This week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 was one of the wildest episodes of all time, but most of that is down to what transpired in just the final minutes of the episode.
The Kitty Girls girl group challenge resurrects the dismissed five queens to double the potential for meme-able singing performances and double the elimination drama.
If the ru-turning queens win the challenge, two of them will Lip Sync For Their Lives, with the winner giving any queen the chop. But, if the remaining queens pull out a win, the Lip Sync For Your Legacy winner will get to both bring back a queen and dismiss one.
(I think that’s too much power to arbitrarily hand to a single contestant. Ru is basically absenting herself from giving any kind of guidance to where the competition could go from here. As we’ll see, it backfires even more spectacularly than he could have imagined.)
I’m going to tackle this episode in two parts. First, I’m going to rank the queens of each team purely on their Kitty Girls group performances to see who I would have brought back to the competition and placed in the bottom two. Breaking the performances down queen by queen yields some major surprises – some of which are totally counterintuitive to what I assumed while I was watching.
Then, we’ll get to our typical Power Rankings of our new final five, which is more than a little bit shaken up compared to last week’s rankings thanks to this week’s departure.
Team “Sitting On A Secret”
Chi Chi DeVayne AKA Cajun Kitty: 15/20
Lyrics: 4/4. Chi Chi nails the playful, just-barely-double entendre of a slutty girl group song.
Oh, you didn’t know. It hangs to the floor.
Got it snatched back tight so you can’t see it.
It’s a big ol’ thang, you know what I mean
Gaggin’ all the kids with my secret.
Vocals: 4/4. Chi Chi has a beautiful singing voice – really, one of the best in Drag Race history of queens who aren’t already professional singers. It was stunning to finally hear her in a singing challenge.
Dancing: 4/4. This is the sort of dancing where Chi Chi really shines – seductive pop moves. She not only nails her choreography, but really sells her little hand motions and lip syncing, too.
Outfit: 2/4. I suppose every girl group needs a girl in a jumpsuit, and you could do worse than this bejeweled silver number. It has a few moments of odd fit as Chi Chi crouches and shimmies that distracted me, and I feel like it needed one pop of color other than just the jewels to make her look like less of an astronaut.
Theme: 1/4. Aside from her accent in the vocals, nothing about Chi Chi’s lyrics or presentation screamed “Cajun.”
Morgan McMichaels AKA Bimbo Kitty: 10/20
Lyrics: 1/5. Morgan should be court-ordered to not make music. Not only are these awful lyrics, but now that I’m looking at them they don’t even make sense!
I’m a certain kind of girl that’s walking art
I’m so fierce, baby, and that’s just the start
Boys love me especially ’cause I got the same parts as Miss Tati
Girls like me on All Stars 3, no innuendo here, it’s what you see
I make my own choices and love to be free
I choose both bathrooms when I gotta go pee
Vocals: 1/4. Morgan’s talking is a little more rhythmic here than on the track she brought to the Variety Show, but it’s still pretty bad. There’s a way to do this sort of breezy, nonchalant delivery and still feel like it snaps to the rhythm. Taylor Swift does it frequently. Morgan doesn’t have the hang of it.
Dancing: 2/4. Morgan stays with the beat with a pretty basic set of stripper moves, but she’s out-danced in every other solo on her team.
Outfit: 4/4. This is where Morgan really shines in this line-up. Her pink plaid really pops and looks the most like something a pop group girl would make out of this team’s line-up. That it tears away for multiple reveals is a plus.
Theme: 2/4. Morgan’s lyrics are all about her being a dude – not much “Bimbo” there. Yet, her dance moves are straight out of a strip-o-gram and she takes off all her clothes. That’s decent.
Aja AKA Lil’ Banjee: 16/20
Lyrics: 4/4. Aja straight up kills her verse.
Go ahead pass me the mic
Let me show you how to do it right
Let me show you how to level up your puss
In the middle of a kitty cat fight
Got a secret bigger than Alyssa’s
Wanna pet my little Kitty and kiss her?
Banjee Queen got my baby hair slick
Don’t gotta say [bleep], just lick my secret
Vocals: 4/4. I have a little quibble with the pause in Aja’s first line, but otherwise her flow here is great.
