted to both Coco and Tatianna). In reality. Detox is going nowhere but the top.
3. Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova AKA Katya
5th Place, Season 7. Pre-Season Rank: 2. Last week: 4
Katya’s level of mastery in this episode would have likely placed her in the final three in Season 7. She even let her self-defeating tendencies work in her favor.
Her impersonation of Björk slayed in Snatch Game and will likely go down as a fan-favorite. Yes, it relied on a lot of typical Katya-isms, including a strange fixation on eating inedible things. Yet, it also cleared the bar of a great Snatch Game performance – she was completely in character, totally zany, and pushed outward to interact with the rest of the panel and the contestants.
Katya’s runway was exquisite – an Esther Williams style bathing fantasy that was beautiful but still outlandish thanks to the pastel color scheme, swim cap, nose plugs, and delicate mince down the runway. This is the high-concept Katya who can churn out dozens of webisodes in a year by making any topic compelling, and she’ll need that imagination to edge the similarly-inspired Alaska and the fashionplate Detox.
My hesitation on Katya is the same as it ever was – even at her most unleashed, she’s still holding something back. Last night her her lip sync was once again weirdly paced. Despite outdoing Alaska with a lot of weird, angular movements at the beginning, she never ratcheted up the drama. That doesn’t have to mean splits, but the fact that you were probably thinking, “yeah, like splits!” shows that we still haven’t seen a full range of dance performance from Katya.
Yet, rather than self-defeat, maybe this was self-restraint. In the deliberation phase, we see a whole new Katya – a powerful, in-control competitor who understands exactly what the ramifications of eliminating other queens might be. While she jokes that she’s back to prove to everyone she’s a total monster, her ability to be ruthless will serve her well here – it’s a trait both Alaska and Detox have in spades.
What Katya primarily needs to do to secure a potential win is not scare or piss off her Season 5 competitors. Ginger probably wouldn’t have the heart to kick her off (or want to risk the backlash; more on that below) and Phi Phi would likely boot a Season 5 girl rather than Katya any day of the week.
If Katya hits the finale four with either of those two or she can endear herself to at least one of the remaining four Season 5 queens, she has a 50/50 shot at reaching the finale. And, once there, she has an honest shot of being selected as the winner – especially if she keeps finishing neck-and-neck with Alaska.
4. Roxxxy Andrews
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 7. Last week: 1
Roxxxy Andrews experienced a precipitous fall from grace this week after leading the pack last week. Her lackluster Snatch Game performance as Alaska landed her in the bottom three despite a bold runway look, and it was the closest of calls whether she would remain in the competition rather than Tatianna.
Roxxxy’s single funny moment in Snatch Game was a complete fluke – she was gifted a question that had a high chance of getting the answer “booty” so her plug of Alaska’s record Anus could seem super-funny.
(To that point: this episode showed the weakness of bringing experienced queens on as the contestants – they too often are on the same wavelength as Ru and the girls, and will give answers that easily match with many of them. The hilarity of Snatch Game doesn’t tend to come from matches, but from wildly incorrect and in character answers.)
Otherwise, her Snatch performance is among the worst in the history of the show – she doesn’t land a single joke, even when all she has to do is recite catchy Alaska lyrics like “this is my hair, I don’t wear wigs” and “your make-up is terrible.” Seriously, Alaska’s songs are filled with so many little multiple entendres and scathing remarks, it’s hard to believe anyone could fail with her as a character.
Yet, I can’t get too down on Roxxxy for one major reason: she didn’t make any excuses for her poor placement. She truthfully confessed that she bagged Sofia Vergara at the last moment, but she didn’t say it for pity. Also, despite strategic appeals to Alaska and Katya, she didn’t pull any tear-jerking “don’t leave me at the bus stop” manipulation as she did after her one trip to the bottom on Season 5.
It still feels like Roxxxy has a solid chance to wind up in the final trio, especially since she excels at construction and is solid at choreography – and both of those challenges are likely upcoming. The potential roadbump is another comedic or conceptual challenge more than a week or two out from now, when she has no room to hide against weaker queens.
5. Alyssa Edwards
6th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 3. Last week: 6
Alyssa Edwards deviated slightly from her baseline this week with her ridiculous take on Faye Dunaway’s take on Joan Crawford, and it allows her to stay ahead of a feisty (if little-seen – more on that in a moment) Ginger Minj.
On Season 5, Alyssa was awkward performing as any character other than herself. (No, the ballet doesn’t count – that’s the most her she got to be all season!). Tonight, her Joan wasn’t quite an unqualified Snatch Game success: all she did was spout lines from Mommy Dearest. Yet, it was one of the most hilarious Snatch performances of all time thanks to her exaggerated Alyssa Crawford hybrid mannerisms.
However, on the runway we were back to expected Edwards – a slick mini-dress and big hair. While it was nice to break out of the black and silver worn by many of the other girls, a dress covered in lip prints doesn’t exactly scream eleganza.
Alyssa can’t possibly go three more weeks without being in the bottom three, but it also seems likely she’ll manage to slide into the top two at some point. We all know she will destroy the lip sync, which means Alyssa’s best chance of success might be in being ruthless in who she chooses to eliminate. If she were in Alaska’s spot last night, I think she would have wisely eliminated her “Whip My Hair” foe Roxxxy or even the ever-confident Detox.
