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RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 4

Aedan Roberts

This week was another doozy. Honestly I think it's safe to say that this will likely apply to every goddamn episode. And while I don't necessarily agree with decisions made here and there, the overall quality of AS2 has been probably the best in the series so far. Some may not be thrilled with the LSFYLegacy format, but it really has done a good job of adding new dynamics to the formula and the challenges have all been a blast (even if the performance ones have suffered, as they always do, with lopsided roles.)

This week once again ditches the Mini-Challenge altogether due to the complicated nature of the Maxi-Challenge: each queen pairs off and co-stars in a mini version of Drag Shequels. PhiPhi and Roxxxy wind up with Showsquirrels (based on Showgirls), Detox and Katya band together for Velma & Weezy (based on Thelma and Louise), which leaves Alaska and Alyssa coupling for Wha' Ha' Happened to Baby JJ? (based on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane).

Now - ON TO THE BREAKDOWN! In no particular order:

Alaska: many people are getting the sense that All Stars 2 is to Alaska what All Stars 1 was to Chad Michaels: a relative farce of a "competition" created specifically with Alaska's win in mind. While I do share this theory in some sense I also believe that with or without producer manipulation Alaska was going to be a force to be reckoned with. She's insanely talented, charismatic, intelligent and quick on her feet. And now that she has embraced her status as one of RPDR most beloved queens (and doesn't have the shadow of Sharon Needles' win hanging over her head) she is tackling every challenge with a zeal that sets her apart from most of the other girls. Her performance tonight was simply hysterical- both on and off the runway. Her Baby JJ was one of the strongest of the night (though I do believe it was helped by being immediately compared to Alyssa's less . . . . meaty role) and her Lil' Poundcake runway reveal (which, lets face it, was not really a "2 looks in one" - which was the challenge - and more of a costume reveal) wasn't very good for the challenge but made up for that with being absolutely HYSTERICAL. The makeup made for some of the best reaction shots of the night and one of the more memorably silly lipsynchs yet this season. In the end I agreed with the judges: while Phi Phi's lipsynch was tighter and more true to the song it was Alaska's ever-grumpy Lil' Poundcake that stole the show- even in those ugly black flat platforms.

I wasn't, however, thrilled with her ultimate decision to send Alyssa home. Especially if you were to go by her (and Roxxxy/PhiPhi/Detox's) "pure" system of relying exclusively on the judges. By all accounts Alyssa's critiques were not any better or worse than Roxxxy's and Alyssa DID have a completely salient point that Roxxxy has been in the bottom twice to Alyssa's once. PhiPhi can complain all she wants about how the judges let Alyssa get away with murder because she is Alyssa- but those are the judges and by PhiPhi's own arguments their opinions should matter more than her (or Alaska's) own sense of justice. I just feel at this point that Rolaskatox has been one of the biggest reasons why Roxxxy has escaped elimination twice now (while sending home girls I'd much rather have stayed). It is likely just a coincidence but every time Roxxxy fails Alaska magically takes the win- and at this point the confidence Roxxxy shows in her little one-on-ones with Alaska during these deliberations is beginning to feel more and more telling.

Detox: Detox did well. I . . . I think that's all I can really say here. Her performance with Katya made for my favorite of the three clips and her runway - while not the most interesting or creative 2-in-1- was still a really lovely outfit that she rocked. So yay Detox! Keep going you wonderful Silicone Wonderland.

Katya: one of the reasons I do subscribe - at least in part - to the idea that this season is rigged for Alaska is how Katya has been treated so far. It is my massively biased opinion that, going into All Stars 2, Katya was going to be Alaska's biggest competition- which is why I feel like some of the decisions over the last couple weeks feel like an attempt to create an artificial gap in their chances. Last week she was given the most thankless role in the Maxi-Challenge (not her fault) - and while her look really was Bottom 2-worthy (which was her fault) - I found the judging to be ridiculous when it concentrated on her Princess Di. This week felt even more egregiously unfair, but this time when it came time to dole out results. Katya, in reality, did pretty marvelously this week. While she was given the "I struggled with the lines at first" generic edit that one queen each season is inevitably pegged with- once she got her bearings she proceeded to steal the scene out from under a delightful Detox. She was gross and hysterical. And her runway? It met the challenge criteria (a true 2-looks-in-1). And while it wasn't the most interesting or flashy dress on the runway she was one of the only ones who added a story to it. Sure the tear-away bangs revealing a pentagram and a black-goo smile were easy little garnishes, however they elevated the otherwise simple look into a hilarious demonic reveal that had the bar I was in cheering.