Dancing: 3/4. Aja has a few clumsy moments here, including an opening cartwheel that’s more of a roundoff, but her MC moves are sharp and authentic and her slow-mo death drop is amazing.
Outfit: 1/4. I suppose Aja’s outfit is a bit banjee, but it’s also ugly. She’s got a thing for these deep-crotched, diaper-shaped bikini bottoms, and they are never flattering. Also, the nude panel in the middle of her top is tragic. It looked better dressed up with the three-quarter-length jacket she tossed away before her solo.
Theme: 4/4. Aja works her Banjee theme through her lyrics, fierce delivery, dancing, and outfit. That’s an all-around win.
Thorgy Thor AKA Cardio Kitty: 15/20
Lyrics: 2/4. Thorgy’s lyrics are a bit of a mess, starting out in a sultry Olivia Newton John “Physical” mode but turning into a weird SNL skit about having a very gay workout.
Move that body, work up a sweat
I got a workout that you will not regret
Lunge down low, come on, Ru
Squeeze that tush and WHOO!
[heavy breathing] You want more?
If you really, really want to work out your core
Take that secret, put it on the floor,
Disappear in one, two, three…
Vocals: 3/4. While Thorgy has a few moments of pitched vocals, this is mostly talking – disappointing from our classical music fish. She inserts some harmony vocals elsewhere in the song to redeem herself.
Dancing: 3/4. Thorgy’s routine is less of a dance than a fitness class. She sells it well, but it’s a shame it’s not more rhythmic, as her one body roll at the beginning is awesome.
Outfit: 4/4. Thorgy nails her look, totally selling a fitness obsessed pop star and managing to look good while doing it thanks to her killer leather jacket.
Theme: 3/4. Thorgy’s cardio theme comes out in every aspect of her presentation, but it’s not entirely coherent. It’s not like Sporty Spice turned every song into a workout. Again, I think a more sultry set of lyrics could have sold this a bit better.
Milk AKA Milky Kitty: 16/20
Lyrics: 3/4. Milk’s lyrics start really strong, and even though there’s the one nonsense line about farting they work well for her as the kooky, confrontational Kitty Girl.
If you say you’re super smart, you’re not (not!)
If you say your drag is art, it’s not (not!)
If you say you didn’t fart, you did
I’m not joking, kid
I am Milky, so start lapping
Fun with rhymes, they call that rapping
We the Kitty Girls, hear us roar
Honey, there’s the door
Vocals: 3/4. Milk’s vocal here has the perfect amount of “zig-a-zig-ahh” to it – a little talky, a little rappy, a little pitched. It’s not terrific singing, but it really fits in the context.
Dancing: 3/4. Milk comes off like a giant awkward bunny rabbit here, but it’s totally perfect for her character and presentation. Of all the dancing in this group, her silly “I am Milky” moves are the ones that stuck with me.
Outfit: 4/4. Is it weird to say this is the most gorgeous Milk has ever looked on the show? Her make-up is awesome and her transparent overalls are a total TLC-style throwback. She looked like Madonna in a mid-90s R&B group (AKA Michelle Visage).
Theme: 3/4. While the actual “Milky” character is a little elusive, so was “Scary Spice.” I think Milk pulled together all the elements here to tell us exactly who Milky really was.
Team Total: 72/100 points
Our Top Two are Aja and Milk, who are tied, slightly edging Thorgy and Chi Chi (who didn’t want to come back anyway)! I would have never put Milk in the top until I ran through this point by point, but she really did have all the other girls beat in every category.
Team “Drag Up Your Life”
Trixie Mattel AKA I.Q. Kitty: 17/20
Lyrics: 3/4. Trixie’s clever lyrics are a clear send-up of 2Gether’s year 2000 parody hit, “U+Me=Us (Calculus).” I love it – it’s just enough theme for her character to insert into a song without taking it off-track (got it, Thorgy?). Yet, I don’t really see this as fitting in with “Dragging Up Your Life” in any way. It’s a straight-up “let’s get together” lyric.
Beauty and intelligence in one combined
Serving body to the fifth power to the cosine
Maybe I can tutor you, just read my text
You can meet me after class
Baby, we can solve for X
Vocals: 4/4. Trixie’s vocals sound like a real girl group performance! She’s even giving the excessive scoops on her vowels. It’s adorable and perfectly fitting. Also, she contributes a slew of hilarious interjections throughout the rest of the song.
