Welcome to my recap of the sixth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 – Total Ru-quest Live, a “girl group” challenge of constructing throw-back pop songs that would fit in 20-years ago… but with your own unique twist.
At this point in the evolution of Drag Race, it’s fair to ask this question: Does anything matter more than making RuPaul laugh?
This isn’t the case on every reality competition show. Some involve fan voting. Others involve a clear, objective set of success criteria. Others still feature a more-balanced panel of judges, where thwarting the tastes of the most-famous judge can sometimes yield an underdog storyline (see: Simon Cowell).
On any of those shows, some things could matter more than making RuPaul laugh. On Drag Race, nothing matters more.
On Drag Race, there’s no way to win other than to make RuPaul love you. There are no objective criteria for challenge wins, as we’ve seen many times before. The easiest way to secure a win for the week is to amuse RuPaul. That’s a surer bet than designing the most over-the-top costume (e.g., Utica losing the ball to GotMik), delivering a flawless performance (e.g., Jan losing the Madonna/Michelle week to Gigi), or doing more tricks in a lip sync (e.g., anyone versus Simone).
The question of making RuPaul laugh comes with a second implicit question that is much more difficult to answer:
Does making RuPaul laugh matter outside of Drag Race?
That’s a much trickier question. RuPaul loves to point out that “drag will never be mainstream,” but his references used to align much more closely with mainstream tastes. With every obscure Diana Ross reference he dispenses, it’s clear that Ru’s status as a tastemaker is receding. Even eternal mega-stars like Cher or Madonna eventually fall behind the 8-ball of the ever-changing face of pop-culture and have to rely on nostalgia to drive their success.
Nowhere is that more evident than in an episode like this week’s. Ru awarded wins to a pair of outright comedy performances when other queens were delivering smoother pop songs. Ru isn’t looking for a pop songstress – he never has. He’s looking for a queen so far outside of the mainstream that she can make the mainstream notice her.
Even if Ru is laughing at different things than everyone else, she’s laughing for the right reasons.
Which two queens turned out those Ru-larious performances this week versus a pair of powerful popstresses? Read on to find out! Plus, at the end of the recap I’ll update my Episode 5 power rankings to show where the queens stand after another week of Legendary Legend badges. (Want to skip right to the power rankings? Go for it!)
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen… win!
Drag Race All Stars Season 7 Episode 6 – Total Ru-quest Live Recap
Platinum Plunger Aftermath
As the queens stroll into the workroom after last week’s lip sync, Raja is ecstatic. She finally secured her first Legendary Legend star, alongside Jinkx winning her second!
Trinity is quick to point out that Jinkx is now “the front-runner” – it’s never to early to get the blocking strategy rolling for the next week! Jinkx counters by pointing out that she and Raja get to hand out a pair of bonus stars, which means at least one other queen will be immediately upgraded to the Two Star Club.
(That brings up an interesting point of strategy – do you give out a star to a queen who earned it, or to secure an alliance? More on that, to come.)
Viv comes into the room with the Platinum Plunger tucked behind her back into her waistband. That might be a sign, because that she’s the first plunged queen who feels penitent about getting blocked. Viv admits that she brought it on herself by saying she would’ve preferred to block Jinkx the week prior. Jinkx counters that she would’ve blocked Viv regardless because of her “very steady incline” and because she very nearly won the Draguation Speech challenge.
Viv isn’t buying it, but the social game is on, y’all! All of these statements are halfway true, but the name of the game right now is trying to keep the focus off of you while also asking nicely for a free bonus star. Monét is definitely asking, but of all the queens who have been friends to Jinkx this season, Trinity is the one who built her dang dress for her – and she’s not going to let us forget it! Yvie makes it clear she’s not above “a handout from a loving sister” as the single starless queen.
For her part, Viv keeps up the illusion of the Secret of the Plunger, even though Raja and Yvie are the only two queens who haven’t been privy to it yet.
As the other queens de-drag, the OG winners Jinkx and Raja confer on their star-gifting strategy. Jinkx says “for me it’s kindof a toss-up,” and the edit cuts away before we hear who she’s tossing between. Yvie seems obvious, as does her helper Trinity… but, Jinkx has a trick up her sleeve, as we’ll see the next morning. (Later, she confirms it was a choice between Trinity and Jaida.)
Meanwhile, Raja ominously says, “I do think about the more powerful witches.” This is a fascinating window into Raja’s strategy game that we’ve yet to see. She knows she’s probably not going to head into the finale with the most stars, but all she needs to do is have the fourth most stars. She isn’t in a hurry to help another queen hopscotch past her on the way to three stars while she still has one.
“A new day in the workroom!”
The queens enter the workroom and are immediately interrupted in their sucking up to Raja not by RuMail, but by Ru himself!