Which brings me to why I'm pissed off with the obvious manipulations in judging. WHY was Katya in the Bottom? More to the point: WHY WAS THERE A BOTTOM 3 THIS WEEK WHEN THERE WAS ONLY A BOTTOM 2 LAST WEEK? When Katya found herself in the bottom alongside Ginger and no one else everyone understood: the competition was running low on girls so the Bottom 3 went to 2. It does this every season at some point. But to then, the following week with even less girls, revert back to 3?! Especially when Katya did so much better than either of the other Bottom 2 that it was obvious she was safe? What was the point of that bullshit other than to give Katya another artificial mark against her to make her less of a threat to Alaska's inevitable crown? Blech. At any rate I'm just happy Katya got her groove back and I'm excited for her performance next week.

PhiPhi O'Hara: I'm extremely conflicted with PhiPhi. Let me just get this out of the way: she did wonderful this episode. Her Naomi was hysterical and her runway was one of the better true 2-in-1 looks. She deserved her win. But that attitude, girl. There is a lot to be said here- about her own actions and those of the fans. PhiPhi has been getting so much hate for how she is being portrayed on All Stars 2 that she is sobbing in the shower and apparently forgoing the Ru-union. She is vocally decrying editing for her woes- and while I do think editing can manipulate things, they can't really fabricate shit out of thin air. PhiPhi sadly said everything she is being shown saying- and it's what she's saying that is pissing people off. HOWEVER: PhiPhi is a talented-as-fuck queen who does NOT deserve fucking death threats. It makes me incredibly angry to think that people would do something so vile to any queen who has the courage to be on this show and PhiPhi- regardless of the crappy things she said or opinions she's given that people disagree with- does NOT deserve that kind of hate. So lets all PLEASE calm down and spread love, not hate. This show is simply too wonderful to be associated with the behavior of some of it's more immature fans. Regardless of whether I agree with PhiPhi's opinions concerning Alyssa or Alyssa's decision to keep Katya (which I vociferously don't) I still respect her and wish nothing but the best for her. Hopefully once we all get our collective shit together PhiPhi may decide to attend the Ru-Union after all. That is, however, if Ru and Co. even want her there. And judging by Ru's own social media this may spell the end of PhiPhi's relationship with WoW, regardless of how this season turns out for her.

Roxxxy Andrews: If it weren't for Roxxy's breathtakingly sexy runway look I would have called her performance this week a total bust. Miss Andrews, when PhiPhi tells you to switch roles with her? That isn't because she thinks YOU'LL get the better end of that deal. Either way, though: Roxxxy was probably going to fail that challenge regardless of her part. I try to picture her playing Naomi and I just can't. Not with the same spot-on delivery PhiPhi was shockingly (to me) able to whip out. Roxxxy has shown, through her time on this season and her original one, that she has two personas that she can apply to acting challenges: Tosha Salad and Tamar Braxton (which is a slightly sassier version of Tosha Salad). Anything else seems to be a bust for her.  To put it bluntly: I truly believe that Roxxxy's performance was the worst of the night. It was as poorly done as Alyssa's without any of Alyssa's inherent charm and accidental genius (which does count for something, PhiPhi, sorry 'bout it.). And while her look was KILLER- it still wasn't enough, in my eyes, to save her from being the person who SHOULD have gone home. She was DAMN lucky that the winners this week were Alaska (who, regardless of what she says, obviously has an inability to pull the trigger on her Rolaskatox Sister) and PhiPhi, whose hate-on for Alyssa was fifteen inches long and as thick as a beer can. Ah well. At least she was fun to look at on the main stage.

