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THE POP BIN

A place for me to post things that aren't related to my art or shameless self-promotion.

RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 2

Aedan Roberts

This season is giving us literally no time to breath- and thank god for it. It's a very delicious kind of asphyxiation. From a first episode's Reading Mini Challenge/Talent Show Maxi Challenge we're launched RIGHT into Snatch Game? Oh Mama Ru, you know how to make a very gay man happy. Also likely others (I would assume).

I would go into crazy detail, but I'm currently playing catch up due to being caught up in Dragon Con preparations and then the event itself, so I'll make this short and sweet: this episode was pretty much two mini episodes. First was Adore Delano: Gone Girl. The second was Alaska Thunderfuck: A Mae West Extravaganza Featuring Björk. Both made for gripping television, but for reasons so disparate that it's hard to believe they both took place in the same hour and a half of television. We'll get into that in the breakdown. Speaking of which . . . 

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Adore Delano: You know what? While the writing was on the wall in Episode One, Adore's decision was still a bit of a blow here- but only because she's such a vital addition to this cast and her absence will be felt. In the end, however, it was clear Adore was not in the right headspace for this competition. She may have tried to attribute it to her unease at being shifted back into old power dynamics with Michelle Visage (a woman she had grown to see as an equal in their time together since Season 6) and her desire to stay true to herself conflicting, fundamentally, with the kind of flexibility needed to succeed on RPDR. But while those points may have a certain level of truth to them they were not really why she couldn't stay. Since the episode aired Miss Delano has been very candid as to the true reasons for her sudden decision to depart All Stars 2: the year they began recording Adore's father passed away and her then-boyfriend broke up with her (in the most immature way imaginable: via text message). Now, while a breakup can be something you power through (depending on how messy the break up was or how long the relationship lasted)- losing your father so young is a massive blow to anyone. And Adore is not just anyone: she's a sensitive, emotional, earnest creature. It's why we love her so much. She wears her heart on her sleeve and it's that raw honesty that makes her so beloved among many of the Drag Race community. She apparently tried to deal with it by throwing herself into her work- using her non-stop touring and then All Stars as a distraction method to cope with the feelings of loss. In other words she is young and didn't realize that this rarely works, and only proves to build up that grief until it explodes at the most inopportune time. And in this case that time was when she was unexpectedly laid bare on the Main Stage of RPDR. In the end, having read and written all this I fundamentally understand and truly respect Adore for her decision. She did her best to tough it out, but even far more hardened souls would have broken under the pressure. It doesn't make me any less of a fan. My heart goes out to her and I look forward to seeing more from this talented, extremely relatable queen.

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000: NOW, on to the more light-hearted part of the episode: the other girls. The overall quality of All Stars 2's Snatch Game was probably the highest in RPDR herstory. Only one girl completely bombed, and even then it was in a far less cringe-inducing way than what goes down in a normal season. And the highs? Yeah, that's where Alaska comes in. Alaska compeltely dominated this episode in a way we've only seen in Jinkx Monsoon, Ben De La Creme, and Bob The Drag Queen before. Her makeup was FLAWLESS. Her costume was IMPECCABLE. Her characterization was PERFECTION. It made me suddenly realize how insane it is that no one has ever thought to do Mae West for Snatch Game before. The woman was a walking, talking cartoon already! In the end, however, I am happy the person to finally step into those raunchy heels was Alaska- because no one else could have taken Mae's shtick to the far-off galaxies that Miss Thunderfuck managed to go. She was hysterical, had a perfect response to everything, played off of the other girls to hilarious success, and stayed in character the entire fucking time. Even her Mae West voice was a brilliant choice for someone whose own vocal cadence is an iconic caricature of itself. Alaska has proven to be a force of nature when it comes to Snatch Game (not just with her Mae West and Lady Bunny, but the various other characters she's played, including Laganja Estranga, in the Battle of the Seasons Tour), so her success in this episode was not unexpected, but it was still a sight to behold. Her runway was . . . okay to me. Definitely Chic (though I thought the top was strangely ill-fitting), but not really stand-out. However she also won that lip-synch fair and square and I'm thrilled she took the win, even if that meant that she got to make the wrong decision as to who to send home.