RuPaul is in a pieced-together outfit of a black blazer with white-lined lapels, a white tank top, tailored red pants with a sharp crease (and a matching red belt with gold grommets), and loafers. It looks sharp but feels a bit slapdash. Did he having a falling out with Klein Epstein & Parker?
Ru prompts Raja and Jinkx to hand out their bonus stars. Raja makes the obvious choice and gives her star to Yvie. She speechifies about “seeing the magic in this person,” but it’s simply a good strategy play to take a queen from 0 to 1 rather than from 1 to 2.
That leaves Jinkx with the tougher choice, and after commenting about her selected queen “putting a smile on all of our faces” she hands the star to Jaida.
I think this is also good strategy. It’s increasingly obvious which challenges are left on the docket this season, and Jaida has already won in her strongest challenge – design! Of everyone here, Jaida poses the least threat to Jinkx in her best categories – which isn’t the case for Trinity. Plus, Jaida has had a low-key, friendship-level alliance with Jinkx all along while Monét and Trinity asked for something more overt.
(This comes back to bite Jinkx in the ass later when it turns out there is another design challenge next week, which is odd for an All Stars season, but we’ll get to that in the Power Rankings.)
Ru informs the cast they will be “turning back the Drag Race time machine to the year 2000 … for a flashback episode of MTV’s TRL!” The queens will form “two hot new girl groups” and battle it out for who is more swoon-worthy.
This is a deliciously specific retro challenge that asks queens to work from a reference they actually remember, rather than something from Ru’s ancient youth! It’s also causing me waves of psychic pain to realize that TRL was two decades ago.
For those who weren’t alive for it, Total Request Live (“TRL” for short) was MTV’s daily after school live video show hosted by Carson Daily. It was the one time you were guaranteed to see music videos on MTV, and it played the hottest songs and had only the most-popular guests and performers. If you were a teeny-bopper in the prime “Britney ‘n Boyband”s era that slowly gave way to harder mainstream acts like Evanescence and Eminem, you were watching TRL.
(Hilariously, Raja points out she was the only member of this cast who was already fully an adult in this era, and that the Total Request Live years are more like the Total Memory Blackout years for her.)
The queens are left to their own devices to split into a pair of equal 4-queen teams. At first they go for a casual “split down the middle approach” (Trinity, Raja, Shea, and Monet on one side versus Yvie, Jinkx, Jaida, & Viv on the other). The lack of agency plainly ticks Viv off. Jinkx wisely suggests that everyone listen to the pair of challenge songs and then split up between the workroom couches based on which one they’d rather perform.
This yields… no actual line-up juggling, as queens swap seats on the coaches but still maintain their initial split. Viv seems like she might have preferred the other song (or, to be away from Jinkx), but she shuts up so things can keep moving.
(I didn’t see this going any other way. Shea and Monét are the powerhouses in this challenge and the best choreographed dancers, so it made sense for them to form a blockade, and Monét’s ally Trinity wanted to tag along.)
Team Trinity, Raja, Shea, and Monet re-arrange their letters to deem themselves MSTR – “Mister,” previously “Mystery” with the story that Yvie used to be in their lineup. They have “Titanic,” the epic break-up song, and they’re intent on perfectly chanelling the early-2000s period.
Team Yvie, Jinkx, Jaida, & Viv are feeling like a squad of leftovers with “2-Getha 4-Eva,” so they take the moniker “The Other Girls” and make up the high-concept story that they’re each rejects from a different pop group… for reasons that will become obvious in their equally weird verses. For example, Yvie is a slightly mis-programmed pop robot who may be running low on batteries and squawks like a broken modem.
Like I said: high concept.
Within a few hours, the queens have to write verses, record vocals (with a limited number of takes), have a comped mix delivered to them, and then choreograph their numbers. That’s a wild day! It’s not a shock that Monét and Shea are the stars of this sequence, from their easy recording sessions (Shea raps, Monét takes it up an octave) to their nimble choreography. Meanwhile, The Other Girls seem lost when it comes to choreography
(Viv is full of bawdy comedy gold in this sequence, saying she’s going to make her verse about every British stereotype by making her verse about tea and foreskin, and interviewing that Yvie’s modem sounds send her into PTSD about parents walking into the room just as she was preparing to masturbate. You really get the sense that Jinkx was right, and Viv is locked in at this point in the competition.)
You know what this means, right? MORE SONGWRITING ANALYSIS from your experienced songwriter of over 25 years!
“Titanic” by MSTR
I think Titanic was the more-distinct track of the two songs. There’s no question it has the better hook. But, it also didn’t leave much room to experiment with melody.
That left these queens somewhat boxed in by the track, and Monét is the only one who turned the restriction into something memorable.