Alyssa Edwards: Alyssa was this season's Black Horse (registered trademark of Joslyn Foxx) and may have come out of this the true winner of All Stars 2- regardless of whether she gets to come back next episode. Alaska left her season with many grumbling she should have won (not me, but I get it). Katya had an even larger grumbling fan-base. But Alyssa? Unlike most of the girls she's one of the only ones whose elimination was not contested (though I do wish she had stayed longer than Coco). She was NEVER a front-runner in her season- if anything she was a pleasant oddity of brilliant memes and accidental hilarity who coasted on her amazing lip-syncs. Now, though? In four episodes she managed to convey that she not only has a profound understanding of what makes her so special- she also knows how to wield that power in sickening, riotous ways. She has been THE highlight of this season filled with highlights. Every week there was something new that she brought to the table- all the while managing to come out of each episode the only girl (other than Katya) who wasn't needlessly shady, bitchy or conniving. She was there to have FUN and she brought everyone else along for the ride. I even found myself agreeing with Alyssa in most instances. She took this competition by storm and I simply wasn't prepared.

When it comes to her elimination? I don't think it was the correct choice, but the argument certainly has credibility to it. Her performance was second-worst of the night (though that didn't stop me from loving the fuck out if it. It was an uneven role to begin with- that script was always going to be Baby JJ with stage-hand Blande- so at least her weirdness kept her from fading completely into the background.) As for her runway? I loved it. The entire bar loved it. There must have been something lost in translation, because all I saw was a dress made out of flashing cameras and I was LIVING FOR IT. This is Drag, people. Not High Fashion. And Alyssa's was the campiest, draggiest, most wonderful expression of that ideal on that stage. But apparently the other girls weren't feeling it. Sigh.

Anyways, I was originally hoping Tatianna would have another chance to come back, but at this point I've switched my vote to Alyssa so I get to see The Greatest Top 3 Ever: Alaska, Katya, and Alyssa. Give all three of these girls crowns. They ALL have won All Stars 2.

See you next week all!

 

 

RPDR RANT: ALL STARS 2, EPISODE 3

Aedan Roberts

This will be the last of the hyper-fast Catch Up Rants. But seeing how it IS a catch-up rant I will be very concise in my pre-breakdown synopsis:

SHOW GOOD. MUCH AWESOME. MANY SMILE.

NO MINI CHALLENGE. ONE HOUR, NO EXTRA 30 MINUTES- BOO. ANGRY. LOPSIDED MAXI-CHALLENGE ROLES- UNFAIR. DOES FRUSTRATE.

Now, with that out of the way, on to the breakdown! In no particular order:

Alaska: After two extremely solid, top-of-the-pack weeks it was bound to happen: Alaska kind of faded into the background here. This is not really a problem because it gave other queens more time to shine, but it also means there wasn't much to talk about in concern with Miss Thunderfuck. She did well as Eve in the Bad Bitches of Herstory Lipsynch Extravaganza. Her outfit was fun (though her padding was "suspicious") her dance moves were hysterical, and her runway was well executed if a bit simple. Loved her makeup, her umbrella hinge finger enhancers, and her new addition to the RPDR meme factory: the Alaska Scream (which also immediately gave us the far more jarring, kind of intense Ru Scream). Alaska was the correct choice to open the performance number and she didn't disappoint.

