Toronto Diary
16 min

The Drag Race All-Stars RuCap: Camera Obscura

It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means: we’re halfway through the season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars! Seriously, it premiered two weeks ago and it’s almost already over. How? Why? What? GAH. Anyway, this week the guys had to butch it up for a Grindr profile-pic challenge, and then wander the streets of Hollywood convincing complete strangers to do ridiculous, hidden-camera stunts. Let’s take a look at the shit that worked and the shat that punk’d.

The fast-dwindling group of queens enter the work room again after last week’s Gaff-In, and I can’t help but feel like there’s this weird aura to the room; forcing the queens to work in groups may have worked out at first, but forcing them to team up seems to be wearing on their nerves, especially in the case of Latrila. You can tell that Manila Luzon is still weirded out with her placement in the bottom two last week, and Latrice Royale is pretty torn up over it.

As the queens lift their cups in a toast to Tammie Brown and whatever parallel dimension of unlogic she hails from, Ooooo, Girl! You got SheMail! To be honest, I can’t remember what the fuck Ru was going on about, but here comes boy Ru to throw the queens their mini-challenge: the queens are given a bunch of cameras and told to butch up for some “Str8 acting only” shots, which will presumably be used on their Grindr profiles after the show. Chad rubs some dirt on his face, while Shannel puts on a trucker cap. Jujubee goes for hipster dork, while Raven takes off his shirt and makes a duck face at the camera. At least, I think that’s a duck face; with those lips, it’s hard to tell if he’s pouting or if that’s just the collagen. Latrice just sort of does her usual boy look, and Manila takes a picture of a banana sticking out of her jeans. Subtlety, they name is Luzon.

Seeing as how the rest of the queens collectively tripped over themselves going for macho looks, Yarlexis wins the mini-challenge by default, with Yara doing a shirtless trade shot and Alexis pencilling on a beard that makes him look like that one Backstreet Boy who wasn’t gay. Howie? I feel like it was Howie. Fans of late-’90s boy bands, please correct me in the comments. Anyway, Yarlexis wins some shoes, which, compared to last week’s prize of a pie to the face, is really quite a step-up.

With that completely superfluous challenge out of the way, Boy Ru gets us to the meat of the episode: the queens will be hooked up to a wire connecting them to their partner and Ru, who will be coaching them to prank unsuspecting tourists out on Hollywood Boulevard. Each prank is worth a specific amount of points, and the duo with the highest score wins. It’s essentially Candid Camera, mixed with that segment on Ellen where she makes people act like complete nutbags out in public. On paper, this sounds terrible, but in practice, watching the queens eat total shit usually results in comedic gold, and throwing hapless breeders into the mix just makes it that much more succulent.

Rujubee is first up to the plate, and Raven’s decision to come out in clown makeup, a pink Afro and ratchet clothes is a pretty big misstep. Unfortunately, when you combine that with her bitchy persona, it spells out disaster. Tourists practically run from Raven as she tries to convince them to let her throw grapes in their mouths. Jujubee picks up the slack, though, as her bubbly personality and sun dress ensnare people for long enough to let her spray whipped cream down their pants. Latrila is up next, and Manila hits it out of the park, convincing people to smash eggs over their heads and feed her out of the palms of their hands. Latrice drops the ball, though, as she spends most of her time digging for the show’s props in the garbage can behind her. She’s not bad, but her inability to spring to action just feels like one big missed opportunity.

After her surprisingly spot-on Charo impression last week, Yara Sofia stumbles pretty hard this time, as she’s completely clueless as to how to bring people in. Her shrill, high-pitched “HIIII? HIIIII? HIIIIII?HIIIIII?” isn’t really conducive to social interaction, whereas Alexis’s pageant background actually serves her well for once, as her girly look and warmth draws people in like flies to honey. Team Shad, however, cleans the fuck up, with soft daytime looks and charm to spare. Shannel in particular jumps into the challenge headfirst, doing whatever with whomever she can get her hands on to pull off a win, and Chad is equally gung-ho in her performance.