Also, their post-song interview was a fizzle. Monét took charge, but her saying she was quitting the group killed any potential story that could emerge from the improv. It was very “no, but” instead of “yes, and.”Click to expand a verse-by-verse songwriting analysis!
Monét X Change
I’ve been tough on Monét so far this season, but she came through for me in this challenge! Despite the temptation to rap so she could squeeze in extra lyrics, she stuck to four lines of singing in a perfect period nasal Britney imitation.
I hate you baby boy, you tearin’ up my heart
Too busy T9 texting, Destiny fell apart
Like Kathy Lee dumped Regis, Love went down the drain
You are The Weakest Link, dust it off, try again (yeah)
Every damn word of that is a nod to the prime TRL era! Monét references, NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart” from 1998, T9 texting (the way we used to text when all we had was a dialpad and we had to scroll through each letter set), Destiny’s Child breaking up in 2005, the end of Live with Regis and Kathie Lee in 2000, The Weakest Link which debuted to fanfare in 2001 but fizzled by 2002, and Aaliyah’s “Try Again” from 2000.
(I can’t figure out the “down the drain” reference, but if it’s about Courtney Love consider me extra gooped.)
Not only did Monét manage all of this in a matter of hours, but it rhymes, it tracks perfectly, and it tells an almost flawless story. I lost her vocal a little on “Destiny,” but lyrically it’s only the “try again” that doesn’t quite fit. If she snuck in a meagre “I’ll” at the beginning of that phrase it would make perfect sense. I’m willing to let that pass.
Trinity The Tuck
I’m proud of Trinity’s consistently improving songwriting skills!
There’s no question she has gotten better and better in each of the five girl group challenges she has now competed in. This verse might be a little bit overly-specific with its Timberlake obsession, but it tracks so much better than her Week One verse, her talk-singing has an actual melody, and the AABA CCDD rhyme scheme was clever.
Frosted tips, you know I had em’
Yeah, Justin, you had me gaggin’
I went crazy, was obsessin’
Fell in love, and couldn’t have him
I know this love ain’t real love
You weren’t sent from above
Not N’sync from the start
This blessed crush had to depart
There are a few ways to improve this verse.
First, there is some perspective confusion. In the second line Trinity directly addresses her subject with “Justin, you had me gaggin’,” but just two lines later she says “couldn’t have him.” She makes the same switch again in the back half of the verse. That’s distracting, even if it only distracts you on a subliminal level and you never quite put your finger on it.
Also, this verse needs a stronger finish. “This blessed crush” isn’t much of a punchline, and it slightly disagrees with “you weren’t sent from above.” If he wasn’t sent from above, why is he blessed?!
While we’re tinkering, Trinity could’ve fit that same NSYNC reference in the second line (“he was NSYNC, I was obsessin'”) to give herself more real estate for a strong kicker. Plus, we’re missing an obvious “Bye Bye Bye” reference – there had to be room to squeeze that in somewhere!
Frosted tips, you know I had em’
Yeah, Justin, he had me gaggin’
My heart NSYNC, I was obsessin’
Fell in love, but couldn’t have him
I know this love ain’t real love
He wasn’t sent from above
We never even got to start
He went “bye bye bye” and broke my heart
It’s not my finest work, and it has a few too many syllables at points, but it tracks slightly better than Trinity’s original draft.
Still, it’s not like Week One, where there were so many obvious things wrong with her verse. Even with the perspective struggles and weak finish, I like that Trinity didn’t try to cram in all of the syllables into every line, which often leaves her with impossible tongue-twisting triplets. Given the limited time, this was solid.
Shea slightly underperformed for me on this verse. Her delivery was fire, as always, but these lyrics don’t especially track.
Hell nah, boy, you best stop trippin’
What’s wrong, boo, yo’ CD skippin’?
Better not play me like a clown
Or like Titanic, it’s goin’ down
Like that J.Lo neck
Turn around boo, lemme see that back
Just got hit up by your friend
‘Cause oops, I did it again
The “trippin’ / skipping” rhythm is perfect, but what’s the story there? There’s a lot of filler in the first half of those two lines. “Play me like a clown” is another vague phrase that doesn’t further her story. Then, she references J.Lo’s magically wrinkle-free neck and asks to see the boy’s ass. Or, to watch him walk away? Either way, what does that have to do with a smooth neck?
Maybe I’m missing some nuance or reference in there, but it’s coming off as a word jumble for me. It’s not clear who left who or why, or even if Shea is particularly broken up about the breakup! Plus, there’s no obvious humor in it, which every other one of the eight verses had (as have all of Shea’s past verses).
I’m not quite sure how to fix this because I’m not sure what it’s about. If I was under duress, I might try this:
Hell nah, boy, you best stop trippin’
Can’t stay with me if yo CD skippin’
You thought that you could play the clown
But like Titanic, we’re goin’ down
Like that J.Lo neck
I’m so smooth you can’t get me back
I already hit up your friend
And oops, Imma do it again
I dunno. That might not be better, but it makes a hair more sense to me than the original without completely disassembling it to start from scratch.