By doing that, she might crack the top four this time around, but I’m stymied for how she might make it into the finale trio despite being a queen who clearly could bear the mantle of continuing Ru’s genre-shattering superstardom for years to come.
6. Ginger Minj
Runner-Up, Season 7. Pre-Season Rank: 4. Last week: 7
It seems pretty clear at this point that Ginger Minj has been cast as a filler queen this season, which is a peculiar and ultimately sad thing to say about such a powerhouse of her season.
This is becoming clearer not from her performance on the show, but but from her edit. There’s no way she’s being as quiet and contained as her onscreen appearances so far might suggest. If she was a later frontrunner in the series we would be seeing a lot more of her throughout both episodes, including an additional answer in Snatch Game.
Of course, there’s also the chance that her Snatch Game simply didn’t merit more coverage. Ginger’s Season 7 Adele parody was multi-pronged – a solid look, effective voice acting, props, and an efficient caricature of Adele as extremely British and naive (rather than simply unfiltered, as she often is in real life). You can see how calculating Ginger is in her bringing all of those elements back tonight, but she lacked for zingers and relied overly much on her crying gag (although the bit about the Lord’s love in her underwear was a good one).
Whatever the case in Snatch Game, Ginger was at her loveliest in tonight’s runway with a blonde bombshell look and a silver mermaid dress that hugged her every curve. Ginger was always notable as a bigger contestant who brings strong, glamorous fashion to the runway. If she winds up in the bottom two in the next few weeks that might be the thing that saves her, since the girls have agreed that runway ought to be the tie-breaker for equivalent challenge performances.
It sucks to be talking about our favorite glamour toad in terms of how long she can hope to survive. She’s got all of the right skills to become the next champion in Ru’s pantheon. Perhaps she would have been done more service by having more time to develop after her season aired.
7. Phi Phi O’Hara
Runner-Up, Season 4. Pre-Season Rank: 9. Last week: 8
Phi Phi had an uneven week that shows just how much danger she’s in right now.
Whether or not she settles on returning to her villainous ways, she needs to bring the over-the-top inventiveness of her cosplay and Instagram looks to bear on her runways if she plans to survive into the top half of this murder’s row of fashionable queens.
This week’s latex bathing suit was the utter definition of basic, and might not have survived in a regular season where contestants don’t have some accumulated good will to fall back on. After the boxy mini-dress that swallowed up her slight frame in the challenge last week, she’s the only queen who is 0 for 2 on looks. She cannot afford another miss next week.
As for Snatch Game, Her Teresa Caputo was average at best – and I’m not sure she reached “best” at any point in the performance. While it was an adequate physical and thematic caricature, Phi Phi relied heavily on a single repeated gimmick of cheating by writing her guesses after the answer was announced. That’s not too different that Alyssa’s barking out lines from a single movie – it doesn’t show an ability to think on your feet.
Phi Phi’s timing was odd, too – as in her intro when she asked Ru, “Have you ever received a gift [on Christmas]” and then hollered out “I have a gift!” as soon as Ru answered. She either needed to save the punchline for some later point, call what Ru received a “present” as opposed to a “gift” to make the gag work, or just work the timing differently.
Then, there are Phi Phi’s antics in the work room. Whether or not she means to play the villain, she tried to interfere with two queens’ plans and in one case it turned out badly – Roxxxy lost faith in her Sofia Vergara and switched to her lamentable Alaska, though Alyssa held fast to her Joan Crawford. You could argue that Phi Phi’s feedback was genuine and helpful to each queen as part of her rehabilitation plan, but she needs to focus a lot more attention on herself to survive in this competition.
A fond farewell to Adore Delano (Pre-Season: 5, Week 1: 9) and Tatianna (Pre-Season Rank: 8, Week 1: 5) – I’ll miss them both, but neither of them was going to win.
A question some fans might be asking after this week’s episode is, “Why didn’t Alaska kick off Roxxxy or Detox?”
Their pre-existing relationships aside, these two queens pose the most threat to Alaska of everyone in the cast other than Katya. Why not take the opportunity to remove them from the running?
Try to think about it the way the queens might see it: it’s part of their job. They’re telling someone else they don’t get to keep doing the job they love on TV anymore.
Imagine that 10 co-workers who are reasonably friendly with each other were up for the same promotion to manager, and every week the person who made the best widgets got to remove one of the bottom folks from contention – but, due to the nature of the widgets, anyone could have an occasional off week.
If you decided to remove someone who had an off week, how would your other coworkers treat you? Would they be relieved, because their chances also improved? Or would they all converge on you to sabotage your widgets, or to kick you out if you had an off week?
On Drag Race, not only do you deal with the potential for sabotage within the competition, but also sabotage of your career afterward. Past the potential for immediate fan backlash (which is not small), there’s a more longtime concern for queens to consider: bookings.
While the eventual winner will come away with 100k (probably more like 50k after taxes), that money won’t last forever – it’s a few years of their income, at best, and they’ll likely sink a lot of it into clothes and wigs befitting a winner. Queens primarily make their income from booking shows. Queens who come off as troublesome on the show are less likely to be booked, and queens seen as villains might have trouble pulling big crowds. Phi Phi is a queen who knows this all too well.