The third week of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars brought us a lip sync extravaganza, with each queen playing a famous woman of history – Eve, Helen of Troy, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, Annie Oakley, Eva Perón, and Princess Diana. (Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, and Frida Kahlo were earmarked for the departed girls.)
These group lip syncs are some of the most scripted performances on the show – each queen needs to hit a set of pre-determined lyrics with a dictated look and choreographed dance steps.
That leaves limited room for creativity (unless they’re choreographing themselves), but a whole lot of opportunity to mess up on execution.
How did our queens fare in this cooperative endeavor after the ultimate in “every girl for herself” last week in Snatch Game?
1. Alaska Thunderfuck 5000
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 1. To date: 2, 1
This was an average showing for Alaska – maybe even an off week? Yet, it’s still clear she inhabits a different plain than the majority of her opponents.
Her lip syncing as Eve was far and away the weakest of the entire bunch, despite a showy and altogether hilarious dance performance. There were clear missed and misaligned words if you watch closely, especially during her strut to center stage. That’s despite her Britney-knockoff tune having one of the most straightforward pop arrangements of all the songs. She also wasn’t especially noticeable in the background of the other girls’ performances, either.
Her saving grace was the runway, even though runway didn’t save a similarly weak performance for Detox last week. Alaska’s runway was an imaginative and complete alien vision that nods to Sharon Needles’ final runway of Season 4 with long tentacled fingers. She wasn’t headed to the bottom two with a look that on-theme that wisely broke out of the expected silver box the other girls were in.
With a dance challenge out of the way, can anything else possible derail Alaska? Only if some of the queens on her tail start delivering a string of flawless performances – particularly the next one…
2. Detox iCunt
4th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 6. To date: 3, 2
With a trip to the top two finally under her belt and yet another runway appearance that left RuPaul audibly gasping for air, Detox is starting to feel like as much of a sure thing for the final three as Alaska.
Detox’s Neon Marie Antionette was one of the most entertaining of the main challenge lip syncs. That was all Detox’s doing since the song was nonsense and the choreographers were too focused on balletic fancy footwork beneath what would surely be a massive dress. Yes, the actual sync was a bit soft, but Detox’s insane dislocated jaw move took the edge off of that and matched well with the operatic bits of the song.
While Ru and the judges were gagging over Detox’s all-silver fembot runway look, it was a fail for me. Going metallic is a cheap gimmick for indicating “future,” and there was nothing to her outfit but sparkle, bandage wraps, and body. Maybe better styling on her face to add dimension or depth would have made it more remarkable, instead of her odd nose plate. It didn’t really read as futuresex to me – more like spark plug.
However, Detox’s closing lip sync with Alyssa to the stone cold classic “Tell It To My Heart” was the first really memorable addition to Drag Race Legacy out of the three we’ve seen so far. While Alyssa sold more of the spirit of the song, Detox played up the slinky pole dance qualities of it with an inhuman amount of silver ass twirling. Against most other opponents she would have scored a victory.
Detox is strong in performances and is so far 2 for 2 on gag-worthy runway looks. At this point, she’s firmly entrenched in the top three.
3. Alyssa Edwards
6th Place, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 3. To date: 6, 5
It’s not even debatable that All Stars has become the “Alyssa Edwards and Her Drag Friends Show.” While some may have anticipated this due to Alyssa’s mirror-hogging, catchphrase-spouting ways, they might not have guessed that she would be so good and so likeable in the process.
I’ve never been a particular fan of Alyssa – I found her endless catty disputes in S4 annoying. That had changed. She’s turned into something much more like the mature clown of Bianca Del Rio than the scene-stealing Bob The Drag Queen in her time away. She is the cast member who makes this season must-watch television, from her antics to her performances to her tender conversations with other contestants.
Alyssa completely inhabited Annie Oakley, bringing a herky-jerky, marionette quality to her typically fluid dancing to sell her song’s he-haw characterization. She delivered the most innuendo with her perfectly synced humping of her Pit Crew captive. She also won the scene-stealing competition for the week – she could have taken the challenge for her turn as the snake in Alaska’s routine, alone!