What can I say? Raja’s verse is straight up aphasic… and yet, it also manages to make a number of period references?
Atlantic, deep, my loots I keep
Sink my bling-bling, bye-bye ring
Treasure chasin’, danger facin’
Baby, your drownin’, frozen frownin’
Honey, your heart, why so cold?
“That’s hot”, melt like gold
Clubbin’ in our Juicy Cou
Call me Angel Lucy Liu (Hi-Yah!)
There’s something mysteriously appealing about the word-salad quality of this effort that isn’t too far off from some Spice Girl verses. It even somewhat summarizes the plot of Titanic!
It’s a little too oddball without anything to hang onto, lyrically or melodically. But, any attempt to edit it would ruin Raja’s fascinating trainwreck quality.
“2-getha 4-eva” by The Other Girls
This song feels like a much more an obvious ode to the period than “Titanic.” It sonically references both “Baby One More Time” and NSYNC.
That make it musically more anonymous as its own standalone single. Yet, this arrangement has much more space between lines with a less prescriptive melody than the first track.
That gave these queens more room to play, and they all took advantage of it.
Also, their demented post-song interview was a terrific use of unstructured improv time. Each queen managed to get in a little zinger to reinforce her character.Click to expand a verse-by-verse songwriting analysis!
Viv’s verse doesn’t exactly tell a coherent story.
Yet, in truth, how different is this from Taylor Swift’s “London Boy”? It’s less about a story and more about evoking a certain person from a certain place. Viv’s got all of the British stereotypes mashed up with sex puns. I’m not sure she needed anything else.
I got a English guy to love me
He’s got a foreskin and he drinks tea
He loves to love, my double decker puss
Gonna start a royal family
Bangers and mash, were meant to be
I love it when, he sweeps my chimney
Viv is smart to leave room for the big rhythmic hits in the music after each line, which function like punctuation for her jokes. They land with maximum comedic impact.
I’m especially fond of “gonna start a royal family,” which is not only a great way to work in the Windsors without a “queen” reference, but adds a certain sweetness as the only line in the entire song that isn’t explicitly about sex.
Jaida Essence Hall
This verse is a work of genius. Yes, it’s one giant poop joke. But it’s also so. damn. clever. There’s so much smart rhythm and wise wordplay packed into these bars
I get this rumble in my tummy when you’re holding my hand
So baby let me clear the air, you’re my number 1 fan
But you’re my number two
I’m so in love with you
Just like diarrhea we’ve exploded in love
You’ve got me high babe, like I’m gassy, and we floating above
The new millennium here, cause baby you’re the shit.
Jaida took an opposite tact from Viv and found a way to use the big rhythm hits in the arrangement to emphasize her lyrics rather than working around them. That means she packs in so many words, but the rhythm never feels squeezed or awkward. And, the lyrics are full of puns and internal rhymes. Note the assonance on “rumble, tummy, number, one” and the quick sixteenth notes on “got me high babe – like I’m gassy – and we floating.”
Could the story of these lyrics track a little bit better? I think the middle couplet and final line both could’ve been stronger. Clearly “number two” seals the scatological humor, but I feel like “I’m so in love with you” is a generic line that leaves us missing something from a storytelling standpoint. A fix could be as simple as using a different verb, like “feeling” you or “full of” you.
That would free us up to replace “the new millennium here” in the final line with our relocated “I’m so In love with you.” It feels more in context at the end of the verse and plays better off of “you’re the shit.” Or, she could’ve snuck in another pun with “I’ll never wipe you away” or “I’m feeling flushed with love.”
It might seem like nitpicking, but I think missing that extra punch of humor is what separates this verse from Viv’s and Yvie’s.
Jinx goes broad on character humor in this verse. The lyrics track, but she leans into “old lady” when her Week One challenge was also about being a sexy Step-MILF. It makes it feel like she has nothing new to say in this challenge.
Like my hip, our love is titanium
And were aging at the same rate cause I’m very young
Pledge your heart to me, eternally
Gonna be around forever like a CD
And I’ve got 2 years left to have your baby
Cause I’ve fallen in love, and I can’t get up
If there’s one thing that really bothers me about this verse, it’s that the “aging at the same rate” line doesn’t track. Everyone ages at the same rate! We’re all subject to the passage of time! It’s an awkward turn of phrase shoehorned in to match the rhythm, and Jinkx had to rely on the physical comedy of her presentation to sell it in the performance.
Also, while I’m splitting hairs: the demand of “pledge your heart” is softened by following it up with the declarative “gonna be,” and the “2 years left” limitation fights with “eternally” and “forever” in the prior lines. Each line makes sense on its own and even within the narrative, but too many of these phrasing choices vibrate against one another in awkward ways.