Dancing: 2/4. Trixie prances more than dances, but her body movements definitely sell awkward math nerd.
Outfit: 4/4. While Trixie’s outfit might be a bit costume-y with its yellow on white solid colors and massive wig, somehow it comes together to really work. It’s very K-Pop, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this verbatim in a sillier performance in that genre. Also, it must be said – her wig is amazing. TOOT.
Theme: 4/4. Trixie relentlessly sells her theme as the academic kitty girl. In her original description she said she wanted to come off as slutty, but here it’s more like adorably desperate. I think that’s fine, but she missed a chance in naming herself Witty Kitty.
Kennedy Davenport AKA Diva Kitty: 18/20
Lyrics: 3/4. Kennedy’s lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, but they work both for her character and in the context of the song. I wish she had found a way to get a little more content into the first two lines.
Say “yes” to drag, “yes, ma’am” to drag
It slays, it pays
Unleash the diva that lives deep inside your mind
If you want to play
Vocals: 3/4. Kennedy can really sing, but she frequently has barely-contained warble to her vocals – like she’s singing way too hard all the time.
Dancing: 4/4. While Kennedy isn’t serving the most complex dance moves we’ve seen out of her, the combination of her big high-kicking entrance and her simple step-changes are a perfect imitation of a real girl group performance.
Outfit: 4/4. Kennedy nails the sassy, sexy, diva outfit. This looks straight out of Spice World. TOOT.
Theme: 4/4. “Diva” is a vague theme for a girl group member, but everything about Kennedy’s presentation screams it.
BenDeLaCreme AKA Goth Kitty 16/20
Lyrics: 4/4. BenDeLaCreme nails the lyrics. They’re perfectly in character, they fit the theme of the song, and they’re clever as hell
It’s a kinda crappy world
And it sucks
There’s bigotry, the GOP, and misplaced tucks
So smear your lipstick on in the shape of a smile
If you hate it, fake it, make it into something less vile
Vocals: 3/4. Ben had to really push her mawkish talk-singing to sell her character, which makes this more precious than good – but, it still works.
Dancing: 3/4. BenDeLaCreme doesn’t have any dancing in her verse, but she works magic throughout the rest of the routine, selling all of the choreography but with her vapid, sullen version of it. It’s always hard to play a character who is also acting, and to be able to sell that entirely with body movement is an incredibly skilled act.
Outfit: 2/4. Ben’s catholic school girl look was inspired, but the actual execution felt more like a costume than a stage outfit. I think she could have pushed this a little more punk with some ripped up elements or added some sparkle to it. As it stood, it was pretty basic goth. BOOT.
Theme: 4/4. Even if Ben’s outfit was on the basic side, the combination of her lyrics, body carriage, and look totally sold her goth theme.
Shangela AKA Sparkle Kitty: 17/20
Lyrics: 3/4. Shangela does a pair of very clever things here. First, while her verse stands fine on its own, it works perfectly as a rebuttal to DeLa’s verse – setting them up as opposite ends of the group’s spectrum of personalities. That little bit of built-in conflict is really next level. Also, the melodies and cadences in her verse make it feel very similar to Kennedy’s, which really links the song together in a sort of ABC-ABC-ADA structure
Oh, girl, add some sparkle
It feels so sexy and free
And you’ll see – yes you will!
What the glitz and glamour
Be flashy for the cameras
So gay, gay, gay
Bitch, if you want to play
Vocals: 4/4. Shangela’s raspy voice totally works as a sassy girl group member, and she is carrying the rest of the team in all of the big harmonies.
Dancing: 3/4. While Shangela isn’t all over the place in the way you’d expect from a Hause of Edwards girl, that’s not always a girl group hallmark – and it would take away from Kennedy’s visual identity. She’s a really team player here, even if not sticking out slightly detracts from her performance.
Outfit: 4/4. Here’s a point where I won’t complain about Shangela cribbing from Beyonce’s notes. TOOT.
