This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 brings what is usually the highlight of the season – Snatch Game! It’s a kitschy, 70s-style game show where queens win not with their answers but with hilarious impressions of famous figures.
Weirdly, this season’s game is the weakest we’ve seen in years. That’s partially down to three queens totally flatlining on the panel, but also down to RuPaul being downright mean to the girls and due to the oddball choice to place actual celebrity Kristin Chenoweth in the Snatch Game with a set of highly-scripted answers that come complete with props.
Maybe having a real life famous person sitting next to the queens would make for a good litmus test of who seems the realest (“real is what you feel, feelings aren’t real…”), but not letting the hilarious Chenoweth think on her feet anchored the Snatch panel with a leaden quality.
The same goes for having judges Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley as the contestants in the game instead of low-grade celebrities or past queens. Delivering Snatch performances directly to the toughest pair of judges takes all of the fun out of the proceedings.
Despite all my complaints, we still wind up with some memorable performances – and a new all-time Snatch Game champion! That doesn’t do much to shake up the top of the ranking compared to last week, but the queens competing for the third spot in the finals get quite a shake-up.
BenDeLaCreme not only continues her unchecked march for the crown this week – she also cements herself as the best Snatch Game player in the history of Drag Race!
Choosing Hollywood Squares legend Paul Lynde as a Snatch Game character was a big risk. We’ve seen men portrayed before, but both Little Richard and Michael Jackson were ostensibly straight men that still required a dash of the feminine. Paul Lynde was a gay man who wasn’t publicly out, though he frequently made tongue-in-cheek reference to his sexual orientation through self-deprecating humor.
BenDeLaCreme perfectly embodies Lynde, even moreso than she did Maggie Smith in her original Season 6 turn on Snatch Game. By presenting such a perfect recreation, she makes the obvious case for his place in Snatch Game’s queer pantheon. DeLa has his look down cold, as well as his head-tilting mannerisms and snappy, whip-smart comebacks.
DeLa also slays the runway with a stunning, satiny, iridescent flower dress that would be understated for her if it wasn’t for the massive flower affixed around her ankles. It’s beautiful and a complete TOOT, and wisely does “flower power” without just being a mess of fake appliqué flowers.
At this point it’s hard to imagine what could trip BenDeLaCreme up. At the same time, you have to believe the other girls are getting tired of her constant praise and might be eager to cut her loose if she winds up in the Bottom Two late in the season, as Alaska did last year.
Shangela has grown so much since her original appearances on Season 2 and Season 3, and the most obvious indicator of that isn’t her performance as much as it is her wisdom.
Shangela’s original choice for Snatch Game is the famous TV psychic Ms. Cleo, and while RuPaul is enthusiastic for the impression she thinks Shangela’s accent is off. Shangela probably could have powered through, but she makes a last minute switch to her mentor and sometimes-landlady, Black-ish‘s Jenifer Lewis.
It’s an incredibly smart choice on multiple levels. Much like BenDeLa’s Season 6 Dame Maggie Smith, Lewis allows Shangela to smudge the lines between real person and TV character. Lewis is wickedly funny as the still-sexy, devil-may-care grandma on Black-ish, and Shangela plays that personality but with Lewis’s real life jadedness as an experienced star. That winds up not too distant from Shangela’s actual personality, but that’s fine – she brings big laughs.
I was considerably less excited about Shangela’s impersonation on the runway, though the judges loved it. For her Flower Power look, Shangie does a note-perfect recreation of Beyoncé’s flowery pregnancy photograph – complete with a massive arch of flowers over her head. That would have been perfect for Divas Live or a Bey-themed runway, but here it feels a little tacky to do the look complete with a pregnancy pad. It takes the look to a place of impersonation rather than homage, and it’s just hard to look as glamorous as Beyoncé does as a man covered in fake flowers. (Issa BOOT for me.)
Of course, my opinion doesn’t matter. Shangela easily winds up in the top two and lip syncs BenDeLaCreme to a draw playing a mousy character to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” She also puts the fear of the lord into Trixie in the bottom two, giving a speech that makes it sounds like Trixie is getting the cut before choosing Chi Chi.
There’s no doubt Shangela is playing this game with the most strategy and with a level of talent that’s just getting slightly edged out by BenDeLa. That puts a target on her back for a completely different reason. Can Shangela form enough alliances to save her from a Bottom Two trip, or will another queen happily flush the most strategic fish out of the competition?
Aja continues her journey to the best Ru-demption of all time with a sizzling Snatch Game performance and an utterly lovely runway. You get the sense that if BenDeLa and Shangela weren’t locked in a permanent weekly face-off Aja would be cruising away with the crown at this point.
For her Snatch Game, Aja selects Crystal LaBeija, a vintage queen made famous by her no-fucks-given appearance in 1968 pageant documentary The Queen as well as her drag-daughter Pepper LaBeija’s legendary turn in Paris Is Burning.
You could make the same argument for Aja as Shangela – that she picked someone near enough to her own Brooklyn roots and just ran with it. There’s also a comparison to be make to Alyssa Edward’s All Stars 2 Joan Crawford, who does nothing but spout inane catchphrases. Yet, Aja blasts past both of those performances. She embodies LaBeija, with every element in place from her drawling pronunciation to her neck swivel. She delivers her classic lines with little tweaks to make them fit the Snatch Game, deploying them to maximum comedic effect.