Alyssa Edwards: For all intents and purposes this was Alyssa's episode from start to finish. Shady editing aside (to make PhiPhi look exasperated with Miss Edward's work room antics) she was a delightful ball of intense, unstoppable Alyssa Brand goofy camp. It was wild, silly, and made for insanely good reality TV. Her work-room Annie Oakley No Makeup Realness complete with bedazzled gun immediately spawned an army of internet meme's that have been flooding my social media ever since- and needless to say I am thrilled. As for her performance tonight? It was smack-dab in the heart of Alyssa's wheelhouse, so it goes without saying that she rocked it the house down toots. She was an attention-pulling star the entire time and her win this week was well deserved. Even her Future of Drag runway outfit worked in spite of Alyssa's trademark habit of taking Coco Chanel's famous quote of "Before you go out remove one accessory" and doing the polar opposite. Each element of her ensemble was gorgeous, but all together it was a chaotic mess that on anyone less charismatic would be a disaster. On Alyssa, though? I loved it. Absolutely loved it. The biggest win I attribute to Alyssa this week, however, was making the exact right choice of who to send packing. Of the two choices provided she went with keeping the girl who has the potential to benefit the most from a continued stay in the competition and I'm totally on her side when it comes to her reasoning. I'm actually completely over Alaska, Roxxxy, and Phi Phi's strict adherence to a rule they made up at the beginning of the competition to absolve themselves of any responsibility in terms of choosing who leaves. It's an inherently impossible thing to go with in the first place (one Ru doesn't even adhere to during normal seasons) and it was NEVER something all the girls agreed to. I'm hoping the pissed off expressions given by the girls at the end of the episode were editing magic and not accurate portrayals of how they actually felt about Alyssa's ultimate decision. But who knows. We'll see next week!

Detox: Detox, sporting Robbie Turner's Neon Realness outfit from Season 8 (what is it with Detox this season accidentally finding herself repeating stuff from season 8?) put in the third-best performance of the night (her Acid Marie Antoinette interpretation was wonderful and benefitted from her unique lip-synching style), wore the second-best look of the night (her Silver-Surfer Meets Lilu From Fifth Element Realness was out of this world and polished in typical Detox fashion) which culminated in a combined score that rammed her to Top 2 this week. As for the LSFYL? My boyfriend and I honestly had a tough time deciding who did better- and for any girl going up against the lip-synch powerhouse that is Alyssa Edwards that is quite the compliment. Knowing that she was most likely going to follow Alaska and Roxxxy's misguided elimination criteria and send Katya home I am relieved that Alyssa managed to eek out a slightly better performance, but I'm also extremely happy Detox is finally starting to shine in this competition.

Katya: Katya's fate was infuriatingly sealed the very second Ru revealed that her "Bad Bitch" role would be Princess Diana. It has been said before in many reviews but I'll re-iterate the reasons why here: A. Diana was the only figure chosen that was alive in most of our lifetimes (Evita died in the 70's), so the ability to be truly critical of a queen's depiction of her is much higher than any of the other historical figures. It's not like Detox's Marie was particularly accurate or Alaska's EVE (A COMPLETELY FICTIONAL CHARACTER) could be given the kind of bullshit criticisms that Katya got from the judges. B: Diana really isn't a funny character- she's a tragic one. Trying to make Princess Diana funny is like trying to make Jon Lennon funny (only even harder, honestly). Could you do it? Maybe- but the tragic situation of their death, and the relative lack of anything lampoon-able they did in life makes it a challenge far exceeding those of the other figures chosen. And finally C: due to the reality of points A and B, the lyrics she was given to lipsynch to were by far the weakest and most boring of the set.

The entire deck was stacked against ANY girl who was stuck with that thankless role. NONE of the other girls would have faired any better and it ultimately felt like they reserved that part for someone they knew would likely never find their way to the bottom by legitimate means, but whose presence there would make for extremely dramatic television. I was on the edge of my couch holding my breath the entire lip-synch out of fear that we may lose the girl I want winning the competition- so it was a strategy that worked in that sense, but it was also a damn stupid thing to do. Hell, it was so blatantly manipulated that even Ru had to step in during the critiques and point out a couple of the issues I reiterated above. It also was a perfect example of why Alaksa/Roxxxy/PhiPhi's methods of determining who to eliminate simply cannot work all the time. Of COURSE Katya got the worst critiques of the entire bunch when it came to the performance- she had the worst role. That's not a mark against HER, that's a mark against the people who wrote the lyrics and chose Diana in the first place. What about Marie Curie? Joan of Arc? Nefertiti? CLEOPATRA?! There were so many other characters they could have chosen that would have placed all the girls on even footing- but instead they chose PRINCESS DIANA. Ugh.