In the work room, as the queens put together their best bad-girl looks for the runway, Latrice opens up about how the Queens with Guy Phones challenge touched a sore spot with her: she feels sexier in the guise of Latrice than in her boy form. It opens up an interesting discussion amongst the queens, as they reveal where they stand on their drag identities versus their everyday identities. Despite how femme fatale Raven is in drag, she’s equally comfortable as a boy and clearly has a defined separation between her anima and animus; to her, they’re two sides to the same coin. Chad is a slightly different story, as someone who’s gracefully embracing her age.

But over on Yarlexis’s side, something weird is going on: Yara is taking the reins for their main-stage look, and you can tell that there’s a bit of a power struggle going on between her and Alexis. It doesn’t help that the other queens have been telling her that Yara’s doing the lion’s share of the lifting in their team, and you can tell that it’s become something of an exposed nerve for her. Judging by how this narrative is shaping up, you can tell that this is going to come to a boil on the main-stage. So without further ado, onto the runway, with RuPaul in a fabulous pink-and-purple tulle gown joined by Michelle Visage, Santino Rice, Janice Dickinson’s creepy plastic face and (EXCITED GASP!) Rachel Dratch! (Actually, backstory here: in her memoires, Rachel actually admitted that she cried after missing an episode of Drag Race, so seeing her on the show makes me happy in the soul parts.)

Team Rujubee is first, with Raven in a Harajuku girl look and Jujubee in a comparatively tame corseted black dress. It’s a nice look but a bit too simplistic. Team Shad goes next, with Chad in a leather, rocker look with a spiked shoulder, and Raven in a corset with fur shoulders. Corsets are going to be a big thing this week. Yarlexis comes next, and they crazy it up with a pair of avant-garde hair-trimmed looks. Yara adorns herself with what I can only describe as helicopter hair, paired with a bandage gown, and Alexis is . . . Oh god, how do I describe this? It’s like a Yorkshire terrier mixed with a football player mixed with Gene Simmons. I simultaneously love it and hate it. Latrila ends off the night with Manila in a flowing black veil and a shoe-and-feather headpiece that I’m in lust with, and Latrice does her best Divine.

Once again, the winners are called at the top of the critique, as Team Shad pulled enough pranks to warrant a victory, but first, Ru asks them all who they think should be going home. Yarlexis seems to be the pick across the board, as the queens feel that Yara is pulling all the weight in their group. Personally, I’d boot them based on the fact that, between the two of them, they just didn’t do as well in the challenge. The general pile-on causes Alexis to lash out at the other groups, and part of me feels like the outburst convinces Ru to give her and Yara a second chance.

Unfortunately, the judges decide to focus less on the challenge and more on the main-stage looks. Raven’s look is read over a pair of bright-red granny panties and creepy makeup, so Rujubee lands in the bottom two. Despite a spotty showing in the challenge, the judges adore Yarlexis’s looks, so they get a pass. Latrila, despite being only slightly edged out by Shad in the challenge, also end up in the bottom due to Latrice’s rather crunchy Divine look.

Actually, side note here: what was happening with Janice Dickinson? I have this feeling that she had no idea what show she was on, and the poor bitch seemed to be operating on an entirely different plane of existence compared to everyone else. Honestly, she looks and acts like a severely inebriated Nicole Paige Brooks. For pure camp appeal, she’s incredible, but her judgment seems less focused on the art of drag and more about her just shouting half-realized insults.

Anyway, the tributes are announced as Jujubee steps up for her team to lip-sync for her (and Raven’s) life against Manila to Janet Jackson’s “Nasty.” Theoretically, this is anyone’s game: Jujubee is statistically the strongest lip-syncher in Drag Race herstory, as the only queen to lip-sync three times and survive, while Manila gave the show’s strongest performance in her duel against Delta to “MacArthur Park.” That being said, the battle turns one-sided fairly quickly, as Jujubee whips out the riding crop and goes for kinky pixie realness and Manila attempts to recreate the aforementioned “MacArthur Park” magic. Manila serves crazy when she should be serving sexy, and it costs her and Latrice the match.

This one hurt. I had Latrice and Manila pegged as the team to beat, but after peaking early, they just couldn’t keep up the momentum from episode one. For the most part, this opens up the door for Shad to take the win, but next week’s challenge doesn’t bode too well for the continued success of Yarlexis. On the plus side, they seem to be taking it rather well, by which I mean they recorded a song about their sashay away. Lemons, meet lemonaid. 

 

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