Is it a fine verse? Yes. Could it be tightened? Absolutely.
Like my hip, our love is titanium
And we have so much in common cause I’m very young
Pledge your heart to me, eternally
Even if we last forever like a CD
I only have 2 years left to have your baby
Cause I’ve fallen in love, and I can’t get up
It’s still the same verse – I only changed 12 words. But, the “very young” joke is now much more self-evident, and the “forever” and “2 years left” aren’t fighting with each other anymore with the addition of “even” and “only.” Sometimes improving a song really comes down to mulling over single word choices.
Much like Jaida, Yvie finds brilliance in wordplay and rhythm. She finds even more brilliance in leaning into the mad-lib quality of cookie-cutter pop in the way that Raja did, but with lyrics that actually track.
Baby, I’m your baby, you’re my baby
I love you forever, never maybe
If you ever need me you can page me
And I’ll call you from this flip-phone till I’m 80
Our connection is amazing
Dial up my modem and I’ll never keep you waiting
Baby, baby, baby
First off, “Baby, I’m you’re baby, you’re my baby” is so good that I want to cry about not using it first. It’s a perfect send-up of the overuse of “baby” in songs of this period, but it’s also such a good lyric. Repeated words make lines catchy, and when you can repeat them with context rather than just echoing them they make the lines even catchier.
Similar, directly pairing opposed words like “never maybe” is instantly memorable. Yes, the line means “we will never be a maybe,” but by just saying “never maybe” Yvie” is mashing up an absolute in “never” with a conditional on “maybe” and it immediately stands out without introducing confusion.
If I’m being a curmudgeon, I wish we didn’t leap right from “flip-phone” to “modem,” which are both period references but which don’t entirely go together when Yvie is wielding both of them. Maybe if it was the subject who had the flip phone instead of Yvie it would track marginally better.
That Yvie made such a memorable, catchy track while also playing an absurd character makes her the clear winner of this challenge for me.
Runway: Night of 1,000 Dolly Partons
Our judges are RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, and Swedish popstress Tove Lo (which, SHOCKER, is pronounced “too-vay loo”).
RuPaul is in a somewhat standard mono-chromatic yellow look. What makes it memorable is the massive knot of asymmetrical white blond hair that is taller than her head!
Monét X Change absolutely killed this runway.
This Dolly reference is obvious even without being one of her typical rhinestones and tassels looks. Also, Monét is serving a not-to-obvious amount of Dolly in her make-up with the heavily cut crease and the arched brow.
The garment itself is gorgeous – a belted trench coat dress is never going to look bad on the runway if you get the proportions this right. Notice how tightly Monét is cinched and how the dress just brushes the ground in the front but has a train in the back. Also, I love that it’s lined with bright orange, which pops but doesn’t distract from the pattern.
If I could change one thing in this look it would be to make the belt solid orange like the lining, or bright yellow. My eye gets a little lost in the middle.
Trinity The Tuck looks good in a classic yellow Dolly outfit that is impeccably detailed, but it doesn’t feel as though she has elevated Dolly’s own drag.
Dolly is the rare blonde who can really make yellow work, but that’s because her blonde hair is a little brassy and her yellows tend to be ultra-saturated. Trinity’s hair-to-dress color-story is slightly off, so it doesn’t have quite the same impact as Dolly’s own look.
But, does she look like Dolly? Abso-frickin’-lutely!
I appreciate Shea Couleé going for a slightly less obvious Dolly, if only because this look isn’t as obviously a “drag look” to begin with compared to a lot of Dolly’s looks. Also, I still know this leather biker version of Dolly, so it’s not quite as niche as I’ve seen some folks make it out to be.
The problem is that the fit of the garment isn’t giving Dolly. There’s something especially fussy about the pants, which are black chaps on top of black pants. Even if that’s faithful to the original Dolly look, it’s coming off frumpy on the runway.
Also, not for nothing, but Shea doesn’t wear a big breastplate too often and this piece is an odd match to her skin tone. It almost makes it look like she has a blouse on under her bustier, which makes the look even odder.
I love Raja‘s take on Dolly because she is wise enough to know how to drag up and already dragged up look.
What do you do if you’re copying a Dolly look that’s already cinched within an inch of its life, bursting with cleavage, and rhinestoned to high heavens? You have to push it in a slightly different direction. Raja loses the bolero jacket of the original to make it slinkier, adds fringe where the original was skin-hugging, amps up the make-up, and goes with a ridiculously huge wig in the style of Trixie Mattel (but, not quite Lady Bunny).
I don’t think it is quite as eye-catching as the original Dolly garment, but it shows how you can always find new ways to drag up and already dragged-up look.