In the end the only real way you could fairly determine who in the bottom 2 should go home would be their runway- it was the only aspect of the episode that wasn't heavily influenced by producer/writer manipulation. In that respect the correct girls were chosen for Bottom 2, and the right girl was eliminated. Katya's runway was just . . . not good. It wasn't horrendous, but it was frumpy, oddly shaped, and unflattering. I LOVED the hair and it's always exciting to see a girl use a color/style that she's not normally known for, but the outfit was a bit of an abomination. HOWEVER it wasn't NEARLY as much of a misfire as Ginger's hot mess from head to toe, and thank god for that and Alyssa's ability to see it.

Phi Phi O'Hara: I'm honestly starting to feel kind of bad for miss O'Hara. It really does look like the editors are trying their best to thwart her attempts at a proper Rudemption at every turn. It also isn't helped that PhiPhi herself is just naturally inclined to provide them with the necessary fodder to do so- but something tells me she's simply not being as vindictive and bitchy as we're being shown here. In the end, though, I'm just not that invested in her narrative either way. I've officially been a fan of Phi Phi for a little while now, knowing full well that she can sometimes come off as a naturally bitchy person, and so as long as she can give us more of what we saw in this episode I'm happy to overlook the combination of legit bitch and editor-manipulated bitch. 

Anyways, PhiPhi had her best week yet this episode. It wasn't enough to claim Top 2, but when you are up against Alyssa and Detox in a performance challenge that is an impossible mountain to climb. Her runway, though? Blew every other person on that stage out of the water. All the other girls were playing checkers while PhiPhi was playing Djarik with Han Solo while shooting down an armada of Protoss carriers. It was possibly the best outfit of the season, in the opinion of this lowly cosplay gay, and easily redeems her otherwise somewhat boring offerings in the last two episodes. I just hope she can keep it up for the rest of her tenure.

Roxxxy: even more than Alaska Roxxxy really faded into the wallpaper this episode. Her Evita was serviceable and well-performed and I honestly loved her runway a lot more than the judges seemed to. They called it simple, I would correct that by saying it was elegant, refined and polished to a chrome finish (hyuck hyuck). Regardless: ultimately she was safe. Nothing amazing but nothing terrible either. NEXT.

Ginger Minj: Ginger's performance was FANTASTIC. But Ginger's performances are always fantastic. I will make the note that Ginger really needs to drop the whole "I'm not a dancer" bullshit, however. It was bullshit and unconvincing in Season 7 and it is even more so now. She may not have the dancing chops of Miss Edwards or Chi Chi Devayne, but she's an experience theater/musical actor and moderately competent dance skills are required in that field. So stop with the obvious attempt to lower expectations. Ain't happening. Anyways: not only is she just a naturally strong performer Miss Minj also had the benefit of being given the role with the best lyrics and singer. Her outfit was on point for the challenge as well. Overall I'd rate her up there with Alyssa in terms of the Maxi-Challenge.

But then there was the runway. And HOO-BOY was that a train-wreck. The awful hair. The awful makeup. The awful costume with cheap light details that were lost in the brightness of the runway. The awful fit. It was Just. Awful. And, to me, that sealed her fate. It sucks because otherwise she really did rock the challenge, but decisions have to be made and the overall quality of everyone's efforts was so high that, in the end, I really do think it came down to the runway this week. So we bid adieu to Miss Minj! She never got a chance to shine in this sea of supernovas, but she also held her own for the most part while she was here. Keep up the good work Miss Minj and I'm sure I'll see you on the Socials Media.

 

YAY! ALL CAUGHT UP! TAKE THAT, CAUSALITY!

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!

 

 

RPDR RANT: All Stars 2, Episode 1

Aedan Roberts

Girls! GIRLS! FUCK. Yes. Words. No words.

There was a LOT of built up expectation going into the possibility of an All Stars 2. There are many reasons for this: the growing number of Alum that fans have been clambering to see again, the lack of any legit news for a long time concerning the possibility of an All Stars 2, and the relative disaster that was All Stars 1. It was that last one that seemed to make the idea of All Stars 2 ever coming to fruition a slim hope, at least for a while.