Katya: A close second in this episode is hands-down Miss Katya. Her Björk was all the insanity of Katya dialed up to 11 and given a quirky, Björk-esque twist that gave me the second biggest laughs of the night. It was simply delightful. She wasn't exactly accurate- but when has Snatch Game ever been about staying true to the person they portray? It isn't about "doing a celebrity justice," it's about taking certain aspects of their public persona and playing off of it to make for a hilariously good time. Ben Dela didn't succeed by staying true to Maggie Smith- she took the actress's Dowager from Downton Abbey and pushed it to eleven. Tatianna wasn't being the "real Britney"- she succeeded by playing up the public perception that Britney Spears is a dumb, air-headed idiot. And Katya's Björk played perfectly to the idea that Björk is from a different plane of reality. As for her runway look? Best of the night. By FAR. It was EVERYTHING and vaulted her from second place in my eyes to equally deserving of the win this week. It was only her slightly less-fantastic LSFYL that let Alaska eek out the win. Katya did everything right here, and I'm just so, SO happy she's finally embracing how truly talented and epic she really is. Self-doubt is for the birds, Katya! Keep it up!

Alyssa Edwards: I also really loved Alyssa Edward's surprisingly strong Snatch Game as Joan Crawford. Her first foray into celebrity impersonation was an outright disaster in Season 5: her Katy Perry was probably one of the worst Snatch Games since Phi Phi O'Hara and Jiggly Caliente shat all over the stage in Season 4. But here? Alyssa continues to prove that she's got a complete handle on what makes her brilliant and she unabashedly dives into it with gusto. Sure, her Joan Crawford was 7 parts Alyssa and 3 parts Mommie Dearest Quotes- but that made for a perfect recipe that resulted in some of the bigger laugh-out-loud moments of the night. She had Ru and the audience in stitches. And when it comes to Snatch Game? That's the entire point. I also loved her playful, lips-covered neon yellow latex cocktail dress with Big Bird Realness wig. Overall Alyssa rocked it, and I am actually still a little baffled how she didn't make Top 3.

Ginger Minj: Minj did alright. Her Tammie Faye was fun and silly, but in a stand-out season like this she was sadly just middle of the road. The competition was FIERCE, so her otherwise competent performance was easily overshadowed by the bigger personalities on stage. As for her runway? I didn't really like it. She looked lovely, but it didn't fit the way latex should (in my opinion). It seemed too loose and honestly kind of ill-fitted, and the cut of the mermaid bottom shortened her even more than she already is (she ended up looking two feet tall). Kudos to her for yet another use of a corset (which ultimately saved the look), but overall it just wasn't all that impressive, memorable or well executed. There isn't much more to say here, which is wonderful since I need to move on to the next episode, so I'll take the opportunity to keep it simple.

Detox: I actually find it hilarious that, so soon after Acid Betty's disastrous attempt at Nancy Grace, Detox would be found attempting to make the same celebrity funny. I mean Miss Icunt couldn't have known that at the same time All Stars was filming the editors were staring slack-jawed in abject horror at the train-wreck that was yet another Grace impersonator, but it does make you and I, the Hindsight Viewers, wish we could jump back in time and save Detox from making a mistake. Nancy Grace may seem like the exact kind of horrible, over-the-top personality that would be ripe for lampooning, but it takes a certain kind of comedic sensibility to do so and neither Acid or Detox had that specific talent. The only thing I can say positively here is that Detox didn't bomb nearly as hard or painfully as Betty- so in the grande scheme of things that can be seen as a kind of win? Either way it wasn't surprising to see her in the bottom- and luckily she was wearing the second-best look of the night (next to Katya's) which I think is what ultimately saved her from even being an option for the Top 2 to eliminate.