Aja also slays on the runway with an absolutely beautiful flower-covered mini-dress and caplet. If I have any critique for this total TOOT, it’s that Aja’s typical pastel lavender or pink hair might have complemented the look rather than her neon blonde.
It was really a toss-up between Shangela and Aja for this week’s top spot. I feel like Shangela was the wrong pick, because she made it a two-queen race with Ben – whereas, throwing Aja in for another face-off with Ben would keep the top ranks a little more open.
Even if it isn’t possible for Aja to crack this iron clad top two, she might not need to – she just has to hang on to this third spot for three more weeks and she’s in the finals.
4. Bebe Zahara Benet
Bebe Zahara Benet finally breaks out of the safe zone with her first truly surprising performance and a beautiful, slinky runway look.
Bebe’s Grace Jones is similar to Katya’s Bjork, in that she nails the look and keeps up a stream of disorienting statements that play up Jones’s unpredictable and aggressive personality. From another queen it might have only been mildly funny, but hearing the typically demure Bebe shout phrases like “Do you want to fuck?” and “Steel Vagina” is extra amusing (as is her offhand “Oh, shut up, Ru” to Trixie).
On the runway, Bebe wears a slick nude dress with a wrap-around fringe of black flowers. It’s gorgeous and flatters her tall, leggy frame. A pop of color would have been nice, but black-on-brown seriously messes with expectations for a Flower Power runway and sets her apart from the other girls.
It feels right for Bebe to finally make a breakaway move this week, as another safe placement would have put her at major risk going forward. Will she be able to deliver more of this scandalous, silly, expectation-breaking Bebe in the next few weeks to keep her in competition for the crown? Or, was Snatch Game the rare explicit permission to inhabit someone other than her typical drag character?
5. Kennedy Davenport
After a hilarious performance last week on The Bitchelor, Kennedy flatlines in Snatch Game – especially considering the outsized expectations based on her Season 7 performance as Little Richard.
Kennedy has a funny concept for her performance of Real Housewives star Phaedra Parks, playing up her messy double-life as part time church lady, part time wild child. It’s a little too high concept for Snatch Game, considering each queen only gets one or two shots at answering a question. It might have played even funnier if Kennedy had kept up the Parks’s Church Lady look while delivering shady, slutty answers – but she still needed to find the funny.
On the runway, Kennedy’s outfit is flower-filled but not powerful. Her plastic sunflowers affixed to a plain black dress (with a crooked brown halter top underneath) are a BOOT, despite an inventive make-up look. While Carson calls it “craft store,” I think it’s simply a color issue. Putting all those bright flowers on a black dress really accentuates their garish, plasticky qualities. On a blue or green dress (or even a vivid pink!) they would have popped and looked less out of place.
It really feels like the crowd is slipping out of Kennedy’s grasp at this point despite her slaying The Bitchelor last week. A stronger Snatch Game would have at least kept her in the conversation as a potential top queen, but now she feels more like a low-placing contestant with one outlying spike. Unless she delivers in a big way next week, there is likely no way she can credibly wind up with the crown.
6. Trixie Mattel
Poor Trixie Mattel. She came to this All Stars seasons with the most high-achieving post-Race career of all time, but she cannot seem to find a way to shine back in the competition.
Trixie brings her hilariously wooden RuPaul impression to the Snatch Game and it is an utter bomb unlike anything we’ve seen for a while. Most people who fail Snatch Game don’t get in many zingers, or at least go hilariously askew.
Trixie’s RuPaul has too many interjections. It’s like she cannot stop herself. Not only that, her groan-worthy puns sound nothing like the campy, reference-filled things the real RuPaul would say. While you can make the argument that the show did Trixie dirty with a shady edit devoid of laugh tracks, there’s no getting around how painfully unfunny her jokes were.
It’s a pity Trixie’s Snatch was so disappointing, because she delivers a major TOOT of a stylish runway that’s like Aja’s demure outfit pumped up to 11. Trixie’s simple, silky separates are topped with a flower-festooned three-quarter length jacket, a flower crown, and an umbrella covered in petals. It’s a lovely alternative to having her actual body covered in flowers, and totally on-brand for Trixie.
In a weird way, this is Trixie’s first true unforced error. She was stellar but subtle in the Variety Show, one of the best performers in Divas Live sandbagged by Todrick’s lazy choreography, and the best Bitchelor save for getting blocked by Milk’s constantly-running mouth. There’s an alternate universe where Trixie was the winner of all three of those challenges (but that’s probably a universe without a BenDeLaCreme). Yet in Snatch Game, where Trixie was meant to show off what makes her such a bankable star off the show, she flatlined.
It’s seriously sad to be thinking about Trixie leaving this competition before the halfway mark, but unless Kennedy completely flatlines next week it will be hard to argue that it isn’t Trixie’s time to go.
Sashay Away: Chi Chi Devayne
Chi Chi Devayne was my top pick as a queen with the perfect story to enter the Drag Race Hall of Fame, but even though her fashion evolved from Season 8 her personality seems to have slightly shrank.
Chi Chi was once a feisty queen with self-defeating tendencies, but in this season she comes off as professional queen who simply doesn’t have a competitive edge to her. Sure, she was somewhat hampered by two acting challenges in a row with Bitchelor and Snatch Game, but outside of the runway she didn’t seem to have the sheer drive to stand out against the rest of this cast.