Even if Monét brought the best garment, The Vivienne is without a question the champion of this runway.
Like Raja, she picked a Dolly look that was drag to begin with and went even draggier with it by adding more glitter and massive bell sleeves. The original was rendered in a richer blue, which actually pops more than this version of the garment. But, Viv’s version is more “drag queen,” which is the way to go.
To that, Viv adds an absolutely uncanny resemblance in make-up, wig choice, and mannerisms. Even if her wig is more platinum than Dolly’s, the shape of it with the bump-and-spray at the rear is quintessential Dolly. And the make-up is … it’s just incredible. Note that she’s got a similar cut crease to Monét, but she didn’t go as dark or as low on the brows as Dolly does.
Again, doing well in this runway is about finding a minor element that takes a Dolly look a little bit past reality and up to full drag.
Jaida Essence Hall is wearing a lovely summery yellow dress.
She does better with the dress-to-hair contrast than Trinity did by wearing a white-blonde, but falls prey to a similar stumbling block in that she copied an existing look without dragging it up. This is a very close copy of the original, but the original is more draggy! It’s almost gilded instead of just yellow, and it has a massive jeweled belt.
Jaida’s version needed more of that opulence. I love the jagged hem line, though!
Jinkx Monsoon is aiming for 80s Dolly, but she’s giving peasant dress.
Her look actually has a fair amount of glitter going on for it, but it’s hard to read that against a white dress, and Jinkx’s hair and make-up feel the least Dolly-inspired of everyone even if they’re a fairly accurate take on this specific look. (The hair, in particular, is too round.)
It’s fine, but not a stand-out. Again, Dolly’s original dress is draggier. I think copying the high center slit would’ve helped.
Yvie Oddly says she’s “serving some pretty miraculous Dolly for somebody who is known for not doing impersonations” and I have to agree.
Like Raja, Yvie took a Dolly look that was already high drag and found a way to drag it more. Dolly’s white panels are subtly resized, the lace is slightly more intricate, and the suit has more sparkle.
Yvie also wisely went with a completely different period of Dolly hair. It’s the perfect size – tall, but not too wide, so that it doesn’t ruin the proportions of Yvie’s (somewhat modest) chest and hip padding.
Judging, Lip Sync For Your Legacy, & The Platinum Plunger
RuPaul opens the judging with a Dolly quote: “It’s a good thing I was born a girl. Otherwise, I’d be a drag queen!”
Dolly, girl, you are definitely a drag queen!
Ross absolutely got Monét’s reference-heavy lyrics, Tove Lo loved her presence, and Michelle loved her overcoat gown. Ru suggests that it’s almost a Patti LaBelle look, and I can see it!
Ru loves Trinity’s outfit, but she nails the problem with it – Dolly would wear it in a heartbeat. It’s too “actual Dolly.” Tove Lo and Ross also grant her faint praise about her crying and the storyline of her verse. At this point in this all-praise season, it’s obvious that these aren’t winning comments.
Michelle liked… one of Shea’s lyrics, and the streak in her hair. Ross says “you were… a pop star out there” Tove Lo calls her “bad girl Dolly.” Again, this is damning with faint praise when it comes to the hair-splitting positive critiques of this season.
To Raja, Tove Lo says, “I feel like every girl group has that one member that is a little more off than the others, so maybe it works out,” which might be the most brutal evisceration we’ve had of any performance this whole season! But, Michelle, Ross, and Ru immediately cotton on to how Raja took Dolly drag and dragged it up an extra notch, and she rightfully reaps praise for it.
The judges are obsessed with Viv and obsessed with foreskin. What’s not to love? Tove Lo calls her performance “bang on perfect,” and Ross and Ru call out her uncanny resemblance to Dolly.
Jaida reaps mild complements – essentially, her poop jokes landed well, she was having fun out there, and yellow is a lovely color, but none of the comments differentiate her from the rest of the pack. Jinkx gets almost identical notes – her verse was funny and she was having fun out there.
Tove Lo says Yvie looks “so hot I’m about to slide off my seat” and loved her performance. “You know what you’re doing in every aspect.” Ross loved the rapid fire triplets in the lyrics, and Michelle loves the Dolly look and – again – gives notes on how she “over-exaggerated the Dolly caricature.” She also gets a special note from Ru on her group performance – the only one!
In private deliberations we get one surprise – Ross and Tove Lo open by going to bat for Shea. They plug her ability to pull focus on a stage full of winners, and it’s a great point about Shea’s performing power. Tove Lo liked her lyrics the best (to which I would say: “…choices“) and Ru calls her a “born performer.”
Tove Lo nominates Viv’s lyrics and praises how easy it was to be in on her joke. Ross and Ru continue to marvel at her Dolly illusion. Ross nominates Monét, once again praising her lyrics, but no one else is buying what he’s selling. Tove Lo loved her “unexpected” runway, as did Michelle.