Let's face it: All Stars 1 was a mess. An occasionally fun, sometimes memorable mess, but the result of that season was a bad taste in everyone's mouth (the fans hated it and Ru wasn't fond of the negative feedback). Most of the fan hate derived from the "twist" of pairing the girls off to be judged in teams of two. It wasn't a terribly fun twist and made a show whose judging was already seen to be tailored to fit a narrative (and less about merit) into an infuriating case of certain queens being eliminated before their time because their team-mate couldn't carry their weight (or the opposite where girls who should have gone home earlier were being carried by far better queens). It was also a painfully short season due to the nature of eliminating two queens every episode (save the last). It's even more frustrating because most of the Alum returning were fan favorites and insanely talented queens who deserved another shot, so the fact that the season seems to be willfully forgotten by the majority of the fanbase is a sad disservice to them.

So yeah, for a while the idea of another All Stars was a fever dream. But here we are!!!! Bigger! Longer! With twists as deliciously fun as the team idea was awful.

I could go into a long screed about all the things this season premier got amazingly right, but I'd rather get into the breakdown. Let's just leave it here: I thought Season 8's premier was the strongest in RPDR herstory, but this one managed to blow it out of the water. Ru seemed to want to fly into this guns blazing- from the Library mini-challenge to the fantastic (and sometimes not fantastic) talent show maxi-challenge Ru and the producers showed us what is possible when the audience is already familiar with the players, the players are familiar with the players, and as such there is no need to take things slow. 

Without further ado: the breakdown! In no particular order:

Adore Delano: oh dear, sweet, wonderful Adore. I LOVED her promo look, and honestly I'm still rooting for her. Here's the thing, though: I kind of agree with Adore's assessment during the "untucked" portion of the episode. I don't really think she belongs there. However it's not for the reasons I believe she implied. Adore is an amazing performer. She oozes effortless charisma and comes off intensely sweet, funny (in a bit of a stoner kind of way), and a little naive (which makes her even more endearing). She's also found an aesthetic that suits her and her brand. She may think that this aesthetic is the reason she shouldn't have returned to compete, but I have a different theory: Adore, more than any other RPDR alum, does not have anything to prove. She's easily one of the most successful girls to come out of this show. Her albums are genuinely good pop music (that top the charts), her videos are better compared to Miley Cyrus, Rhianna and other contemporary pop starlets in terms of quality and production value, and she's one of the more universally beloved queens already. She literally doesn't need this crown. She's kind of already won. Why bother dealing with Visage's (well intentioned, in some ways legit, but also lacking in understanding) critiques? I believe Adore came to have fun, be with her friends, and get a bit more exposure. But the fun part is the most important aspect for Miss Delano, in my opinion. And watching her soul get crushed by Visage's overtly, unnecessarily harsh critique of her performance made me want to reach through the screen, hug her and whisper to her "girl, you are fantastic- you keep doing you and to hell with Visage." I also didn't feel she deserved to be in the bottom with Phi Phi and Coco. She wasn't the best performance of the night, but she was FAR from bottom three. In the end I'm glad she's still there and I hope she picks herself up, pulls her shoulders back and marches forth into the next challenge with confidence- but ultimately if she chose to take this opportunity to re-assess her attendance and bow out I wouldn't hold it against her in the least. I would miss her presence, though.

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000: From the second she walked into the work room with that billowing black Scarlet Ohara Fell Into A Dumpster Realness look Alaska proved, again and again, why she is (along with Katya) on almost everyone's personal choice for Top 3 going into All Stars 2. She still has that unique, wonderful, magnetic personality, intelligent wit, and alien movement- but this time further equipped with a stronger range of drag aesthetics and vastly improved makeup skills. Also collagen nestled in her upper lip (apparently a disturbing trend with these girls - looking at you Adore). Her reads were a lot of fun (though I did prefer Katya's), her performance was magical, and her confessionals were everything. Alaska is on fire and she easily earns her place in my own personal Top 3.

