Welcome to Drag Race Power Rankings! Every Sunday, we’ll debrief the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5 to determine which queens are riding high, and which need she-mergency care. It’s another team challenge this week, as the queens present luxury hotel suites in groups. How do some shady judging and backstage machinations affect the queens’ standings in the competition?
8. Mariah Balenciaga (last week: 7) — ELIMINATED
I won’t argue that Mariah deserved to stay this week, particularly over India (who shouldn’t have been in the bottom) or Shea (who did deserve to be in the bottom, but shouldn’t have gone home). But I do think you have to look at the bigger picture with her: She was just ruled safe for what was probably the best performance of the night in the variety show, then was arbitrarily in the bottom three last week when the bottom two of India and Ongina would have sufficed. Her track record so far may have been insufficient, but a lot of that felt arbitrary.
I felt for her in her plea to Jujubee, when she made the point that she was miles ahead of where she was in Season 3, and would only continue to grow. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t enough to survive this week. Sad to see a legend go. I wish the show had appreciated her more while she was still around.
7. India Ferrah (last week: 8)
I really hate when Drag Race gets arbitrary with its judging. Jujubee, Alexis Mateo, and India Ferrah, to me, clearly put together the best room and presentation. Was it amazing? No, but no one was in this challenge. It was still the most cohesive, had the most individual ideas and still made me laugh. This now-consistent note that India isn’t standing out in groups feels like a way to keep her down despite her consistently elevating her drag. Her three-in-one runway was one of my favourites this week; it was both her particular brand of high drag, yet fashionable enough to stand out in modern Drag Race. I’m glad she didn’t go home this week, but I wonder how much longer she’ll be able to hold on—especially if we get more group tasks this season.
6. Shea Coulée (last week: 1)
Oof. Okay, let’s start with the positives: Shea’s runway look was excellent this week, no matter what Ross Mathews said about it being “crafty.” That was a shitty critique, especially in light of how Crystal Methyd was consistently praised for homemade looks in Season 12. (Granted, All Stars 5 filmed before Season 12, but the point still stands. Ross likely didn’t suddenly change his mind on craft-based designs between seasons.) Now, as big a Shea fan as I am, I will admit she failed to deliver in the main challenge. She just wasn’t funny. I’m not sure if she thought her team’s concept would get her through, but it wasn’t enough. I’m glad the coup didn’t work and Shea stuck around, but Alexis and Mayhem’s votes really had me sweating.
5. Miz Cracker (last week: 5)
Undoubtedly, parts of Cracker’s approach to her fellow queens do need to be addressed and rectified. Several other queens came into this season with a negative opinion of her, which indicates a recurring problem. But Shea’s defence of Cracker indicates that, in contrast to what we saw last week, that is not a unanimous opinion. There’s an arc being set up here, and it looks to be a redemptive one, considering what Mariah said during deliberations about enjoying working with Cracker. It may take some time to fully kick in.
For the time being, I’d rather focus on Cracker’s drag, which is often gorgeous (loved that three-in-one Anastasia runway) and at times a little obvious (her “Rosebud” character was fine, if standard, older woman drag). It’s very much the kind of drag you bring to All Stars, polished and expensive but not too risky. Her performances are similar—she landed all the jokes you’d expect her to in this week’s challenge, for instance. Cracker isn’t delivering big wow moments yet, but she’s also not faltering. I hope she can pull out a big gag in the next week or two to justify the amount of narrative space she’s being given right now.
4. Mayhem Miller (last week: 6)
I was generally much cooler on the 24 Karat Experience than Ru was, largely because so many of the jokes felt like rehashes of Club 96 from All Stars 4’s club challenge. (Miss you, Naomi Smalls and Valentina!) I also didn’t love Mayhem’s runway, which ended up cute with the swimsuit but was just as guilty of being a 2.5-in-1 as Mariah’s was. Taking off a coat is not a reveal! But what I’ll give to Mayhem is this: Her “performance” voting for Shea to go home was perhaps my favourite performance of the whole episode. The careful deliberation! The reminder of her deal with India! “You’re forever sickening, bitch!” It would have infuriated me if Shea had gone home, but since she stayed, I can Stan the drama of it from a safe place.
3. Blair St. Clair (last week: 2)
Again, the 24 Karat Experience ultimately didn’t work for me, but if I had to give the edge to one of the two, I’d say Blair was better at the off-the-cuff jokes than Mayhem was. She also had a true three-in-one runway, and while I didn’t love the first two looks, her Studio 54 final look was a smash. Blair’s still getting kid-gloves treatment in a lot of ways, though, and I want to see her challenged by the judges. She’s not the baby queen she was in Season 10; she can stand on her own two feet. I’d hate to see her glide all the way to the final four without ever getting mixed-or-negative critiques.
2. Alexis Mateo (last week: 3)
Shea is the story of the season for me, but if I had to pick who’s hot on her heels? That’d be Miss Alexis. The Queen of BAM! is driving the story of All Stars 5, speaking her mind in both confessionals and to queens’ faces. I appreciate that she’s willing to get messy, but she herself is not a mess—in fact, her drag is the best and most polished it’s ever been this season. I absolutely loved her three-in-one runway, though I do agree that the ballerina dress was a bit of a mismatch with the big top and trapeze artist outfits. I also thought she should’ve been in the top three with her teammates for the Glamazone. As Nicole Byer noted, Alexis is so naturally funny that she makes challenges like this work for her.
In terms of her spat with Cracker: I ultimately take Alexis’ side on this one. Cracker argued she said she was working with people she respected in Mariah or Shea, but that’s not true: Cracker mentioned Juju in the same breath, and she hasn’t worked with Juju this season. It’s clear Cracker was talking about who in the competition she respected, and when called on it, she tried to backtrack. It’s not a surprise if Cracker doesn’t respect Alexis—she didn’t remember her when Vanessa Vanjie Mateo mentioned her drag mother in the Season 10 premiere—but admitting it openly is at her own peril. Alexis is a veteran with nothing to prove at this point. She’s there to have a good time and drag a doll when she deems it necessary. I stan!
1. Jujubee (last week: 4)
It’s funny: I kind of had this fantasy in my mind that when Jujubee finally won a main challenge, confetti would just come falling out of the rafters. This is a queen who has made it through 19 competitive episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race across three seasons now, has made the finale twice, and is just now winning her first challenge! Yet her win is kind of an afterthought. She doesn’t get critiqued, and she doesn’t even come from the actual winning team. The moment falls a little flat, and takes the energy out of what should be a celebration of a terrific veteran finally getting her due. Even in Untucked, as Blair and Mayhem hailed her win, the tone was sombre—albeit appropriately so, as Juju talked about her battle to stay sober and clean. Juju’s come a long way in her Drag Race journey; she didn’t need a win to validate how terrific her work is, but for her sake, I’m so glad she got it.
So! Let’s celebrate her win! Juju’s three-in-one runway is very fun if a little rough—I like the holidays approach, and loved her runway voiceover explaining why she didn’t come as a pilgrim despite her love for Thanksgiving.
More to the point, Juju is fucking funny this episode, and not just in the challenge. There’s her joke about her team not telling her it was a statement that day in the workroom. There’s her offering Ru a carrot upon winning the main challenge. There’s her interior monologue about her cats while she’s choosing who to go home. She’s effortlessly comedic, and it really shows in her performance as well. I’m not totally convinced Juju can win the season at this point—there’s just not enough narrative heat behind her yet—but I’m nonetheless delighted she finally got this victorious moment. She has deserved for years, and she got what’s hers.