Finally, Tove Lo goes hard for Yvie, calling her a genius, and Michelle loved that she came out as an obvious pop star but still delivered it “her way.” She also continues to praise almost every specific element of Yvie’s look, and Ru grabs the baton from Michelle and keeps running with it.
The top two is crushingly obvious from the edit of the private deliberations – Monét (somehow!) didn’t do enough to win over the judges, and The Vivienne and Yvie Oddly slip by her for the win.
The queens all celebrate Yvie’s long-awaited win (which immediately vaults her to two stars!) while Viv grouses about being blocked from a Legendary Legend star.
The queens lip sync to Dolly’s “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That.” It’s not one of Dolly’s most over-the-top songs, either in terms of high-tempo or high-emotion. It’s more of a mid-tempo trot. What I wouldn’t give for a “Jolene” or “9 to 5” lip sync! This robs Yvie of the ability to turn tricks, which means the sync comes down to interpretation. Yvie goes bigger and sillier while Viv digs deep into her character illusion. Yvie’s take is good, but it’s hard to argue with actual Dolly performing Dolly right in front of your eyes.
Viv snags the win to increase her winnings to $21,500, which not only makes her the top-grossing UK queen, but means she has almost won as much as the Season 2 winner! She briefly flirts with blocking Raja before making a beeline for Jinkx with the Platinum Plunger. Jinkx seems slightly surprised – maybe she thought that being on the same team would protect her, but the other most obvious target is Jaida.
It turns out Jaida would’ve been the better choice, because next week is another design challenge!
This week is the hugest turnaround in my power rankings so far this season. Everything feels totally upside down!
With just five competitive episodes left, there are only 10 more stars coming. Considering that there could be one or two more well-placed blocks on the way, that means each queen might only go up one more star from here. If some queens advance more than that, others won’t win any more at all!
Also, I think we can say what all five of the remaining challenges will be!
- Design is next week, which is surprising. We don’t usually get multiple design challenges in an All Stars season.
- There has yet to be a scripted acting challenge, which is a staple of every season. I think that’s a lock.
- We also haven’t had a proper on-stage comedy challenge like stand-up or a roast, and this is a very funny cast. It’s probably coming just for the meme-ability.
- We have yet to have a straight-up branding or “promote yourself” challenge, which seems obvious for a cast of queens with established brands. Could the Draguation Speeches really be all we get for this?
- Do you know what else we have yet to see which has been in every single All Stars season? A talent show. Sure, we’re used to it happening in Week One, but that’s because it is usually a chance for the full cast to show off their talents. Here, the full cast is on the show every week. We’re gonna see a talent show.
What does that mean for our rankings? The power is not only in the hands of the queens with the most wins or momentum, but with the queens most potential in weeks to come.
#1 Jinkx Monsoon – 2 Stars from 3 Wins, 2 Blocks (was #1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1)
Even with a second turn at the Platinum Plunger, it’s clear that Jinkx is headed straight for the finale at this point.
That’s not just because she has 2 Stars already, which could wind up being not quite enough to make the finale. It’s because her story is so obviously the story of the season. Even in an episode like this one, where she doesn’t especially stand out, she is one of the central figures of the plot.
It’s obvious this block won’t have much of an effect on her in next week’s design challenge. That means Jinkx gets a week with the spotlight off of her before she snatches an inevitable third star – she’s the favorite in the cast for all four of the other projected challenges.
At this point, the other queens should just let her win. There’s no utility in trying to block the person who is obviously in first place (and who you might be able to beat in a lip sync). Letting Jinkx have more stars just suppresses other queens getting more stars. Blocking her so that she doesn’t try as hard for the win is more dangerous to everyone. There’s more utility in blocking the people who are coming up behind you.
#2 Jaida Essence Hall, 2 Stars from 1 Win (+1 Bonus) (was #6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 6)
Jaida quite suddenly has two stars and is going into her strongest challenge theme without a block! Jaida is by far the strongest designer and seamstress in this cast. That means that next week Jaida is going to walk away with a third star as the front-runner in this competition… unless Trinity, Shea, and Raja band together to form an unstoppable blockade of haute couture.
If Jaida picks up her expected win next week, that will make her a virtual lock for the finale without needing to pick up another win. That’s great for her, since none of the other four challenges are in her wheelhouse (except, perhaps, branding). For four other queens to make it past her to reach four stars it would take ten remaining stars, but a Jaida win will leave just nine more stars if there are no more bonus stars.
Plus, Jaida is now in a dead heat with Viv as the remaining undefeated lip sync artists in this cast, which is a good place to be heading into a lip sync tournament.