Can she win the whole thing? I’m starting to hope so. There’s straight-up acting challenge on the horizon, and that could turn a chink in her armor to a much bigger crack. However, the bigger issue is her fashion. Love her or hate her, Alyssa serves runway looks that draw from a relatively small set of influences, elements, and silhouettes compared to other girls. Her mug is always unclockable, but she’s never really broken out of her box with a runaway look.
If Alyssa could rely on lip syncing for her life, she’d likely stay in this contest even if she was in the bottom two every week. However, with elimination of Ru’s hands and ep against the fashion-forward consistency of the remaining queens (and the batshit insanity of Katya), Alyssa needs to bring some straight-up stunning fashion to the Runway to squeak into a final three finish.
From that perspective, giving Ginger the boot may not have been Alyssa’s best move. Sure, it took out the likely winner of an acting challenge, but it also eliminated the other weak link on the runway.
4. Roxxxy Andrews
Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 7. To date: 1, 4
After her strong showing in the premiere, Roxxxy has faded entirely to the background in the past two episodes. She was utterly invisible this time around outside of her performance; her two best moments were relegated to bonus scenes on the Logo website.
Luckily, Roxxxy’s Evita’s was effervescent, if not memorable. The constant boom-boom-boom of her hips and raised arms to the samba beat was perfect, and her lip sync was impeccable. Perhaps the flesh-toned fashion was too safe, but Roxxxy stayed out of a pants suit and managed not to evoke Madonna either – which wound up being pretty important given her set of lyrics.
Unfortunately, Roxxxy’s runway landed her in the safe zone rather than in contention for the second top spot against Detox. It was rare misstep – she merely presented a silver-armored background character in Mad Max rather than a vision of how drag might actually evolve (and she with it).
For Roxxxy, down might not necessarily mean out, as she’s more than capable of serving in challenges. However, if the editors don’t start playing up her off-stage story a bit more it’s going to be clear she’s not headed to the final three.
5. Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova AKA Katya
5th Place, Season 7. Pre-Season Rank: 2. To date: 4, 3
Katya was better than fine in her lip sync challenge, and was frequently one of the best girls in the background (as in Alaska’s portion). It was her aesthetics that were the problem. Both her Princess Di look and her runway showed off all of her worst tendencies as a competitor (which happen to be her best as a solo star).
Katya loves to joke that she serves “actual woman,” and her Princess Di was… a credible-looking Princess Di. There was nothing show-y about it. It probably read fine from 5-10 feet away, but from the judges table or the television it seemed hopelessly plain. The wedding dress was an actual wedding dress that was silky with too few details. All she needed to send it into comedically over-the-top territory were ridiculously over-beaded epaulettes.
Even if she had made her realistic Diana more of a caricature, Katya was sandbagged but a short song with reserved choreography – she was the only character who never moved from her starting spot on the stage. Was it simplified to her skill level, or was it really as boring in planning as in execution? I don’t know if she could have saved it if her wedding dress tore away to reveal a Geri Halliwell style Union Jack mini-dress or started leaking blood a la Max in the Death Becomes Her runway.
On the runway, Katya’s future space mom was full of detail yet reliant on another one of her ridiculous voiceover concepts the judges will never hear (her best will always be, “80 percent sexy, 20 percent disgusting”). Sans explanation, she just looked like a frumpy retro space mom, which screams out absolutely nothing about drag’s future. It’s a kitschy take on the future that’s long past its expiration date. Katya could have pushed the look all the way there by going full-on 60s Mad Men era housewife crafted from unexpected materials like reclaimed vinyl, recycled soda cans, or computer motherboards – you know, like Alaska or Detox would do, or Roxxxy could piece together.
Thus, we have Katya bringing up the rear despite her being one of the most charismatic, unique, and nerve-y contestants in the show’s history. Much as Raven has had continued notoriety and success without winning her All Stars season, maybe what tonight showed us is Katya is better off staying a kooky bridesmaid than trying to be the reigning champion bride.
6. Phi Phi O’Hara
Runner-Up, Season 4. Pre-Season Rank: 9. To date: 8, 7
Phi Phi finally got interesting this week, with a lip sync performance that had no interest in maintaining beauty and an imaginative and finely-detailed runway that slayed the competition.