Alyssa Edwards: Miss Edwards has really upped her game so far (in my opinion, obviously). She's always been one of the best dancers/performers this show has ever had, and any scene is inherently enhanced with her ridiculous expressions and Alyssa-isms- but unlike last time a lot of her brilliance seems more intentional. It is undeniable that Miss Edwards was at her best in Season 5 when she was just being her, off the cuff, unintentionally hilarious. However the second she attempted to act or be purposefully funny she would fall flat on her face. Now, though? She's walked into All Stars 2 knowing EXACTLY what makes her so special and she's milking it from sun up until sundown. And I'm LIVING FOR IT. Alyssa is officially my Dark Horse for this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see this Walking Distillation of Gay Camp manage to wind up in the Top 3 alongside (hopefully) Katya and Alaska.

Detox: When Detox first arrived in the workroom of Season 5 I was instantly intrigued. She was polished, hyper-confident, strangely alien (due to her considerable silicon "enhancements") with flawless makeup skills and unique, mostly-impeccable fashion sense. She seemed to have it all. Sadly, however, as the season progressed and Miss Icunt started to let the competition get the better of her (she was getting increasingly frustrated with being overshadowed by queens she didn't yet understand *cough - Jinkx - cough* and getting ever more symbiotic with Season 5's late-blooming Super Villain Roxxxy Andrews) my opinion of her soured considerably. So much so that I was sadly thrilled when Jinkx mopped the floor with her in the Top 4 LSFYL and sent her packing. After the show, however, Detox has managed to re-assert her status as a uniquely talented queen and has also shown a much sweeter side we only saw small snippets of during her time on the show. And now that she's back I couldn't be happier for her presence. She's simply marvelous. Her reads were fun in the Mini-Challenge and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge did an excellent job showcasing what Miss Detox is uniquely qualified to bring to the table. It wasn't the best performance of the night, but it was solid and makes me excited for her return.

Katya: This bitch. THIS. BITCH! UGH! I sometimes go back and forth over whether she is a genius, completely insane, or both (I'm thinking both- which is the best choice of the three). Regardless: Katya, even more than Alaska, is my personal choice to win All Stars 2. And from what we see in this episode she seems to have returned equipped with the necessary tools to do so. She has a new, easy-going (in her own manic kind of way) attitude when it comes to the competition and that newly acquired confidence is doing her all manner of justice. It's allowing her brilliance to shine backstage and in front of the judges. Her walk-in-look was a smart, leveled-up version of her first Season 7 offering, her reads were EASILY the best in my opinion and should have won (they were insanely smart, hilarious, and possibly the darkest/most biting of all the queens- Roxxxy and Ginger's especially) and her performance was one of the stronger ones (a highlight of which was her backwards Exorcist-style Bridge Walk). Overall I just have this to say: GO KATYAAAAA! SLAAAAAAAY!

Phi Phi O'Hara: The very first, the original, the inception of the RPDR Top 3 Villainess: Miss Phi Phi is BACK! And this time it's personal. Seriously- this is very, VERY personal for her. Her reputation was so tarnished from her terrible behavior on Season 4 that it has taken her YEARS to begin to reinvigorate her career. However she's already done a great job laying the foundation for what will hopefully be a successful Rudemption arc in All Stars 2. She's been doing interviews that highlight how she's grown as a person and performer, she's re-embraced her original love of Cosplay Drag, and her 365 Days Of Drag on Instagram have been consistently amazing. And while I don't see her taking the crown (or even making it to Top 3) - especially after her sadly disastrous first Maxi-Challenge a-cappella snafoo - I do hope she sticks around long enough for us to see that Phi Phi cannot, and should not, be defined by a single bad period in her otherwise wonderful career.