Phi Phi O'Hara: Phi Phi's Caputo was fun. I honestly think she put in a perfectly serviceable performance with a few truly funny moments. Was it the best of the night? Not really. And her makeup, while obviously going for something, was a bit of a mess all night. In the end neither her Snatch Game or Runway look were bad enough to get her any lower than middle of the pack- which I'm sure was just fine for Miss O'Hara. Her original, Season 4 Snatch Game was mind-numbingly awful, so being one of the better performances on All Stars 2 is a genuine credit to her evolution as a performer. I wish she had gone a little more out there for her Latex Fantasy but the Rubber Duckies were a fun touch that saved an otherwise Derrick Barry Basic Bitch costume. As for the editing to make it seem like Phi Phi was back to her old scheming ways at the beginning of the episode? Apparently both Alyssa and Roxxxy approached Phi Phi for her opinion so lets not go all cray here. She probably should have been like "I know how this will likely be edited so NNNNOOOOPE!" but such is life. I hardly hold it against her for accurately pointing out that Alyssa was just playing Alyssa On Speed (though I disagree emphatically that this was a bad thing) or that Roxxxy's Vargera was a bit of a dud (it wasn't her fault that Roxxxy chose to replace it with an even worse choice). As least her critiques were accurate.

Tatianna: The only part of this episode that was disappointing was Tatianna's elimination. It was something I fundamentally disagreed with and it reeked of Rolaskatox Bias hidden behind the justification of "the judges critiques." Look- it is definitely true that Tatianna deserved her place in the Bottom 2 this week. With such a strong showing from everyone her Ariana Grande was left behind and her runway look wasn't exactly inspired. HOWEVER: A: she was the most convincing in terms of looks up there (she really did capture Ariana Grande. She looked exactly like her and that was impressive), B: she DID manage to make a couple fun quips that elicited smiles/laughter from me/the audience/Ru, and C: her runway wasn't nearly as bad as I feel the judges were making it out to be. It was basic, sure, but it wasn't any worse than Roxxxy's (only Roxxxy's hair saved it). If you were to average that all together and weigh it against Roxxxy's slightly better Runway but SIGNIFICANTLY worse Snatch Game it is CLEAR, in my opinion, that Tatianna easily fared better than Roxxxy this week and should have been safe. And Alaska's choice to spare her Sister In Season while claiming that wasn't the reason felt a little mealy-mouthed for my taste. Ah well. I'm just hoping that this Ru-venge thing is the opportunity for her to come back into the competition. We'll see!

Roxxxy Andrews: whether or not it was Phi Phi's words that convinced her to scrap Sophia Vargera at the last minute (I'm more on the side of those who simply think she was insecure about it from the get-go and was looking for an excuse to attempt something else) her ultimate decision to impersonate the FAR more intelligent and funny Alaska was a disaster so perfect you could taste the TV Ratings. Roxxxy bombed this Snatch Game so hard it called into question just how much of her relatively passable performance in Season 5 was intentional or a lucky accident. It was just embarrassing. The only embarrassing performance of the night, really- which made it that much more painful. And you could tell she knew it. Again, I'm not the biggest Roxxxy fan but my heart went out to her every time she said something and then bowed her head in obvious shame. I'm assuming she borrowed Detox's "It's A New Day" sunglasses in order to hide the tear stains from the sorrow she felt for giving such an insultingly bad performance right in front of the friend she was attempting to impersonate. And her runway? It was just not that good. It was too covered, too basic and boring. It was impeccably tailored and fit her as well as I assume Ginger Minj wished hers could have, but it was kind of a big ol' "blah" for me. Except that epic hair. That hair was amazing. However twelve wigs combined to form one big Rat Queen Wig should not have saved her- and ultimately her Snatch Game was so depressingly bad that I truly believe -beyond being the most deserving to go- having Alaska eliminate a girl for so poorly impersonating her would have been the best kind of poetic justice. Sadly, however, that isn't how it played out. In the end ALL of these girls are rock stars (well, except maybe Coco), so Roxxxy's continued presence isn't really a massive injustice. I just would have much rather seen more from Tatianna- who would have stood to gain far more from the exposure.

Next episode will be up soon as well and then I'll be caught up! See you then my fellows Drag-onites!