So this was a strange week (well, it was- when it aired weeks ago when I started writing this). There was some strange dynamics at work and some questionable judging (not the first of the season *cough - MILK's Celine - cough*) but probably the most egregious.
Let's dive right in: the queens come back, Ru reveals the Maxi-Challenge (a really literal interpretation of Andy Warhol's Campbells Soup Can series and a Studio 54-inspired runway), the queens get to work, the runway happens, odd critiques are given and the wrong girl goes home (though not the wrong Bottom 2 girl- more on that in the Breakdown).
Speaking of which, in no particular order: THE BREAKDOWN.
BEN DE LA CREME: Miss Dela is tired, ladies and gentlemen. And it's fairly clear why: Ben has been killing it every single week- in a manner unlike any girl in the history of this show. If it was a normal season that would be exhausting enough- it's genuinely difficult to muster the kind of diversity and energy needed to rock the challenges she's excelled at. But this is much, MUCH worse than a normal season- this is All Stars, with All Stars rules, and I'm starting to find the format to be extremely flawed in a way only someone with Ben's track record could emphasize.
All the best parts of the show are placed on the shoulders of the Top Girls. At least with the normal format the Top Girls could take a break after they proved themselves and won the challenge. But in All Stars they not only have to then memorize, accessorize and try to win a LSFYLegacy, they also have to sit there and figure out which of the bottom girls goes home. So we not only get physical and mental exhaustion- we add emotional exhaustion on top of that. And for someone like Ben - who is clearly a sensitive, genuine, thoughtful person to anyone paying attention - that burden can be especially tiresome.
I was personally hoping this All Stars would switch it up in the same way AS1 was so different from AS2. I'm pretty sure Ben was hoping the same thing because she is CLEARLY not here to be on the judges' panel. Instead, probably due to AS2's massive success, they decided to stick to a nearly identical format for AS3. I hope they learn from this outing, however, and choose to actually change things around for AS4. The concept of the queens eliminating each other is cute at first- but the flaws inherent to such a system become evident VERY quickly and I'm really not here for the artificial drama and undue stress it puts on the girls. I want to see them rock the game- I don't want to see them forming alliances, hurting each other's feelings, and getting emotionally exhausted. This is RuPaul's Drag Race, not Survivor.
When it comes to Ben's performance this week? She had some of the best voice-overs for her runway, her soup can idea was adorable and only second to Trixie's in terms of being on-brand, and her runway was great (if slightly ill-fitting in the chest area). You could have totally made the argument that her Soup Can and Disco Hooker look were Top 2-worthy, but I am also content with her placement all the same. It was about time for Ben to have a much needed breather and hopefully it will be enough to allow her to rock her way to the end. Still 100% #teambendelacreme.
One last note for Miss Dela: I wanted to reach through the screen and slap Ross for his "oh, you're giving us 100% and not 120%? Meh" bullshit comment. It is literally impossible to continuously one-up yourself, and the judges shouldn't be expecting 120% from Dela if they are treating everyone else's 90% with the same amount of praise. That gets a big ol' 'Fuck You' from me.
TRIXIE MATTELL: Miss Mattell definitely seems to be following in her amazing sister Katya's footsteps: starting out safe but slowly gaining steam as the season progresses. Will it be enough to get her the crown? That remains to be seen- though compared to Ben (or even Shangela) she seems to have a lot of catching up to do. This week was a good step in that direction, though. Her Andy Warhol Can was probably the funniest and most "on-brand" and her Studio 54 look was the second-loveliest (more on that in a bit) and easily the most polished. And while it ultimately wasn't EXACTLY "Studio 54" it was perfect for the story she had concocted for the character who would wear it. She easily deserved the win this week and thank god for it. I've been wanting Trixie to shine, and while she hasn't done poorly by any means (save Snatch Game- in the immortal words of Ginger Minj: that was a rough spot), she has been getting the "overshadowed" edit by both Shangela and DeLa.
When it comes to the lipsynch? The odds just weren't in her favor. Giving Bebe a Diana Ross song to lipsynch to was the equivalent of giving Trixie one by Dolly Parton. Especially considering Bebe proved she can embody Miss Ross to near-perfection. A bit unfair? Yes. But Trixie gave it her all and did a bang-up job- even if it didn't get her the win in the end.