Theme: 3/4. “Sparkle” is a hard theme to push. All you can do is be relentlessly positive. Shangela sells that, and uses lots of words that evoke “shininess,” but ultimately – just like “Baby Space” – this was a theme that was impossible to perfect in just one song.
Bebe Zahara Benet AKA Jungle Kitty: 17/20
Lyrics: 1/4. I’ve got a story for you: no. Look – I get that a bunch of incoherent growling sells the jungle cat concept, but Bebe simply did not put in the work of the other nine girls in this challenge.
[lip trill] Ra-ka-ta-ti-ti-tata
Yeah, I’m pussy, bitch
Ooh, la la la la la la
C’est bon, c’est bon
Do ko cho cho, la te la
You can take my snatch
Drag it up, wheel it up, give me more, bring it to the ball
Vocals: 4/4. Where Bebe missed the mark on actual words, her sensual, growling performance totally nailed it.
Dancing: 4/4. It is such a relief to see Bebe in a more active, youthful dancing routine after her dull lip syncs. This is perfect for the one uncontainable member of the group.
Outfit: 4/4. Bebe really benefits here from being the only girl on her team in a jumpsuit – it makes her really stick out for her choice against all the shorts and skirts. TOOT.
Theme: 4/4. Bebe’s lyrics might not make a lick of sense, but everything about her performance tells you exactly what it means to be a jungle kitty. Mrowr!
Team Total: 85/100 points
First of all – it’s obvious that “Drag Up Your Life” absolutely destroyed “Sitting On a Secret!” I actually liked “Secret” better as a song at first, but looking closely at the performances this group was miles beyond the returning queens. Their individual scores don’t even tell the story of how much more cohesive they were.
Our Top Two are Kennedy and anyone else. Yes, BenDeLaCreme trails the other girls by a single point, but her performance had a certain unexpected quality to it that probably made up for the minor gap – and I don’t think the judges were as bugged by her plain outfit as I was. Maybe they hang out with as many goth kids as a teen as I did.
Of course Kennedy could not be in the top two, because she was the queen that production was gunning to give the sashay in this episode. It’s clear that the Ben-Shangela-Bebe-Trixie foursome is being groomed for the final four at this point, and an expected return from Aja wouldn’t shake that up too much.
Of course, Ben had some other ideas…
Where does Ben’s sudden departure and Morgan’s return leave us standing?
1. Bebe Zahara Benet
Bebe has graduated to be the top-ranked queen by default after Ben’s departure and Shangela receiving the “you seem tired” commentary in this week’s challenge.
I think Bebe has absolutely been positioned to go to the finals this entire time, but purely to light a fire under BenDeLaCreme and Shangela to keep delivering their best drag. Now, it feels like Bebe has a legitimate shot at being crowned. She now has three top two placements with no trip to the bottom, and she hasn’t received a single serious critique yet this season.
Bebe’s grasp on the most-powerful spot could be tenuous. With an acting challenge next week, Shangela will be surging – and Trixie and Kennedy are also both hilarious actresses. Bebe will need to deliver the performance of her life to pull out a top two placement, though even if she fails it’s doubtful she’ll get cut before Morgan.
Shangela bounced back from her low placement with a perfectly safe performance in Kitty Girls. With Trixie still seeking a Lip Sync win and Kennedy on the verge of getting chopped, it’s safe to say Shangela has this second place spot on lock right now.
That can’t stop me from playing a bit of “what if” on her performance this week. If she had danced more aggressively, could she have edged Bebe out of the top spot? If so, she’d be cruising through the next two episodes as the presumptive winner with Ben out of the competition.
I have a strong suspicion that Shangela will be in the top two next week for the acting challenge. If that’s the case, I think she’ll have done enough to pull even with Bebe for her shot at the Hall of Fame … though if Trixie or Kennedy are in the top two with her it would make sense for them to win the lip sync to balance the standings a bit.
3. Trixie Mattel
As with Shangela, it’s impossible not to ask “What if?” about Trixie’s performance this week had Adam Lambert not come for her not once but twice during judging.
Couldn’t he have just come to Trixie’s room at night and cut up her wigs?