Speaking of Viv…
#3 The Vivienne, 1 Star from 2 Wins, 1 Block (was #5, 4, 6, 8, 8, 7)
The Vivienne continues to be the primary source of excitement in this season. She ‘s not only stirring the pot with plot drama with both Monét and Jinkx. She’s also bringing an increasing amount of heat to every challenge with three straight weeks in contention for the top spot. Plus, it feels like she has bent the narrative to be all about her by sheer force of will these past two weeks.
Viv didn’t manage to clinch a second star this week due to her block, which would’ve made her the true front-runner. Yet, it does feel like she is going to battle Jinkx for every single win from here to the end of the season.
Can she pick up two more stars, even with both Monét and Jinkx likely to block her again? The challenge line-up is certainly favorable for her, especially with a near-guarantee of a scripted comedy challenge upcoming.
Things are about to get interesting!
#4 Trinity The Tuck, 1 Stars from 2 Wins, 1 Block (was #4, 3, 1, 3, 4, 3)
Next week is must-win territory for Trinity and it’s in one of her strongest challenge themes: design.
Why must-win? Not because there won’t be more chances to win. Trinity can win anything and the challenge line-up is on Trinity’s side at this point. She already survived both singer/songwriter challenges, which are generally her weak point. There’s nothing left to fear except for the Roast.
Next week is a must-win for Trinity because she needs to pick up another star and get an inevitable second block out of the way ASAP. Trinity likely needs two more wins in five episodes to lock up her spot in the finale. She has to get a start on that next week in order to allow for a block in episode 8 or 9 so she can pick up that final win in episode 10 or 11.
It’s just going to be a matter of not getting blocked for her final must-win.
#5 Yvie Oddly, 2 Stars from 1 Wins (+1 bonus) (was #7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 8)
Yvie Oddly is suddenly out of the basement of my ranking for exactly the reason I always said she could break out: she is good at everything.
That paid off hugely this week as she picked up an “always the bridesmaid” bonus star from Raja and then snatched a Girl Group win that seriously seemed within Monét’s grasp right up until Yvie’s name was called.
The question is if Yvie’s insurgency can produce a third star in the next five weeks before she finds a block aimed in her direction. In fact, if Jaida wins the lip sync next week, Yvie is probably the most likely to get blocked as the other queen with two stars that is not in a low-key alliance with Jaida.
What Yvie needs at this point is to get her block out of the way and then snatch just one more win. Once she’s locked in for the finale, she becomes the odds-on favorite to win the season thanks to her lip sync skills… we’re not going to get another mid-tempo Dolly song in the finale!
#6 Shea Couleé – 1 Star from 1 Win, 1 Block (was #2. 5, 3, 1, 1, 2)
Shea should’ve had an easy second star this week.
Now things get tricky, but not impossible. With both songwriting challenges out of the way, Shea is out of easy themes for her. She is in a similar situation to Trinity in next week’s design challenge, but to snatch a win there she needs to defeat Jaida’s narrative momentum and Trinity’s thirst.
Even if that doesn’t happen, Shea is not likely to catch a block next week. She’s the queen with the longest no-win streak.
Can Shea put together two more wins in four remaining episodes? To do it, I think we’ll have to see her in a Top Two with either Jinkx or Viv at some point, and that’s looking less likely now because the storyline seems to want to pit them against each other.
#7 Raja 1 star from 1 win (was #8, 7, 8, 5, 7, 5)
I think there are two options for Raja: either pick up a design challenge win next week as payback for missing the first one OR simply sit back and play spoiler, knowing she’s not going to the finale.
Even if she does pick up the design challenge win, she likely needs a third win to lock a finale spot, and the challenge line-up isn’t heavily in her favor. Yet… these are all things Raja has done many times over. It’s not so outlandish to think she could win an acting, comedy, or branding challenge.
But, for it to matter, she needs to win next week, too.
#8 Monét X Change, 1 Star from 1 Win, 1 Block (was #3, 2, 4, 4, 3, 4)
This week was a must-win for Monét and she failed to clinch it.
It wasn’t her fault. By every measure she was an odds-on winner. Yvie snuck by her.
The problem is that now Monét is looking at a tricky challenge line-up when it comes to picking up two more stars. Even if we assume she will slay the impending comedy challenge, where does she get a third star? She’s strong in scripted acting, but Jinkx and Viv’s storyline is going to be at play there.
I think branding could be her secret third star. Branding is the most ambiguous challenge, where winning comes down to knowing how things will play on camera. Monét has spent a lot of time on camera since winning Drag Race. Maybe the most camera time per month-with-a-crown of this entire cast.
That’s what makes Monét’s story so interesting from this point forward. I have her in the bottom of the ranking because next week does not matter for her at all. But, that means she has the smallest remaining runway of everyone in the cast to make it to three stars to absolutely clinch a spot in the finale.