AJA: Aja was a major source of confusion this week. I just . . . didn't agree - oh at all - about the judges critiques of her. I thought her look was, by far, the loveliest out of the five. It may have been a little off in terms of style- but nothing about it would have looked terribly out of place in Studio 54 and she would have been a shimmering masterpiece dancing in the disco lights of the era. Her makeup and hair were also some of the best she's ever looked. And while I do agree her Andy Warhol Can wasn't the MOST on-brand or creative, you could still see where she was coming from (I think she went with "candy" in terms of her visual brand considering just how pastel and candy-colored her wardrobe has become). In the end I was CERTAIN she was safe - and was absolutely baffled by her bottom placement alongside Shangela. ESPECIALLY when there was a different queen who deserved that bottom spot much more.
I'm going to miss Aja's personality and looks in the coming weeks. Luckily there aren't that many more weeks to be had, though.
KENNEDY DAVENPORT: speaking of odd placement and baffling critiques . . . . this week's assessment of Miss Davenport's performance was odd as well (at least to me. Results may vary). Not only was her look super basic (and made her look boxy) her Andy Warhol Can missed the mark pretty much entirely. At least with Aja you could see a positive spin on the "candy" direction. But crazy old lady? It just . . . didn't work. I also felt that her Studio 54 look was a bit of a mess in terms of accessorizing. The shoes were too intricate and didn't match the style of the blue sheet she wrapped around herself, the belt was mismatched to her jewelry and her headpiece didn't match anything either. It looked like she just stuck on whatever she could find to embellish an otherwise intensely bland outfit. The judges' fondness for it felt odd- but in the end it's their opinion and I guess they thought an ugly bed sheet with a sleeve was somehow better than a glorious, shimmering pant-suit with a crystal cape.
Honestly? I really, truly believe it should have been Kennedy in the bottom, not Aja. The way things went down felt really off and I simply don't agree with the end result.
BEBE ZAHARA BENET: you all know I love me some Bebe- but boy is she starting to show her arse. Her Studio 54 look was gorgeous and looked really good on her . . . but it really was a dick-move not to acknowledge the help she received in creating it. Especially when the sister who helped her just got dragged through the mud. And who knows- the judging was so all-over-the-place this week that giving Aja credit could have been the thing that swapped Kennedy and Aja's placement. We'll never know either way but what we DO know is that when someone asks you "did you make this?" you answer "oh yes mawmaw, but I did receive some help with it from my sister" - not just "yes." That's shady and you should KNOW that it will be emphasized to make you look bad because IT'S ALL BEING RECORDED.
I'm not really mentioning her Soup Can look- mostly because I wasn't all that impressed with it. It was definitely on-brand, but the design was boring and the colors made it look like rat poison.
In the end I do agree, however, with her win. She did well (though not as well as Trixie or, in my humble opinion, Aja) and she sold the fuck out of her work. And her lipsynch win was guaranteed the second they hit "play" on a Diana Ross hit.
SHANGELA: if Snatch Game was Trixie's Waterloo, this Design Challenge was Shangela's. Miss Wadley may have grown a LOT since her stint on Season 2 and 3, but her skills in design challenges seemed to have been frozen in time. Simply put: this was the only outfit that was downright dreadful. Everyone else came up with SOMETHING (even Kennedy, whose look was not good either). Shangela's scramble to come up with something after her initial idea didn't pan out ranks among the worst outfits to ever walk down the runway- right up there with Kennedy's flaming chicken and Magnolia Crawford's cowbell quagmire. And while her Soup Can was classic Shangela it wasn't the best either- not nearly enough to make up for the disaster that was her Studio 54 outfit.
Shangela is a fierce competitor. And her safety this week is a testament to her track record leading up to this major blunder. Do I think that's fair? Yes and no. Every queen is bound to have one bad episode- even the best girls (the one exception apparently being DeLa). I do, however, ultimately agree that while she certainly deserved the axe more than any of the other girls (based on this episode alone) I don't think it would have been the correct choice. No, the only REAL correct choice would have been Shangela and Kennedy in the bottom with Kennedy sashaying away. It would have felt the most right (especially considering Kennedy's far worse track record). Sadly that's not what we got.