Regardless, Trixie was really great as a Kitty Girl – it might have been her best full package performance of the season. That’s exactly where she needs to be right now. Before Ben’s shocking exit, Trixie was locked out of a potential Top 3 unless Bebe or Shangela keep messing up. Now, it’s Trixie’s game to win or lose with strong performances in the next two weeks.
If Trixie can make it to the finale, especially if she does it with a Lip Sync win under her belt, I think she has a legitimate shot at an upset in this post-BenDeLaCreme competition.
4. Kennedy Davenport
In Kennedy’s own words, “Fuck my drag, right?”
In all seriousness, it’s hard to understand how dismissive the judges were of Kennedy both last week and this week when she delivered a pair of standout performances. Even if her wig was a little “Newark Realtor” in this episode, Kennedy was absolutely bringing girl group realness to that stage.
Kennedy has only briefly flirted with a spot in the final three at this point in the competition. Can she make a sudden move to break up this top group in the next two weeks? And, even if she does, could she possibly make into the Hall of Fame?
I say the answer is yes. Without BenDeLaCreme sucking all of the air out of the room in every challenge, Kennedy might be able to win on her subtler performances rather than her insano-mode from The Bitchelor. Also, past the Janet debacle, she really has not been making unforced errors this season the way she did in her original run – which is probably what kept Ru from advancing her to the finals over the sleepy Pearl.
I’m rooting for Kennedy to slay next week and wind up in the top two, as it would really shake things up heading into the final four the following week.
5. Morgan McMichaels
It’s not totally unprecedented for RuPaul to bring back an early-out contestant – last year on All Stars Tatiana originally lasted just two episodes, and in Season 8 Naysha Lopez got a second run after going out first.
However, you can’t really compare either of those instances to Morgan leaving in the first episode and coming back to a final five that are all so powerful as drag artists. I enjoy Morgan’s drag, but she frequently doesn’t bring the sheer scope of some of the other queens. She’s a bar queen that looks good on TV, not a multimedia queen who hangs out in a bar.
Next week is an acting challenge. Morgan endured three acting challenges in a row on Season 2, when she was safe twice and then in the bottom for her Pink impersonation in the original Snatch Game.
Morgan absolutely must place herself in the Top 2 next week or she would be the obvious queen to get the cut. While I believe she might be able to skate by Bebe in an acting challenge, powering through Kennedy and cracking into the Trixie and Shangela theatrical twosome might be an impossible feat.
Sashay Away: BenDeLaCreme
How do you solve a problem like BenDeLaCreme?
In hindsight, many seasons of Drag Race seem to have a single contender who leads the competition the entire time with nary a misstep, but that rarely comes across when the season is first unspooling. In fact, Bianca aside, the two main examples are from the past two seasons of All Stars – Chad and Alaska.
I think that is not only because All Stars features seasoned queens, but because Ru doesn’t feel as much of a need to keep things spread evenly amongst the cast on an All Stars season. The entire concept of the show is already predicated on Ru playing favorites and righting the wrongs of prior seasons. If a single queen stomps everyone else in the competition, it was mean to be.
The problem with that is what it does psychologically for the queen – especially with winners being responsible for eliminations. To watch as you are told week after week that you are flawless while yours sisters get torn to shreds is going to crack even the most ruthless queen. To then have to send those queens home one by one while you haven’t had a single hair of place the entire time… and to also feel like you still have something to prove even after notching so many wins… it takes a certain kind of personality.
(For the record, both Alaska and Detox absolutely have that sort of personality, which was part of what made last season so freaking delicious.)
Would Ben have chosen to leave the competition had she only won 3 or 4 of the 6 challenges instead of 5 of them? It’s hard to say. I get the sense that Ben is used to being a bit of an underdog, and if she had been fighting just as hard but getting less recognition she might have wound up more engaged in the competition at this key turning point.
What happens now? Many fans have said that the winner of this season will have “an asterisk” next to their accomplishment without Ben in the finals as competition. I don’t entirely buy that. Any queen can crash and burn on Drag Race, and the record of challenge wins isn’t the only thing that dictates RuPaul’s final decision.
I think if one or more of our remaining queens can turn out best-in-career performances in the next two weeks, it will be easy to think of them as champions. It’s only if the absence of Ben leads this cast to skate by that I think we’ll need to have a footnote next to the winner’s name.