I don’t believe Phi Phi of Season 4 could have ever gotten as ugly as she did as the beautiful Helen of Troy screaming metal in this week’s main challenge. Her increased self-awareness comes with a willingness to mock herself, and that allows her to succeed on weeks like these. In fact, given that her runway was unquestionably the best and her sync was solid on an unspectacular seven-word song, it’s hard to understand why she wasn’t a top this week – maybe only because she might have outdanced Alyssa and eliminated Katya.
Without that win and given the remaining crowd, she’s not best positioned to become a champion. There’s no challenge category where she is an obvious top two player save for construction, where she and Roxxxy ought to clean up. She doesn’t especially have any allies except for, weirdly, Katya – who seems newly impervious to shadows of doubt.
Phi Phi is the only remaining cast member without a legacy lip sync to her name. That’s not a good track record with a third of the competition in the can. It means she’s in the the most danger if any other girls agree with Alyssa that dismissals should be based on cumulative performance.
Yet, beyond all that, it comes down to one thing: it’s easy to edit Phi Phi to seem like an unlikeable bitch. She had it on the nose when she proclaimed, “Get it: I’m playing the villain” in the premiere. That’s the role she’s been cast into, and while in her own season that made her the perfect spoiler in the finale three (even though Latrice deserved her spot), Ru is not going to crown a villain as a member of hall of fame.
Can Phi Phi at least match her previous top three placement this time around? She’d need to either place top two in next week’s acting challenge to even up the score, or be safe next week and then pray the following week involves making a dress.
We say goodbye to Ginger Minj, with a Pre-Season rank of 4 and an average of 6.5. She left a a hair earlier than expected and after what was without question the standout performance in the lip sync challenge, but wasn’t likely to make it to the halfway point.
On Elimination Strategy & Keeping Katya:
There’s no question that keeping Katya over Ginger proved to be a shocker within the bounds of how the queens have judged each other thus far. Alyssa kept Katya in based on her near-win the prior week compared to two safe weeks for Ginger, rather than using their runways as a tie-break (though, she could have easily blamed Ginger’s runway, it was one of the worst of all time).
We won’t see the fallout of this decision until next week’s episode, but for me it bore some thinking about why the other queens are so invested in hewing closely to the judges critiques of the week and nothing else.
Phi Phi (and Tatianna) – and to a lesser extent, Roxxxy – like the rules because they are former villains who are not as well-liked by the audience or all of the cast, and without the rules they would be more vulnerable when in the bottom. This agreement surely saved Phi Phi in Week 1, and it probably helped Roxxxy in Week 2. It also gives them a potential edge against a stronger competitor like Alaska, should they wind up in the bottom together.
Alaska – and to a lesser extent, Katya – played along with the rules in Week 2, because their complicity should dissuade anyone from chopping them for strategic reasons if they later wind up in the bottom. For Alaska, it’s highly unlikely she’s ever going to fail both a challenge and a runway in the same week, so she’ll almost always come out on top in a tie-break.
Detox and Ginger are in the middle – each with one BFF in the cast to help them survive without the rule, but each also serving as big enough threats that another queen might eliminate them strategically. Detox, particularly, is one of the few who could reliably be expected win a runway tie-break against Alaska if they were in the bottom together.
Alyssa, not surprisingly, is a total wild card (as will likely be anyone who returns). She wasn’t a part of Rolaskatox, but the S5 girls know her. She doesn’t particularly have a relationship with Phi Phi or the S7 girls. Without strong alliances, in some ways the agreement assures her a fair fight in the same way it does Phi Phi. However, down the line a decision about the cumulative strength of someone’s entire run is likely to help her more than a single-week view, as she’s not as strong as an all-around competitor as some of these other queens. And, finally, she comes from pageant world and cannot help but have her own set of criteria in mind.
I bet Detox picked Katya (relishing the opportunity to knock off a serious opponent) and I’m sure that it’s going to be Phi Phi and Roxxxy who are more bent out of shape with Alyssa than Alaska is.
Also, we’ve yet to have a repeat in the bottom group. The only way to avoid that next week is an Alaska/Alyssa bottom two – not super likely. Do you really think the two stars of the show so far are headed to the bottom? Or, if only one of them wind up there, do you think any queen will save a girl for the second time? Alyssa’s cumulative criteria will be working against anyone who revisits the bottom two.