Roxxxy Andrews: On the stiletto heels of Miss Phi Phi, Roxxxy showed up on Season 5 with a fairly strong start- yet by the end of her season proved to be practically worse than Miss O'Hara. Whereas Phi Phi's actions seemed to come from a place of immaturity and lack of self-awareness, Roxxxy's treatment of Jinkx was cold, calculated, and EXTREMELY off-putting. All the makeup skills in the world (of which she has considerable amounts) and impeccable outfits (which she also has an abundance of) couldn't save her from the wrath of the RPDR fanbase- and I was right there with them. However I am also one of those people who can't stay mad at anyone whose name is not "Trump" or "Pence" so her inclusion here makes a lot of sense and I'm rooting for her to prove she's more than an empty-headed, extremely pretty monster. So far? She's sort of doing it. She's still as polished as ever (all of her looks this episode- especially her walk-in look- were breath-taking) and she certainly deserved the win this week (for both her stellar burlesque number and fun LSFYLegacy), but she also seemed to fall right back into her head-games when she was asked to decide which of the three girls she would choose to send home. I don't know about you, but I couldn't help but notice the distinct smirk of someone enjoying power over the other girls a little too much. I can't blame her, but if I were her I would have avoided this perception at all costs. She has more than just money and a crown on the line here. She also needs her Rudemption practically more than Phi Phi. In the end Roxxxy surprised me. I don't really want her making it to Top 3, but I would love to see her prove to us that she's grown since Season 5.

Ginger Minj: Ginger is undeniably talented. She's undeniably clever. She's undeniably funny (when she isn't pushing too far into the realm of "bitch"). However she's also just . . . lacking something here. I don't know what it is. I mean she's definitely upped her game (no matter how much she likes to joke about how corsets gave Violet Chachki the win in Season 7 their inclusion in her repertoire really has helped her considerably), her reads were witty/some of the better ones, and her performance in the Maxi-Challenge was strong. But honestly? I just don't care. Not when she's in a room with the likes of Katya, Alaska, Detox, Alyssa and Adore- whose talents are just as intense but whose personalities shine far brighter. She's just kind of a non-entity for me here, and that bothers me. Because she shouldn't be. In any case I'm glad Ginger was included in the cast but I'm just not really in this with her. 

Tatianna: I hopped on the RPDR bandwagon a little after Season 1 finished airing (I binge-watched it almost immediately after the finale), so I was there for Tati's first foray into RPDR. And honestly? Much to the chagrin of a couple of my friends (love you Ian Thomas) I was always kind of a fan of Tatianna. Sure fellow Season 2 girl Raven had a lot of valid criticisms when it came to Tati's then-aesthetic, but there was something extremely charismatic and refreshing about Tati's personality that appealed to me (a "something" that pissed my friends off as much as they appealed to me, but whatever, lol). In the end I think her problems were more due to the fact that she simply wasn't ready for RPDR when she was first on than anything else. And in the years since then she seems to have undergone an amazing metamorphosis. Her return to the show was both unexpected and extremely exciting. As the only girl pre-Season 4 in the cast Tati has a lot to prove: however she seems to have arrived with the newly-acquired skills to do so. Her makeup game is lightyears better, she's learned to dress properly (in her words "stop shopping at Wet Seal"), and her performance chops have gone through the roof. I'm very much with Ru when it comes to Tati being in this week's Top 2. Her Spoken Word was hilarious, unexpected, and wonderful. My boyfriend's seething hatred for it aside it was fairly universally beloved at the viewing party I originally watched the episode at. Tatianna is back with a vengeance, people, and I can't wait to see what else she has for us.

Coco Montrese: I'm going to make this one short: when All Stars 2 announced Coco as one of the returning girls my expression could be summed up in one word: puzzled. I was never a fan of Coco. I openly admit she is a fantastic, seasoned performer- but her drama-fabricating, melodramatic, mind-numbing backstage antics on Season 5 is the reason I have such a hard time re-watching it. And I was never impressed with anything but her lipsynchs. This time, however, Coco can't be saved by her biggest strength (since the format has switched from a Bottom 2 LSFYLife to a Top 2 LSFYLegacy) so I immediately made the prediction that she was going to be the first one out. I'm not proud, persé, that I was right. I'm just happy I don't really have to deal with the inevitable drama that Coco's continued presence would have wrought.

END NOTE: yes, this was extremely delayed. You can thank Dragon Con for that. I'll try to have the second episode rant up ASAP, and then the third not long behind. HUGGLES!